Archive for the ‘A Mr. Magazine™ Musing’ Category


Print Proud, Digital Smart…

July 21, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
“Imagine” John Lennon…

Perhaps John Lennon said it best. But when it comes to print, Mr. Magazine™ has also perhaps been a dreamer his entire life. Print has always been a part of my DNA since as far back as a small boy growing up in Tripoli, Lebanon. And for anyone who knows me, this isn’t breaking news.

However, CEOs and presidents of major publishing companies cannot afford to be entirely dreamers. I’m not implying that these men and women do not have visionary outlooks about their companies’ futures, but they also have a very shrewd and knowledgeable view of the business side of publishing. And when it comes to their bottom lines, they aren’t going to risk adding value to those simply to realize a childhood dream.

That being said, in the past few weeks I have interviewed any number of CEOs and presidents from some of the biggest publishing companies in the world, and they’ve all had one thing in common: their strong belief in being print proud and digital smart. Which as it turns out happens to be my theme for the upcoming Magazine Innovation Center’s 2018 ACT 8 Experience: Print Proud, Digital Smart. (Save the dates April 17 to 20, 2018). No apologies from Mr. Magazine™ for being in tune with some of the industry’s most intelligent and perceptive leaders. These men and women have a strong belief that print is their core product and THEY make no apologies for that, while acknowledging that digital is equally important in its own space.

It began with Michael Clinton, president, marketing and publishing director, Hearst Magazines. Hearst has seen amazing success with titles such as “The Pioneer Woman,” HGTV Magazine,and “Food Network Magazine,” both print publications having been born from equally successful partnerships with these multiplatform brands. Perhaps Michael said it best in Hearst’s case:

“I think that we continue to have a very strong point of view about our business. Obviously, we believe in our core product—which is print. Why do we believe so strongly? It’s because the consumer believes so strongly in it.”

“Great ideas do get funded. You know, create and sell. Great ideas get funded. Oftentimes, what I would tell our team when they would say, “Well, they don’t have a print budget.” I would say, “Let me ask you a question: do they have a budget?” Because every brand has a marketing budget, right? And, if you bring them a great idea, a great idea will get funding. And so we have many, many, many examples of business that has been created with no budget. The idea creates the budget. So, my mantra is “Great ideas do get funded” when you have the great, innovative idea.”

I spoke with Doug Kouma next, editorial content director, Meredith Core Media. Meredith has also found success in outside brand partnerships, having teamed up with Joanna and Chip Gaines from the highly popular HGTV series: “Fixer Upper,” to launch “The Magnolia Journal,” a magazine that was met by a huge success that it was moved from Meredith Core Media to the core Meredith magazines group. Perhaps Doug said it best in Meredith’s case:

“I actually think the tangible magazine you can hold in your hands is a feather in the cap for a digital-first brand. It’s what says, “We’ve made it. We’re here to stay. We’re legitimate.” And, almost counterintuitively, I suspect a lot of that is being driven by millennials. For as digitally savvy, and as digital-first a generation as millennials and Gen Z’s are, there’s also this yearning for authenticity and for something real. Again, I think it’s based on the type of content. I think with that generation in particular. It’s not fair at all to say millennials aren’t magazine readers. They’re magazine readers, but they want different types of magazines and want to consume information in different ways.”

From Doug Kouma, I spoke with Rich Battista, president and CEO, Time Inc. It’s hard to argue with anything one of the largest publishing companies in the world does. For generations, Time Inc. has been an innovator, going multiplatform even from the days of Henry Luce, with the launching of the “March of Time.” Perhaps Rich said it best in Time Inc.’s case:

“In a company that the DNA is incredible content and brands, I think we must find ways to leverage those brands and exploit them in as many platforms as possible, build new revenue streams, and grow old revenue streams. The print business is in a secular decline; I don’t think any of us can deny that. But, our print business is still number one in publishing , which is still a huge part of our revenue base. There are lots of advantages to what we can do with our print platform that helps us in many other ways.”

Andy Clurman, president and CEO from Active Interest Media was up next. Andy believes that for magazine media people, the transition to digital was not necessarily a natural progression. And why would it be? Perhaps Andy said it best in AIM’s case:

“I think fundamentally digital businesses are not the same as the magazine media business. We all have social media and you could say a magazine audience might be, from a community standpoint, like the original social media, but Facebook’s business model and Google’s business model are pretty radically different than the traditional magazine business model. So, it wasn’t a natural progression that if you’re in the magazine media business, you should have, would have figured all of that out.”

Former CEO, Penton and former CEO, Cygnus Business Media, and now co-founder of French LLC, John French emphatically believes the future for print is bright, if you do it right. Perhaps John said it best in his case:

“I think the future is bright and I think it’s bright in print. Fifteen years ago people were saying that publishers were going to be losing their jobs and print would be dead. You’re still hearing some of that today. Not as verbose and not as much, but you can still hear it. And I don’t believe it. Again, I think the audience is saying that if you do it right; if you customize it to what their area of interests are; if you make it look pretty, and you make it an experience that the audience can be proud of; make it theirs and something they can take ownership of, then they will read our print.”

And last, but certainly not least in this elite group of industry leaders, I spoke with Bonnie Kintzer, president and CEO of Trusted Media Brands. Bonnie’s print titles come from a legacy of being consumer-first publications. From Reader’s Digest to the Roy Reiman titles it acquired, such as Taste of Home, TMB and its leader thinks that putting customer first is the secret to their continued core success. And make no mistake, Bonnie believes that print is their core foundation, but also expects major growth from their digital side. Perhaps Bonnie said it best in Trusted Media Brands’ case:

“Why do people feel this need to beat up on print, in particular people in the industry? We closed our fiscal year June 30; we were up on advertising for both Reader’s Digest and Taste of Home year over year. Print is strong for us. We have a great respect for print and we have a great respect for the print reader. Of course, we expect greater growth to come from digital advertising, but one does not preclude the other.”

And Mr. Magazine™ is in complete agreement with each and every one of these savvy industry leaders. And is waiting on the day when all of the print naysayers and the pundits who shout that print is on its way out realize that in the 21st century those of us who love print for its experience, its power, its engaging and interactive relationship with the audience, let alone the money that it can bring a media company, does not mean that we do not also relish the convenience and scope of digital. We can and we should have both. To each has its power and reach. We don’t have to choose. Perhaps someday they’ll realize that.


Until the next time…

See you at the newsstands…


Learning From The Past When It Comes To Launching A New Magazine – Sometimes The Vintage Ways Work The Best. Plus Time Inc. Multi Media Ventures Circ. 1930s…

June 16, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

I often hear the question: how do you launch a magazine in today’s digital age? And what role does digital play in today’s magazine media market place? Now, those are loaded queries if I’ve ever heard one, simply because there is no definitive answer. You need passion, innovation, a really good idea, stick-to-itiveness, which is a non-word that will become your mantra, and of course, financial backing. So what better answers to get from searching our past as we chart the present and the future.

A new launch and the role of digital in today’s magazine world can always use a leg-up as well; an edge, if you will. That’s why this Mr. Magazine™ Musing was written, because I discovered a golden nugget from the past that still rings very true today. Going that extra mile or offering that little oomph that maybe some other magazine isn’t, could quite possible be someone’s “leg-up” or “edge” when it comes to launching a new magazine today. There really is nothing new under the sun; if you thought of it, so has someone else. Even Time Inc. in the 1930s opted to go beyond print to spread its content. So here are some pearls of wisdom from the past that people fail to look for; just because the oyster’s shell is old, doesn’t mean there isn’t a treasure inside.

I was perusing the treasures inside the Mr. Magazine™ Classic Vault recently, (my own personal oyster shell pile) when I stumbled upon an amazing find. Beneath the bounty of exquisite classic titles, in a corner all its own, lay the oversized (14 x 17 inches) preview issue of Cinema Arts magazine, launched in September, 1936 . The cover showcases the striking features of the inimitable actress Jean Arthur, who in 1936, with the release of the Frank Capra film, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town,” was celebrating her first featured role.

Now, what is so significant and important to note with this preview issue, not that the beautiful Jean Arthur was anything to sneeze at, is that this particular sneak peek at the magazine was meant entirely for private circulation and not for public sale.

The magazine has an announcement at the very front of the book which proclaims that, “it should be stated that none of these advertisements were paid for and advertisers in no way endorse Cinema Arts. Our purpose in publishing this preview issue is to acquaint national advertisers, agencies and motion picture executives with the type of publication they may expect.” The announcement goes on to list the advertisers, agencies, and they also thank people in the motion picture industry.

However, what really grabbed my attention and impressed me was the magazine, in this private issue, introduced itself to the public, the industry and the advertisers. It didn’t just show up in someone’s mailbox or on their doorstep. The publisher actually took the time to explain the magazine’s mission statement and its goal to each of the publication’s three different customers that it would be serving.

There is an introduction for each one in the beginning of the book and this is a fantastic lesson for new magazines today to learn from. You have to cater to your customers who count, instead of trying to count all of John Q. Public as your customers. And in the case of Cinema Arts those customers were the film industry, as a whole, the public and the advertisers. So, in the Cinema Arts Presents introduction, each individual consumer is addressed singularly.

Another amazing thing about the magazine is the quality of the printing and the size of the preview issue. It’s an experience unto itself, before you even start to read it. Just touching the paper that they used for some of the pages gives you such a sensory perception of the passionate offering the magazine put out there.

Time Inc. Multi Media Ventures

In addition to the way the magazine was introduced, there were unbelievably interesting and informative articles within its pages. One that really caught my attention was written by Ralph Rolan, who was vice president of radio’s, “MARCH OF TIME,” and was also circulation manager of TIME before he became the producer of “MARCH OF TIME.”

In the article he talks about how in 1931, Henry Luce, “After establishing two great magazines in the publishing field, “TIME” and “FORTUNE,” turned to radio and introduced on Friday nights, the “MARCH OF TIME,” presenting the significant news of the week dramatized by able actors and pointed with TIME’s own style of editorial writing. For five years the “MARCH OF TIME” on the air has won most of the polls and awards offered for dramatic programs.”

The article continues with more enlightening content: “Most talked of factor of TIME, FORTUNE and the MARCH OF TIME on the air has been the frankness and keenness with which its editors have discussed the world’s news. So it was with considerable trepidation on the part of motion picture theater operators that they learned the MARCH OF TIME was to be made into a motion picture. They wondered, under the censorship regulations of almost every state, if such a strong fare could get by and, if passed, how the audiences, who were used to the happy endings of fictional romances and drama, would receive the strong, stark happenings of real events.”

“The MARCH OF TIME on the screen made its appearance February 1st, 1935 in 417 theaters scattered throughout the United States. Today it shows in more than 6,000 theaters in the United States, has spread over a thousand in the British Empire, hundreds in the Spanish speaking nations and some 300 more theaters scattered throughout the United States possessions and miscellaneous English speaking colonies throughout the world – an excellent answer to all skeptics.”

So, this magazine, Cinema Arts, had the vision of reaching its three audiences, and producing some very informative articles, such as the one that caught my attention about Time Inc. and its role in multimedia from the company’s inception. The importance of what Rolan was talking about in his article shows the depth and value of good content. Something that still holds true today.

For those of us willing to open our minds and see the possibilities that history presents us and the very real publishing lessons that we can learn, there’s no telling what “new” information we might reintroduce to the world of magazines.

Until next time…

See you at the newsstands…


Magazines Always Deliver… Whether Numbers Are Up Or Down – Magazines Never Disappoint

June 12, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing Comparing The First Five Months Of 2017 To 2016

As I surveyed the Mr. Magazine™ Launch Monitor for the first five months of 2017, I couldn’t ignore that the musing I am about to write comes to you with a slight bittersweet positivity. An odd description, you might think, but the reason for the oxymoronic tinge of phrasing is because, unfortunately, as happens occasionally, the numbers being compared for the first five months of 2017 show a slight downward trend, in both frequency and specials. However, on the flip side, that positive flow that always propels ink on paper is still supremely prevalent. No matter the “numbers,” magazines always deliver the goods. Always. Just as Mr. Magazine™ himself feels the random slowdown, so does the stream of magazines rolling off the presses. It doesn’t mean that I or they are down for the count, it merely signifies an “off” day, so to speak.

From January through May, 2017, the numbers are as follows:

• Total Frequency Titles – 47
• Total Special Titles (including bookazines & annuals) – 205

From January through May, 2016, the numbers are as follows:

• Total Frequency Titles – 86
• Total Special Titles (including bookazines & annuals) – 252

As I’m sure you can do the math yourself, I won’t waste your time showing you the actual numerical difference. Suffice it to say, major publishers and companies haven’t let the thought of a “slowdown” curtail them in the least. This year alone, we’ve seen past magazines reborn, leading companies creating new ones, and entrepreneurs stepping out onto that visionary limb to go for their dreams. From the rebirths of Paste, Brio, and Zink magazine to the premiere issue of Airbnb Mag, the successful company’s new travel magazine published with partnership with Hearst Magazines, to the February, 2017 magazine launch, Rova (about millennials who love to roam the open roads in their RV’s) that any entrepreneur would be proud to call their offspring, new launches are still being catapulted into that stratosphere called the magazine market. Slowdown means nothing to the medium that knew what it was like to stand against the forces of darkness a few years ago, namely the naysayers who were determined that the last nail in the magazine coffin belonged to them.

Of course the launch of The Pioneer Woman (this month, and also published in partnership with Hearst Magazines) is not included in this musing, neither the one million new circulation numbers for The Magnolia Journal (published in partnership with Meredith)… just keep in mind we are comparing the first five months of 2017 to that of 2016.

But have no fear magazine lovers everywhere: the printed word is going nowhere. Except maybe onto the page of the next new magazine launch, which I’m sure will be out any day now.

Until we meet at the newsstands…

The chart below compares the first five months of 2017 to that of 2016 and is followed by the month to month breakdown of the numbers:

• January 2017:

• Frequency – 5
• Specials – 32

• January 2016:

• Frequency – 21
• Specials – 56

• February 2017:

• Frequency – 4
• Specials – 33

• February 2016:

• Frequency – 12
• Specials – 57

• March 2017:

• Frequency – 6
• Specials – 62

• March 2016:

• Frequency – 7
• Specials – 46

• April 2017:

• Frequency – 12
• Specials – 30

• April 2016:

• Frequency – 21
• Specials – 50

• May 2017:

• Frequency – 20
• Specials – 48

• May 2016:

• Frequency – 25
• Specials – 43


WIN Magazine: The Day Magazines Paid For “User-Generated Content”… A Mr. Magazine™ Blast From The Past.

April 7, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

Magazines have been valuing their readers and their ideas for years, even before This Old House magazine became “Your Old House” for an issue a few years ago, allowing its readers to have free rein with the content. Also before many cooking magazines, such as titles from Southern Progress Corp., were asking its readers to share favorite recipes; and even before Roy Reiman built an empire based on a business model that worked successfully for him, where his readers wrote around 80 percent of the content of his magazines.

Today, it’s called “User-Generated Content” or UGC and there are all kinds of articles and inspirations out there to help one learn how to best utilize and collect this important – and you would think – newly discovered strategy. However, it’s far from new, as you read from the previous examples, and it’s certainly not unique to those prestigious entities either.

I opened up my Mr. Magazine™ Classic Vault recently and dug around inside, coming up with a beautiful title from 1939 called “WIN.” And it would appear this over 75-year-old magazine’s contents were entirely reader-written, wait – that’s the same as user-generated, correct?

The tagline for the first issue of WIN dated March 1939 reads: ‘The Magazine Written By The People – Photos – Stories – Gags – Poems – etc. And not only did this magazine accept content written by its readers, it paid them for it by utilizing the received material in a contest format. Somebody had on his or her thinking cap in 1939, that’s for sure. In fact, inside the magazine, next to its Table of Contents, there is this reminder: Don’t forget, $5,000 every issue.

It’s a very good execution of what many in the media business are trying to do today. And it’s a forerunner of that brand new catchphrase: user-generated. But just remember, there is nothing new under the sun; if we’ve done it today, guaranteed it’s a long shadow and being cast from someone many decades before.

Until the next Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

See you at the newsstand…


Monocle and Garden & Gun: Celebrating 10 Years of Magazine Excellence

March 29, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

Ten years ago, from both sides of the Atlantic, two new magazines were launched: Monocle and Garden & Gun. At the time, these valiant titles were diminutive compared to the Titan that according to many threatened to vanquish print: digital. The skeptics believed that the online universe would ultimately force all print to disappear, and there would be no room for (or use, for that matter) a heavy-duty, sink-into-your-favorite-easy-chair-to-read-and-flip-the-pages, well-done, well-crafted magazine, except for maybe something based only on sound bites or fluffy, celebrity news.

In the U.K., Tyler Brûlé, founder of Wallpaper* magazine, launched Monocle with much fanfare and press coverage. The same can be said on this side of the Atlantic when Rebecca Darwin, former publisher of The New Yorker and Fortune, launched Garden & Gun in South Carolina, with the support and funding of newspaper magnate, Pierre Manigault.

Today, both magazines are celebrating 10-year anniversaries with two of the most amazing issues that I have ever seen. With Monocle, it may take me the entire month to finish reading all 300+ pages of the enlightening content within this well-crafted, well-designed and very well reinvented and reengineered magazine. In fact, it was the first magazine I ever awarded the International Launch of the Year.

As for Garden & Gun, I can’t speak highly enough about what they have accomplished through all of the peaks and valleys that they’ve had over the years. Many have written the obituary of the magazine, yet it has proven to be as resilient as a cat with nine lives (sorry dogs), and the magazine today is stronger than ever with content second to none. Both magazines have also seen their share of imitators over the years and have become the standard by which others raise their bar.

So, here’s a toast to 10 years of excellent content and to the power and strength of print well done. In honor of magazines matter, print matters, kudos to Monocle and Garden & Gun.

Happy 10th Anniversary!

Until next time…

See you at the newsstand…


From The Mr. Magazine™ Vault: Magazines From 1919 and 1932 — Similar Topics As Magazines From 2017, But Perhaps Better Coverage And Content?

February 21, 2017

Second of a Series of Mr. Magazine™ Musings About Classic Creative Innovation…

the-independent747the-independent-inside749the-indie-4752When it comes to the creative innovations of today, we have a tendency to think that 21st century humans are the “be all and end all” of everything. But Mr. Magazine™ is here to tell you that is simply not the case. Inside my classic vault of vintage magazines, you’ll find stories and articles that are 50 years, or much older, which cover many “cutting edge” topics.

For example, I have a copy of The Independent magazine that was published weekly by the Independent Corporation in New York. This magazine incorporated Harper’s Weekly within its pages. The lead story in this particular August 2, 1919 issue is “Can Congress Compromise?” The story talks about the divide between the Democrats and the Republicans (way before Presidents Trump, Obama, or Bush were even born, imagine that), and there is another article about “The British Ratification,” which is very similar to today’s British Brexit. There is a story titled, “Another Mexican Crisis,” one about “The Public Utility Crisis,” and one called “The Washington Riots.” An editorial about “The Black Man’s Rights,” and one titled, “The New Melting Pot.” Is any of this sounding familiar? If it isn’t, where have you been for the last several months and years?

And from the September/October 1932 issue of Asia magazine, an article entitled, “The Stars and Stripes Overseas,” in which the president of the American University of Beirut,(Lebanon), gives an observation on the appropriate conduct of Americans overseas, leading with principles by which our contacts with foreign nationals should be governed:

asia748I. We should not attempt to work abroad at all unless we can improve upon the methods of local agencies and take the time to carry on our activities in a thorough and creditable way.
II. Our contacts abroad should be based upon a sincere exchange of ideas. We should wish to learn as well as to teach.
III. We must base our success on personality rather than on organization, creed or propaganda.

The idea that the world we live in today is any different than the world people lived in decades ago is simply narcissistic. And the one thing that you can count on to show you that fact is a magazine. I have said it repeatedly; magazines are reflectors, mirror images of ourselves and what is going on around us. But rest assured, there is nothing new under the “creative innovation” sun when it comes to ideas, political landscapes, or the interaction between people of all cultures.

So, when you see the cover of your favorite magazine depicting our President as a strong leader or a shyster, because both sides are out there, remember that 75 years from now, President Trump may be proving another point besides the fact that he can indeed win an election; he might be proving that someone else isn’t the first of their ilk to do it!

Until next time…

act7Magazines Matter. Print Matters. That is the theme for the Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT (Amplify, Clarify, Testify) 7 Experience that will take place April 25 to 27. Space is limited, so check the agenda and register to join us for an experience of a life-time.


There’s No Place Like The Newsstand…There’s No Place Like The Newsstand…

February 20, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

bikers-for-trump689rise-up687mad690golfer-in-chief688Some Yellow Brick Roads do exist and not just in the Land of Oz. If you follow the trail of what’s going on in our world today, the great and powerful Oz awaits you at the end of a road called “Newsstand.” And it’s there that you can find the stories that stimulate your brain; touch your heart; and more often than not; bolster your own courage as well.

In the life of Mr. Magazine™, there’s no place like the newsstand. It’s where I meet my new friends, old friends and my well-established friends; those who are very dear to my heart: my beloved magazines.

And with this Yellow Brick Road, you know what’s behind the curtain; you may not know what the exact outcome of that particular journey will bring you, but you can rest assured that it will be provocative and emotional as the magazines and their covers grab your attention and refuse to let it go. It doesn’t matter if you’re at the airport, train station, bookstore, or the supermarket; you know that the welcome mat is out, no one is going to tell you to “go away” and your friends will be there to meet and greet you.

As reflectors of the society that we live in, magazines do the same thing that they did yesterday and will continue to do tomorrow: they mirror our thoughts, emotions and the events that are happening in our lives. For example, as we hear all of the political rhetoric; the pros and cons of our new presidential resident and his team; or the assaults on the media or the assaults on the president; magazines play their own role in all of this, by being reflectors of these unsettling and unrestful times that we live in.

To show you what I mean, there is a commemorative issue on newsstands now called “Bikers for Trump,” which Easyrider magazine came up with in stalwart support of our new president. And then on another wave of the magical magazine wand, Condé Nast launched a magazine called “Rise Up,” a publication about the “Women’s March on Washington” in protest of President Trump. And then you have those magazines out there who illustrate yet another sentiment of folks who try not to take either political side, such as “Mad Magazine” that vowed on its most recent issue that they wished there was nothing about Trump between the pages of that particular issue. By the same token, just to show that magazine publishers can be magnanimous and shouldn’t be depicted by some as the Wicked Witches of the West, Condé Nast released not only the “Rise Up” issue to protest the president, they also did a magazine entitled “TRUMP, Golfer In Chief,” where their Golf Digest magazine published a special issue on President Trump and his “golfing” habits.

There are magazines out there that have a strong opinion and those that might have one, but have sworn to stay non-political. There are magazines that support Trump and magazines that do as much damage to his presidency as a falling house would, but you can rest assured magazines are out there to reflect on all sides.

So, when you need to step back and really see what’s happening in our world today, here is some aged and wise advice that was given to a young lady a long time ago; albeit this time around it’s the good wizard of the South, “Mr. Magazine™” who is offering it:

Just close your eyes and tap your heels together three times. And think to yourself, “There’s no place like the newsstand; there’s no place like the newsstand.”

Until next time…

act7Magazines Matter. Print Matters. That is the theme for the Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT (Amplify, Clarify, Testify) 7 Experience that will take place April 25 to 27. Space is limited, so check the agenda and register to join us for an experience of a life-time.