Archive for the ‘Innovation in print’ Category

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Good Grit Magazine: The Character Of The South Personified – Spunky, Quick-Witted & As Intoxicating As A Mint Julep On A Hot Southern, Summer Day – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Laura Bento, Founder & Publisher, Good Grit Magazine

May 26, 2016

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story

“Old is new again. Record sales are at an all-time high, legit vinyl’s. Old buildings; we don’t want to live in a brand-new, fancy apartment complex, no-no, we want you to give us the shitty, brick-showing mortar, the AC is going to run you like $500 a month, loft downtown. That’s because old is new again. I don’t know how long that will last, but people love to hold print in their hands and I don’t care how many times they update their status with 140 characters, as long as they’re doing it with a picture of Good Grit as their photograph. (Laughs)” Laura Bento on why she chose print as the foundational platform for Good Grit

Heirloom_Cover Good Grit magazine – the character of the South. The title and the description fit both the magazine and its founder and publisher, Laura Bento. Laura has more grit than a bowl full of the stuff in a traditional Southern Sunday morning breakfast. She’s bold, plain-speaking, and as passionate about her brand as anyone I know. It’s been a long time since Mr. Magazine™ was as refreshed and excited about a new launch as I am with Good Grit.

I spoke with Laura recently and we talked about her absolute insanity when it came to birthing Good Grit. First of all, with no prior magazine experience and nothing more than an angry passion burning inside of her about how many portray the South; Laura decided that it was time to put her horse in the race when it came to giving another voice a chance to be heard regarding the “character” of the South. And heard she has definitely been. After only a year on boutique-type newsstands below the Mason-Dixon, Laura is expecting to break even this fall, a feat both unusual and almost unheard of. And her plans to bring Good Grit to a broader audience aren’t taking a backseat either. She is moving forward with that strategy as soon as possible.

But this is a Mr. Magazine™ launch story – I’m always looking for that one bolder-than-most, more-passionate-than-anyone-else entrepreneur who is bucking the odds and showing the world how powerful dreams and print together are. And with Good Grit, Laura is exemplifying that description.

We talked about her work ethic, hard, but loose, and her belief in the creative talent of her all-important-to-her staff. She is an amazing young woman who is as tough as she is passionate about what she wants her brand to achieve and become in the future.

I hope you enjoy this refreshingly honest interview read with a woman who personifies the name of her magazine – Good Grit. Without further ado, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Laura Bento, Founder & Publisher, Good Grit Magazine.

But first, the sound-bites:

IMG_2469 On whether she’s a little crazy to start a print magazine in this digital age: Yes, I’m crazy. It’s really funny; I wish I had a really great background to share with you. I wish that I could tell you that I had worked for a publisher or that I was a writer or even that I’m a creative, but the truth is I’m none of those things. I’m just an entrepreneur who was sitting at her desk one day after reading an article in The New York Times that really pissed me off about the south. I’d never had a magazine subscription before in my life.

On the early reaction of Good Grit among her peers: I might tear up a little talking about it, because it’s sad. Everybody told me that I wouldn’t make it; everybody. There wasn’t one voice that said, “You got this; you can do it.” Even my investor, and now investors, told me that all of their financial advisors told them that this was a terrible investment and said don’t do it. And I have to tell you, we have had the best freaking year. Every issue has gotten better.

On the biggest mistake she’s made since her magazine journey began: I on boarded talent way too soon. I could have used the creative and presold a lot earlier and would probably be even closer to breaking even than I am now, but I burned about $150 G’s in just dumb on boarding of talent too soon. But I will say the advantage of that was just the culture. If you asked me what our greatest strength is I would tell you it’s our company culture.

On whether she’s a missionary or a merchant when it comes to her reasons for starting Good Grit: I love people. I’m a millennial, so I have to say that I fit into the social responsibility realm of things. I love give-back brands; I think that B Corp was one of the most genius marketing ploys the government ever rolled out. My people come first and money definitely comes second. But I wouldn’t necessarily say that we’re not merchants either. We’re merchants; we’re in this to make money for sure.

On where she sees the future of Good Grit heading: I believe that my audience is in the wealth-accrual mode. And I hope that what Good Grit acts as, is a tool of something that’s just out of reach. We want to talk about stories that you can relate to now, but we also want to inspire you to do something more, whether that’s something that gives you a cause for action; trial and triumph are a big part of the tone of voice you hear throughout the book.

On why, being a millennial herself, she chose print for the foundational platform of Good Grit: Our audience isn’t necessarily millennials. That’s one slice of my audience. But if you read the magazine, you understand that I’m not gearing it toward 18-34 year olds; not necessarily. I always say that I’m in the middle of the demographic, I’m 33. I chose print because, and this is not just about millennials, through the revitalization and localization movement that we’re seeing all over the world, and specifically the South; watching small towns be revitalized everywhere, this hipster movement as I like to call it, is certainly not exclusive to just millennials.

Flourish_Cover On defining Good Grit to someone on the street: I would tell them that Good Grit is a progressive voice for the South, telling the stories of the character of the South. We’re a magazine that had a baby with a coffee table book. I tell people that all of the time. Our goal is to live on your coffee table for at least two months and then maybe retire somewhere else in your home. We want to be beautiful, but intriguing. And we want you to want to curl up with us; throw us in your bag and take us with you everywhere, and to share us with your friends.

On the feeling that she comes home with at the end of the day: It’s so funny; I’ve never been so thankful and happy in a career ever. And I’ve always been thankful and happy in my career. It’s not like I’ve been a girl who was miserable with the things that she’s done, but when I come home now I literally walk down the hall and on the left side of my hall I have a photograph of every person on my staff. And beside their photograph is a word that represents them.

On what someone would find her doing at home in the evening if they showed up unexpectedly: If you came to my house right now, you’d think you had showed up on the set of the movie “A Beautiful Mind.” Every wall in my living room is covered with whiteboard. And it’s always that way. There’s always a new something. So right now, it’s identifying the seven streams of revenue that we have over the next four years so that we can raise our next round of capital. It’s looking at sales and pipelines; analyzing and understanding the people who are willing to take a risk on such a small publication with so few impressions and to grow with us.

On what motivates her to get out of bed in the morning and look forward to the day ahead: Gratitude. I’m so excited. It’s a miracle. What we’ve done is a miracle. So, I don’t want to take that for granted. I don’t spend a moment procrastinating. When my alarm goes off, or I’m up even before my alarm goes off, I sleep maybe five hours. I feel like sleep is kind of a waste of time and quite honestly, if I didn’t just have to be clean, showering would piss me off too.

On what keeps her up at night: I would have answered that question differently if you had asked it five and a half months ago. I would have told you that what kept me up at night is how the hell am I going to make payroll on Friday, because that was before I on boarded my latest investor. Now, I would tell you that what keeps me up at night is making sure that whatever our next move is regarding capital is the right move and it’s not made in desperation.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Laura Bento, Founder & Publisher, Good Grit Magazine.

Samir Husni: Anyone who launches a new magazine in this day and age; one that is ink on paper and has a brilliant design; one that the quality of the paper is outstanding and the overall result is that the magazine is really a good one, would have to be crazy in this digital age, or so everyone says. What made you decide to launch Good Grit; are you crazy?

IMG_2567 Laura Bento: (Laughs) I actually tell people that I think you literally have to be somewhat unstable and insane to start a magazine, that there has to be something that’s not quite right with the person who does it. (Laughs again)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Laura Bento: Yes, I’m crazy. It’s really funny; I wish I had a really great background to share with you. I wish that I could tell you that I had worked for a publisher or that I was a writer or even that I’m a creative, but the truth is I’m none of those things. I’m just an entrepreneur who was sitting at her desk one day after reading an article in The New York Times that really pissed me off about the South. I’d never had a magazine subscription before in my life.

I almost felt as though it were divinely inspired a little bit, because there was really no logical reason why a girl like me, who has a sales and marketing background and had a consulting firm and worked as the national director of sales and marketing for a company based out of St. Louis, but I’m originally from Savannah, Georgia; there was no logical train of thought to all of this. It was just that I felt there was a hole in the market and I didn’t feel anyone was competing with Garden & Gun and I wanted to fill that void.

I wanted to be a progressive voice for the south, but I really wanted to come at it from the Alabama side of things. I felt like Garden & Gun, me being an East Coast girl myself, leaned a little more East Coast. And I didn’t think there was a voice for the Gulf or a voice for what’s happening today, that localization and revitalization movement that’s really sweeping across the world, but that’s really starting to gain momentum in the South.

Samir Husni: You now have a year under your belt with Good Grit, but what was the early reaction, after you actually did it and put the first issue out?

Laura Bento: I might tear up a little talking about it, because it’s sad. Everybody told me that I wouldn’t make it; everybody. There wasn’t one voice that said, “You got this; you can do it.” Even my investor, and now investors, told me that all of their financial advisors told them that this was a terrible investment and said don’t do it.

And I have to tell you, we have had the best freaking year. Every issue has gotten better; we made some decisions early on, or I made the decisions; I had no magazine knowledge, so I called a friend of mine based out of Savannah where I’m from, who had been asking me for many years to come and run his sales and marketing department and he’d said that he’d give me part of his magazine. I always told him that I didn’t believe in “giving” anything and that had to be a trick.

What happened was I called him and I said, hey, Michael (Brooks), I think I’m going to start a magazine. And he owns South Magazine, which is in Savannah, but it covers a wide area. And he’s crazy as hell; you’d never partner with him on anything. He’s a creative genius, but he’s crazy. (Laughs)

Originally, when I didn’t know what I was doing, I thought that I was going to have to end up partnering with Michael. And I have always told him that I thought his brand should be regional and he loves the money of that climb between city-centric and a regional publication; (A) it’s very hard to make if you’ve established yourself as city, I think, but (B) there are a lot of sacrifices that have to be made.

Awaken_Cover So, when I called and said that I was starting a magazine, he told me that he thought it was a good idea and that Birmingham was really hungry for something that was edgy and progressive. And he said that he thought I should do it. But I told him, no, you don’t understand I’m not starting a “Birmingham” magazine; there are plenty of Birmingham magazines. I’m starting a regional publication and I’m going to compete with Garden & Gun. And he laughed. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Laura Bento: I told him that I didn’t know anything about magazines and that I needed to build a business plan so that I could raise capital. So, here’s what I’m going to do; I’m going to run my business on Monday, then I’m going to drive to Savannah from Birmingham, five and a half hours, on Monday night, and then I’m going to work for you for free Tuesday-Thursday. I will onboard new sales people for you, train them; I’ll work out the holes in your marketing plan, and I’ll try and help you in that way, and all I need from you is every piece of data that you have. I need to look at your P & L; I need to see your relationship with printers; I need to understand circulation and distribution; I need to see what you’re doing well and what you’re doing really shitty, and then decide what I like and what I don’t like.

And I would sell for him too while I was there. And I have never felt so dirty in my entire life, selling advertorials, and it made me like want to slap people. (Laughs) I just knew that it couldn’t be a part of my model; I just knew that. So, I made a decision very early on, before I even had a formed business model or business plan, that I would not offer any advertorials or sponsored content in book with any advertising partner that we had.

We just needed to believe what we believe. And we believe in the South. We believe in the character of the South and we hoped that advertisers would like to position themselves with someone who was going to do a great job telling that story, so that they would like to advertise with us. And if they didn’t, then they weren’t our people and we would all move on.

And most people were saying that’s hilarious; it’s never going to work. My first issue came out and we did $55,000 in sales just by telling people that. We promise we’re going to be just a really good portrait of the character of the South.

And now, a year later, we’re on track to break even by September or October, which is pretty unheard of. We’re on our third round of capital and it’s just humbling. Even the naysayers; the people that were in my market and were saying, “Who the hell is this girl, who has no clue?” and they were so right, I had no clue.

But I believe my ignorance has acted as probably one of the best tools. Everyone on my staff has never worked for a magazine; they’ve never done what they’re doing. My art director had never been an art director before. My editor had never been an editor; my business manager had never been a business manager. I had never been a publisher, but I said that we were going to go at this so clean and so fresh and so new. I told them that we were probably going to fail hard, but that we would learn from our failures and we would move quickly to fix them, no matter what they were.

And that’s really working. And even my frenemies; many people who feel like we’re competing with them, have been really kind and gracious and willing to sit down with me and tell me things that they’ve messed up on. I’m probably one of the most curious people you’ll ever meet, which I think has also worked in my favor, so I love understanding the “why” of things. And I also believe in failing very, very quickly. So, if we’re going to fail, we fail big and we fail quickly, but we also move forward very fast. And we do not make the same mistakes twice.

Samir Husni: What was the biggest mistake you made during this journey?

Laura Bento: I on boarded talent way too soon. I could have used the creative and presold a lot earlier and would probably be even closer to breaking even than I am now, but I burned about $150 G’s in just dumb on boarding of talent too soon. But I will say the advantage of that was just the culture. If you asked me what our greatest strength is I would tell you it’s our company culture. You will not find a culture like us anywhere.

Samir Husni: Do you feel as though you’re more on a mission, that money comes second? I know you want to make money, you can’t afford not to. I like to tell people that there are two groups of publishers: the missionaries and the merchants. The merchants are just in it to make money, the missionaries are like when Henry Luce started Time Magazine; he wanted America the Great, so he was on a mission that was also a business.

Laura Bento: I love people. I’m a millennial, so I have to say that I fit into the social responsibility realm of things. I love give-back brands; I think that B Corp was one of the most genius marketing ploys the government ever rolled out. My people come first and money definitely comes second. But I wouldn’t necessarily say that we’re not merchants either. We’re merchants; we’re in this to make money for sure. Without a doubt we’re a for-profit company and I have to be a good steward with the money that’s been given to me by my investors who believed in me when I was holding a piece of paper with probably the shittiest business plan that had ever been written on it. And that’s no lie. So, I certainly feel a responsibility to that.

But maybe it’s equal. Maybe we’re both missionary and merchant. Making money is a huge priority for me, but we are very mission oriented too. We’re a give-back brand; we have an entire department dedicated to humanity and we cover stories of non-profits in the South. And then we choose one of those non-profits each issue and 100% of our net proceeds from our release party go to the give-back, so we’ve been in business for six issues and probably written about $30,000 in give-back. We haven’t made a damn dime, but we have written $30,000 in checks to non-profits that we have written stories about. Philanthropy has always been a big part of who I am; I believe in giving back.

But I still love to make money. We will make money, because when we make money, I can pay my staff appropriately and right now, they’re all very much mission-oriented, which is something that I’ve learned about creatives. If they believe what you believe, money is not even second on their list. Feeling fulfilled and having a platform to do what they love is far more important than money.

Samir Husni: As a millennial, what role do you think you’re playing in the midst of all the Southern stereotypes? And where do you think you’re heading with Good Grit?

Laura Bento: I believe that my audience is in the wealth-accrual mode. And I hope that what Good Grit acts as, is a tool of something that’s just out of reach. We want to talk about stories that you can relate to now, but we also want to inspire you to do something more, whether that’s something that gives you a cause for action; trial and triumph are a big part of the tone of voice you hear throughout the book.

I hope our role is breaking stereotypes that have been built in the South. It’s so funny, “we have brains and we’re using them,” is something that I always say. There was a time when I felt like the South was really looking to California or New York and asking, OK – what’s in style? What are we supposed to be wearing, or eating, or doing; what’s cool? And I’ve explained to everyone that will listen to me; guess what? Everyone is looking at us now. They want to do know what we’re doing. The South is hot; we’re trending right now. There’s no way of knowing how long that wave will last, but we should ride it as hard as we possibly can and we should educate people that we do have brains and we’re using them; we’re innovators, we’re entrepreneurs; we’re dreamers. And we’re not just dreamers; we’re chasing our dreams as hard as we can.

We’re creating a summit to the South; entrepreneurs all over the country and all over the world want affordable living, but still retain the ability to go after whatever it is their heart desires. Hilariously, millennials; we all think that we can change the world. And maybe that’s not the case, but we also have to help them understand that we can’t just go out and sell daddy’s and granddaddy’s companies and ship them off to another country. We have to have publicly-traded companies in Birmingham, Ala. or our economy will collapse and in the next 20 years.

So, although we are a lifestyle magazine, I’m working on a program called “The Hats” that will be the first live and work incubator in the state of Alabama, but from what I can tell, probably the first of its kind in the country.

There are many layers to this. To me, Good Grit is a platform to tell these wonderful stories, but it’s not the end, and I don’t even think it’s the beginning. I think that I just happened to walk into a perfect storm in a city that’s experiencing some big transformations and be able to ride that wave with them. We’re in every state below the Mason-Dixon line now, although we’re still very much boutique, as far as circulation goes. But with our next round of capital, our next job will be to go over 100,000 in print to get us up to that regional level.

Samir Husni: Millennials are known for their social media skills and for being digital natives; as a millennial, why did you choose print?

Laura Bento: Our audience isn’t necessarily millennials. That’s one slice of my audience. But if you read the magazine, you understand that I’m not gearing it toward 18-34 year olds; not necessarily. I always say that I’m in the middle of the demographic, I’m 33. I chose print because, and this is not just about millennials, through the revitalization and localization movement that we’re seeing all over the world, and specifically the South; watching small towns be revitalized everywhere, this hipster movement as I like to call it, is certainly not exclusive to just millennials.

Old is new again. Record sales are at an all-time high, legit vinyl’s. Old buildings; we don’t want to live in a brand-new, fancy apartment complex, no-no, we want you to give us the shitty, brick-showing mortar, the AC is going to run you like $500 a month, loft downtown. That’s because old is new again. I don’t know how long that will last, but people love to hold print in their hands and I don’t care how many times they update their status with 140 characters, as long as they’re doing it with a picture of Good Grit as their photograph. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: If someone stopped you on the street and you told them what you do for a living and they asked you to define Good Grit, what would you say?

Laura Bento: I would tell them that Good Grit is a progressive voice for the South, telling the stories of the character of the South. We’re a magazine that had a baby with a coffee table book. I tell people that all of the time. Our goal is to live on your coffee table for at least two months and then maybe retire somewhere else in your home. We want to be beautiful, but intriguing. And we want you to want to curl up with us; throw us in your bag and take us with you everywhere, and to share us with your friends.

We hope that we’re not only reaching the sorority girl and her boyfriend, but we’re reaching her mom and then her mom. I believe that I have the opportunity to reach three generations of men and women through this magazine. And I think that we’re just starting to scratch the surface.

Samir Husni: You said that you’re just beginning to scratch the surface, but what’s the feeling you come home with at the end of the day?

Laura Bento: It’s so funny; I’ve never been so thankful and happy in a career ever. And I’ve always been thankful and happy in my career. It’s not like I’ve been a girl who was miserable with the things that she’s done, but when I come home now I literally walk down the hall and on the left side of my hall I have a photograph of every person on my staff. And beside their photograph is a word that represents them. Austin’s is humility and Austin is my art director. Ashley’s is overcomer, and Tony’s is constant; these words that mean so much. And when I walk down my hallway every day when I get home, I pass the people who work their asses off for me. That bleed for this company; they do not make enough money and they always give all they have to me.

I lived in a one-bedroom apartment. I have a son who is 13, and we moved into this tiny, one-bedroom apartment so that I could do this. And we had never lived like that before, not in his lifetime; he’d never seen that. And we joked and said that he was Harry Potter because his bed was in a closet. We’d pull it out and pull onto the floor.

So when I moved into my two-bedroom place that was one of the things I did because I wanted to remember all of the people who had made sacrifices and bled with me. So I created my wall. So, when I come home, I do so with a sense of gratitude. I never want to stop bleeding with gratitude or living with gratitude. One thing that I’ve learned about magazines and creatives is you just can’t pretend that you know what people want. You have to listen to them. And so I listen to my staff; I don’t pretend that I’m an expert. One thing I do know for sure is that I don’t know. So it’s gratitude; that’s what I come home with. That’s what keeps me going.

Samir Husni: I show up at your house one evening unexpectedly and you just came home; what do I find you doing; reading a magazine, reading on your iPad, watching television, or something else?

Laura Bento: If you came to my house right now, you’d think you had showed up on the set of the movie “A Beautiful Mind.” Every wall in my living room is covered with whiteboard. And it’s always that way. There’s always a new something. So right now, it’s identifying the seven streams of revenue that we have over the next four years so that we can raise our next round of capital. It’s looking at sales and pipelines; analyzing and understanding the people who are willing to take a risk on such a small publication with so few impressions and to grow with us.

It’s identifying how Good Grit fits into the local economy here and how I’ve gained favor with people who are in it here and influencers who can help us gain favor in other ways, but literally, every wall in my loft, in my living room and kitchen is covered in whiteboard.

Samir Husni: What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning and look forward to the day ahead?

Laura Bento: Gratitude. I’m so excited. It’s a miracle. What we’ve done is a miracle. So, I don’t want to take that for granted. I don’t spend a moment procrastinating. When my alarm goes off, or I’m up even before my alarm goes off, I sleep maybe five hours. I feel like sleep is kind of a waste of time and quite honestly, if I didn’t just have to be clean, showering would piss me off too.

Samir Husni: (Laughs).

Laura Bento: But there’s not enough time, so I wake up and count my blessings; I do my daily devotions and I listen to praise and worship music while I’m in the shower. I love Jesus and I cuss like a sailor, but I think those two things can exist together in the South. You’re welcomed.

Samir Husni: (Laughs again).

Laura Bento: And I hit the ground running. I’m hard on my people, but I hold them loose. And we just go at it every day. And it never stops.

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

Laura Bento: I would have answered that question differently if you had asked it five and a half months ago. I would have told you that what kept me up at night is how the hell am I going to make payroll on Friday, because that was before I on boarded my latest investor.

Now, I would tell you that what keeps me up at night is making sure that whatever our next move is regarding capital is the right move and it’s not made in desperation. That it is strategic and calculated and will protect this brand and its integrity.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Live Happy: The Magazine That Inspires Us To Do Just That With Every Page Turned – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Deborah Heisz, CEO, Co-Founder & Editorial Director

May 16, 2016

“Yes, I can. I know I’m in the magazine business and so that’s not something that I want to hear, but yes, absolutely. (On envisioning the brand without a print product) But I think the print component, with the permanence of print, brings it a level of credibility and a level of attractiveness. What I really mean is it draws people to it in a way that a simple online component or if we were just doing the podcast and had a website, could never bring to the brand. There’s something about authenticity that’s a big part of print that I just think isn’t a part of digital media. People hold it and touch it, they look at it and so there’s still just a level of credibility in a print piece that I don’t believe we would have just online.” Deborah Heisz

Live Happy_Doc blog-2 More than a magazine, Live Happy is a global movement that heartens us all to just stop the madness that can be our world today and simply – Live Happy. According to the powers-that-be at Live Happy, the U.S. moved up two notches to #13 on the recent World Happiness Report’s list of the world’s happiest places to live, proving that happiness continues to grow in importance and relevance in our everyday lives. Focused on manifesting happiness in people’s lives, as well as continuing to implement a global mission to help make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others, Live Happy has expanded far beyond the pages of its magazine, since its inception over 2 ½ years ago in the fall of 2013.

Recently, Live Happy released its first book on March 15: Live Happy: Ten Practices for Choosing Joy. In March, in conjunction with the UN-Sanctioned International Day of Happiness (March 20th), Live Happy celebrated its 3rd annual #HappyActs campaign. In addition to sharing #HappyActs, communities across the country celebrated in person as over 100 Happiness Walls were set up nationwide, as well as in Mexico, Canada, and Brazil. At the walls, people were able to share their #HappyActs and for each posted, Live Happy is donating $1 (up to $25,000) to Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Beyond the pages of the magazine, Live Happy also offers Live Happy Now, an inspiring free weekly audio podcast on iTunes, which features interviews with top researchers and experts in the fields of positive psychology and well-being. LiveHappy.com and espanol.LiveHappy.com also provide additional information on finding and sharing happiness.

The magazine has expanded its mission and has put out an all-points bulletin on happiness for all of us everywhere. And it’s a most refreshing change of pace in the erratic and often chaotic world we live in today.

I spoke with CEO, Co-Founder & Editorial Director, Deborah Heisz, recently and we talked about the brand’s intentions and focus for the future, and how it’s the small things in life, the ordinary things that are the easiest and the hardest for us to do to obtain happiness. The conversation was both inspiring and eye-opening.

So, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Deborah Heisz, a woman who has found her “happiness” doing what she loves best, sharing a positive message in a most impactful way through the Live Happy brand.

But first, the sound-bites:

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 6.51.22 AM On the secret of happiness: I think the secret of happiness is that there is no secret. It’s really making sure that you’re doing the things that you need to do to create a life for yourself. One of the surprising things that most people don’t realize is that happiness is a choice that we all make every day. And I don’t mean you choose to be happy like your emotions are just: la, la, I’m having a great time. We choose to do things that make ourselves happier and psychology has brought a lot of information out into the world about the little things we can do that will improve our overall well-being.

On whether in this day and age of notifications and constant information, there’s no time to focus on our own happiness: There’s definitely time to focus on happiness, but it’s more a matter of claiming the conversation. You’re right, we are bombarded. We’re bombarded by distractions. So, one of the principles and practices of happiness is being present and being mindful. But we are bombarded with distractions and we have to discipline ourselves to pay attention to the good stuff, to pay attention to the things that are going to bring richness to our lives, as opposed to paying attention to the noise.

On whether she feels that Live Happy, the brand, has tapped into something that has, up until now, been ignored for the most part in the magazine media world: What we’ve found is that there are people out there who are tired of negativity; they’re tired of salacious content and they’re tired of scandals. And really what has happened is that they’ve reached a point in their own lives where they have been bombarded with people telling them: you should want THIS; THIS is what success looks like. Success looks like a big house and a fast car, a great job, and partying all of the time. But for most people, that’s not necessarily what they want out of life.

On the difference between happiness and positive-thinking: Happiness, as we’re talking to, is really a subjective well-being. So, the definition of happiness in our vernacular is: not are you happy right now, but instead, hey, this is the life you’re living. You have this job and this family; are you happy? The answer to that question is really subjective well-being. Positive-thinking is really a movement about if you focus on good things only, good things will happen. We’re not a movement about focusing on just the good; we’re about focusing on your entire life. So, it isn’t just thinking; it’s thinking put into practice.

On how the book and the #HappyActs campaign came about: The book came about because we had been looking at how we could reach more audience and a lot of magazines extend their brands with books and we realized that we had some great stories to tell. And we had a survey of the science and a pretty good grasp on what the scientific landscape looked like. And so we paired the science of happiness in 10 areas with people who are putting them into action in their own lives. This was our third year of doing the #HappyActs campaign and it’s what we call a “social activation project.” We want people to be aware of the fact that they can choose to be happier.

On how the Happiness brand has impacted her life: I feel like I should be a zealot spreading happiness, but I’m not. I’m an ordinary person. But the information is tremendously freeing for me. I have a very demanding job, which I love, and I tell people that it’s the best job in the world and I’m not kidding. I’m surrounded by people who are trying to make the world happier all the time and I’m surrounded by positive information in a way that most people don’t get the opportunity to be.

On whether she can imagine the Live Happy brand without a print product: Yes, I can. I know I’m in the magazine business and so that’s not something that I want to hear, but yes, absolutely. But I think the print component, with the permanence of print, brings it a level of credibility and a level of attractiveness. What I really mean is it draws people to it in a way that a simple online component or if we were just doing the podcast and had a website, could never bring to the brand. There’s something about authenticity that’s a big part of print that I just think isn’t a part of digital media.

Live Happy May_June Cover[5] On whether she feels recent research on how the human brain reacts to actually touching something versus just looking at something will impact our degree of happiness: I think that there is a personal rate of consumption. There’s a lot of science on the fact that if you actually hold something, you feel more connected to it, rather than just in front of a computer screen, the tactile experience of a magazine or a book. There was an article recently that you should read your book as a book instead if as a Kindle, especially if you’re reading for enjoyment.

On whether having all of the different platforms: print, digital, mobile, video, moves the audience forward to a different level of happiness: I think that it gives them the tools to move themselves there. That’s what we’re really after. We really want to give people the tools and the inspiration to make those choices. And I think by having multiple ways that they can access our information it’s more likely to reach them. We have a great weekly newsletter that goes out, which refers back to articles on the web and the podcasts. It’s however they want to access that information we want it to be available to them.

On anything else she’d like to add: We have a lot going on. We’re still a growing and developing brand. I really just hope that people continue to discover us, because that’s another reason for adding all of these multiple networks of distributing content. It’s multiple entry points for people to discover us. They may come across a podcast or web article, they buy the magazine off the newsstand or they may buy the book at Barnes & Noble. However they come across us, we just hope our brand is attractive enough and gives them enough at their initial entry point that they want to explore more.

On what motivates her to get out of bed in the mornings: I don’t really have a problem with that. (Laughs) I have so much that I want to do. I am fortunate that I have the best job in the world, but really, ultimately what makes me get out of bed in the mornings is that I’m connected to the mission. I really feel like there’s a lot of ways to improve the world and I’ve been given an opportunity to participate in one of them. I’m very blessed.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: I have a nine-year-old, a seven-year-old and a four-year-old, so between 6:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. I’m cooking dinner, I love to cook. I read to my children every night; we do watch some TV, but for the most part we are no devices between the time I get home and everybody goes to bed. So, you won’t find an iPad or a phone in my hand. And that’s just part of being present and engaging with the family. We have dinner together and we do things together. We do read and watch some TV, but we interact for the most part.

On what keeps her up at night: I’m cursed with opportunity and we’re still a startup magazine, we’re still a startup company, so what keeps me up at night is how do I capture the opportunities that are in front of us? Which opportunity is the right one to pursue, because we have so much that we could be doing, it’s very easy to spread ourselves too thin. So for me it’s always reevaluating strategy all of the time.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Deborah Heisz, CEO, Co-Founder & Editorial Director, Live Happy.

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 6.58.54 AM Samir Husni: Live Happy is a magazine that’s less than three years old and is now an entire brand. You have your first book; the events; so, what’s the secret of happiness?

Deborah Heisz: (Laughs) I think the secret of happiness is that there is no secret. It’s really making sure that you’re doing the things that you need to do to create a life for yourself. One of the surprising things that most people don’t realize is that happiness is a choice that we all make every day. And I don’t mean you choose to be happy like your emotions are just: la, la, I’m having a great time. We choose to do things that make ourselves happier and psychology has brought a lot of information out into the world about the little things we can do that will improve our overall well-being.

And here’s the catch: they’re really easy to do. And none of them are surprising. But they’re also really easy not to do. It’s making decisions about taking care of your health; we all know that we need to take care of ourselves; we need to eat right; we need to move every day and get enough sleep. Those are all easy things to do and they’re all really easy not to do. And so happiness is a lot like that.

Samir Husni: In this day and age where we are bombarded by information, bombarded by social media, by politicians and their campaigns; do you think it’s just common sense that we need to focus on happiness or there’s no time for that today?

Deborah Heisz: There’s definitely time to focus on happiness, but it’s more a matter of claiming the conversation. You’re right, we are bombarded. We’re bombarded by distractions. So, one of the principles and practices of happiness is being present and being mindful. But we are bombarded with distractions and we have to discipline ourselves to pay attention to the good stuff, to pay attention to the things that are going to bring richness to our lives, as opposed to paying attention to the noise.

A good example of that are the current political campaigns. There is a lot of negative talk going on throughout the campaigns these days. But you have to look at it as two people arguing and throwing darts at each other; it can be interesting, but it doesn’t really have an impact on your life, it does depending on the outcome of the elections, that will impact all of our lives, but the actual day-to-day arguing doesn’t.

Instead of listening to all of the rhetoric, there are some other things that you could do instead, like having a conversation with your children, or reading a good book, or filling your brain with knowledge that will help to advance your career. There are all sorts of things that we could be paying attention to, instead we’re distracted by things that ultimately don’t bring any good into our lives.

Samir Husni: You have the print magazine; you’ve started the Podcasts; you have the Spanish-language website; are you finding that you’ve tapped into something that has been ignored for many years in the magazine media world?

Deborah Heisz: What we’ve found is that there are people out there who are tired of negativity; they’re tired of salacious content and they’re tired of scandals. And really what has happened is that they’ve reached a point in their own lives where they have been bombarded with people telling them: you should want THIS; THIS is what success looks like. Success looks like a big house and a fast car, a great job, and partying all of the time. But for most people, that’s not necessarily what they want out of life.

So what we’ve found is that there’s an audience out there that’s hungry for information and hungry for a media company that fits the lifestyle that they genuinely want. And what they really want is a happy family, a happy home life; to know that they’re raising good children. To know that they’re enjoying life and that there is something beautiful in life and they’re a part of something bigger.

What I believe the average person wants to know is that their life has meaning. And what do they need to do to create that meaning in their life? Well, if it’s not a house and it’s not a car; what is it? So, identifying what we’re doing; what it is we’re spending our time engaged in is important.

And there is a gap in the media world. Obviously, O Magazine does a great job of providing a lot of good content. MORE, which unfortunately folded, also had a lot of good content. It’s really about a hunger for information that’s uplifting, but isn’t trite. It has to be genuine.

Samir Husni: As an editor, what’s the difference between happiness and positive-thinking? When the magazine was first-launched and I did that initial interview, I was told happiness was a science.

Deborah Heisz: Happiness, as we’re talking to, is really a subjective well-being. So, the definition of happiness in our vernacular is: not are you happy right now, but instead, hey, this is the life you’re living. You have this job and this family; are you happy? The answer to that question is really subjective well-being.

Positive psychology is the science of improving your subjective well-being. What things can you do to improve your subjective well-being? And that’s really the type of content that we’re looking at. The types of people that we feature are studying that.

Positive-thinking is really a movement about if you focus on good things only, good things will happen. We’re not a movement about focusing on just the good; we’re about focusing on your entire life. So, it isn’t just thinking; it’s thinking put into practice. Now, thinking is a component of that, specifically attitude, and the way you take on the day is how you perceive yourself doing and how your well-being is. And that’s not the only component by any stretch of the imagination.

image002 Samir Husni: Tell me a little more about the print magazine, the new book and the event you just had, in terms of the #HappyActs campaign.

Deborah Heisz: The magazine is doing well, we publish every other month. Our digital version of the magazine is gaining in popularity. In fact, we won a Folio award for our digital magazine, which we launched this year. And we just launched a mobile phone version of our magazine this week and it will be a part of our regular subscriber package. And that’s doing well.

The book came about because we had been looking at how we could reach more audience and a lot of magazines extend their brands with books and we realized that we had some great stories to tell. And we had a survey of the science and a pretty good grasp on what the scientific landscape looked like. And so we paired the science of happiness in 10 areas with people who are putting them into action in their own lives. We added different chapters; in the Health chapter we had Arianna Huffington stories, and we also had a lot of stories involving people who you would have never heard of who were putting these happiness practices into action and seeing results. So, that was inspiration and information, as we included scientific surveys. We also thought it was a great way to introduce people to the brand.

This was our third year of doing the #HappyActs campaign and it’s what we call a “social activation project.” We want people to be aware of the fact that they can choose to be happier. Everybody has a different starting point and everybody has a different map for happiness, but people can choose to be happier by the things that they do every day. Most people don’t think about their own happiness; they don’t think about the happiness of the world on a regular basis, so we started the #HappyActs campaign and it has really taken off. The first year we did about 30 Happiness Walls, this year we did about 72 Walls that we sponsored and gathered volunteers for. But in addition to that there were several hundred people who also hosted other Walls around the world. And what these Walls are is you put them up in public places and people walk by and they take a moment to write on a card: I will share happiness by__________, and they fill in the blank. Whether it’s “I will share happiness by smiling at strangers” or “volunteering at a pet shelter,” just whatever way that they want to share happiness and make the world a little better today.

Our goal is just to get people to think about the fact that they can personally do something that can make the world a happier place. And just being at the Walls is great, you get to see people’s surprise, because they want to know what you’re selling and then they want to know if you belong to a cult, and of course the answer is neither. (Laughs) So, once you get past those things and people find out you’re genuinely curious about how they want to share happiness, they’re OK.

The goal is to share happiness in some way and build a happiness movement; a world full of people who are impacting others in a positive way by doing nothing extraordinary, just ordinary things that we all can do.

Samir Husni: Do you feel as though you’re a zealous missionary spreading the religion of happiness, or do you feel like you’re just doing your job as a curator of this science? How has the brand impacted your own life?

image001 Deborah Heisz: I feel like I should be a zealot spreading happiness, but I’m not. I’m an ordinary person. But the information is tremendously freeing for me. I have a very demanding job, which I love, and I tell people that it’s the best job in the world and I’m not kidding. I’m surrounded by people who are trying to make the world happier all the time and I’m surrounded by positive information in a way that most people don’t get the opportunity to be.

But it’s freeing for me because it allows me to let myself off the hook. I, like everyone else, have been bombarded with the information to want more. I should want more of whatever it is. And I’ve never really wanted more; I’ve always been one of those people who could be happy doing whatever I’m doing, but like a lot of people, I would tend toward being a workaholic to go after something that I didn’t really want. So, Live Happy has really allowed me to see the way I think and be present in my life in a way that I never was before.

I have three children and I’ve always made time for them, but I don’t feel guilty about making tome for them anymore. Nor do I feel guilty about going to work. And I really used to. Now, it’s understanding that I’m making choices to do the things that are going to enrich my life and that’s OK. I don’t have to compete with someone else. I’m running my own race and the only winner is me and there is no loser. And I don’t have to compete with somebody else who is running their own race.

Samir Husni: So, you’re living the magazine?

Deborah Heisz: Yes, very much so. I feel like the magazine is me. It’s a wonderfully freeing feeling to go to work every day and feel like you’re working on yourself, but you’re also empowering other people to do the same thing.

Samir Husni: Can you imagine yourself doing this without a print component? Can you envision the Live Happy brand existing or being what it is now without a print product?

Deborah Heisz: Yes, I can. I know I’m in the magazine business and so that’s not something that I want to hear, but yes, absolutely. But I think the print component, with the permanence of print, brings it a level of credibility and a level of attractiveness. What I really mean is it draws people to it in a way that a simple online component or if we were just doing the podcast and had a website, could never bring to the brand. There’s something about authenticity that’s a big part of print that I just think isn’t a part of digital media. People hold it and touch it, they look at it and so there’s still just a level of credibility in a print piece that I don’t believe we would have just online.

In fact, there are a lot of other online sites that touch on what we do, but they touch on it in way that just doesn’t seem as thorough and in depth. The print component adds a lot to what we do. Could we do it without it? Yes, but I just think it would be a different and smaller brand.

Samir Husni: I’m seeing some research taking place now about the way our brain reacts if we’re touching something or looking at something; do you think that will also impact the degree of happiness that we experience?

Deborah Heisz: I think that there is a personal rate of consumption. There’s a lot of science on the fact that if you actually hold something, you feel more connected to it, rather than just in front of a computer screen, the tactile experience of a magazine or a book. There was an article recently that you should read your book as a book instead if as a Kindle, especially if you’re reading for enjoyment.

So, there is definitely that out there. What I’ve really been paying attention to lately is this whole concept of you should have a lead and watch component for your information, because people like to consume media differently, depending on who they are. And if you’re providing all three, what’s going to happen is they’re going to read or watch something first and it’s going to be reinforced by the other. And that if you encompass all three, people can really grasp the concept in a way that if you had just one or two components it doesn’t work.

But I think that tactile experience of reading is really important. The article I read basically stated if you’re holding the book, you’re actually reading it, where if you’re reading it on a screen, you’re doing more scanning and skimming, not really involving yourself in the content the way that you do when you read a physical piece.

Samir Husni: When you combine all of these elements: the podcasts, the web, the mobile/digital and the print and now the book, do you think the combination of all of these will move your audience to a higher level of happiness?

Deborah Heisz: I think that it gives them the tools to move themselves there. That’s what we’re really after. We really want to give people the tools and the inspiration to make those choices. And I think by having multiple ways that they can access our information it’s more likely to reach them. We have a great weekly newsletter that goes out, which refers back to articles on the web and the podcasts. It’s however they want to access that information we want it to be available to them.

But I do think that just having a website or just having a podcast isn’t enough. You have to have a richer experience in order for people to really get enough information and develop enough of a relationship with the brand to know that we’re their resource.

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

Deborah Heisz: We have a lot going on. We’re still a growing and developing brand. I really just hope that people continue to discover us, because that’s another reason for adding all of these multiple networks of distributing content. It’s multiple entry points for people to discover us. They may come across a podcast or web article, they buy the magazine off the newsstand or they may buy the book at Barnes & Noble. However they come across us, we just hope our brand is attractive enough and gives them enough at their initial entry point that they want to explore more.

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

Deborah Heisz: I don’t really have a problem with that. (Laughs) I have so much that I want to do. I am fortunate that I have the best job in the world, but really, ultimately what makes me get out of bed in the mornings is that I’m connected to the mission. I really feel like there’s a lot of ways to improve the world and I’ve been given an opportunity to participate in one of them. I’m very blessed.

I don’t ever have problems getting motivated in the mornings. Sometimes it’s because my four-year-old crawls into bed with me. (Laughs again)

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

Deborah Heisz: I have a nine-year-old, a seven-year-old and a four-year-old, so between 6:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. I’m cooking dinner, I love to cook. I read to my children every night; we do watch some TV, but for the most part we are no devices between the time I get home and everybody goes to bed. So, you won’t find an iPad or a phone in my hand. And that’s just part of being present and engaging with the family. We have dinner together and we do things together. We do read and watch some TV, but we interact for the most part.

Now after the kids go to bed, it could be a book or an iPad, or it could be watching TV. But those three hours between when I get home and they go to bed, it’s their time. I have such limited time with them while we’re all awake and doing things, we have no devices at night. We spend time just doing things like I did when I was growing up.

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

Deborah Heisz: I’m cursed with opportunity and we’re still a startup magazine, we’re still a startup company, so what keeps me up at night is how do I capture the opportunities that are in front of us? Which opportunity is the right one to pursue, because we have so much that we could be doing, it’s very easy to spread ourselves too thin. So for me it’s always reevaluating strategy all of the time. Are we on the right track that will give us the most results? Or have we taken a side trail where we may get some results, but the resources could be better used somewhere else?

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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So, What Is The Role Of Print In A Digital Age? Deborah Corn, From Print Media Centr Asks And Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni Answers…

May 11, 2016

During the Trend Tech Summit last week in Los Alamitos, CA, Deborah Corn, owner and operator of Print Media Centr interviewed me for her Print Media Centr site. She asked me, “what is the role of print in a digital age?” My answer is in the video below:

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Newell Turner: It’s Good To Be Home – Metropolitan Home, That Is. The Relaunch Of The Magazine Brings It Back To Its Original Urban DNA – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Newell Turner, Editor-in-Chief and Hearst Design Group Editorial Director.

May 9, 2016

“What’s more exciting though than it actually being Met Home is that it’s a magazine. And it’s really just starting what I want to push more, that artistic side of magazine making, not just cranking out a product on an assembly line, but finding ways to be artistic with the product. I think that’s what is going to set us apart from everything else that’s out there. We are an experience and we have to be more of that than ever now.” Newell Turner

“I believe the digital age allows for many wonderful things, but it also makes us so disconnected from reality in the digital platforms that to come back to this (print) is very special. And that’s what it should be actually.” Newell Turner

Met Home Metropolitan Home returned to newsstands recently and while the magazine is uniquely modern and contemporary for today’s fast-paced world, the familiar urban appeal is back as the magazine hones in on its original DNA very successfully. The man who began his career , in his own words, on the lowest possible rung of the original Met Home’s ladder, is back, only this time, he’s at the top of the masthead, bringing his passion for the brand along with him. I spoke with Newell Turner on a recent trip to New York and we talked about the magazine that began it all for him. And how excited he is to see it return.

As a former student of mine, Newell’s talents and creative capabilities are something that I have witnessed first-hand and as his career has developed and grown over the years, I have been amazed by the strides of excellence and above all, savviness that he has shown in everything that he has done.

I was excited to hear the prognosis for Met Home’s future and the clear vision that this pilot issue has given for the forward-movement of the brand. So without further ado, I give you the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a man who knows Met Home better than anyone else on the planet, Newell Turner, Editor-in-Chief and Hearst Design Group Editorial Director.

But first, the sound-bites:

NewellTurner2 On how it feels to have started at the bottom rung of the magazine’s (Metropolitan Home) masthead and to now be at the very top of it: Right, I was at the lowest rung. (Laughs) I show my editorial assistants now; look, I didn’t even have a title when I started on the masthead; I was below the address. So, stop complaining about titles around here. (Laughs again) There are moments where I’ve thought about it; I feel a huge responsibility to it, because as you know, in the beginning I was there with Dorothy (Kalins), who was the founder of the magazine, and the magazine had such a passion, back to that word again that I feel like we’ve really tried to infuse this with. And I wanted to bring that passion, not only for the magazine, but to build a passion with the audience for the magazine.

On the original title of Apartment Life: It was the early 70s, maybe ’73 or ’74, and it was Apartment Life for a while. We kept that rubric, the phrase Apartment Life is still the rubric; it’s our small space column, and we’re just really going back to the brand and looking at what it was and what it wanted to be, and seeing a void in the market for that very concept.

On recreating the moment that he found out that Met Home was going to relaunched: When we bought Lagardère, I emailed David (Carey) the next day and said, hey, by the way, did we get Metropolitan Home, which it had been a part of the company, but it had been closed. And he said that he had no idea, because we had gotten a huge amount of property content when that purchase happened, so many real magazines, but then a lot of archival material as well. About a week later he emailed me back and said yes, we did get Metropolitan Home and that was right about the time that I was reorganizing or creating the Hearst Design Group. So, it was immediately on my horizon as an opportunity to grow the Group in a few years. But about a year and half ago Michael Clinton came to one of our issue previews and said, hey, by the way Newell, what about Metropolitan Home? (Laughs) I said, well, it’s on my horizon. And he said that he thought there was a white space for that market and we should look at it.

On how he manages to handle the Design Group and four magazine titles: First of all, you have great people (Laughs), you hire really good editors in chief, because the editors in chief are the ones still primarily responsible for their magazines. As a group, both as a business and as a product going out there and creating content, we have much more strength as a group than we do individually. So, we are doing versions of this throughout Hearst, but we’re the only group that is truly integrated. None of the other groups are as integrated as we are, staffing-wise and production-wise.

On the only constant, besides change, in this business: What’s the only constant? Hopefully, beautiful content and beautiful products. I hope creativity; I actually want to believe that creativity is going to grow out of all of this. What we’ve already done is engage people in new ways.

On when that first relaunched issue of Metropolitan Home hit his desk: I didn’t want to look at it anymore. (Laughs) I was tired of it already. I was already thinking about the next issue. It makes me very happy to see it. I look at it; it looks very new to me, but it also looks very familiar as the magazine that I started at. It was also fun to work on because it was really only four of us working on this project full-time, and so I played many roles. I got to do everything from assigning, copy editing, pulling products for product stories, and it was fun to reengage on all of those levels.

NewellTurner On whether the “At Last” phrase on the cover of the magazine was for him: “At Last?” No, that’s for all of the people; the Facebook fans that have a following. I think there is a club called “We Miss Met Home.” It is a little bit for me, I suppose, “At Last” it’s back. I was very sad when it closed. I felt like it had just drifted for a long time with not a lot of effort put into it. And for something that had begun with so much passion and such an exciting staff, to see it drift and just fade away was really sad to me. So, it is exciting to bring it back.

On whether artistic differentiation s the future of magazine publishing: Yes, I think that we’re not an algorithm, gathering product like so much of the content on the web is. I’m also going to say more and more that I could care less about three trillion eyeballs seeing this. I would much rather have 300,000 and 800,000 readers. I think a smaller, special, more passionate audience is the future.

On what he believes is the power of print in this digital age: The art side of me, the passionate side of me, loves the feel of a magazine. And I love the experience of holding it and studies say that people retain more when they’re holding a magazine. I think that what’s wonderful today is that as a journalist we don’t have just one platform to tell a story on and I feel like we in print are only just beginning to understand the opportunities on all of the platforms.

On anything else that he’d like to add: I want to believe that we’re only just beginning to experiment and push the creative side of it. I had wanted to do more and I think that we’ve done a lot in this issue, but I really want to push that and play with it more, whether it’s a combination of special papers or really tapping into the creative photography and writing, I really want to push all of that.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly to his home one evening: Consuming media on multiple platforms simultaneously. (Laughs) Watching television, usually something I recorded, because I can’t stand the commercials and I fast forward through them, reading a magazine or a newspaper with my iPhone or iPad at hand, either looking up or going back and forth, reading things on different subjects.

On what keeps him up at night: My iPad; I go to bed with the iPad. I start reading and then I just can’t stop and it goes from one thing to the next. I’m not worried about publishing and that may sound really cocky and over-confident, but I really do feel like there’s a future for the size and the kind of magazine, not specifically Metropolitan Home, but this kind of focused magazine. I believe there is a real future for it.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Newell Turner, Editor-in-Chief and Hearst Design Group Editorial Director.

TurnerandHusni Samir Husni: How does it feel to produce a magazine that when you began, your name was at the lowest end of the masthead, but it’s now at the top of that masthead; how does that feel to you?

Newell Turner: Right, I was at the lowest rung. (Laughs) I show my editorial assistants now; look, I didn’t even have a title when I started on the masthead; I was below the address. So, stop complaining about titles around here. (Laughs again)

There are moments where I’ve thought about it; I feel a huge responsibility to it, because as you know, in the beginning I was there with Dorothy (Kalins), who was the founder of the magazine, and the magazine had such a passion, back to that word again that I feel like we’ve really tried to infuse this with. And I wanted to bring that passion, not only for the magazine, but to build a passion with the audience for the magazine.

And I think that’s what Met Home had done so brilliantly. In the beginning it developed a relationship and an audience with the Baby Boom generation, and now we have this opportunity to do it for the next big group, meaning Gen X and first-wave millennials.

But to answer your question; it’s kind of astonishing. (Laughs) I like to tell people here, especially the youngest editors, who all today want a new title and a promotion after their first involvement in a story, way before they even produce a story by themselves; I tell them to keep putting one foot in front of the next and look at what can happen, just hang in there.

So, 30-plus years later, I got to bring back this magazine that started my career. And as I told Dorothy; we had spoken a couple of times about it and I had sent her a couple of issues, and I said that I really saw myself as going back to the DNA of the brand and rebuilding it from there, as opposed to where it was when it died. And she wrote me a really wonderful email back about that, because I feel like the magazine had kind of lost its position. It’s called Metropolitan Home, but most of the houses were suburban and country and weekend houses.

I wanted to bring it back to being very urban and more contemporary and that’s really coming right back to the heart of what it was in the beginning.

Samir Husni: For those who don’t know the history of Metropolitan Home; it started as Apartment Life.

Newell Turner: Yes, it did. We don’t have an exact date, because it didn’t have a frequency.

Samir Husni: Yes, it was an SIP from Better Homes and Gardens.

Newell Turner: Yes, and it was the early 70s, maybe ’73 or ’74, and it was Apartment Life for a while. We kept that rubric, the phrase Apartment Life is still the rubric; it’s our small space column, and we’re just really going back to the brand and looking at what it was and what it wanted to be, and seeing a void in the market for that very concept. And that’s what really happened.

Samir Husni: Can you recreate for me that moment when the hierarchy, whether it was David Carey or Michael Clinton who said first that they wanted to do this, to relaunch Metropolitan Home?

Newell Turner: Well, it didn’t happen quite like that. (Laughs) When we bought Lagardère, I emailed David (Carey) the next day and said, hey, by the way, did we get Metropolitan Home, which it had been a part of the company, but it had been closed. And he said that he had no idea, because we had gotten a huge amount of property content when that purchase happened, so many real magazines, but then a lot of archival material as well.

About a week later he emailed me back and said yes, we did get Metropolitan Home and that was right about the time that I was reorganizing or creating the Hearst Design Group. So, it was immediately on my horizon as an opportunity to grow the Group in a few years. But about a year and half ago Michael Clinton came to one of our issue previews and said, hey, by the way Newell, what about Metropolitan Home? (Laughs) I said, well, it’s on my horizon. And he said that he thought there was a white space for that market and we should look at it.

And that’s when Kate (Kate Kelly Smith) and I started thinking about and considering what we could do with it. From the business side, we were very careful not to create a product that would cannibalize the business of our other magazines in the Group, but instead, build something that would add to the portfolio and I think Met Home is going to play a big role in that, because we do a lot of cross-magazine sales to advertisers. We want advertisers to come to us with all of their advertising dollars and then let us cover the world for them in the shelter/decorating category.

So, that’s how it started really. Michael said let’s look at it and do it as a pilot, which is a new concept as far as I know; it’s new here at Hearst. It’s basically the same concept as it is in television. You create a product; you put it out there; you see how advertisers and consumers respond to it.

With advertisers, we sold out of ad pages, which was terrific. We did a consumer interest survey back in October; again, with no product, with no pages or images to show people, just testing reader memory of the title, Metropolitan Home, and also readers’ interests in contemporary and urban content and a magazine that would focus on that.

Interestingly, the results that came back aligned almost exactly with the demographic that we had theoretically gone out to capture. And that’s the median age of 38; household income of $150,000 and up; female/male ratio of like 70/30. All of which are very different from our other magazines, most shelter publications have a median age of readers in their 50s and the household income is much lower, except for Veranda, which is the highest in the category at around $124, 000 per household and then a much younger readership of 38.

The response rate of people interested came in at a median age of 38 for Met Home. So, that was a real strong indication that we were on the right path with something that we were creating. And then like I said, we didn’t have anything to put out there, we were just selling it with this brochure. And with advertisers, everybody was trying to figure out who and what the millennials are.

We started out, I would say, talking a little more millennial, but then as it evolved we realized that it’s Gen X that’s coming first, and they’re in their 40s and the ones who are really beginning to make serious decisions about homes and purchases for their homes. And in the process of going right at them, also build a relationship with the first-wave millennials.

I don’t know how much you’ve read about millennials, but everyone tends to talk about them as one big group, but there’s really a first and a second-wave, just like there was with the Baby Boomers. And the first-wave is in their 30s and they’re starting to make some purchases. Unfortunately for us, decorating is probably the last item on the disposable-income list of where they’re going to spend money, long after food, entertainment and clothing, but by their late 30s and 40s, most people are starting to make enough to at least think about some purchases for the home, if not make their first actual home purchase.

Samir Husni: Your group, the Design Group at Hearst, was started as an experiment, in terms of appointing one person, you to handle the group; you were heading three magazines and now you have four. They’re applying the same formula with Jay at Town & Country and Esquire. Is this the future, doing more with less? And how do you manage to handle all four titles now?

Newell Turner: First of all, you have great people (Laughs), you hire really good editors in chief, because the editors in chief are the ones still primarily responsible for their magazines. As a group, both as a business and as a product going out there and creating content, we have much more strength as a group than we do individually.

So, we are doing versions of this throughout Hearst, but we’re the only group that is truly integrated. None of the other groups are as integrated as we are, staffing-wise and production-wise.

As you know, we have three core teams, one for each magazine, of about six people per team. And then we have three large departments that work across all three magazines. We just decided, and I decided especially, that we’re going to have to take big steps if we’re going to get anywhere with this integration. We’re going to have to make big, bold moves and some things are going to work and some things aren’t. If it doesn’t work, we’ll step back a little bit, but as David has said, we’re never going back to where we were in the beginning.

And it was those big moves out of the gate that really got us to where we are and got us as integrated as we are. And really this integration, I think, is the future because our entire process of magazine making was antiquated on one hand, but yet working with all of the latest tools of the industry on the other. And no one had ever really stopped and asked: we have this to do it with, but we’re still doing it that way and does that make sense?

So, we had that rare opportunity that Hearst gave us to stop and literally just take it apart and scrub it is the best way to describe it. And honestly, it’s the first time in my entire life or my career that I’ve had a job description. There were no job descriptions in any of the magazines. And we wrote job descriptions for people and that may sound old-school, but it’s actually imperative for people so they can kind of understand what they do, especially now that we’re this integrated, because we’ve really cleaned up jobs, so we’ve really enabled people to focus on what they do and do best.

At the same time, the tools that we use have enabled people to do more and by that I should say that we’re going to be doing some new implementations here that are based on a model in Spain that we’re just starting to look at. But it’s really going to take advantage of the tools even more. To make what our employees are doing now work better.

Everything is changing so fast; it’s like today you’re doing it this way, and then two months later there’s a new way to do it and it’s a better way, but you’re still kind of holding on to some of the old ways and trying the new ways. You end up with these very overly-complicated processes that are neither here nor there and don’t work either way to their max.

Samir Husni: In this sea of change, what’s the only constant besides change?

Newell Turner: What’s the only constant? Hopefully, beautiful content and beautiful products. I hope creativity; I actually want to believe that creativity is going to grow out of all of this. What we’ve already done is engage people in new ways.

So, someone that typically edits just one magazine, and has for years, you want to keep your good employees, but year after year, they’re editing the same magazine; it’s got to get boring. And I’ve left jobs because I thought what I was doing was all I could do.

Now this person that I’m kind of making up is editing across all three magazines and during every monthly cycle is engaging in different ways with different core teams, different content, different voices and it just keeps the job interesting. And even though it’s more streamlined, there’s more variety and interest in it. Even people that we’ve had leave after we’ve done this have said this has been the most engaging and interesting experience of my career.

It’s worked really, really well. And it’s worked on all fronts, from the business side to the editorial side. We’ve had parts of it where employees have gone through a lot of changes, where staffing has changed. But for the most part we’ve pretty much held together.

Samir Husni: When that first issue of Met Home landed on your desk…

Newell Turner: I didn’t want to look at it anymore. (Laughs) I was tired of it already. I was already thinking about the next issue.

It makes me very happy to see it. I look at it; it looks very new to me, but it also looks very familiar as the magazine that I started at. It was also fun to work on because it was really only four of us working on this project full-time, and so I played many roles. I got to do everything from assigning, copy editing, pulling products for product stories, and it was fun to reengage on all of those levels.

I also think it’s healthy for me to reengage like that, because it reminds me of what people are actually doing and it helps me see how they’re jobs are working, where maybe I’ve been asking too much of some people, and where some people can do more.

And I want more creative voices writing for the magazine. There’s no reason we should be working with the same people over and over again. This gave us an opportunity for me to prove that you can bring in new voices and you don’t have to be this slave to some mythical voice that really isn’t a voice at all. It’s been so home that there’s no voice to it anymore.

We were looser in the editing process; we intentionally didn’t over edit people in putting this together, because I wanted to make the point to some of our team that you don’t have to work copy so hard, especially when you’re hiring great people to work for you and write for you. Let their voices come through.

We used Met Home and we’re still using it as an opportunity to try things and demonstrate things for the other magazines in the Group.

Samir Husni: Is it Newell’s passion from the heart, the “At Last” phrase on the cover?

Newell Turner: “At Last?” No, that’s for all of the people; the Facebook fans that have a following. I think there is a club called “We Miss Met Home.” It is a little bit for me, I suppose, “At Last” it’s back. I was very sad when it closed. I felt like it had just drifted for a long time with not a lot of effort put into it. And for something that had begun with so much passion and such an exciting staff, to see it drift and just fade away when it died was really sad to me. So, it is exciting to bring it back.

What’s more exciting though than it actually being Met Home is that it’s a magazine. And it’s really just starting what I want to push more, that artistic side of magazine making, not just cranking out a product on an assembly line, but finding ways to be artistic with the product. I think that’s what is going to set us apart from everything else that’s out there. We are an experience and we have to be more of that than ever now.

And weirdly, that’s just back to the beginning of magazine making. It’s where magazines started, as beautifully crafted, specially-made, limited production products.

Samir Husni: I still remember your design assignments from class, where you always differentiated yourself from the rest of the class technically, in terms of your artistic abilities and drawings of those images in your head. Is that the future of magazine publishing?

Newell Turner: Yes, I think that we’re not an algorithm, gathering product like so much of the content on the web is. I’m also going to say more and more that I could care less about three trillion eyeballs seeing this. I would much rather have 300,000 and 800,000 readers. I think a smaller, special, more passionate audience is the future.

I also feel really strongly about this, and I don’t even know if it relates to the conversation, but we have got to charge what we’re worth and stand by that price. We’re $9.99 on the newsstand and I’m not embarrassed about it. I don’t think that we’re going to have any issues with it, knock on wood. If we move forward and start with subscriptions, I don’t want discounted subscriptions. I received something out of my Instagram feed from Condé Nast Traveler‎, beautiful cover, six issues for $6, that is the most depressing and sad thing that I’ve ever seen. If we don’t value what we produce, then why do we expect the consumer to value it?

And that’s not in just magazine publishing, that’s in real estate; that’s in everything out there. And we have got to value it and charge what it’s worth and I think consumers will appreciate it then.

Samir Husni: What do you believe is the power of print in this digital age?

Newell Turner: Well, I’m multiplatform, so let me say, I’m an avid subscriber to Texture and I think that’s partly because I like to be able to get a magazine the moment I want it and not have to go in search for it on the newsstand.

The art side of me, the passionate side of me, loves the feel of a magazine. And I love the experience of holding it and studies say that people retain more when they’re holding a magazine. I think that what’s wonderful today is that as a journalist we don’t have just one platform to tell a story on and I feel like we in print are only just beginning to understand the opportunities on all of the platforms. And not just doing a video because you can do one on the website, but how do you tell a story on Snapchat? And not only how do you tell that story, but how do you make one that makes sense for Snapchat and your subject? In our case, a shelter/decorating magazine.

To me, the many platforms that we have to play with and the way that we can integrate them together and have them function independently are really exciting to me.

Samir Husni: That’s one of the things that I teach now-a-days, that media companies have to be platform agnostic. But you have to keep in mind that some of our audiences are platform specific.

Newell Turner: Much of our audience is still platform specific. I just think that in the digital age people are more attracted to tactile things than ever before. And I think that’s going to play to our advantage as the print platform, that desire to touch. That’s why we’re all playing with varnishes and textures on our covers to increase that sense of tactile quality.

I believe the digital age allows for many wonderful things, but it also makes us so disconnected from reality in the digital platforms that to come back to this (print) is very special. And that’s what it should be actually.

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

Newell Turner: I want to believe that we’re only just beginning to experiment and push the creative side of it. I had wanted to do more and I think that we’ve done a lot in this issue, but I really want to push that and play with it more, whether it’s a combination of special papers or really tapping into the creative photography and writing, I really want to push all of that.

I’ve used the analogy to HBO so much that it’s kind of boring, but we really have to be an amazing product like the HBO product is. Something that people are willing to pay for, and then enjoy the process of telling the stories the way you want to tell them, and not feeling like you have to win everybody with your first issue. Taking your time and pacing the magazine.

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

Newell Turner: Consuming media on multiple platforms simultaneously. (Laughs) Watching television, usually something I recorded, because I can’t stand the commercials and I fast forward through them, reading a magazine or a newspaper with my iPhone or iPad at hand, either looking up or going back and forth, reading things on different subjects.

Samir Husni: Any final words of wisdom to the students majoring in journalism at your alma mater, Ole Miss?

Newell Turner: Yes, no job is too small. And getting your foot in the door is everything, and then being patient, and hopefully finding good mentors. I’ve had good mentors and I try to be a good mentor to my staff here. And I think that’s a wonderful aspect of business and our business in particular. And this is really important; I told one of my staff when I left another job, I said the one piece of advice I could give you is never burn a bridge, because in this business, we cross paths over and over again. It’s happened too many times. So, never burn a bridge in this business because you’re going to be working with people again and you don’t want to have that problem.

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

Newell Turner: My iPad; I go to bed with the iPad. I start reading and then I just can’t stop and it goes from one thing to the next. I’m not worried about publishing and that may sound really cocky and over-confident, but I really do feel like there’s a future for the size and the kind of magazine, not specifically Metropolitan Home, but this kind of focused magazine. I believe there is a real future for it.

So, I’m not really worried about publishing. I think people are always curious and want to know more; people want to better their lives, it’s the American Dream, to have a better life. And we are one of the best platforms and products to help them get there. We’re kind of built into the American Dream. We believe in knowing everything and we want to have a better life and magazines provide the best way to get that.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Joe Berger: The ACT 6 Conference Addresses the Newsstand.* Epilogue 2.

May 5, 2016

Joe Berger In 2009 I was excited to hear that Dr. Samir Husni (aka Mr. Magazine) had launched the Magazine Innovation Center at the Meek School of Journalism at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. I thought it was past time that the conventional wisdom was challenged. Yes, the world of information is changing. Yes, digital is the future. But did that mean that digital was the only future? While we embrace digital, revise how we look at media and magazines and journalism do we have to dance so happily on the grave of printed magazines?

One of the missions of the MIC is to host conferences that discuss the business of publishing in an open and free ranging forum. The conferences are called ACT (ACT is the acronym for “Amplify, Clarify and Testify.”) At the first ACT conference I was thrilled to see speakers beyond the usual batch of insiders who spoke at most magazine conventions. Better yet, we got to hear from a wide range of Samir’s publishing acquaintances from overseas and learned how they were addressing the changes in the magazine world. And even better than that, the auditorium in Overby Hall was filled with journalism students, undergraduates and graduates who were there to learn about magazine publishing and what the future may hold for them.

This year, the ACT conference was in the Spring (April 20 – 22) instead of the Fall. After five conferences that focused on a wide variety of topics, this years’ ACT featured several panels on the struggles of the newsstand side of the business.

Day One of the ACT conference kicked off with an industry overview from Tony Silber of Folio Magazine. It was followed by a very lively and informative address from Sid Evans of Southern Living Magazine.

Day Two took on a whole different form.

The conference kicked off with an historical overview of the makeup of the newsstand distribution industry from John Harrington, a consultant and editor of the New Single Copy newsletter and former head of the industry trade group, The Council for Periodical Distributors of America (CPDA). John is a long time industry veteran and he was able to lay out for many conference participants how the newsstand was organized, how it had worked for many years. Finally he explained why the industry experienced such rapid consolidation and had arrived at such a precarious position in the second decade of the 21st century.

But for any newsstand veteran, the surprise was the next panel, “Reimagining The Newsstand”. This was a remarkably open and frank discussion between several publishers, a major magazine wholesaler, and the major supplier of books and magazines to Barnes & Noble. The panel was moderated by Gil Brechtel, a former magazine wholesaler and current CEO of MagNet, a data service that provides publishers with store level information on their newsstand sales. The members of the panel were: Shawn Everson of Ingram Content, David Parry of TNG, Hubert Boehle of Bauer Media, Andy Clurman of AIM Publishing and Eric Hoffman of Hoffman Media.

While it was not that remarkable to have wholesalers and publishers on a panel discussion, this panel was more lively and open (Perhaps because we were nowhere near either coast?). Before the panel opened, each participant was given the opportunity to give a short presentation on their side of the business. This was incredibly informative. I could understand, fully for a change, the incredible pressures that TNG operates under (High fixed costs, pressures from retail customers, competitors for space within those retail customers, pressure from magazine suppliers). I could see why a publisher from another country (Hubert Boehle of Bauer) would view the American newsstand with a skeptical and quizzical eye (Germany has similar sales volume as the US, yet a higher sell through and lower remittance to the retailer). It was fascinating to hear about the transformation of Ingram from a strictly magazine and bookstore reship operation into a multi-channel company that also profited from digital production and distribution was impressive and remarkable.

Did the panel fix the newsstand?

Of course not. The challenges that face the newsstand distribution business can’t be fixed in one morning. But to my mind, this was the first of what should be many open, frank, and engaging discussions. We should continue this conversation. You can watch the presentation below:

This panel was followed up with another MagNet sponsored panel titled “Cover Data Analysis for Editors”. This was led by Joshua Gary of MagNet and included Brooke Belle of Hoffman Media, Josh Ellis of Success Magazine, Liz Vaccariello of Readers Digest and Sid Evans of Southern Living. From my perspective, this was another successful panel. It was refreshing to hear from editors who understand that newsstand copies are the public front door to their magazine. That something designed to appeal to a potential reader could make that part time fan of the magazine a full time paying subscriber.

Consider the potential streams of revenue open to magazine publishers today: Events, e-commerce, newsletters, blogs, video, subscriptions. Ask yourself, why wouldn’t you put your best foot forward with every single issue that hits the newsstand? Why wouldn’t every newsstand cover be a piece of art instead of the very last thing you think of?

I don’t know. Any art directors or editors want to chime in?

In a March editorial, Tony Silber, the VP of Folio Magazine stated that the fate of the newsstand is not the same fate of print magazines. Tony correctly points out how the channel no longer generates much, if any profit. That racks are “truncated”. That many editorial pursuits have moved online. His address at the opening of the ACT conference was inspiring. But on this point I’d have to disagree. What has happened to the newsstand could very well be the fate of the printed word if publishers do not pay attention to all aspects their business. If all they do is react.

The fate of the newsstand is the fate of any business if the participants pay no attention the rumblings of their customers or suppliers. If you don’t watch and respond to trends, the fate of the newsstand is waiting for you.

If we want readers to buy newsstand copies, we have to give them a reason to do so. If we want the newsstand channel to be profitable, then the participants in the channel have to cooperate and on the same page about who, how, when and how much they will get paid.

Recently a supplier contacted one of my customers and rather (Rudely I thought) informed them that they were not profitable, that they would have to switch to another form of discount and that they would have to agree to this right now this very minute or else they would be dropped. A quick review of this distributors sales showed that their sales losses were significantly higher than anything else this title had ever experienced. Moreover the discount structure that the title was currently declared “unprofitable” had been imposed by the distributor in an earlier “either/or” declaration. In other words, the losses this distributor incurred were self inflicted. Why? Because they took their eye off the ball and didn’t think long term.

When will sales stop declining? When we give readers a compelling reason to buy. When the producers of the content, the publishers decide that it is a channel of sales that they should pay attention to. In fact, during the ACT conference, we heard from several publishers who are doing well on the newsstand precisely because they are paying attention to their business.

It’s my hope that the discussions that were started at this years ACT conference continue. The alternative is a continued drift. At a certain point, we need to stop the drift and chart a new course. That point really is now.
____________________________________________________________________________________________
* Reposted with permission.

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John Harrington: ACT 6 Experience — What I Think I Meant. An Epilogue

May 3, 2016

John Harrington wrote the following To former readers of THE·NEW·SINGLE·COPY:*

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 5.01.58 PM In late April, I attended the ACT 6 Conference, sponsored by the Magazine Innovation Center at the journalism school of the University of Mississippi. Samir Husni is the director of MIC. I have attended and spoke at each of these programs and as I have stated often have found them among the most significant and valuable publishing gatherings I have ever participated in, and believe me over nearly 40 years there have been a bunch of them. The unique quality of the ACT conferences is the participation of the students, undergraduate and graduate. Samir has turned the school into a pipeline of talented people into the magazine media world.

The 2016 program celebrated print and the central role it plays in the broader realm of magazine media. And while troubling issues, particularly the newsstand, were examined, the atmosphere was encouraging, well actually it was exhilarating. The program has been extensively reported on via Samir’s website, www.mrmagazine.com, by Linda Ruth. However, I would still like to provide my own interpretation of my contribution to ACT 6, which was in fact the opening presentation and the lead-in the panel, “Reimagining the Newsstand,” assembled and led by Gil Brechtel, president of MagNet.

What I Think I Meant

A Short History of the Long Story of the Magazine Distribution Channel

There is bit of presumption in contending that a report about a presentation you made did not fully capture the essence of what you intended. The fact is you just might not have been all that clear; however, it is also distinctly challenging for an observer to translate the interior meaning of a presentation spread across a score of slides and accompanied by some rather digressive accompanying comments. Therefore, while I can point out that a video of my presentation is available on You Tube (Click on the video below), I have also chosen to provide this summary of what I entitled “A Short History of the Long Story of the Magazine Distribution Channel.”

The old magazine channel, that which existed prior to 1995, characterized by more than 300 wholesalers (of varying sizes and representing around 200 ownerships), operating in defined and dense market areas and with little competition, in its last full year, sold more than 2.1 billion units, worth more that $3.9 billion, and at a retail sell-through of better than 40%.

Last year, 2015, the “modern” channel, with two traditional wholesalers and one direct distributor, sold only 453 million copies (less than 25% of the 1994 figure), whose retail values was only $2.5 billion (down 40% and less than half of the number for 2007, the last good year). On top of that, the sales efficiency was down to 26%.

What Happened? Well, in short there were three channel explosions, in 1995, 2009, and in 2014, which severely altered the system; and there were two external factors that changed the environment for selling magazines: the Great Recession of 2008 and the warp speed technology developments which created a wealth of new platforms for delivering information and entertainment to consumers.

The Great Disruption:

In 1995, what had once been regional retail chains and had expanded their markets into mega-regions and even national, forced changes in the contractual relationships they had existed for more than 40 years with wholesalers. They forced wholesalers into providing delivery and supply far beyond the traditional geographies. It also ushered in a period of virulent competition among wholesalers, shattering the nearly universal discount structures that had existed, which were essentially established and maintained by publishers. Not only were gross profit levels distressed, merchandising costs escalated and signing bonuses, a new phenomenon for the business, were introduced. The result was a unprecedented level of consolidation and concentration in the channel. Within 18 months, there were only about 60 wholesaler ownerships, compared to 200 in early 1995. By 1999, four wholesaler management groups represented more than 90% of all retail sales. Despite their large size, all of them were widely acknowledged to be unprofitable.

However, magazine sales levels were maintained and in some years managed to grow, dollars peaking in 2007 at nearly $5 billion. At the same time, magazine advertising, which of course drives the economics of publishing, was strong. The result was that, despite some general recognition of the distribution channel’s fragile finances, senior publishing management was generally content with its performance, even if it was wobbling a bit.

However, the Great Recession of 2008 had an immediate disruptive effect on both the channel and the economics of publishing. Retail unit sales tumbled by more than 10% that year, the worst decline in history. The damage for advertising was even more destructive, estimated to be a shrinkage of as much as 26%. Almost simultaneously, magazine publishing was beginning to be noticeably impacted by digital developments. Mobile phones became much more than just telephony, moving into sources of information and entertainment. Not far behind them came the entry of tablets, notably the iPad, offering platforms for publishers to compete with their own printed editions. Publishing management appeared solely focused on how to expand their valuable magazine brands into digital formats, and not on repairing their damaged print circulation sources.

2009 – The Anderson News Exit:

Early in 2009, when it was clear that magazine retail sales were not going to recover the losses of 2008, but in fact that the decline would continue, Anderson News, then the second largest wholesaler with a market share of about 25%, took a controversial and risky step. Having complained of financial losses extending back over a decade, they made two serious demands – a seven cents per copy distributed handling fee and for publishers to cover Anderson’s cost of instituting scan-based-trading. After it was clear that their demands would not be met, and some suppliers cut off supplies, Anderson ceased operations. For a short period nearly 50% of retailers did not receive magazines (Source Interlink Distribution had briefly made similar demands, but quickly backed down). It was as much as three months before most former Anderson-supplied retailers were being delivered by the three remaining large wholesalers. Thousands of small retailers never sold magazines again.

2014 – The Source Distribution Collapse:

After a court-ordered injunction restored publisher supply, Source Interlink, with a market share of an estimated 30%, survived the events of 2009. However it went through a structured bankruptcy soon after, later emerging as a private company. Yet, as retail sales continued to crater, the company’s financial situation became increasingly perilous. In an effort to get publishers to accept their proposals for different terms, the company reportedly began delaying payments. The strategy backfired, and the largest publisher-national distributor, Time Inc., stopped supplying Source in late spring of 2014. Source immediately declared bankruptcy and ceased all operations. Because they were virtually the only wholesaler in some broad geographies, magazine product was virtually non-existent in large swathes of the country. Even after the two traditional wholesalers and the surviving direct distributor took over delivery to much of the abandoned markets, like after the Anderson exit, a number of small retailers were out of the magazine business.

The Other Factors:

Although the national economy was generally recognized as moving out of the Great Recession by late 2009, magazine newsstand sales continued to tank at a catastrophic 10%-annual pace. Two factors. The recession had changed consumer shopping habits in a radical way. Shoppers, who had cut out much discretionary spending during the worst of times, realized there were some things they didn’t need as much as they once thought they did. They were now sticking to their shopping lists, which affected, most deeply, impulse items, a major source of magazine retail sales. The lingering effect of the recession is often referred to as the recession hangover.

Still, the biggest driver of the collapse of magazine sales was and still is the increase in social media, most notably through mobile devices such as phones and tablets. Take a look at the plight of the celebrity weeklies. Their growth drove the magazine distribution channel through the last good year, 2007. Since then, their sales, including those of the unquestioned category leader, People, are off by more than 50%, and there is no recovery in sight. An audience interested in that milieu, thanks to mobile platforms, has access to whatever it wants on a 24/7 basis. No need to wait a week.

Could the events of 1995, 2009, and 2014 have been prevented?

It may be stretching the narrative to claim that these implosions, contractions, call them what you will, were avoidable, but none of them occurred without warning. Each of these staggering events were preceded by some levels of warning signs, which for various reasons, at all levels of the channel, were to varying degrees either ignored or discounted.

In the immediate years leading up to 1995, retailers were increasingly frustrated with the lack of choice they had of magazine suppliers, at the same time as their geographical markets were expanding. In terms of the power of the magazine category, while unit and dollar sales were still significant, the impact of individual titles was waning. TV Guide, which had once sold more than 12 million copies each, was down to less than five million, and its new ownership, in place since 1989, was not as prepared to face down retailer demands. The number of wholesalers had been contracting for years, but in a gradual fashion, and in a manner that maintained the market density that was key to maintaining it as a profitable and enviable business. Yet, there were discussions taking place among some of the larger players about forming regional alliances that might better resist the increasing strengths of retail chains. Furthermore, publishers were generally comfortable with these discussions. However, the urgency was not there and retailers broke down the traditional structure before any cooperative efforts became realities. The most surprising element of the events of 1995 was not the fact that retailers took control, but the speed with which the shape of the channel changed. Virtually overnight, the dynamics of the business were no longer those which had been maintained it for 40 years.

When 2009 dawned, the channel was widely acknowledged to have been financially broken for well over a decade. Yet the economic changes that had occurred were literally applying band-aids when surgery was required. If significant restructuring was to have taken place, it was up to the major publishers to take the initiative. Yet, until only the year before, advertising was generally strong. and at senior levels the attitude of publishing management appeared to be that there may have problems in the retail distribution channel, but it had staggered along for nearly 15 years, so why shouldn’t it continue to do so. Obviously, they were wrong.

2014 was in many ways a replay of 2009. As a senior printing executive said in effect at a conference not long after Source collapsed, we saw all the warning signs in each of these catastrophes, but we did nothing to avoid them. Will we do anything now?

For the most part, the response of publishers appears to be a possibly inevitable disenchantment with newsstand sales, and a determination to maintain print rate bases through aggressive subscription marketing and expanding their brands into digital media formats. One problem with that is it does nothing to stem the erosion at retail, which could fade away to the point of irrelevance.

At numerous opportunities, I have asked publisher, national distributor, and wholesaler executives, “Where is the bottom?” Without fail, the answer is “I don’t know.”

In The Hollow Men, T.S. Eliot wrote:

“This is the way the world ends,
Not with a bang, but a whimper.”

Is that will happen to that American icon, the newsstand?

Yet, it still has a role, even in a period of diminished expectations, for publishers. It is central to the launch of new titles and remains important to the maintenance of a publication’s brand. Yet, it is only the largest publishers who can take the steps needed to save the channel. To date, it has not been demonstrated that the willingness is there.
___________________________________________________________________________________________
*Reposted with permission.

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From ACT 6 Experience With Love: Linda Ruth Reports — HOT NEWS FLASH: Bo Sacks Admits: “PRINT AIN’T DEAD OR DYING.” The Last Chapter.

May 2, 2016

BoSacks Mr. Magazine’s friendly rival Bo Sacks, known for his lively defense of digital media, wound up the ACT 6 conference with a message to the media students in the audience: print lives!

While not a wholly surprising statement—Bo Sacks has supported media in all formats, and despite his vigorous debates with Dr. Husni often finds points of agreement as well—it was an encouraging way to end the conference. Sacks summarized some of the conference’s themes:

· Magazines are about immersion

· People read to retreat

· Magazines are personal, surprising, social, actionable, credible, physical

· It’s not about digital or print—it’s about content

· The newsstand is challenged, but not yet moribund

Sacks admitted to being inspired by the honesty expressed and concepts shared in this year’s ACT 6. He ended by carrying the “Reimagine the newsstand” theme a step farther, challenging Husni’s students to reimagine their lives. “I am giving each of you a promotion,” he told Husni’s group. “Each of you is now the president of your own corporation. Remember this when you go out into the workforce. You are the president of Me Inc., and you can create what you choose in your life.”

Click below to watch Bo Sacks’ presentation at the ACT 6 Experience.

Thank you speakers, sponsors, and moderators. Save the date for the ACT 7 Experience, April 25 to 27, 2017 themed Magazines Matter, Print Matters. Stay tuned.

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