Archive for the ‘Across the Pond’ Category

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One Night Stand; Love Affair; Marriage – What Kind of Relationship Do You Have With Your Print Audience?

June 6, 2016

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

Lately, I have been traveling all over the country and the world in general, preaching about the role of print in a digital age for two reasons: (1) I do believe in the future of print and that print is here to stay on a permanent basis, and (2) I do believe that the role of print is changing, that we cannot have the same “old” print that we had before the digital age. Everything evolves and changes, that’s a given.

TIME's special Ali issuePrince However, some of the fundamentals are not going to change, whether you publish a weekly magazine, a monthly magazine, or a quarterly publication; there are some things that are inherent in the definition of print that will never cease. The number one trait that will always remain is: if it’s not ink on paper, it is not a magazine. It can be many platforms if it isn’t ink on paper, because there are many platforms, but it cannot be a magazine. We have to be careful about what we define as a magazine.

Having said that, I want to explain what I believe the role of print is in this digital age, but to do that we need to understand the nature of magazines and their continued relationship with their audience. We need to recognize the types of magazines that exist in the marketplace today and look at the number of new magazines that are arriving on a daily basis. And of course, we need to acknowledge the principles of creating a magazine that will also never change, among them being that the foundation of that creation, which includes content, design, curation, innovation; all of the things that have been a part of magazine making for years, is still very much alive and kicking.

The way that I classify the relationship between a magazine and its audience is really very simple. I am a firm believer that one of the most important things when it comes to building and sustaining that relationship is knowing your audience and putting them first, not the platform. Not print first, not digital first; audience first. That is paramount to the success of any publication. And that is not just lip-service or words to fill up a page on my blog. That is truth. Without our audiences, we have no reason to exist.

When it comes to magazines or print in general, we create this relationship with our audience, unlike any other entity. That relationship can be one of three types: a one night stand; a love affair; or a marriage. Print as a whole has a broad spectrum of entities, from a 700 page hard-bound book to a 36 page magazine and each one of those entities has a different relationship with their audience.

For example, my grandson developed a love affair with the “Harry Potter” brand. So, he read all of the books that were out there, from Book One all the way to the current end of the series. Once the books are completed, he may watch the movies, and once the movies are under his belt, that love affair will fade and he’ll move on to something else. And so it goes with our magazine audience.

Samir Husni at Media Hungary I had the pleasure of meeting Pam Didner on one of my recent trips to Hungary. Pam is the author of “Global Content Marketing: How to Create Great Content, Reach More Customers, and Build a Worldwide Marketing Strategy that Works.” She asked me about the different relationships that we form with our audiences and I believe that she captured my feelings on the subject very well. So, rather than restating the obvious, here’s what Pam wrote:

“I love how he (Mr. Magazine™) categorizes magazines; he uses love relationships as categories.

One-Night Stand
Love Affair
Marriage

The One-Night Stand Magazine

“Magazines that are published based on a milestone, key event or a person. Life Magazine usually does a great job of publishing one-night stands. They have published special editions or tributes for “Princess Diana”, “John F. Kennedy”, “Ronald Reagan”, “Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee” and “WWII 60th Anniversary.” These types of magazines need to be timely to entice readers into a one-night stand.

The Love Affair Magazine

“People will buy magazines for a short period of time based on key decisions in their lives. The best examples are wedding-planning, pregnancy preparation and travel. Brides-to-be will purchase bridal magazines when they start planning their wedding and shopping for a dress. Parents-to-be will purchase parenting and baby-related magazines to get ready for their first-borns. When the wedding is over, the baby is born; they are no longer interested in the magazine as if a love affair lost its fire and passion.

The Marriage Magazine

“This is the type of magazine that becomes a ritual to the readers’ daily lives. My mother-in-law loves her New Yorker and my husband reads his monthly car plates magazine (He collects car plates and their organization has a member’s only magazine.) These types of magazines become part of their lives and they are loyal followers.”

USA Today Sports AliThe relationship that you develop with your audience is the cornerstone of everything that we do. The moment the world lost Prince, and more recently, Muhammad Ali, one-night stands were formed. Epic specials on deceased celebrities and sports figures are synonymous with the one-night stand because they are timely at that moment and extremely important to fans of the artist.

Everything that we create today has to be built upon those three cornerstones: one-night stand, love affair, or marriage.

And the old adage: “There is nothing new under the sun” can now be sent to its final resting place, because in reality in today’s digital world, there are a lot of new things under the sun.

When it comes to new magazines, they are continuing to launch unceasingly. In fact, the total number of new magazines arriving on the marketplace is comparable to the pre-digital days that we all remember so nostalgically. And they’re still the same three categories that I’ve always said new magazines fall into:

Groundbreakers: Woman's WorldThe magazines that are singular and there is nothing else like them, such as when Woman’s World was created. There was no weekly women’s magazine for American women when it hit the newsstands that had the rapid change of a non-news magazine on a weekly basis. It takes creativity and determination, and it takes being a weekly to keep that link between addictiveness and disposability with your audience in every issue.

Copycats: The group of magazines that come based on the success of other magazines. These magazines are created by people who basically sniff out the prosperity of other magazines that are very similar, but feel they have a different take on the subject matter. In so many cases, the copycats can end up being better than the original publications. With all the hunting and self-defense magazines out there, here comes a magazine like Recoil that sets itself apart from everything else on the marketplace. Suddenly, you have an upscale looking and upscale feeling magazine that treats guns as a lifestyle, rather than just a special interest. And you target the lifestyle of the gun owner, instead of the gun per se, without putting the weaponry aside. So, some copycats can be even more significant and successful than the groundbreakers.

Cheap Imitators: Companies and publishers that are in the business just to ride on the coattails of the successful magazines. The Food Network magazine is flourishing; suddenly, you start seeing an influx of food and celebrity magazines, or food and travel; just any combination of the successful titles out there on the newsstand just to imitate it and be a mirror image of those magazines, hoping that the Groundbreakers and the Copycats will establish an audience big enough, that even if you’re a cheap imitation, you can cash in on the overflow.

Having said that and combining the relationship aspect with the creative aspect of a new magazine, the marketplace is showing no signs of slowing down. The numbers speak for themselves. Every month as you can see on Mr. Magazine’s™ Launch Monitor, there is no shortage of regularly-published magazines, covering any topic that you can think of, such as a
Groundbreaker like Pallet Magazine – one that joins great articles with the setting of craft beer.

Frequency new launches for the past six months:

• May – 25
• April – 21
• March – 7
• February – 12
• January – 21
• December – 32

Fabuplus So, if you look at the numbers there is no slow down. If you look at the topics; how many times can one publish a magazine on the big, beautiful woman, yet in May, there was a brand new title called, FabUplus. These new magazines believe they may have found a new twist on a well-used subject. Over time people forget the older titles, those that came and went before one can remember, so there’s always a new audience, a new churning taking place.

And if anyone doubts the future of print in this digital age? All they have to do is look at all of the digital-only entities that are discovering, and have already discovered, the power and substance of print. Entities such as Net-A-Porter, WebMD, Sneaker News, and Posi+tive have all established a foothold in the printed word because no media company today can afford to be omni-platform in today’s marketplace; they must be multiplatform. You’re creating a brand, not just a new magazine. And that’s very important to remember. Are you launching a brand or a singular title? Because nowadays you have to be in the branding business with the printed magazine as your cornerstone, if you’re going to survive into the future.

Technology has changed everything, even printing. I just returned from a visit to Trend Offset Printing. They have introduced the first web Canon inkjet printing press. And it was amazing. The quality, personalization and the speed were unbelievable. And the quantities. Printing is making it easier to launch new magazines. No printer will throw you out of the facilities if you tell them you want 5,000 copies or 10, 000 copies because in today’s world, those quantities are no problem.

And remember, magazines are much more than just content-providers. Magazines are experience makers. Excellent writing, reporting and photography are still just as important today as they were generations ago. Magazines have a great future, if executed properly. Ideas are a dime a dozen; it’s the execution of the idea that counts, and will produce either a one-night stand, a love affair, or a long-lasting relationship.

So, until next time…go pick up a magazine and begin the experience…

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Gulf News Publishing: One Of The United Arab Emirate’s Largest Media Groups Brings Great Magazines To The Arab World Through Licensing & Innovation – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With James Hewes, Publishing Director, GN Publishing, UAE

February 22, 2016

“We were very clear if we were going to go out and do a large digital business, create a large events business, which we are in the process of doing, we needed to have a very stable and secure print base. In this market, print is still very strong. You can still make good money from print magazines and in some sectors it’s also growing, like the luxury category. So it is entirely feasible to have a very successful and sustainable business here and really if you’re going to do that, it gives you as a publisher some comfort as you make those investments in other media.” James Hewes

From Dubai with love…

Reporting from the  FIPP Middle East & Africa conference in Dubai Feb. 10 and 11.

Reporting from the FIPP Middle East & Africa conference in Dubai Feb. 10 and 11.

Gulf News Publishing produces a number of multilingual tailor-made publications for a host of national and multi-national organizations in the UAE. From concept to distribution, from newsletters to coffee-table books, the company offers a full spectrum of publishing services in English, Arabic and French.

James Hewes is publishing director for GN Publishing and is responsible for the group’s portfolio of consumer magazines, newspaper supplements and contract publishing. He started with the company in 2013 after 12 years at BBC Worldwide as Head of International Development for the magazines business and latterly as Publishing Director for the brands retained by the BBC following the sale of BBC Magazines.

James’ experience in magazines is undeniable and his love for the genre unquestionable. I spoke with him recently while we both attended the FIPP Middle East and Africa conference held in Dubai. James’ take on the print magazine business is enhanced by his strong belief in partnerships and knowing your audience as personally as possible. He is a man passionate about moving his company forward and keeping that connection with consumers.

We talked about his division’s most recent acquisition of the licensing of Citizen K, the eminent French fashion magazine, and we talked about his hopes for the future, both digitally and the ink on paper horizon. It was an exhilarating and informative discussion that I know you’re going to enjoy.

So, without further ado, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with James Hewes, Publishing Director, GN Publishing, UAE.

But first, the sound-bites:

IMG_1535 On Gulf News and Gulf News Group and his beginnings with the company: Gulf News and the Gulf News group has been a leading national newspaper in the Middle East for many years now and its current form started in 1985, so it’s now 31 years old. It’s the leading English-language newspaper in the Middle East. It does 105,000 copies per day. And it now has a very successful website as well. And at some point in its development the company decided that it needed to diversify its offering, so as well as all of the natural things, such as distribution and commercial printing, it diversified into areas like radio and broadcasting and magazine publishing.

On why he thinks it’s important to have a good print product in this digital age: I think you have to be very pragmatic as a publisher and as an individual and a company. Very few companies have the appetite to make large investments into something like digital without having a solid base of profit behind them in which to fall back. So, we were very clear if we were going to go out and do a large digital business, create a large events business, which we are in the process of doing, we needed to have a very stable and secure print base. In this market, print is still very strong. You can still make good money from print magazines and in some sectors it’s also growing, like the luxury category.

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 3.26.44 PM On whether he thinks the brand extensions, such as events, digital and mobile, could exist without the core print product: I think we’ll find out. I think we’re going to start doing some products now that are not based in print form, primarily starting in digital. So we’ll be able to get a sense of whether or not it’s possible to have a sustainable brand without a print anchor.

On the fact that 95% of the Middle Eastern audience is still Arabic-speaking, yet most of the magazines are published in English: I think it’s a fascinating case study. A large part of that in days gone by would have been that there was an extreme lack of transparency in the media industry here. And therefore you could publish magazines in English to relatively small audiences and make decent money, let’s be honest. I believe with the digital world that’s all going to change. Digital advertising not only needs transparency, it almost can’t operate without transparency.

On the biggest challenge he’s had to face: The biggest challenge that you have in any business now is culture; changing the company’s culture. I wouldn’t say that I’ve been 100% successful in changing Gulf News’ culture, that’s not my job and that’s not what I do. But I’d like to think that within our business unit, the publishing business unit, we’ve tried to embrace a culture that allows people to innovate and to take risks. I’m a great believer in giving people responsibility and in return they get accountability. You can take a project and run with it; you’re accountable for its results, but it’s yours. You can do what you like.

insideout-cover On whether he feels the recent new “happiness” ministry that was established in the United Arab Emirates will become a trend and spread around the globe: Hopefully. I think it’s a very bold visionary move, as you’d expect from the government of Dubai. His Highness, Sheikh Mohammed, is very good at making those bold and visionary moves and it may pay off. I’m fully expecting that that’s going to be something that is copied elsewhere in the world when people see the effects of it.

On how he thinks print can be fixed: In terms of print and luxury, I think the initial thing there is to find the right partner. We’re very lucky in that the luxury magazine that we’re launching next month is OK. We have a great partner who has really helped us to get access to the luxury market. You’ve got to recognize in business what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. If you know that there’s a strategic opportunity somewhere and you don’t have the skills or the knowledge, you have to go out and get them by whatever means you can, in some cases that means hiring new people, which we’ve done in this case.

On why he pursued the licensing of Citizen K magazine: We were impressed with the vision and we were impressed with the founder. The man who founded Citizen K, Kappauf, is a well-known figure in the fashion industry. He brings a credibility of himself to that brand and therefore to the industry, and so in extension he also brings that to us. It absolutely has to do with who you’re working with. We always used to find this on the reverse; I was very often on the other side of the coin when I was licensing around the world.

IMG_1536 On what motivates him to get out of bed in the morning: Opportunities for our brands to connect with consumers. And I love going to our events because that’s a chance to see sometimes our advertisers and sometimes our consumers in the flesh and to hear more about them and learn more about their brand experiences and to know that our brand has touched their lives in some way. So that’s a really powerful and uplifting moment. When I worked on “Good Food” in the U.K., I used to love going to the “Good Food” show in Birmingham and sell subscriptions; I’d sometimes stand at the desk and sell subscriptions for the day, and it was a great way to meet your customers.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: Probably a combination of all of those. I still read magazines and I’m a passionate reader. The genre of magazines really appeals to me. For example, I read “Motor Sport Magazine” from the U.K. I’m an absolute addict of that brand; it’s a fantastic brand and one that we’re hoping to bring here at some point.

On what keeps him up at night: Not moving fast enough. I guess it’s the same in any company; you always sit there and look at your competitors and think how much faster they’re moving than you are.

And now for the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with James Hewes, Publishing Director, GN Publishing, UAE.

Samir Husni: Tell me about Gulf News and the Gulf News Group and your beginnings with the company.

James Hewes: Gulf News and the Gulf News group has been a leading national newspaper in the Middle East for many years now and its current form started in 1985, so it’s now 31 years old. It’s the leading English-language newspaper in the Middle East. It does 105,000 copies per day. And it now has a very successful website as well.

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 3.25.20 PM And at some point in its development the company decided that it needed to diversify its offering, so as well as all of the natural things, such as distribution and commercial printing, it diversified into areas like radio and broadcasting and magazine publishing.

So when I came into this company three years ago, I took over what was then GN Magazines, a reasonably small magazine business with five titles, quite commercially successful, good turnover, average margins, not great margins, but the company was ready to develop that business into something suitable in the multiplatform world.

One of the first things we did was look at consolidating all of our publishing activity, apart from the newspaper, into a single place and create what is now GN Publishing. And GN Publishing is the publishing unit of Gulf News and does everything from traditional consumer magazines to business magazines to content marketing and contract publishing and newspaper supplements.

Samir Husni: I think we can agree that we live in a digital age, yet you have mentioned before that part of your future plans is to fix print. Why do you think it’s important to have a good print product in this digital age?

James Hewes: I think you have to be very pragmatic as a publisher and as an individual and a company. Very few companies have the appetite to make large investments into something like digital without having a solid base of profit behind them in which to fall back.

So, we were very clear if we were going to go out and do a large digital business, create a large events business, which we are in the process of doing, we needed to have a very stable and secure print base. In this market, print is still very strong. You can still make good money from print magazines and in some sectors it’s also growing, like the luxury category. So it is entirely feasible to have a very successful and sustainable business here and really if you’re going to do that, it gives you as a publisher some comfort as you make those investments in other media.

Samir Husni: Do you think all of the other line extensions, whether it’s the events or the digital or the mobile, can exist in this market without the core print product?

James Hewes: I think we’ll find out. I think we’re going to start doing some products now that are not based in print form, primarily starting in digital. So we’ll be able to get a sense of whether or not it’s possible to have a sustainable brand without a print anchor.

There are some brands that do that already here and I can give you an example, the trade publishing space, the B to B space, The Media Network. The Media Network is based here in Dubai and it’s basically a trade website for the magazine industry; the communications industry. And they’ve existed most successfully for the last few years without ever having a print component, ironically, for a magazine industry site.

So, I think it is possible and I believe it’s going to become more possible. But rather than saying that we have print brands and line extensions, I think it’s more about saying that we have brands. And each of those brands can spread over into a certain number of platforms and one of those might be print. And I love the phrase a friend of mine from the BBC uses when he talks about publishing. He says that we do print for profit and we do digital for growth. And I think that’s exactly right.

If you’re doing an extension of your brand and it’s print, you need to subject that extension to the same commercial rigor that you would any other line extension. And if it’s not going to be profitable, why would you do it? And if it is profitable then you should embrace it.

Samir Husni: What about the audience? We’ve heard that 95% of the audience in the Middle East is still Arabic-speaking, yet most of the magazines that we see are English editions.

James Hewes: I think it’s a fascinating case study. A large part of that in days gone by would have been that there was an extreme lack of transparency in the media industry here. And therefore you could publish magazines in English to relatively small audiences and make decent money, let’s be honest. I believe with the digital world that’s all going to change. Digital advertising not only needs transparency, it almost can’t operate without transparency.

If you think about something like programmatic advertising; it can only exist when the data is there, so you have to disclose your data if you want the programmatic revenue. And that’s going to force out into the open a lot of thinking, particularly among marketers and brands that if they can get clear proof of their ROI in digital then they must be able to get it in all of their other media as well. And I think when it comes down to it, the volume is there in the Arabic market, but we don’t yet have a good enough understanding of that audience to be able to identify where the niches are and where the quality segments are, the quality audience pieces are, but they are there. They’re absolutely there.

And I think that’s going to be a really exciting development in the next few years as we big publishing companies that have done so well in the English-speaking media start to pivot toward Arabic and start to apply some of the learnings that we’ve taken in the English space and apply it to Arabic, which by the way is not to down the efforts of Arabic-language media companies. There are a great many of them that do fantastically well. And for the time that I’ve been here, it’s been a real revelation because it has exposed me to the reality that there is a huge market in publishing that the rest of the publishing world never sees, which is the Arabic-language market. There are hundreds, thousands of magazines and hundreds of newspapers and thousands of websites that are out there publishing in Arabic, thriving and doing really, really well. But because it’s Arabic, because it’s never had the focus from the western world that other magazines and cultures have, it’s been hidden away, though they’re starting to come to the surface now.

Samir Husni: When you think about your three years here, has it all been smooth sailing or have you encountered some choppy seas along the way? What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?

IMG_1537 James Hewes: The biggest challenge that you have in any business now is culture; changing the company’s culture. I wouldn’t say that I’ve been 100% successful in changing Gulf News’ culture, that’s not my job and that’s not what I do. But I’d like to think that within our business unit, the publishing business unit, we’ve tried to embrace a culture that allows people to innovate and to take risks. I’m a great believer in giving people responsibility and in return they get accountability. You can take a project and run with it; you’re accountable for its results, but it’s yours. You can do what you like.

One of my absolute mantras is, and I think I heard it from some management guru; you hire good people and you give them the room to do their jobs. And that’s the biggest change and the biggest challenge that we’ve tried to bring into the business is to apply that rule.

Traditionally, a business is very used to having a very clear hierarchy structure, with a lot of power spread around senior management individuals, trying to delegate that power out to people and to get the company used to it, with functions like our finance department, our PR department and it’s great. When you sit down and explain to a finance team what you’re trying to do they nod and say yes, that sounds like a good idea. We’ve never done it before, but let’s try it.

So, it’s really gratifying to see a culture change to come along. And I think unless you do that, you can’t possibly hope to do any of the other plans that you have. I laugh sometimes when I go out into the market and see businesses, of which there are many in this region, huge businesses run by one person, and all of the decisions go through that one person. In this modern age, it’s impossible now to have the time and attention to cope with all of the different revenue streams that there are in the media business. And I think we’ve done a great job with that, thanks I large part to the leadership that our company has, to allow us to actually go out and try things.

Samir Husni: You also mentioned earlier that the values of the company today are much different than what they used to be. One example you mentioned was that it’s a given that you have to respect your audience, but in your case, you said that you want joy and happiness. And recently here in the United Arab Emirates, they established a new ministry for happiness. Do you think this is a trend born here that will spread around the globe?

James Hewes: Hopefully. I think it’s a very bold visionary move, as you’d expect from the government of Dubai. His Highness, Sheikh Mohammed, is very good at making those bold and visionary moves and it may pay off. I’m fully expecting that that’s going to be something that is copied elsewhere in the world when people see the effects of it. The happiness index and the idea that you can measure someone’s happiness and measure a country’s happiness, or a company’s happiness in our case and use that in a way to manage business is a great idea. People spend a third of their lives at work, they should enjoy it.

Samir Husni: I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but there’s a magazine in the United States that’s around two years old called “Live Happy.” I interviewed the editor and she told me that happiness was a science and now more than ever people are studying it as a science. So, am I going to see a new happiness magazine coming out from Gulf News Publishing?

James Hewes: (Laughs) I don’t know if we’ll have a happiness magazine, but I’d like to think that happiness will be in all of our magazines.

Samir Husni: Is there anything else that you’d like to add? You mentioned the luxury category and fixing print; how do you plan on fixing it?

James Hewes: In terms of print and luxury, I think the initial thing there is to find the right partner. We’re very lucky in that the luxury magazine that we’re launching next month is OK. We have a great partner who has really helped us to get access to the luxury market. You’ve got to recognize in business what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. If you know that there’s a strategic opportunity somewhere and you don’t have the skills or the knowledge, you have to go out and get them by whatever means you can, in some cases that means hiring new people, which we’ve done in this case. But also you’ve got to rely on partners. You have to find good partners who can help you out.

I started out in this business primarily doing licensing and syndication of magazine brands overseas and it taught me that partnerships are a really strong way to do business and if you get it right, everybody benefits. And if you’re going into a new space like luxury, you have to have partners.

You’ve got to also embrace the opportunity. It’s no good just picking at the edges and doing the wrong thing. You have to have two or three or four things in that space to show that you’re really committed to it.

Samir Husni: Why did you specifically go after the licensing of Citizen K?

James Hewes: We were impressed with the vision and we were impressed with the founder. The man who founded Citizen K, Kappauf, is a well-known figure in the fashion industry. He brings a credibility of himself to that brand and therefore to the industry, and so in extension he also brings that to us. It absolutely has to do with who you’re working with. We always used to find this on the reverse; I was very often on the other side of the coin when I was licensing around the world.

And one of the crucial factors about whether or not we were going to deal with someone was our personal feelings about the partner; if you don’t like somebody; chances are you really don’t want to have to do business with them. So, that likeability factor and a willingness to cooperate and be a partner, rather than having a client/supplier relationship is something that attracted us to Citizen K. And I have to say, of all of the licensing projects that I’ve been involved with, and I’ve been involved in more than 50 in my career, I have never seen the level of work that has gone into this project. These guys are absolutely fantastic.

Samir Husni: What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

James Hewes: Opportunities for our brands to connect with consumers. And I love going to our events because that’s a chance to see sometimes our advertisers and sometimes our consumers in the flesh and to hear more about them and learn more about their brand experiences and to know that our brand has touched their lives in some way. So that’s a really powerful and uplifting moment.

When I worked on “Good Food” in the U.K., I used to love going to the “Good Food” show in Birmingham and sell subscriptions; I’d sometimes stand at the desk and sell subscriptions for the day, and it was a great way to meet your customers. And as you were selling them a subscription you could ask questions about their engagement with the magazine. You just got that anecdotal connection with your audience. You could put a face to your readers.

So that really gets me up in the morning, that idea that you’ve made a connection and actually made a difference in someone’s life. And you’ve entertained them with a future piece of knowledge that’s also helped them get through their day.

And that’s what I like about the digital opportunities; what excites me about the digital opportunities. I love sitting there and watching the analytics’ screen. It may sound boring, but you can see the number of people who are on your site right then and you can’t see that with a magazine. Occasionally when you worked in magazines you might see someone at a newsstand buying your magazine and you’d think, wow, that’s mine and they bought it. That’s fantastic. But now you can sit in the office 24/7 and see live the engagement consumers have with your product. It’s wonderful.

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

James Hewes: Probably a combination of all of those. I still read magazines and I’m a passionate reader. The genre of magazines really appeals to me. For example, I read “Motor Sport Magazine” from the U.K. I’m an absolute addict of that brand; it’s a fantastic brand and one that we’re hoping to bring here at some point.

I read magazines and books; I read books in print and I read them on my Kindle, it just depends on what kind of book it is. I watch TV; I must say the biggest change in my habits is that I watch much less linear TV than I did even a year ago. I watch almost all of my TV on demand now. But it’s a combination of all of those things, when I’m not playing with my children. Playing with my children is fun and it’s nice to see them interacting with magazines and books. My son is sitting home today reading his Diary of a Wimpy Kid book in print and loving it. And I’m egging him on and really enthusiastic about that because I know it’s his gateway to knowledge and experiences.

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

James Hewes: Not moving fast enough. I guess it’s the same in any company; you always sit there and look at your competitors and think how much faster they’re moving than you are. And they’re probably thinking the same thing when they look at your company. It never feels like you can act quick enough and I suspect even the guys at – I don’t know – pick a fast-moving company, even those guys probably think they can’t move fast enough.

So, I would say speed-to-market and the fear that somebody is going to do something before we do and our ideas are going to be trumped by somebody is what keeps me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Middle East Business Magazine & News: The First Media Publication From Palestine To Serve The Middle East & Arab Countries – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Amal Daraghmeh Masri, CEO at Ougarit Group, Editor-In-Chief and CEO Middle East Business News and Magazine.

February 18, 2016

Middle East 3-3 “Before I did print I knew everybody was going to tell me that I was going against the current and that everyone else was going digital and I shouldn’t do it on paper. I didn’t believe them, though many, many people told me this, including one of our advertisers. And I see our advertisers as our partners. When I asked most of our advertisers about print they told me if I insisted, then go for it, do print and digital. So I went strongly with the website, mobile application and paper and our individual channel, which is all very expensive, but I assure you that people like to see paper because they trust in it more.” Amal Daraghmeh Masri

From Dubai with love…

Reporting from the  FIPP Middle East & Africa conference in Dubai Feb. 10 and 11.

Reporting from the FIPP Middle East & Africa conference in Dubai Feb. 10 and 11.

Bringing a magazine to fruition is hard work even in the best of circumstances, but bringing one or more to the newsstand when you’re the first in your country to do it, other than locally, is a true feat indeed. Amal Daraghmeh Masri has achieved that feat. Amal is CEO at Ougarit Group, editor-in-chief and CEO Middle East Business Magazine & News and the magazine’s founder. She is a woman who has held many positions in local business organizations that work for the advancement of women in Palestine, which is her home country, and across the Arab world, including being a member of Palestinian Working Women’s Society for Development and a founding member, former President of Business Women Forum of Palestine. Regionally and internationally, she is founder and a former board member of Middle East Business Women’s Network.

And Amal is also an avid reader and extreme lover of ink on paper. Her magazine is her passion and her work ethic and print mission is simple and direct: audience first. Give them what they want when it comes to content and presentation and the magazine will grow from that engaged connection.

I spoke with Amal recently at the FIPP Middle East and Africa conference held in Dubai. We spoke of that passion that she has for print and the mission she feels her magazine accepted from issue one. The audience is her main concern and while she believes in the many benefits of digital, she also knows that for a more lasting and trusting relationship with her customers, print is the deciding factor that brings it all together, despite many who tried to convince her otherwise. Amal is a businesswoman, an entrepreneur and more importantly to her print product, a magazine maker who knows what it’s all about: her audience.

So, I hope you enjoy this motivational and inspiring story from a woman who knows what it means to work against adversity when passion is your driving force; the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Amal Daraghmeh Masri, CEO at Ougarit Group, editor-in-chief and CEO Middle East Business Magazine & News.

But first, the sound-bites:

FullSizeRender-2 On the history of her business magazine: This is my second magazine; my first one I sold. The second one covers Arab countries and Middle Eastern countries, which is why it’s in Arabic and English, with 100 pages of different content in two different languages; this is the base. And I love paper; I wanted to produce something that has a face and that you can touch and almost speak with. That’s why we made an individual channel online and the website, but without paper it’s not the same.

On the fact that she started first with an English-only edition: Yes, we started first with only an English version that was published four times a year. And then we thought that we were missing the Arab readers, though there are many in English. Many people had asked us to do another edition in Arabic with the same quality, because it’s a nice-looking magazine with good content. So one day I said OK, I’m going to be crazy and do an Arabic part and do a different one.

On what inspired her to do a totally different issue in Arabic: Most Middle Eastern and Arab readers who are interested in business and economy articles, 98% of them read both languages, so out of respect for their intelligence I gave them different content, because they are all smart and they can choose for themselves. And amazingly, one of the presidents of the chamber of commerce told me that he loved it because when he was tired he reads the Arabic part. He added that when he woke up in the morning and went to his office; with his coffee he would read the English part. These words for me were like a big prize because this was exactly what I wanted.

On whether the magazine will ever have a flip side in French: I thought of it. But it would be too heavy to ship out of Ramallah. (Laughs) I’ve actually had a proposal from one of the Arab countries to make it monthly even. I didn’t want to make it monthly because online it’s ongoing. I think it would be too much because it’s for people who work a lot and every three months gives them enough time to read what’s inside it.

On how big the magazine business is in her country of Palestine: Actually there is none. There are no real magazines in business. There is only a small one about culture, but it’s very local. This is the first magazine that has really come out of Palestine to the Middle East and Arab countries. Usually, the magazines come from Dubai or Lebanon, sometimes from Egypt, but never from Palestine. And I think since my first name is Amal, and it starts with an “A,” I was always called to speak first at school. So, I said that I’d like to be the first to do something like this, though it’s very difficult, but you know, with challenges you create new things to help you overcome obstacles.

On where she came up with the idea to publish a business magazine from Ramallah: I established my business 18 years ago, which is an advertising agency, with marketing and PR. It was called Ougarit Company at that time. A few months earlier we established a printing company with my husband and that was around 1998 or 1999. So now we have two companies, one for printing and one for advertising. And with time you have more ideas and we started doing conferences and then we started training for media. We have a training center for media and anything related to communications and media. Then five years ago we started making magazines.

On whether her belief in print is just from passion or good business sense, or both: In general, businesses are driven by sales and profits. But it’s even better if it’s driven by passion. It’s like a bird with two fabulous wings. When it became English and Arabic, it became like a bird with two super wings. It flew much faster.

On the biggest challenge she’s had to face: I am a stubborn person by nature. So, all challenges for me are fun to deal with. For example, transporting the magazine outside Palestine, because I print and send out to almost 10 countries and it’s very expensive and challenging. And it takes a lot of time. It’s also a lot of follow-up. Sometimes it arrives on time and sometimes it doesn’t. But I spend a lot of energy every single day on the magazine. That is just one challenge.

On anything else she’d like to add: When you do a magazine, don’t make it just paper. It is a paper, but don’t make it just paper. That’s what I tell many of my clients; our magazine is not just paper. And there is a phrase that I use a lot: it’s a mission; it’s a passion; it’s a business, and it’s a partnership.

On what motivates her to get out of bed in the morning: I have a great partner who has been with me since we started our life together 21 years ago. And we establish all businesses together. So, an inspiring husband and a great helper and a cup of coffee in the morning; there’s nothing better.

On what keeps her up at night: It’s how to create great content. I want people to love what we write and I don’t want to write it in the traditional way. What we like to do is sometimes combine curation; people don’t want to read from zero, because people are busy. So we accommodate information together and decide how to present it.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Amal Daraghmeh Masri, CEO at Ougarit Group, Editor in Chief and CEO Middle East Business Magazine & News.

Samir Husni: Tell me a little about the history of your business magazine.

With Amal Daraghmeh Masri at the FIPP Middle East & Africa conference in Dubai, UAE.

With Amal Daraghmeh Masri at the FIPP Middle East & Africa conference in Dubai, UAE.

Amal Daraghmeh Masri: This is my second magazine; my first one I sold. The second one covers Arab countries and Middle Eastern countries, which is why it’s in Arabic and English, with 100 pages of different content in two different languages; this is the base. And I love paper; I wanted to produce something that has a face and that you can touch and almost speak with. That’s why we made an individual channel online and the website, but without paper it’s not the same.

Samir Husni: It’s my understanding that the magazine started in English and then you had the inspiration one day to add an Arabic section, but not translated from the English.

Amal Daraghmeh Masri: Yes, we started first with only an English version that was published four times a year. And then we thought that we were missing the Arab readers, though there are many in English. Many people had asked us to do another edition in Arabic with the same quality, because it’s a nice-looking magazine with good content. So one day I said OK, I’m going to be crazy and do an Arabic part and do a different one.

We designed it as a totally different brand, but the day before printing I woke up at midnight, well, it was probably after, because I don’t sleep before midnight. But I woke up and said, no, I have to put them together in one volume. It was a quite challenging experience and I didn’t think it would work at that time because it was a crazy idea, but it turned out to be very popular. People liked it.

Samir Husni: Most of the magazines that have flip covers or flip sections that I’ve seen in the Middle East are usually translated. What inspired you to do one in Arabic that was different? Did you think that most people could speak both languages, so why give them the same thing? Or were you trying to solicit a new audience?

Middle East 1-1 Amal Daraghmeh Masri: Most Middle Eastern and Arab readers who are interested in business and economy articles, 98% of them read both languages, so out of respect for their intelligence I gave them different content, because they are all smart and they can choose for themselves. And amazingly, one of the presidents of the chamber of commerce told me that he loved it because when he was tired he reads the Arabic part. He added that when he woke up in the morning and went to his office; with his coffee he would read the English part. These words for me were like a big prize because this was exactly what I wanted.

Another thing is the translation can become boring and it’s less work actually. Different content is much better; it’s like two magazines in one. The only thing they have in common is the cover, but with different aspects and different content to make it both concise and completely unique to one another.

Samir Husni: Are we ever going to see another flip side to the magazine in French?

Amal Daraghmeh Masri: I thought of it. But it would be too heavy to ship out of Ramallah. (Laughs) I’ve actually had a proposal from one of the Arab countries to make it monthly even. I didn’t want to make it monthly because online it’s ongoing. I think it would be too much because it’s for people who work a lot and every three months gives them enough time to read what’s inside it. And generally, people do not throw away nice magazines that are quarterly. They tend to throw away more monthly magazines that move fast. I think they feel the quarterly magazine is more precious and has more inside, with nicer covers. So they keep it.

Samir Husni: Please excuse me for not knowing this, but how big is the magazine business in the Palestinian territories?

Amal Daraghmeh Masri: Actually there is none. There are no real magazines in business. There is only a small one about culture, but it’s very local. This is the first magazine that has really come out of Palestine to the Middle East and Arab countries. Usually, the magazines come from Dubai or Lebanon, sometimes from Egypt, but never from Palestine. And I think since my first name is Amal, and it starts with an “A,” I was always called to speak first at school. So, I said that I’d like to be the first to do something like this, though it’s very difficult, but you know, with challenges you create new things to help you overcome obstacles.

So you become adamant to be different and that’s why we’re not local, we’re Middle Eastern and we have an office in Jordan and in Dubai. And we are registered even in Cypress. We have customers from Greece, Cypress, even some of the islands, also from Dubai, Belgium, from many countries and I have quite a lot in Jordan and Palestine. But we don’t spread our magazines according to where our advertisers come from. We make the content for everybody.

Samir Husni: How did you get the, as you called it, “crazy idea” to publish a business magazine from Ramallah?

Amal Daraghmeh Masri: I established my business 18 years ago, which is an advertising agency, with marketing and PR. It was called Ougarit Company at that time. A few months earlier we established a printing company with my husband and that was around 1998 or 1999. So now we have two companies, one for printing and one for advertising.

And with time you have more ideas and we started doing conferences and then we started training for media. We have a training center for media and anything related to communications and media. Then five years ago we started making magazines. We did the first one and we sold it. Three years ago I started this magazine and I also collect news for the website. And I’ve done a French one, because I graduated from a French school, so I speak French. And we do another one called EcoMag, but it is local. It’s only for Palestine, so it doesn’t go out.

Samir Husni: So, technically you did a reverse, in terms of first you started with the ad agency and then the printing and then the magazines. Most stories that I’ve heard, they start a magazine, then buy an ad agency and then they buy a printer.

Amal Daraghmeh Masri: It’s very difficult. It’s like trying to get an old person to make a baby.

Samir Husni: (Laughs).

Amal Daraghmeh Masri: In this case, I’m a woman and I finally had my baby. (Laughs too) Though it took me more than nine months to do it. The whole thing is about the experience. Graphic design is about thinking and creativity and it’s not about lines and colors. Marketing and communications are about spirit, love to others and love to what you do.

When you go to media, it’s another thing, but needs these bridges to reach the other part, which is the media part of the magazine. Though I don’t consider ourselves a journalistic magazine because what we write about is from people’s experiences. And to their peers actually, to other people who want to know what this particular person has to say. So we depend more on expert opinion so that we pass this passion and love to what we do to other people.

Samir Husni: I saw the article that your husband wrote about the future of print and knowing now that you own a printing plant; an ad agency and another print magazine; is it passion that makes you feel there’s a future for print or is it still a good business and you’re making money from it?

Amal Daraghmeh Masri: In general, businesses are driven by sales and profits. But it’s even better if it’s driven by passion. It’s like a bird with two fabulous wings. When it became English and Arabic, it became like a bird with two super wings. It flew much faster. And the same thing comes to the magazine and maybe because I am a good reader, ever since I was six-years-old I have been an avid reader; I have loved the smell of old papers. My grandfather used to be a teacher and he used to bring books with him when he would visit when I was a child. And I would smell them and I thought they smelled beautiful. Until today, I am addicted to the smell of old papers.

I believe that human beings need to touch and see and hear, that’s how we were created. So paper is an important element. We can use online and listen to it and see it, but we cannot say or pretend or publicize that print will disappear. It has been around forever and it will be around as long as there are trees.

Middle East 2-2 I met a lady who had one of the biggest printing companies in South France. She came to see how we print in a difficult situation like Ramallah and she told us that many of her clients used to print magazines with her company and they stopped because people were telling them digital, digital and more digital. So they freaked out and moved into digital and she told me that one year later they were losing so much money that they came back to print again. And this lady is alive and she told me this.

Before I did print I knew everybody was going to tell me that I was going against the current and that everyone else was going digital and I shouldn’t do it on paper. I didn’t believe them, though many, many people told me this, including one of our advertisers. And I see our advertisers as our partners. When I asked most of our advertisers about print they told me if I insisted, then go for it, do print and digital. So I went strongly with the website, mobile application and paper and our individual channel, which is all very expensive, but I assure you that people like to see paper because they trust in it more.

As soon as you show them the magazine, it’s different than showing them the tablet or the website or the mobile application. It’s a totally different thing. So we have to be aware of human beings’ roots, origins and feelings. It’s like fear, when you see something that scares you it’s a natural response. It’s like marrying a virtual woman; would you do that? Human beings still need real people.

Samir Husni: I totally agree with you. You said it very well, as long as we have trees; we’re going to have paper. I always say that as long as we have human beings we’re going to have paper, because of that sense of touch and all of the five senses. But specifically in your case, has it been smooth sailing for you during this journey, or have you encountered some choppy seas along the way? What was the biggest challenge that you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

Amal Daraghmeh Masri: I am a stubborn person by nature. So, all challenges for me are fun to deal with. For example, transporting the magazine outside Palestine, because I print and send out to almost 10 countries and it’s very expensive and challenging. And it takes a lot of time. It’s also a lot of follow-up. Sometimes it arrives on time and sometimes it doesn’t. But I spend a lot of energy every single day on the magazine. That is just one challenge.

I’ve been in the Middle East for quite some time; I’m a founding member of Middle East Business Women’s Network and I’ve been in many organizations on the Arab level. I go to many conferences, so I have the network and the confidence. I know that I can create content and supervise content. But the main challenge was being in another occupation actually.

And creating great covers is very important and we always try to predict what people want. This is another challenge because people want an article so much, but before publishing it I ask myself this question a hundred times and sometimes I ask people I know: would this article be of interest? And if people tell me yes, I think more about publishing it. The human feelings are so important.

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

Amal Daraghmeh Masri: When you do a magazine, don’t make it just paper. It is a paper, but don’t make it just paper. That’s what I tell many of my clients; our magazine is not just paper; it’s much more than paper. And there is a phrase that I use a lot: it’s a mission; it’s a passion; it’s a business, and it’s a partnership.

Samir Husni: I love that; it’s more than ink on paper.

Amal Daraghmeh Masri: Absolutely.

Samir Husni: What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning; what drives you to look forward to another day at the office?

Amal Daraghmeh Masri: Actually, I usually go to sleep at 3:00 a.m. I read so much. But I wake up at 6:30 a.m. because my husband gets me up for coffee. (Laughs) I’m sure that’s not your typical answer. But I have a great partner who has been with me since we started our life together 21 years ago. And we establish all businesses together. So, an inspiring husband and a great helper and a cup of coffee in the morning; there’s nothing better.

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

Amal Daraghmeh Masri: It’s how to create great content. I want people to love what we write and I don’t want to write it in the traditional way. What we like to do is sometimes combine curation; people don’t want to read from zero, because people are busy. So we accommodate information together and decide how to present it. When you ask an editor to write, it can get technical and we don’t want that. So, I keep changing the beginnings to make it more attractive and the rest follows.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Saudi Specialized Publishing Company: Bringing The Top 50 International Titles Plus A Host of Niche & Diverse Genres To The Arab World Since 2006 – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Mohammad Alomar, Managing Director, Saudi Specialized Publishing Company

February 16, 2016
Reporting from the  FIPP Middle East & Africa conference in Dubai Feb. 10 and 11.

Reporting from the FIPP Middle East & Africa conference in Dubai Feb. 10 and 11.

“Thinking, planning and mixing poetry with mathematics for new projects.”

“We do believe strongly in print. We do not think at all that print is dying or has already died, because I am doing the kind of business like Condé Nast International is doing. They are doing Madame Magazine for Air France; they are doing the same for BMW and Mercedes. We are doing this sector in print and we are making a lot of profit. And we know the market and we know that millennials are not on digital devices all the time. They know Vogue and Marie Claire. They know this magazine and that magazine and they’re bringing these beautiful things to their tables.” Mohammad Alomar

From Dubai with love…

Saudi Specialized Publishing Company has been bringing niche magazines to targeted audiences in the Arab world since 2006, along with licensing some of the most popular titles around. With support from their parent company, Saudi Research and Marketing Group, the SSPC is healthy and expanding with an optimistic eye on the future.

IMG_1527Mohammad Alomar is managing director of the company and leads his group, according to Mohammad, like a maestro guides his orchestra to the ultimate goal of bringing entertainment and joy to its audience. Mohammad has been in journalism and publishing media for more than 20 years as an editor-in-chief of many magazines, among them Robb Report Arabia, the Arabic edition for the luxury Robb Report magazine.

He has brought his many skills and abundant experience to SSPC and has led the company in developing an extensive base of investment in international licensing, commercial publishing and education. I spoke with Mohammad recently at the FIPP Middle East and Africa conference held in Dubai and we had a very interesting and exuberant talk about the status of Middle East publishing and the many accomplishments, and ones still to be made, of Saudi Specialized Publishing Company. Under Mohammad’s leadership, SSPC has forged diversified business relations with a number of international publishers like Disney, Societé du Figaro, Editoriale Domus, Meredith Corporation and Curtco Media. The future looks bright indeed for SSPC.

So, I hope you enjoy this glimpse into international publishing and licensing at its best as you read the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Mohammad Alomar, Managing Director, Saudi Specialized Publishing Company.

But first, the sound-bites:

On the genesis of the Saudi Specialized Publishing Company: The Saudi Specialized Publishing Company was established in 2006 out of the idea that we are the largest in the market, but after reviewing the kind of changes that the market would be facing in the next few years in publishing when it came to newspapers and magazines we began to think about special publishing targeting a special audience because the market was fragmented and cemented.

On already being specialized with the foundational company and what made them feel as though they needed even more specialization with the establishment of Saudi Specialized Publishing Company: For us mainly, most of our dailies were in politics. We have a daily in sports and the magazines were mainly lifestyle magazines, like Sayidaty. We moved to be a public company. Moving from a holding to a public company means you have a big responsibility to shareholders. Then we had to figure out our next move and the next move was establishing the company and new horizons that were very successful in the world. We started talking with Condé Nast, Time Inc. Meredith and others and we started with our partners in New York. And we saw that the kind of target audience we could create with the kind of advertising for those segments would make it a very seductive choice for us.

RRA Cover 34On his mission to bring the top 50 magazines in the world to the Arab region and on how he identifies the top 50: We did our exercise very well. We started in the markets in the Western world. In the lifestyle category, we asked ourselves what we wanted. We talked with Condé Nast and I’m a very big fan of Vanity Fair. And we knew we also needed something for mother and child; is there one? We wanted something with interior design and indoor lifestyle, like Better Homes and Gardens.

On the fact that he’s been described as a hands-on director: Yes, especially when it comes to Robb Report. I’m the editor-in-chief and I’m always telling my team that I’m the maestro of an orchestra, not a manager in a company. A maestro should not play every instrument. If he did he’d be a clown. If you see a maestro, sometimes he tells the orchestra how to play, but more often they are the best around and they’re closing their eyes and flying high in the sky, and even the maestro is moving his hand without opening his eyes. He is leading their souls to entertain the audience. This is my role.

On the biggest challenge he’s had to face: It hasn’t been smooth sailing always. Building something new, you always encounter challenges, and encountering sometimes, some regulations that will not allow you to fly higher. Sometimes even in big organizations you have corporate politics, but I consider myself lucky enough that I was supported big time by my CEO and we’re friends. He told me one day when we met for the first time, we spoke about the concept of specialized publishing, he told me to consider my dreams. He said that was my job description, to fulfill my dreams here. And we did that.

January Cover On his opinion of the future of print: The future we believe in. Everyone has a TV, but it did not destroy the legacy of radio. These are media and media are pipes. The biggest challenge is readers and what they want. If they want apples, then you need to invest in apples. If they would like to have apricots, invest in apricots. We believe and this is the most important thing, digital expanded our reach, it didn’t threaten our circulation at all.

On what he would hope to say he had accomplished in one year: I would tell you about the first issues of our magazines and that digital will be doing some things from sites and apps, but most importantly, we will be capitalizing on ink on paper. This is what we believe.

On anything else he’d like to add: We do believe strongly in print. We do not think at all that print is dying or has already died, because I am doing the kind of business like Condé Nast International is doing. They are doing Madame Magazine for Air France; they are doing the same for BMW and Mercedes. We are doing this sector in print and we are making a lot of profit. And we know the market and we know that millennials are not on digital devices all the time. They know Vogue and Marie Claire. They know this magazine and that magazine and they’re bringing these beautiful things to their tables.

On what motivates him to get out of bed in the morning: My work is my lifestyle. It’s not my way of living; it is my lifestyle and my passion. I have two important things in my life: my son and my work. It’s like birds, they do not wake up to eat; they wake up to sing. And they enjoy it and I do strongly enjoy my work, because it is my lifestyle. I’m there sometimes at 6:00 a.m. and leaving at 9:00 p.m.

On what keeps him up at night: Thinking, planning and mixing poetry with mathematics for new projects.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Mohammad Alomar, Managing Director, Saudi Specialized Publishing Company.

Samir Husni: Tell me a little bit about the beginnings of the Saudi Specialized Publishing Company.

IMG_1526 Mohammad Alomar: The Saudi Specialized Publishing Company was established in 2006 out of the idea that we are the largest in the market, but after reviewing the kind of changes that the market would be facing in the next few years in publishing when it came to newspapers and magazines we began to think about special publishing targeting a special audience because the market was fragmented and cemented.

So we established Saudi Specialized Publishing Company as the platform of special publishing, special content creation, and for international publishing and licensing.

Samir Husni: However, the mother company was a leader in the Arab world in terms of daily newspapers and specialized newspapers, like the sports newspaper. Why didn’t you think that was enough of a degree of specialization; what forced you to move into even ultra-specializations?

Mohammad Alomar: For us mainly, most of our dailies were in politics. We have a daily in sports and the magazines were mainly lifestyle magazines, like Sayidaty. We moved to be a public company. Moving from a holding to a public company means you have a big responsibility to shareholders. Then we had to figure out our next move and the next move was establishing the company and new horizons that were very successful in the world.

We started talking with Condé Nast, Time Inc. Meredith and others and we started with our partners in New York. And we saw that the kind of target audience we could create with the kind of advertising for those segments would make it a very seductive choice for us.

When the company was established, it was 500,000 riyals, half a million riyals; we didn’t want to risk that much, but the profit for the first year was 200% and the second year was 400%. In 2006/2007, the company became public and the stocks changed. In 2008, after three years of very big growth in our area, the board made the decision for us to see a holding with the capital of 100 million riyals. And this became a small growth in the womb of the mother company. And that growth became Saudi Specialized Publishing Company, which became SSPH (Saudi Specialized Publishing Holdings).

Under SSPH, we have a company in Dubai, in Amman and two companies in Riyadh. Then it came to us that the world was now a new opportunity. We were doing very well, so we invested big time. We were not to start a business from scratch, no; that wasn’t the model we were doing. We started buying the gas stations, not building the gas stations. We acquired the biggest company in education in the region, two companies in U.A.E., one company in Saudi Arabia and one in Amman.

Before this, for our business only and for the kind of magazines we were publishing, we acquired the biggest printing house in Riyadh to add it to our sister companies in printing. In 2007, to add to the business of printing we began under the name Saudi Printing and Packaging Company. Traditionally, we used to print dailies and weeklies, now we do a lot of business for others; we are publishing for a lot of other companies that must be licensed. So the kind of operation we do is good for the sister companies.

Samir Husni: You mentioned earlier that you want to get the top 50 magazines worldwide and bring them to the Arab world, to the region. How are you identifying the top 50?

PA FEB Cover Mohammad Alomar: We did our exercise very well. We started in the markets in the Western world. In the lifestyle category, we asked ourselves what we wanted. We talked with Condé Nast and I’m a very big fan of Vanity Fair. And we knew we also needed something for mother and child; is there one? We wanted something with interior design and indoor lifestyle, like Better Homes and Gardens.

Our CEO has been a big supporter of these things we’ve been doing and is an architect. He has a Ph.D. in architecture and he was for a while the minister of education in Saudi Arabia. And he is one of the biggest figures followed on Twitter. Two million follow him on Twitter.

So, at the time we spoke about the new initiatives, he supported the idea to go and grow bigger with all of these magazines. I told him that he being an architect, he knew that we needed Domes; it is the Bible of architecture, but we don’t want to compete with our sister company, so I was more inclined toward Madame Figaro. I wanted to speak to ladies who were into fashion traditionally and plus we are close politically and culturally etc. So, we targeted Madame Figaro. And we brought it as a lifestyle magazine.

And for the very young generation, for children whose moms are reading for them, to 15-16 year olds, Disney publications were the target. We publish more than 10 of their magazines. But the number one magazine published with our populace in Beirut in 2006 was Businessweek.

When we started with Businessweek, I spoke with Time Inc. about Fortune. Forbes, at that time, was with somebody else in the region. And I adored The Economist and what we could have done with The Economist, but they were not at that time into licensing. Also they were selling the syndication of The New York Times and they are my friends. We met in Paris, London one time. This way when we studied the numbers about the best magazines, we studied what were the target audiences of these magazines. This is a very beautiful addition to our very strong growth structure.

Yes, we shall not prostrate, this is a very stupid way to do licensing. We choose from the original magazines, whatever is appealing to our readership, and we do the other part, sometimes it’s 50% or 60% or 70% in-house made, but up to international standards, so this was how we did it on many sectors. One day we dreamt we might have Fortune or The Economist. At that time we were negotiating with Curtco Media about Robb Report, which is the number one digital magazine in the world. We work with The Economist of course, in syndication.

In 2008 it was a rosy year for us, though all of the problems were starting in the United States with the crash. In 2008, we achieved double the number net profit, and then in 2009 the international crash happened. We were hit badly. But we didn’t lose. We went down from 240 to about 80, while others died. After that, it was the consequences of the international crisis in Dubai and in the region. In 2010 it was very bad in the region. So we suffered in 2010.

After that, we went down. Our people thought that during that we might die, but we reached the bottom, took a breath, and then we came out higher. It was the year we went down and then came up.

Our CEO has returned to the group after being the minister of education and we’re planning again. We are publishing and reprinting daily in more capitals around the world. And they set us free to fly higher again and again in licensing international business. In our tradition falcons only go up, up and up, but they don’t eat a lot, they are very picky. They choose whatever they like to eat and this is what we’re doing now.

Samir Husni: It’s my understanding from talking to some of your editors and others that you’re a hands-on managing director; you like to read every word and see every picture before the magazine goes to print.

RRA Cover 34 Mohammad Alomar: Yes, especially when it comes to Robb Report. I’m the editor-in-chief and I’m always telling my team that I’m the maestro of an orchestra, not a manager in a company. A maestro should not play every instrument. If he did he’d be a clown. If you see a maestro, sometimes he tells the orchestra how to play, but more often they are the best around and they’re closing their eyes and flying high in the sky, and even the maestro is moving his hand without opening his eyes. He is leading their souls to entertain the audience. This is my role.

When it comes to Robb Report, it’s music for me. I adore language and my Arabic language. It’s poetry and I told them that we want, especially with this magazine, and they promised the best level of English would be involved, as if Shakespeare were writing about stocks and finances, and that he wrote the magazine from the beginning to the end. The system you use, the orchestra, should not mix beautiful music. The passion you have helps you lead sometimes modestly and set a good model, so this is what we’ve been doing. Yes, it’s the passion and by the end of the day, as you know, you’re a journalist. And being a journalist means your name. If you want to come up to the stage and say anything, people will not spare your face.

Samir Husni: Has it always been smooth sailing for you or have you had some choppy seas along the way during your journalistic journey? What has been the biggest challenge that you’ve been faced with and how did you overcome it?

IMG_1527 Mohammad Alomar: It hasn’t been smooth sailing always. Building something new, you always encounter challenges, and encountering sometimes, some regulations that will not allow you to fly higher. Sometimes even in big organizations you have corporate politics, but I consider myself lucky enough that I was supported big time by my CEO and we’re friends. He told me one day when we met for the first time, we spoke about the concept of specialized publishing, he told me to consider my dreams. He said that was my job description, to fulfill my dreams here. And we did that.

Other than the difficult financial years of 2008-2010, we suffered, but we were very persistent and believed strongly in what we were doing. And thank God, we’re flying high again and making profits again.

Samir Husni: You’ve bought a new printing plant, so that tells me that you do still believe in print, but what about the future?

Mohammad Alomar: The future we believe in. Everyone has a TV, but it did not destroy the legacy of radio. These are media and media are pipes. The biggest challenge is readers and what they want. If they want apples, then you need to invest in apples. If they would like to have apricots, invest in apricots. We believe and this is the most important thing, digital expanded our reach, it didn’t threaten our circulation at all. Being a very big conglomerate, we have our own big solution company and the media that’s working in the market, the share is 32% of the Middle East market, and it’s our company. And print is our company. Events are our company. Education is our company. We could transform the cost in a smart way to lay the groundwork for our business to be better. This way we could overcome whatever problems we faced after.

Samir Husni: If a year from now you and I are sitting and having this same discussion, what would you hope to tell me that you’ve accomplished in that year?

Mohammad Alomar: I would tell you, Mr. Magazine™ these are the first issues of our magazines and I have kept them for you.

Samir Husni: (Laughs).

Mohammad Alomar: I would tell you about the first issues of our magazines and that digital will be doing some things from sites and apps, but most importantly, we will be capitalizing on ink on paper. This is what we believe.

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

Diplo37-1 Mohammad Alomar: We do believe strongly in print. We do not think at all that print is dying or has already died, because I am doing the kind of business like Condé Nast International is doing. They are doing Madame Magazine for Air France; they are doing the same for BMW and Mercedes. We are doing this sector in print and we are making a lot of profit. And we know the market and we know that millennials are not on digital devices all the time. They know Vogue and Marie Claire. They know this magazine and that magazine and they’re bringing these beautiful things to their tables.

Samir Husni: What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

Mohammad Alomar: My work is my lifestyle. It’s not my way of living; it is my lifestyle and my passion. I have two important things in my life: my son and my work. It’s like birds, they do not wake up to eat; they wake up to sing. And they enjoy it and I do strongly enjoy my work, because it is my lifestyle. I’m there sometimes at 6:00 a.m. and leaving at 9:00 p.m.

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

Mohammad Alomar: Thinking, planning and mixing poetry with mathematics for new projects.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

SpainMedia: The Name That Personifies The Man Who Is Media In Spain – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Andrés Rodríguez, President & Editor-In-Chief, SpainMedia

January 26, 2016

“As humans, we have five senses and print touches each of those. With the iPad, the electrification touches eyes and ears, but not the nose. Smell is important, the smell of food; the smell of a woman or of a man. The hands are also important. The hands experience touch, touch of the skin; touch of many things. And paper has this quality, especially if you invest in it. Before you read any single word, you touch the paper and the impression is made immediately; either you like it or you don’t.” Andrés Rodríguez

“The magazine business will never die; it will never die because a magazine is the voice of a community. And you need that community to be so big that it gives you advertising to make the magazine. And you need to identify new communities. Magazines will never die.” Andrés Rodríguez

From Spain with love…

Andrés Rodríguez and Samir Husni at the lobby of the NH Collection, Prado Plaza, Madrid, Spain

Andrés Rodríguez and Samir Husni at the lobby of the NH Collection, Prado Plaza, Madrid, Spain


SpainMedia is a company built by a man with a vision, a vision to produce high quality magazines that touch every sense with their tactile and exquisite natures. It’s a forum for the anthem of print from a man who is a very firm believer in the medium and a major contender in the world of publishing in Spain. Andrés Rodríguez is the man who had the vision nine years ago to bring the biggest titles out there to his country. He is president and editor-in-chief of SpainMedia, which publishes Esquire, Forbes, The Robb Report, Tapas, and L’Officiel in Spain.

Andrés is a one-man machine who loves the feeling of falling asleep with a magazine in his hands. He has gone where few have dared, double- mortgaging his home twice, once to launch Esquire and the other to launch Harper’s Bazaar, which he did for five years before Hearst acquired Lagardère and wanted to bring HB in with Elle.

Andrés is every magazine maker’s dream. He was the editor-in-chief of Rolling Stone in Spain when he saw the opportunity to launch Esquire and he jumped on it and now he has created a company that’s the personification of magazines in Spain. Acquiring the licenses to some of the biggest titles around, he used his passion for magazines to attain his dream and bring the beauty and the entertainment quality of magazines to his country.

I spoke with Andrés recently on my recent trip to Spain and we talked about his endeavors with SpainMedia and the success he has seen with the company and the print product. And we talked about his own first-born creation, Tapas magazine, which brings lifestyle and food together in a way that is both unique and satisfying. Andrés is optimistic about his newest baby’s future; after all, he’s known uncertainty with many of his ventures, only to taste the sweet sustenance of success in the end.

So, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a very nice man who knows how to publish the best if the best in magazine media; Andrés Rodríguez, President & Editor-In-Chief, SpainMedia.

But first the sound-bites:

Esquire-5On the genesis of SpainMedia: I founded the company nine years ago. I started as a journalist 30 years ago. I am 50-years-old now and made my first salary at 19. But just nine years ago I became a publisher. I discussed the instincts I had about the business and my point of view with investors and when I talked with them about how I thought the magazine should be and the new trends that were out there and how we should proceed with the advertising; I wasn’t sure if they would agree. Sometimes investors have their own ideas about how things like this should go. So, I founded the company nine years ago with my own money. I put a lot at risk; I double-mortgaged my house with the bank. And I asked Hearst to give me the license to Esquire because I felt with an international magazine more people would trust me.

On whether anyone ever asked if he was he out of his mind to invest in print in this digital age: Everybody said that to me. Everybody said it, because the big difference is I prefer to polish and edit high quality magazines, with long stories to read, like the classic magazines from the 1960s or 1970s. I’m really not too interested in circulation. And you might ask why? It’s because I feel in the 21st century, the quality of the product is more important than its circulation. Of course, circulation is important. I prefer to print one million copies of one of my magazines, but I don’t want to print one million copies of a magazine that I know when I go to sleep is not a good magazine. I need to try and sleep well. When I push the print button on that printing machine, I try to do the best magazine that I can.

Tapas4-18 On whether Tapas (his first self-created venture) feels like his first born or all of the magazines feel like his own children: Parents say all of the kids are the same, but I know all of the fathers are lying, in my opinion. Fathers do have preferences. I needed to launch my own magazine because I know that I’m a good journalist and a good businessman because I’m making money with this. I’m one of the best at trying to interpret big titles into my country, because Esquire is one of the big titles of the world; Forbes is a big, big title and I changed things with Forbes in Spain; I know this, but I needed to change things in the opposite way, which was to create my own brand.

On why he decided to launch Tapas in Spanish and in English: It’s worldwide with a multi-circulation. I did both editions because when I thought about the magazine that would be my very first creation, I knew it would be a lifestyle and cooking title. And I looked and found some other titles that were interesting, but having both languages was more for me. Two was more. I thought two was more in line with the big mainstream magazines.

On whether he ever doubted the future of print: No. I trusted my instincts. I always follow my heart. I used to explain it like this; of course, I have my iPad and my iPhone and I’m absolutely connected to the world just like everybody else. But when I’m reading a magazine it’s usually in particular places: on a plane, on my sofa, or in my bed. And in these kinds of places I’m relaxed; with a magazine I’m relaxed. My body is in the relaxed position.

On why it took magazine media five or six years to discover the fact that print is not dead: Very simple. Audience and circulation are the two things that all of the companies are fighting for. And in my opinion, this is the second step. The first step is product. The companies need to be more invested in product than circulation because they cannot invest in circulation if they don’t have the money. But the bigger companies are more worried about audience because they identify audience as people and money. They think that if they lose one point in audience, they lose a lot.

L'Officiel 3-11 On anything else that he’d like to add: It’s not true that we live in a very mature market; and it’s also not true that nothing is possible in our market; anything is possible in our Spanish market. The audience is smarter than we are; the readers are smarter than us; they’re faster than we are and they definitely know more than us. And the clients need us, the clients, our advertisers, need good magazines. But we need to be able to explain to them how we can be useful to them, because when clients launch a new product, they hire the best people in the world to launch their product; they hire the best design teams to showcase their products, and they need good magazines to put these products inside of.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly at his house one evening: You would find just music playing; you would see a mountain of international magazines sitting around that I don’t have time to read, including magazines that I’m really not interested in, but I check them anyway, and a glass of wine, of course. And I do cut pages out of other magazines. And you would also see pages of the latest issues of my magazines around too, printed and edited with my pen, because I correct all of the pages.

On what keeps him up at night: The budget of the magazines. I’m always thinking about how I’m going to find more money to make these magazines stronger and also to find more free time to come up with new ideas.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine interview with Andrés Rodríguez, President & Editor-In-Chief, SpainMedia.

Samir Husni: You’re a different breed publisher/editor-in-chief.

IMG_1302 Andrés Rodríguez: Yes.

Samir Husni: You started your own company; you followed both of your passions, being a journalist and being a businessman. Tell me the story of Spain Media.

Andrés Rodríguez: I founded the company nine years ago. I started as a journalist 30 years ago. I am 50-years-old now and made my first salary at 19. But just nine years ago I became a publisher. I discussed the instincts I had about the business and my point of view with investors and when I talked with them about how I thought the magazine should be and the new trends that were out there and how we should proceed with the advertising; I wasn’t sure if they would agree. Sometimes investors have their own ideas about how things like this should go.

For example, sometimes a financial person might try to reduce the quality of the paper to make a better P&L, hence a better bonus. Me, I prefer to spend more money on the quality of the paper because I’m convinced that I’ll find a new audience if my magazine has good quality.

Forbes-3 So, I founded the company nine years ago with my own money. I put a lot at risk; I double-mortgaged my house with the bank. And I asked Hearst to give me the license to Esquire because I felt with an international magazine more people would trust me. I had a few doubts about my businessman’s side; I had never founded a company before and I was afraid that I wouldn’t know where to manage the cash flow or how to talk to the banks about the magazine, or how to make the discounts for the advertisers or the annual discounts for the central media. So, I was nervous about this.

I thought that Hearst, or George Green (former Executive Vice President and Chairman of Hearst Magazines International) would say to me, no, you don’t have the assets to buy the Esquire license and you have no prior experience. But I was the editor-in-chief of Rolling Stone in Spain; I convinced Jann Wenner to give me the license for Rolling Stone for Grupo Prisa, the company that I worked for then.

But I think that this idea helped me with George because Rolling Stone was a big brand and nine years later, I talked with George Green about it and said thank you many times, but I think he gave me the magazine because he knew that he wouldn’t lose anything, because no one wanted to publish Esquire in Spain. He had already talked with all the major companies in Spain about Esquire and everyone had told him no, because they were looking at the numbers and thought that they would need to invest three or four million Euros to launch Esquire, and that’s something they don’t believe in doing. I think George said OK to me so that he could give it a try. It wasn’t Harper’s Bazaar or a big magazine where if he lost Spain it would cost him more.

I remember always the advice that he gave me in one of the meetings I had with him. I said, hey George, I’ll give you issue # 0, the mockup of what my Esquire will look like. And he said to me, no, I don’t want to look at the mockup; do you have a very nice party planned for the launching? And I said, yes, absolutely George. And he asked who paid for the party? You don’t pay for the party; don’t spend a single Euro on the party. I said, OK; don’t worry about that, just have a look at my magazine. He said, no, I’m not interested in your magazine; just don’t spend money on a party. And I thought, wow, this guy isn’t very interested in journalism.

Robb Report-8 Nine years later, he’s trying to tell me your weakness is the money; try to protect the money and I trust you on the magazine side. And in just two years with Esquire we broke even and the second step we took was more on the business side because I didn’t want to put all of the expenses; all of the overhead, the rental of the office, my salary, the secretary’s salary and all the other expenses, in front of just one magazine; I thought that if I shared the overhead with more magazines I would be doing things better; like a family who has more than one child.

And I told George that I wasn’t losing money with Esquire and asked him would he please give me Bazaar, because if I could break even with a men’s magazine, it might be even easier with a women’s title because the market is bigger. And he said to me, no, it’s too soon. I don’t want to give you Bazaar, try to consolidate Esquire, because your country will be destroyed by the International Economy Crisis. And I said, but George, we are a big country and growing, in fact, we grow more than Italy. Then he said to me, be prepared; this crisis will destroy the Spanish economy. So, I didn’t do the other magazines, just Esquire.

I have my own point of view and I offer to CurtCo Media to do Robb Report and they were in love with the idea because it was their first Spanish edition worldwide. I launched the Robb Report quarterly. Year number five with Esquire, we’re making money, and the Robb Report is also making money, and George Green retired and Duncan Edwards took over. Duncan is a great guy and I asked him to give me Bazaar and he gave it to me. It was the first license that he gave in America from the International. And he said to me, all the figures; the entire International picture and all of the information that I have for your country is negative. This is a crazy idea, but I’m going to give you Bazaar.

He gave me Bazaar and I launched six years ago, and I managed the magazine for five years. In the meantime, during those five years, Forbes called me. And Forbes called me because they were looking to be in Spain. They had asked all the major companies and no one wanted to invest in Forbes, due to our country’s economy. The Forbes people asked the Hearst people who was crazy in Spain, and Hearst told them about me. (Laughs) They told Forbes that I paid royalties and I paid every year and that I do good magazines.

When Forbes first called me, I said no, because there was no money. The entire country was being careful due to the economic situation. And all of the economic magazines and newspapers were losing money. And this was in 2011. Forbes responded to me with this answer, when a country has economic problems like Spain; the people are more interested in the economy than ever. And I told them they were absolutely right. And that was a good argument. And they added that my country in the future would recover; we may not know when or how, but of course, Spain would recover. And I knew they were right.

So, I started publishing Forbes three years ago and we’re making money. In the meantime, Hearst bought Lagardère and I thought that was an incredible idea, but not for me. But one day Duncan invited me for lunch and he told me that Hearst had bought Lagardère and said that he believed Bazaar being close to Elle would make more money, because they were going to sell the advertising through the big companies with both, and I agreed he was right. He would make more money than I was making. He asked me to give back Bazaar to Hearst Spain and I quickly received the proposal to launch L’Officiel from the Jalou family. I accepted, because I had been working in the women’s market for five years and I didn’t want to lose the women’s sector. And that’s the big picture.

Samir Husni: Did anybody come to you and ask you if you were out of your mind to put all of this money into print? And not only are you publishing print magazines, but you’re using high quality paper, gorgeous design and basically just investing in print, while the entire media industry is saying the future is in digital. Did any of the advertisers or anyone come to you and ask you were you out of your mind to do this?

L'Officiel-4 Andrés Rodríguez: Everybody said that to me. Everybody said it, because the big difference is I prefer to polish and edit high quality magazines, with long stories to read, like the classic magazines from the 1960s or 1970s. I’m really not too interested in circulation. And you might ask why? It’s because I feel in the 21st century, the quality of the product is more important than its circulation. Of course, circulation is important. I prefer to print one million copies of one of my magazines, but I don’t want to print one million copies of a magazine that I know when I go to sleep is not a good magazine. I need to try and sleep well. When I push the print button on that printing machine, I try to do the best magazine that I can.

And the second thing that I try to do then is get the biggest circulation that I can, so I can offer it to the advertisers as a good platform for their products. But in my opinion, it’s not the most important thing.

I used to say that influence is more important to me than audience, because when you have a big audience you have such a wide variety of people, so many different people. Audience is like when Hollywood launches a big blockbuster and you’re going to see it with family. And when the movie ends, nobody is 100% happy. It was good, but not everyone was happy. And I think this is how audience works.

And with influence, you try to make the magazine more influential for the target and it makes the target bigger. Tapas is a good example. It is my own first-owned title; I identified that lifestyle and food globally is a trend. I haven’t found any international lifestyle and food title; I find recipe titles, but not lifestyle and food. And I created the magazine. And now, I need to convince the advertiser, because the clients are more conservative than the readers; I need to convince the advertisers that this is a good platform to invest in, like Monocle, for example.
I am a great fan of Tyler (Tyler Brûlé – Monocle founder) and I think he has the nose to identify new trends and he convinced the clients that it was a new trend; it’s a global, international, traveler citizen.

Samir Husni: Tapas is your first venture as your own. Do you feel like Tapas is your first born and all of the others are more like adopted children? Or do you treat all of them the same now?

TapasII-14 Andrés Rodríguez: Parents say all of the kids are the same, but I know all of the fathers are lying, in my opinion. Fathers do have preferences. I needed to launch my own magazine because I know that I’m a good journalist and a good businessman because I’m making money with this. I’m one of the best at trying to interpret big titles into my country, because Esquire is one of the big titles of the world; Forbes is a big, big title and I changed things with Forbes in Spain; I know this, but I needed to change things in the opposite way, which was to create my own brand.

And this is what I’m enjoying with Tapas. And I don’t want to license Tapas because it has just begun; we’ve been publishing for nine months now. And I think we’ll be a great business. We’re already breaking even in this short time, but I’m not interested in licensing the magazine for some fee here or some fee there. I’m interested in furthering the brand.

Samir Husni: Why did you decide to not only launch Tapas in Spanish, but also in an English edition? I saw it in the United States and it’s probably in the U.K. as well.

Andrés Rodríguez: Yes, it’s worldwide with a multi-circulation. I did both editions because when I thought about the magazine that would be my very first creation, I knew it would be a lifestyle and cooking title. And I looked and found some other titles that were interesting, but having both languages was more for me. Two was more. I thought two was more in line with the big mainstream magazines.

Tapas 3-17 I knew lifestyle and food was what I wanted, because chefs are the new rock and roll stars. Michelin stars are like the new Oscars. And I asked myself, what other magazine is talking about those things; none. There are magazines out there talking about a cheesecake recipe and that’s great. But with the big chefs, we don’t talk about the recipes; we talk about their tattoos or their hair. And we talk about the experience; let’s go to this country and drive to this chef’s incredible, marvelous restaurant and have an adventure.

After the idea, I knew I needed to find a word; a brand, for the magazine. I happened to be in New York working once and I was riding in a taxi and the word Tapas came to me and I thought this is an incredible brand name and it’s a Spanish word which means basically that we share the food with others, because it’s more important to talk than actually to eat the food.

So, I knew I had the word. Next, I knew we had to publish in English, because if not, if I just published in Spanish…I thought to myself, what would Tyler do with this? (Laughs) I said, OK, Spanish is great because Spanish is the second language in the world, but I also think in English, so we need English too, so that’s why it happened.

Samir Husni: Have you ever doubted yourself with any of the titles; did you ever think that maybe some people were right and print had no future? Yet, here you’re telling me that you’re making money; you’re breaking even on Tapas already; and all of the other titles are doing great. Did you ever doubt print’s future?

L'Officiel Voyage-6 Andrés Rodríguez: No. I trusted my instincts. I always follow my heart. I used to explain it like this; of course, I have my iPad and my iPhone and I’m absolutely connected to the world just like everybody else. But when I’m reading a magazine it’s usually in particular places: on a plane, on my sofa, or in my bed. And in these kinds of places I’m relaxed; with a magazine I’m relaxed. My body is in the relaxed position. When I’m connected with the iPad; I’m electrified by the constant connection with everything. And that’s great; being electrified isn’t worse than being relaxed, but it’s different. It’s like apples and oranges.

Somedays I want to be electrified, but somedays I need to relax and print personifies relaxing. And when you put something in print; it’s like a golden letter. And when you put the same thing on digital, it’s like nothing. I used to use this example: if your wife came to you and asked if you read something on the iPad about the neighbors talking badly about us, and then the same situation, only she asks did you read it in the newspaper; it becomes much more serious when it’s in the print platform. We don’t think about how many copies of the printed version are out there, versus maybe millions of digital readers who just saw those terrible words said about the family, but the printed edition is something that we would shop for. This is what’s marvelous about print.

The other thing is, as humans, we have five senses and print touches each of those. With the iPad, the electrification touches eyes and ears, but not the nose. Smell is important, the smell of food; the smell of a woman or of a man. The hands are also important. The hands experience touch, touch of the skin; touch of many things. And paper has this quality, especially if you invest in it. Before you read any single word, you touch the paper and the impression is made immediately; either you like it or you don’t.

But I need to convince advertisers of this fact, for me it’s obvious, and I know it’s the same for you, but when you talk to the advertisers, sometimes they follow trends rather than sensory feelings.

Samir Husni: If we are to accept the fact that people who work in magazine media are more of the smart and creative types; why did it take us five or six years to discover that print is not dead?

Andrés Rodríguez: Very simple. Audience and circulation are the two things that all of the companies are fighting for. And in my opinion, this is the second step. The first step is product. The companies need to be more invested in product than circulation because they cannot invest in circulation if they don’t have the money. But the bigger companies are more worried about audience because they identify audience as people and money. They think that if they lose one point in audience, they lose a lot.

Esquire II-16 We, all of the people who love magazines the way they were done in the 1960s or 1970s and the life of the magazines then; we realize that type of magazine either has good or bad circulation. When we put all of the covers of Esquire on the wall and look at them; there isn’t a single word spoken about the circulation. There isn’t a single word spoken about how much money one particular cover is going to make. Will it be profitable or a big disaster? Of course, I need to make money in order to continue my magazines, but the first question is product, not circulation.

During the last five years, digital has offered us more audience than we know what to do with; audience and more audience, and those audiences scrambling for more free content. If you have the brand, digital will give you the followers. But many of the followers who clamor after the digital brands aren’t interested in the magazine experience. The experience is what it’s all about with the magazine.

And newspapers have the same problem. They lose the experience when they focus on the exclusivity of the news. The exclusivity of news is not for the newspapers any longer. The newspaper cannot give us news; it must give us the experience.

Samir Husni: That’s one of the things that I tell other journalists and all my clients; the day we end up being just content providers is the day that we’re dead. We have to be experience makers.

Andrés Rodríguez: Content providers are easily available; why not, big companies have the money. They will hire 100 journalists and say give me content; I’ll put it on TV, and it could be journalists on TV, why not? But the experience is the thing.

The magazine business will never die; it will never die because a magazine is the voice of a community. And you need that community to be so big that it gives you advertising to make the magazine. And you need to identify new communities. Magazines will never die.

I think in the present and in the future, we will need to publish the best magazines that we can. I used to say that I liked to publish magazines that made people feel sad when they tossed them in the rubbish. And that’s the magazines that I want to publish, and of course, I need to make money every month too. If not, I will be out of business. (Laughs)

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

IMG_1300 Andrés Rodríguez: It’s not true that we live in a very mature market; and it’s also not true that nothing is possible in our market; anything is possible in our Spanish market. The audience is smarter than we are; the readers are smarter than us; they’re faster than we are and they definitely know more than us. And the clients need us, the clients, our advertisers, need good magazines. But we need to be able to explain to them how we can be useful to them, because when clients launch a new product, they hire the best people in the world to launch their product; they hire the best design teams to showcase their products, and they need good magazines to put these products inside of.

We don’t need to be worried about audience; we need to be worried about talent. And I’m absolutely optimistic, even though I suffer every month and every year with my budgets. I want my company to increase and grow and I am very optimistic.

Samir Husni: If I showed up at your house one evening unexpectedly, what would I find you doing? Would you be reading your iPad, or reading a magazine; watching TV?

Andrés Rodríguez: You would find just music playing; you would see a mountain of international magazines sitting around that I don’t have time to read, including magazines that I’m really not interested in, but I check them anyway, and a glass of wine, of course. And I do cut pages out of other magazines. And you would also see pages of the latest issues of my magazines around too, printed and edited with my pen, because I correct all of the pages. Then with my phone I send the corrected pages to my people.

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

Andrés Rodríguez: The budget of the magazines. I’m always thinking about how I’m going to find more money to make these magazines stronger and also to find more free time to come up with new ideas.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Pallet Magazine: One Beer – One Story – The Global Launch Story Of A Magazine With Dual Citizenship – From Australia To The United States.

December 16, 2015

Pallet Is A New Title That Satisfies The Craft Beer Lovers “Palate” Exquisitely – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With The Pallet Team…Rick Bannister & Nadia Saccardo, Founders, Pallet Magazine & Sam Calagione, Founder & President Dogfish Head Brewery & Pallet Executive Editor.

From Australia and The United States With Love and a Glass of Craft Beer…

“I am a big believer that there is this turning point now or in the very near future where people are being reminded of the luxury of reading offline. I know that myself, because when I’m online I have this low level of anxiety that comes with reading online because I feel like I can never get to the end of what’s ahead. There’s just endless information and I’m forever bookmarking things and saying I’ll come back to that later. And I do think there is this return to print and what that brings is you’ve invested some money, say $15, it’s not cheap, you’ve invested the money so you’re going to stop and make some time.” Rick Bannister

“We’re also not interested in objects that are just throwaways. We’ve spent so much time in this content and so much of ourselves; the idea of putting that in a magazine that people would toss and not keep around for a long time as something that they cherished just didn’t sit right.” Nadia Saccardo (on why they wanted the magazine’s production values of the highest quality)

“We see the website as just growing into a community for the people who believe in the magazine and in craft beer and who want to find each other. And that’s why I love the fact that the website isn’t just regurgitated content that we expect people to be holding in their hands; it’s something complementary to that content.” Sam Calagione (on the magazine’s content and the website’s content being totally different)

Pallet A new magazine for people who are “only interested in everything;” Pallet was born from the minds of Nadia Saccardo and Rick Bannister from Australia, joined by the craft beer expertise of Sam Calagione who is founder and president of Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware. Coming from a background of magazines and publishing, Nadia and Rick knew a thing or two about the art of creative magazine making and joined forces with Sam to produce a title that weaves the craft beer culture into just about every topic you could possibly think of, and does it in a most upscale and visually creative way.

I spoke with Sam, Nadia and Rick recently about each one’s respective talent and ability to produce such a thoroughly enjoyable magazine as Pallet. With Nadia and Rick in Australia and Sam and myself in the States, we talked about what it took to collaborate the efforts of the indie beer lover’s magazine to be the catalyst for global knowledge and all-around fun about the world of craft beer.

When you consider the name Pallet was derived from a story that Nadia and Rick had done in a former magazine, Smith Journal, where they both worked at the time, you can see the type of creativeness and talent that the duo has. The pallet being the wooden element that changed the face of global shipping and transportation, but remains an insignificantly understated object, as inconspicuously important as a lock is to a key, yet as Nadia explained, something you wouldn’t look twice at if you walked past it. And if you couple Rick and Nadia’s magazine experience with Sam’s vision and global connections as a craft brewer, one can see why the three came together to produce this superbly understated magazine.

The four of us talked about that subtlety and the visual beauty of the magazine itself, with its high production values and brilliantly-done content. It was an entertaining and exceptionally redolent conversation, robust with humor, information and hope for the magazine’s future.

So, I hope you enjoy this launch story that showcases three very different individuals who came together, each with their own talent, to put together a remarkable magazine that shows sometimes great things begin simply – with one beer and one story; the Mr. Magazine™ interview with the Pallet team, Sam, Nadia and Rick.

But first, the sound-bites:

Rick Sharp On how three people, two from Australia and one from the Unites States got together to create Pallet Magazine (Rick Bannister): Nadia (Saccardo) and I have both been in magazines our entire careers or in media and publishing in one form or another. I personally had worked in magazines for about 12 years and then decided that I wanted to try something different, so I went traveling for 12 months, to the States actually. And that’s where a good friend of mine over there introduced me to craft beer, which I hadn’t really come across in Australia much. My friend was going to do a brewing course in Chicago and I decided to join him. However, it ended up my friend couldn’t make it, but I went. So, I took a detour from making magazines for nearly five years and worked in the craft beer industry in Australia. During that time I started thinking about the fact that there wasn’t a magazine for all of the people who really loved the craft beer culture.

(Nadia Saccardo): Rick had had these great ideas and we decided to investigate it and that turned into, after his road trip to the United States, meeting a lot of people last year in publishing and in the craft brewing industry, and that developed into talking about the potential of this magazine, and it was also when we came down to Delaware and met Sam (Calagione).

On Pallet being more of an upscale magazine and very different from the beer magazines already on the marketplace (Sam Calagione): When I saw the work that Nadia and Rick were doing at Smith Journal and with a couple of my own thoughts about if a person is going to pay premium to have this sort of affordable luxury that they’re sipping on, then it means they’re taking the time to appreciate the finer things in life and they’re obviously enjoying a peaceful, reflective moment when they’re having a beer. And to me the things that complement that thoughtful, peaceful moment of enjoying a beautifully designed beer are two-fold: an awesome album or an awesome magazine. I don’t enjoy reading Kafka or War and Peace when I’m having a beer I want something that I can consume in about the same amount of time that it takes to consume my craft beer.

NADIA_Sharp On how they came up with the name Pallet (Nadia Saccardo):
Rick and I were throwing names back and forth for a while and then we had a story that we published in Smith Journal about the wooden pallet and about how this one very ubiquitous object had transformed the whole nature of global shipping and transportation. And we loved that story because it took a simple object, something that you’d walk past every day and not look at twice, and gave it this depth and history and relevance that was so vital.

On whether anyone ever told them they’d had one craft beer too many when it came to starting a print magazine in today’s world (Rick Bannister):
It is definitely something that a lot of people ask us. And in a lot of ways, it is kind of insane to start a print magazine at this time, but also there is some element of the fact that it’s a great opportunity as well, because as you said Pallet stands out and in a time when there’s less of that stuff, I think you can look at it the other way and see the opportunity.

On how decisions are made for the magazine, such as the cover, design and content (Nadia Saccardo):
We work in a partnership across the entire thing; the design; the production; the ideas; pretty much everything. We have a designer who we work with, Marta Roca, who is brilliant and helps across, obviously, designing the layout and with creative direction, but Rick and I really read the content in partnership. Rick is incredible. Most of the ideas come from his brain and then they roll out and get stuck into the words and the structural editing of the publication.

On any plans to incorporate the magazine into the Dogfish Head brewery business (Sam Calagione):
That’s actually not far from the truth. I go to Australia in a few weeks to do some Pallet events and while the magazine launch is in the U.S., I think we all are hopeful, because the craft beer phenomenon isn’t just happening in the U.S.; adventurous, independent, small artful breweries are exploding globally, hot pockets of gold, including Australia, New Zealand, Scandinavia, Italy and Canada. We’re hopeful that there’s a global appetite for Pallet and that sort of second phase as you alluded to for us is that while we’re down in Australia we’re doing a collaborative beer between Dogfish and Nomad Brewing in the Sydney area. And Pallet will be a sort of a business card in liquid form for the philosophy and the global stance of the magazine.

SamCalagione2 On whether Sam sees himself now as the ambassador of craft beer and Pallet Magazine as the nation that will unite that corner of the world (Sam Calagione):
I do see it like that and beer is not equal to armament; it’s fun. And the content and design and our intentions should come from a place that’s thought-provoking, but also there’s real whimsy in it; we’re beer geeks, we’re not beer snobs. We’re not trying to show our beer prowess to lord over other people.

On whether the magazine is available in Australia or just the United States for now (Nadia Saccardo):
At the moment this edition on shelves is just available in North America, but we’re looking to expand internationally fairly quickly. We’ve had a lot of demand for Pallet in Australia, but also in the U.K. and Japan.

On the production values of the magazine and how the feel of the paper is important (Rick Bannister):
I think when you’re paying premium for anything; it’s good to have perceptions of value that go beyond the normal. A change in stock is a subtle thing in a lot of ways, but if you’re a person who’s into this kind of stuff, you’ll get a little kick out of that. And it’s the same with the dust jacket on the cover; it’s a visual cue that maybe this is something more like a book, there’s an element to this that’s more than a magazine.

On the fact that the website and the print magazine will have entirely different content (Rick Bannister):
Yes, that’s right. What we’ve noticed with other magazines and their websites is that quite often the website is just reflective of the magazine. And to us, that seemed to diminish the idea that what you have in print is special.

On what motivates Sam to get out of bed in the mornings (Sam Calagione):
For me, honestly, when I travel to Australia and have to put on my customs form what I do; I’m always so proud to write that my vocation is a brewer first and a businessman second. Really, to me, the word brewer is just a more specific term for an artist and I don’t say that I’m a world-class artist; I’m just a person who loves brewing whatever my creativity brings me and I know that I’m very lucky that I can make my livelihood around my creative drive. And for me, those most creative moments come from collaborating with other creative people.

On whether Sam, as a brewer, thinks the first issue of Pallet is the perfect brew (Sam Calagione):
(Laughs) The other form of Pallet is in our mouths and we’re all individuals and we all have different palates and that’s why there’s not one beer that appeals to everyone and that’s why there won’t be just one issue of Pallet that is perfect. I love the first issue, but I can’t wait to see where our creative journey takes us with each future issue.

On what motivates Nadia to get out of bed in the mornings (Nadia Saccardo):
In creating something like Pallet, the thing that does get me out of bed in the mornings is working with the team that I get to work with and also the opportunity that the magazine provides to connect with anyone and anything that I’m interested in basically.

On whether the future of magazine making is doing so from varied parts of the world and not confined to one office (Nadia Saccardo):
Rick and I laugh about it a lot. Pallet and none of the magazines that we have created, which have been beautiful, tangible printed things, could have existed without Skype. We’re on Skype together every day and we were when we were making Smith as well. Without technology, there would be no way we could create these old-world type printed things, which is very cool.

On what motivates Rick to get out of bed in the mornings (Rick Bannister): Mostly my kids jumping on me. (Laughs) Similar stuff to what these guys have said. As well as working in magazines, I’ve also taken breaks from working in magazines, because I’ve had these crazy ideas that I wanted to do other jobs. From time to time I’d say to myself, no, I just want to do a 9-5 job, so I’d go and become a baggage handler at the airport. One of the things that I think is a reminder for me when you get to work in those type jobs is you remember to get up, and even on the worst day ever of making a magazine, it’s still a far greater day than if you’re throwing bags on a plane, I can tell you that. What’s that old cliché? The worst day fishing is better than the best day working?

On what keeps Nadia up at night (Nadia Saccardo):
The thing about making a magazine, it’s very different from reading a magazine. It’s not a glamourous profession at all. The business is all-consuming and we’re doing everything ourselves, from distribution to managing the printing to organizing sales and creating content and working on design, just everything. And running the business and making sure that we’re invoicing on time and all of that. So really, there’s a whirlpool of different things that keep me up at night. But it’s definitely worth it because so far it’s been such a cool journey.

On what keeps Rick up at night (Rick Bannister): I’m in the same boat as Nadia. It’s usually just silly things or small things like worrying about whether a photo shoot is going to come off the way you want it to or worrying about getting enough ad sales; I guess it’s just all of that normal startup business concerns, whether it’s magazines or anything else.

On what keeps Sam up at night (Sam Calagione): My reasons are a little bit different because Nadia and Rick are the ones that have to set the economic component of running Pallet and I get the pleasure of thinking about the creative and editorial content and obviously, they think a lot about that too, but that distinguishes me with the luxury of not having as much of an economic and business and operational component of running the publication. So, in the context of Pallet what keeps me up at night is an occasional idea for a new story and jotting that down or thinking about a story idea that maybe Rick or Nadia brought to me. It’s all the fun stuff that keeps me up, in terms of Pallet.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with the Pallet team, Sam Calagione, Nadia Saccardo & Rick Bannister.

Samir Husni: I’m someone who’s “only interested in everything,” as your tagline states, so tell me how three people, two from Australia and one from the United States got together to create Pallet Magazine; where did the idea come from?

Pallet Rick Bannister: Nadia (Saccardo) and I have both been in magazines our entire careers or in media and publishing in one form or another. I personally had worked in magazines for about 12 years and then decided that I wanted to try something different, so I went traveling for 12 months, to the States actually. And that’s where a good friend of mine over there introduced me to craft beer, which I hadn’t really come across in Australia much. My friend was going to do a brewing course in Chicago and I decided to join him. However, it ended up my friend couldn’t make it, but I went.

So, I took a detour from making magazines for nearly five years and worked in the craft beer industry in Australia. During that time I started thinking about the fact that there wasn’t a magazine for all of the people who really loved the craft beer culture.

Well, at the end of those five years I had the opportunity to go back and work in magazines and that’s where I ended up working with Nadia. We worked together for about a year maybe and then the company that we were working for was sold.

So Nadia and I were at loose ends and that’s when we started kicking around some ideas. I asked her about the beer mag idea and it was Nadia who really encouraged it from there and said it was worth chasing.

Nadia Saccardo: We had a bunch of ideas and all of them seem to have a craft beer thread running through them. And so we pinpointed that we’d like to do something with craft beer. My background is in publishing; I worked online in digital for a while and I’ve been in magazines at Smith Journal and Frankie Press.

Rick had had these great ideas and we decided to investigate it and that turned into, after his road trip to the United States, meeting a lot of people last year in publishing and in the craft brewing industry, and that developed into talking about the potential of this magazine, and it was also when we came down to Delaware and met Sam (Calagione).

Rick Bannister: I should backtrack a little bit because it was Nadia who had the idea of reaching out to Sam. We were kind of inspired by Lucky Peach and David Chang is, I guess you’d call him a bit of a champion of the magazine. And so Nadia had the idea of finding out whom the person was in beer that was kind of like Lucky Peach’s David Chang. And straightaway we thought of Sam and with the whole ethos of what we were trying to do, this “only interested in everything” mentality; Sam was just the obvious guy who seemed to embody that spirit and philosophy.

A true connection in craft beer land; we just cold-called him, or cold-emailed him anyway, and being the generous guy he is, he said the idea sounded interesting and he asked to talk some more about it. We ended up landing on his doorstep and having a beer and chatting about it. And here we are.

Samir Husni: Sam, whose idea was it to do the magazine very differently from the other craft and beer magazines on the marketplace? Pallet is more upscale literarily, visually, typographically, and in an all-appealing way that by far stands apart from the competition.

Sam Calagione: Thank you, Samir. In a getting to know each other phase, Nadia and Rick sent me a box with copies of Smith Journal in it. And as a global magazine expert; I’m sure you’d be as equally impressed with that as I was, both from a design standpoint and a content standpoint.

Compared to you I’m a neophyte, but I’ve been kind of obsessed with magazines from an early age, and growing up my parents subscribed to Forbes and Sports Illustrated and I had an older sister who also subscribed to Sassy Magazine, which was kind of ahead of its time in having a very irreverent and DIY voice and fairly design-forward for a mass media magazine. And then in college Art Forum and The New Yorker. So, I’ve been obsessed with magazines as an English major and a bit of a writer myself for a long time.

So, when I saw the work that Nadia and Rick were doing at Smith Journal and with a couple of my own thoughts about if a person is going to pay premium to have this sort of affordable luxury that they’re sipping on, then it means they’re taking the time to appreciate the finer things in life and they’re obviously enjoying a peaceful, reflective moment when they’re having a beer. And to me the things that complement that thoughtful, peaceful moment of enjoying a beautifully designed beer are two-fold: an awesome album or an awesome magazine. I don’t enjoy reading Kafka or War and Peace when I’m having a beer I want something that I can consume in about the same amount of time that it takes to consume my craft beer.

And with the magazines that are out there; some of them are great and some of them are just OK, but they literally have long-format stories that can be a 20 or 30 minute experience, which to me is about the right amount of time to sip on a beer and read something thought-provoking and provocative.

Samir Husni: Can all of you recall that moment of conception when all the planets aligned and the light bulb went off and everyone said let’s call it Pallet? How did the name come about?

Nadia Saccardo: Rick and I were throwing names back and forth for a while and then we had a story that we published in Smith Journal about the wooden pallet and about how this one very ubiquitous object had transformed the whole nature of global shipping and transportation. And we loved that story because it took a simple object, something that you’d walk past every day and not look at twice, and gave it this depth and history and relevance that was so vital.

So, when we were thinking about this magazine and throwing around names, I remembered that story and asked Rick what about Pallet? And the more that we thought about it, the more we thought OK, that works. It goes back to something that we love that’s very simple and that still had the connection with beer. It’s a play on words in many ways, which also worked for us too. After a time, we sort of realized that we were stuck with it.

Samir Husni: Did anyone tell you guys that you’d had one too many craft beers when you decided to launch a print magazine in a digital age?

(Everyone laughs).

Sam Calagione: I’ve been asked that, Samir, and as someone who has studied the industry for as long as you have, what are your thoughts about the long-term viability of print, and particularly magazines like Pallet, or Pitchfork Review? They’re going after a younger reader with what’s considered a format that some people would say is a format of past generations; what are your thoughts on that?

Samir Husni: If you saw my recent quotes in the Columbia Journalism Review; I resigned my position as Chairman of the Journalism Department here at the University of Mississippi in 2009 to start the Magazine Innovation Center with the tagline “Amplifying the Future of Print in a Digital Age.” And to me as long as we have human beings, we’re going to have print. We love that collectability factor, that ownership factor, that membership factor and the showmanship of it all. If I’m reading something on my iPad, no one sitting next to me on the plane will know what I’m reading. How can I show off and say, hey look, I’m reading a $14.95 Pallet Magazine, this is not a cheap, disposable item? (Laughs)

(Everyone laughs too).

Rick Bannister: That’s a good point. It is definitely something that a lot of people ask us. And in a lot of ways, it is kind of insane to start a print magazine at this time, but also there is some element of the fact that it’s a great opportunity as well, because as you said Pallet stands out and in a time when there’s less of that stuff, I think you can look at it the other way and see the opportunity.

And I am a big believer that there is this turning point now or in the very near future where people are being reminded of the luxury of reading offline. I know that myself, because when I’m online I have this low level of anxiety that comes with reading online because I feel like I can never get to the end of what’s ahead. There’s just endless information and I’m forever bookmarking things and saying I’ll come back to that later. And I do think there is this return to print and what that brings is you’ve invested some money, say $15, it’s not cheap, you’ve invested the money so you’re going to stop and make some time. So, I think all of these things coming to light; it’s good timing for it in some ways.

Samir Husni: Nadia, are you more of the editor; the designer; or the creative person? For example, who decided on the cover of the first issue to introduce Pallet to the marketplace, or even the tagline: only interested in everything? And then inside you read the editorial and it states that this is a magazine for people who like to think and drink.

Nadia Saccardo: We work in a partnership across the entire thing; the design; the production; the ideas; pretty much everything. We have a designer who we work with, Marta Roca, who is brilliant and helps across, obviously, designing the layout and with creative direction, but Rick and I really read the content in partnership. Rick is incredible. Most of the ideas come from his brain and then they roll out and get stuck into the words and the structural editing of the publication.

So, it’s really a partnership between the two of us and also Sam, in terms of the flow and the ideas of the publication and contributing his pace as well to each issue.

Samir Husni: Sam, what are your plans when it comes to taking this magazine even one step further; are we going to start seeing on the craft beer that your company produces an offer to subscribe to Pallet?

Sam Calagione: That’s actually not far from the truth. I go to Australia in a few weeks to do some Pallet events and while the magazine launch is in the U.S., I think we all are hopeful, because the craft beer phenomenon isn’t just happening in the U.S.; adventurous, independent, small artful breweries are exploding globally, hot pockets of gold, including Australia, New Zealand, Scandinavia, Italy and Canada.

We’re hopeful that there’s a global appetite for Pallet and that sort of second phase as you alluded to for us is that while we’re down in Australia we’re doing a collaborative beer between Dogfish and Nomad Brewing in the Sydney area. And Pallet will be a sort of a business card in liquid form for the philosophy and the global stance of the magazine.

My contribution, besides creative input to the content when we have meetings before every issue to talk about that, and I’m glad to have a voice in that process, but also my contribution is a global outreach because I’ve done a Discovery channel show that aired in around 40 countries and because I’ve brewed collaborative beers with my friends in 11 different countries. And I’m lucky to have forged these global relationships with other brewers so that when Nadia and Rick suggest doing an article on beers that have been inspired by Breaking Bad, and they ask who I know in Canada, I can put out my bat signal to my friends around the globe and do that outreach for almost any creative story that we want to consider.

I have both the role of executive editor and writer, not always, but I intend to contribute short pieces, but also I have the role of that sort of global steward that keeps the magazine connected to the brewing community globally.

Samir Husni: So Sam, you see yourself now as the ambassador for craft beer, where Pallet is going to be the nation that unites all of these countries?

Sam Calagione: I do see it like that and beer is not equal to armament; it’s fun. And the content and design and our intentions should come from a place that’s thought-provoking, but also there’s real whimsy in it; we’re beer geeks, we’re not beer snobs. We’re not trying to show our beer prowess to lord over other people.

There’s going to be some content in this magazine that’s very specific to what’s exciting and creative about the world of beer and it’s not going to be influenced by the juggernauts that dominate the beer world with the advertising messages that sometimes run into editorial. This magazine is for indie beer lovers and the content isn’t always going to be about beer, but it’s content that has been curated through the lens of what beer lover’s want to read about in addition to wanting to read about beer.

Samir Husni: Are you going to launch Pallet in Australia or is it already available there? Or is it only available here in the United States for now?

Nadia Saccardo: At the moment this edition on shelves is just available in North America, but we’re looking to expand internationally fairly quickly. We’ve had a lot of demand for Pallet in Australia, but also in the U.K. and Japan.

Samir Husni: The choice for the paper reminded me somehow of Monocle; you’re using the matte paper and you’re using the glossy paper. How is the feel of the magazine important?

Rick Bannister: I think when you’re paying premium for anything; it’s good to have perceptions of value that go beyond the normal. A change in stock is a subtle thing in a lot of ways, but if you’re a person who’s into this kind of stuff, you’ll get a little kick out of that. And it’s the same with the dust jacket on the cover; it’s a visual cue that maybe this is something more like a book, there’s an element to this that’s more than a magazine.

Our printers tried to talk us out of making it such high quality many times. They told us it would be expensive and make the magazine heavy and they said that we didn’t need to have it like this. And that’s the printer. I thought that they would want us to spend more money with them.

But we wanted something that felt special to us and that’s where it all comes from really. And we hope that other people will appreciate the same thing.

Nadia Saccardo: We’re also not interested in objects that are just throwaways. We’ve spent so much time in this content and so much of ourselves; the idea of putting that in a magazine that people would toss and not keep around for a long time as something that they cherished just didn’t sit right.

Also, the waste, as you probably know, in the print and magazine industry is pretty dire and not something that we’re interested in contributing to, so if we can help by creating an object, as well as a great read, in hopes that people will hang onto it and keep it on their shelves for a long time and that’s a good thing.

Samir Husni: One thing that I keep telling anyone who is willing to listen is that we are much more than information; if ink on paper is just about content, we would have been dead a long time ago. We are about that lasting impression.

Nadia Saccardo: Yes, make it a nice thing with beautiful paper. It makes perfect sense.

Samir Husni: Is there anything else either of you would like to add? I read somewhere that none of the magazine’s content will be available on the website, is that right?

Rick Bannister: Yes, that’s right. What we’ve noticed with other magazines and their websites is that quite often the website is just reflective of the magazine. And to us, that seemed to diminish the idea that what you have in print is special.

We also saw the web as an opportunity. Websites work in such different ways and people consume information in such different ways that we took some time to think about that and came up with the idea that our content is that be-one-is-one story and is much more visually-driven and about small bits of information, but also builds this kind of global tapestry of this culture. You can see them and the website is complementary to the mag. We didn’t want to just roll out the same stuff.

Sam Calagione: Also we see the website as just growing into a community for the people who believe in the magazine and in craft beer and who want to find each other. And that’s why I love the fact that the website isn’t just regurgitated content that we expect people to be holding in their hands; it’s something complementary to that content.

Samir Husni: Sam, what motivates you to get out of bed in the mornings?

Sam Calagione: For me, honestly, when I travel to Australia and have to put on my customs form what I do; I’m always so proud to write that my vocation is a brewer first and a businessman second. Really, to me, the word brewer is just a more specific term for an artist and I don’t say that I’m a world-class artist; I’m just a person who loves brewing whatever my creativity brings me and I know that I’m very lucky that I can make my livelihood around my creative drive. And for me, those most creative moments come from collaborating with other creative people. Making that connection with people is why we’re here.

So, I see Pallet as another important layer of the awesome opportunity that I have to make my career and my vocation and my avocation, all the same thing, and to create and it be my livelihood.

Samir Husni: Do you think as a brewer, the first issue of Pallet is the perfect brew?

Sam Calagione: (Laughs) The other form of Pallet is in our mouths and we’re all individuals and we all have different palates and that’s why there’s not one beer that appeals to everyone and that’s why there won’t be just one issue of Pallet that is perfect. I love the first issue, but I can’t wait to see where our creative journey takes us with each future issue.

Samir Husni: Nadia, what motivates you to get out of bed in the mornings?

Nadia Saccardo: Well, some mornings it’s coffee. (Laughs) I started out in online publishing in city guides because I loved my city and I was really curious about finding interesting spaces and then I moved into print. It’s interesting when people showcase their spaces and also create objects that communicate their stories and resonate with other people.

And now in creating something like Pallet, the thing that does get me out of bed in the mornings is working with the team that I get to work with and also the opportunity that the magazine provides to connect with anyone and anything that I’m interested in basically.

It’s just an amazing thing to be able to sit down and speak to people and find out what makes them tick and also to highlight people who have done some incredible things and maybe would never get any recognition from other media sources, but will get to extract and connect with our audience. And that gives me a natural buzz. It’s an amazing responsibility in many ways, but it’s definitely what drives me.

Samir Husni: And are you based in Sydney or Melbourne?

Nadia Saccardo: I’m in Melbourne at the moment. I’m kind of drifting between Melbourne and the States.

Samir Husni: Rick, are you also in Melbourne?

Rick Bannister: No, I’m up near a place called Byron Bay, so it’s Northern New South Wales. It’s way out in the country.

Samir Husni: Technically, the three of you are in three different corners of the world, is this the future of magazine editing? Is this the future; you know, where we don’t need to have a central office on Madison Avenue in New York City, we can create a beautiful and lovely magazine from anywhere?

Nadia Saccardo: Rick and I laugh about it a lot. Pallet and none of the magazines that we have created, which have been beautiful, tangible printed things, could have existed without Skype. We’re on Skype together every day and we were when we were making Smith as well. Without technology, there would be no way we could create these old-world type printed things, which is very cool.

Samir Husni: It’s amazing. Putting today’s technology to use to create an old technology. Rick, what motivates you to get out of bed in the mornings?

Rick Bannister: Mostly my kids jumping on me. (Laughs) Similar stuff to what these guys have said. As well as working in magazines, I’ve also taken breaks from working in magazines, because I’ve had these crazy ideas that I wanted to do other jobs. From time to time I’d say to myself, no, I just want to do a 9-5 job, so I’d go and become a baggage handler at the airport. Or I’d go and become a laborer on a building site. And I’d always only last about 2 or 3 months.

I did this even last year when I went and worked in a food factory. One of the things that I think is a reminder for me when you get to work in those type jobs is you remember to get up, and even on the worst day ever of making a magazine, it’s still a far greater day than if you’re throwing bags on a plane, I can tell you that. What’s that old cliché? The worst day fishing is better than the best day working? It’s kind of that ethos. It’s not hard to get out of bed when all you’re going to do is talk to people you like and use your brain and be able to go and have coffee whenever you want.

Samir Husni: My typical last question and we’ll start with you, Nadia; what keeps you up at night?

Nadia Saccardo: Where do I start? The thing about making a magazine, it’s very different from reading a magazine. It’s not a glamourous profession at all. The business is all-consuming and we’re doing everything ourselves, from distribution to managing the printing to organizing sales and creating content and working on design, just everything. And running the business and making sure that we’re invoicing on time and all of that. So really, there’s a whirlpool of different things that keep me up at night. But it’s definitely worth it because so far it’s been such a cool journey. Also being on this side of the world, the interview times are terrible so they often keep me up at night.

Samir Husni: Rick, what keeps you up at night?

Rick Bannister: I’m in the same boat as Nadia. It’s usually just silly things or small things like worrying about whether a photo shoot is going to come off the way you want it to or worrying about getting enough ad sales; I guess it’s just all of that normal startup business concerns, whether it’s magazines or anything else.

We officially started in August, so we’re just in that stage where we’re still fighting for survival. There are just a lot of things to worry about.

Samir Husni: And Sam, what about you?

Sam Calagione: My reasons are a little bit different because Nadia and Rick are the ones that have to set the economic component of running Pallet and I get the pleasure of thinking about the creative and editorial content and obviously, they think a lot about that too, but that distinguishes me with the luxury of not having as much of an economic and business and operational component of running the publication.

So, in the context of Pallet what keeps me up at night is an occasional idea for a new story and jotting that down or thinking about a story idea that maybe Rick or Nadia brought to me. It’s all the fun stuff that keeps me up, in terms of Pallet.

Then of course, the business stuff that has to do with my own brewery and the 230 co-workers that I have at Dogfish Head and that’s where I have to worry about the economic and financial operational stuff. That’s really not what keeps me up; that’s what wakes me up about halfway through the night. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you all.

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Sabor Magazine: One Young Man’s Curiosity Puts A New Twist On A Food Magazine & Begins His Magazine Journey – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Sabor Founder, Fermin Albert

December 11, 2015

“I think they both (print and digital) have their own advantages, but with print you feel more relaxed and I have to tell you the truth; I only read news digitally, but I really don’t have the time to read long stories onscreen. It’s nice, but I don’t have the time; it’s tiresome. But in print, I love to read the longer stories. And I think that’s the advantage of print; you just relax. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true. I’m more relaxed when I have a hard copy; it’s so tactile.” Fermin Albert


A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story from the Netherlands…

Sabor 1-1 (2) This is a launch story about a young man with a twinkle in his eye and a dream in his heart. It’s about one of those rogue believers who actually thinks passion for magazines and a strong work ethic can make that dream come true. It’s a story about a genuine magazine maker; one that really sums up what magazines and the art of storytelling and design are all about: the fervor of one’s dream.

Fermin Albert grew up on a small Dutch island called Curacao. He loved magazines from the time he was a very young boy (sounded very familiar to Mr. Magazine™). He tried his hand at his dream several years ago with a Dutch version of the superb magazine that he’s publishing today called Sabor. Unfortunately, several years ago didn’t seem to be the right time for him and as odd as it sounds, since Dutch is his native language, maybe not the right audience for what his dream produced.

Today, Sabor is an amazing contribution to the food category that is uniquely different from everything else, a plump, juicy, ripe tomato growing in a field of corn. Not that the corn isn’t equally as delicious as the tomato; it’s just that the tomato is such a pleasant surprise to happen upon when one is out harvesting corn.

I spoke with Fermin recently about his latest print endeavor and I must say, I haven’t laughed so much in a very long time. Fermin paralleled my own reasons for loving magazines, in so many ways. His sense of humor was contagious and his passion familiar. It was indeed a joyful conversation.

We talked about those early days, when his hope was that a magazine could flourish just on one’s tenacious belief in it alone. Then we moved into the realities of finance and distribution and all of the other stars that must be aligned in order to get one’s dream out of one’s head and onto newsstands.

So, I hope that you enjoy this most delightful interview with a young man who will definitely bring a smile to your lips, but maybe also a resurgence of a dream that you once had. And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Fermin Albert, Founder, Sabor Magazine.

But first, the sound-bites:

Fermin Portrait_cropped On whether the Dutch edition of Sabor that he began in 2012 is still being published: No, I stopped the Dutch issue. The reason I started the Dutch issue is that I wanted to publish it just like the big houses do it. I started with 35,000 copies and the distribution was a mess. (Laughs) I discovered a lot of things along the way like you have to pay to stay in the shops. (Laughs again) And that was a big disappointment to find that out and I just couldn’t maintain the magazine, so I had to trim down and I decided to go with a digital issue just as a test to see how it would work out.

On the early reaction he’s received on the relaunch of Sabor in print:
It’s been very positive. Every reaction that I have received has been extremely positive, which is great, but I want to be challenged. Positive reactions are nice, but some days you just need some hard feedback.

On his background and how he became interested in the magazine business:
My passion for magazines started when I was really young. I remember that I had friends whose parents traveled every week to Miami and they used to bring a lot of magazines back with them: People, Vanity Fair and many others. And I really liked those magazines and I would sit and read them for hours. I grew up in a family of printers; we were in the printing business, but we weren’t doing anything with magazines or anything like that. We didn’t really have the resources to publish a magazine because I’m originally from a small island that’s part of the Dutch kingdom. Resources are limited there and the market is also very limited for publishing a nice magazine.

On the concept of the magazine:
Sabor was intended to be a service magazine, service-driven, just like your typical Bon Appetit Magazine. That was the idea when my partner asked me, why we didn’t do a magazine together, because initially I had wanted to do travel and business magazines. But my life-partner suggested we do a culinary magazine together, a service magazine. I wasn’t really interested because I’m not a foodie. And that’s why Sabor is also different, because it’s all about my own take on the food world, what I’ve seen and discovered.

On the concept of the logo – the letter “O” in the title with two bites taken out of it: The new logo is a combination of imageries that I had in mind for the cover, and doing something that I didn’t set out to do. I had been working on several logo concepts before, but they were too delicate or to serious to appeal to a younger audience. In my mind the new logo needed to be fresh. Dissatisfied with previous concepts, I decided to start playing with bolder typefaces. I found a perfect one that looked kind of doughy — and looked very inviting to take a bite into it.

On what drives him, being a creative director, a journalist, writer, or all of them: It’s a combination of all. Every story you see in the magazine, I come up with the ideas for, and then I find the writers to write those stories. And usually they’re experts in that particular field, which is something that I’m adamant about.

On what motivates him to believe that he’ll be making magazines for the rest if his life: I think it’s trying to stay informed with the right information. That’s something that I’m truly passionate about. My big dream is to diversify in the media. My dream would be to have a new site, something news-driven, with information that’s clear. I think news can be terribly biased and that’s what really drives me.

On whether print has an advantage over digital or vice versa:
I think they both have their own advantages, but with print you feel more relaxed and I have to tell you the truth; I only read news digitally, but I really don’t have the time to read long stories onscreen. It’s nice, but I don’t have the time; it’s tiresome. But in print, I love to read the longer stories.

On his life-partner’s reaction when the first issue came out:
Excited, definitely. I was disappointed. (Laughs) I was disappointed.

On why he was disappointed:
I think it was a long, upheld journey, especially when you’re independent. We were supposed to come out in the summer, but my main feature dropped out, so I had to restructure the whole magazine, from March to July. And I think in the restructuring it lost a lot of energy.

On what advice he would give a young entrepreneur about starting their own magazine:
That’s a tough one, because I’ve been discouraged a lot and I wouldn’t want to discourage them. If they have what it takes, I would say just follow the journey and do it. Just do it. And experience it for themselves and if they have the tenacity that will be good, because I didn’t have anyone to help me; I worked hard and my life-partner worked hard. But if they really want it; go for it.

On what keeps him up at night:
Everything. (Laughs) I can’t lie about that. That’s a bad habit of mine; I tend to worry a lot, even about little things. But concerning Sabor, I would say, are people loving it? With the first issue you don’t have any idea about the distribution and sales; it’s crazy how the distribution is. You have to wait months to get any idea how the magazine is doing.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Fermin Albert, Founder, Sabor Magazine.

Samir Husni: Back in 2012, you published two issues of Sabor.


Fermin Albert: Yes, I did, in Dutch.

Samir Husni: Is the Dutch edition still going?

SABOR 2 Fermin Albert: No, I stopped the Dutch issue. The reason I started the Dutch issue is that I wanted to publish it just like the big houses do it. I started with 35,000 copies and the distribution was a mess. (Laughs) I discovered a lot of things along the way like you have to pay to stay in the shops. (Laughs again) And that was a big disappointment to find that out and I just couldn’t maintain the magazine, so I had to trim down and I decided to go with a digital issue just as a test to see how it would work out. After that, I received some positive reactions and so I decided to relaunch it again as a hard copy.

Samir Husni: You’ve done a great job. The first issue is very well done. What has been the early reaction since the magazine hit the market again?

Fermin Albert: It’s been very positive. Every reaction that I have received has been extremely positive, which is great, but I want to be challenged. Positive reactions are nice, but some days you just need some hard feedback. I don’t think it’s perfect; there’s no way the first issue can be that perfect, but I haven’t gotten any harsh feedback yet.

Samir Husni: Tell me a little bit about Fermin Albert. What got you into the magazine business?

sabor 2-2 (2) Fermin Albert: My passion for magazines started when I was really young. I remember that I had friends whose parents traveled every week to Miami and they used to bring a lot of magazines back with them: People, Vanity Fair and many others. And I really liked those magazines and I would sit and read them for hours. So, I guess that was the real beginning of my passion for magazines.

I grew up in a family of printers; we were in the printing business, but we weren’t doing anything with magazines or anything like that. We didn’t really have the resources to publish a magazine because I’m originally from a small island that’s part of the Dutch kingdom. Resources are limited there and the market is also very limited for publishing a nice magazine.

Samir Husni: What’s the name of the island that you’re from?

Fermin Albert: It’s Curacao. So, when I started studying in the Netherlands in 2000; I started researching the magazine industry and I think it was around that time that I discovered your blog as well. I’ve been following you since then.

And I tried very hard to publish a magazine, but getting the capital was hard. It’s very expensive. I couldn’t manage to find any fools to publish my endeavor. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Fermin Albert: After saving a lot, I manage to publish the first issues of Sabor. And before that I tried a lot of other publications, but they never really took off.

Samir Husni: With this hefty first issue, technically you didn’t leave anything out; if you can eat it, touch it or smell it; it’s in the magazine. Tell me about the concept of Sabor and the logo, with two bites taken out of the letter “O”.

Fermin Albert: Sabor was intended to be a service magazine, service-driven, just like your typical Bon Appetit Magazine. That was the idea when my partner asked me, why we didn’t do a magazine together, because initially I had wanted to do travel and business magazines. But my life-partner suggested we do a culinary magazine together, a service magazine. I wasn’t really interested because I’m not a foodie. And that’s why Sabor is also different, because it’s all about my own take on the food world and my curiosity, what I’ve seen and discovered.

sabor 3-4 (2) Sabor is a learning process; what I learn along the way, I publish this as well. So, the concept grew from a service-driven magazine to a more literary magazine. And the literary came about with Darra Goldstein from Gastronomica. I sent her an email asking her would she like to contribute a content-driven memoir to Sabor and the way that I explained it to her she said that she liked my idea for a journal. (Laughs) Of course, it wasn’t intended to be a journal.

Samir Husni: (Laughs too). That was a polite way of telling you that she didn’t want competition.

Fermin Albert: (Continues laughing). But she did it anyway. So, I thought if people are taking me that seriously, why not go all the way with it. So, I transformed Sabor. As I said, it’s my own curiosity and I love doing it.

Samir Husni: And the concept of the logo?

Fermin Albert: The new logo is a combination of imageries that I had in mind for the cover, and doing something that I didn’t set out to do. I had been working on several logo concepts before, but they were too delicate or to serious to appeal to a younger audience. In my mind the new logo needed to be fresh. Dissatisfied with previous concepts, I decided to start playing with bolder typefaces. I found a perfect one that looked kind of doughy — and looked very inviting to take a bite into it. Combined with cover concepts that I had mocking-up, of which all had teeth and sultry lips…well, eventually everything came together, just naturally, you might say.

Samir Husni: What drives you, Fermin? Are you more of the creative art director, or are you the journalist, the writer, or is it a combination of all of the above?

Fermin Albert: It’s a combination of all. Every story you see in the magazine, I come up with the ideas for, and then I find the writers to write those stories. And usually they’re experts in that particular field, which is something that I’m adamant about. I really try to go to historians and professors, at least to the source. I wouldn’t hire a blogger to write a historical piece; instead I would go right to the source.

Samir Husni: Do you consider yourself now an independent publisher in the Netherlands?

Fermin Albert: (Laughs) Independent I am, yes, but I’m not established yet.

Samir Husni: What makes you tick and click and motivates you to believe that you’re going to spend your life doing this; making magazines?

Fermin Albert: I think it’s trying to stay informed with the right information. That’s something that I’m truly passionate about. My big dream is to diversify in the media. My dream would be to have a new site, something news-driven, with information that’s clear. I think news can be terribly biased and that’s what really drives me.

And with the magazine, I may drive some of my writer’s crazy, but the facts have to right. They have to be correct and that really drives me.

Samir Husni: Do you think that’s an advantage of print over digital? That in print, we can’t afford mistakes, but with digital we see a lot of mistakes?

Fermin Albert: Of course. I think they both have their own advantages, but with print you feel more relaxed and I have to tell you the truth; I only read news digitally, but I really don’t have the time to read long stories onscreen. It’s nice, but I don’t have the time; it’s tiresome. But in print, I love to read the longer stories. And I think that’s the advantage of print; you just relax. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true. I’m more relaxed when I have a hard copy; it’s so tactile.

Samir Husni: When the first issue of the magazine came out, what was your life-partner’s reaction?

Fermin Albert: Excited, definitely. I was disappointed. (Laughs) I was disappointed.

Samir Husni: Why?

Fermin Albert: I think it was a long, upheld journey, especially when you’re independent. We were supposed to come out in the summer, but my main feature dropped out, so I had to restructure the whole magazine, from March to July. And I think in the restructuring it lost a lot of energy. I think it’s only natural though after a long process to be tired.

Samir Husni: And what’s next?

Fermin Albert: The second issue, of course. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: When is the second issue coming out?

Fermin Albert: It’s due June 2016. It’s biannual.

Samir Husni: What advice would you give a young entrepreneur, such as yourself; if they had an idea they’re passionate about and wanted to start their own magazine? And I don’t want to guestimate your age, but you’re young.

Fermin Albert: I’m in my mid-30s.

Samir Husni: So, if someone in their 20s came to you for advice about starting their own magazine, what would you tell them?

Fermin Albert: That’s a tough one, because I’ve been discouraged a lot and I wouldn’t want to discourage them. If they have what it takes, I would say just follow the journey and do it. Just do it. And experience it for themselves and if they have the tenacity that will be good, because I didn’t have anyone to help me; I worked hard and my life-partner worked hard. But if they really want it; go for it. Some people think I’m crazy, but Sabor is my stepping-stone to hopefully bigger projects.

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

Fermin Albert: Everything. (Laughs) I can’t lie about that. That’s a bad habit of mine; I tend to worry a lot, even about little things. But concerning Sabor, I would say, are people loving it? With the first issue you don’t have any idea about the distribution and sales; it’s crazy how the distribution is. You have to wait months to get any idea how the magazine is doing. And I worry a lot about that.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

BurdaInternational: Bringing The World Of Magazines and Magazine Media To A Global Audience – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Frances Evans, Director of International Licensing & Advertising, Burda Media

November 20, 2015

From Germany with love…

“I really like magazine media. I’ve loved it forever. And I really want our brands to succeed and I believe that magazine media is an excellent platform to reach consumers because it’s trusted quality brands that they love and I like to be in that value chain.” Frances Evans

IMG_9545 Burda Media is a German magazine publishing company that started back in 1898 and BurdaInternational, one of its subsidiaries, currently publishes different magazines in 20 markets internationally. They are the licensures for brands such as Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Elle and many others throughout the world.

Frances Evans is the Director of International Licensing & Advertising with Burda and also a woman who is passionate about innovation and all of the brands that she handles and works with. From Asia to the U.K., Frances has her finger on the pulse of what’s going on around the globe with each of her titles, providing support, encouragement, innovation education and a strong team spirit that reverberates back to each and every member of Burda’s wide-reaching family and the audiences that love their magazines deeply.

I spoke with Frances during the FIPP Congress last month in Toronto, Canada, and we talked about Burda and the many titles they have. About the support and open communication she gets from the powers-that-be at the top of the company chain and how much she loves magazines and her job. It was a truly delightful conversation.

So, sit back, relax and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who knows her way around the globe and also around the world of magazine media, Frances Evans, Director of International Licensing & Advertising, Burda Media.

But first, the sound-bites:


IMG_9543 On an introduction to BurdaInternational:
BurdaInternational is a subsidiary of Burda Media, which is the holding company and the main company. Burda has four main platforms and one is the publishing business in Germany, so we have many brands in Germany, such as Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, Out, Playboy, but also digital brands like Huffington Post and we also have a lot of digital properties attached to the magazine brands. The second part of the company which is the printing business is the legacy part of the business, so we have printers in Germany, France and a very big printing company in India. Then we have the digital business with brands such as the German version of LinkedIn, which is XING.com; a German version of something like TripAdvisor, it’s called HolidayCheck.com; we have brands that are related to computer sales, such as Computer Universe and Cyberport. And then we have a lot of VC capital invested in digital and technology properties.

On how easy or difficult it was to move from that legacy business of printing to where Burda is today:
I would say that the start was very difficult. Not many people really like change. You can’t always affect change with people who have been there for a long time, so yes, there was some changeover with the managers, but also in the way the managers were then briefed. So, a lot of change had to come from the top.

On that “aha” moment when she realized it wasn’t either/or, print or digital, but both:
The last two or three years have been a huge learning curve for all of us. The more we’ve done; the more we’ve seen what used to be those ancillary revenues grow and in some cases the magazine is the ancillary revenue and the other business is the revenue model and I think with some titles that’s happened.

On why it took so long for media professionals, described by some as some of the “smartest people on earth,” so long to realize the truth about print and digital, that they must both be utilized in this day and age:
It’s very simple actually. Media owners were used to making money with their eyes closed. And when you have your eyes closed, you don’t see change coming. You don’t see it because you’re not looking.

On the most pleasant moment she’s faced over the last three to five years:
There have been a couple of very pleasant moments. And they’ve all been emails. I had two emails this year from one particular editor of a brand and I’ve known her for a very long time. I spent a lot of time training her 10 years ago and she went off and went to work for another company, but now we’re back together again in way. I spent a long evening explaining to her pretty much what I’ve just explained to you, and if she wanted to not be obsolete that she would need to learn Google Analytics because it would help her to create better content for her title. We had this discussion in Paris on a Wednesday night. She got back to her country on Friday and on Friday one week later, I got a message from her saying that she had just completed a Google Analytics, Google Trends and Facebook training and she’d also had her team to do it and how amazed she was by this data. And what it could do for her, so that was probably one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Having these conversations and being able to explain to people that they can do things differently and then affecting change.

On the biggest stumbling block she’s had to face:
People. (Laughs) People don’t like change, in general. Most people find change difficult. It’s normal and it’s human nature. You have to create an environment where change is a part of the fabric of the society you’re working in and as I said earlier; people were used to making money with their eyes closed. So, it’s not always that easy to persuade people to do something that they don’t know how to do. You need to review short-term conflicts and medium-term conflicts that might arise during an innovation process. In an innovation process there will always be conflicts; there will always be areas where people are uncomfortable.

On whether she has a favorite country or magazine to work with out of all the international brands Burda owns:
No, not really. I like working with most of them actually. I have maybe a few brands that I work on more than others. We have four editions of Marie Claire and I like working with those guys, because Marie Claire is quite a difficult magazine. It’s not as easy to do as something like Cosmopolitan or maybe even Elle, because they’re very well-established brands. Marie Claire is also very well-established, but it has a much more journalistic approach to it. And it’s not always the number one brand on the market, so I like to work with those teams because they try really hard to innovate.

IMG_9544 On anything else she’d like to add:
We’re not really a top of mind licensure; we’re not somebody you’d come running to for content, because it’s German. But what we’ve seen in the last couple of years is that people will come to us for many other things. What we’ve done in the past few years is get people to want to partner with us or collaborate with us and that’s something that’s very special about the company, because I think we’re seen as a very collaborative and good partner.

On what motivates her to get out of bed in the morning:
I’m stubborn. (Laughs) I’m stubborn and I don’t give up. I really like magazine media. I’ve loved it forever. And I really want our brands to succeed and I believe that magazine media is an excellent platform to reach consumers because it’s trusted quality brands that they love and I like to be in that value chain.

On what keeps her up at night:
Planning my next diving holiday. (Laughs) I’m an avid diver and I spend hours researching dive sites and livable dive boats and where I’m going to find some hammerhead sharks. You have to have a nice balance and a couple of years ago I did my first professional qualification in diving, so if it all goes wrong with magazines I can always go and work as a dive master.

And now the lightly edited transcription of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Frances Evans, Director of International Licensing & Advertising, Burda Media.

Samir Husni: Introduce me to BurdaInternational and tell me about your tagline, “Burda Magazine Media and Beyond.”

Frances Evans: BurdaInternational is a subsidiary of Burda Media, which is the holding company and the main company. Burda has four main platforms and one is the publishing business in Germany, so we have many brands in Germany, such as Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, Out, Playboy, but also digital brands like Huffington Post and we also have a lot of digital properties attached to the magazine brands.

The second part of the company which is the printing business is the legacy part of the business, so we have printers in Germany, France and a very big printing company in India.

Then we have the digital business with brands such as the German version of LinkedIn, which is XING.com; a German version of something like TripAdvisor, it’s called HolidayCheck.com; we have brands that are related to computer sales, such as Computer Universe and Cyberport. And then we have a lot of VC capital invested in digital and technology properties. And I think I mentioned that we do Huffington Post Germany; we also have one of the biggest news sites in Germany called Focus Online. And so we have a very large digital section of the business.

And the fourth part of the business is BurdaInternational, which is all of the publishing activities outside of Germany. BurdaInternational is in 20 markets, ranging from Central and Eastern Europe, so Russia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, Poland, Czech and Romania, to Brazil, Spain, Portugal, France, the U.K., India, five other markets in Asia, Turkey and some small startups in China as well.

So, we have all different types of businesses. Some of our businesses are crafting-related businesses, or food-related; so very small and very focused on verticals. And then a couple of our markets are big companies with a wide range of service magazines; also luxury and fashion titles. Just a wide portfolio like we have in Germany.

Our Asian business is based on high net worth individuals. They’re data-based driven products that are aimed at multimillionaires and their individual experiences and individual products aimed and geared at that very high society.

So, because we try to be a media and tech company, we’re trying all of the time to move beyond magazines and we’ve moved beyond magazines into magazine media quite successfully. A lot of our brands are really working in a 360° way. We have a very strong event business; in some cases, some very strong digital platforms and apps and all kinds of different things.

Now we’re trying to move into the next phase where we’re having really strong digital platforms with transactional capabilities. We want to be the electrical current between the advertisers on the one hand and the consumers on the other hand. So, we want to be in that value chain and be the connecting wire, but taking money out of the value chain as we go along.

Samir Husni: How easy was the transformation from the legacy business, which was printing, to where you are today, the 360° way of conducting business?

IMG_9542 Frances Evans: I would say that the start was very difficult. Not many people really like change. You can’t always affect change with people who have been there for a long time, so yes, there was some changeover with the managers, but also in the way the managers were then briefed. So, a lot of change had to come from the top.

And there was a lot of training involved and discussion and communication involved. And best-practice changes involved as well. Not only was it quite hard-going, but it was also quite expensive to train everyone and to communicate on a regular basis how to do things; to get people together to see what other people were doing.

Eventually, we managed that quite successfully, especially with some of our vertical brands. With those titles like BurdaStyle magazine, a magazine that is our legacy brand and was launched by the mother of our company’s owner, Hubert Burda; the magazine is very close to his heart, so we have to take great care to do any changes in a very good way. And for him the most important thing with the brand is to make sure that it transitions into the future. Now, if we don’t do anything with the title, it won’t transition, so it’s clear that we have to do certain things and it’s also clear that not everything we do will work immediately. So, there’s a lot of tweaking and testing that goes on.

With a lot of the digital products that we’ve tried, or certain platforms that we’ve tried, they might work for a while, or maybe that don’t work and they need a bit of tweaking and testing and rearranging. And then you learn because you have new partnerships, so you bring new things to the table and that helps you to improve.

I think to answer the question; what we’ve done is a lot of collaboration and training; a lot of communication and there’s been quite a few exchanges of people in certain roles. That doesn’t mean they’ve left the company, but they’ve been moved out of maybe that innovation role and other people who have been more innovative have taken over naturally as well.

For some people and in some countries it was harder, but then in other countries, they’ve had no choice. In the Ukraine, where 90% of your advertising revenue disappears in months, weeks or days, then you’ve got no choice but to innovate really fast and try to find revenue streams wherever you can and that’s not necessarily going to be a classical advertising revenue and it’s also most probably not going to be in distribution revenue, so it’s events or it could be all kinds of different things, trunk sales for fashion clients or doing innovation days for clients and helping them to innovate, doing shopping events or entertainment events; just a host of different things.

Samir Husni: Can you recall that pivotal moment or that “aha” moment where you said it isn’t either/or, print or digital, but rather we have to be involved in all of it?

Frances Evans: The last two or three years have been a huge learning curve for all of us. The more we’ve done; the more we’ve seen what used to be those ancillary revenues grow and in some cases the magazine is the ancillary revenue and the other business is the revenue model and I think with some titles that’s happened.

I’d say the last two or three years we’ve been working very hard. We knew that it had to be done and there have been quite a few changes within our company and in how our company has been set up in those last few years. So, that’s what we’ve been pushing significantly and no we have a lot of proof cases so there’s no way out for people who aren’t doing it any longer. There are proof cases for everything in all of the verticals and in all of the segments and now it’s the case of just getting stuff done.

I’d say the last three years have been instrumental, but I’d also say for the last 18 months of that we’ve known exactly what to do. And then going forward, there will be other things that we’ll need to do because the speed of change isn’t going to slow down according to Moore’s Law. It’s only going to get faster and faster.

Actually, one of the things that we try to preach to everybody is the way that they work today is going to change, more than what they’re doing, but the way that they do their work. In 2010, 100% of someone’s time was print-focused. And we have a paragraph now when we’re training someone that reads they need to be spending 40% of their time on print, which means they’re going to have to let stuff go, so we talk about decluttering quite a bit. Letting go of old projects that might not be as important and not focusing on that high quality project that isn’t as beneficial to them as spending another 20% of their week on Instagram and social media would be, and developing ideas for online.

I also think a significant part of the time that we spend nowadays has to be on education and on how to develop you. If you don’t learn what’s going on in the market and you don’t learn about technology, data, analytics and conversions, you will become obsolete. So, an essential part of what we do today is educating ourselves.

Samir Husni: Why do you think the “smartest people on the face of the earth,” as journalists and media professionals have been described, took so long to realize this stage where we are now, that print and digital must both be utilized and work together in this day and age?

Frances Evans: It’s very simple actually. Media owners were used to making money with their eyes closed. And when you have your eyes closed, you don’t see change coming. You don’t see it because you’re not looking.

Samir Husni: That’s a great answer.

Frances Evans: I think that’s actually it.

Samir Husni: In that three to five year journey, what was the most pleasant moment that you experienced and what was the biggest stumbling block you had to face and how did you overcome it?

Frances Evans: There have been a couple of very pleasant moments. And they’ve all been emails. I had two emails this year from one particular editor of a brand and I’ve known her for a very long time. I spent a lot of time training her 10 years ago and she went off and went to work for another company, but now we’re back together again in way. I spent a long evening explaining to her pretty much what I’ve just explained to you, and if she wanted to not be obsolete that she would need to learn Google Analytics because it would help her to create better content for her title. It would help her to create better content for her online products too. And she needed to learn how to use Facebook marketing and how to use Google Trends; to use data to create content and to understand her readership better. And it would help her to know if what she was doing was working or not and she could tweak and test accordingly.

We had this discussion in Paris on a Wednesday night. She got back to her country on Friday and on Friday one week later, I got a message from her saying that she had just completed a Google Analytics, Google Trends and Facebook training and she’d also had her team to do it and how amazed she was by this data. And what it could do for her, so that was probably one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Having these conversations and being able to explain to people that they can do things differently and then affecting change.

Then I received a follow-up email from her two weeks ago where she told me that she had increased her Facebook likes and shares over 10 times. The change was enormous. They’ve managed to increase the traffic on their website by spectacular amounts with no money. They’ve spent no money; they’ve just done what they have done very well. And they’ve been watching and learning and then applied it. And it worked. That I think probably is one of the best things that has happened to me.

Another one was I recently did a bunch of trainings for our team in Thailand and they liked it so much. They don’t all speak very good English, but the CEO thought it was so useful that she translated the entire training program into Thai and redid it herself a week later. And they sent me all of these photos, which was quite awesome because it was very unexpected that they would feel so grateful to have had that training.

Also, I was asked to set up some kind of content repository for those practices and I spoke to a trainee in the company about it and he said that I should use “Slack.” I told him that I had never heard of it, but he encouraged me to try it. He did a five minute presentation for me and I said OK, let’s use this; it’s free, so let’s give it a go.

Within two months I had 450 people from a 2,500-peopled company, of which I would guess a significant proportion do not speak English, but they’re on there and the number of messages is growing every week and the knowledge transfer is growing enormously and they now write to each other. I’m watching, so I can see it. They’re asking each other things like: has anyone tested this tool; has anybody tested that software and so they now have a platform, it’s significantly used by the digital team, but the publishers and the marketers and the salespeople exchange best practices or if they crack a new client with a certain, really cool idea, they share it. And the others pick it up and ask.

So, trying to change the company from a push mentality to a pull mentality has been incredibly difficult. But that tool has been quite successful in a very short period of time to do that. I personally find that quite successful. But I think it’s working because we can see best practices being put into place in sales, distribution, product and digital. And when you start seeing the speed of change then there has to be some money behind it. So, maybe this innovation will turn into money; we’ll see.

Samir Husni: And what has been the biggest stumbling block you’ve faced?

Frances Evans: People. (Laughs) People don’t like change, in general. Most people find change difficult. It’s normal and it’s human nature. You have to create an environment where change is a part of the fabric of the society you’re working in and as I said earlier; people were used to making money with their eyes closed. So, it’s not always that easy to persuade people to do something that they don’t know how to do. You need to review short-term conflicts and medium-term conflicts that might arise during an innovation process. In an innovation process there will always be conflicts; there will always be areas where people are uncomfortable.

Even dealing with that can create other conflicts, so it’s difficult. And it’s very challenging because it’s very stressful for a lot of people. Where there’s that much of a stress level ongoing, it can create a difficult environment, which can always be solved, but it just means that there’s a high level of pressure and you can feel it.

In the last three years, especially for us because we have a lot of business in Russia and Ukraine, which have been very difficult markets, we have business in Thailand which continuously every year something happens. When you just get back up on your feet, it happens again. Turkey is very similar as well. This year Malaysia has been a nightmare with the exchange rates. The exchange rates in Brazil have been a nightmare too. So, you can be doing everything right and the world can be against you. The exchange rates just are terrible and so whatever you’re doing, it’s working in local currency, but when you have to bring the money home, it doesn’t make for a pleasant story.

Samir Husni: From all of the countries that you work with; is there one that’s a favorite or a dear to your heart country or a favorite brand?

Frances Evans: No, not really. I like working with most of them actually. I have maybe a few brands that I work on more than others. We have four editions of Marie Claire and I like working with those guys, because Marie Claire is quite a difficult magazine. It’s not as easy to do as something like Cosmopolitan or maybe even Elle, because they’re very well-established brands. Marie Claire is also very well-established, but it has a much more journalistic approach to it. And it’s not always the number one brand on the market, so I like to work with those teams because they try really hard to innovate.

Recently, I’ve been doing a little bit more in Asia than I’ve done previously and that’s been quite a nice experience because they’re very grateful for the knowledge-sharing, so that’s been great. But I also have very high quality team of peer colleagues, so working in that team with a lot of incredibly intelligent people who are very dedicated and who are all fighting for the company. That’s actually a real honor to work with a group of people who are really dedicated and very good at what they do across the board.

I think the headquarter team that we have, the regional director and everyone else, is really a strong team and that’s really nice to have. Having colleagues that you can exchange with and who bring so much to the table that you can learn from them is terrific. And no one is very proprietary about information; everybody is open and we have a lot of discussions, and a lot of arguments as well, obviously, as you would, but everyone pushes together to propel the company forward whether it’s from exchanging their best practices or whether it’s giving people content for free because someone else’s country is having real problems and they need content. And that kind of thing is very unusual and I think that it defines the way that we work at BurdaInternational; it’s trial and error and collaboration.

We know what we need to do; we just don’t know how to get there, but nobody does. I don’t think anybody really knows the route, but we do know where we need to go and so we work together to get there. And we have a vision of what we want to achieve and we have the commitment from a shareholder and a group CEO to support us to do that.

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

Frances Evans: I think that a lot of the big international publishers have really great, amazing brands. And at Burda we actually license most of those brands. So we have a lot of inbound licensing as well. And we learn a lot from our partners. We’re very lucky because we do a lot of cool things, but we also learn from a lot of cool people too. And what we’ve done is built a really solid base in vertical and food publishing and garden publishing, those kinds of areas; crafting and things like that.

So, we’re not really a top of mind licensure; we’re not somebody you’d come running to for content, because it’s German. But what we’ve seen in the last couple of years is that people will come to us for many other things. What we’ve done in the past few years is get people to want to partner with us or collaborate with us and that’s something that’s very special about the company, because I think we’re seen as a very collaborative and good partner.

Samir Husni: What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

Frances Evans: I’m stubborn. (Laughs) I’m stubborn and I don’t give up. I really like magazine media. I’ve loved it forever. And I really want our brands to succeed and I believe that magazine media is an excellent platform to reach consumers because it’s trusted quality brands that they love and I like to be in that value chain. I used to work for an advertising agency. And I’d do projects; the client would like it; the client wouldn’t like it, and I liked that working with media. And working with magazines; people love what you’re giving to them. From a work perspective, I love the brands and I think that there’s a real reason for us to be there.

Now, we have to be there in many different ways than we were before. And that challenge and helping people to develop those platforms, I find incredibly challenging and very gratifying when it works.

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

Frances Evans: Planning my next diving holiday. (Laughs) I’m an avid diver and I spend hours researching dive sites and livable dive boats and where I’m going to find some hammerhead sharks. You have to have a nice balance and a couple of years ago I did my first professional qualification in diving, so if it all goes wrong with magazines I can always go and work as a dive master.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Flow Magazine: For Life’s Little Pleasures And Paper Lovers Here, There And Everywhere – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Joyce Nieuwenhuijs, Brand Director & Irene Smit, Creative Director.

November 16, 2015

From The Netherlands With Love…

“I think it’s good to say that we are an example of the fact that print is not dead. And I think that we show the power of print, but I also believe in digital. The goal must not be about the medium, but the consumer’s needs. We started off in print and it’s more a luxury and a passion for women, but we can’t exist and grow fast internationally without digital and social media. So, certainly, we also need digital and not just print.” Joyce Nieuwenhuijs

“As for the digital part, we were never opposed to digital; it was just that we love paper so much that we put all of that emotion for paper into the magazine. And when we started Facebook and other social media, it helped us to grow very much.” Irene Smit

Flow3-2 Flow is a magazine that takes its time; it promotes celebrating creativity, imperfection, and life’s little pleasures. And it does so beautifully. The magazine and all of its special extensions and creative products are a print-lover’s dream. The different papers that are used with each issue are heavenly to the touch and mesmerizing to eye. It has become an international sensation with its many editions across the globe, having started out as a small Dutch magazine at the height of the economic crisis in 2008. It has since proven that if you follow your heart and your passion, anything is possible.

I still have vivid memories of holding that first issue of Flow magazine in my hands, together with its media kit, as the co-founders, flowing with joy (pun intended) presented me that first copy of the magazine. I was visiting the offices of Sanoma in The Netherlands where Joyce Nieuwenhuijs and Irene Smit work. Joyce is the brand director of Flow and Irene is the creative director. Both women have a firm grip on their seven-year-old’s hand and know how to lead it down the long and sometimes very winding road that is today’s magazine media world.

I spoke with Joyce and Irene recently and we talked about the concept of mindfulness and about how the magazine educates and encourages its readers to slow down and be conscious of every minute that they can. It was a look into a lifestyle that is both sought-after and needed in the busy world that we live in today.

So, I hope that you enjoy this respite with Joyce, Irene and Mr. Magazine™ as we take you into a world that will teach you how to go with the “Flow.”

But first, the sound-bites:

Joyce_Nieuwenhuijs On the birth of Flow Magazine (Joyce): Seven years ago we started Flow Magazine. It was 2008 and we got the go-ahead from the Board in July of that year. In September, the crisis began, so it was really a tough time to launch a new magazine. But actually, I think the crisis was a good point for us because everybody, especially Irene, the creative director, found a plan for the new concept, and a new magazine was born that didn’t exist until then.

On Irene’s recollection of the beginning of Flow (Irene):
I was with my Co-Editor-in-Chief, Astrid van der Hulst, and we were sitting with papers all around us, talking about what kind of magazine we would like to read. And we had both brought everything that inspired us with us, wrapping paper, little cards and all of these paper things. That was the time when we found out that we wanted to make a magazine that focused on living mindfully and being inspired.

On Flow presenting itself as the “anti-digital” and its DNA (Joyce): First, I think it’s good to say that we are an example of the fact that print is not dead. And I think that we show the power of print, but I also believe in digital. The goal must not be about the medium, but the consumer’s needs. We started off in print and it’s more a luxury and a passion for women, but we can’t exist and grow fast internationally without digital and social media. So, certainly, we also need digital and not just print.

flow2-1 On the biggest stumbling block she’s faced since the launch of the magazine (Joyce):
I only thought in opportunities in the beginning. But the challenge was Flow is an experience and you can’t just say that you have a new magazine, you have to see Flow before you can believe it’s a good idea. So, from the beginning really, that was a challenge. People get that Flow-feeling, and if they have a Flow Magazine in their hands; they’re in love. And for sure, if you have a brand that people love, you also have some people who don’t like it, but that’s OK, because you have to focus on the people who do love it. And if you’re mainstream; everybody likes you, but you’re not special. And I think that’s why Flow is good; it’s a love brand, but some people, mostly men, don’t understand what the magazine is. And from the beginning, we have to tell the story and that’s why I created the marketing strategy in ambassadors.

Irene Smit On how Irene coped with the economic crisis and the digital explosion in 2008 when the magazine was launched (Irene):
Well, the economic crisis was more of a natural thing that happened, because when we started the magazine it was something that we already felt. Everything was getting bigger, people were not getting happier, and the shift was to more expensive and purer products. So, I think the crisis helped us because the feeling that we wanted to put in the magazine was reflected in the people at that time. A lot of them recognized themselves in our magazine. And that was OK for us, certainly. I mean, the crisis wasn’t good for the sales market, of course, but I do think it helped to grow the magazine. A lot of people felt like there was no more welfare and were looking for new ways of living. And that’s what Flow is all about.

On the ambassador program that she strategized to get the magazine into the hands of people (Joyce):
Physically giving them their magazine to show them Flow, because before we did that, they couldn’t understand the magazine without it being in their hands; you couldn’t tell them the story. I think that’s another secret of Flow; it’s a true experience. It’s not just reading a magazine; it’s much more. And that’s why we’re able to grow the brand quickly.

On any cultural issues the magazine has faced crossing borders (Joyce):
That’s a good point. We thought when we launched Flow that we’d focus on the Dutch market because we didn’t really consider the international market eight years ago. But we received so much feedback from abroad, people who had seen it in airport shelves that we knew that we had to do something internationally, but we had to figure out how. We wondered if we’d need to change our content for something more local or culturally different. But that’s why the prices for us and the changes in the world are so good, because in the world we have the oppressions; everybody is under the same pressures with their jobs or working very hard to balance their daily lives. It’s a worldwide challenge. And digital really helped us because the world is nearby now. Eight years ago it wasn’t so nearby.

flow5-4 On defining Flow Magazine (Joyce): What is Flow? The essence of Flow is that we are a magazine that takes its time. And we help people to learn to do the same. And it helps people look for the imperfections, because we are living in a world of perfections. Flow shows you that life doesn’t have to be perfect.

On the success of Flow (Irene): The success is that we really make the magazine ourselves; it comes from us. And every Wednesday, we still sit together and drink coffee and come up with new ideas and new products. And we have to find time for that. We are creative directors, but we’re magazine makers as well.

On the most pleasant moment for her during the last seven years (Joyce):
When you’ve worked with Flow from the beginning; I think working with such a creative team every day and growing from a small magazine into a big, strong international brand makes each day so very pleasant. Also, the moment that we broke even and the return on our investment became really big was great.

On Irene’s most pleasant moment (Irene):
The best moment for me is that Astrid and I sit together every Wednesday morning in a very nice coffee shop and we drink coffee together and talk about everything that’s going on. New products we want to make; problems we have to deal with, just everything that’s going on.

On anything else she’d like to add (Joyce):
I think we have always had, and I will always have, a big ambition to grow the brand. But I believe it’s good to start small; think big, act small. That’s the secret of how we made Flow such a big brand. Nowadays, you have to learn by doing and you have to be an entrepreneur. More and more in the big challenge that we have as publishers you have to stay innovative with your product. And content is key for sure.

On what motivates her to get out of bed in the morning (Joyce):
Life is good, for sure. You have to claim the energy and look forward to doing things with your family. I love my job and love growing the brand. And being a part of today’s transformation gives me energy.

On what motivates Irene to get out of bed in the morning (Irene):
Truthfully, my children. (Laughs) My family life is still the most important thing to me. And my work life is important as well, and I love what I do. It’s so nice that I can invent new products and think about new products. I get a lot of letters from people worldwide who tell me that the magazine helps them so much. I even received a letter from someone in London who told me that her husband had just died and she read the magazine and it helped her tremendously. And I love these readers; they’re so special to us. Their letters mean so much.

On what keeps her up at night (Joyce):
I learned that if you get up very early and you work very hard, you have to sleep. (Laughs) We can work 20 hours, for sure, there is enough to do. But sometimes you have to take off and I learned that from Flow.

On what keeps Irene up at night (Irene): I never stay up at night. (Laughs) I sleep a lot. I go to bed very early and I’m so tired, I fall right to sleep.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Joyce Nieuwenhuijs, Brand Director and Irene Smit, Creative Director, Flow Magazine.

Samir Husni: Joyce, Flow Magazine is your baby.

Joyce Nieuwenhuijs: Yes, it is.

Samir Husni: Recreate that birth moment for me.

Joyce Nieuwenhuijs: Seven years ago we started Flow Magazine. It was 2008 and we got the go-ahead from the Board in July of that year. In September, the crisis began, so it was really a tough time to launch a new magazine. But actually, I think the crisis was a good point for us because everybody, especially Irene, the creative director, found a plan for the new concept, and a new magazine was born that didn’t exist until then.

We actually started Flow Magazine in November, 2008 and now seven years later, it’s growing very fast into a really beautiful, strong brand. The process we used was learning by doing and not starting with big budgets and huge print runs, but as entrepreneurs, with at first, a frequency of just six issues, so that we could grow the brand and surprise the readers.

From the beginning there was a lot of demand from readers in the Netherlands, but also from abroad. They couldn’t read it, but they thought it was amazing. It has grown very fast and now we have eight issues per year and six specials for the Netherlands, but we also have two licenses in Germany, France and the international edition in 20 countries.

So, in seven years and through entrepreneurship, we have 39 products now and we’re really proud of the baby we gave birth to in such chaotic times as it was for media then. Flow is a magazine that will give you rest in your hectic life.

Samir Husni: As the creative director, Irene, can you recall that moment of conception for you?

Irene Smit: Yes, very much. I was with my Co-Editor-in-Chief, Astrid van der Hulst, and we were sitting with papers all around us, talking about what kind of magazine we would like to read. And we had both brought everything that inspired us with us, wrapping paper, little cards and all of these paper things. That was the time when we found out that we wanted to make a magazine that focused on living mindfully and being inspired. We wanted to use four lines to describe the magazine.

So, we came up with those four lines that first day. I can remember vividly we were saying how nice this was or that was, and let’s do this or that. (Laughs) And we both did a mindfulness course, and mindfulness wasn’t as big then as it is now. But we really felt like it brought us so much.

We both finished the mindfulness course together and we learned so much. The idea of life and just accepting it as it is more, and to try and not to struggle so much. And this concept gave so much relief that we decided to use the idea for a magazine.

And I think that’s part of Flow’s success now; the message that you shouldn’t work too hard or try to be happy all of the time, just accept life with its ups and downs and be as happy as you can.

Samir Husni: We live in a digital age, and I don’t think anyone would argue with that statement. However, Flow presents itself as the “anti-digital.” So, what’s the DNA? What’s the philosophy behind Flow and can you describe the magazine a little bit, Joyce?

Joyce Nieuwenhuijs: First, I think it’s good to say that we are an example of the fact that print is not dead. And I think that we show the power of print, but I also believe in digital. The goal must not be about the medium, but the consumer’s needs. We started off in print and it’s more a luxury and a passion for women, but we can’t exist and grow fast internationally without digital and social media. So, certainly, we also need digital and not just print.

But the secret of Flow is we are a perfect fit for women, men too of course, but women lead very busy lives and it’s not only in the Netherlands, it’s worldwide. And I think that’s the secret behind how we have grown so fast. Also from abroad too, because times are changing; everybody has digital products and we all need a break from our hectic lives and Flow gives you the present of staying in the present, and Flow is a tool that they can use as me-time for themselves.

Samir Husni: Irene, when you brought the idea for the magazine to the powers-that-be, what was the initial reaction? Was everyone jumping up and down and telling you what a great idea it was?

Irene Smit: (Laughs) No, no one said what a great idea it was.

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Irene Smit: We tried to put it in a magazine format and it was a little bit difficult. And there were a lot of people who had ideas about it; some said we should go this way and some said that way. But we said just believe in us and let us do it how we think we should do it. If not, it will be just another magazine like all of the others out there. If you want to do things differently, you need to skip all of the other people and let us do it. So it was a struggle to get everyone to agree, for sure.

Samir Husni: What about you, Joyce; I remember when I first met you and the magazine was just coming out. A lot of people were happy and excited about the magazine, but some were skeptical and wondered could it really work; there were so many different types of paper; so many different sizes inside the magazine and pullouts. It was and continues to be a very interactive magazine with the readers. What was the biggest stumbling block or challenge that you faced since the launch and how did you overcome it?

Joyce Nieuwenhuijs: I only thought in opportunities in the beginning. But the challenge was Flow is an experience and you can’t just say that you have a new magazine, you have to see Flow before you can believe it’s a good idea. So, from the beginning really, that was a challenge. People get that Flow-feeling, and if they have a Flow Magazine in their hands; they’re in love. And for sure, if you have a brand that people love, you also have some people who don’t like it, but that’s OK, because you have to focus on the people who do love it. And if you’re mainstream; everybody likes you, but you’re not special.

And I think that’s why Flow is good; it’s a love brand, but some people, mostly men, don’t understand what the magazine is. And from the beginning, we have to tell the story and that’s why I created the marketing strategy in ambassadors. So, we started with a small ambassador group and then it grew to a wider reach. I invested a lot, not in big marketing budgets, but just in giving people that Flow-feeling, a sample of Flow.

We didn’t have social media until 2008; can you imagine? (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Joyce Nieuwenhuijs: We invest very much in marketing personally to give Flow to people, and now, when we launched in Germany and France, I said we have a very big marketing tool that doesn’t cost anything; we can use social media to spread the word. And we definitely spread the word with social media. So, that’s why social media is so important to us. It helps spread the word of Flow internationally.

Samir Husni: So, the ambassador program is actually having people physically taking the magazine?

Joyce Nieuwenhuijs: Physically giving them their magazine to show them Flow, because before we did that, they couldn’t understand the magazine without it being in their hands; you couldn’t tell them the story. I think that’s another secret of Flow; it’s a true experience. It’s not just reading a magazine; it’s much more. And that’s why we’re able to grow the brand quickly.

From the beginning, the strategy has been to expand the brand and form brand awareness in order to entrepreneur with other products in the magazine, especially products such as stationery. To build the brand and bring awareness is important because the engagement was so strong from the beginning. People love the brand and they want to have more of it. That’s why we now have 39 products, to build the brand. And I think it’s good because with Flow, your readers are really investors, so that’s why we invested a lot in the marketing plan. But that’s also why my strategy is to expand the brand in a healthy way, not too strong as a concept, but give surprises to the reader and encourage them to buy new products.

Samir Husni: Irene, as you were ready to do that first issue, something major was about to take place on the world’s stage.

Irene Smit: Yes, the economic crisis.

Samir Husni: The economic crisis and digital. We had both exploding at that time. So, how did you cope with both of those dramatic happenings during the launch of a brand new magazine that uses – how many types of paper?

Irene Smit: I don’t even know. I think maybe eight or nine every edition. Well, the economic crisis was more of a natural thing that happened, because when we started the magazine it was something that we already felt. Everything was getting bigger, people were not getting happier, and the shift was to more expensive and purer products.

So, I think the crisis helped us because the feeling that we wanted to put in the magazine was reflected in the people at that time. A lot of them recognized themselves in our magazine. And that was OK for us, certainly. I mean, the crisis wasn’t good for the sales market, of course, but I do think it helped to grow the magazine. A lot of people felt like there was no more welfare and were looking for new ways of living. And that’s what Flow is all about.

As for the digital part, we were never opposed to digital; it was just that we love paper so much that we put all of that emotion for paper into the magazine. And when we started Facebook and other social media, it helped us to grow very much. We have so many followers on Instagram and we have illustrators and crafters worldwide that we connect with on Instagram and Flow readers too. Digital helps us a lot to make connections so that we can be in contact with fans and readers all over the world. Also stay in touch with creative people who can help spread the word about Flow.

When we connect with someone like an illustrator from another part of the world, such as Australia, it’s a really great feeling to know they’re reading your magazine and you have that brand awareness.
flow 1-1

Joyce Nieuwenhuijs: That’s a good point. We thought when we launched Flow that we’d focus on the Dutch market because we didn’t really consider the international market eight years ago. But we received so much feedback from abroad, people who had seen it in airport shelves that we knew that we had to do something internationally, but we had to figure out how. We wondered if we’d need to change our content for something more local or culturally different.

But that’s why the prices for us and the changes in the world are so good, because in the world we have the oppressions; everybody is under the same pressures with their jobs or working very hard to balance their daily lives. It’s a worldwide challenge. And digital really helped us because the world is nearby now. Eight years ago it wasn’t so nearby.

We also have a lot of freelancers working internationally with us, we have a really international team, and we work many people from abroad, so that’s also a really nice thing. Also, with our digital and social media, everyone is looking on their emails or mobile devices for us and our videos.

Flow allows you to relax and step out of the busy world and that means that we are for everybody, that concept is universal.

Samir Husni: How does it feel, Irene, seven years later, and Flow being your creation, to see all of the imitations like Flow in the marketplace today? When you came there was nothing like it on the market. But today, almost everywhere I travel, people tell me how much they would love to do a magazine like Flow. Does that fact change anything about the present creation of the magazine; the fact that so many others, either have imitated it or want to? Your feet may be still on the ground, but is your head in the clouds with all of the admiration for the magazine?

Irene Smit: No, our heads are the same as they were in the beginning. (Laughs) We just want to create the most beautiful magazine that we would want to read ourselves. We still put everything from our lives into the magazine. It still feels very much like our baby and all the competitors aren’t real, because to me, some of them don’t come from the heart. And I think a reader can feel that. People may use a different kind of paper and try to do a remake of Flow, but it’s not the same. And that’s why I don’t think they’ll ever be as successful as our magazine.

It feels strange that it’s grown so big, because in daily life we’re still doing the same work. The success is that we really make the magazine ourselves; it comes from us. And every Wednesday, we still sit together and drink coffee and come up with new ideas and new products. And we have to find time for that. We are creative directors, but we’re magazine makers as well.

Samir Husni: What about you, Joyce; if somebody asked you to define Flow today, seven years later, what would you tell them?

Joyce Nieuwenhuijs: What is Flow? The essence of Flow is that we are a magazine that takes its time. And we help people to learn to do the same. And it helps people look for the imperfections, because we are living in a world of perfections. Flow shows you that life doesn’t have to be perfect.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant moment for you during the last seven years?

Joyce Nieuwenhuijs: When you’ve worked with Flow from the beginning; I think working with such a creative team every day and growing from a small magazine into a big, strong international brand makes each day so very pleasant. Also, the moment that we broke even and the return on our investment became really big was great.

But for me, working with a good creative team is what makes every day pleasant and we also love being entrepreneurs. When we are here at FIPP and have become one the growing brands, I will be even more proud of the magazine.

Samir Husni: And Irene, what has been the most pleasant moment for you during the seven years?

Irene Smit: The best moment for me is that Astrid and I sit together every Wednesday morning in a very nice coffee shop and we drink coffee together and talk about everything that’s going on. New products we want to make; problems we have to deal with, just everything that’s going on.

We drink coffee for two hours and then everything feels OK and we come up with a lot of new ideas and those are the best moments of the week. And I think those two hours are some of the most successful hours of Flow. And we have to fight for the time to keep those Wednesday morning coffee sessions.

Samir Husni: Irene, what has been the biggest challenge that’s faced you over the seven years and how did you overcome it?

Irene Smit: The growth is still the most difficult challenge for us. To find a way to grow, but still keep this feeling that you’re a small team with quick decisions. There are more meetings now and more people that we have to inform and who are involved in the magazine.

Also the international teams; it’s difficult for us to tell them how to make the magazine because it’s just something that we do on our intuition. Now, we have to write down or tell them how we do it. (Laughs) How do you tell them when it’s just a feeling that we have? So, it’s a challenge to explain it, to let it grow, and to let it go a bit. Letting go is the most difficult for me.

Samir Husni: We have the Dutch, French and German editions and the English one in 20 different countries. Irene, can anyone actually claim that this is a Dutch thing – that Flow comes from the Dutch mentality?

Irene Smit: I think one of the strengths of Flow is that it’s not your typical Dutch magazine, because the Dutch magazine is now already so international because we work with a lot of illustrators. All our ideas about life and mindfulness, we put them into articles from our daily lives and we get letters from all over the world: Australia, Brazil and Canada. They tell us that we feel like their friends because we all have the same life and the same ideas.

I think this feeling and the things that we write about are so worldwide and that’s why the magazine is such a success. People recognize themselves in the magazine. There is an international vibe throughout the magazine that no matter where you’re from you can relate to it.

Samir Husni: Do you and your Co-Editor-in-Chief, Astrid, live the relaxed Flow-lifestyle and are you very close friends?

Irene Smit: No, we don’t live the relaxed Flow-lifestyle, because if we did we wouldn’t have the inspiration for the magazine anymore. (Laughs) We always say that our lives aren’t perfect and that’s what we write about, the things that come up in our lives. We are very good colleagues, but try not to be real friends. We are in a working relationship and we try not to do anything too personal together. We already spend a lot of time together at the office. And we live in the same town.

We think alike very much; we feel the same vibes when we enter a room. We get along so well together that it makes it very nice to work on the magazine.

Samir Husni: Joyce, is there anything else you’d like to add?

Flow4-3 Joyce Nieuwenhuijs: I think we have always had, and I will always have, a big ambition to grow the brand. But I believe it’s good to start small; think big, act small. That’s the secret of how we made Flow such a big brand. Nowadays, you have to learn by doing and you have to be an entrepreneur. More and more in the big challenge that we have as publishers you have to stay innovative with your product. And content is key for sure. The medium isn’t the goal, but it’s the consumer’s needs that we have to focus on, and growing our brands.

Samir Husni: Irene, is there any message you’d like to give your readers worldwide?

Irene Smit: It’s good to be more conscious of your time. I think that’s one of the biggest problems in the world at the moment. I just received some wonderful articles recently about mindfulness and all the pressures people have on their time. We’re always putting new stuff in our head. We should try to be more conscious of time off and empty our heads. Just be idle for a while. It’s very important to rest your mind.

Samir Husni: Joyce, what motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

Joyce Nieuwenhuijs: Life is good, for sure. You have to claim the energy and look forward to doing things with your family. I love my job and love growing the brand. And being a part of today’s transformation gives me energy.

Samir Husni: And Irene, what about you?

Irene Smit: Truthfully, my children. (Laughs) My family life is still the most important thing to me. And my work life is important as well, and I love what I do. It’s so nice that I can invent new products and think about new products. I get a lot of letters from people worldwide who tell me that the magazine helps them so much. I even received a letter from someone in London who told me that her husband had just died and she read the magazine and it helped her tremendously. And I love these readers; they’re so special to us. Their letters mean so much.

With Joyce at the FIPP Congress in Toronto, Canada.

With Joyce at the FIPP Congress in Toronto, Canada.

Samir Husni: Joyce, my typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Joyce Nieuwenhuijs: I learned that if you get up very early and you work very hard, you have to sleep. (Laughs) We can work 20 hours, for sure, there is enough to do. But sometimes you have to take off and I learned that from Flow. Sometimes you have to take off and be in the present. A good sleep will help you to grow.

Samir Husni: And Irene; what keeps you up at night?

Irene Smit: I never stay up at night. (Laughs) I sleep a lot. I go to bed very early and I’m so tired, I fall right to sleep.

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

h1

Marie Claire Spain: Speaking The Language Of Women Internationally With Humor, Style & Class – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Editor-In-Chief, Maria Pardo de Santayana

November 13, 2015

From Spain with love…

“I think the printed magazine’s mission is to curate all of these things that might be of the reader’s interest and put it into the perfect format that you don’t need to plug in and charge; in fact, you don’t need to do anything with it except enjoy it. You can take it with you everywhere and you can keep it forever. It’s a good photography of the time that it shows. If you see the magazine in 20 years’ time and you pick it up and read it; you’ll find that it’s a perfect history book because you can see the time represented in its pages vividly.” Maria Pardo de Santayana

MC2-2 Marie Claire is a unique fashion magazine. Mr. Magazine™ likes to call it “the fashion magazine with a conscience,” because of the high bar it sets for a rigorous standard for journalism. It is a fashion and beauty magazine, of that there’s no doubt, but it doesn’t shy away from the important issues that matter to women in the 21st century.

And Marie Claire Spain is the perfect international extension of the brand by offering its readers ideas for improving both their life and their personal image, by providing the latest trends, with a sense of humor and from an avant-garde but also close point of view.

Maria Pardo de Santayana is the editor-in-chief of Marie Claire Spain and has a passion for the brand that is palpable. Maria comes from an extensive magazine background, having worked at GQ for many years and also Hachette Spanish Press. She has a journalism degree in Information Sciences and a broad range of knowledge when it comes to what it takes to be at the helm of a magazine like Marie Claire Spain.

I spoke with Maria recently and we talked about her penchant for humor when it comes to most situations, whether good or bad. Her spirit of joy and laughter and her take on life in general was contagious as it spilled over into our conversation and made the interview wonderfully light-hearted and filled with confidence for her brand’s future.

Maria is a woman who has seen disappointment, but talks it all with a grain of salt as she keeps the optimism flowing and never forgets her passion and love for magazines.

So, I hope you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ conversation with a lady who can make you laugh and make you admire the many facets of life in the magazine realm.

But first, the sound-bites:


FullSizeRender On the day in the life of an international magazine editor:
It depends very much on the time of the year. A normal day within the office starts with our first meeting with the team to look at the job that needs to be done for that day. And then the rest of the day moves on between meetings, readings, approvals and more meetings…(Laughs), more readings, and then giving birth to new ideas for the magazine.

On whether digital has made her life as an editor easier or harder:
Digital has made life 24/7; now you can’t close the office ever. And there are no Saturdays and Sundays. Of course, in some ways it’s made life easier too because technology is always helpful, but it also requires more dedication.

On how she balances the international theme of the magazine with the Spanish content:
Marie Claire is a brand that really takes care of its uniqueness and its DNA. More than that, because of Marie Claire’s long history in Spain, more than 20 years, it’s very well-established and it has managed to create its own uniqueness. In terms of the balance, it’s quite simple because the French and the Spanish women are quite similar; they’re both European and western; they share, more or less, the same difficulties and the same struggles and ambitions. So, it’s much easier, I believe, for our European Marie Claire to become nearer to the core of Marie Claire than maybe one from Asia, America, South Africa or Australia. For us, it’s much easier because we are really near the French culture.

On whether her entire team is tuned into the DNA of Marie Claire Spain:
One good point that I have with my team is that I have people from the founding of Marie Claire Spain, so they are still working here and they’re really able to teach me about the DNA of Marie Claire because these people have been working here for over 20 years, so they know a lot about Marie Claire.

On what motivates her to get out of bed in the morning: The thing that I like most is magazines. It’s always been like that with me since I was 14 years old. When you have the opportunity and the chance to work in something that you like so much; you don’t feel like it’s a job. It’s more like your hobby or something that you love to do, so there are not enough hours in the day for you to enjoy it. And that’s one of the things that motivate me. My father wanted me to be an engineer because I have a mathematical brain. I was a very good student; all A’s or A+’s. But I really liked magazines and that’s why I’m dedicated to them.

On any stumbling blocks she’s had to face:
I started as a journalist and I liked it very much and I believe that I have good managerial skills. I was moved and promoted to the management side. I was an Internet Director for five years for a large retail company and then I moved into an executive position and it was fun. I received good information from the MBA and I learned a lot, but I wasn’t happy. Of course, I was well-paid, but I just wasn’t happy. For me it’s very important to be happy and have fun where I work. So, I had to come back to the magazine business, but when I left I was just a normal editor, but I was a director at the time so I wanted to try to find a way to come back in a higher position. It took quite a lot.

On whether some of the covers of the spinoff specials that Marie Claire is publishing are a reflection of her own personality, such as “Shoes First”:
Yes, they are. I believe that life without humor is useless. You have to laugh at yourself and at all of the bad situations that might come up. It’s not like being superficial, but it’s taking life with optimism. And that’s what we want to reflect. As I take my life with a lot of humor; I find that it is very important to life itself and to the magazine. And trying to make a 100-page supplement about shoes could bore someone to death, going from shoe-to-shoe-to-shoe. So, if you don’t put humor into that subject, it will be dull and boring.

On whether she believes in the future of print in this digital age:
Yes, absolutely I do, because I think that printed magazines work as the perfect curator for all of these platforms, the visual and audio impacts of digital; all of these things coming up to you in notifications, the nonsense and the important things. This generation has access to more information than ever, but less analyzed. So you see a lot of things, but there is so much that you don’t even have the time to take in what you’re seeing.

On what keeps her up at night:
Marie Claire. (Laughs) You know what, the thing is I was telling someone, when I go on holiday I can’t sleep the night through, but then when I start working again; your mind needs several hours of sleep and then it turns on. My head is full of Marie Claire in every way, Marie Claire ideas; Marie Claire people; Marie Claire stories, and so my mind is just awake all of the time.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Maria Pardo de Santayana, Editor-In-Chief, Marie Claire Spain.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the day in the life of an international magazine editor, such as Marie Claire, in Spain?

IMG_9069 Maria Pardo de Santayana: It depends very much on the time of the year. A normal day within the office starts with our first meeting with the team to look at the job that needs to be done for that day. And then the rest of the day moves on between meetings, readings, approvals and more meetings…(Laughs), more readings, and then giving birth to new ideas for the magazine.

When it comes to the first of the season, things change a little bit because we have to meet much more in terms of fashion to try and plan the whole season. And then we do that again for beauty and another for the covers. And then we have all of these spinoffs and supplements that we try to create.

So, it’s always a lot of work, but then again when we are at the shows, all of my days off are there and I have to do everything by mobile.

Samir Husni: It’s my understanding that the job of editors worldwide have dramatically changed since the dawn of the digital age. You’re no longer just editing a printed magazine, but you have so many other outlets that you have to care about. If you compared your life at GQ when you were there, and your life today at Marie Claire; did digital make life easier on you?

Maria Pardo de Santayana: Not at all. It’s become more troubling. When I was at GQ I was the deputy editor, I wasn’t the editor-in-chief, so I had a bit of an easier time, because I didn’t have the responsibility or the stress that comes with the editor-in-chief position. And also because the men’s market in Spain is much smaller than the women’s, so it’s a bit more relaxed work.

In terms of digital, the peculiar side of my job position at Marie Claire is that I don’t really take care of the website because it has an independent team. And they work it separately. So, for me it was more complicated at GQ because I did take care of more of the digital side, with GQ.com, but not here.

Digital has made life 24/7; now you can’t close the office ever. And there are no Saturdays and Sundays. Of course, in some ways it’s made life easier too because technology is always helpful, but it also requires more dedication.

Samir Husni: With Marie Claire specifically; with this magazine I always like to refer to as “fashion with a conscience,” as I flip through the pages of the magazine, there are a lot of similarities with all of the other Marie Claire international editions and there are also unique facets to the magazine. How do you balance that mix between international and Spanish?

MC1-1 Maria Pardo de Santayana: The Marie Claire DNA is quite clear for all of the international editions and they work very hard to make this real and happening. For instance, in June we’re all meeting in Paris, Marie Claire International, and we’ll have a two or three-day summit where we’ll discuss everything through the eyes of Marie Claire as a whole.

Marie Claire is a brand that really takes care of its uniqueness and its DNA. More than that, because of Marie Claire’s long history in Spain, more than 20 years, it’s very well-established and it has managed to create its own uniqueness.

In terms of the balance, it’s quite simple because the French and the Spanish women are quite similar; they’re both European and western; they share, more or less, the same difficulties and the same struggles and ambitions. So, it’s much easier, I believe, for our European Marie Claire to become nearer to the core of Marie Claire than maybe one from Asia, America, South Africa or Australia. For us, it’s much easier because we are really near the French culture.

Samir Husni: As you sit with your team and try to establish that issue in/issue out; I take it all of your team is Spanish?

Maria Pardo de Santayana: The fashion director is half American, but apart from that, yes, we are all Spanish.

Samir Husni: So, everyone is tuned into the DNA of Marie Claire or do you have any difficulties with that?

Maria Pardo de Santayana: One good point that I have with my team is that I have people from the founding of Marie Claire Spain, so they are still working here and they’re really able to teach me about the DNA of Marie Claire because these people have been working here for over 20 years, so they know a lot about Marie Claire.

And we’re a very small team, there are only 10 of us, it’s very easy to make the magazine work from one way to another. Also, it’s quite an international team because our deputy editor, she was raised in France, and also I had an international education. The syndication manager is also German, French and Spanish. So, it’s quite an international team.

But more important than that, on the core of the team we have people who have been working for Marie Claire since its beginning in Spain.

Samir Husni: What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning and say it’s going to be a great day?

Maria Pardo de Santayana: The thing that I like most is magazines. It’s always been like that with me since I was 14 years old. When you have the opportunity and the chance to work in something that you like so much; you don’t feel like it’s a job. It’s more like your hobby or something that you love to do, so there are not enough hours in the day for you to enjoy it. And that’s one of the things that motivate me. My father wanted me to be an engineer because I have a mathematical brain. I was a very good student; all A’s or A+’s. But I really liked magazines and that’s why I’m dedicated to them.

When I first told my father that I was going to be a journalist, he was like: Really? I was hoping that you’d be an engineer. And I told him that wasn’t going to happen because I really loved magazines.

I think that there has to be good people everywhere and if you’re doing what you love, good people help you do it better. I’m very lucky because this is my dream job.

Samir Husni: Has it been all smooth sailing for you or have you had to deal with a stumbling block or two along the way?

Maria Pardo de Santayana: I started as a journalist and I liked it very much and I believe that I have good managerial skills. I was moved and promoted to the management side. I was an Internet Director for five years for a large retail company and then I moved into an executive position and it was fun. I received good information from the MBA and I learned a lot, but I wasn’t happy. Of course, I was well-paid, but I just wasn’t happy.

For me it’s very important to be happy and have fun where I work. So, I had to come back to the magazine business, but when I left I was just a normal editor, but I was a director at the time so I wanted to try to find a way to come back in a higher position. It took quite a lot. I had several opportunities but they didn’t crystallize into anything because some of the offers I didn’t like enough to leave my then current position, and some of the others just didn’t happen.

After 5½ years of being out of the editorial business, and in the internet business for a big retail company, I managed to get back into magazines. Life isn’t always an easy path, but I always take it with a lot of optimism and I really enjoy my life. And even the bad times for me are a way of learning. When I see the glass it’s always half-full instead of half-empty.

MC3-3 Samir Husni: Looking at the covers of your spinoffs, especially with the “Shoes First,” are the covers a reflection of the fun, passionate Maria?

Maria Pardo de Santayana: Yes, they are. I believe that life without humor is useless. You have to laugh at yourself and at all of the bad situations that might come up. It’s not like being superficial, but it’s taking life with optimism. And that’s what we want to reflect.

As my CEO always tells me, we are absolutely disposable; you have to make people happy. There is no reason they should buy us, except for having fun and providing them with joy and something inspirational.

As I take my life with a lot of humor; I find that it is very important to life itself and to the magazine. And trying to make a 100-page supplement about shoes could bore someone to death, going from shoe-to-shoe-to-shoe. So, if you don’t put humor into that subject, it will be dull and boring. I always try to put some humor into everything that I do.

Samir Husni: Why do you think in this digital age that we live in, amidst all of these social media giants that we actually compete with, such as Google, Facebook and Twitter; why do you think there’s still a reason for a printed magazine? Do you believe in the future of print?

Maria Pardo de Santayana: Yes, absolutely I do, because I think that printed magazines work as the perfect curator for all of these platforms, the visual and audio impacts of digital; all of these things coming up to you in notifications, the nonsense and the important things. This generation has access to more information than ever, but less analyzed. So you see a lot of things, but there is so much that you don’t even have the time to take in what you’re seeing.

I think the printed magazine’s mission is to curate all of these things that might be of the reader’s interest and put it into the perfect format that you don’t need to plug in and charge; in fact, you don’t need to do anything with it except enjoy it. You can take it with you everywhere and you can keep it forever. It’s a good photography of the time that it shows. If you see the magazine in 20 years’ time and you pick it up and read it; you’ll find that it’s a perfect history book because you can see the time represented in its pages vividly.

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

Maria Pardo de Santayana: Marie Claire. (Laughs) You know what, the thing is I was telling someone, when I go on holiday I can’t sleep the night through, but then when I start working again; your mind needs several hours of sleep and then it turns on. My head is full of Marie Claire in every way, Marie Claire ideas; Marie Claire people; Marie Claire stories, and so my mind is just awake all of the time. By the time I lay down to go to sleep, I might get a few hours and then it’s right back on. It’s all about Marie Claire now. I’m a little bit obsessed. (Laughs again)

Samir Husni: Thank you.