Archive for the ‘Across the Pond’ Category

h1

Citizen Designer, Perspectives On Design Responsibility: The Presence Of Ink In Hand Design Is Powerful & Responsible – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Véronique Vienne, Co-Editor/Author, Citizen Designer…

June 11, 2018

“I was writing about the fact that taking ink to paper and writing something by hand has so much more credibility than taking that same message and printing it and putting it on a wall. So, the presence of the ink and the hand, which is what the kids did in the anti-gun movement. Kids went out into the streets in the United States and wrote slogans on panels and pieces of cardboard. They weren’t very sophisticated slogans, but they were done by hand. And the kids were holding them. And there were pictures being taken of the kids holding the pieces of cardboard. And those pictures made it onto the Internet.” Véronique Vienne…

The second edition of “Citizen Designer” attempts to answer the question of what it means to be a designer in today’s corporate-driven, over branded global consumer culture, according to the powers-that-be behind this simplistic, yet powerfully-written book. Between the essays that are raw and informative to the glossary of terms and words used religiously in the design community written by former art director and co-author of the book, Véronique Vienne, this dynamic tool is far from a mere self-help guide to great design.

Recently, I spoke with Véronique, via Skype at her home in South France, one half of the team (along with Steven Heller) who put this book together and we talked about the social change and responsibilities that designers can affect and do have in our world. Véronique believes that design can and should be more than just a service to clients and can bring about political and social manifestations of importance within our society. This new edition of the book, the first having been written some 15 years ago, contains a collection of definitions and brief case studies on topics that today’s citizen designers must consider, including new essays on social innovation, individual advocacy, group strategies, and living as an ethical designer.

Véronique said she felt compelled to participate in this updated version due to the upheaval in the world today, with the American political front and many other important issues. And after having spoken with her, Mr. Magazine™ can certainly understand her dedication to her convictions and beliefs; the passion in her words came through loud and clear. And her faith in the power of design is inspiring.

So, without further ado, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Véronique Vienne, co-author, Citizen Designer.

But first the sound-bites:

On the book “Citizen Designer”: About a year ago, the publisher thought that it would be a good idea to bring back the book and update it. And we did. I wasn’t keen on doing it, but I thought that it was my duty to revisit the topic in light of the political situation in the United States and in the world, and all the things that had happened since the first edition. And I thought we needed to take a good look at the profession, not only because of the political situation, but because of the evolution of technology and social networking and all of that. It’s a totally different situation today.

On her belief that graphic designers have a social responsibility: Since I came back to Europe, I can say that in America I think design is miles apart from Europe. The American graphic design community is unfortunately held hostage to marketing. They think they’re apolitical, but you cannot be apolitical. If you’re apolitical, that’s a political stance. You have to stop thinking that you can be apolitical. You serve an economy based on different principles and if you serve that economy, you serve the principle of that economy. You have to stop being naïve.

On what she believes the role of ink on paper is in today’s digital world: I wrote about this very topic in a recent posting on a blog called “Common Edge,” about architecture and design. I was writing about the fact that taking ink to paper and writing something by hand has so much more credibility than taking that same message and printing it and putting it on a wall. So, the presence of the ink and the hand, which is what the kids did in the anti-gun movement. Kids went out into the streets in the United States and wrote slogans on panels and pieces of cardboard. They weren’t very sophisticated slogans, but they were done by hand. And the kids were holding them. And there were pictures being taken of the kids holding the pieces of cardboard. And those pictures made it onto the Internet.

On having worked in magazine media and media on both sides of the Atlantic and some differences that she still sees today: There are many differences, of course. When I came to the States in the early sixties, it was a different time. It was the Cold War; it was Camelot, the whole thing. And I was very gullible, in a way. I bought the bull. I loved America and I still love America. I am very proud of my American passport. I adore the country, I really do. It is my home. I think in English, I write in English and I love the country.

On why a book about design has no pictures: One of the realities is that publishers nowadays want the authors to get the pictures for free. Or do the research for the picture. And you spend half of your time doing the photo research. I’m not interested in that. The second thing is people go online all of the time to look at pictures. To have really good pictures and really good illustrations, it’s a job in itself. Steve and I did a book that does very well, which is going into its second edition called “100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design.” For that one we did a lot of research and we got designers to give us information for free and they signed paperwork and documents that we could publish it on the moon if we had to. And half of your time is spent chasing images, when actually readers go online and Google the image.

On where in the book she would like for readers to begin: Steve and I put the glossary in front, because I think it’s the first thing they should read. Second, one thing we did not do is make it a self-help book. It’s really a collection of essays, without us trying to have a theory behind it. At the very beginning what I think is there is going to be a change of mentality in the design community. We have to find our soul. We have to find that designer within ourselves. And everybody does it in a different way.

On why the book is dedicated to Michelle and Barack Obama: Yes. I think both Steve and I are sentimental and we thought they were two great people. We love them. And it came from the heart. I think one of the reasons that we did the book is because we’re under the shock of the Trump election, which did not reflect our convictions.

On anything else she’d like to add: Yes, I hope it’s a book that people can browse through and find essays here and there that resonate with them. I love the design; I think it’s very spartan. I think it’s readable. We wanted it to be easy to read, in terms of typography. The design is there in the typography; the choice of the designer. It’s a very humble book. We’re not proclaiming that we know anything. It’s a little grass roots; we wanted it to be that way, because I think that’s the way it’s going to be. I don’t believe we can change the world, but we can try to make sense of it.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: Smart, intelligent, provocative, and honest.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: You’d find me cooking for my friends. I believe that around the table, around food, around a glass of wine, yes, but also around food which takes a longer time to enjoy, a dinner, a meal, lunch, people can get to know each other and can spend some time.

On what keeps her up at night: I don’t know. My daughter in Los Angeles. That’s a long way. And I hope she’s fine. It’s thinking about all of my friends in the United States and I’m in France. My heart is still with all my very dear friends on the West Coast and everywhere in the States.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Véronique Vienne, co-editor/author, Citizen Designer.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the book “Citizen Designer.”

Véronique Vienne: Steve (Heller – coeditor of the book) and I collaborated together, 15 years ago, on the book, at a more gentle time. We thought that there was already a sense in the graphic design community that there was more to design than just serving the clients; the designer maybe had another function. Another thing that they could do. Pro bono work or who knows what else.

The book was mildly successful in its first edition. It remained in print because I think universities and schools were interested in the topic. It’s a very hard-to-define topic because basically graphic designers are at the service of their clients. There’s an assignment and you try and deal with that assignment. But more and more there was a sense in the community that entrepreneurship and authorship is also a part of the profession.

So, recently, about a year ago, the publisher thought that it would be a good idea to bring back the book and update it. And we did. I wasn’t keen on doing it, but I thought that it was my duty to revisit the topic in light of the political situation in the United States and in the world, and all the things that had happened since the first edition. And I thought we needed to take a good look at the profession, not only because of the political situation, but because of the evolution of technology and social networking and all of that. It’s a totally different situation today.

And more and more graphic designers were questioning and wondering what they could do to “save the world.” You know we all want to save the world. So, we decided to tackle the topic again. We kept about a third of the articles; we reread what had been written 15 years ago, and actually they were quite a few articles that were almost premonitions; they were really good and we kept them at the back of the book.

And we generated more interviews and I did a job that I wanted to do, which was a glossary, that was my main contribution. I took all of those words that we know a little bit about and all of those terms that we have a fuzzy notion of what they are, and I thought it was important to, for myself first and then share it with designers, take a good look at what was behind the terms. I think in order to be effective politically and citizen-wise, you have to be informed. And informed with an opinion and not just informed Wikipedia-style. You need to learn more of a point of view. And that’s why I tackled this glossary.

Originally, I had wanted 100 terms, but after 60 terms, I was running out of time. I feel the first thing a graphic designer needs, or anyone for that matter who wants to make a difference, is information and trying to get some straight answers. You can’t just Google something and think you know what it’s all about. So, I dug a little deeper in those entries. And they were very brief entries, but I wanted to do them to clarify for myself some of the terms.

But with “Citizen Designer,” Steven and I had a discussion about that; what do designers actually do? And my conviction, which is partly shared with Steve, is that designers have incredible communication skills. That they can put into service a lot of good causes. But what’s depressing sometimes is to see good people with really good intentions or good causes have very poor communication skills. I compare designers in a way to scribes of the past. We transcribe, we design, but we transcribe other people’s convictions and ideas into a language that other people can appreciate and interact with.

As scribes, and I always wanted to be a scribe, this ability to make visible, to make readable, to transcribe and translate other people’s convictions into a language that is powerful is what designers can do. They’ve come to save the world by doing a campaign.

A citizen designer for me is someone who is well-educated, like a scribe, smart and savvy, but also chooses their causes and puts their talents at the service of organizations or communities, or something.

Samir Husni: What makes you connect that love of being a scribe, love of translating politics and citizens, and the social aspect with design? You rarely hear graphic designers or art directors talking about social responsibility, most talk about the font their using for this or that.

Véronique Vienne: Since I came back to Europe, I can say that in America I think design is miles apart from Europe. The American graphic design community is unfortunately held hostage to marketing. They think they’re apolitical, but you cannot be apolitical. If you’re apolitical, that’s a political stance. You have to stop thinking that you can be apolitical. You serve an economy based on different principles and if you serve that economy, you serve the principle of that economy. You have to stop being naïve.

I’m actually chagrined and upset sometimes when I look at some of the topics that are discussed in the graphic design community in the U.S. because it’s totally about a tight-fist or the vernacular or blah, blah, blah. It’s about what I call the “merch.” Recently, I was reading an article and it was talking about the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The journalist who wrote the article was saying that their marriage was all about love, it was all about the love of two people and it was so inspiring. And another person in the article was saying, no, it’s all about the merch. And by the merch, they mean the merchandise. The hats, the T-shirts; it’s about the merch.

And in a way I think, and I’m really sad to see it, that the American community in general, not everybody, of course, doesn’t think that they can remain on the sidelines. And that’s why I think the book is necessary, along with many more books, not just the one. This one is just the second edition. We could try to define what graphic designers could be. I know that in Europe, political statements start with a manifesto. You write it and you glue it on the wall. So, I think posturizing, writing something on a wall, writing something on a piece of paper, is really part of the DNA of graphic design.

Samir Husni: What role do you think ink on paper, print, plays in today’s digital age? And do you think that we can do the same things through the digital platforms, or there’s a big difference between ink on paper and pixels on a screen?

Véronique Vienne: I wrote about this very topic in a recent posting on a blog called “Common Edge,” about architecture and design. I was writing about the fact that taking ink to paper and writing something by hand has so much more credibility than taking that same message and printing it and putting it on a wall. So, the presence of the ink and the hand, which is what the kids did in the anti-gun movement. Kids went out into the streets in the United States and wrote slogans on panels and pieces of cardboard. They weren’t very sophisticated slogans, but they were done by hand. And the kids were holding them. And there were pictures being taken of the kids holding the pieces of cardboard. And those pictures made it onto the Internet.

It’s a little bit of what we learned with Je suis Charlie – I am Charlie – when people took to the streets. It was a viral panel that a designer had done, Je suis Charlie. And if they had printed it and took to the streets and held it…well, I think the ink and the paper and the handheld message, even in our digital age, still has a lot of power. And it’s still very much a part of how you can harness the strength of the graphic gesture, if you will.

Samir Husni: I’m very intrigued by your own story. You spent 40 years in the States, but you’re originally from France. During those 40 years you spent here in the U.S., you had a chance to work in magazine media and in media, so you’ve worked on both sides of the Atlantic. What are some of the differences that you still see today?

Véronique Vienne: There are many differences, of course. When I came to the States in the early sixties, it was a different time. It was the Cold War; it was Camelot, the whole thing. And I was very gullible, in a way. I bought the bull. I loved America and I still love America. I am very proud of my American passport. I adore the country, I really do. It is my home. I think in English, I write in English and I love the country.

But of course there was a shift after 9/11, even before. I became politicized little by little, like everybody else. With age you start to look at the situation and of course, I had been exposed in France at the Bozar. I had gone to the Bozar School in Paris, briefly in architecture, but I did finish. I had been exposed to something called the Situationists there. And so it was sort of hanging around in my consciousness.

I wrote a bestseller, believe it or not, in the States called “The Art of Doing Nothing.” And in my brain was a critique of the consumer culture. It sold a half million copies. And people completely misunderstood what it was about. They thought it was an adorable gift book. I almost invented the gift book category with it. (Laughs) It’s still in print. I had meant it to be a political gesture. And it turned out to be the opposite. It became a franchise. They wanted me to become a television guru and I refused, because that wasn’t what I wanted to do.

So it was always in the back of my mind, a critique of that consumer frenzy, if you will, but I was never able to do anything about it. And eventually, with the second Bush administration, even before we get to our time, there was an empty intellectualism in the United States. Anti-French intellectualism. And in order to survive, I suppressed in me the desire to be more honest; it was self-censorship, I guess that’s called. After a while, 40 years, I realized that self-censorship was becoming hard; I wanted to do something else. And I couldn’t do it.

I was writing for a women’s magazine at the time, I was no longer an art director, I was writing for an architecture magazine; I was writing for a lot of different things. But I somehow always had to push the merch. And I wanted to go back to a place where I didn’t have to be fabulous all of the time. It’s so tiring to be fabulous all of the time. In the States, in order to survive, we have to be fabulous. If not, you don’t count, you don’t make a difference. So, I wanted to try living in a place where being fabulous wasn’t part of the picture. That’s why I went back to France, and to take care of my mom, who is going to be 100-years-old in a few months. I split my time between Paris and the South of France, where I moved back into the family home.

Samir Husni: As I was reading some of the essays in the book and flipping through the pages, I noticed something. Here is a book about design from two graphic designers, but there isn’t a single picture in the book. Was that intentional?

Véronique Vienne: One of the realities is that publishers nowadays want the authors to get the pictures for free. Or do the research for the picture. And you spend half of your time doing the photo research. I’m not interested in that.

The second thing is people go online all of the time to look at pictures. To have really good pictures and really good illustrations, it’s a job in itself. Steve and I did a book that does very well, which is going into its second edition called “100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design.” For that one we did a lot of research and we got designers to give us information for free and they signed paperwork and documents that we could publish it on the moon if we had to. And half of your time is spent chasing images, when actually readers go online and Google the image.

So, we made a choice. And we decided it would be a bad idea, because the image we might find and be able to afford, there would be no budget for those images. And it was so insignificant compared to what could be done. So, we decided that we would hopefully write things that people would want to read. But we may be wrong. “100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design” is a lot of illustrations. And it’s doing well, very well.

Samir Husni: After buying the book, if someone asks you where in the book would you like for them to begin, what would you say?

Véronique Vienne: Steve and I put the glossary in front, because I think it’s the first thing they should read. Second, one thing we did not do is make it a self-help book. It’s really a collection of essays, without us trying to have a theory behind it. At the very beginning what I think is there is going to be a change of mentality in the design community. We have to find our soul. We have to find that designer within ourselves. And everybody does it in a different way.

And so this is not a prescription; we don’t say do this or do that. Everybody has a different approach. And some are a lot more theoretical and some are just gut feelings. And so we left the essays in a raw state, because as an engaged community we are not quite together yet. We’re still in the stage of trying to find ourselves, and I’m talking about the French as well as the Americans, which are the two communities I know well. I think it’s going to take time for us to figure out what on earth we’re doing. Are we already so incredibly obsolete that we’re just kidding ourselves? And I think the book is reflecting a lot of the different attempts by individuals to make sense of what they can do.

Samir Husni: You’ve dedicated the book to Michelle and Barack Obama, why?

Véronique Vienne: Yes. I think both Steve and I are sentimental and we thought they were two great people. We love them. And it came from the heart. I think one of the reasons that we did the book is because we’re under the shock of the Trump election, which did not reflect our convictions.

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

Véronique Vienne: Yes, I hope it’s a book that people can browse through and find essays here and there that resonate with them. I love the design; I think it’s very spartan. I think it’s readable. We wanted it to be easy to read, in terms of typography. The design is there in the typography; the choice of the designer. It’s a very humble book. We’re not proclaiming that we know anything. It’s a little grass roots; we wanted it to be that way, because I think that’s the way it’s going to be. I don’t believe we can change the world, but we can try to make sense of it.

I was reading recently about the first books, before the invention of the printing press, it was on scrolls, and it basically said that the very fact that we can go back to the book and leaf through it now, allows us to not scroll through a text like in the ancient times, but online we’re back to scrolling. When we go back and forth in print, our relationship, our mental relationship, the structure of our analysis of a text was changed because we were no longer following the linear narrative, we could go back or we could go forward. We could comprehend the whole thing and then choose where we wanted to go.

And that was a major change in our mental structures, because of that leafing and that ability to go back and forth. The mental structure of the text disassociated from speech, because when you scroll, it’s like when you speak, you have to listen to the end of the sentence. In a book you are free from that, you’re free from the speech and it’s a different thing.

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

Véronique Vienne: Smart, intelligent, provocative, and honest.

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

Véronique Vienne: You’d find me cooking for my friends. I believe that around the table, around food, around a glass of wine, yes, but also around food which takes a longer time to enjoy, a dinner, a meal, lunch, people can get to know each other and can spend some time.

One of the things that’s most interesting about what’s happening in the design community is the realization that, and you made a point when you mentioned a Skype interview before we talked, that we need to give it the time. Time is really part of design. You can’t design something because you’re smart and you’re doing it all electronically. I think you need to learn to listen to other people, to hear what they have to say, not be in a result mode. To me, that’s one of the most interesting things that is happening in the design community, the realization that you have to do field work. You have to go ask the people what they want. You can’t just have a brief and try to respond to that. So, you’d find me cooking.

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

Véronique Vienne: I don’t know. My daughter in Los Angeles. That’s a long way. And I hope she’s fine. It’s thinking about all of my friends in the United States and I’m in France. My heart is still with all my very dear friends on the West Coast and everywhere in the States.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

Advertisements
h1

Magazines and Slow Journalism: Ernest Journal Provides A Great Example…

June 4, 2018

The back page of the British journal Ernest leads with the words, “Curiosity & Slow Adventure.” Nothing describes what a print magazine can and should deliver than those three words. After all, I have always taught my journalism students that their degree should not be in journalism, but rather in curiosity.

Ernest defines itself as such:

Ernest is a journal for enquiring minds. It’s made for those who value surprising and meandering journeys, fueled by curiosity rather than adrenaline and guided by chance encounters.

It is a repository for wild ideas, curious artifacts and genuine oddities, replete with tales of pioneers, invention and human obsession.

Ernest is founded on the principles of slow journalism. We value honesty, integrity and down-to-earth storytelling — and a good, long read every now and then.

And allwhat Mr. Magazine™ can say is AMEN!

h1

It’s A Mag Mag Mag World & Mag Culture Is Bringing It To New York City: The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Jeremy Leslie, Owner & Curator, Mag Culture…

May 15, 2018

“I’ve always had a fundamental belief in it (print), but what encourages me to continue that deep belief is the wave after wave of new magazines with fantastic ideas and fantastic values; just the good stuff that’s being made is what continues to inspire and excite me.” Jeremy Leslie…

“I always say that I lived through the promise of the iPad and the tablet, and there are one or two cases where it still has a valid role to play; for certain publications it’s very useful. But essentially, I sat through lots of technology meetings where I just always felt in my heart of hearts, if somebody walked in with this new technology called “magazine” and put it down in front of them, everybody would say “Yes!” (Laughs)” Jeremy Leslie…

Jeremy Leslie is an author, a creative director, a designer, blogger, and owner of the London-based, brick and mortar shop, Mag Culture. Jeremy has 30 years of experience in magazine making. He has been art director for weeklies and monthlies and spent the nineties developing magazines for clients as diverse as BSkyB, Nike, Virgin Atlantic and Waitrose. He has written four books about editorial design and launched Mag Culture as a blog in 2006, adding the design studio in 2010, and shop in 2016. He is a man who believes in print and in the beauty and power of magazines.

Since 2013, Jeremy has hosted ModMag, an annual event in London, which brings together a group of magazine-making talent from the U.K., the United States and across Europe. It is organized and moderated by Jeremy himself and this year he is bringing the highly successful conference to New York.

I spoke with Jeremy via Skype recently and we talked about the ModMag event which will be held on May 30th at the Parsons School of Design in New York City. This is the first time ever the event is being brought to the states, even though Jeremy said he’d been thinking about an NYC gathering for quite some time. For the two weeks leading up to ModMag, there will be a preview of the event as Mag Culture is launching, in collaboration with Vitsoe, a British furniture company, a pop-up venture that will bring about 100 magazines from Jeremy’s London shop to a temporary shop in Manhattan, allowing people to meet and greet local magazine-makers and commentators.

It should prove to be a very successful event and one that Jeremy hopes will be repeated many years to come in New York. So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ conversation with a man who is as Print Proud as yours truly, but remains Digitally Smart as well, recognizing how important technology is in today’s magazine and business world.

And now, Jeremy Leslie.

But first the sound-bites:

On his take of the state of magazine media in 2018: I think there is this sort of curious paradox of the situation where, on the one hand, there are very major business challenges for the industry, and yet at the same time, it’s a hugely creative and innovative time for the industry. That would be my underlying story of where we are. Because of the business challenges the creative side of the industry has stepped up and has the opportunity to try things in a way that they haven’t had for quite some time. So, you see lots of experiments, lots of self-publishing; lots of projects where, frankly, the financial and business aspect is set aside and they’re concentrating on making lovely things, which is healthy for the industry, in terms of being inspirational.

On his definition of the word content today: I think, certainly, everything we do at Mag Culture is editorially considered, so in a sense, even the shop and the conference, all of these things are carefully planned and curated, if you like, so there’s an editorial point of view applied to that. So, it is all content, but it’s content in the best sense. It’s not just stuff that we’re pouring in; it’s the best content. We need a better word.

On what continues his belief in the power of print: I’ve always had a fundamental belief in it, but what encourages me to continue that deep belief is the wave after wave of new magazines with fantastic ideas and fantastic values; just the good stuff that’s being made is what continues to inspire and excite me. After quite a few years of work, we have established ourselves, and Mag Culture, as a lightening conductor for people who are doing interesting work in the magazine area. And it keeps coming; we don’t have to search for it.

On why he thinks magazines are continuously being made and shared all over the world: I think there are multiple reasons. Essentially, I believe there’s a difference between what people expect and what actually happens. And I think what many people in our industry expected and many foresaw, and they were wrong, was that digital would completely overtake print. One of the reasons that I started moving into the events and conferences was that I was tired of going to conferences, and yours is an exception to this, I was tired of going to publishing conferences and being faced with tech geeks telling me that everything was going to be on the robot plan. And I have my phone; I live on it; I need it; I wouldn’t be able to run my business without it. I’m not in denial about its role and its importance, but the idea that would sweep everything before it away and destroy print was always absurd in my view. And I think that’s now beginning to be established as the case.

On his most pleasant surprise since taking Mag Culture worldwide: The most pleasant surprise is the thing that contradicted perhaps what many people’s expectations were. And that is both here in London and when I travel, when I’m speaking at someone else’s conference or doing something myself abroad, the people you meet who are interested in and who are making magazines or who are interested in buying the magazines, are everyone. They’re not just art students or hipsters; they’re not a single type of person, they’re young people and old people and middle people, women and men; people of different backgrounds; it’s just a universal thing. People love it when they get the chance to see it.

On having an actual physical store where he sells magazines: One of the great things about having a physical space and having a shop that’s in the same space as my studio, is that I’m here all of the time, even though I’m not in the store all of the time. I get to meet a lot of people who come by to drop off their magazines themselves, so I get to meet a lot of the people making the magazines and I find out what their orientation and their reason for doing it is, and that’s always interesting.

On what has been the biggest stumbling block he’s had to face: The hardest part of the whole business remains the fact that one magazine is really easy to pick up and enjoy, and that’s part of the joy of the magazine, they’re made for your hands. But as soon as you put 20 of them in a box, they’re very difficult to handle. (Laughs) So, the biggest stumbling block is the distribution and logistics around the business. I think a lot of the young publishers making independent magazines are being very intelligent about how they are reinventing the making of magazines. And I think on our end, myself and other people are looking at how the retail side of it works.

On the genesis of the ModMag conference idea and why he decided to bring it New York later this month: We did the first ModMag, it was called The Modern Magazine then, which was named for my book of the same name. So, that was in 2013, and we’ve done five of them now. I published my book, The Modern magazine, and I wanted to mark its publication, so I planned maybe an evening with a panel discussion. And that developed very quickly and it became a whole day, because the book contained interviews with various leading lights in the industry, and when I spoke to some of them about how they might be involved, it quickly became clear that everybody wanted to be involved. So, we did the whole day event. And that was mainly to launch the book. But it was successful enough that everybody said that I had to do it again the following year. And we did. And now we’ve done five years and it has grown and moved to a bigger venue. I came to realize that there are two big publishing cities in the English language publishing world and one is my city, London, and the other is New York. I had had the ambition to launch New York for some time. And it suddenly happened very fast.

On what he would hope to say about the New York conference a month from now after it’s over: We’ve done five in London, so I would like to think – I mean, it is the first time and I realize it’s an unknown quantity for a lot of people who might be thinking about attending, but what I would hope to be able to tell you in June, say to you is that the response was good enough that we’re going to do it again next year. That’s what I hope.

On whether in five years he believes that we’ll still be celebrating the power of print: I believe so. I think as an industry we have to be honest with ourselves and accept that we got to the stage where there were too many magazines. There were just too many magazines, too many, too often, too alike, too familiar. I think we’re optimistic about the near future, in terms of we’ll see a return to better quality, better made things, there might be less magazines, but the magazines that remain will be better made and better produced, less wasteful of resources, and more desirable and will have a far deeper relationship with their readers.

On anything he’d like to add: Yes, just one thing I’d like to highlight. The ModMag takes place all day on May 30th, but in the two weeks running up to that, we have a collaboration with our friends at Vitsoe, where we are bringing about 100 of our magazines from the London shop and we’ll have a shop in Manhattan. And we’re calling this collaboration “Mag, Mag, Mag.” And alongside the shop we will have a program of smaller events, which will be free for people to come in and meet one or two people from local magazines, some of the local independents, and some local commentators. So, there’s a two week run up to the event. And that starts on the 15th of May and ends on the 29th.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: To clear my mind I swim regularly, watch soccer and read. But true unwinding means with my wife Lesley, our sons are home from University, and we’ re playing cards and working our way through a bottle of wine.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: That I love magazines.

On what keeps him up at night: (Laughs) Managing the cash flow. It actually does; the economics of the magazine shop are very complicated. It’s very worrisome.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jeremy Leslie, owner and editor of Mag Culture.

Samir Husni: You’re much more than just a creative director; give me the Jeremy Leslie state of magazine media in 2018 from your point of view.

Jeremy Leslie: I think there is this sort of curious paradox of the situation where, on the one hand, there are very major business challenges for the industry, and yet at the same time, it’s a hugely creative and innovative time for the industry. That would be my underlying story of where we are. Because of the business challenges the creative side of the industry has stepped up and has the opportunity to try things in a way that they haven’t had for quite some time. So, you see lots of experiments, lots of self-publishing; lots of projects where, frankly, the financial and business aspect is set aside and they’re concentrating on making lovely things, which is healthy for the industry, in terms of being inspirational.

In that last statement, I talked about the business challenges that face the magazine industry, but it’s not just the magazine industry, it’s actually the publishing and content industry as a whole that faces one fundamental challenge, and that is will people pay for content, that’s the challenge. And I think we’re beginning to see now that people are willing to pay.

The content wants to be free, that was always the idea behind the Internet. The information, the content wants to be free and it will be free, but it might not be very good content that’s free. So, people are beginning to realize and are getting used to the idea of subscribing and paying for a Netflix or The New York Times, The New Yorker, and other subscription vehicles. And this will filter down.

The overall business and finance of publishing and making things online or in print will never be even, it will always go up and down, up and down, but I think we’re about to see an up, as quality sees through and people begin to realize and accept that they need to pay if they want good stuff.

Samir Husni: As I talk with magazine editors, publishers and designers, even the definition of the word content has changed. How do you define content? Here you are, someone who’s sole job in the beginning was as a creative director, then you became a watcher of the industry; and then you opened a shop; Mag Culture is all over the place. Is that still content? Is the brick and mortar store; your commentary on the industry; the conferences that you’re doing; is that still considered content in this day and age?

Jeremy Leslie: I think it is, yes. I use the word content all of the time, and I’ve just repeated it about 20 times in my last sentence. But I’m not comfortable with the word. I think the word content is slightly dismissive and slightly undervalues it by its very nature. It sort of implies that there’s a space that needs to be filled and you pour it in, or shovel it in, that’s my issue with the word content, but I’m not sure we have a better word as of yet.

I think, certainly, everything we do at Mag Culture is editorially considered, so in a sense, even the shop and the conference, all of these things are carefully planned and curated, if you like, so there’s an editorial point of view applied to that. So, it is all content, but it’s content in the best sense. It’s not just stuff that we’re pouring in; it’s the best content. We need a better word.

Samir Husni: You have been a driving force, even through the shop, of bringing in all of these new talents, bringing in all of these new magazines. What continues your belief in the power of print in this digital age?

Jeremy Leslie: I’ve always had a fundamental belief in it, but what encourages me to continue that deep belief is the wave after wave of new magazines with fantastic ideas and fantastic values; just the good stuff that’s being made is what continues to inspire and excite me. After quite a few years of work, we have established ourselves, and Mag Culture, as a lightening conductor for people who are doing interesting work in the magazine area. And it keeps coming; we don’t have to search for it.

There’s all sorts of great magazines being made and interesting digital projects, exciting things going on, not just here in London, not just in your country, New York, the big cities, but from all over the world. There are people who really love and want to make magazines and want to share them. It’s an international phenomenon.

Samir Husni: Why do you think that’s happening?

Jeremy Leslie: I think there are multiple reasons. Essentially, I believe there’s a difference between what people expect and what actually happens. And I think what many people in our industry expected and many foresaw, and they were wrong, was that digital would completely overtake print. One of the reasons that I started moving into the events and conferences was that I was tired of going to conferences, and yours is an exception to this, I was tired of going to publishing conferences and being faced with tech geeks telling me that everything was going to be on the robot plan. And I have my phone; I live on it; I need it; I wouldn’t be able to run my business without it. I’m not in denial about its role and its importance, but the idea that would sweep everything before it away and destroy print was always absurd in my view. And I think that’s now beginning to be established as the case.

Of course, some areas are very affected by the free access online to mobile content. News and immediate headlines, things like that, print can’t compete on that level. But I think people are beginning to realize that there’s a place for both. That you can be waiting for a train and have your phone and then when you actually get in and sit down you can have the magazine. You use both. And I think people are realizing that sometimes they want to get away from screens, they want time away from the big screens we’re looking at now or the little screens that we have in our pocket. They want to get away from that and have an uninterrupted run at some content that they’re enjoying, some reading, some great articles, some great pictures. And just lose themselves and rest in a way that you can’t with digital screens.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant surprise that you’ve had since you opened the shop, since you took Mag Culture, sort of worldwide, in terms of conferences and events?

Jeremy Leslie: The most pleasant surprise is the thing that contradicted perhaps what many people’s expectations were. And that is both here in London and when I travel, when I’m speaking at someone else’s conference or doing something myself abroad, the people you meet who are interested in and who are making magazines or who are interested in buying the magazines, are everyone. They’re not just art students or hipsters; they’re not a single type of person, they’re young people and old people and middle people, women and men; people of different backgrounds; it’s just a universal thing. People love it when they get the chance to see it.

Samir Husni: Having a physical store, do you ever watch people coming into your store? Do you ever ask them why did you buy this magazine or that magazine? Or do you just watch?

Jeremy Leslie: I just sort of watch. One of the great things about having a physical space and having a shop that’s in the same space as my studio, is that I’m here all of the time, even though I’m not in the store all of the time. I get to meet a lot of people who come by to drop off their magazines themselves, so I get to meet a lot of the people making the magazines and I find out what their orientation and their reason for doing it is, and that’s always interesting.

And then watching people. People come in and get the idea behind the shop, that it’s a space that shows off the magazines with as much care as the magazines show themselves off. So, it’s peaceful and gallery-like and people are encouraged to come in and browse and look and sit down. There are chairs, people can sit down and read, make a decision in their own time. And that’s my favorite thing, that people come in and spend an hour looking at everything. And then they’ll go and pick three or four magazines and you know that they’ve really thought with care and have decided that they really want those particular magazines.

Samir Husni: Especially with the cover prices.

Jeremy Leslie: These are not cheap magazines, these are things that you’re buying to enjoy and value and appreciate for time.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest stumbling block that you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

Jeremy Leslie: The hardest part of the whole business remains the fact that one magazine is really easy to pick up and enjoy, and that’s part of the joy of the magazine, they’re made for your hands. But as soon as you put 20 of them in a box, they’re very difficult to handle. (Laughs) So, the biggest stumbling block is the distribution and logistics around the business. I think a lot of the young publishers making independent magazines are being very intelligent about how they are reinventing the making of magazines. And I think on our end, myself and other people are looking at how the retail side of it works.

And we work with some very able and enthusiastic and optimistic people on the distribution side, but that distribution side is the hardest part of the business and it remains really difficult. It’s very slow and cumbersome, and it’s a broken part of the industry that somebody needs to take a really good look at. In Europe it’s bad, but I suspect in America it’s even worse, because of the scale of the country.

Samir Husni: One of your solutions was doing the physical shop. The other solution is you started the ModMag conferences. Tell me about the genesis of that idea and why you decided to bring it to New York later in May?

Jeremy Leslie: We did the first ModMag, it was called The Modern Magazine then, which was named for my book of the same name. So, that was in 2013, and we’ve done five of them now. I published my book, The Modern magazine, and I wanted to mark its publication, so I planned maybe an evening with a panel discussion. And that developed very quickly and it became a whole day, because the book contained interviews with various leading lights in the industry, and when I spoke to some of them about how they might be involved, it quickly became clear that everybody wanted to be involved. So, we did the whole day event. And that was mainly to launch the book.

But it was successful enough that everybody said that I had to do it again the following year. And we did. And now we’ve done five years and it has grown and moved to a bigger venue. It has become established as a “thing.” And as I mentioned earlier, it was also partially in reaction to so many conferences where everybody stood up and said forget about print and make everything mobile.

So, whilst we’re celebrating and promoting the idea of print, at every event we make sure that we have someone involved in digital as well, because I always like to be very clear about this, I couldn’t run my business, none of these magazines that we’re supporting could run their business, without the Internet. It’s integral to any new business, any startup business. You have to have a web presence and be using social media, these are all absolutely vital parts of the magazine process.

From the very first ModMag day, we had Richard Turley, British designer and much-awarded former creative director at Bloomberg Businessweek in New York, backstage. He came over to speak. Each year, we’ve had an American speaker, and I came to realize that there are two big publishing cities in the English language publishing world and one is my city, London, and the other is New York. I had had the ambition to launch New York for some time. And it suddenly happened very fast. I was talking to a couple of people and I have worked in New York before and I have quite a few contacts there. And I’ve been involved with judging SPD (Society of Publication Designers) awards and the like. I’ve spoken at your conference, and I’m aware from our figures that our second biggest audience beyond London and the U.K. is New York on the website.

So, it suddenly fell into place that we had the opportunity to work with Parsons School of Design and then AIGA (the professional association for design), their New York Chapter was very keen to support, so the three of us came together to collaborate on doing ModMag. And kind of do the same with New York speakers, with one or two from other countries to maintain that international aspect.

Samir Husni: What’s your expectations? If you and I are talking again in June and I ask you about the New York ModMag event, what would you hope to tell me then?

Jeremy Leslie: We’ve done five in London, so I would like to think – I mean, it is the first time and I realize it’s an unknown quantity for a lot of people who might be thinking about attending, but what I would hope to be able to tell you in June, say to you is that the response was good enough that we’re going to do it again next year. That’s what I hope.

One of the things that always works well and happens in London every year is that we get a lot of people who work in the industry in the audience and we have our guest speakers, and during the day everyone mixes, it’s a very social and open; it’s very much a celebration of the industry you work in. So, I want people to go away feeling inspired and saying “do it again.” (Laughs)

Samir Husni: As you look from your position, seeing that you’re not only an author, you’re also a creative director, designer, shop owner, conference leader, what do you see in your crystal ball? If you and I are sitting and talking five years from now, are we going to be celebrating and burying everything the naysayers believed about print, that it’s dead?

Jeremy Leslie: I believe so. I think as an industry we have to be honest with ourselves and accept that we got to the stage where there were too many magazines. There were just too many magazines, too many, too often, too alike, too familiar.

There was a very interesting piece on the Nieman Lab website recently, talking about how the 1960s, 1970s huge, appetite-led revolution in newspapers was really a small phase in history, and in that period and for those who lived through it, it felt like that was how it had always been. But it had not always been like that. The industry is forever shifting and changing and adapting to new technology, by which I don’t mean digital technology, better and faster printing; all the way back to the beginning of magazines, it’s all been about what technology is available for their production. With the introduction of the half-tone, and the introduction of color, etc.; all of these things have shifted the way the business and the industry works.

And so it will always be. It will always have to react to everything else that’s around it. So, it can’t always be up at the top, a huge, booming business. We’ve come off the back of a huge boon at the end of the previous century and now I think we’re just sort of bottoming out, coming out. I think we’re optimistic about the near future, in terms of we’ll see a return to better quality, better made things, there might be less magazines, but the magazines that remain will be better made and better produced, less wasteful of resources, and more desirable and will have a far deeper relationship with their readers.

Samir Husni: I remind people all of the time that paper is a good technology. With all of the tablets, everybody wanted to be like paper, and I wondered why do they want to create something like something I already have. (Laughs)

Jeremy Leslie: Exactly. We know our hearts are in exactly the same place and it’s what you just articulated. I always say that I lived through the promise of the iPad and the tablet, and there are one or two cases where it still has a valid role to play; for certain publications it’s very useful. But essentially, I sat through lots of technology meetings where I just always felt in my heart of hearts, if somebody walked in with this new technology called “magazine” and put it down in front of them, everybody would say “Yes!” (Laughs)

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

Jeremy Leslie: Yes, just one thing I’d like to highlight. The ModMag takes place all day on May 30th, but in the two weeks running up to that, we have a collaboration with our friends at Vitsoe, where we are bringing about 100 of our magazines from the London shop and we’ll have a shop in Manhattan. And we’re calling this collaboration “Mag, Mag, Mag.” And alongside the shop we will have a program of smaller events, which will be free for people to come in and meet one or two people from local magazines, some of the local independents, and some local commentators. So, there’s a two week run up to the event. And that starts on the 15th of May and ends on the 29th. And then on the 30th of May we have the conference.

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

Jeremy Leslie: To clear my mind I swim regularly, watch soccer and read. But true unwinding means with my wife Lesley, our sons are home from University, and we’ re playing cards and working our way through a bottle of wine.

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

Jeremy Leslie: That I love magazines.

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

Jeremy Leslie: (Laughs) Managing the cash flow. It actually does; the economics of the magazine shop are very complicated. It’s very worrisome.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Maison Moderne: From Print Magazines To Events To Digital Dailies, A Company That Believes Magazines Are The Credibility Of The Brand And Digital Is The Power Of Its Reach – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Mike Koedinger, Founder & President Of The Board Of Directors, Maison Moderne, Luxembourg…

April 9, 2018

“People really cared about digital, they were thinking that would be the end (of print). And we were saying, no, let’s not panic. There might be reasons why print has a great future and now, 11 years later, I think it’s proven, digital was actually helping the print medium a lot. And of course, some of them lost quite a bit, many lost money, but I think maybe that was just cleaning up the industry, maybe weak media brands in print, they would just go out of business. But then in this great place for new brands, digital helps a lot to promote brands and to create communities. And I think digital can bring value to a media brand, so in the end digital would help printed media, in my opinion. If they’re worth it; if they’re worth the attention that readers can give them.” Mike Koedinger (on his opinion of what has happened since 2007)…

“There are plenty of reasons. One is we need a break from digital. Digital is there your entire day and night. So, we need breaks. Print also means there’s a moment when we choose to do something, there is no addiction. We happily choose to sit down, open a paper, and read it and spend time with it.” Mike Koedinger (on why he thinks print is still important and magical)…

Maison Moderne is Luxembourg’s leading independent media company. Founded in 1994 by Mike Koedinger, one of the company’s mission points is to offer an independent voice in the Luxembourg media landscape with an inclusive approach, publishing mainly in the first two vehicular languages of the country: French and English.

The one thing that stands out about Mike Koedinger and his company is the Print Proud Digital Smart take he has on his business and media in general. Maison Moderne’s flagship brand, Paperjam, has a powerful and unique ecosystem, and the roles of print and digital in its intense diversification strategy works (according to Mike) like this:

• The magazine is the credibility of the brand
• The digital is the power (of continuous reach)
• The club is the monetization (memberships and sponsoring)
• The data creates the value (we know our community)
• The B2B solutions respond to the needs of companies and decision makers

It’s an interesting and apparently successful business model that combines print and digital to each medium’s greatest potential, as Mike said that Paperjam’s readership in print has increased since 2006, during a period where daily and weekly press were losing its audiences. And Mr. Magazine™ is all for a strategy that brings print and digital together to work as a successful team.

Indeed. Enough said.

And now without further ado, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Mike Koedinger, founder and president of the Board of Directors, Maison Moderne.

But first the sound-bites:

On what has been happening since he wrote the book “We Love Magazines” in 2007: People really cared about digital, they were thinking that would be the end (of print). And we were saying, no, let’s not panic. There might be reasons why print has a great future and now, 11 years later, I think it’s proven, digital was actually helping the print medium a lot. And of course, some of them lost quite a bit, many lost money, but I think maybe that was just cleaning up the industry, maybe weak media brands in print, they would just go out of business. But then in this great place for new brands, digital helps a lot to promote brands and to create communities. And I think digital can bring value to a media brand, so in the end digital would help printed media, in my opinion. If they’re worth it; if they’re worth the attention that readers can give them.

On what the company is doing now in Luxembourg with its multiple publications: What happened was, back at that time we were publishing monthly magazines and those magazines also had a website. Nowadays, we publish digital daily and twice a day a newsletter goes out to a big number of people. So, we became a digital daily player that also publishes a monthly magazine. I have a business club and all of the features around it, so we’re used to the credibility of print media to get a media power to a digital and to get also a system of organizations to a very strong business club. So, at the end, for us it meant not a fight between digital and print, it’s actually both helping each other and we add the life element to that equation, what you call an ecosystem. So, we believe strongly that print, digital and life, the three of them work really well together. But the basic is the print.

On how he defines content today: For people coming from print, the main thing happening was that journalists and editors had to think more like regular people, TV people, because they had to be journalists non-stop. You couldn’t say, hey, that’s a great thing happening and we’ll have a story in two weeks. No, the thing became, what are you going to do in 15 minutes or later on today about that same story? And what are you doing at the end of the week? So, everything had to shift in the mindset of journalists. Some like and of course, some hate it, because it’s a different thing.

On the three things he would tell someone wanting to start a print magazine in today’s digital world: The first thing you must know is be sure about what you have to say. Is there a reason to produce a magazine, whether it be print or digital, so there always has to be a reason to do something. That would be the first thing I pointed out. And the second one would be do you know your audience; do you have a target? Is it a group you have identified; a group you have listed, a customer base or whatever? And that would be my second point, understanding the audience. Do you have an audience? And the third one would be the tone of voice for it. And the tone of voice includes the channels, the print magazine would be the channel if you know what to say and why. Do you know to whom your speaking? And is the printed medium the right thing?

On why he thinks the magic of print still works today: There are plenty of reasons. One is we need a break from digital. Digital is there your entire day and night. So, we need breaks. Print also means there’s a moment when we choose to do something, there is no addiction. We happily choose to sit down, open a paper, and read it and spend time with it.

On whether he thinks the future of print is in the small, independent boutique titles or there is still a market for both, boutique and mass: Mainstream media, they have the journalists, they have 500 journalists or a thousand journalists, with senior people doing great editing jobs, and they have all of the sources. So, 10 years ago, at that time, we thought that independents would be the future, they would provide inspiration and ideas, and it was easy for them to do it. But then on the other hand, if we have serious mainstream media companies we trust, and that have good content, they can do it, they have to get the resources to do it. So, I think the future will also be among them if they understand they might need a few years to establish their credibility within a community. And you have to be strict with your rules, you can’t say A and then do B.

On why it took 10 years for the magazine industry to realize that there was room for both print and digital, no one had to choose: Many people speak about numbers when they talk about market, it’s the media numbers. Strong players will do really well in digital growth. We have a strong digital growth, but in the meantime we also have that growth in print on the same media brand, which means the brand grows much faster.

On any areas in magazine media that gives him hope and that also stresses him out: I think the change in attitudes happened with many businesspeople in media first. The good and the bad thing with digital is that you have to keep on changing, so you become more alert, you’re open to change. Maybe years ago, you thought your business model and your media brand, everything, was going well, and that you would do a relaunch every five years and that will make life fantastic. That is over. And I think that’s good news, because we can and we love to adapt now. We also know that everything that’s true in digital today might not be true in six months. We don’t know what’s going to happen with new applications, new business models. The good thing is while that could be a danger for some people, it could also be a great opportunity, of course.

On other publications he has looked at and thought he might like to do something like that: It happens all of the time actually. I think the interesting point is that weekly supplements of daily papers are becoming really exciting. I think that’s a big trend. Many years ago it was proven with the weekly supplement that became a brand on its own. Today, you have L’Echo, which is a business paper and they have a fantastic weekend edition, really nicely produced, great design, great stock, just everything is quite great. I think that’s one type of inspiration, all of those really well-produced weekend supplements. We’re lucky in Luxembourg to speak German, French and English, so we can choose different markets, we can mix them up.

On whether there will be another Colophon: We’re thinking about it. Recently, I met up with Jeremy Leslie and we talked about it. We missed our 10 year anniversary, but we discussed that it would be a good thing to do again, but the event would have to be different than it was 10 years ago. At that time we were celebrating independent magazines and pointing out that there are some underdogs and people have to look at them. And that’s different from today. But today I would say that we are talking very seriously about it, but we want to take time on it, look out for what would be the best way to produce it in 2020 or maybe 2021. And mixing it up with mainstream and independent, I think that’s an important thing.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: Independent.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: I quit TV over 25 years ago, so there’s no TV in any of my places. But a number of years ago, I’m back into visual content with Netflix, which is a fantastic tool. It added another element. So, I might be doing something which I wouldn’t have done five years ago, but I’m doing it now.

On what keeps him up at night: I sleep very well. (Laughs) What actually keeps me up at night, to get back to your question, is to see if we can get Paperjam up and running as a franchise system in a few regions in Europe within the next three years. We believe strongly in our ecosystem, which we consider powerful and unique in Europe.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Mike Koedinger, founder and president of the board of directors, Maison Moderne.

Samir Husni: The last time you and I met in person was in 2007, and you dedicated your love for magazines in the book, “We Love Magazines.” What has been going on with you in those last 11 years? Give me an update. In 2007, we celebrated magazines; in 2009, digital burst upon the scene; what happened next?

Mike Koedinger: People really cared about digital, they were thinking that would be the end (of print). And we were saying, no, let’s not panic. There might be reasons why print has a great future and now, 11 years later, I think it’s proven, digital was actually helping the print medium a lot. And of course, some of them lost quite a bit, many lost money, but I think maybe that was just cleaning up the industry, maybe weak media brands in print, they would just go out of business. But then in this great place for new brands, digital helps a lot to promote brands and to create communities. And I think digital can bring value to a media brand, so in the end digital would help printed media, in my opinion. If they’re worth it; if they’re worth the attention that readers can give them.

Samir Husni: Did your organization in Luxembourg expand its print footprint, reduce its print footprint; what are you doing now with the multiple publications?

Mike Koedinger: What happened was, back at that time we were publishing monthly magazines and those magazines also had a website. Nowadays, we publish digital daily and twice a day a newsletter goes out to a big number of people. So, we became a digital daily player that also publishes a monthly magazine. I have a business club and all of the features around it, so we’re used to the credibility of print media to get a media power to a digital and to get also a system of organizations to a very strong business club. So, at the end, for us it meant not a fight between digital and print, it’s actually both helping each other and we add the life element to that equation, what you call an ecosystem. So, we believe strongly that print, digital and life, the three of them work really well together. But the basic is the print.

Samir Husni: As a journalist, as a designer, as an artist; how do you define content today and how is it different than what content used to be 10 or 20 years ago?

Mike Koedinger: For people coming from print, the main thing happening was that journalists and editors had to think more like regular people, TV people, because they had to be journalists non-stop. You couldn’t say, hey, that’s a great thing happening and we’ll have a story in two weeks. No, the thing became, what are you going to do in 15 minutes or later on today about that same story? And what are you doing at the end of the week? So, everything had to shift in the mindset of journalists. Some like and of course, some hate it, because it’s a different thing.

It’s trying times for journalists. The younger generation really love it, they’re really fast. Two, three years ago, we started having Facebook Live transmissions from press conferences. You can’t be faster than real time. While there was no added value, the timing was right, and then it took you two or three hours to ring out a great story on the topic. So, journalists were doing many things at the same time, but they were live-streaming unedited information and then they were writing a story. And that’s a big change, and people had to be ready for it. Some of them had difficulties, obviously. The thing is, it’s a great moment for journalism, because people have never been so strongly interested in news. And that’s really great.

Samir Husni: If somebody came to you today and said, Mike, I want to start a print magazine in this digital age. What are the one, two, threes that you would tell them? Before you do that, here is what you must know…

Mike Koedinger: The first thing you must know is be sure about what you have to say. Is there a reason to produce a magazine, whether it be print or digital, so there always has to be a reason to do something. That would be the first thing I pointed out. And the second one would be do you know your audience; do you have a target? Is it a group you have identified; a group you have listed, a customer base or whatever? And that would be my second point, understanding the audience. Do you have an audience? And the third one would be the tone of voice for it. And the tone of voice includes the channels, the print magazine would be the channel if you know what to say and why. Do you know to whom your speaking? And is the printed medium the right thing?

In most cases, I think it is. I’m not sure I would recommend going 100 percent print only. Maybe. It can be quite oppressive to be print only. If it’s for a specific reader group like educated readers with contact every three months, maybe that would be perfect. But otherwise, I would imagine a combination would be best, where they get little alerts from time to time and then press releases and things in the mail every three months or so.

We still do many magazines for clients. We have an art/digital team, but in the end, many companies and institutions come to us to produce print magazines. And it’s always working, if you have a great print magazine and you send it out, it works.

Samir Husni: Why do you think that print magic still works today?

Mike Koedinger: There are plenty of reasons. One is we need a break from digital. Digital is there your entire day and night. So, we need breaks. Print also means there’s a moment when we choose to do something, there is no addiction. We happily choose to sit down, open a paper, and read it and spend time with it.

The thing I really love with print is whatever the number of pages are, you have the media brand telling that you for the last 24 hours or the last week, or month, whatever it is, these are the most relevant topics we chose for you, on any given team that the brand is on. And that’s a great guarantee, otherwise it means you have these non-stop feeds that come at all hours. It’s non-stop ad can be really crazy. With some papers, you don’t have many pages, maybe 30, and those are the most relevant things: culture, politics, culinary, so it’s a great service. They did the work for you. It’s what newspapers are all about. Nowadays, you have to look at feeds, it’s like this addiction. So, I think for people who appreciate their time management, print is really great.

Samir Husni: You’ve started so many boutique magazines. In fact, between you and Jeremy (Leslie) and Andrew (Losowsky), you’ve coined the phrase “boutique magazines,” and with the Colophon One and Two, we had more boutique magazines than actually mass. Do you think the future of print is in those small, independent boutique titles? Or do you still feel there’s a market for both?

Mike Koedinger: For the daily printed press, the market would be very tough, that’s for sure. More and more strong media brands are going international, you have German brands that have English editions now, so they’re very strong in important domestic markets, while going international. So there would be a big fight within the super media brands: The New York Times, The Guardian. And I think that fight would be difficult. So, for the daily press, mainly in print, there will not be much left over in 10 or 15 years. But we said that before, years ago, so we’ll see. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Mike Koedinger: But definitely there will be another fight for weekend publications, weekend supplements of daily papers or monthly magazines. It’s a fantastic break from the stressful week, when you have the weekend edition from quality magazines which you can read. Those are done both by niche players and by independent publishers.

But on the other hand, mainstream media, they have the journalists, they have 500 journalists or a thousand journalists, with senior people doing great editing jobs, and they have all of the sources. So, 10 years ago, at that time, we thought that independents would be the future, they would provide inspiration and ideas, and it was easy for them to do it. But then on the other hand, if we have serious mainstream media companies we trust, and that have good content, they can do it, they have to get the resources to do it. So, I think the future will also be among them if they understand they might need a few years to establish their credibility within a community. And you have to be strict with your rules, you can’t say A and then do B.

The independents are doing it out of a very personal passion. The mainstream media groups, while they need to have a strong team that has been with them a number of years and who have strong convictions, they can do it. If they have the freedom within their structure, they can do it.

Samir Husni: As a publisher, journalist, designer; you combine all of the entities of magazine making, why did it take 10 years for the industry to recognize that print is not going anywhere and digital is not going anywhere? Why didn’t the magazine industry have the same conversations it’s having now 10 years ago, that print and digital are both going to be around?

Mike Koedinger: Many people speak about numbers when they talk about market, it’s the media numbers. Strong players will do really well in digital growth. We have a strong digital growth, but in the meantime we also have that growth in print on the same media brand, which means the brand grows much faster.

Over a number of years, Paperjam grew by 20 percent globally in print, but enormously in digital. So, in the end, the numbers prove concepts. In the beginning, everyone was saying the future is digital, which meant readers would like to consume on digital channels, but now we can see that digital also means, depending on your market and your product, you can make money from digital, which is a new thing. At that time it was more about the readers are going to ask for it, but how do we make money? Nowadays, you can make money, but people also leave a brand quite fast. Newcomers like BuzzFeed, they come and they go. It’s like when they arrive, that’s the future. That would be the future that people would like to have for media consumption.

Today, there is more maturity; more people have Internet, even in Europe. It’s over 10 years of strong business. I think people have reconsidered how to do it; new ideas are still very strong. I remember Flipboard arriving and I thought that would be the future, forget the media brands. In the end, after three months, maybe you stop using it, you get bored by it, because somehow you lose what the media brand is about. About the editing and the selection of the information. I think it’s difficult to speak about world markets, territorial-wise, than mainstream, the niche, the daily press, the vertical press. Is it more the B to B titles, is it whatever, so it can be very difficult.

On our side, what we learned during that period is that somehow out of an initial conviction, we always focus on AB readers, highly-educated readers with high incomes, not being luxury or elite publications, but it was for us a more natural way to address people. We can’t do the mainstream publicist thing, we’re not good at that. We’re good at other stuff. And we noticed that it’s possible in a super-small market like Luxembourg, it’s difficult to understand for people out of Europe that we’re speaking of a market of 700,000 people, including babies and retired people.

Samir Husni: (Laughs).

Mike Koedinger: Also including 200,000 people who are commuting every day from neighboring countries, so it’s a super-small market. And in that small market we managed to prove that the system can work. And if it can work in this small market, it can work anywhere.

Samir Husni: As you look from that small market through the global vision of print and digital, and the future of magazine media, are there some areas that give you hope and other areas that stress you?

Mike Koedinger: Yes, I think the change in attitudes happened with many businesspeople in media first. The good and the bad thing with digital is that you have to keep on changing, so you become more alert, you’re open to change. Maybe years ago, you thought your business model and your media brand, everything, was going well, and that you would do a relaunch every five years and that will make life fantastic. That is over. And I think that’s good news, because we can and we love to adapt now. We also know that everything that’s true in digital today might not be true in six months. We don’t know what’s going to happen with new applications, new business models. The good thing is while that could be a danger for some people, it could also be a great opportunity, of course.

It could mean that you might be smaller today in print, but you could be larger in digital tomorrow. So, I think it’s a great opportunity for publishers, and it’s great for the talents of professionals, editors and journalists, because they will have to adapt, only a few brands can remain very classical in their journalism, others, we have to adapt. So, I think it’s a good thing that’s happening. People have become much more alert and ready to accept change. The market has also been a bit shaken up, which is a good thing.

The bad thing is that it’s difficult for planning; it’s difficult to invest money. If you invest money, it means you can’t invest for 10 years, you invest for two or three years, depending on your resources. We invest in a schedule of three to five years, because you never know. But we’re very confident that every change brings opportunity to us. As we are an agile company, we just react, even with a hundred people we try to behave like a startup, be fast, no external channel, nobody pressuring us on making more profit or not risking. So, for our size of company, it’s a great moment. We have resources, but we also have flexibility.

Samir Husni: If you were to choose one publication, what would be the last one you looked at and said, “Wow, I want to do something similar to that?”

Mike Koedinger: It happens all of the time actually. I think the interesting point is that weekly supplements of daily papers are becoming really exciting. I think that’s a big trend. Many years ago it was proven with the weekly supplement that became a brand on its own. Today, you have L’Echo, which is a business paper and they have a fantastic weekend edition, really nicely produced, great design, great stock, just everything is quite great. I think that’s one type of inspiration, all of those really well-produced weekend supplements. We’re lucky in Luxembourg to speak German, French and English, so we can choose different markets, we can mix them up.

On the other side, there are so many really funny and well-produced independent magazines, there are so many to even name, they’re popping up all of the time. And I think now, with all the people you have access to, it’s really easy to produce. The strength of them is that they are really honest. If they want to do something, they just do it. And I think that’s always inspirational. It’s not about one specific title, it’s likely more about their attitude, they can be really into doing something, maybe it’s been thought about for a couple of years, then it just pops up.

Samir Husni: Are we going to see another Colophon?

Mike Koedinger: We’re thinking about it. Recently, I met up with Jeremy Leslie and we talked about it. We missed our 10 year anniversary, but we discussed that it would be a good thing to do again, but the event would have to be different than it was 10 years ago. At that time we were celebrating independent magazines and pointing out that there are some underdogs and people have to look at them. And that’s different from today.

But today I would say that we are talking very seriously about it, but we want to take time on it, look out for what would be the best way to produce it in 2020 or maybe 2021. And mixing it up with mainstream and independent, I think that’s an important thing. Ten years ago there was no discussion about the business models, it was mainly about the design and independency. That was the big thing. But I think today, some of them that we celebrated at that time are still there, such as Fantastic Man, some have really established themselves as being big challengers.

But I think today it’s more about everything you need to do as a media brand: the business model, understanding the reader. There are so many tools for measuring all things now, you can’t just be about how it looks. I think that time is over. And the good thing is the established media companies, they really need those young talents, because they will grow up and maybe go to work for them. So, it’s also part of the system.

So, I think Colophon, if we bring it back, it will have to evolve and consider this new context. There are still events happening, coming and going about media. Jeremy (Leslie) is having his Modern Magazine conference annually now and very soon also in New York. So, there are things happening in independency and I think if Colophon comes back, the future should definitely include mainstream publishers and larger media companies, and what everyone can learn from each other. I think bringing those two worlds together would be a great thing to do.

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

Mike Koedinger: Independent.

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

Mike Koedinger: I quit TV over 25 years ago, so there’s no TV in any of my places. But a number of years ago, I’m back into visual content with Netflix, which is a fantastic tool. It added another element. So, I might be doing something which I wouldn’t have done five years ago, but I’m doing it now.

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

Mike Koedinger: I sleep very well. (Laughs) What actually keeps me up at night, to get back to your question, is to see if we can get Paperjam up and running as a franchise system in a few regions in Europe within the next three years. We believe strongly in our ecosystem, which we consider powerful and unique in Europe.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

“Two If By Sea” – L’Officiel Joins America’s Newsstands

February 26, 2018

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

Yesterday, I visited one of my most favorite places in the world – the newsstand. As I stood there marveling at the latest new arrivals, I spotted a European title that I of course recognized, but was not expecting to see on this side of the Great Pond especially with three very prominent letters after its title: USA. The magazine in question L’Officiel.

L’Officiel is owned by Jalou Media Group, which is a family-owned media group based in Paris. With 27 international editions, L’Officiel has a presence across over 80 countries— the USA being the most recent addition to the family.

What Mr. Magazine™ found extremely fascinating about this beautiful magazine, other than its exquisite covers (yes, I said covers plural) is that as this print title came across the sea, it hit America’s shores in two different iterations. We have the same magazine, but with two different titles, something Mr. Magazine™ is quite sure has never happened before. We have L’Officiel Hommes, for the gentlemen, and L’Officiel without any designated gender for the ladies. But both magazines have the exact same content, only two different titles.

And in typical European style, this first issue is being sold at the ridiculously low introductory price of $1. So, of course, Mr. Magazine™ had to have both copies, but truthfully, I would have had to have both regardless of the price.


In Joseph Akel’s editor’s letter, he addresses the obvious question: Why launch a magazine, especially in this day and age, given the state of publishing? The resounding response in part was: the need for a voice that is informed, inclusive, and open to creative expression is needed, perhaps now more than ever.

Mr. Magazine™ couldn’t agree more…welcome to America, L’Officiel!

h1

FIPP’s President & CEO James Hewes To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “I Wonder If 2018 Might Be The First Year Where Things Start To Show Signs Of Recovery.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

January 4, 2018

“I think it’s going to be a pretty good year, actually. It’s funny you know, ever since I took this job I’ve been hearing more and more people telling me about the resurgence of print magazines and how print magazines are coming back as a medium, and I think 2018 might be the year when you start to see some signs of that filtering through into the numbers, because, obviously, the numbers that are released by the publishing companies have been pretty bad in 2017.” James Hewes

“FIPP, the network for global media, is dedicated to improving all aspects of the media content industry through the sharing of quality content to audiences of interest. FIPP exists to help its members develop better strategies and build better businesses by identifying and communicating emerging trends, sharing knowledge, and improving skills, worldwide.”

James Hewes is CEO of FIPP and believes that the organization’s number one mission is to its members and its prospective members by ensuring that it answers their needs and reflects their interests across all platforms, including print, where its roots lay. James is a firm believer in print, but also in the multiplatform outlets that exist in this digital age, and thinks that quite possibly 2018 may be the year where magazines and magazine media start to show signs of recovery in all aspects of the business.

I spoke with James recently via Skype and we talked about his vision for FIPP. In the short time he has been CEO (he was appointed president and CEO last summer), he said that since he took the job, he’s had more and more people tell him that the resurgence of print magazines is strong and that print, as a medium, is on the upswing. This of course is music to Mr. Magazine’s™ ears, and I hope to yours also, and is something that makes James think 2018 may be the year of the magazine. From James’ mouth to the magazine cosmoses ears.

I think you’ll find that the conversation we had was both informative and inspirational, across all platforms, not just print. But I believe it just goes to prove yet again, that in the 21st century, in 2018, there’s room for everyone’s preference, print and digital. Wouldn’t you agree?

And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with James Hewes, president and CEO, FIPP.

But first the sound-bites:

On how he sees magazines and magazine media shaping up for 2018: I think it’s going to be a pretty good year, actually. It’s funny you know, ever since I took this job I’ve been hearing more and more people telling me about the resurgence of print magazines and how print magazines are coming back as a medium, and I think 2018 might be the year when you start to see some signs of that filtering through into the numbers, because obviously the numbers that are released by the publishing companies have been pretty bad in 2017. The readership figures are down, circulation figures are down and advertising figures are down. But I wonder if 2018 might be the first year where things start to show signs of recovery, because there are certainly some signs that for the quality magazines and for the specialist magazines in particular, that their feeling as businesses and their feeling as brands is that they’re still quite positive about the future.

On whether he thinks magazines will strive to be more of a brand than an entity in 2018: Of course, that’s going to continue and that’s going to be the center of the strategy for most magazine companies for many years to come, I believe. I think it’s just that we’re starting to see some changes in emphasis now perhaps in some businesses. And specifically on digital and the digital publishing industry; it’s going to be interesting to see how 2018 plays out with respect to digital advertising. Toward the end of this year there has been an enormous amount of press coverage of the lack of trust in digital advertising and the problems that seem to be existing in the supply chain of digital advertising.

On where he sees the bright spots and the challenges globally when it comes to magazine media: It’s been pretty clear in 2017 that the U.K., the U.S. and the Western markets have had a tough time. The numbers coming out of those markets don’t look very good. You’ve got the feeling that 2018 can’t be as bad a year as 2017 was, so perhaps that constitutes a bright spot now. In terms of where there are real opportunities for growth, I think we still have to understand the market a lot better than we do right now. I think there’s still probably a fairly vibrant industry happening in Southeast Asia for print. Traditionally, it was always a region in the world where print did very well; where advertisers responded very strongly to print products and I think that’s probably still the case.

On whether he thinks publishing companies merging, such as Meredith buying Time Inc., is a worldwide model for the future or just a United States thing: No, I think that’s very much going to continue and I think there’s probably a bit more consolidation to come in the market. But interestingly, as companies consolidate, so it seems to be that they throw off new opportunities. I mean, yes, we may have lost one company with the merger of Meredith and Time Inc., but we’ve gained one of course, which is Time Inc. in the U.K., which will become a separate company, a separate publishing company with its own stable of brands.

On Mr. Magazine™ and the MPA hosting The Launch of the Year at the American Magazine Awards this year: That’s a really good initiative and the kind of thing we should be supporting. I went to the PPA’s (Professional Publishers Association) event in Scotland recently and they had put onto the agenda slots between every major speaking slot for somebody to come and present their new magazine. And in Scotland alone, there were six, seven, eight, nine, ten fantastic new magazine ideas from incredibly passionate, usually very young people, very passionate about their subject. And totally committed to print, so it was great to see.

On the biggest challenge that he thinks FIPP will face in the future: I think the biggest challenge for FIPP is the same as the challenge for the industry. I mean, we are an organization that has its roots in print and we must never forget that print will always be 50 percent of what we do; 50 percent plus of what we do, because that’s what the industry is all about. But the challenge is how do we reflect the move toward multiplatform brand management in our memberships and in our services; how do we ensure that the other areas of publishing businesses, which are very important to them and should be very important to us, digital publishing and digital media, and events, events in particular; how do we ensure that they’re represented in what we do?

On what has been the most pleasant moment so far: I think I would say two things. The first is the incredible dedication and commitment of the staff that we have here at FIPP. When I joined we were one month away from putting on the World Congress, which you know very well is a very large event with 600-700 people from the publishing industry, including some very senior individuals. So, to have a change in CEO running up to that event could have potentially been very disruptive. It wasn’t disruptive at all, because we’ve got a fantastic team who totally know their jobs and just went off and did it, almost without my involvement. It was great, and executed a fantastic event.

On how FIPP can get publishing businesses that are competing for similar audiences to work together: Well, I think that’s a great question, because it’s something that we as an industry have not been very good at historically. Even the newspaper industry, which traditionally was very much comprised of companies fighting almost to the death with one another, have been a little bit more unified in their approach to the challenges of the digital age and the big platforms, than the magazine industry has. So, I think that’s something that would I see as a very big part of FIPP’s remix, to help magazine companies and print companies to work better together.

On whether he believes that unifying voice between companies is possible: Anything is possible. (Laughs) I hope it’s possible. I think there’s a great danger for us as an industry that we present a fragmented voice to those platforms, because we are not, individually as companies, even though we have very, very large individual members, individually as companies, compared to the scale of a Google or a Facebook, we’re still relatively insignificant. And I think it’s only by providing the combined muscle of our audience together as an industry, that we can really start to get some of the things that we want.

On the status of newsstand and single-copy sales: Single-copy sales for me remains a great missed opportunity in a lot of markets. It’s interesting, I was reading a piece recently about Bauer in the U.S., and it may have even been from yourself, talking about the success that they’ve had on the newsstand in the U.S. And that’s really because they’ve taken the lessons they learned in Germany, where newsstand is an actually predominant distribution method, and applied them to their relatively neglected U.S. market, and have had a huge amount of success.

On whether he thinks magazines and magazine media can ever go back to the powerhouse it was once: If you’re thinking about pure volume; are we ever going to sell as many copies as we once did? No, and I think that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A lot of the copy sales in the market as you know were driven by very general lifestyle magazines or entertainment magazines, both men’s and women’s, generally weeklies, of course, there are some monthlies. They have content that has migrated entirely to the Internet and that’s probably never going to come back. And those were very high margin businesses, very profitable businesses for most companies. And that’s where I think a lot of this misunderstanding about the death of magazines comes from; the idea that just because you’ve lost your largest, most profitable category your industry as a whole is destroyed, but it’s not.

On anything else he’d like to add: Only to say what I have been saying consistently throughout my first few months here, which is that I fervently believe that this is the most exciting time in history to be working in this industry. From the outside looking in, people may think it’s crazy, why would someone go and work in the publishing industry generally, and I’m not just talking about print, but publishing in media generally. And I say to them, are you crazy? This is an absolutely fantastic time to be working in it.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: Probably playing with my children; I have two young children, eight-years-old and 10-years-old. And I don’t get a chance to spend a lot of time with them, because I travel so much with my job. So, when I’m home I try to make sure that I spend as much time as possible with them and with my wife, Sheena, because we’re away from each other a lot and it’s nice to be reunited.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: I would hope that they would say that I always tried to solve problems. I’ve kind of made a career out of being a guide that people go to when they have a problem and they need to solve it. Yes, he was a problem-solver.

On what keeps him up at night: What keeps me up at night is actually probably not work. It’s just how do I make sure that my children get the best start in life; how do they get the best education; how do they get all of the opportunities that I was fortunate enough to have when I was growing up? The world today is a very different place from what it was when I was growing up and in some ways, a lot scarier place. Certainly, a lot harder place to grow up in. And so my focus is very much on making sure that they get the great start in life that they need.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with James Hewes, CEO, FIPP.

Samir Husni: Congratulations are in order for heading the largest magazine and magazine media association in the world.

James Hewes: Thank you; I’m very privileged.

Samir Husni: It’s a big task, I’m sure. So, how do you envision 2018 shaping up for magazines and magazine media?

James Hewes: I think it’s going to be a pretty good year, actually. It’s funny you know, ever since I took this job I’ve been hearing more and more people telling me about the resurgence of print magazines and how print magazines are coming back as a medium, and I think 2018 might be the year when you start to see some signs of that filtering through into the numbers, because obviously the numbers that are released by the publishing companies have been pretty bad in 2017. The readership figures are down, circulation figures are down and advertising figures are down.

But I wonder if 2018 might be the first year where things start to show signs of recovery, because there are certainly some signs that for the quality magazines and for the specialist magazines in particular, that their feeling as businesses and their feeling as brands is that they’re still quite positive about the future. They’re still seeing reasonably good numbers, in terms of circulation and advertising, and even some areas of growth. So, I think 2018 could be a very good year, hopefully, for the print business.

Samir Husni: What about the venturing of magazines from print into digital and that mix? Do you see magazine companies doing more of that; magazines becoming more of a brand, rather than an entity?

James Hewes: Of course, that’s going to continue and that’s going to be the center of the strategy for most magazine companies for many years to come, I believe. I think it’s just that we’re starting to see some changes in emphasis now perhaps in some businesses. And specifically on digital and the digital publishing industry; it’s going to be interesting to see how 2018 plays out with respect to digital advertising.

Toward the end of this year there has been an enormous amount of press coverage of the lack of trust in digital advertising and the problems that seem to be existing in the supply chain of digital advertising. Recently, there was a piece suggesting that some big organizations were losing as much as two and a half million dollars a day or a week to fraud. With those kinds of numbers it’s easy to see why people don’t trust the digital advertising supply chain anymore.

So, 2018 might be the year when that really comes to a head; that doesn’t feel like it can continue in its current form. I don’t think that will stop magazine companies from going into the digital space though, because it’s still a really important part of that brand wheel. And if you’re putting your brand at the center of your strategy, then digital does need to play a part in that.

There will still be brands that are exceptions, where print is still going to be the primary and sometimes the only reason for their existence or the only way in which they make money. I think about a brand like Private Eye here in the U.K., which is a very big print magazine, and has very expressly and strategically stayed away from digital in any sense over its entire lifespan and hasn’t done any harm to its circulation figures at all. So, there could be a few other examples of that which crop up in the years to come.

Samir Husni: As you scan the FIPP members all over the world, where do you see the bright spots; where do you see the challenging spots? Do you feel the U.K. will be leading; the Middle East; Asia; South America?

James Hewes: It’s been pretty clear in 2017 that the U.K., the U.S. and the Western markets have had a tough time. The numbers coming out of those markets don’t look very good. You’ve got the feeling that 2018 can’t be as bad a year as 2017 was, so perhaps that constitutes a bright spot now.

In terms of where there are real opportunities for growth, I think we still have to understand the market a lot better than we do right now. I think there’s still probably a fairly vibrant industry happening in Southeast Asia for print. Traditionally, it was always a region in the world where print did very well; where advertisers responded very strongly to print products and I think that’s probably still the case.

It’s difficult to put a kind of bright spot/dark spot analysis of the market by country though, because it will vary massively depending on the category you’re in. I would rather characterize it as the difference between general interest magazines versus specialist magazines. If you’re in a general lifestyle space, then you’re probably still going to have a tough time next year. I think the more specialist you are, whether that’s a specialist news brand or specialist interest brand, you’re going to do better, because those brands seem to be the ones that are winning at the moment.

Samir Husni: Do you see anything like we’re seeing in the United States, companies merging, such as Meredith buying Time Inc.; Hearst buying Rodale? Do you see that as a model for the future worldwide, or it’s just a United States thing?

James Hewes: No, I think that’s very much going to continue and I think there’s probably a bit more consolidation to come in the market. But interestingly, as companies consolidate, so it seems to be that they throw off new opportunities. I mean, yes, we may have lost one company with the merger of Meredith and Time Inc., but we’ve gained one of course, which is Time Inc. in the U.K., which will become a separate company, a separate publishing company with its own stable of brands.

We’re also finding, and I’m certainly noticing, that there is now an emerging ecosystem of publishing businesses at the small end have very often formed either people straight out of college, who previously would have gone into work for Time Inc., but are now doing their own thing, or they’re staffed by “X” publishing industry people who are creating new magazines and creating new publishing opportunities based around the fact that the big companies just aren’t there anymore; it’s fear of them.

So, while there’s a lot of consolidation at the top end, I think one of the things that we’re interested in exploring for 2018 is the extent to which that’s being filled at the bottom end by a host of new companies and startups that are: A – a lot more positive about the future of print in particular, but B – they don’t necessarily think in terms of those silos anymore when it comes to, I’m a print business; I’m a digital business. They’re just a business, and they’re interested in promoting usually their specialist interest content and specialist interest opportunities. And they just find the best way to do that.

Samir Husni: This year I’m doing The Launch of the Year with the MPA at the American Magazine Media Conference, where we will be celebrating new magazines. And this will be the first time in the history of the American Magazine Media Conference that this has been done in conjunction with the awards.

James Hewes: That’s a really good initiative and the kind of thing we should be supporting. I went to the PPA’s (Professional Publishers Association) event in Scotland recently and they had put onto the agenda slots between every major speaking slot for somebody to come and present their new magazine. And in Scotland alone, there were six, seven, eight, nine, ten fantastic new magazine ideas from incredibly passionate, usually very young people, very passionate about their subject. And totally committed to print, so it was great to see.

Samir Husni: In the short time that you’ve been heading FIPP, what has been the biggest challenge that you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?

James Hewes: I think the biggest challenge for FIPP is the same as the challenge for the industry. I mean, we are an organization that has its roots in print and we must never forget that print will always be 50 percent of what we do; 50 percent plus of what we do, because that’s what the industry is all about. But the challenge is how do we reflect the move toward multiplatform brand management in our memberships and in our services; how do we ensure that the other areas of publishing businesses, which are very important to them and should be very important to us, digital publishing and digital media, and events, events in particular; how do we ensure that they’re represented in what we do?

We have a lot of members now who think of themselves as genuinely platform agnostic publishing businesses, and we have to be the same. A lot of them are now getting into the venture capital space, so they’re becoming investment businesses as well. Again, we have to represent those members to the fullest extent possible by offering them services to help them do better in venture capital and making investments.

So, it’s about that continuous process of adaptation, but I’ve been very clear with the team here, and I think I’ve been very clear with the membership that we must have print in our hearts and in our minds with everything that we do, because it is still: A – where we came from, and B – a very important and a very profitable part of our industry.

Samir Husni: And what has been the most pleasant moment so far?

James Hewes: I think I would say two things. The first is the incredible dedication and commitment of the staff that we have here at FIPP. When I joined we were one month away from putting on the World Congress, which you know very well is a very large event with 600-700 people from the publishing industry, including some very senior individuals. So, to have a change in CEO running up to that event could have potentially been very disruptive. It wasn’t disruptive at all, because we’ve got a fantastic team who totally know their jobs and just went off and did it, almost without my involvement. It was great, and executed a fantastic event.

I think the other very nice thing to have affirmed was the amount of good will that exists toward FIPP as an organization. I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of publishing companies and individuals in the publishing industry who, completely unsolicited, would message me and congratulate me on my appointment, but also just affirm their commitment to FIPP as an organization that they think is important for the industry. And at the end of the day we rely on the goodwill of our members to exist. We provide them services and we provide them with products and we want to be of value to them, but we also want to have that recommendation going on, that they say to their colleagues and their fellow businesses, look, this is an organization that is valuable to us and you should be members too. So, it’s great to see that goodwill in action.

Samir Husni: One of the problems that I always hear about with the magazine industry as a whole, worldwide, is that these are competing companies; these are businesses that are competing for similar audiences in most cases; how can you get them to work together?

Jaes Hewes: Well, I think that’s a great question, because it’s something that we as an industry have not been very good at historically. Even the newspaper industry, which traditionally was very much comprised of companies fighting almost to the death with one another, have been a little bit more unified in their approach to the challenges of the digital age and the big platforms, than the magazine industry has. So, I think that’s something that would I see as a very big part of FIPP’s remix, to help magazine companies and print companies to work better together.

It seems to me that there’s a good opportunity to do that around the dialogue that we want to have with the big platforms, particularly with Facebook and Google. And if FIPP can be the unifying force that brings those companies together and provides that common voice for all of the industry, then great, that’s really what we’re here to do.

Samir Husni: Do you think that’s possible?

James Hewes: Anything is possible. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

James Hewes: I hope it’s possible. I think there’s a great danger for us as an industry that we present a fragmented voice to those platforms, because we are not, individually as companies, even though we have very, very large individual members, individually as companies, compared to the scale of a Google or a Facebook, we’re still relatively insignificant. And I think it’s only by providing the combined muscle of our audience together as an industry, that we can really start to get some of the things that we want.

On the flipside, the good news is those companies are willing to listen. We had Facebook speaking at the Congress and they were pretty clear that they’re now in listening mode; they want to hear what the industry has to say, and they’re trying their best to respond. But I think it’s hard for them to respond if we’re speaking with 100 voices. We need to speak with one or two voices.

Samir Husni: One of our American publishers, Topix Media Labs, have imported the cover mounts. I interviewed CEO & co-founder, Tony Romando, recently and this is his way of reinventing the bookazine. Many European publishers tell me all of the time that they want to find a way to lose the cover mounts. What is the status at the newsstands; what do you feel, in the U.K. and globally, is the status of single-copy sales?

James Hewes: Single-copy sales for me remains a great missed opportunity in a lot of markets. It’s interesting, I was reading a piece recently about Bauer in the U.S., and it may have even been from yourself, talking about the success that they’ve had on the newsstand in the U.S. And that’s really because they’ve taken the lessons they learned in Germany, where newsstand is an actually predominant distribution method, and applied them to their relatively neglected U.S. market, and have had a huge amount of success.

I would like to think that there are still opportunities in most markets for that to happen, but of course, we’re fighting at the same time with retailers that are themselves struggling and that are themselves shrinking floor space and focusing their attention on the most profitable items or the most profitable per space, per square meter items.

So, again, it comes to this question of unity and I think it’s no coincidence that the markets that have had the most unified approach to newsstand have been the ones that have had the most success.

In the large, established markets, can you still go out there and make a big splash at newsstand? I think you can. I think it’s expensive; it’s not as much of a priority as it once was. In the emerging markets, that opportunity is probably gone. It was probably there for a brief period a number of years ago, but it’s not there anymore. It’s a pity, because I do think newsstand was a great missed opportunity.

And on that question about cover mounts; I worked a number of years at the BBC, and BBC magazines, which had a very large children’s publishing division and relied on cover mounts for a lot of its marketing activity. And one of the messages that we’re getting about the print industry in particular is that children’s publishing is actually a growth area, something that’s really thriving. And that the very clever and very targeted cover mounts strategy remains a part of that. So, if you’re creating cover mounts that are educationally-focused with that bit of fun element to them for children, you can still use those as a very effective tool for marketing for children’s magazines.

Samir Husni: At my ACT Experience that will take place in April, half of one day is going to be devoted to distribution and the folks from the Newsgroup, which is the largest wholesaler, if not the only major wholesaler left in America. They will be leading that group with some retailers. So, as the industry has changed, and as you mentioned earlier, 2018 is shaping up to be better than 2017; do you think that we can ever go back to where the magazine and magazine media industry used to be? Sort of like the powerhouse it once was in the media sphere?

James Hewes: I would answer that question in a number of different ways. If you’re thinking about pure volume; are we ever going to sell as many copies as we once did? No, and I think that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A lot of the copy sales in the market as you know were driven by very general lifestyle magazines or entertainment magazines, both men’s and women’s, generally weeklies, of course, there are some monthlies. They have content that has migrated entirely to the Internet and that’s probably never going to come back. And those were very high margin businesses, very profitable businesses for most companies.

And that’s where I think a lot of this misunderstanding about the death of magazines comes from; the idea that just because you’ve lost your largest, most profitable category your industry as a whole is destroyed, but it’s not.

I think where we will see an increase in influence and where influence will remain persistent for magazines is in those quality journalism spaces; where magazines will continue to have a presence in reader’s hands and in households; where magazines will still have a really important voice and will serve a really influential voice. I’m always reluctant to use Donald Trump as an example, but when the president of the United States Tweets about wanting to be on the cover of a magazine in 2017, that’s still quite an important factor in people’s lives. And I think that influence will persist for quite some time yet.

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

James Hewes: Only to say what I have been saying consistently throughout my first few months here, which is that I fervently believe that this is the most exciting time in history to be working in this industry. From the outside looking in, people may think it’s crazy, why would someone go and work in the publishing industry generally, and I’m not just talking about print, but publishing in media generally. And I say to them, are you crazy? This is an absolutely fantastic time to be working in it, because publishing companies are now exposed to such a broad range, a huge variety, of business areas that in the old days you would never, ever have gotten exposure to, whether that’s e-commerce or social media or social influences, whatever you want to think of, as a new business area that they’ve gone into.

And at the same time, we get to play with magazines, which are really fun and really a fantastic industry in their own right. So, all I would say is this is an incredibly great industry and I’m still really excited to be a part of it.

I started my working life at Barclays Bank, and I worked for Barclay’s Bank for four years. And I was very lucky; I met my wife there, so it wasn’t a wasted opportunity by any means. But I got to about three years working there, I was 22 or 23, and I thought if I don’t do something now, I’m going to be stuck in this institution for the rest of my life. And so I sat down and wrote on a piece of paper, asking myself what I really wanted to do with my life? And I answered work in the media and these are the companies that I want to work for.

And the first company on the list was the BBC. And I was very lucky, in the next week in the newspapers there was a job listed at the BBC, in the big national newspaper, seen by everybody in the country. I applied and I got the job out of a lot of applicants. And I punched the air when I got the job, because I knew then that I was going to be doing something that I loved, rather than just doing a job. So, when people come to me for career advice, which they’re starting to do now, I go to universities and lecture a bit, I tell them the same thing: just do what you love to do. Don’t just do something because it pays the bills. That’s worked for me so far.

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

James Hewes: Probably playing with my children; I have two young children, eight-years-old and 10-years-old. And I don’t get a chance to spend a lot of time with them, because I travel so much with my job. So, when I’m home I try to make sure that I spend as much time as possible with them and with my wife, Sheena, because we’re away from each other a lot and it’s nice to be reunited.

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

James Hewes: (Laughs) That’s a really tough question. I should have known you were going to ask this question, because you ask it to everybody. (Laughs again) That’s a brilliant question, because the one answer you can’t say is modesty. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

James Hewes: I would hope that they would say that I always tried to solve problems. I’ve kind of made a career out of being a guide that people go to when they have a problem and they need to solve it. Yes, he was a problem-solver.

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

James Hewes: What keeps me up at night is actually probably not work. It’s just how do I make sure that my children get the best start in life; how do they get the best education; how do they get all of the opportunities that I was fortunate enough to have when I was growing up? The world today is a very different place from what it was when I was growing up and in some ways, a lot scarier place. Certainly, a lot harder place to grow up in. And so my focus is very much on making sure that they get the great start in life that they need.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Magazines Are Going “Boutique.” Is That A New Trend? Mr. Magazine™ Thinks Not…

August 15, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

We hear a lot of talk today about magazine publishing becoming a “boutique” business, what with all of the special interest magazines and niche publications that are so pointedly targeted that many fear not even the intended audience will be able to recognize them.

However, this “boutique” description may be new, as far as the actual wording, but let me assure you, there is nothing about being niche or a special interest magazine that hasn’t always been around. We’ve always had special interest magazines right along with the general interest ones. And we’ve always had titles that reflected very specific topics, such as: cars, music, history, celebrities; you name it, because after all, magazines have always been, in my book, the best reflectors of our society, and they always will be.

Just in these past couple of weeks, I came across a host of new magazines that are truly nothing but a reflector of our present day society. And that’s our society as a whole, because as the global magazine network starts to take shape, magazines are being published in France, printed in the Netherlands, and distributed in the United States. And the topics are as targeted and trend-worthy as they have ever been.

For example, Spinner Force, a new title about the fidget spinner craze, and also Spinner Power; can you think of a better topic that reflects what’s going on in our world today? Not since the Yoyo or the Pet Rock has the planet seen such popularity with a small, no doubt, inexpensively made toy. Yet, so far, there are at least two magazines on the topic. But of course there is. Magazines are always at the forefront of what matters to us.

Then there’s the new twist on car magazines, such as 5054, which deals with automotive culture. And as the founding editor of the magazine states inside the first issue’s cover: the magazine’s rough mission statement is to cover automotive culture. And that might mean most things with an engine. And engines might mean engineering. In other words, this is not your average car mag.

Or there’s a new magazine called Dream dedicated to objects and materia. And as the editor tells us about her “dream” finally coming true with the publishing of this first issue, we learn that this chimera of print is all about the inanimate, but takes shape in the dreams that created the objects. Quite captivating. And along with the magazine, a hardbound book called South Africa conjoins with this premier issue to allow the audience a look into one contributor’s experience in the country watching the graceful and elegant balance of objects onto people’s heads.

Wow! That’s about as niche as the 2005 magazine titled Emu Today & Tomorrow. As I said, being a special interest magazine is not as “boutique” as some might think.

Then there’s the new magazine Diaphanes that’s published in both German and English. Or the new twist on an old concept, the Romance Journal. It’s a new magazine that the first issue focuses on just emotions.

Or things I’d never heard about, but my grandson had, such as a sport called Pickleball, which I’m sure is a deserving sport that needed its own magazine. The mindfulness craze continues with a new magazine from the U.K. called In the Moment, treating us to mindful ways to live our lives well.

And there’s a new magazine from Poland all about cities and the way they have changed over the years called Cities Magazine. From our good friends at Stampington & Company, we have Bella Grace – Field Guide to Everyday Magic, which has the feel of your own personal journal and invites to write in it as you would a diary.

Then we have a new title called Swim that combines art, photography and literature in a publication driven by narrative, so we can feel free to start anywhere, even at the end if we choose.

And I cannot leave out Salty at Heart, which is a new title for those who love the ocean and living in the beauty and miracle of the moment. We have Summit; a magazine about the resurgence of Hawaiian activism that took place on the peak of Mauna Kea, and examines a new generation of globally connected thinkers and doers. As its mission statement states, “Summit is Hawai’i’s global magazine, with in-depth coverage of arts, design, style, business, civics, and literature in the Hawaiian hemisphere.”

Hemp is a magazine that explores the renaissance around the reality of hemp farming that’s sweeping the U.S. A sewing magazine published in Belgium and distributed internationally called Victor, and last, but certainly not least, a new title called Mold. Yes, Mold, a magazine that moves beyond the aesthetics of food, and celebrates design as an agent of change in our food system. Mold explores the innovations emerging at the intersections of science, technology, agronomy, gastronomy, engineering and design.

So, as you browse through those titles and as you spend a lot of money to purchase those titles, Dream has $46.99 cover price, join us in the “boutique” and sit back, relax and enjoy the eternally reflective nature of magazines.

Until next time…

Mr. Magazine™ will see you at the newsstands…

%d bloggers like this: