Archive for the ‘A Launch Story…’ Category

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The Two Page Spread: A New Auto Magazine Where Content Is A Beautiful Experience… A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story

September 26, 2022

“In keeping with my love of print, each new feature will also include a link to a downloadable file of the Spread in a high-resolution, printable format, suitable for printing 36″ x 24″ posters. Because ‘Print Rules’.” Keith Keplinger, Publisher and Art Director

“I think that working with Keith, I have an art director who sees my editorial vision of what a print magazine can be in this age of people “reading” enthusiast content on their phones.” Richard Truesdell, Editor and Chief Contributor

Keith Keplinger and Richard Truesdell are two well known names in the circles of automotive media. You mention Keith or Rich and folks will stop and listen to see what those two are up to. Some folks at their age either retire or leave the entire industry behind, but their creative juices refuse to let them stop, and as Michael Clinton would say, they are roaring into their second act. And roar it is. Between the two of them, the ideas don’t only come, but are executed in a well curated, edited, and designed way.

What follows is the story of the launch of their latest magazine The Two Page Spread (T2PS). Founded by Keith in 2020 and later teamed with Rich the magazine is a beauty to look at and a welcomed addition to the world of print.

In a typical Mr. Magazine™ format, I asked Keith and Rich my seven questions about the launch of The Two Page Spread and the plans for the future.

Without any further ado, here is The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Keith Keplinger, publisher and art director, and Richard Truesdell, editor and chief contributor.

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: Tell me the story behind the launch of The Two Page Spread and what role each one of you play with this new magazine?

Keith Keplinger

Keith Keplinger: The story: Back In the 1980s, before the dinosaurs vanished, auto magazines were mostly black and white, with only 16 pages of color in the center. After selling a page or 2 in color to paying advertisers, a good editor/art director team could get 7 feature cars in each issue, by making the features ‘Two Page Spreads’. 

I’ve designed hundreds of them, as art Director and Creative Director for Dobbs Publishing Group in the late 80s and early 90s. Loved the concise nature of them, the pure, simple story in 2 pages.

These days, the few print books still out there give six or more pages to the features – beautiful photos, with flowing stories. And the Webzines offer almost unlimited space freedoms. And I think those are great. But I miss the simplicity of my old favorite.

I launched ‘The Two Page Spread’ on Facebook on September 3, 2020, as I was beginning Cancer treatment, to help keep me busy and to give the features that I had shot but never made it into magazines after December 6, 2019, when Motor Trend Group killed 19 titles. On the Facebook page, we showcase The Two Page Spreads of cars I’ve shot and select few other editors/photographers have shot, too. In keeping with my love of print, each new feature will also include a link to a downloadable file of the Spread in a high-resolution, printable format, suitable for printing 36″ x 24″ posters. Because ‘Print Rules’.

I play dual roles as Art Director and Publisher. Richard joined in early 2021 as Editor and Chief Contributor.

His first contribution, in April 2021, was a T2PS on the famous Playboy Playmate AMC AMX.

Richard Truesdell

Richard Truesdell: My story is a bit different than Keith’s as after a short academic career in which I taught high school social studies from 1976 to 1981, I launched a mobile electronics store in 1980, while I was still teaching. It ran until 1992 and during that time I started writing feature stories for trade (Autosound and Security) and then consumer titles. Because of my contributions to Autosound and Security, I was asked to write a monthly column on installation tech when Hachette launched Car Stereo Review in 1987. That led to a three-year gig producing a car electronics special section for Car and Driver. That’s when I got the magazine bug in my system. I’m sure you know that story Samir.

Ten years later, while I was still contributing to Car Stereo Review, after Primedia bought a small boutique publisher, AvCom, and the entire staff of CA&E  quit, I was approached to see if I would take the EIC position at their title, Car Audio and Electronics. At the time CA&E was the category leader, circulation-wise. At the time, I was living in Albuquerque, contributing to several titles in the automotive sector while producing a monthly four-page department in Motor Trend called Autotronics. That was a huge paying gig when MT was published by Petersen, Primedia’s main rival. I accepted the offer but it lasted just 10 months as the publisher, who was technically my boss, thought I wanted his job. Nothing was further from the truth.

As it turned out, the art director at CA&E complained to the publisher that I was always late (which was true as I always strove to make each magazine the best it could be, especially when coverig industry events), which he used as the cause to fire me. It didn’t matter that during my one-year tenure as EIC, both circulation and ad pages increased more than 10%. Five years later, after three editors, Primedia shuttered the title.

In less than 90 days, I rebuilt my freelance business and was making more than I was at CS&E. Then I started self-syndicating my work around the world and except for one year, 2010 when I was the launch editor of Chevy Enthusiast at Amos Automotive (where I also had a running battle with the art director there as I was pushing the design envelope at CE compared to the other six titles), I have been an independent freelance/contract writer, photographer, photojournalist, and now editor from 1997 to the present day, I’ve produced more than 1,500 magazine articles and co-authored three automotive books with my best friend, Mark Fletcher.

I stumbled upon Keith’s The Two Page Spread on Facebook, I queried him to see if he would be interested in using content from my archives. He said yes, and we’ve been working together now for over a year. I brought my print-on-demand experience on CreateSpace/Kindle Direct Publishing where we’ve produced five titles together. I see T2PS Facebook page as a way to get my content in front of more editors around the world as I can produce PDFs of my content items.

And Keith is the only art director I’ve worked with that hasn’t tried to get me fired.

S.H.: You have a different launch model, can you explain it and elaborate on the reasoning behind it?

Keith: When I started, I had zero dollars to invest in conventional printing, so began it online only, with the downloadable print-ready poster. Mid-2021, Richard discussed his success with Kindle Direct Publishing, and we had the first two ‘Annuals’ of 100 pages each on Amazon by Black Friday. We decided to go to a 52-page quarterly model in early 2022 and currently have three quarterly issues available with a fourth on the way next month. And are now exploring newsstand options. The one stroke of brilliance I had with the first print books is that they are not dated, but rather go by volume and issue. Therefore, they have an unlimited shelf life. No wasted copies.

Rich: Just this past weekend I got the T2PS print edition placed in Autobooks-Aerobooks in Burbank, California. I’ve known owner Tina Van Curren for more than a decade as she’s hosted book signings for all three of my books. Autobooks-Aerobooks is the nation’s leading automotive and aviation bookstore. They’ve been around since the 1950s. Jay Leno is a regular and through a stroke of luck back in 2012, Tina got me and Mark a gig on Jay Leno’s Bookshelf which really helped the sales of our first book, Hurst Equipped. And Jay appeared at the book signings for 1970 Maximum Muscle and Hemi Under Glass: Bob Riggle and His Wheel-Standing Mopars in 2021.  

S.H.: What are the major challenges you are facing?  How do you plan to overcome it?

Keith: We’ve had intermittent success reaching people thru posting on the various Facebook Groups on a particular make/model of car (one hit over 37K impressions), but hitting long-term, consistent growth has proven elusive, partly because of the vast variety of makes/models we feature.

Rich: Because of my retail and self-publishing experience, I look at things from a different perspective. I have been kicking around the idea of a quarterly magazine that will focus on cars of the postwar era (1949-89). I think that working with Keith, I have an art director who sees my editorial vision of what a print magazine can be in this age of people “reading” enthusiast content on their phones.

I think that there needs to be a bridge that spans the print-digital divide. We’ve started experimenting with it on T2PS with Keith embedding QR codes into some of the features, mostly mine. Because with T2PS, we’re limited to just 400 words, I sometimes use QR codes linked to PDFs of the original four-to-10-page magazine features which tell a much more complete story.

S.H.:  What are some of the pleasant moments that you have faced since the launch of the magazine?

Keith: I’m loving the design process! Keeps me on my toes. Hearing from the car owners that we’ve made one of their lifelong dreams come true by being featured in a print magazine always puts a smile on my face. Meeting up with Richard and having a place to share his amazing collection of vehicle features and giving them all a new look and life. Working with Richard, one of the best editors I’ve ever known, and learning the art of writing from him.

Rich: I feel the same way about Keith, who I have never met in person. While I have some design expertise, it pales in comparison to Keith’s. But when I transfer the content package (text file, 20 images, and supporting graphics) to him, he instinctively knows what I want.

A great example is a recent T2PS on a modified 1964 Chrysler 300K. Because of the space constraints of T2PS format, we don’t have the luxury of captions. Keith read my text and saw where I mentioned a concealed high-end infotainment system. For two of the five inset photos, he showed the dash with the panel closed as well as open. He knew instinctively what I wanted. From an editor’s viewpoint, that is invaluable. It’s a brilliant layout.

We do disagree on some points but always find a way to make things work. 

S.H.:  The automotive magazine market is definitely not as used to be five, or ten years ago. What is your take on the auto magazine media marketplace?

Keith: One of my areas of expertise while at Dobbs in the 1980s & 1990s was creating the promotions for circulation and advertising. NOTHING I LEARNED OR THAT WORKED THEN APPLIES NOW!

The marketplace is much more scattered, and people have become accustomed to getting free content online. Converting those eyeballs into print book buyers continues to be a challenge.

Rich: You have to give readers something they can’t get digitally if you are going to expect them to pay $10 to $15 per issue. But I believe that digital can complement the print product. That’s what I, we, want to do with my postwar quarterly. It’s aimed at a more mature audience—many who are suffering from failing eyesight—with larger-than-normal fonts, for those who grew up with print magazines, like Keith and I did. We’re all 55+, some more plus than others.

Here’s another example. One story we’ve done in T2PS is on a 1973 Plymouth Duster 340 that’s been in the same family since new, now five decades. In the layout for the postwar magazine, at the end of the story, you see a QR code. After you’ve finished reading that feature, you point your phone to the QR code and it brings up two television commercials for the new 1973 Duster already available on YouTube. It’s an added level of engagement that I think enhances the print reading experience.

S.H.: As you view the near future, what is in store for the magazine and the two of you?

Keith: Continuing to shoot more cars, tell more stories. Dipping our toes into the brick-and-mortar booksellers is an exciting possibility. We’re also looking at repackaging some of this year’s Spreads as 100-page annuals, each one appealing to a more targeted slice of the automotive pie. We’ll launch the annuals on Black Friday.

Rich: We can easily repackage the existing T2PS content into more targeted packages as Keith said above. Keith’s background is primarily Mustangs and Fords so one of the 100-page annuals will target that area. I’m much more of a generalist although I have a penchant for the unusual, out-of-the-mainstream marques, like American Motors and more obscure European brands. At $25 each, they will be great stocking stuffers for your favorite auto enthusiast on your list. The challenge will be how to get noticed. Social media only goes so far. Getting real-time online reviews and getting Amazon to recommend us is crucial. I’m working on that.

S.H.: My typical question is, what keeps you up at night?

Keith: I’ve been cancer-free for over a year now. I’ve been blessed with being a working artist/art director for my entire career, dating back to 1979 when I dropped out of college to take my first AD position. ‘Running out of time’ is what keeps me up at night. Literally. I have more ideas than I can put to page. Things like T2PS – Motorcycles, T2PS – Tiny Houses,  T2PS Mid Century Modern. And exploring other print ideas with Richard.

My hobby is that I’m a serial remodeler, and over 40 years I’ve become so good that friends and family are now imploring me to teach them how to reimaging their houses. And with the downturn in conventional print advertising (my ad agency for the last 28 years, Keplinger Designs, is aimed at the automotive aftermarket), any revenue is welcomed.

Rich: I had a near-death experience this Spring which put the launch of the postwar magazine on hold. We had hoped to launch it (yes, I’ve been coy with its title) this Summer during Pebble Beach Week but have delayed it until January 2023, for Scottsdale Car Week.

If one looks at the auto section of the Barnes and Noble newsstand, almost half the titles are now from the UK, which to me is sad. One thing I know is unless retail is willing to buy it outright at a deep discount for the visibility—with no returns—newsstand is out. We simply can’t afford that unless we are part of a larger publishing organization. 

Having an entity in the vintage automotive world, especially in the high-end auction sector, to be the cover-line sponsor, is the road we’re currently exploring for the postwar title. It allows me to leverage my of almost 30 years in the automotive editorial space, to get the title launched. And having Keith as the design partner is so exciting, seeing what he’s done with my legacy content, giving it a fresh lease on life with T2PS.

That’s the challenge we face. But T2PS does allow us to explore and test many ideas with it costing us nothing except for the time we put into producing T2PS.

S.H.: Thank you both.

Keith: Thank you for this wonderful opportunity and for your helpful insights into our little publishing concept.

Rich: Like Keith, I also want to thank you for giving us this exposure. I clearly remember how helpful you were when I launched Automotive Traveler as a digital-only online magazine back in 2007. I’m hoping that lightning strikes twice.

To view all the Facebook The Two Page Spreads, visit bit.ly/AllT2PS.

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The Man Who Sold Superman To The World (And Me)… A New Book By Howard Blue

August 16, 2022

By now, most of this blog readers, know that my career in magazines started after falling in love with the ink and paper of the Lebanese first issue of the comic book Superman. Well, until recently, I did not how Superman made it to Lebanon in the 1960s of the last century. Howard Blue, the author of the new book The Man Who Sold Superman To The World, knew and documented how Superman made it to Lebanon and the rest of the world for that matter.

The Man Who Sold Superman To The World( front cover).

After reviewing the book, here is what I wrote and Howard thankfully used my review on the back of the book:

In the same manner DeWitt Wallace introduced Reader’s Digest and Helen Gurly Brown introduced Cosmopolitan to the world, Howard Blue’s book, The Man Who Sold Superman To The World, left no stone unturned and no kryptonite unearthed detailing the story of Carroll Rheinstrom, the man who introduced DC comics to the rest of the world.  

Years of reporting, researching  and fact-checking summed up in an informative and entertaining prose provide us with the life story of a man who took a comic superhero like Superman and introduced him to the world in a style worthy of being a superhero himself.  Justice (with the help of the league) has finally been given to Mr. Rheinstrom.  

Thank you, Howard Blue, for finally telling the story of how my (and millions of other folks) superhero Superman, who started my lifelong career in magazines after buying that very first Lebanese issue in 1964, made it all over the world. A job very well done.

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

Founder and Director

Magazine Media Center

The Man Who Sold Superman To The World (back cover).

And here is part of what Mr. Blue wrote about my fascination with Superman in the book:

In Tripoli, Lebanon in 1964, ten-year old Samir Husni who became a dedicated fan of IP’s version of Superman (and who would in his professional life become known as Mr. Magazine) heard of it for the first time in a TV commercial when the famous phrase, “Look up in the air. It’s a bird it’s a plane, it’s Superman,” caught his attention. Saving up his weekly forty cents allowance, Samir crossed the street in front of his apartment and bought a copy in the neighborhood grocery store. Walking back home he had an almost magical experience, mesmerized as he read about the man from another planet…

The Man Who Sold Superman To The World is available on amazon.com by typing “Howard Blue Superman” you will land on the page to order the book. Highly recommended if you are a DC Comics fan and even more recommended if you are a Marvel Comics fan (as in know your enemy)… Enjoy

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Meet “Brainstorm Buddy”: Helping Put Your Ideas On Steroids. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Founder And Creator Linda Formichelli.

May 12, 2022

Remember those days when you were told ideas come by the dozen and they are worth a dime? Well, with today’s inflation, they may even be worth less than a dime.  Thus, when I heard about and tried Linda Formichelli’s Brainstorm Buddy, I was quick to reach out to her and request an interview.  Anyone and any tool that can help enhance an idea and help execute it better is worthy of a Mr. Magazine™ interview.  Using technology and AI to help enhance the quality of writing, reporting, and journalism is what pushed Ms. Formichelli to invest time, money, and effort to create Brainstorm Buddy.

An experienced writer, reporter, editor, and educator for over a quarter century, Ms. Formichelli came up with the idea while teaching a class called “Writing for Magazines.”  She did not stop with the idea, but rather decided to act upon it, and execute it in a way that others can benefit and enhance their writing and journalistic abilities.  And, as you and I know, we need that today more than ever.

The tool is very simple to use, but the work behind the scenes was not as simple as the end result.  So, without any further ado, join me in this conversation with Linda Formichelli, founder and creator of Brainstorm Buddy.

Linda Formichelli, founder and creator, Brainstorm Buddy

Samir Husni: In a nutshell what is Brainstorm Buddy and who is its audience?

Linda Formichelli: Brainstorm Buddy tool is tool based on journalism best-practices that tells you if your content ideas are solid…before you sink a lot of time and money into developing (or pitching) them. You answer six questions and get a score of 1 – 100, and if your topic could use some improvement, the tool offers customized advice. For example, it can tell you if your idea is too broad, not relevant enough, weak overall, etc.

On the surface it may look like your goal is “get all A’s or you lose,” but that’s actually not the case. Some elements depend on other elements, and sometimes there are ways to shore up an idea that’s weak in one area by improving a different area. Brainstorm Buddy also accounts for evergreen ideas, which are those ideas than aren’t especially unique or timely, but you almost have to publish them because people are always interested; for example, “walk off the weight” for a women’s magazine or “how to budget” for a bank brand.

The tool is meant for anyone whose job or business depends on them coming up with a fairly constant stream of content ideas. The very first iteration, which was just a list I created in 2005, was meant for freelance writers who were pitching article ideas to magazines. Over time I adjusted it to include content professionals, both on staff and freelance, and then I realized it applies to other creative professionals, like podcasters, as well. Most of the verbiage in Brainstorm Buddy is geared toward writers, but I tried to change it up a little bit to be inclusive, and you can also extrapolate the examples into any medium.

S.H.:  Why did you decide to create BB?

L.F.: In short, I needed a way to codify the “rules of good ideas,” which I had internalized through years of experience, in a way that anyone could use. 

S.H.: As a writer/author/journalist yourself, how do you think this tool helps?

L.F.: Brainstorm Buddy takes the knowledge that veteran writers have accumulated in their brains through many hard years of experience, and presents it in a format that anyone can take advantage of. With Brainstorm Buddy, you don’t need ten years of developing content and pitching publications and businesses under your belt to know how to develop a salable idea—you can just run it through Brainstorm Buddy, get a score, and see suggestions for improving the topic if needed.

For creatives like content writers, journalists, podcasters, and so on, ideas are the coin of the realm. I like to say, “No ideas = no money.” But it’s not just ideas they need—they need good ideas, and those are hard to come by. Brainstorm Buddy helps take away some of that stress of needing to be always coming up with engaging, interesting, useful, relevant content ideas.

It took a while, but over time the content industry collectively realized that to be authoritative and trustworthy, content needs to be based in journalism best practices. Because Brainstorm Buddy was born out of a journalism class, it helps not just magazine writers, but other types of content professionals as well.

S.H.:   Can you tell me the invention/creation process of BB?  It seems, as I mentioned, very simple to use, but what is behind the simplicity in use?

L.F.: Brainstorm Buddy originated from a class I started teaching around 2005 called Write for Magazines, where I taught writers how to generate salable article ideas and how to pitch them to magazines. At that time I had been earning a living writing mainly for magazines for eight years, and I had sent hundreds of pitches.

The idea generation part of the class was challenging because there was a lot of confusion around what went into a salable idea. Many people were very unclear on the concept, and when I critiqued their ideas they would often want to just throw them out and start all over again—even though my stance was always that you can take almost any idea and make it salable if you fine-tune it enough.

The first thing I did to make it easier for my students was to create a list of six criteria that every idea needed to have. I had internalized these criteria over my years of pitching and writing for magazines, but it was difficult to explain to students what a good idea was until I was able to codify these criteria on paper.

That did help, because I could then look at a student’s article idea, run it through the six criteria, explain where the idea was lacking, and offer suggestions for bolstering the areas of weakness. And a lot of my students had success! I had students with zero previous credits breaking into magazines like Woman’s Day and Reader’s Digest Canada. I still have writers emailing me to tell me that I helped them launch their career.

Then, a couple of years ago, after I had moved more into the content writing arena, I created a toolkit called the Content Calendar Playbook. This was meant for on-staff content professionals who needed be constantly creating ideas for blog posts, white papers, social media posts, guides, and so on. It included video walk-throughs where I brainstormed ideas almost in real time—I had some rough ideas ahead of time that I fine-tuned and fleshed out live on the video. I thought this would help show users that a content idea is not just a “one and done” thing, where you come up with something and it’s either 100% great or you throw it out and start over. 

I also wanted to include my list of the six criteria from the Write for Magazines class in the Content Calendar Playbook guide…but I realized it needed some tweaking. I realized that some things really were more important than others, so it wasn’t fair to say you need all six of them in equal amounts—or that you really need all six of them at all.

So I created an inverted pyramid-style “filter” where the most important criterion was at the top and the less important, nice-to-have criteria were toward the bottom.

That worked out better. But as I developed the toolkit and the filter, I knew it was even more complicated than that. However, it seemed that a formula that really hit on all the right criteria in all the right amounts and combinations would be too “fiddly” to explain and use…so I decided it would be useful to create a simple app that would help users figure out if their content idea was any good.

My husband has a math degree and is a former freelance writer, so I got him to help me hash out the different scoring weights and dependencies and turn it all into a numeric formula.

The Brainstorm Buddy landing page at http://www.brainstormbuddyapp.com

S.H.: How can folks access BB and is it available for anyone?

L.F.: Brainstorm Buddy is available to anyone at www.brainstormbuddyapp.com for a monthly or annual subscription. If you go for the annual subscription, you get two months free. I plan to raise the price little by little over time as I build in more features.

S.H.:  Any additional info you wish to add?

L.F.: If you plan to try out Brainstorm Buddy, I recommend first reading my article on how to ensure an accurate score. When I beta tested the tool, I saw an awful lot of very high scores, which didn’t really jibe with what I saw when I was teaching and coaching writers live. I realized that we’re all very enamored with things we create; in fact there’s a term for it: the IKEA Effect.

The article is meant to help combat the IKEA Effect; it walks users of Brainstorm Buddy through steps that will help them look at their ideas with a critical eye—just as an editor, client, or reader would. I’m also working on a video for that page in case some people would rather watch than read.

I have lots of plans for improving Brainstorm Buddy. I so appreciate the early adopters, and want to make sure they get their money’s worth and more! Right now I’m working on videos for each results page. The videos will include different examples from the written advice, so if you want you can both watch the video and read the copy, and not get the same examples twice.

As a long-time writer for service magazines, I know how useful it is to include lots of relevant examples, because you never know which one will really “land” with someone. I try to make the advice more actionable by using examples from different content areas, such as brand content, consumer magazines, trade magazines, and even podcasting.

I’m also looking into moving to a platform where Brainstorm Buddy users can get their scores and the advice emailed to them, and where they can share their scores on social media.

People’s ideas and scores will never be shared, but I plan to aggregate the data for research and education purposes. That way I can help writers and content pros even more by sharing information on, say, idea trends, average scores, the most common problems with ideas, etc.

I’d love to eventually incorporate Flip-Pay, which is a system where you can pay per use instead of having to get a subscription. A lot of publications use Flip-Pay to let people pay for access to a single article. Of course, it will be cheaper to get a Brainstorm Buddy subscription, but there will always be people who are certain they want to use it just once or twice, and who don’t want to commit. I have a proposal from Flip-Pay, but right now it’s above my pay grade. 

Finally, I also started a blog that’s all about great content ideas at http://www.brainstormbuddyapp.com/blog.

S.H.: And my typical last question: what keeps Linda up at night these days?

L.F.: I hope the answer doesn’t have to be current-events related; if I even get started on that I won’t sleep for a week.

I’m always trying to balance “just being” with my natural need to be constantly creating. I retired from writing over a year ago, and somehow I ended up as busy as ever: I’m not only working on Brainstorm Buddy, but I started a referral network of freelance writers, started teaching myself to oil paint, took on a ton of home improvement jobs, and started acting. I’m also always extra-invested in whatever my 13-year-old son is into, which right now is weight training and football. So I’m often up at night worrying about one of these things, or worrying because I’m worrying about these things when I should be retired. But I just love all these creative activities!

S.H.: Thank you.

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In Magazine Publishing, There’s Nothing More Exciting Than The “Launch.” An Excerpt From Our Wisconsin Magazine. From The Mr. Magazine™ Vault.

May 3, 2022

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Our Wisconsin magazine is approaching its tenth anniversary in 2023. In its second issue there was an editorial talking about the “joys of magazine publishing.” I found myself emailing my friend Roy Reiman, Publisher of the new magazine Our Wisconsin, and Mike Beno, the magazine editor, to ask their permission to reprint parts of the introduction to the second issue of the magazine. So without any further ado, here is an excerpt from the February/March issue of Our Wisconsin magazine:

In magazine publishing, there’s nothing more exciting than the “launch.” Not many other things in business come close to this kind of adrenalin rush.
You begin by coming up with an idea or concept for a magazine you feel is “entirely different”. You’re sure potential subscribers have never seen anything like this before.
So you spend months (in our case, we began last spring) planning the format, the design and mostly the content. And then you start gathering that content…which isn’t easy when you don’t have a publication to showanyone. You just have to wave your hands a lot and write lengthy descriptions of what you plan to do.
Then you pull all this together…sort through hundreds of pictures and ideas for articles (some terrific, some not even close)…write and design 68 pages…and finallyput the first issue on the press, printing enough to “test the market”….
And then you wait.
And it drives you crazy. You wait for more than a week for the first response…any response, to see what total strangers think of your “baby”.
“Inventing” a magazine is much more personal than inventing a lawn mower or a toothbrush. It’s more revealing of who you are; it’s an extension of your personality. There’s a lot of you between those pages. So the fear of rejection is greater.
After you put that sample issue in the mail, you’re like a field goal kicker with the game on the line, with its heel or hero element. So you wait as the ball sails…for a long week or more.
If, when the early responses begin trickling in, you learn readers don’t like the first issue, it hurts. To a degree, it’s as though you learned they don’t like you.
But when you learn they like it–and some people even say they love it–wow! That ball is sailing through the middle of the uprights, and every subscription is a pat on the back.

I love magazines, and I love magazine launches even more. That is no secret. So, when I acquire a new magazine or read a story about a magazine launch, the urge to share my love with the whole wide world is overwhelming.

A revised copy of the aforementioned blog was first published on March 30, 2013.

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

Founder and Director

Magazine Media Center

samir.husni@gmail.com

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Stranger’s Guide: A Travel Magazine To Hold & To Cherish. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Publisher Abby Rapoport And Editor-in-Chief Kira Brunner Don.

February 27, 2022

“Between the evergreen content and the printing quality, our publication is rarely sent to the recycling bin with more cheaply-produced weekly or monthly publications that can be read just as easily online.”

“Stranger’s Guide uniquely champions these stories that are rooted in place, seeking to tell authentic stories that reveal the interplay and nuance of cultures around the world.”

You will no longer be a stranger when Stranger’s Guide magazine lands on your coffee table or in your mailbox. The name of the magazine is based on the idea that “18th– and 19th-century authors wrote “stranger’s guides” which were personal, eccentric and intimate portrayals of places. Stranger’s Guide is a modern version of that idea—a publication that reveals the intricacies of locales across the globe, through both local and foreign eyes.”

Founded in 2018 by publisher Abby Rapoport and editor-in-chief Kira Brunner Don, the magazine practices what it calls “place-based journalism.” The founders told me that, for them, “place-based journalism means rooting stories in their location and culture.” Beautifully crafted, Stranger’s Guide, the 2021 National Magazine Awards winner for both General Excellence and Photography (and, if I may add, nominated again this year in both categories), is a timely yet timeless publication in which the readers, once they receive it, are “eager to both display it and dive in.”

Unlike the many travel magazines out there, Stanger’s Guide focuses on a single location in every issue and does not leave a stone unturned in that location. Using both local and international writers and photographers, the magazine captures the entire essence of that place and leaves its audience with the feeling that they just stepped off the plane from a memorable visit to that location.

The locations vary from one issue to the other. From California and Tehran (Iran) to Scandinavia and Colombia, readers feel that they have an open ticket to visit the world and return with an in-depth immersive knowledge of a place no internet connection or television program can provide. 

Worthy of every penny of its $20 cover price, Stranger’s Guide is a must have for those who want to see the world, whether you hop on a plane or not.

I reached out to the founders and asked them a few questions about the magazine and the role place-based journalism plays in today marketplace. The Mr. Magazine™ interview with publisher Abby Rapoport and editor-in-chief Kira Brunner Don follows.

Stranger’s Guide publisher Abby Rapoport
Stranger’s Guide editor-in-Chief Kira Brunner Don

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: Going back to the launch of Stranger’s Guide, would you please tell me the genesis of the idea?

In the early 2010s we had both gotten involved in trying to help a couple older publications get through some choppy waters. At some point we realized that rather than just focusing on older, existing places, we actually had the knowledge and skills to start our own publication.

The concept for Stranger’s Guide emerged as an answer to a set of problems we were both thinking about. In 2016, we were watching the rise of an “America First” mentality that dismissed other cultures and perspectives, separating countries into “good” and “bad” (or even famously “shithole”). Meanwhile the decline in foreign bureaus meant fewer and fewer writers outside the US had pathways to US audiences and US readers had fewer opportunities to encounter new voices from different parts of the world.


Finally we found that the internet had further fractured information about different places—when one reads about Cuba in The Economist it seems almost like a different place than the Cuba that’s portrayed in Conde Nast Traveler or Architecture Digest. Our goal was to create a publication centered on the work of writers and photographers from a single location, in which different subjects—sports, arts, human rights and colonialism—would live together to offer a more nuanced and idiosyncratic portrait of a place.

S. H.: With a hefty cover price ($20) and very high quality print job, what do you think print can do in this day and age that digital can’t?  Why do you believe in print?

We’re highly mission driven and our biggest goal is to breakdown stereotypes and promote cultural exchange. Digital publishing is notoriously good at reaffirming what you already know—we live in filter bubbles that make it difficult to encounter new perspectives.


Our hope is that when readers receive Stranger’s Guide, they’re delighted, eager to both display it and dive in. That means they both see funny and sweet stories but also confront more challenging topics without the mediation of a search engine. Our work is also self consciously evergreen; our readers can return to a favorite piece and it won’t feel dated. Between the evergreen content and the printing quality, our publication is rarely sent to the recycling bin with more cheaply-produced weekly or monthly publications that can be read just as easily online. 


Print remains the best way to offer a curated experience—although through newsletters and our website structure, we’re finding new ways to deliver that same curatorial voice.

S. H.: In addition to the print magazine you have a weekly newsletter Weekend Passport, tell me more about it and how digital and print interact (the quarterly magazine and weekly newsletter.)

We actually have two weekly newsletters. The first, Field Guide, was our first editorial product; we launched it a few months before our first issue came out. Field Guide is in some ways the inverse to the print guides—rather than focusing on a single location through a lot of different themes, it takes a single theme and traces it across numerous locations. Topics have included Chocolate, Corporate Culture, Reenactments, Whiskey and more. That newsletter is free and available to anyone. We frequently showcase print features in our Field Guide and encourage readers to consider subscribing or buying single guides.

Weekend Passport is our newer offering and it’s only available for subscribers. Each Friday, we send them a series of fun opportunities from around the world: recipes, videos, playlists and more. While we certainly love travel, our goal is always to help our community find ways to connect to new experiences from different places they might not otherwise encounter.

S. H.: What is place-based journalism?  How do you choose your locations and your editorial board for each issue?

For us place-based journalism means rooting stories in their location and culture. Stranger’s Guide uniquely champions these stories that are rooted in place, seeking to tell authentic stories that reveal the interplay and nuance of cultures around the world. Our stories portray unique facets of each place, from the complex and controversial to the intimate and beautiful, together building a contemporary awareness of a location and its community. 


We select locations based on making sure we’re in different parts of the world, both in terms of geography and in terms of places more and less associated with travel. For instance last year we did both Scandinavia, a top travel destination, and Tehran, a city that most US residents are not able to visit easily (alongside California and Colombia).


Once we’ve selected the location, we build our editorial board by reaching out to leaders in different areas—academics, artists, editors, writers, etc.—who help us identify key themes for the guide and connect us with their networks of authors and photographers. Our editorial boards play a crucial role in helping us ensure our stories represent a wide swath of perspectives and experiences.


For every issue we build an editorial board of advisors made up of writers, academics, and artists from the country we are covering. And, at least 80% of all of our contributors to every issue are from the country we are highlighting. Some of these contributors are internationally known (we have a piece by Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka in our Lagos issue) and others are up and coming voices. In other words, we don’t parachute in journalists to cover a place. Kira, our editor in chief, often flies to the country and sets up meetings with writers, journalists, artists and academics and commissions the pieces from them on the ground.

S. H.: What has been the most challenging moment since the launch and how did you overcome it?

Like most of the world, the pandemic challenged just about everything, for us as individuals and as a publication. Most of us are working mothers who were suddenly expected to spend our day as full-time teachers and child care workers in addition to doing our jobs. In February 2020, we were launching a supper club series, planning an event in Lagos, Nigeria and getting Kira ready to go abroad for our next issue. Suddenly all of that froze. For a couple days, we were all in a bit of a daze. But one of the best parts of Stranger’s Guide is that we are a community and we’re extremely rooted in our mission, and that mission proved clarifying in terms of how to move forward. We wrote a letter to our readers that became something of a call to arms for us:

As Coronavirus challenges many of our norms and expectations, as countries close borders and xenophobia raises its head, we are more committed than ever to bringing the world to you. Especially in this time of social distancing, it’s critical that we fight the divisions that arise with fear and distrust, and instead rededicate ourselves to the work of connecting.

S. H.: What has been the most pleasant moment since the launch?

Winning the National Magazine Awards for General Excellence and Photography was such an enormous honor for us—to be a small, independent publication not yet three years old and receive that kind of validation from journalists and editors we admire, we were elated.

S. H.: Any additional things you would like to add that I failed to ask?

In addition to our newsletters, website  and print publication, we’re also growing our SG community through events. 


Around the launch of our first issue in late 2018, we did an exhibition for the Apple flagship in San Francisco. We included a photo presentation by our photography editor Kike Arnal, a panel discussion moderated by Kira and readings by an acting group showcasing the “first person narratives” of deportees, all from the issue.  

Our Literary Bogotá event took place on Zoom in early 2021. We used our Colombia playlist to kick things off, followed by an extraordinary performance by Julián Delgado Lopera reading his piece, followed by José Vargas reading his translation of vignettes by Gabriel García Márquez (never-before available in English). We then had a conversation about changing Colombia with José, Julian and SG contributing editor Martín Perna, the founder of the band Antibalas who has helped curate our various playlists.

Lastly, we launched a supper club series in Austin in February 2020, an unlucky time to be sure. However our first one, at African Market, sold out and was a big success. We spoke a little about the Lagos guide and also featured the restaurant, which was Nigerian-owned. We are planning to re-launch the supper clubs later this year.

S. H.: My typical last question, what keeps you up at night these days?


In 2022, waking up from time to time in a cold sweat is just part of the human condition!

We started Stranger’s Guide in response to a set of global problems—the decline of journalism, increasing polarization and increasing lack of respect for other perspectives. All of those things have continued to get worse. There are no easy fixes or quick answers but we continue to chip away with the skills we have.

S. H.: Thank you and safe travels.

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Molly My Mag: A Magazine To Help You Fall In Love With Reality & Life. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Molly My, Founder & Editor-in-Chief…

February 18, 2022

“…We aim to help people fall in love with reality and create a lifestyle they appreciate through the highs and lows; the holidays and the everyday.” Molly My, Founder and Editor-In-Chief 

“While we can all appreciate the incredible impact digital has made on our lives, digital content is often placed in front of us, whether we sought it or not. Print content is what we place in front of ourselves by choice.” Molly My

How can I describe the magazine that is the subject of this Mr. Magazine’s™ Interview? Brains meet beauty and a celebration of everyday life, is, in short, the best description I can give to Molly My Mag.  After reading my interview with Molly My, the founder and editor-in-chief of the magazine,  you may add that description to the woman behind the idea of the magazine. Molly My Mag can easily be Molly Your Mag.

Fighting many closed doors, Molly My was determined to launch her magazine idea and open as many doors as possible.  She did not allow the fact that “being young and unknown” in the magazine media business to stop her from finding ways to create her childhood dream: a magazine that speaks to her and her peers.

The story of Molly My Mag is the story of Molly My.  The bi-annual magazine “encourages women to create and seek life’s most beautiful things and moments.” Twice a year, every winter and summer readers have a “date” with the content-rich magazine and a break from the digital blue lights.

A firm believer in the combination of print and digital Molly My presents her audience with a lovely ink on paper magazine to turn the pages one at a time, and a digital website to keep the conversation going among friends.

So without any further delays, here is the Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Molly My, Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Molly My Mag.

Molly My, Founder and Editor-in-Chief Molly My Mag. Photo by Ssam Kim

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni:   From a young age, you were approaching media giants with your ideas to do a lifestyle program or show.  It seems with Molly My Mag you’ve achieved your teenage dream. Can you please take me through the journey of creating Molly My Mag and how it transformed from My Magazine to Molly My Mag?

Molly My: It’s been a dream come true, but I’m just getting started! I still have so much I’d like to do that stems from my original vision. Growing up as a millennial, the media played a huge role in my life. As I entered my early teens, I noticed it speaking more to my and my peers’ insecurities rather than our strengths — without many tools to help, other than “buy this!” At the time, there were limited voices targeting our demographic in the right ways. This lit a fire in me that hasn’t burned out since. When I was 13 years old, I started to pitch the big guys a lifestyle series for young women, which would integrate into digital content covering health, wellness, food, style, culture, and more. As you can imagine, being young and unknown in the industry meant that this idea was met with a few closed doors, but I was determined to make a difference with or without the help of others.

Keep in mind, when I was pitching these concepts, this was well before YouTube and lifestyle content went mainstream. I kept the idea close to my heart and as I entered college, Facebook emerged. My first jobs were in marketing, public relations, and advertising, when blogging and Instagram were at the forefront. I saw clearly where this was all going, and picked the pieces of my adolescent dream back up. The internet was saturated with content, and magazines, in my opinion, were due for a fresh comeback. I’ve always been inspired by the road less traveled — and with that, Molly My Mag was born. With more life experience under my belt, including launching a social club to support working women transitioning into adulthood, I felt like I had more tools than ever to continue to self-advocate and help others.

As you know, print is beautiful but expensive, so I first launched the magazine digitally (as My Magazine) before building the traction to crowdfund for our first print run. As the concepts grew, I intertwined my name into the brand to further connect with readers. I wasn’t a media giant with backing — I was just Molly, and it was important to me that our readers knew who was behind the pages; just a girl with a big dream. Plus, many were already calling it Molly My Mag and My Mag, so it made sense to make it more easily identifiable. 

S.H.:  What would you consider was the biggest hurdle that you had to overcome during this journey?

M.M.: Getting comfortable with “no” for an answer, and starting from scratch in publishing. Although I studied journalism in college and had a career and internships prior to the magazine, I didn’t have any print experience — just a love for it. When I decided to expand our distribution, I called every single store directly and that’s how I built our list. I work with some amazing distribution partners now! A lot of people thought I was crazy to embark on this in a digitally-focused era; a lot of brands and companies didn’t believe in me or print — that’s hard, and discouraging. 

I always tell people when they start a business to make sure you’re deeply passionate about it, because whatever it is you’re doing, the passion is the thing that keeps you going. You can’t rely on the good days since those can be few and far between. I didn’t have a road map, which made the journey more challenging, but I wouldn’t have changed one thing because I grew so much with each step. In my opinion, the difficulties have made me more valuable in the space, to my team, and to my readers. It makes the wins much sweeter too! 

S.H.: What was the most pleasant moment?

M.M.: Seeing our first print run come to fruition was definitely a great moment; I was like a kid on Christmas opening those boxes! A close runner up would be getting into Barnes & Noble and Whole Foods, which are two chains I‘ve always had my eyes on. I’m so grateful for the support I’ve received from each and every one of our store partners, and I’ve met the most wonderful people through this process. Reflecting on all of the points of view, work backgrounds, and personalities we’ve brought together in the magazine has been tremendous as well. From our contributors to the hands that put us on shelves, the magazine connects us all — and takes a village! We’re among this great community of people and I just feel really, really lucky to have this opportunity. 

S.H.: Tell me more about celebrating everyday life.  Some folks think magazines are an escape vehicle, yours is bringing people to reality. Why?

M.M.: I think it’s so important that we love our lives. Yes, escapes are nice, but they’re not long term and often unattainable. In Molly My Mag, we aim to help people fall in love with reality and create a lifestyle they appreciate through the highs and lows; the holidays and the everyday. Sounds cheesy, but each moment is a blessing, so it’s necessary we recognize that and celebrate the lives we have or take action to create the lives we want. 

S.H.: Can you identify the role of print in this digital age and how is your print and digital working/not working together?

M.M.: For one, print is a break from blue light! I’ve always loved print for its authenticity, connection, and the way you can intentionally take it with you to the airport, beach, couch — you name it. While we can all appreciate the incredible impact digital has made on our lives, digital content is often placed in front of us, whether we sought it or not. 

Print content is what we place in front of ourselves by choice. I think the manner in which we consume content and information today really hinges on these differences. Print and digital sound like enemies of one another, but I believe they can be used together for greater emphasis. On our Instagram

https://www.instagram.com/mollymymag/

we share contributor “takeovers” to showcase the unique personalities and expertise of authors we feature in the magazine. We also bring similar or follow up topics onto our site (mollymymag.com) and utilize platforms like Amazon and LikeToKnowIt to emphasize the great brands and products found in our issues. Now that we have established ourselves in print, we will continue to look digitally. 

S.H.: What are the next steps for Molly My Mag and anything else you want to add that I failed to ask so far?

M.M.: Expanding our content into areas beyond the lifestyle genre we already cover, and becoming a bigger part of the conversations in culture, business, and more. Our base will always be lifestyle. As the magazine grows, I want to get people thinking harder about more aspects of life, but never forgetting about the importance of the light-hearted stuff too. Life isn’t just a singular topic, and I don’t think magazines need to be either. You should be able to read tips on creating your dream home or wedding while also educating yourself about topics like cryptocurrency or women in Afghanistan. 

This is what Molly My Mag is all about. As a media source, I want to introduce new topics to our readers — especially ones they may not have otherwise sought. That’s how we expand our horizons and start to understand the world around us. It would be difficult for readers to grow from the magazine if we covered only a few related topics, which is why we aim to cover it all and pique curiosities in the way we package everything together. Finally, we’ll further build out our website, mollymymag.com, and use digital to complement what we’re doing in print as well as merchandise and more. Wait and see what’s next — but chances are I’ll be very busy for a while! 
That said, anyone who is reading this and interested in contributing to our pages, reach out! We love discovering and connecting with thought leaders and experts. Email our editorial team at editorialasst@mollymy.com.

S.H.: My typical last question, what keeps Molly My up at night these days?
M.M.: The excitement that I have for Molly My Mag. I have a hard time winding down for bed when I’m kept up by the happenings of the day. There’s a weird sense of avoidance in not wanting the day to end, because they never seem long enough and there’s so much I want to do and accomplish. 

S.H.:  Good luck and thank you.

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Divorcing Well: A New Magazine Landing On The Stands Valentine’s Day… A Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Monique Reidy, Founder & Publisher.

February 6, 2022

“Magazines have an element of magic – they capture a reader’s attention and keep them engaged for a longer period than their digital counterparts.” Monique Reidy, founder and publisher, Divorcing Well.

“Launching Divorcing Well magazine on newsstands on Valentine’s Day is a proclamation that being single and happy in one’s own skin is a celebration regardless of romantic attachment.” M.R.

“A successful divorce is much better than a failed marriage,” my late brother used to tell us after he and his wife divorced. I was reminded of his statement once I learned that Monique Reidy, the publisher and president of Southern California Life is getting ready to launch her newest magazine, Divorcing Well.

Others have tried to publish divorce magazines, but needless to say they failed after an issue or two. The beauty of Ms. Reidy newest magazine is the Well part of Divorcing… It is like lighting a candle rather than cursing the dark. The new magazine aims to help the divorcee to thrive emotionally, physically, and financially. A tall order, but Ms. Reidy is sure the magazine is going to fulfill.

Judging by the selection of the articles and the design of the magazine, it seems that Ms. Reidy is on the right track. The magazine will hit the newsstands in the state of California on Valentine’s Day and I will leave to Ms. Reidy to explain to you why did she choose this specific day to publish the magazine.

So, here is the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Monique Reidy, founder and publisher of Divorcing Well magazine:

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni:  This is your third magazine launch, why are you still a believer in print in this digital age?

Monique Reidy: People still love magazines because they can read at their own pace and they’re able to enjoy the images and content in a relaxed manner. While digital information can be accessed instantaneously, it can be a challenge to get through an article online with the multitude of intrusive ads and continual distractions. Affiliate ads are now everywhere on the internet, luring readers to click links that hijack them away from what they’re reading to some sort of retail trap. I can’t get through an article about foods that could potentially be poisonous to my dogs without being led shoe shopping (thank you programmatic advertising).

I’m still a believer in print because the medium holds more credibility than the internet in the eyes of most consumers. Magazines have an element of magic – they capture a reader’s attention and keep them engaged for a longer period than their digital counterparts. Studies have shown that a digital piece will attract a person for 10 minutes while readers can linger for 30 minutes or more with a print magazine. It’s rewarding to hear that people enjoy our publications and that they’ve been informed and inspired. 

S.H.: You mentioned you want the magazine to be out in times of Valentine’s, what are you celebrating?

M.R.: February 14th is traditionally a couple’s celebration of their romantic relationship. While it’s a worthwhile occasion, singles can sometimes feel left out because they don’t have a partner with whom to mark the event. Valentine’s day is another reminder to singles that they are in fact … single. And for those who wish to be in an amorous relationship, it’s just rubbing salt into that emotional wound. A newly separated person, particularly one whose spouse left the marriage to be with someone else, could spend a lonely Valentine’s Day marinating in anxious thoughts about how the “ex” is enjoying the evening in the arms of another. 

Launching Divorcing Well magazine on newsstands on Valentine’s Day is a proclamation that being single and happy in one’s own skin is a celebration regardless of romantic attachment. The magazine underscores the importance of self-care and self-worth and that it doesn’t take another human to make one feel worthwhile. Our objective is to inspire readers to love who they are enough to fix what’s broken emotionally and aspire to create a happier life on their own terms. 

S.H.:  What has been the biggest hurdle that you were able to overcome with this launch?

M.R.: Since our first launch of Southern California Life magazine eight years ago, I’ve had to listen to a lot of snarky opinions about why this or that idea won’t work. (And trust me, there’s never a shortage of people who want to hold a storm cloud over your head if you’re on a momentous mission.)  I was vulnerable and easily influenced in those early days, so the pessimists and naysayers sometimes caused me to second guess my goals. Learning to listen to opinions without allowing them to steer me off track has been one of the biggest hurdles I’ve had to overcome. 

When you have a vision and you are focused on a specific target, you better not take your eyes off that mark and just keep moving forward. That’s not to discount getting advice from other professionals, but at the end of the day the backseat drivers can tell you where they think you should go, but you’re the one at the wheel, pressing the gas pedal. 

S.H.:  What was the most pleasant surprise?

M.R.: As a magazine publisher I can imagine about a dozen topics a day that would make a good magazine – but not all of them would make sense. But after I went through a difficult divorce the first time and a bloodbath the second, I decided a magazine offering support to people working through that messy dissolution process would be helpful. The most pleasant surprise has been the overwhelming positive feedback from both divorce professionals as well as individuals currently going through marital divorce. While books can certainly be valuable, a magazine with smaller “get to the point” advice can be much more useful. Every issue will cover how to stay well emotionally, physically, financially, and legally through the arduous divorce process. The objective is to have readers feel encouraged, motivated, and hopeful with every read. The most perplexing part about the project is why no one had thought of this concept before. 

S.H.:  Divorce laws differ from state to state, how are you going to cover all the states and their laws in the magazine?  Are you starting regional (like California first) and then expanding to the rest of the country?

M.R.: The largest sector heading to court are the 50 + year-olds. The divorce rate in the State of California is now at 60% and climbing. I launched Divorcing Well first in California because this is where I live and I’m most familiar with the laws governing dissolution within my State, having just gone through the experience. But while divorce laws differ from State to State within the U.S., some things remain the same, regardless of region. 

For example, when we suffer a marital betrayal, the tools to help us through those feelings of loss and abandonment are not bound by geography. Some of us may have at some point felt like we want to accidentally run over our ex’s new girlfriend. We all feel similar feelings and most of the magazine tackles issues pertaining to staying well on every level (including why running over the girlfriend is a stupid idea). Some of the articles, specifically those that address legal strategies, must be modified based on the laws that apply to each State. Divorcing Well can easily expand to other States as most of the content is universally meaningful. The pieces that address divorce laws would have to be modified to adapt to the laws governing divorce in each State.

S.H.: My typical last question is what keeps Monique up at night these days?

M.R.: Nothing keeps me up at night. I believe in a good and gracious God who keeps my family safe and helps me at every turn. I have many friends who have trouble sleeping — I tell them they should learn to trust God or invest in an effective sleeping pill. 

S.H.: Any additional things you’d like to add or I failed to ask you…

Divorce really does suck. And those going through one that is complicated and contentious need a lot of support from friends, family, psychotherapists, divorce coaches and whomever else they can find to dispense constant encouragement. I hope our publication can be a resource to help breathe life to the heartbroken and tired individuals going through this hardship. Our company is a mostly female group and many of us have experienced divorce. We are putting our hearts and souls into helping readers get through divorce and do it well. 

S.H.: Congratulations on the new launch and thank you.

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Bavual: The New Magazine With An Afrocentric Viewpoint. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Earl A. Birkett, Editor & Publisher.

February 1, 2022
The premiere issue of Bavual magazine.

“Given the divisive and misinformed times in which we live, Bavual just seemed like the right concept for this time.” Earl A. Birkett, Editor & Publisher, Bavual   magazine

“Bavual is a forceful and clear reteller of history from the Afrocentric viewpoint, and explainer of how that heritage interplays with today’s world. My belief is that knowledge is gained through understanding, and understanding is gained through truth.”  E.A.B.

Not too many times do I find myself at a loss of words when I am interviewing an editor or a publisher about his or her magazine.  But after hearing Earl A. Birkett’s story, I was indeed at a loss of words.  His passion to magazines and magazine media is evident in the way he talks about the magazine and on every page of the magazine that will hit the newsstands nationwide shortly.  

Bavual is a powerful forceful magazine with a very lucid focus. The timing can’t be any better, yet the content is timeless. Bavual and the man behind the magazine are both a force to reckon with. This is their story as told in this Mr. Magazine™ Q and A.

Eleven years ago, Mr. Birkett fell critically ill and lost both his legs and kidneys. He told me that he “narrowly survived, thanks to the grace of God and excellent medical treatment. Coming so close to my Maker forced me to re-arrange my priorities and concentrate on leaving a legacy for good. Part of that legacy, I hope, is Bavual.”

And thus the interview is about both Bavual and Mr. Birkett and the legacy that they are creating. So, without any further delay, here is the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Earl A. Birkett, editor and publisher of Bavual.    Enjoy.

Earl A. Birkett, editor and publisher of Bavual.

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: Congratulations on the launch of Bavual.  My first question is, “what Bavual, the magazine, is and what does the name mean?

Earl A. Birkett: “Bavual” is a popular name for a male child in many parts of Africa. The name is Swahili for “power, strength, force.” The fictional character I concocted to stand as the magazine’s muse is Bavual   Adisa, a perpetual 25 year old from Tanzania but who could live anywhere on Earth. His last name is Yoruba for “one who is clear, or lucid.” Those two names adequately describe what Bavual is: a forceful and clear reteller of history from the Afrocentric viewpoint, and explainer of how that heritage interplays with today’s world. My belief is that knowledge is gained through understanding, and understanding is gained through truth.

S.H.:  Tell me a little bit about your background and why did you decide to make the move to print after working for years with Time Warner?

E.A.B.: Actually, my background with Time Warner is limited and long ago. I worked in their cable tv division as a salesman in New York’s Outer Boroughs back in the late 80s and early 90s. It started out as a way to supplement my meager income as a high school social studies teacher and surprisingly grew into a lucrative affair for me. After the stint at Time Warner I continued in the business world, eventually becoming a real estate broker.

I have been in love with the magazine publishing business since I was eight years old; I have been a student of the industry ever since. Until now I never quite found the right moment to jump in as a publisher. Given the divisive and misinformed times in which we live, Bavual just seemed like the right concept for this time.

S.H.:  You seem very passionate about this project, yet we know with passion alone success could not be achieved.  What is your plan for success for this new venture?

E.A.B.: It’s true, I am very passionate about Bavual, it is almost a calling for me. Fortunately for me, I am not alone in this feeling. For whatever reason, divine intervention, luck or what have you, I have been able to assemble an editorial staff of nine very talented and dedicated people to help me in this quest. They come from both genders, several races, from diverse regions of the U.S. – including from some places you would not normally think would be attracted to a magazine like Bavual  – and even one from India.

Due to financial limitations, I cannot grow Bavual ‘s circulation as fast as I would like, so I have opted to build an audience the old-fashioned way: make each issue a masterpiece and put it before the public online, in retail outlets and in mailboxes, and let them vote yay or nay. If you build it they will come, right?

S.H.:  In the midst of hundreds of magazine titles out there, where do you see Bavual  fitting and whom do you view as its competitive set?

Ever since the demise of Ebony and Jet (in print) about a decade ago, Bavual is completely alone in the consumer magazine category that caters to the Afrocentric lifestyle. Essence fits only a portion of this market. As for magazines that focus on African heritage, it has been many more decades since. Its closest editorial descendant is a magazine called Encore that was published in the 70s by Ida Lewis, which covered Afrocentric news. I remember it from my teenage years and was captivated by it. 

The preview issue of Bavual magazine.

Bavual is designed to be a feast for the eyes and the mind, a reminder of what the great picture magazines like Life and Look were like combined with the relevance of, say, The Atlantic or The New Yorker

S.H.:  Who is the audience of this feast for the eyes and mind?

E.A.B.: Contrary to its name and focus, Bavual is not a “black” magazine, that is, published by black people for black people. It is inclusive, meaning that it is produced by a multicultural, international staff for ANYONE who wants to know the truth about the world’s past from one point of view, in this case, the Afrocentric one, warts and all, and how it relates to the present.

S.H.:  What has been the most difficult challenge so far and how did you overcome it?  What was the most pleasant surprise so far?

E.A.B.: The most difficult challenge was putting out both a Preview Issue last fall and the Premier Issue this winter. Like I said, we had to work on a shoestring, but you know what? We did it, and I think we did it very well.

The biggest surprise thus far is the broad appeal of Bavual. We have been picked up by retail outlets on the West Coast, the Midwestern heartland and the Southern Bible Belt. The biggest fun is finding out who reads us.

S.H.:  Before I ask you my typical last question, is there anything you’d like to add?

I don’t often like to talk about myself, but I think it important in this instance. There is one other motivating factor for starting Bavual, besides the obvious one of wanting to contribute to the public dialogue on race right now, and that is my health. Eleven years ago I fell critically ill, the victim of an unknown disease that is vaguely traced to complications from diabetes. I narrowly survived, thanks to the grace of God and excellent medical treatment, however it cost me both my legs (amputated below the knee) and my kidneys, which are failing (I am on dialysis), and a reduced energy level. Coming so close to my Maker forced me to re-arrange my priorities and concentrate on leaving a legacy for good. Part of that legacy, I hope, is Bavual. I also want to convey to people that having a disability is not the end of the world. I may not have a great body but I still have a great mind, thank God.

S.H.:  Amen to that.  My typical last question is what keeps you up at night these days?

E.A.B.: I think about the state of the world a lot, particularly the state of the most powerful country in the world, my homeland, the U.S.A. It pains me that a country that has been so good to me in so many ways has decided in many cases to travel down the road of ignorance, intolerance and selfishness. I am constantly reminded that good does not necessarily triumph over evil without constant vigilance.

S.H.:  Thank you and all the best in this new venture.

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“This Magazine Idea Will Never Work… And Other Myths…” Reader’s Digest At 100. A Mr. Magazine™ Musing.

January 28, 2022

After more than two years of hearing that his magazine idea The Reader’s Digest will never work, DeWitt Wallace, with the help of his wife Lila Bell Acheson, launched the magazine in February 1922. Today the magazine is celebrating its centennial year with the February 2022 issue… and as Paul Harvey used to say, “and now you know the rest of the story.” Enjoy

A replica of the February 1922 issue of Reader’s Digest that was produced in 1972 to celebrate the magazine’s 50th anniversary. From the Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni magazine collection.

Reader’s Digest is 100, or should I say The Reader’s Digest is 100.  In reality, The Reader’s Digest is 102 years old.  The founder, DeWitt Wallace produced his first issue in January of 1920 and shopped it around with all the major magazine publishers in New York City.  The response was, with no exception, this magazine will never work.  

The mission of The Reader’s Digest, as he called it back then, was summed up on the cover of the magazine and in his very first editorial.  On the cover of the January 1920 issue the concept of the magazine was stated clearly:  

“31 articles each month from leading magazines.  Each article of enduring value and interest. In condensed and permanent form.”

A replica of the January 1920 issue of Reader’s Digest that was produced in 1972 to celebrate the magazine’s 50th anniversary. From the Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni magazine collection.

The manifesto of the magazine was published on the very first page of the magazine.  It read:

The Reader’s Digest:

  1. The easiest way in which to learn something really worth while every day.
  2. Because of its “boiled down” interest and pocket size – the most practical and pleasant means of utilizing old moments.
  3. The one magazine containing articles only of such permanent and popular interest that each issue will be of a great value a year or two hence, as on the date of its publication.
  4. The Magazine of 100% Educational Interest – no fiction, no advertisements, no articles on purely transient topics and no articles of limited or specialized appeal.
  5. The Reader’s Digest in condensing its articles, eliminates the unessential and less interesting “filler” which is found in many magazine articles—often simply that reading matter may accompany the advertisements.
  6. The one magazine that is preeminently worth keeping—and binding—for future reference and enjoyment. If it is desired to remove any article, this is an easy matter, there being but one article on a page.
  7. The biggest magazine value – regardless of price – on the market. You find one or two articles, perhaps, of enduring interest in the ordinary magazine.  The Reader’s Digest contains 31 such articles in each issue – “one a day” – each one a “feature” article digested from some periodical.
  8. The Reader’s Digest believes that a thing really worth reading is worth remembering – which is possible in most cases only if the article is kept for occasional reference in the future.  For this purpose, the numbered sub-heads at the beginning of the articles will be found helpful.  Many of the “popular” magazines are too bulky to preserve – and not worth it for the little good matter which they contain.

Needless to say, all the aforementioned reasons to why The Reader’s Digest is a good proposed magazine, did not convince the major publishing houses in New York City to give it the green light.  Disappointed, DeWitt Wallace decided to give up his idea and shelved the January 1920 issue of the magazine.

In 1921 he married Lila Bell Acheson, a sister of one of his college classmates, and she happened, as the story goes, to see the copy of The Reader’s Digest DeWitt produced.  She loved the idea and convinced her newly married husband to publish the magazine on their own with some financial help from her brother.  The first regularly published issue of The Reader’s Digest came out in February 1922.  A new tag line was added to the magazine, “The Little Magazine.” 

Instead of DeWitt Wallace as Editor alone, the masthead carried four names as editors in the following order:  Lila Bell Acheson, DeWitt Wallace, Louise M. Patterson, and Hazel J. Cubberley.  The issue carried an editorial signed by Lila Bell Acheson in which she showed her skills of condensing the eight points DeWitt Wallace wrote in that preview issue to only four points.  She wrote under the heading A Word of Thanks:

“The Reader’s Digest has been made possible by you, and by other charter subscribers who have responded during the past four months to a letter telling of our proposed plan.

            In behalf, not only of ourselves, but of all those who have felt that the fulfillment of our plan would fill a very general need, we thank you.  Without your advance support – and that of other charter subscribers – this magazine could not have materialized.

            We believe you will find The Reader’s Digest of even greater value and interest than you had anticipated. These features will no doubt appeal particularly:

  1. Thirty-one articles each month – “one a day” – condensed from leading periodicals.
  2. Each article of enduring value and interest – today, next month, or a year hence; such articles as one talks about and wishes to remember.
  3. Compact form; easy to carry in the pocket and to keep for permanent reference.
  4. A most convenient means of “keeping one’s information account open” – of reading stimulating articles on a wide variety of subject.

In 1972, The Reader’s Digest, in celebration of its 50th anniversary reprinted both first issues of the magazine and housed them in a nice blue box with gold ink touting The First Of Fifty Years.   Today Reader’s Digest celebrates its Centennial Issue celebrating the “first of 100 years” with many more to come.

I guess the moto of this story is when someone tells you this idea will never work, take that as a good sign that this idea will not only work, but it work very well indeed.

The Centennial issue of Reader’s Digest Feb. 1922

Congratulations Reader’s Digest and here’s to the next 100 years.

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Link2Us Magazine: The Intersection Of Faith And Popular Culture: The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Editor-in-Chief Judith Manigault.

January 12, 2022

“Although we have an online presence (and our culture does thrive on the immediacy of online engagement), there’s nothing like the print experience: sitting down with a great magazine and being transported via images, various stories, and content that teaches and inspires. Print is altogether a different thing – an actual real experience.” Judith Manigault, Editor-in-Chief, Link2Us.

Link2Us Premiere Issue Winter 2022

“At the intersection of faith and popular culture lies Link2Us, a new lifestyle publication providing readers with a blueprint for living their best and most authentic lives. The new magazine delivers fresh and engaging content, including health and wellness news, finance tips, style trends and more, with faith and inspiration at its core,” so says the press release for the last new magazine launch of 2021.  The first issue of the magazine arrived late in December at the nation’s bookstores featuring cover star and ABC’s The Bachelor alum, Madison Prewett. 

The digital entity was launched in 2019 and migrated from the womb of digital to the reality world of ink on paper.  I had the opportunity to chat with Editor-in-Chief, Judith Manigault “who birthed the magazine’s concept while on a quest to find faith-based content that spoke to the issues of everyday life in a contemporary and relevant way.”  Judith noticed a lack in print offerings that filled this faith-based contend, and decided to do something about it.

And thus, Link2Us was born. Please enjoy this conversation with Judith Manigault, founder and editor-in-chief, Link2Us.

Judith Manigault, founder and editor in chief, Link2Us magazine

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni:  Congratulations on the launch of Link2Us newsstands’ debut. Can you please tell me about the idea behind the magazine and why did you decide to launch it in print on the newsstands now?

Judith Manigault : As a new publication, we fill a most overlooked niche: a culture hub for the 70% of adult Americans who consider themselves Christians. Historically, faith-based publications have centered their reach on ALL things spiritual but overlook prominent themes covered in mainstream outlets: note-worthy inspirational personalities, entertainment, food, fashion, travel, and more.

A few years ago, I noticed this missing link as I combed through an airport newsstand. Not one magazine bridged the gap between a world of faith and inspiration (which we all need now more than ever) and the everyday lifestyle topics that make our world a more vibrant place. So, we went to work and created a beautiful hybrid we believe millions will enjoy.

Although we have an online presence (and our culture does thrive on the immediacy of online engagement), there’s nothing like the print experience: sitting down with a great magazine and being transported via images, various stories, and content that teaches and inspires. Print is altogether a different thing – an actual real experience. It has the power to slow us down, make us pause, pay attention—and so we thought, what better time to engage the culture with a physical magazine? 

S.H.: The brand was founded in 2019. How did it evolve and what was the most challenging aspect of creating this brand?

J.M.: Well, the evolution of the brand was relatively seamless. We listened to our readers, expanded on what worked, and took the limits off of what is generally considered faith-based content. We meet the reader where they are and bring a fresh perspective to the conversation. You’d be surprised at how many folks search for a better way of thinking, being, and doing life.

S.H.: What was the most pleasant moment during this experience?

J.M.: As a promotional tactic, we asked our readers around the country to find us at their local Barnes & Nobles, Books-A-Million, and airports. Their posts and videos have been fantastic. Knowing that we have made the leap, and they can now find us across the U.S. – from California to NYC (and now Canada) – is exhilarating!

S.H.: What is the role of print in a digital age, and where does the print edition of Link2Us fit in the brand formula?

J.M.: Print is a media format that will continue to thrive as long as people have stories to tell. Readers everywhere still love to curl up with their favorite book at home, or bring their daily newspaper to their local coffee shop for a skim. Turning the pages to see what’s next (in a story, or what’s next in fashion, for example) is still incredibly exciting. Learning about the next trend or finding inspiration for the weeks ahead, especially at this particular time in our lives, is a basic human need and Link2Us is here to meet it.

S.H.: Your tagline is Link2Us and be inspired… and your motto is Next Level Faith… Can you please expand?

J.M.: “Link2Us and be inspired” was simply a way to convey our mission to inspire the masses. “Next level faith” grapples with how we see ourselves as people of faith in the world, and challenges our readers to reach new heights and create a life of faith that is more dynamic, appealing, and compelling.

S.H.: Is there anything else you’d like to add.

J.M.: While we are living in times marked by cultural, political, and social divides, the reality is that we do need each other to survive. It is my hope that Link2Us will serve as a common ground, where conversations revolve around the things that connect us, and not what separates us.

S.H.: My typical last question is what keeps you up at night?

J.M.: Believe it or not, that would be expansion. For us, the ability to talk to and reach a broader audience is of utmost importance. Launching at retail is a major step in connecting with the masses, and we are thrilled. 

S.H.: Congratulations again and thank you.

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