Archive for the ‘Across the Pond’ Category

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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.

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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!

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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.

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“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!

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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.

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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…

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Elsie Magazine: The Creatively Sumptuous Publication Teams Up With Fiverr’s Website For Its Fourth Issue To Bring The Most Eclectic & Interesting Content To Its Audience Yet – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Les Jones, Founder & Creator, Elsie Magazine

September 26, 2016

A Mr. Magazine™ Interview from Across the Pond

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“I think, probably like you, Samir, I’m a huge lover of print. I don’t think that you can really substitute that kind of quality of sitting down with a magazine or a book. I think the online, digital environment is extremely exciting, but it’s just different for me. The production of an actual physical item that people not only read, but hopefully put onto their shelves and keep is really important to me. So, no, I don’t think digital is the absolute future; there’s still a big future for print.” Les Jones

“I suppose it was always inevitable that there would be a bit of a print backlash. Digital came in rather big and bold and everyone just assumed that was the future and print would disappear, but there’s no indication of that at the moment. I think people still like to hold a magazine and flip through the pages; it’s a completely different experience than scrolling through a digital magazine.” Les Jones

Picture a magazine with fantastic photography, eye-catching typography and a dedication to design that would make even the most studied of creators of layouts salivate. Then throw in an individualized theme or topic of content that is so totally unique in its concept that the magazine virtually stops you in your tracks with its originality of information.

Once you’ve conjured up that image in your mind’s eye, you’ll find yourself thinking about Elsie magazine, a creative and independent publication whose founder is based in England. And while the magazine may originate from across the Pond, the content is completely global in perception.

les-portrait-1-colourFounder and creator of Elsie, Les Jones, is a man who is a self-admitted thinker of thoughts – thoughts that come with rapidity and continuity. And when you peruse Elsie for the first or the fifteenth time, you’ll understand his genius. I spoke with Les recently as he had just wrapped up issue four of the magazine and had teamed up for this issue with the website Fiverr, a unique site that is a marketplace for creative and professional services. For the fourth issue, Les decided to commission a random group of individuals who use the site to advertise their skills and areas of interest, something the website refers to as “gigs,” to fill the pages of the fourth issue. The powers-that-be at the website saw the magical conglomeration of creative design and typography and decided to join the fun for this iteration of the magazine by sponsoring Les in his endeavors for the “Fiverr” issue.

It’s a spot-on idea that hits on everything good and viable for combining two platforms that offer two different experiences. I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a man who has a thing for print, but knows how to utilize digital to make it an original and provocative experience, Les Jones, founder and creator, Elsie magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

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On the creation of issue four of Elsie magazine: In order to tell you about issue four, I need to tell you a little bit about issue three. Issue three was based completely on one photograph that I took in London. It was a picture of a sign that had been covered in stickers. And when I had a look at it on my screen, I suddenly had the thought that behind every one of those stickers was a person and a story. When I came to issue four, having spent quite a while tracking all of the people down behind the stickers, traveling all across Europe to meet all of these really interesting people, I decided that I wanted to make as eclectic a magazine for number four as I had done for number three. But I gave myself the self-imposed grief of doing it without leaving my house. And I had a few ideas knocking around in my head as to where I wanted to take the magazine.

On whether the future of print is utilizing the best of digital: I’m not sure. I think, probably like you, Samir, I’m a huge lover of print. I don’t think that you can really substitute that kind of quality of sitting down with a magazine or a book. I think the online, digital environment is extremely exciting, but it’s just different for me. The production of an actual physical item that people not only read, but hopefully put onto their shelves and keep is really important to me.

On whether he’s using the magazine as an experience that he’s actually living: Yes, I would say so. For me, the reason that I said the magazine was not specifically because I wanted to publish a magazine; it was very much along the lines that I wanted to create experiences for myself. So, you might have picked up from earlier issues of the magazine that randomness plays quite a big role in what I do. You might remember from the first issue I ended up in Poland and it was a completely random visit, where I threw a dart into a map and then just went off for a week.

On whether he felt allowing the website Fiverr to be a sponsor was a wow factor for this issue: To be honest, I hit on the idea, having been pointed in the direction of their website. And I kind of lost myself in the project and I was probably at least two-thirds of the way through the magazine, if not three-quarters of the way finished, when, and why it hadn’t occurred to me before I don’t know, but it occurred to me that I was obviously doing an entire magazine through the conduit of the Fiverr website, that this might be something that Sam and the guys at Fiverr would be interested in as well.

On whether people can go to the Fiverr website and find Les Jones there: If you go to Fiverr and you search “Les Jones,” you can download a copy of the magazine, the Fiverr issue. And I have put a couple of other gigs on the site that are linked to previous iterations of the magazine.

On why he thinks it took so long for the magazine industry as a whole to realize that print is still a viable resource and very important: That’s a very good question. I think print has always been there in the background, fighting the rearguard action, hasn’t it, in terms of trying to maintain its presence within the marketplace. But what I see, and I’m sure you do too working with magazines across the world, if anything it’s a growing environment. The amount of small, independent magazines out there at the moment all just trying to carve out a particular niche; I think they’re coming in thick and fast at the moment.

On his most pleasant moment during his magazine journey: There were many, I must say. The nicest moment for me was the piece of mail art that I had from a girl in Canada. It was the most beautiful thing that she produced and in the actual words that she put in the letter, she talks about the fact that on her university campus she quite often leaves the letters around randomly for people to find and pick up. And she enjoys that experience; dropping a little bit of creativity into people’s lives even though she might never meet them.

On the biggest stumbling block he had to face and how he overcame it: If I’m honest, Samir, there really weren’t any really big stumbling blocks whatsoever. I commissioned the gigs and I worked on the process or on the basis that if it was interesting to me and I if I thought what was going to come back was interesting to other people, I went with it.

elsie-3On what someone would find him doing if they showed up at his house one evening unexpectedly: You’d have to catch me in the house and not out in one of the fields around my house walking my dog, but I also could be watching football on the television. I’m into football big time. Generally, I’d probably be on my computer doing some work. There’s usually a glass of wine in the vicinity; although I have been pretty good for the last six to eight months. I don’t have a glass of wine during the week, only on the weekends these days.

On what keeps him up at night: I tell you what keeps me up at night and I just recently had this experience when I woke up at half past four in the morning; it’s ideas. I wish sometimes that I could turn the tap off and not have the ideas swimming around in my head all of the time. I don’t particularly solicit them, they just drop in. As soon as they’re there, they announce their arrival and I feel as though I have to give them the space and think about them.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with founder and creator, Les Jones, Elsie magazine.

elsie-cover-1Samir Husni: The last time we spoke was in 2011 when the first issue of Elsie came out and you were creating individualized magazines. Now, somehow you’ve turned the tables and you’ve done a magazine created by a host of individuals in one magazine. Tell me about issue four.

Les Jones: In order to tell you about issue four, I need to tell you a little bit about issue three. Issue three was based completely on one photograph that I took in London. It was a picture of a sign that had been covered in stickers. And when I had a look at it on my screen, I suddenly had the thought that behind every one of those stickers was a person and a story.

So, I set out to try and track down all of the people behind the stickers in that one photograph. So issue three of the magazine is basically the entire journey of tracking down all of these people behind the stickers, which took me all over Europe to Italy and to Portugal, to The Netherlands and New York, where the guy was a tattoo artist, and I really just tracked all of these people down behind those stickers. It was really an interesting project. I printed all of the stickers on a sheet, and the idea was that people then would actually put the stickers on their own cover, so they created their own magazine cover.

When I came to issue four, having spent quite a while tracking all of the people down behind the stickers, traveling all across Europe to meet all of these really interesting people, I decided that I wanted to make as eclectic a magazine for number four as I had done for number three. But I gave myself the self-imposed grief of doing it without leaving my house. And I had a few ideas knocking around in my head as to where I wanted to take the magazine.

And then a friend introduced me to Fiverr; she had just had some illustrations done for her wedding invitations. So, I went onto their website and thought it was a very interesting environment, with these people all over the world basically posting their gigs, what they’re prepared to do and what their skills are, into the marketplace.

So, I started to dabble and I started to commission people all across the world to just do whatever it was they were advertising to do. And I just waited for things to come in. And as soon as they started coming in I felt that I had a really strong concept for the magazine, and rather than it be all about me and my photography and my graphics, things like that, I would create a curated magazine, where I’m putting all of these things in, and is quite random and eclectic, coming from 29 different countries. And then I would piece it all together as a whole. So, that’s kind of where it all started.

Samir Husni: It seems to me that you have utilized the best of digital to create a print collectible edition; is that the future of print?

Les Jones: I’m not sure. I think, probably like you, Samir, I’m a huge lover of print. I don’t think that you can really substitute that kind of quality of sitting down with a magazine or a book. I think the online, digital environment is extremely exciting, but it’s just different for me. The production of an actual physical item that people not only read, but hopefully put onto their shelves and keep is really important to me.

elsie-2The interesting thing about all of the stuff that came in for the magazine is that it all started with digital; you’re right about that, people sent me their content via email and download. But quite a lot of it was also physical. One of the first things I commissioned was a woman in Japan and her gig was to send Japanese sweets to post. And she was actually the first one, and then I got this envelope and I opened it, and outpoured all of these beautiful Japanese sweets in their wrappings.

Quite often, when I was going into the actual Fiverr site and looking around for things that I wanted to feature in the magazine, the physical nature was quite important. People would send me postcards, and I had a couple of people send me mail art, where they literally designed the letter, from the envelope to little drawings and the notes that they put inside. And all of that is very tactile stuff, which for me were probably the most interesting things that went into the magazine. So, no, I don’t think digital is the absolute future; there’s still a big future for print.

Samir Husni: You invite people to come to your place and stop by; you’ve put your address on all of these envelopes; are you using Elsie as more than a printed magazine? Are you using it as an experience that you’re actually living?

Les Jones: Yes, I would say so. For me, the reason that I said the magazine was not specifically because I wanted to publish a magazine; it was very much along the lines that I wanted to create experiences for myself. So, you might have picked up from earlier issues of the magazine that randomness plays quite a big role in what I do. You might remember from the first issue I ended up in Poland and it was a completely random visit, where I threw a dart into a map and then just went off for a week.

And I think that kind of setting the ball rolling and then just following where it lead was really interesting for me. And that’s where I get the creative payback, if you like. I don’t sit down and have a clear vision of a finished product; I just like to start it and then see where it leads.

So, I think you’re right. Using the magazine as a catalyst to experiences and interactions and ways of working with people, is very much what it’s about. I’m also about to start new live events with it as well. So, I’m doing about 12 Elsie magazine events around the U.K. The first one starts next week and will go into the New Year. As well as sort of gauging reactions about Elsie and the stories in the magazine; I’m also going to use those events to get the audience to actually create new content for future issues. So, they’ll be doing stuff also to actually provide content for future issues. And I like that idea and the interactions and that experience-based thing; very much so.

Samir Husni: The experience that you had this time is you were able to get a sponsor, which you have not done with the first three issues.

Les Jones: No, I hadn’t done that before.

Samir Husni: Were you that convinced that the website Fiverr and this issue of Elsie was a wow factor, so you decided to merge your efforts with them and see what happened?

Les Jones: To be honest, I hit on the idea, having been pointed in the direction of their website. And I kind of lost myself in the project and I was probably at least two-thirds of the way through the magazine, if not three-quarters of the way finished, when, and why it hadn’t occurred to me before I don’t know, but it occurred to me that I was obviously doing an entire magazine through the conduit of the Fiverr website, that this might be something that Sam (Katzen – PR Manager) and the guys at Fiverr would be interested in as well. *(See my question to Sam Katzen at the end of the interview with Les Jones…)

So, I literally sent them an email and told them about doing the entire magazine pretty much through the content on their website and that it was coming together really well and was an interesting experience; would they be interested? And I asked if we could have a conversation; I didn’t really make a formal approach for sponsorship, if you like.

elsie-2-cover-009It was when I sent the stuff to Sam that they got in touch with me and said that it looked like a really interesting project. And that they would like to get involved with it in some way. And it’s fantastic to have some sponsorship behind the magazine, because everything I do on the magazine is self-funded and I pay for everything myself, so to have that support was great.

I was very keen to point out and to be fair to Sam and the people at Fiverr, and they were also in agreement, that they had no involvement in the editorial direction of the magazine whatsoever. That was 100 percent me and they supported it from the general principle.

Samir Husni: Can I expect to be able to locate you when I go to the Fiverr website, and see your name with the statement that you’re willing to create a magazine for whoever wants one? All they have to do is submit their idea and you’ll create the magazine and this is what it will cost them? (Laughs)

Les Jones: (Laughs too) That would be interesting, wouldn’t it? If you go to Fiverr and you search “Les Jones,” you can download a copy of the magazine, the Fiverr issue. And I have put a couple of other gigs on the site that are linked to previous iterations of the magazine.

One of the things I do, and I think there are a few in issue one, are these random illustrations where I literally just put my finger in the dictionary and then create a word from Googling that image. So, I’ve put that on a as a gig, If you want me to use your name and Google your name and then whatever comes up, create a unique piece of art from it, that’s one of the gigs that I’ve put onto Fiverr. But to do a magazine, a whole magazine, knowing how long it takes? (Laughs) That might be pushing it a little bit.

Samir Husni: Why do you think it took the magazine industry as a whole almost five to ten years to recognize that print isn’t going away and that digital isn’t our sole future? Supposedly, we are some of the top creative minds in the world today; why do you think it took so long for magazine media to figure out that print is still a viable resource and very important?

Les Jones: That’s a very good question. I think print has always been there in the background, fighting the rearguard action, hasn’t it, in terms of trying to maintain its presence within the marketplace. But what I see, and I’m sure you do too working with magazines across the world, if anything it’s a growing environment. The amount of small, independent magazines out there at the moment all just trying to carve out a particular niche; I think they’re coming in thick and fast at the moment.

How long they’ll survive, I don’t know. That’s been one of the questions that I’ve often asked myself about Elsie; how long can I keep it going? One of the things that was a real spur to me is when I launched the first issue and it was reviewed by The New York Library Journal, they voted it one of their top 10 new magazines of that year, which was fantastic. And one of the things that they put in the review was, the chance of Les Jones keeping this magazine going was pretty small, but enjoy it while it lasts, is the way I believe they put it. And I kind of took that on the chin and thought OK, I am going to keep this going and I am going to keep pushing it. (Laughs)

It’s a tough journey because without the same exposure the mainstream magazines get, just trying to get the word out there and the magazine in front of people is really difficult. Slowly, but surely, it’s growing a fan base of people who value the uniqueness of the magazine.

I suppose it was always inevitable that there would be a bit of a print backlash. Digital came in rather big and bold and everyone just assumed that was the future and print would disappear, but there’s no indication of that at the moment. I think people still like to hold a magazine and flip through the pages; it’s a completely different experience than scrolling through a digital magazine. I find that I concentrate more when I have a physical thing, rather than the digital.

Samir Husni: What was the most pleasant moment for you during this journey; I mean besides receiving all of those candies from Japan?

Les Jones: (Laughs) Which I haven’t eaten yet.

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Les Jones: There were many, I must say. The nicest moment for me was the piece of mail art that I had from a girl in Canada. It was the most beautiful thing that she produced and in the actual words that she put in the letter, she talks about the fact that on her university campus she quite often leaves the letters around randomly for people to find and pick up. And she enjoys that experience; dropping a little bit of creativity into people’s lives even though she might never meet them. That letter just kind of kept opening and revealing more bits of stuff and little letters and bits of typography. I thought it was fantastic.

The most humorous and the one that made me laugh the most was a crocheted beard, which I have shown it to all my friends and after the New Year, in the winter, I’m thinking of getting everyone a crocheted beard. (Laughs) So, that was great.

I love that kind of eclectic nature of some of those kinds of gigs. I deliberately chose those that were slightly off the wall, rather than some of the more mainstream things.

Samir Husni: And what was the biggest stumbling block with issue four that you had to face and how did you overcome it?

Les Jones: If I’m honest, Samir, there really weren’t any really big stumbling blocks whatsoever. I commissioned the gigs and I worked on the process or on the basis that if it was interesting to me and I if I thought what was going to come back was interesting to other people, I went with it.

I curated the magazine, so not everything that I actually commissioned went in. Probably 20 percent of the stuff didn’t make it for whatever reason, I just didn’t think it fit or wasn’t in keeping with the flow of the magazine.

I suppose the only small thing was that once I’d actually commissioned a gig from someone, and then went back to them and told them what I was doing with the magazine, then asked them if they would contribute some information about themselves, where they lived and what they did, and most people responded, but I had to chase a few down for the information. Not because they were being reluctant, they just hadn’t gotten around to it. Other than that, it was really a pleasurable experience. It was great having those kinds of things drop into your email inbox or having an envelope dropping into my mailbox. It was great.

elsie-3-cover-with-stickers2-lrSamir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly to your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing, reading a magazine, reading on your iPad, watching television, or something else?

Les Jones: You’d have to catch me in the house and not out in one of the fields around my house walking my dog, but I also could be watching football on the television. I’m into football big time. Generally, I’d probably be on my computer doing some work. There’s usually a glass of wine in the vicinity; although I have been pretty good for the last six to eight months. I don’t have a glass of wine during the week, only on the weekends these days.

It’s a very relaxed environment. Probably a lot of noise with all of the kids in the house; I have four children; although they don’t all live at home now. But, yes, I’d probably be doing something creative or just catching up on things.

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

Les Jones: I tell you what keeps me up at night and I just recently had this experience when I woke up at half past four in the morning; it’s ideas. I wish sometimes that I could turn the tap off and not have the ideas swimming around in my head all of the time. I don’t particularly solicit them, they just drop in. As soon as they’re there, they announce their arrival and I feel as though I have to give them the space and think about them.

I’ve actually got lots of ideas for other magazines, other than Elsie. Hopefully one day I’ll turn Elsie into, not just the magazine it is, but into a publishing house for a range of titles. So, I have lots of creative ideas for other magazines floating around in my head, I just need to find the time, space and the resources to bring them to market.

Samir Husni: Thank you.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________

*About Fiverr
A question to Sam Katzen, Fiverr manager of PR:

Samir Husni: Sam, may I ask you a question? Why are there so many people on Fiverr offering print and print related services; offering to send you a postcard or a handwritten note?

Sam Katzen: While there are a lot of people offering those gigs on Fiverr, in reality about 99 percent of our marketplace is digital services. So, most of the things are being delivered via the Internet, and that makes sense because a lot of the users and customers are small businesses. So, a lot of the services are sort of in the professional vein, but I also think that because our marketplace is so broad; we’re in 190 countries, with millions of users because of that, you have an opportunity for creativity to really flourish and be exposed from a global standpoint.

What Les has experienced in Elsie and what the magazine really showcases to me is that there are different varieties of what’s considered interesting and creative from all over the world and those things can all be expressed in a place like Fiverr. And that’s probably one of the reasons you see a lot of mail art, for instance.

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WOTH Magazine: “Wonderful Things” Happen Between The Pages Of This New Dutch Launch – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Publisher, Toon Lauwen & Founding Editor, Mary Hessing

September 22, 2016

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

01covereng

“We decided to make a print magazine because we wanted it to be a beautiful thing and we thought about design and designers and the way they work, for them materials are very important. We also thought about their skills and the stories behind their ideas for the product. We figured for the magazine, for the media in which we’re telling these stories, it’s the same. So, this is something that you want to hold in your hands, something that materializes. It’s not that we don’t want to have any digital additions, but we want it to be something that you can cherish and keep and something that you can hold and feel the paper, because it’s the same with design.” Mary Hessing

“We also want to reach out to a larger community than the Dutch one, because that’s the reason we took it into an English version too, to have a larger exposure and make it possible to be more European. And that’s also a twist of the necessary optimism it takes to move forward. We tried to show the quality of the magazine with the paper, the lettering and the typeface, etc.” Toon Lauwen

Woth Wonderful Things is a new lifestyle magazine focused on interiors and design, but one done in a more personal way, with strong visuals and content about people and objects that are so interesting they make you wonder about them and the innovative creativity they display that stirs imaginations.

Real-life couple, Toon Lauwen and Mary Hessing, who are based in The Hague in the Netherlands, created this beautiful new publication, and between their support network of longstanding Dutch designers and professionals they have both been involved with for decades, Mary is a former editor in chief for Dutch design magazine Eigen Huis & Interieur, and her partner Toon has been in the business for decades, they started a crowdfunding campaign and made the design dream magazine a reality.

00000663portraitmaryhessingvoorinternet-photo-brenda-van-leeuwenI spoke with both Toon and Mary recently and we talked about their vision for this outstanding new magazine. The deep sentiments of a personal relationship with both the reader and the subject matter that Mary so strongly believes in, and the focus on good content and magnificent writing that Toon strives for with each and every word and page; it’s clear the two of them have a passion for Woth that will only grow and flourish.

So, I hope you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with two people who made a dream into a reality with hard work, creative ideas and superb content, and a network of people who believe in this magazine as much as they do, Toon Lauwen, Publisher, and Founding Editor, Mary Hessing, Woth Wonderful Things Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the idea behind the magazine and why they decided on a print product (Mary Hessing): We decided to make a print magazine because we wanted it to be a beautiful thing and we thought about design and designers and the way they work, for them materials are very important. We also thought about their skills and the stories behind their ideas for the product. We figured for the magazine, for the media in which we’re telling these stories, it’s the same. So, this is something that you want to hold in your hands, something that materializes.

On why they chose to publish it in an English version (Mary Hessing): Because we have very good connections in Holland with Dutch designers. And Dutch designers are worldwide and that’s very important in this industry. And I think that we have the best commitment for making good content. And we’re trying to broaden our scope and bring it to the world, not only to Holland.

jwk_1653On whether it was easy to market the magazine (Toon Lauwen): Initially we started out with an idea, so we made a crowdfunding campaign, Indiegogo. So, we did interviews and Mary did that to engage our public with the new idea of this magazine. As an independent, we had to start out using a network that we already had. I have been doing this for over 20 years. Mary is the figurehead, so to speak, and she has actually done a lot of good footwork with those designers and brands in Italy and all over Europe to make all of those connections, also with the advertisers.

On any stumbling blocks they had to face and how they overcame them (Mary Hessing): What was really difficult was we started out with no money, with just this idea, so we asked a lot of people to help us. We did the crowdfunding campaign, but even before that we had been asking people from our network if they would help us out with the content. And I received all positive responses, everyone was really supportive and really thought we should do the magazine. Everybody felt there was a need for a project like this and that it would definitely get off the ground. Then we did the crowdfunding campaign, and I also asked the people I used to work with, most of them are freelancers now, to help us out with making the magazine.

On how difficult it was as a couple working together (Toon Lauwen): We’ve worked together before, of course. But then I was writing for a former magazine, but now we’re really teaming up because we’re both responsible for getting it to the printer and getting the bills paid, etc. We’re a business team. And that does take some adjustment, but on the other hand it’s also something we like to do. With our house, we did it together.

On what they hope the magazine has achieved in one year (Mary Hessing): I would really like the magazine to have a solid base and have a strong and healthy existence. And that it has secured its right to exist. And I want it to stand out independently from other magazines.

01coverengOn anything else they’d like to add (Mary Hessing): I’d like to emphasize that Dutch Designer Gert Dumbar made our logo. He’s an old family friend of mine and he did this as a favor to us. And I’m really proud of it. It’s so funny because I asked this really elderly gentleman to make something really bold and daring and fantastic, and when I asked him for the logo for “Wonderful Things,” he thought the word Woth was a strange and intriguing word. It’s such a strong logo and I think in a way there’s a little bit of the 1980s influence there, and I think it’s interesting because everybody is now looking at the ‘80s for inspiration and we have the real thing.

On what someone would find them doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at their home (Mary Hessing): I would probably be putting my children to bed which takes forever. (Laughs) I always like to make up with them for all of the things I missed during the day, so that takes time.

On what someone would find them doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at their home (Toon Lauwen): I might be watching a documentary or reading a book. I read about history a lot.

On what keeps them up at night (Mary Hessing): Living up to expectations from other people, not normally, but especially about this project.

On what keeps them up at night (Toon Lauwen): I’m always reasoning in my head about a tagline, or just some small thing. I’ve been a worrier since I was young; it’s my nature. (Laughs)

ton-of-hollandspreadAnd now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Toon Lauwen, Publisher, and Founding Editor, Mary Hessing, Woth Wonderful Things Magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me the idea behind the magazine and why you decided to launch a print publication in this digital age?

Mary Hessing: We decided to make a print magazine because we wanted it to be a beautiful thing and we thought about design and designers and the way they work, for them materials are very important. We also thought about their skills and the stories behind their ideas for the product. We figured for the magazine, for the media in which we’re telling these stories, it’s the same. So, this is something that you want to hold in your hands, something that materializes. It’s not that we don’t want to have any digital additions, but we want it to be something that you can cherish and keep and something that you can hold and feel the paper, because it’s the same with design.

Samir Husni: And why did you publish in an English version as well?

Mary Hessing: Because we have very good connections in Holland with Dutch designers. And Dutch designers are worldwide and that’s very important in this industry. And I think that we have the best commitment for making good content. And we’re trying to broaden our scope and bring it to the world, not only to Holland.

Samir Husni: Toon, as the publisher, how easy was it for you to market the magazine? You’re a great team and you have a known editor and the Dutch design is known all over the world. What was the reaction when you first went and tried to sell an ad or tried to get some sponsorship for the magazine?

Toon Lauwen: Initially we started out with an idea, so we made a crowdfunding campaign, Indiegogo. So, we did interviews and Mary did that to engage our public with the new idea of this magazine. As an independent, we had to start out using a network that we already had. I have been doing this for over 20 years. Mary is the figurehead, so to speak, and she has actually done a lot of good footwork with those designers and brands in Italy and all over Europe to make all of those connections, also with the advertisers.

That footwork really enabled us to make direct contact with the advertisers, the bosses of those brands, to ask them to support our magazine in the middle of the year, because we started out in May or June. So, our campaign was concentrated in mid-season, summer. It wasn’t a piece of cake, that’s for sure.

But nevertheless, we’ve found a true optimism with the people and an involvement with them at the brands, helping us out, buying advertisements, and also with the readership through subscriptions and single issues, just based on a campaign or an idea and largely dependent on an image that Mary put out as an editor in chief of the title that she worked at before.

Samir Husni: Was it all just a stroll through a rose garden, or should I say; a tulip walk…

Toon Lauwen: (Laughs).

Samir Husni: …that you had no stumbling blocks and no problems? Or did you have stumbling blocks, and if so, what were they and how did you overcome them?

portretten-ronald-vd-kempMary Hessing: What was really difficult was we started out with no money, with just this idea, so we asked a lot of people to help us. We did the crowdfunding campaign, but even before that we had been asking people from our network if they would help us out with the content. And I received all positive responses, everyone was really supportive and really thought we should do the magazine. Everybody felt there was a need for a project like this and that it would definitely get off the ground. Then we did the crowdfunding campaign, and I also asked the people I used to work with, most of them are freelancers now, to help us out with making the magazine.

So, we had the contacts and the crowdfunding. Then we had to actually make the pages. And everyone helped us for as long as they could, but at the end of the day we’re the only ones responsible for getting it to the printers. We are really grateful and happy that everybody was so supportive and helpful, but it can only stretch so far.

Samir Husni: How difficult is it for you as a couple to work together?

Toon Lauwen: It’s really easy because I’m writing a lot, so my concentration is totally different. To begin with, I work best in the mornings and Mary works at night, until 2 or 3:00 a.m. I’m always reasoning in my head what to write, which usually takes a lot of time and concentration for me. But now there was no time for that. We had to produce a lot of text.

Mary Hessing: You are two different people in your thought patterns, but also on energy levels as well. So, I work at night and normally I sleep very well. But these days, with the magazine, sleep was very difficult, so I was awake a lot. I would go to bed late and rise really early because I knew there were things we had to do for the magazine. So I would just do it.

Toon Lauwen: We’ve worked together before, of course. But then I was writing for a former magazine, but now we’re really teaming up because we’re both responsible for getting it to the printer and getting the bills paid, etc. We’re a business team. And that does take some adjustment, but on the other hand it’s also something we like to do. With our house, we did it together.

Mary Hessing: We renovated 15,000 squares and we’re still together, so I think we can argue, but we will manage. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: If we’re talking one year from now about the magazine; what do you hope you could tell me that Woth had achieved in that year?

Mary Hessing: I would really like the magazine to have a solid base and have a strong and healthy existence. And that it has secured its right to exist. And I want it to stand out independently from other magazines.

Toon Lauwen: We started out as a new title, typically niche, since it’s about design. And the name itself, calling it “Wonderful Things,” we want it to reach out to people with its ideas and its motivation of people who work with design, but not only designers, just anyone creative in general, chefs and any other professions. So, we made the format a bit broader that just the theory of design only. That’s what we were trying to do with the title, “Wonderful Things,” and the brand.

mary437defbwphotokasiagatkowskaMary Hessing: Also, I wrote for many years for two other design titles and working with design can be difficult. When you look at all of the living magazines around the world, a lot are based on the same formula and it’s very difficult to make it personal, so we’re really trying to find a way to make Woth personal. And we’re doing this by focusing on the creatives. Whatever we do we want to put them central. And in a way I think this could be like a human interest idea for a design and interior decorating magazine. I think people are interested in these people in the magazine; they’re superstars in a way, and they have a very nice way of living and great view of the world, so we really want to speak to them on a personal level.

This is what we’re aiming for. We want it to be personal. What I get back from people is the way it’s written, it is really personal.

Toon Lauwen: We also want to reach out to a larger community than the Dutch one, because that’s the reason we took it into an English version too, to have a larger exposure and make it possible to be more European. And that’s also a twist of the necessary optimism it takes to move forward. We tried to show the quality of the magazine with the paper, the lettering and the typeface, etc.

So, we hope that we can answer your question about where we’ll be in a year by saying we have evolved from a local niche magazine to bit more European, and that we even have a global reach.

Mary Hessing: Because of my work, I’ve been visiting countries and people everywhere and there is this connection between people, the way that they look at their lives, the way they live them. The people I work with, the agents and photographers internationally; these are all very nice and interesting people. I feel like there’s already a connection and I’d really like this magazine to be a magnet for that as well

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

Mary Hessing: I’d like to emphasize that Dutch Designer Gert Dumbar made our logo. He’s an old family friend of mine and he did this as a favor to us. And I’m really proud of it.

Samir Husni: It really looks good.

Mary Hessing: It’s so funny because I asked this really elderly gentleman to make something really bold and daring and fantastic, and when I asked him for the logo for “Wonderful Things,” he thought the word Woth was a strange and intriguing word. It’s such a strong logo and I think in a way there’s a little bit of the 1980s influence there, and I think it’s interesting because everybody is now looking at the ‘80s for inspiration and we have the real thing. He’s from the spirit, so I think this is very interesting that all these other people are copying this idea and we have the real thing.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly to your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing; would you be reading a magazine, your iPad, watching television, or something else?

Mary Hessing: I would probably be putting my children to bed which takes forever. (Laughs) I always like to make up with them for all of the things I missed during the day, so that takes time.

Toon Lauwen: I might be watching a documentary or reading a book. I read about history a lot.

Mary Hessing: He’s also a great cook and he always says that he cooks and it’s his gift to us and it is. But actually it’s his hobby, his way to relax.

Samir Husni: And you’re based in The Hague, correct?

Mary Hessing: Yes, we are.

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

Mary Hessing: Living up to expectations from other people, not normally, but especially about this project.

Toon Lauwen: I’m always reasoning in my head about a tagline, or just some small thing. I’ve been a worrier since I was young; it’s my nature. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Hola! Made In USA Magazine: The Passion & The Legacy Continues Through The Third Generation – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Eduardo Sánchez Pérez, Editor-In-Chief, ¡Hola! and Hello Magazines. An Encore Presentation

August 15, 2016

Hola! Made In USA magazine just hit the newsstands in the United States and in honor of this new edition to the wonderful world of print, here is an encore  Mr. Magazine™ interview from February, 2016 with ¡Hola!’s Editor In Chief, Eduardo Sánchez Pérez. 

August 2016 issue of ¡Hola! that hit U.S. newsstands.

August 2016 issue of ¡Hola! that hit U.S. newsstands.

“I don’t envision a day when we will have no print editions. I don’t know if ¡Hola! will be forever, but a magazine with beautiful pictures and positive stories will always be there. You cannot give the same product in digital. With a print magazine, you can buy it, collect it, and share it with someone. And you have that ownership feeling that this magazine is yours. Also the flow of the content into the magazine is important. We always start with beautiful houses or beautiful people at home; this is a product that needs some physical connection, it’s real and tangible, so paper is the best way to present it.” Eduardo Sánchez Pérez

From Spain with love…

HOLA-2 A magazine born from a beautiful love story that’s all about family, tradition and legacy; ¡Hola! was founded in Barcelona in 1944 by Antonio Sánchez Gómez and his wife, Mercedes Junco Calderón. The two had a dream of creating a small magazine that could entertain readers and show them the beauty of life through great stories and breathtaking photographs.

As the magazine grew over the years, their son Eduardo Sánchez Junco, joined the family business, along with his wife, Mamen Pérez Villota and the values of family, respect and honor were woven deeply into the ¡Hola! brand.

Today, ¡Hola! and Hello magazines are still family owned and ran by the children of Eduardo Sánchez Junco and Mamen Pérez Villota, along with Eduardo’s 95-year-old mother, who still does layouts and works for the magazine.

Their youngest child, Eduardo Sánchez Pérez is Editor-In-Chief of ¡Hola! and Hello and oversees, along with his sisters, the “small” magazine that has grown into a readership of 20 million according to Eduardo, and is translated into 11 different languages.

Hello III-15 I spoke with Eduardo on a recent trip to Spain and we talked about the special ingredients that have made both magazines so successful. As Eduardo’s father called it: the “Espuma de la vida” or the froth of life that both ¡Hola! and Hello are committed to bringing their readers each week. We also talked about all of the expansions and growth the brand has seen over the years and its possible print birth in the United States. It was a moving and inspiring conversation with a man who appreciates the traditions of his family’s past, while keeping his eyes firmly on the future.

So, I hope you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with Eduardo Sánchez Pérez, Editor-In-Chief, ¡Hola! and Hello magazines as he shows us that the family who publishes together definitely stays together through many generations.

But first the sound-bites:

EIC On the legacy of ¡Hola! and Hello: If you ask someone in Spain about ¡Hola!, people who know the business, they would say that ¡Hola! is Eduardo Sánchez Junco, my father. They would say my father. My father had three children and I am the youngest of the three. I have two sisters; Mamen is the oldest; and my other sister is called Mercedes. Although Mamen, the oldest, is the one that is more involved with me in the magazine and she’s the editor of the Mexican edition, while Mercedes is more involved in different parts of the business.

On how the company has managed to maintain its familial structure over the years and not become traded and have shares and shareholders: That’s probably because we’re a third generation and what we’ve seen over the years. My father was the only son of my grandparents. My grandfather was very much focused on journalism; he worked at a newspaper first and then he had the idea to create ¡Hola! in 1944 in Barcelona. So then my father continued the tradition in the 1980s doing all of the same things my grandfather had done and continuing the secret of this business, which is what he described as “being in the kitchen.” We have the restaurant and so we have to do the cooking, so we put together the ingredients.

On the ingredients that go into ¡Hola! to make it different from all the other celebrity magazines out there: (Laughs) It’s difficult to know exactly, but probably every cook would say a lot of love and a lot of charm. (Laughs again) It’s true that we have to do things thinking in the long-term. We never make any editorial decision based on the short-term, so it’s focusing very much on what ¡Hola! or Hello means. I sometimes feel like I’m just continuing a heritage that I received. And I will one day pass it to my children. At least, we hope someone from the family continues it. We follow what my grandfather called “Espuma de la vida” which is our brand name. We call it “Espuma de la vida,” a froth of life, but basically we do content that is normally positive, more than negative.

On the fact that his father was able to buy pictures of Lady Diana topless and then buried them in the archives so they would never be published: Yes, that was really exceptional. But my father was very exceptional. He had this intuition to move quickly when making decisions. And that’s probably one reason he was so successful. It never took him very long to make any decision about anything of great importance such as that, or any important piece of news. He always said that was an advantage, that he was the owner and the editor, which put him in another position when it came to important decisions about the company. But yes, he made the quick decision to buy and destroy the pictures. Nowadays, it would seem difficult that this could be repeated. And also Lady Diana was someone our readers loved and sometimes there is that special relationship between readers and personalities. And we consider our readers as part of our family. And of course, my family was shocked when Lady Diana died.

cover after fundraisingfamily with royal familyOn the decision to launch Hello magazine in the U.K.: My sisters were staying in London in the 80s and we went a couple of times to visit them, I think in the summertime. And my father always told me wherever I went for holiday or in the summer, I was in this business, so if there was a kiosk nearby, go and see what was out there. My father and I went to Harrod’s and there was a kiosk there and we looked for ¡Hola! and it was there buried in the same place as all of the other magazines and newspapers. Then we saw two English ladies come into Harrod’s for tea and they bought ¡Hola! magazine in Spanish, sat down in the restaurant and began chatting with the magazine in their hands, without speaking Spanish. Suddenly, my father realized that there wasn’t anything in the market with Lady Diana on the cover the way ¡Hola! had; we had her on the cover all of the time.

On the expansion of ¡Hola! or Hello almost globally: The expansion of ¡Hola! magazine probably started with ¡Hola! Spain in the 60s by going to Latin America. Well, actually, it probably started with my grandfather. Latin America has always liked ¡Hola! very much. There’s always been, and there still is, this connection between Latin America and Spain. We feel very much that we are united; we’re connected by the language and also by our way of life and we just have many things in common. ¡Hola! has always been very welcomed in all of the American countries, including the Hispanic speaking Americas.

On how he decides which country gets which magazine: ¡Hola! or Hello and how decisions such as those are made: We try to analyze a country and its market. That’s why it’s so important to have local partnerships, local people who can understand everything better. We’re publishing in 11 or 12 different languages right now. We reach more than 20 million readers. It’s quite a challenge, of course, but the principles are the same; we’re deeply respectful of the personalities and the local traditions and also the readers who are going to buy it.

On whether his grandmother, who started the magazine with her husband and who is 95 now, ever expect the magazine to be worldwide: (Laughs) No, of course not. In the beginning they had the idea to launch this small magazine. In a country like Spain in the 40s, it was after the War, their expectations were to create a small business for maybe 10 years or so. That’s why my grandfather asked my father to go to university to study something else other than journalism. Not because he didn’t love journalism, but because he thought ¡Hola! magazine would only last several years. No one ever thought it would grow as big as it is right now.

On his mother and father returning to school and his dad getting a degree in journalism after a law was passed in Spain requiring one to be an editor of a magazine: Yes, I remember when I was younger going with my mother and father to the university to see if they passed their exams. He went for four or five years to the university at the same time that he was editing the magazine. I know he enjoyed it and he liked it very much. It was probably a good thing because you always learn when you go to the university. So, that’s true. My mother and my father went.

On what motivates him to get out of bed in the morning: I feel very lucky because it’s always different every week. And it’s very exciting every week. Every week you have to find the right story for the cover and find the right people to talk with. Every week you find interesting people and their stories that you can share with your readers. And sometimes you receive a story so beautiful that the feeling is it’s the right content and it’s an exciting thing. And we have the satisfaction of knowing that we’re making a product that our readers like. There are some weeks better than others, of course, but then another week comes and it’s great. With the weekly, I have a little time to relax and make decisions with my small team, along with my main family members.

On whether he can ever envision a day when ¡Hola! and Hello are digital only: No, I don’t envision a day when we will have no print editions. I don’t know if ¡Hola! will be forever, but a magazine with beautiful pictures and positive stories will always be there. You cannot give the same product in digital. With a print magazine, you can buy it, collect it, and share it with someone. And you have that ownership feeling that this magazine is yours. Also the flow of the content into the magazine is important. We always start with beautiful houses or beautiful people at home; this is a product that needs some physical connection, it’s real and tangible, so paper is the best way to present it.

On whether the magazine is coming to the United States soon: We are starting with the website right now, hola.com-usa. We will have a team that will be working with both the website and then the magazine too. For example, on two occasions we have published a big scoop on hola.com-usa first, such as Paulina Rubio being pregnant. The scoop was to be in all of our magazines, but we decided to put it on our American website first. So the American print edition is an absolute priority.

On anything else he’d like to add: People have to feel it’s their magazine; it’s not international. It’s the magazine of their country. It doesn’t matter the ownership, because the spirit of the magazine is done for British people by British people.

On what keeps him up at night: What’s probably most difficult is, one of the brand values of ¡Hola! and Hello is when we publish a story or any piece of news, we’re very sure about the content. We’re very sure that we’re not wrong. You have to be very sure about the content. To be correct every week and not to fail in any small thing and continue to be the magazine that’s reliable and truthful; that’s probably my main worry.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Eduardo Sánchez Pérez, Editor-In-Chief, ¡Hola! and Hello.

With Eduardo Sánchez Pérez at the magazine's offices in Madrid.

With Eduardo Sánchez Pérez at the magazine’s offices in Madrid.

Samir Husni: In this world of corporate ownership it’s rare to see a grandson continuing the traditions of his grandfather and also his dad. Your grandfather started the magazine in Barcelona, moved it to Madrid, and now it’s almost worldwide. Everywhere you go there’s an ¡Hola! or Hello magazine, and it’s still in the family.

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: If you ask someone in Spain about ¡Hola!, people who know the business, they would say that ¡Hola! is Eduardo Sánchez Junco, my father. They would say my father. My father had three children and I am the youngest of the three. I have two sisters; Mamen is the oldest; and my other sister is called Mercedes. Although Mamen, the oldest, is the one that is more involved with me in the magazine and she’s the editor of the Mexican edition, while Mercedes is more involved in different parts of the business.

Samir Husni: No one thinks of ¡Hola! as a family business because it’s worldwide. Everywhere you go; the Middle East, Canada, the Philippines, Thailand; just everywhere there is either an ¡Hola! or a Hello. How have you been able to maintain that family ownership and not become Wall Street traded or another company-traded with shares and shareholders?

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: That’s probably because we’re a third generation and what we’ve seen over the years. My father was the only son of my grandparents. My grandfather was very much focused on journalism; he worked at a newspaper first and then he had the idea to create ¡Hola! in 1944 in Barcelona.

So then my father continued the tradition in the 1980s doing all of the same things my grandfather had done and continuing the secret of this business, which is what he described as “being in the kitchen.” We have the restaurant and so we have to do the cooking, so we put together the ingredients. And we do the meal every day. (Laughs) Well, every week in this case. And we serve it as if we were the owners of a restaurant. We feel the contact with our readers and our audience and our clients as strongly as if they were a part of our house or our family. We’ve always believed that that is the differentiation and the value of all of our business We’ve always been in control of the editorial line of the magazines and the little touch of the ¡Hola! family point of view. We always want that touch to be behind the product. And as the third generation, we are very much involved in this right now.

active at 95 I’m the editor of ¡Hola!, the magazine of Spain, and editor-in-chief of Hello magazine and trying to oversee all of the operations, my sister is co-editor of ¡Hola! and also editor in Mexico and we also have some other members of the family like my aunt; my uncle (General Manager of ¡Hola, Javier Junco Aguado) and my mother and my grandmother who is still around and a part of things. My grandmother, Mercedes Junco Calderon, is 95-years-old, but she still continues to do one magazine, this one. She is the founder and she makes the selections and deals with all of the productions of these different articles and different photo shoots. So this DNA; this business, is a big part of our family. We believe if we lose this family contact with the business, it would not be the same.

That’s one reason when we started being more international, our partners have to always think like and see that the original family owners are still involved when making decisions. So, when we go to a country, sometimes we own it; we buy the operation from the family. Sometimes we license the brand, but we always sustain control of the editorial line of the ¡Hola! family in Spain.

And we hope the spirit continues like this. And it’s not that we control every page of every magazine in the world, but we try, with everyone doing ¡Hola! magazine from every part of the world, to think what the ¡Hola! family would do in each case. And if there’s any doubt, they ask me; they ask Madrid and we share opinions about other experiences and we make sure to put the brand in the hands of some of our favorite partners in every country. Plus, the feeling that our partners have that they’re in good hands when we share this kind of market is very important to us.

Samir Husni: Let me go with you to the kitchen; what are the ingredients of that recipe that you serve every week and how is it different than all of the other celebrity magazines; all of the other weeklies that are out there? What’s your grandfather’s secret recipe that you continue using?

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: (Laughs) It’s difficult to know exactly, but probably every cook would say a lot of love and a lot of charm. (Laughs again) It’s true that we have to do things thinking in the long-term. We never make any editorial decision based on the short-term, so it’s focusing very much on what ¡Hola! or Hello means.

illustradted issue I sometimes feel like I’m just continuing a heritage that I received. And I will one day pass it to my children. At least, we hope someone from the family continues it. We follow what my grandfather called “Espuma de la vida” which is our brand name. We call it “Espuma de la vida,” a froth of life, but basically we do content that is normally positive, more than negative. It’s glamorous and it’s happiness; it celebrates life. When you open the magazine, you forget about your worries and you know that you are in a comfortable environment. You’re not going to find anything inside the magazine that is going to increase your daily worries.

I would say that that’s the main part. There’s nothing in the short-term that’s worth changing the editorial line of the magazine that we’ve had for all of these years. But basically the ingredients are to get exclusive content of the personal life or the human interest of famous people. And not only celebrities, but personalities. We normally don’t call it celebrities; we prefer to say personalities or relevant people.

As another ingredient; it’s never-before-seen pictures of a certain event, or exclusive pictures of an event. So, when you have all of these things, you have our main menu. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: One of the examples I heard that reflects that menu or those ingredients was that your father was able to buy the pictures of Lady Diana topless and he buried them in the archives so that they would never be published. Do you think that you could find a publisher today or an editor today who would go to that extreme to buy a scoop and bury it, rather than publishing it? And did that happen after the launch of the magazine in the U.K.? And I’d like for you to tell me the story again of how Lady Diana was influential through her pictures of publishing the magazine in the U.K.

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: Yes, that was really exceptional. But my father was very exceptional. He had this intuition to move quickly when making decisions. And that’s probably one reason he was so successful. It never took him very long to make any decision about anything of great importance such as that, or any important piece of news. He always said that was an advantage, that he was the owner and the editor, which put him in another position when it came to important decisions about the company.

I wasn’t involved really in the decision, but he always said that he had the opportunity to protect someone who was the main reason we were launching in the U.K. from bad pictures. And the main reason that we were so successful in the U.K. Lady Diana had given us hundreds of covers. And the fact that he had this opportunity was the unusual thing. Normally, these photographers prefer to do bigger business by spreading that content all over the world.

But he had the opportunity at that moment and he made the decision quickly and of course it was very personal to him. And the decision was based only on his appreciation of the image of someone who had done so much for him, without her knowing that she had done anything at all. But Hello could express its gratitude by doing this. It was preferable that those pictures were never published.

But yes, he made the quick decision to buy and destroy the pictures. Nowadays, it would seem difficult that this could be repeated. And also Lady Diana was someone our readers loved and sometimes there is that special relationship between readers and personalities. And we consider our readers as part of our family. And of course, my family was shocked when Lady Diana died.
People really get involved in this business, as you know; you’re passionate about it. And our readers feel these personalities are a part of their lives and that’s how we want to produce the product; with respect to these personalities and respect to the readers. We want to respect personalities because they deserve respect, but also because we put ourselves as readers too, as buyers even. And they deserve the respect and the attention, so we want to make every page of the magazine special. And maybe that’s one of the reasons we have these special relationships with the stories that we approach.

Samir Husni: Going back to Lady Diana; you told me the story of how the decision was made to launch the British edition of Hello. Can you recall that story?

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: My sisters were staying in London in the 80s and we went a couple of times to visit them, I think in the summertime. And my father always told me wherever I went for holiday or in the summer, I was in this business, so if there was a kiosk nearby, go and see what was out there. My father and I went to Harrod’s and there was a kiosk there and we looked for ¡Hola! and it was there buried in the same place as all of the other magazines and newspapers. Then we saw two English ladies come into Harrod’s for tea and they bought ¡Hola! magazine in Spanish, sat down in the restaurant and began chatting with the magazine in their hands, without speaking Spanish.

Suddenly, my father realized that there wasn’t anything in the market with Lady Diana on the cover the way ¡Hola! had; we had her on the cover all of the time. Whenever we had a doubt about ¡Hola!’s cover, we would put Lady Diana or Caroline of Monaco on the cover. As far as what we had been told, the English press was in a big crisis in the 80s. In general, the U.K. was in an economic crisis.

So, the market was a bit stagnant, not many new magazines were being launched. So it was another great decision of my father’s after studying the market somewhat, that even though the environment wasn’t very good to launch a magazine, he was certain that he could bring something new to the market as ¡Hola! and Hello magazine had done with our different approach to the news and beautiful pictures.

Samir Husni: And the rest of the story is history. ¡Hola! or Hello are almost everywhere.

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: The expansion of ¡Hola! magazine probably started with ¡Hola! Spain in the 60s by going to Latin America. Well, actually, it probably started with my grandfather. Latin America has always liked ¡Hola! very much. There’s always been, and there still is, this connection between Latin America and Spain. We feel very much that we are united; we’re connected by the language and also by our way of life and we just have many things in common.

¡Hola! has always been very welcomed in all of the American countries, including the Hispanic speaking Americas. So, the magazine has always put a lot of attention on international stories. Spain in the 60s; we used to put a lot of American stars on the covers. For example, I remember when the three astronauts went to the moon; we covered that so ¡Hola! has always had the idea of being a very international magazine. We believe it doesn’t always matter who, but what or how.

I remember my father, who didn’t speak English, when he started Hello in the U.K. and began working with the British team and was trying to explain what Hello was all about. And it was probably one of the biggest success stories of the British press for a magazine. And it was just by sharing stories more than names. It’s the human interest stories basically and putting all of the ingredients together which has given the magazine such success.

International stories have always been a part of our magazine, so after the success of the British edition, we went to Mexico, where we’re quite successful right now. Then we started finding certain partners in other countries. And in the beginning it was more of an adventure, an unknown field.
For example, what would happen if we started a magazine in a certain county? Russia and Turkey were the first two countries where we went into a partnership with another country and the result was fantastic and we found great people who understood the essence of the brand and how to take care of it. We found out that the Hello and ¡Hola! brand was more flexible than we believed at the beginning. And now we are in 35 different countries.

Of course, you need to find the right partner and you need the right team; a team that you can explain the way you want the product to be done and they instinctively know.

Samir Husni: I’ve heard a lot of stories, such as when you launched Hello in Thailand, with the Royal Family on the cover. You had an issue with where to put the logo because you can’t put anything above the Royal Family. And I saw one of the copies in the hallway when I first came into the building and it had the logo on the bottom of the page. How sensitive do you have to be to all of the cultural issues with Hello in the Middle East or Thailand or the Philippines? And also, how do you decide which country gets Hello as the name or ¡Hola!? I noticed the Philippine edition is ¡Hola!, although it’s in English. How do you make those decisions?

Thai coverEduardo Sánchez Pérez: We try to analyze a country and its market. That’s why it’s so important to have local partnerships, local people who can understand everything better. We’re publishing in 11 or 12 different languages right now. We reach more than 20 million readers. It’s quite a challenge, of course, but the principles are the same; we’re deeply respectful of the personalities and the local traditions and also the readers who are going to buy it.

It’s true that royal families are very important to us. Royalties, in our opinion, are an asset for a country and that joins the different values and makes royal families try and be good examples for society. They are our ambassadors and are the essence of traditions of the countries they are born to and also people who are working for the benefits of the society.

And being the first family, they have to attend to guests when they come to the country, so they show others much hospitality. They’re a mixture of glamour, high society and aristocracy, which is something that people like to read about. ¡Hola! and Hello take the reader to places they don’t normally have access to. So it’s important that we show how it is to be a part of the glitz and glamour and the parties. So, the royal families are an important part of our magazine and our product.

Yet, this was something that we didn’t really know about when we started in Thailand. That was something that the local editor of the magazine was very clear about, that nothing goes above the Royal Family, such as a logo, and there was no problem then. We were honored by the princess of Thailand, who was the first cover of the magazine. It was a very important thing for us and we are very grateful to the Royal Family that they would give us this consideration.

Actually, the first cover of Hello magazine was Princess Anne; it was an exclusive interview with Princess Anne inside the royal palace.

Samir Husni: Did you ever have a discussion with your grandmother, who is 95 now; did she ever expect that this little magazine that she and her husband created would grow to such magnitude? And it’s my understanding that he was the journalist and she was the designer?

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: Yes, that’s right.

Samir Husni: Did she, in her wildest dreams, ever expect ¡Hola! and Hello to be this worldwide publication?

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: (Laughs) No, of course not. In the beginning they had the idea to launch this small magazine. In a country like Spain in the 40s, it was after the War, their expectations were to create a small business for maybe 10 years or so. That’s why my grandfather asked my father to go to university to study something else other than journalism. Not because he didn’t love journalism, but because he thought ¡Hola! magazine would only last several years. No one ever thought it would grow as big as it is right now.

It’s a very beautiful story. My grandmother said she became a journalist for love; she was in love with my grandfather and she wanted to spend more time with him. And he thought it was a great idea. So he left his job at the newspaper and they began to work together from their home. And that’s how it all began. They worked at a very small table in a small room. They were a couple in love and making a magazine that they believed would entertain people. The magazine was created to entertain and to take readers to places they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. And to take the best of life and put it into a magazine and into pictures.

frist pic coverAn interesting anecdote is, those first five covers of the magazine have illustrations, because at that time prestigious magazines had illustrations on the covers and not pictures. The magazine was more or less about the society of Spain, but also you’ll read about Hollywood actors and some very interesting stories. But the cover was always a glamourous illustration, done by a very well-known illustrator, and of glamourous events. The first cover is the seaside in Barcelona; another cover was about going to the theatre; another one is horseracing at a country club; and it was done weekly. We’ve always been weekly since 1944. We have always been ready for our readers every week.

So, after five covers, they had to cut to reduce costs and my grandfather was very concerned about losing the illustration, they were very expensive. He thought there was nothing else to cut, he had analyzed everything and he would have to stop doing the illustrations and put a picture on the cover instead. So he went to the cinemas, because the cinemas were the first clients of ¡Hola! and also he had a good relationship with the owners of the cinemas in Barcelona. So he went to see his friends and asked what the next film they were showing would be. And it was a Clark Gable film, so he put a picture of Clark Gable on the cover. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: And he discovered by accident, all because he wanted to reduce costs, what people really liked; to have pictures of celebrities on the covers. Why did he choose Hollywood actors; well first, because he had always wanted to include film reviews and talk about Hollywood celebrities in the magazine. But also because the only way you can have access to good quality pictures was to ask the cinemas to give you pictures they received from Hollywood. They would receive the films plus pictures to promote the film. It was an easy way to find high resolution pictures of Hollywood actors.

It’s interesting, my grandfather wrote a little bit about the story of the magazine when we published issue 2,000. And he talked about the phrase “Espuma de la vida,” which is what’s at the top of the glass of say, champagne, for example. The froth of life is at the top of the glass of champagne, which he related with happiness, with a glamorous life. He said business and economics; these things were heavy and made people think too much. That kind of heavy news goes to the bottom of the glass; what’s at the top? That’s ours; our news.

That’s why we don’t talk about politics or economics or anything like that. That’s why ¡Hola! and Hello are read by a large number of different kinds of people. And we hope that they all find something inside to help them forget about their problems and something that makes them feel better. And at the same time, they can talk and share the magazine with others and maybe find solutions to their own problems by reading how others have done it. Reading about family sagas, such as Lady Diana and now seeing Prince William; people have that feeling of involvement or of a relationship with the family.

Samir Husni: As fate would have it, your dad studied engineering and then there was a law in Spain that you have to have a degree in journalism to be an editor of a magazine. So, it’s my understanding that he went back with your mother to school to study journalism.

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: Yes, I remember when I was younger going with my mother and father to the university to see if they passed their exams. He went for four or five years to the university at the same time that he was editing the magazine. I know he enjoyed it and he liked it very much. It was probably a good thing because you always learn when you go to the university. So, that’s true. My mother and my father went. A little bit more of their love story. My young parents doing what they needed to do. And my mother saying of course she would go, she could spend more time with her husband. My mother was originally involved in the magazine, so she went because she wanted to help my father.

Samir Husni: And did they advise you and say don’t go to school for journalism, there’s no future in it; go for something else? Or did you go to school for journalism too?

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: I went to the Journalism University here in Madrid. I have two degrees basically, journalism and business and administration. So, I have a little bit of both. My father always said to me he would trade his degree to speak English. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: English or another language. He spoke French, but he felt very bad that he couldn’t communicate his thoughts to the English-speaking people. Fortunately, he always had a good team of people who spoke both Spanish and English around him.

We live in the house where my grandparents lived when they left Barcelona and came to Madrid. They bought two floors of a house, the basement and the first floor where they put the office and they lived on the second floor.

Another example, my father said we were like farmers; they have a house underneath their house. (Laughs) It’s more or less the same. We live on the second floor and the cow is in the basement.
I don’t think it’s still there, but my grandfather had a small connection from the house to the office, a way to go in without going through the main entrance, because many times my grandfather and father would go to work in pajamas. (Laughs) And I remember my father would receive visitors anytime. The office was so small that he didn’t have a proper meeting room, so where I used to study and watch TV was his meeting room. So, I’d come home from school and go to watch TV and there might be someone famous standing there with him.

And that carried over to the magazine; you’re in my house, you’re part of my family. We used to say that ¡Hola! magazine should be something that you could leave on the table and not be afraid for your children to read. It’s a family magazine. You won’t find anything inside that would be bad for them, family-friendly, but very interesting.

a letter and KingAnd it’s not always positive, sometimes it’s a sad story, but what you get at the end, even if it’s sad, is a positive message. And the pictures are always beautiful. And it was a family unit, my grandparent and my parents would discuss why they did this or that in the magazine. And you learned a lot from these conversations. We’re bigger now, but we’re still in the same building and we still have lunch with my grandmother almost every day. And now we explain to her why we’ve done this or that. We all still try to share opinions. We feel more like journalists and publishers than businesspeople.

And also designers in a way; the design of ¡Hola! is another secret or another ingredient, which is big pictures and finding those big pictures from the right selection of pictures and giving them the right space and the right number of pages. We never begin a story thinking about how many pages we want to use. We just let our imagination flow. But if we have to cut, we always do more first and then cut. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Through osmosis or something, magazines are in you. You’ve seen it from your grandfather; your father; your grandmother; your mother; what motivates you to get out of bed in the morning? Is it tradition, because your entire family has done it all of your life or there is something that excites you every morning and causes you to look forward to going to the office?

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: I feel very lucky because it’s always different every week. And it’s very exciting every week. Every week you have to find the right story for the cover and find the right people to talk with. Every week you find interesting people and their stories that you can share with your readers. And sometimes you receive a story so beautiful that the feeling is it’s the right content and it’s an exciting thing. And we have the satisfaction of knowing that we’re making a product that our readers like. There are some weeks better than others, of course, but then another week comes and it’s great. With the weekly, I have a little time to relax and make decisions with my small team, along with my main family members.

As we’re improving and increasing the size, it’s very important that we keep professionalism a top priority. To have a professional team is very important. That’s something that we’ve been building on in the last years. Knowing that our business must have an important technology element, art, and we actually have more people working on the website now than in the magazines. So, there are many changes that we know we have to face and we’ll face them in a very professional way, while trying to continue with the family ownership. And keeping the family in on the editorial line and in every piece of print that we publish; I believe that we’re building a very professional team. And internationally we are competitive.

Samir Husni: Can you ever envision a day when there is no print component to ¡Hola! or Hello?

Hello Arabia II-10Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: No, I don’t envision a day when we will have no print editions. I don’t know if ¡Hola! will be forever, but a magazine with beautiful pictures and positive stories will always be there. You cannot give the same product in digital. With a print magazine, you can buy it, collect it, and share it with someone. And you have that ownership feeling that this magazine is yours. Also the flow of the content into the magazine is important. We always start with beautiful houses or beautiful people at home; this is a product that needs some physical connection, it’s real and tangible, so paper is the best way to present it.

Of course, there are technological advances that are really interesting and can be really beautiful. We were awarded by Apple the best newsstand application. We’re doing videos and we’re also including QR codes for watching videos. There is a lot of interaction that you can have with your readers by using the telephone and the magazine at the same time.

And I’m completely sure that magazines like ¡Hola! are necessary for a society. A healthy society will always have an ¡Hola! or Hello magazine.

Samir Husni: Are you bringing the magazine to the United States soon?

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: We are starting with the website right now, hola.com-usa. We will have a team that will be working with both the website and then the magazine too. For example, on two occasions we have published a big scoop on hola.com-usa first, such as Paulina Rubio being pregnant. The scoop was to be in all of our magazines, but we decided to put it on our American website first. So the American print edition is an absolute priority. We don’t have a partner there, we’re going by ourselves. We already have some readership in the U.S. with ¡Hola! Spain in California. And at the same time we’re building a beautiful website with reliable information. Thankfully, we have learned a lot about digital from our Spanish readers and in the summertime we hope to establish the magazine. But for now we’re starting with the website.

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

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: People have to feel it’s their magazine; it’s not international. It’s the magazine of their country. It doesn’t matter the ownership, because the spirit of the magazine is done for British people by British people. It’s a British product. Everywhere we go; the product is about the people and their stories.

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

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: What’s probably most difficult is, one of the brand values of ¡Hola! and Hello is when we publish a story or any piece of news, we’re very sure about the content. We’re very sure that we’re not wrong. You have to be very sure about the content. To be correct every week and not to fail in any small thing and continue to be the magazine that’s reliable and truthful; that’s probably my main worry.

Plus, of course, to continue to have this relationship with our readers; the relationship of community and knowledge of what they like.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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