Archive for the ‘Innovation in print’ Category

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Health Magazine’s Editor In Chief Amy Conway To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “Being On The Cover Of A Magazine Is Still A Really Powerful Thing… It’s A Permanent Thing… It’s A Beautiful Object… It’s A Living Entity… And There’s No Substitute For That.” – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

February 20, 2019

“The magazine is a different experience. Each issue of the magazine is just a beautifully curated product that stands on its own, so we craft our lineups for every issue to feel cohesive and interesting, to be this great mix of information that will stand the test of time.” Amy Conway (On the difference between finding answers on Google and the magazine)…

“When we reach out to them, we ask them to be on the cover and being on the cover of a magazine is still a really powerful thing for people. So yes, in terms of that, being on the cover of a magazine, there is no substitute for that. It’s a permanent thing, so to speak, that you’re creating. And it’s a beautiful object. It’s a living entity, and there is no substitute for that.” Amy Conway (On when they reach out to people about being on the cover of the magazine, do they specify it’s for the printed magazine)…

Health magazine has been a trusted authority in wellness for almost forty years. The January/February issue marks the debut of an updated design with a cleaner look and bolder typography. Editor in Chief Amy Conway has led the brand’s creative team to provide the magazine’s audience with inspiring and empowering information that speaks to the way people think about wellness today, and the redesign is an offshoot of that, her belief in the way health and wellness are reflected in today’s society: clean, simple, fresh, and modern.

I spoke with Amy recently and we talked about the redesign and the infusion of streamlined simplicity that it gave the magazine. Amy defined Health as the handbook for living well in every way. She added that the magazine was staying true to its roots in giving readers smart, science-backed health content they can trust. And with the redesign, that same trusted content is showcased in a much fresher and more modern design.

Amy’s belief in the power of the printed cover is also deep. The cover of the magazine is a powerful tool and Amy believes it still holds the key to credibility and that there is no substitution for that credibility. The cover of the magazine still holds permanence and integrity as nothing else does.

So, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Amy Conway, editor in chief of Health magazine. It’s a refreshing conversation that will have you seeking good “Health” at the newsstands.

But first the sound-bites:

On her first few months at Health magazine: It’s definitely been an evolution since I got here. What I always tell people is that I was a subscriber to Health and a fan of the magazine before I was the editor. I love working out and I’m very interested in food and nutrition and in living well longer. So, I am a reader. Lucky for me, this is really a dream job for me. And again, as a reader of the magazine, I knew when I came on that this brand had a lot of talented people creating great content. It’s really solid, trusted information, this magazine has been around, and people really rely on it. But at the same time, I knew that I wanted to refresh it, both visually and in terms of the tone. So, that’s what we’ve been working on for the last several months.

On how her job as an editor today has evolved or changed over the years: To be an editor you have to be curious and you have to be thinking all the time about what’s happening in our industry, about what our readers want, and you have to be really, really agile. It’s a very dynamic environment. Certain things stay the same. You mentioned that I used to work for Martha Stewart Weddings in particular, right before I came over here, and the two brands might seem really different, but in fact they’re both about quality, authority, and authenticity. So, there are qualities that you can bring, values that are a part of you professionally that you can really bring to any brand and any job once you’ve been in this industry for a while.

On some of the changes she has seen taking place in the health and wellness magazine category: People are just very interested in taking care of themselves, but the shift that I’m really interested in is this idea of health infusing your entire life. And that’s something that we’re bringing to the magazine. Positivity, the sense of motivation, and we’re really empowering our readers to take good care of themselves.

On the value proposition for people to pick up a copy of Health magazine rather than Googling something: If they’re Googling something they have a specific concern and they’re going to find information on it online. And they’ll most likely end up on health.com, which is great because we have a ton of amazing content there. So, we don’t need people to stop doing that. Instead, the magazine is a different experience. Each issue of the magazine is just a beautifully curated product that stands on its own, so we craft our lineups for every issue to feel cohesive and interesting, to be this great mix of information that will stand the test of time.

On whether she tries to do things differently than other health and wellness magazines in the marketplace, such as Women’s Health or Shape: It used to be a much more crowded marketplace in this area, and many areas in our industry. Our publisher always says that there’s been a little bit of a natural selection that’s happened, so the magazines that you just mentioned are the big ones in this area. And of course Shape is one of our sister brands, they sit right next to us here at Meredith. The thing that’s nice is that because there are fewer brands out there, there’s really room for all of us. There are certain things that we cover where there will be overlap. Sometimes I’ll read those magazines and discover that we were going to do that same topic, but then we pivot and do something a little bit different.

On her unique selling proposition when it comes to Health magazine: Health is the handbook for living well in every way. We are staying true to our roots in giving readers smart, science-backed health content they can trust, whether about physical or mental health, fitness, beauty, or food and nutrition. We geek out over the details and love going deep into topics. We don’t just tell you WHAT to buy, we tell you WHY. So if we say a certain beauty product should be in your arsenal, we explain how it works.

On why today she thinks we see health magazines for men or women, but we don’t really have anything for both anymore: I think a lot of the health concerns are different for men and women, and frankly as I’m sure you know, this is a business and the advertisers are definitely going to be different for men and women. So, from a practical standpoint, that’s the way it is. And there’s a lot of content in our magazine; you can do a lot of mental health, emotional health, and relationship health that could be that a man would find interesting. And certainly I’m sure that men are picking up the magazine as well when they see it in their house, But yes, you do need to target a little bit, both from an editorial standpoint and a business standpoint.

On whether she has a specific reader in mind when she assigns articles or stories: We are creating content for a woman who is an adult; she’s not a kid, she’s probably in her 30s, 40s, or 50s and so that’s a pretty big range, there are going to be certain commonalities in that area. But we are creating content that should be applicable and of interest to women in that range. So, when we’re thinking about articles, and that’s the fun part of the job, there are so many different, amazing things that we can cover. We’ll sometimes get excited about something and think well that’s probably a bit too narrow or that’s not going to appeal to everyone, so we try to come up with story ideas and packages that are going to appeal to, again, this woman who is looking for information that will help her live her life now and as she gets older and looks at these different stages in her life.

On whether she ever hits a stumbling block where ideas are scarce: Definitely not. We wish we had more and more pages. There is an infinite number of topics that we can cover, and literally one of the most challenging parts of the job is editing down all of the things that we are excited about here at Health, editing them down to fit into an issue of the magazine.

On what she would hope to tell someone that she had accomplished at Health in 2019: I would say that we would have created a year’s worth of beautiful magazines; the cover is something that we’re really focusing on, of course, it’s a “welcome to the magazine” for every issue. So, we would have created a year’s worth of beautiful magazines with really enticing covers, working with amazing subjects for those covers and great creative teams, photographers as well, to really set the tone that we’re looking for with Health. And the magazine would be robust; we’d be getting great feedback from readers and advertisers, and we’d really be a part of the conversation out there in a big way, in terms of the health and wellness space.

On what she thinks the role of the cover is today, and is that role different today than it was when she first started in the industry: Covers definitely used to be more of a selling vehicle, you needed to scream at readers on the cover to stand out on the newsstand. And it’s a little bit different now for Health. When we’re looking at our covers, for us, we want to stand out by being a little bit quieter and when we were thinking about January/February, the first cover of the redesign, it has Connie Britton on the cover, we were really thinking of it almost as if it were a poster. And we wanted it to look beautiful on its own. We feel like that’s what’s going to make it stand out, and that’s what’s going to make people happy to have it in their home.

On whether that description of the cover fits the majority of magazines today or just Health: I was just speaking about Health, but I do think it’s pretty incredible what we’re seeing in covers out there. People are being less formulaic and they’re looking more to catch your attention with something different and something interesting. So, it’s really fun to look at the newsstand and see what people are doing, because I think a lot of the formulas are going out the window. Their old conventional wisdom, the rules that you were supposed to follow, people are breaking those rules all of the time. And it’s really fun to see.

On whether she thinks the power of print is that you can’t get that same emotional reaction from humans if they just see it or read it online: I do think there is something very special about print and holding a magazine in your hand and looking at these beautiful pictures of her, but certainly you can get an emotional reaction from reading something online as well. They’re different experiences, but what I think is exciting about the time where we are right now, is that there are so many different ways to reach a reader. The fact is when you have a strong brand you can reach your reader in many different ways. You have print and digital; you have social, and there are just new things coming all the time. You just have to have a strong brand and then you can reach your reader in all the places where they are.

On when she reaches out to people to be on the cover, if they ask is it for the cover of the magazine, or does it matter to them if it’s print or digital: When we reach out to them, we ask them to be on the cover and being on the cover of a magazine is still a really powerful thing for people. So yes, in terms of that, being on the cover of a magazine, there is no substitute for that. It’s a permanent thing, so to speak, that you’re creating. And it’s a beautiful object. It’s a living entity, and there is no substitute for that.

On anything she’d like to add: With the redesign, we wanted to give the magazine a much fresher, cleaner, and modern feeling, which really reflects the way people feel about health and wellness today. Our design team is amazing and they worked to give the magazine a cleaner, more streamlined and simple design. It’s inviting and a little bit more elevated. So, we really redesigned the magazine from the covers right on through.

On what grade she would give the redesign project if she were a professor grading a class project: I have to give us an A, but I will say there’s always room for improvement. You do the redesign issue, and anyone who’s worked at a magazine knows this, you do the redesign, it feels like you’re working so hard on this one issue and then you can breathe for about a second and then you’re working on the next one. And you can always make it better. The redesign is not an endpoint, it’s a beginning. And then you have to keep going from there.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: This question of yours, Samir, I always think of as: what’s your mantra? And that’s the language that we use over here at Health. So, I would say be kind, work hard, appreciate the little things, and hug your kids.

On what keeps her up at night: Sleep is something that I am absolutely working on. I’m trying to sleep more and sleep better, that’s definitely a goal of mine. It’s a work in progress, the sleep thing.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Amy Conway, editor in chief, Health magazine.

Samir Husni: It’s been a little over six months since you took over Health magazine, has it been like a walk in a rose garden for you? Describe your first few months at Health.

Amy Conway: It’s definitely been an evolution since I got here. What I always tell people is that I was a subscriber to Health and a fan of the magazine before I was the editor. I love working out and I’m very interested in food and nutrition and in living well longer. So, I am a reader. Lucky for me, this is really a dream job for me. And again, as a reader of the magazine, I knew when I came on that this brand had a lot of talented people creating great content. It’s really solid, trusted information, this magazine has been around, and people really rely on it. But at the same time, I knew that I wanted to refresh it, both visually and in terms of the tone. So, that’s what we’ve been working on for the last several months.

The first couple of issues that I worked on; there were a few little tweaks that I made, but really things had been in progress already and I kind of just went with that for a couple of issues. But then we started working in earnest on the January/February issue, where we did the redesign and a bit of a refresh of the brand overall. So, that’s what we were working on and now we’re well underway with that. It’s been fun and it’s been hard work and both of those things are continuing.

Samir Husni: Before Health, you were the editor of a wedding magazine and editor of Martha Stewart’s books; if someone asked you what qualifies a person to be an editor today, compared to five or ten years ago, what would you tell them? How has your job evolved or changed over the years?

Amy Conway: To be an editor you have to be curious and you have to be thinking all the time about what’s happening in our industry, about what our readers want, and you have to be really, really agile. It’s a very dynamic environment. Certain things stay the same. You mentioned that I used to work for Martha Stewart Weddings in particular, right before I came over here, and the two brands might seem really different, but in fact they’re both about quality, authority, and authenticity. So, there are qualities that you can bring, values that are a part of you professionally that you can really bring to any brand and any job once you’ve been in this industry for a while.

Samir Husni: As you look at the industry, specifically the health and wellness category, being an avid reader, a marathon runner and an exercise enthusiast; what are some of the major changes that you see taking place in the health and wellness magazine category?

Amy Conway: The health and wellness world is really exploding right now. People are so interested in taking good care of themselves, which is amazing. And some sort of poke fun at it a little bit, because certainly having specific workout clothes or gear or going to certain classes is a bit of a new status symbol. So, you could make fun of that a little bit, but at the same time, if going to a great yoga class becomes a status symbol, that’s a lot more positive than some things that people could be doing.

People are just very interested in taking care of themselves, but the shift that I’m really interested in is this idea of health infusing your entire life. And that’s something that we’re bringing to the magazine. Positivity, the sense of motivation, and we’re really empowering our readers to take good care of themselves.

It wasn’t too long ago that when people thought about health and particularly media and the stories that were out there, it was about quick fixes and about losing five pounds in a week, and it’s really not about that. For me, what we’re trying to do is just help women be the very best that they can be, to reach their own goals that they want to set. We’re not going to tell them exactly what they should do, we’re going to give them ideas and we’re going to give them inspiration and they should feel really good and strong and empowered after reading our magazine, and have it be a positive experience. And then use it to make the changes that they want to make in their own lives.

So, we’re not going to tell them what’s wrong with them, we’re going to tell them how to be the best person that they want to be for themselves. To live well, to feel good, to eat well, and to just bring all of these positive changes about in their lives.

Samir Husni: In a digital age, where the first thing a lot of people do is Google if they have a question about something, how do you show them the importance of Health magazine, whether in print or digital? What is the value proposition for people to pick up a copy of Health magazine rather than Googling something?

Amy Conway: If they’re Googling something they have a specific concern and they’re going to find information on it online. And they’ll most likely end up on health.com, which is great because we have a ton of amazing content there. So, we don’t need people to stop doing that. Instead, the magazine is a different experience. Each issue of the magazine is just a beautifully curated product that stands on its own, so we craft our lineups for every issue to feel cohesive and interesting, to be this great mix of information that will stand the test of time.

So, when you come to our magazine, you’re going to be surprised and delighted we hope by what you find in each issue. You’re going to be informed, inspired and you’ll find things that are relevant to your life because we know our reader and what she wants. And again, it’s a different experience. You’re going to go online and search for something more likely and you’ll come to us and you’ll get this mix that we’ve created for you and hopefully feel that it really enhances your life.

Samir Husni: Being a health enthusiast and an avid reader of Health even before you were the editor, when you’re looking at the entire health and wellness magazine spectrum out there, do you feel you need to do things differently? For example, Health magazine needs to do this differently that Women’s Health or Shape or other magazines in the same category? How do you conceive your new issues of Health and do you take into consideration what’s already on the marketplace?

Amy Conway: It used to be a much more crowded marketplace in this area, and many areas in our industry. Our publisher always says that there’s been a little bit of a natural selection that’s happened, so the magazines that you just mentioned are the big ones in this area. And of course Shape is one of our sister brands, they sit right next to us here at Meredith. The thing that’s nice is that because there are fewer brands out there, there’s really room for all of us. There are certain things that we cover where there will be overlap. Sometimes I’ll read those magazines and discover that we were going to do that same topic, but then we pivot and do something a little bit different.

There are certain topics that we definitely have in common, but we each have our own vibe, so I feel like a reader could read all three of us, or could just come to one of us. There is room for all of us out there right now.

Samir Husni: But for you, how do you decide on that point of differentiation? What is your unique selling proposition?

Amy Conway: Health is the handbook for living well in every way. We are staying true to our roots in giving readers smart, science-backed health content they can trust, whether about physical or mental health, fitness, beauty, or food and nutrition. We geek out over the details and love going deep into topics. We don’t just tell you WHAT to buy, we tell you WHY. So if we say a certain beauty product should be in your arsenal, we explain how it works.

Some of the other brands out there go deeper into fashion and lifestyle, and that works for them. But we keep it more focused on what women—largely in their 30s to 50s—can do to feel and look great as they move into and out of different life stages, to live better, longer.

We want all women to feel welcomed by our brand. Inclusivity is important. Real, relatable advice is crucial–no false promises or unattainable goals. No more rock hard abs! Health means many things, and it comes in many shapes and sizes. All are welcome.

Samir Husni: At one stage when Health magazine was American Health, or actually it was a competitor before they merged, American Health magazine was published for both men and women. Why do you think today we see health magazines for men or women, but we don’t really have anything for both anymore?

Amy Conway: I think a lot of the health concerns are different for men and women, and frankly as I’m sure you know, this is a business and the advertisers are definitely going to be different for men and women. So, from a practical standpoint, that’s the way it is. And there’s a lot of content in our magazine; you can do a lot of mental health, emotional health, and relationship health that could be that a man would find interesting. And certainly I’m sure that men are picking up the magazine as well when they see it in their house, But yes, you do need to target a little bit, both from an editorial standpoint and a business standpoint.

Samir Husni: As you mentioned targeting, health is as general interest as it can be. As you are assigning stories, assigning articles, do you have a specific reader in mind? Do you think in terms of Amy is a reader and she’s 35-years-old and loves working out, or do you cast a wider net?

Amy Conway: We are creating content for a woman who is an adult; she’s not a kid, she’s probably in her 30s, 40s, or 50s and so that’s a pretty big range, there are going to be certain commonalities in that area. But we are creating content that should be applicable and of interest to women in that range. So, when we’re thinking about articles, and that’s the fun part of the job, there are so many different, amazing things that we can cover. We’ll sometimes get excited about something and think well that’s probably a bit too narrow or that’s not going to appeal to everyone, so we try to come up with story ideas and packages that are going to appeal to, again, this woman who is looking for information that will help her live her life now and as she gets older and looks at these different stages in her life.

Samir Husni: Do you ever hit a stumbling block where you seem to be running out of ideas?

Amy Conway: Definitely not. We wish we had more and more pages. There is an infinite number of topics that we can cover, and literally one of the most challenging parts of the job is editing down all of the things that we are excited about here at Health, editing them down to fit into an issue of the magazine.

And our website is really incredible and of course they can cover a much broader group of topics; they can cover a lot of newsy things. We have a great team on the web as well, so there’s great info there, some things that we can’t cover in the magazine because they’re just too specific, but they can do them online and they may perform really well there.

Samir Husni: If you and I are chatting a year from now, what would you hope to tell me that you had accomplished at Health in 2019 and how happy are you with that accomplishment?

Amy Conway: I would say that we would have created a year’s worth of beautiful magazines; the cover is something that we’re really focusing on, of course, it’s a “welcome to the magazine” for every issue. So, we would have created a year’s worth of beautiful magazines with really enticing covers, working with amazing subjects for those covers and great creative teams, photographers as well, to really set the tone that we’re looking for with Health. And the magazine would be robust; we’d be getting great feedback from readers and advertisers, and we’d really be a part of the conversation out there in a big way, in terms of the health and wellness space.

Samir Husni: You mentioned the cover, and I’m giving a speech soon about the role of covers in today’s magazine media landscape. What do you think the role of the cover is today, and is that role different today than it was when you first started in the industry?

Amy Conway: Covers definitely used to be more of a selling vehicle, you needed to scream at readers on the cover to stand out on the newsstand. And it’s a little bit different now for Health. When we’re looking at our covers, for us, we want to stand out by being a little bit quieter and when we were thinking about January/February, the first cover of the redesign, it has Connie Britton on the cover, we were really thinking of it almost as if it were a poster. And we wanted it to look beautiful on its own. We feel like that’s what’s going to make it stand out, and that’s what’s going to make people happy to have it in their home. So, we’re going for something a little bit simpler and we want to sell it in that way, instead of really screaming at our reader with cover lines.

Samir Husni: Do you think that description of the cover fits the majority of magazines today, or specifically just Health?

Amy Conway: I was just speaking about Health, but I do think it’s pretty incredible what we’re seeing in covers out there. People are being less formulaic and they’re looking more to catch your attention with something different and something interesting. So, it’s really fun to look at the newsstand and see what people are doing, because I think a lot of the formulas are going out the window. Their old conventional wisdom, the rules that you were supposed to follow, people are breaking those rules all of the time. And it’s really fun to see.

Our March issue is on sale now. And we have Shannen Doherty on the cover and that was really interesting because she is obviously someone people are interested in, in general as an actress, but she also has a real health story to tell. She had breast cancer, she’s now in remission, and she just went through reconstructive surgery. So, she gave us this beautiful, really open, really raw interview, and that’s something that definitely sets this issue apart in a really special way. To see someone who is a personality who people know and want to read about, but she actually had something very powerful and resonant to share with us about Health.

Samir Husni: Do you think that is the power of print, that you can’t get that same reaction from humans if they just see it or read it online?

Amy Conway: I do think there is something very special about print and holding a magazine in your hand and looking at these beautiful pictures of her, but certainly you can get an emotional reaction from reading something online as well. They’re different experiences, but what I think is exciting about the time where we are right now, is that there are so many different ways to reach a reader. The fact is when you have a strong brand you can reach your reader in many different ways. You have print and digital; you have social, and there are just new things coming all the time. You just have to have a strong brand and then you can reach your reader in all the places where they are.

Samir Husni: When you reach out to those people to be on the cover, do they ask is this for the cover of the magazine, or does it matter?

Amy Conway: When we reach out to them, we ask them to be on the cover and being on the cover of a magazine is still a really powerful thing for people. So yes, in terms of that, being on the cover of a magazine, there is no substitute for that. It’s a permanent thing, so to speak, that you’re creating. And it’s a beautiful object. It’s a living entity, and there is no substitute for that.

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

Amy Conway: With the redesign, we wanted to give the magazine a much fresher, cleaner, and modern feeling, which really reflects the way people feel about health and wellness today. Our design team is amazing and they worked to give the magazine a cleaner, more streamlined and simple design. It’s inviting and a little bit more elevated. So, we really redesigned the magazine from the covers right on through.

Samir Husni: So, you’re a professor, Amy, and you’re going to grade this project. What grade would you give it, an A, B+, an A-, a C?

Amy Conway: I have to give us an A, but I will say there’s always room for improvement. You do the redesign issue, and anyone who’s worked at a magazine knows this, you do the redesign, it feels like you’re working so hard on this one issue and then you can breathe for about a second and then you’re working on the next one. And you can always make it better. The redesign is not an endpoint, it’s a beginning. And then you have to keep going from there. They’re always evolving, always changing, and you can always keep improving.

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

Amy Conway: This question of yours, Samir, I always think of as: what’s your mantra? And that’s the language that we use over here at Health. So, I would say be kind, work hard, appreciate the little things, and hug your kids.

Samir Husni: What’s the biggest misconception people have about you?

Amy Conway: I have absolutely no idea how to answer that one. But now I’m intrigued. I may have to pull my colleagues aside and figure that one out. But I hope that I’m pretty much just myself with people, so I don’t think in those terms, but now you’ve really got me thinking.

Samir Husni: Last time you and I talked, you were the editor in chief of Martha Stewart Weddings and now you’re at Health; so, are you sleeping better or is there something keeping you up at night?

Amy Conway: (Laughs) Sleep is something that I am absolutely working on. I’m trying to sleep more and sleep better, that’s definitely a goal of mine. It’s a work in progress, the sleep thing.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Culturs Magazine: Uncovering & Celebrating The Hidden Diversities That Exist In A Global Society – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine, Founder & Publisher, Culturs Magazine & Faculty Staff Member At Colorado State University…

February 14, 2019

“We were actually digital first. We’ve been online for five years, print just happened last year. And with the print we started…we had the online magazine first, the digital magazine, which includes a mobile magazine for the iPad and handheld devices. So, we were digital first, I feel in this era you have to be digital, there’s no question. You have to have an online presence. But to me, print takes it to the next level. Our stature has grown a thousand percent by going into print. People are mistaken in thought when it comes to print being dead. Teaching at university I see that. Print is growing more than ever. If you go to any newsstand you’ll see that there are more magazine titles now than ever before.” Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine (On why she is doing a print magazine in this digital and global age)…

A globally mobile Afro-Latina and first-generation American who has lived on five continents and identified with seven cultures by the age of 19, Donnyale Ambrosine, or Doni as she is called, is passionate about creating community for cross-cultural populations. She has presented around the globe as a Keynote, at conferences, universities and in media as a lifestyle expert focused on entrepreneurship, marketing, branding and cross-cultural identity. With this background, she developed university curricula for global culture identity at Colorado State University, where she is on faculty.

And Doni has also created a brand that includes Culturs, a global multicultural magazine that intends to celebrate the unique perspectives of cross-cultural people. Global Nomads, Third Culture Kids, and racially-blended and culturally-blended people can read lifestyle articles and research from their point of view. One that shows a new-world order — a new normal that affects not only our lives, but the lives of those around us.

I spoke with Doni recently and we talked about the digital-first, print publication brand that she is so passionate about. Doni uses her global, multi-cultural background, academic training, and career experience in media, management and business to position Culturs as the first-ever, digital-first print publication and product marketplace of its kind – one that addresses global and mobile cultural identities, with emphasis on hidden diversity. And it’s that hidden diversity that gave Doni the spelling of the name of her brand – hiding that last “e” as many diversities are hidden.

So, I hope that you enjoy this very delightful and informative interview about a woman and her brand – two very diverse and captivating individuals that will definitely get you thinking about true understanding of global distinctiveness – the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine, Founder & Publisher, Culturs Magazine & Faculty Staff Member At Colorado State University.

But first the sound-bites:

On why she decided to do Culturs: I grew up internationally and when most Americans hear that, they hear privileged. And there were parts of that which were very privileged and there were parts that weren’t. When you think of people in globally-mobile situations, often they could be refugees, immigrants, military brats, missionary kids; so there are very nuanced reasons for people to grow up in a global situation. In my case, it was four continents and an isthmus or five continents if you want to call Central America a continent. So, five continents and seven countries or seven cultures that I grew up with. And that formed who I am and how I see the world. There are 288 million-plus people who live outside of their passport countries today, and a number of them fit the category, actually all of them fit the categories that we talk about in Culturs. And then beyond that we have people who straddle race and ethnicity every day. It is one country, one culture. So, that’s why I created the magazine, because I wanted to have a community for those people who don’t really have others or feel like they have others who understand them and sometimes feel like the outsiders.

On why she left a letter out of the logo and spells the brand’s name Culturs: Everything we do has a meaning. Our colors; our logo; the fonts we use. Culturs is spelled without the normal “e” toward the end. The “e” is hidden and that stands for the hidden diversity of our population. We are a population of people who straddle or are in between culture, race, ethnicity, nations and locations.

On why she is doing a print magazine in this digital and global age: We were digital first, I feel in this era you have to be digital, there’s no question. You have to have an online presence. But to me, print takes it to the next level. Our stature has grown a thousand percent by going into print. People are mistaken in thought when it comes to print being dead. Teaching at university I see that. Print is growing more than ever. If you go to any newsstand you’ll see that there are more magazine titles now than ever before.

On whether this journey has been a walk in a rose garden for her or there have been challenges along the way: I have to say that I planned a lot of it out, so it was easier than most people would imagine. But it’s a very large operation with a lot of people; it takes a lot of people. And once you get into the distribution of it; we’re in Whole Foods and Barnes & Noble, Sprouts, Books-A-Million, independent bookstores, and university bookstores. And that’s a lot. My intention actually was to next go into airport kiosks and airport bookstores, but I decided to slow down a little bit, because that’s been the most daunting part.

On that that bright, shining moment when she knew she was making a difference: When I started the digital I felt like I was doing something. And I continued that for four years and we have thousands of articles, they’re all free. Even articles in the print edition are also on digital, so anyone can read those. Again, there’s a different experience when go to print. Just the photos were very visual in the print magazine. And it was just such a great experience to feel the paper, it’s such high quality paper with a soft touch to it. So, I felt like I made a difference when I went digital, and then I started to feel like I wasn’t. Going to print, I felt like I was making a difference.

On her link with Colorado State University: I teach in the Department of Journalism. I actually teach a course called Media and Global Cultural Identity. I have to give props to the Department of Journalism and Media Communications because the head of that department was the first one to really get this. To really see the value of what we’re doing and understand the difference it can make in the world, and who was championing it from the beginning. And he’s offered to do a number of things, and so I developed the curriculum for that class.

On anything she’d like to add: I’m excited to see large corporations understanding what a difference this makes. I told you about the show “I Am the Night” on TNT. I was impressed with them and Turner Network and Warner Brothers, I was a consultant on the show. And it’s about someone who is a friend of mine, she is culturally fluid. She’s a white woman and she grew up thinking she was black. There’s a lot to that story; a lot of layers there. They brought me in as a cultural consultant because of our connection and to make sure that they were hitting the cultural note right. And that’s what a lot of corporations are missing.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: I’m going to say something that came to me recently. Building this, I get so focused on how important it is, that often I forget along the way to enjoy it. And not let the pressure get to me. So recently, I said that I want to bring the best of myself to everyone around me, because I don’t feel like I’m giving them my best at all times right now. I want to bring out the best in the people around me by giving them the best of me.

On the biggest misconception she thinks people have about her: (Laughs) Let me find just one. I’ll encapsulate them all into I’m not what people expect. I still haven’t figured that out; I’ve figured it out to a level, but I’m not sure what people see when they see me. They expect me to be much more intense than I am. They expect me to be, I think, more hysterical than I am. (Laughs) Now, can I be that way? Of course, and maybe that’s what they see. They look at me, depending on the situation, how I’m dressed, or how I present; someone said once, how I show up, because I mentioned I’m an introvert and she said that I show up as an extravert.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: You would probably find me lifting weights and then coming home and having a hot bath in the Jacuzzi tub. Then sitting by the fire and reading a magazine.

On what keeps her up at night: Nothing really keeps me up at night. (Laughs) I’m that tired. I think what keeps me up at night; again, back to the wanting to do it so right. Doing it like it is so important and doing it like it can make a difference for so many. So, with limited resources, sometimes I feel like I made the wrong decision. And that’s only a recent thing, I never really had that happen to me before, because I would make a decision and then I would move on.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine, Founder & Publisher, Culturs Magazine & Faculty Staff Member At Colorado State University.

Samir Husni: Why did you decide to do Culturs?

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: I grew up internationally and when most Americans hear that, they hear privileged. And there were parts of that which were very privileged and there were parts that weren’t. When you think of people in globally-mobile situations, often they could be refugees, immigrants, military brats, missionary kids; so there are very nuanced reasons for people to grow up in a global situation. In my case, it was four continents and an isthmus or five continents if you want to call Central America a continent. So, five continents and seven countries or seven cultures that I grew up with. And that formed who I am and how I see the world.

My mother is Trinidadian and my father is Costa Rican; I’m very proud of that. And proud that they gave me such a wealth of experience and background by the day I was born, just by being who I was and having them as my parents. So, growing up in all of these places: Turkey, London, Spain; I went to the University of Germany and of course many places in the U.S., it really affected how I see the world.

There are 288 million-plus people who live outside of their passport countries today, and a number of them fit the category, actually all of them fit the categories that we talk about in Culturs. And then beyond that we have people who straddle race and ethnicity every day. It is one country, one culture. So, that’s why I created the magazine, because I wanted to have a community for those people who don’t really have others or feel like they have others who understand them and sometimes feel like the outsiders. Who feel like they need a place, especially if they have a number of the dimensions that I’ve mentioned.

If you’re globally-mobile or even if you’re domestically-mobile as well as race, culture or ethnicity, every one of those layers adds more complexity to your personality, to your identity. And when you mix those moves as you’re forming your identity as a child, then that makes a difference in who you are. You can understand all of the people with whom you share those dimensions, but not everyone of those people can understand you because you contain all of those dimensions at once. So, that’s why I formed Culturs.

Everyday has been a gift and every time I think that this is such a long and daunting road, why did I choose it, that doesn’t last 10 minutes, because I get calls and emails from people, crying and telling me what a difference we’ve made in their lives and how they finally feel that somebody gets them. How they feel like they have community. Someone texted me recently and said it was the first time in their life that they felt seen. I’ve heard from so many people who just don’t talk about it, because no one cares. And when they talk to me, they’re shocked that not only does someone care, a lot of people care. And there are a lot of people who share the same experience.

Samir Husni: What’s the reason behind the logo? You’ve left a letter out of the logo and spell it Culturs; can you tell us why?

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: (Laughs) Yes, sure. Everything we do has a meaning. Our colors; our logo; the fonts we use. Culturs is spelled without the normal “e” toward the end. The “e” is hidden and that stands for the hidden diversity of our population. We are a population of people who straddle or are in between culture, race, ethnicity, nations and locations.

So, those combinations , those dimensions provide a hidden diversity where what you see isn’t always what you get, so people look at you and when they look at me they think I’m African American. They listen to me speak and they think I’m African American. But I’m a little bit different; there is something wrong with me. (Laughs) I’m not quite what they pictured, because I’m not African American. I’m an Afro-Latina and Caribbean American. And that makes a difference, knowing my background and my culture.

It’s still going to be confusing, because I have so many of those dimensions. What you expect to happen with me, to come from me, is really unexpected. You can’t have any expectations because I didn’t grow up in one place, so that’s the hidden diversity of it. So, the missing “e” stands for that hidden diversity.

Samir Husni: Here you are creating a global magazine about global people, and yet you chose print as your vehicle. Why are you doing a print magazine in this digital age and in this global age?

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: (Laughs) We were actually digital first. We’ve been online for five years, print just happened last year. And with the print we started…we had the online magazine first, the digital magazine, which includes a mobile magazine for the iPad and handheld devices. So, we were digital first, I feel in this era you have to be digital, there’s no question. You have to have an online presence. But to me, print takes it to the next level. Our stature has grown a thousand percent by going into print. People are mistaken in thought when it comes to print being dead. Teaching at university I see that. Print is growing more than ever. If you go to any newsstand you’ll see that there are more magazine titles now than ever before.

What you’ll notice is the ones that are thick, the ones that are large, the ones that are growing are the ones that have a niche population that they pay attention to. The ones that are shrinking are general magazines that try to hit everyone. So, there is a place for print. And the experience for print is completely different.

Now, first of all, digital is great; I love my tech and I love my digital, but I need some downtime. When I want downtime, I might play some games, but I’m not going to grab my phone and curl up with it. I might go get some tea and a magazine, something in print that I can put my hands on and that feels good, that creates an experience for me and that calms me down. And I think most people are like that.

We have so much information coming at us, I can’t remember exactly, but I think the data is that in one day now we have as much information as someone in the 15th century did in their entire lives, or some astronomical sum like that. But we have so many things to distract us, and so much information coming at us and so many things to remember, it really is important for us to take that time, pick up something tactile, something that makes you feel good. And something that makes you slow your brain down a little bit and come back to who you are. And I think print does that.

Samir Husni: Since you started this project five years ago and this being your first anniversary for the print edition, has it been a walk in a rose garden for you or have you had some challenges along the way? And if so, how did you overcome them?

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: It is our first anniversary for the print edition. Thank you for recognizing that. I have to say that I planned a lot of it out, so it was easier than most people would imagine. But it’s a very large operation with a lot of people; it takes a lot of people. And once you get into the distribution of it; we’re in Whole Foods and Barnes & Noble, Sprouts, Books-A-Million, independent bookstores, and university bookstores. And that’s a lot. My intention actually was to next go into airport kiosks and airport bookstores, but I decided to slow down a little bit, because that’s been the most daunting part.

The industry itself is changing daily. People are consolidating, companies are being bought out, censors and distributors, and there are different levels of that, from local to regional to national and international. So, every time there is a change, it changes almost everything with the industry, especially if you’re international. That’s been the toughest part.

Same with our printers. The printers are consolidating and buying each other out. And every time that happens that makes a difference with your print order. And then you have to get it to them sooner, every day’s delay is almost like a week’s delay to get to the newsstand. And those days count, especially when you have big marketing budgets, or in my case, I think I mentioned to you that the director of Wonder Woman and her family are on the next cover, and you always want to be timely with your magazine coming out. But you also have these plans for marketing, digital marketing, traditional marketing, and every time something changes that changes a number of other things as well. So, no, it hasn’t been a walk in a rose garden. (Laughs)

But my passion takes me through. We’re a philanthropic organization; I’m not doing this to line my pockets. I’m doing this to make a difference; I’m doing this for the people who need community or who may be finding themselves or who is just now maybe seeing that there is something different about themselves and they’ve figured it out.

When I interviewed the director of Wonder Woman and her family about this new show on TNT – “I Am The Night” that came out recently, we talked about her upbringing as a military brat. And it turned out that her husband is a cross-cultural kid, in terms of his upbringing as well. And then the two of them together have a son who is growing up in London and in Los Angeles because of Wonder Woman, which was filmed in London. So, they’re a family of cross-cultural people.

And it turned out her mother is a military brat as well, so that’s three generations of cross-culture. And you would expect that, because when you look at them they look like they’re a regular American family and they’re not people of color. But what makes the difference is how they see the world because of how they were brought up. And that’s what we talk about in this next issue.

Samir Husni: When was that bright, shining moment when you knew you were making a difference? Was it when that first issue came out or when you started the digital magazine?

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: When I started the digital I felt like I was doing something. And I continued that for four years and we have thousands of articles, they’re all free. Even articles in the print edition are also on digital, so anyone can read those. Again, there’s a different experience when go to print. Just the photos were very visual in the print magazine. And it was just such a great experience to feel the paper, it’s such high quality paper with a soft touch to it. So, I felt like I made a difference when I went digital, and then I started to feel like I wasn’t. Going to print, I felt like I was making a difference.

And then in between there’s so much work that happens and people remind me that we’ve done so many things. We just came back from the Sundance Film Festival and being able to cover films about refugees and immigrants and the sectionalism of different people. There was a movie called “Hala” about a Pakistani girl who is merging her Pakistani parents’ wishes and culture with her American self.

There was another one called “Luce” that has Octavia Spencer in it and it’s about an African child who is adopted and used to be a boy soldier, and he’s adopted by a white couple from America and as he’s coming of age he’s getting these incendiary thoughts that are shocking everyone around him because he’s an A student and he’s an athlete. He’s looked up to by everyone and his teacher is the only one who saw something brewing inside of him.

So, these are the things that happen to us as we’re forming our identity. We’re growing and they come out, so I’m happy to champion all of these stories that other people are bringing to life. And every time that that happens, I realize I’m making a difference. And it’s important. People bring me back to that, because I’m so busy doing the work that sometimes I forget that we’re actually doing something great.

Samir Husni: What’s the link with the university? I know you’re the director of marketing at Colorado State University at the student center.

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: Yes, and I teach in the Department of Journalism. I actually teach a course called Media and Global Cultural Identity. I have to give props to the Department of Journalism and Media Communications because the head of that department was the first one to really get this. To really see the value of what we’re doing and understand the difference it can make in the world, and who was championing it from the beginning. And he’s offered to do a number of things, and so I developed the curriculum for that class.

And it’s made a difference actually in quite a few students’ lives. It’s been interesting too. It’s been an interesting teaching assignment for me because there are some students who have a hard time grasping the information, because if you grew up in a home without this situation; you’ve never really moved anywhere; you haven’t been around people who are too much different than you, it’s difficult to think outside of that box. And it’s really interesting to watch people want to do it, they like it and they like the information and they really want to get it, but they have a hard time grasping it.

So many come to my class and they learn so much about themselves. Every issue has a major global destination that we feature. And this last one we had London, and one of my former students is a master’s student in London and she wrote the intro about what that city means to her and what it feels like. She’s from Shanghai. Students like her, I have a number of them, and they find out about themselves, question their answers for them. Again, that’s another milestone for me, because that is the purpose of the magazine.

Samir Husni: Is the magazine separate from the university or is it part of the university?

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: It is separate from the university. The university is just a great partner. The Department of Journalism and Media Communications is our major partner. The President’s Office, Enrollment and Access, and Adult Learner and Veteran Services and External Relations, they also have been great supporters.

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

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: I’m excited to see large corporations understanding what a difference this makes. I told you about the show “I Am the Night” on TNT. I was impressed with them and Turner Network and Warner Brothers, I was a consultant on the show. And it’s about someone who is a friend of mine, Fauna Hodel, she is culturally fluid. She’s a white woman and she grew up thinking she was black. There’s a lot to that story; a lot of layers there. They brought me in as a cultural consultant because of our connection and to make sure that they were hitting the cultural note right. And that’s what a lot of corporations are missing.

A lot of places, and the universities are one; they’re starting to get it. It’s not just about visual diversity, what we see, even though that’s important. It’s also other diversities that a number of people have that needs to be seen in people. So, I am very excited about that.

Recently, Amazon reached out for me to work with them. We’ve been working with the World Bank and the United Nations, and Coca-Cola. So, I’m really excited to see this making a difference, to see that people are getting onboard.

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

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: That’s a good question. I’m going to say something that came to me recently. Building this, I get so focused on how important it is, that often I forget along the way to enjoy it. And not let the pressure get to me. So recently, I said that I want to bring the best of myself to everyone around me, because I don’t feel like I’m giving them my best at all times right now. I want to bring out the best in the people around me by giving them the best of me.

Samir Husni: What’s the biggest misconception people have about you?

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: (Laughs) Let me find just one. I’ll encapsulate them all into I’m not what people expect. I still haven’t figured that out; I’ve figured it out to a level, but I’m not sure what people see when they see me. They expect me to be much more intense than I am. They expect me to be, I think, more hysterical than I am. (Laughs) Now, can I be that way? Of course, and maybe that’s what they see. They look at me, depending on the situation, how I’m dressed, or how I present; someone said once, how I show up, because I mentioned I’m an introvert and she said that I show up as an extravert.

I think the biggest misconception is people think they get where I’m going with something or what I want to do, or who I am. And I think 95 percent of the time, people are wrong. And I said that to my classes. I told them not to try and anticipate what they think that I want. Give me what you want, because if you try and guess what I want to hear from you, I guarantee you that you’ll be wrong.

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

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: You would probably find me lifting weights and then coming home and having a hot bath in the Jacuzzi tub. Then sitting by the fire and reading a magazine.

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

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: Nothing really keeps me up at night. (Laughs) I’m that tired. I think what keeps me up at night; again, back to the wanting to do it so right. Doing it like it is so important and doing it like it can make a difference for so many. So, with limited resources, sometimes I feel like I made the wrong decision. And that’s only a recent thing, I never really had that happen to me before, because I would make a decision and then I would move on.

But recently I made a huge decision where we were placed in a slot in the Barnes & Noble stores and I had to do some big things to get that. And it came at a great personal sacrifice. Then I thought I made the wrong decision, because it didn’t work out as I expected. One night I was up all night, kind of kicking myself and asking myself what I was thinking. And whether I had thought it through. But I got over it.

And I kept asking myself what was wrong, because I never do that. But again, it’s just that I believe it is so important. I really feel like this is the direction that the globe is going and that people need to pay attention. So, I want to do everything that I can to get there so that I’m ready for the ones who need us.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

 

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Hearst Magazines’ Chief Content Officer, Kate Lewis To Mr. Magazine™ : “Print Injects A Kind Of Authority And Expertise…” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview

February 11, 2019

“That’s what I thought. I’m ready for this. And I was excited. I had spent five years in digital; I was excited to be able to return to the media I had fallen in love with, which was print. That was the thing that defined my decision to become a magazine person in the first place. I had been a maniacal print obsessive for my whole childhood. And spending those years in digital really helped me have perspective on consumers and consumer behavior. That instant feedback that you get from digital is extraordinarily valuable, and I felt like that this would be a great chance to bring the things that I had learned there to bear on print and to see if we could help engagement and connectivity to readers in print as well.” Kate Lewis (On her reaction when she was first offered the position of chief content officer at Hearst Magazines)…

 

Hearst Magazines stands almost unrivaled in its array of successful and engaging magazine titles, both nationally and internationally. And no one does it better that Hearst when it comes to the marriage of print with digital. So, it stands to reason that the person who would be in charge of this massively engaging kingdom would have to be as inspiring and creatively expressive as the portfolio of content they reign over. And as connected to both print and digital as the company is.

Kate Lewis would be that professionally protective ruler of the kingdom, with her scepter in both the print and digital realms. Kate joined Hearst Magazines Digital Media in 2014 as vice president, content operations and editorial director, and was promoted to senior vice president in 2016. In her current role as chief content officer of Hearst Magazines, she directs content strategy for Hearst Magazine brands in print and digital, overseeing all editors in chief and digital directors in the U.S., and liaise with the company’s international network to maximize global content opportunities. In other words, Kate has a full plate and is enjoying the plentiful fare immensely.

On a recent trip to New York, I sat down with Kate and we talked about her palate for everything Hearst, and her vision for the brands that she oversees. While the number of titles she oversees may sometimes seem a bit overwhelming, she has a knack for seeing the positive in everything, the opportunities in challenges and the potential of each and every brand. That’s why her upbeat and energetic take on the creative and business side of the organization is so palpably filled with optimism and spot-on truth. And why Mr. Magazine™ thoroughly enjoyed this conversation.

I hope you do the same as you read along with Kate and myself as we discuss the success of Hearst Magazines and the future of magazines and magazine media. So, without further ado, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Kate Lewis, chief content officer, Hearst Magazines.

But first the sound-bites:

On whether she feels the industry has given up on connecting print to Generation Z and millennials:I don’t think that we’ve given up on them. I think discoverability with that generation is very hard. I grew up as a kid reading every magazine under the sun, because I walked by 15 newsstands on my way to school every day. They were very much in my face. And kids today, even if they do walk by a newsstand, of which there are very few, you have to go all the way to 55th and Third to find yours. And even if they are walking by a newsstand, they have their faces in their phones anyway. So, I don’t think giving up on them is the right phrase, because I think they have an appetite for this kind of content packaged in this way, but I think we have work to do around how they discover it.

On some tricks that she has in her bag to reach that particular audience:I think this is one of the things that we’re really thinking about with Cosmopolitan; Cosmo has now united print and digital under Jessica Pels and she should definitely be your next interview, she’s amazing. We have such a huge audience of readers for Cosmo in digital, she’s been thinking a lot about how do we use digital to help those readers to connect and understand that there is more from this brand, that you can get print from them. And I think it’s something that Brian Madden, who is our head of consumer marketing, is also really focused on.

On why she thinks the industry has done so much when it comes to bringing people from print to digital, as if it were a one-way street, but has not done as much in taking people from digital to print:I think both are hard, to be honest. I don’t know how much we have done, bringing people from print to digital. I think society has just moved there. I think we have as much Google, Facebook, Yahoo, AOL; all of those things in a day to thank for making people digital. But I don’t think we’ve done enough work and I think we need to so that we can remind people of print. And the fact that there’s a different way of receiving a different slant on this information that’s extremely rewarding. And to sell that to them through their phones.

On how a trusted medium, a trusted brand, can use information about the audience, which today seems very free, but at the same time protect the audience’s privacy:We do that now, because the content that we deliver to them digitally is not overly personalized and that’s true in what we print too. But I bet if you give us 10 years that readers will seek more personalized deliverables, so the people that I know, the characters that I’m interested in, the trends that I’m interested in, and the topics that I’m interested in; I would like for that to be curated for me by the brands that I trust. So, I bet overtime you will see us use that information in ways that are more productive for the reader.

On the power of the brand and what differentiates Harper’s Bazaar or Good Housekeeping from a blog or Facebook:We have learned a lot from bloggers in how we produce magazines, and I think we’ve learned a lot in terms of consumers wanting there to be voice in the things that they see and even in the way that things are packaged. You think about food blogs and consumers seem to like step-by-step, so there have been things we’ve learned from bloggers. But at the end of the day, there is a kind of expertise and authority and breadth of a brand like Good Housekeeping that is just really different from what a blogger is doing. For the most part, a blogger has a niche and they’re sticking to that niche; it’s parenting, cooking, autos, just whatever it is, and they’re delivering in depth their point of view and their point of view alone.

On whether she feels the legacy print business has surrendered a lot of  its brand power due to a fascination of this digital mistress it now has:I don’t think we’ve surrendered our power at all. The difference for me between influencers and media brands is that influencers have usually one platform on which they exist. So for example, if we put a YouTube star on Instagram or an Instagram star onsite, it doesn’t translate. They have a platform that is their natural habitat and that’s where they belong. A brand can traverse any platform. You can have a brand be executed across any of the places that we publish and be pretty darned successful in those places with the right ambition. So, I think that’s one way in which we are really different than influencers.

On how she goes through her day wearing so many brand’s hats as chief content officer:First and foremost, I am extremely lucky because the people who individually run these brands, they are the people. Travis Okulski, who runs Road & Track, I don’t need to know about cars, Travis knows about cars. But I can help Travis be a leader; I can help him be a strategist; I can help connect him to his peers. Even last night, we were back and forth on a story; I can edit with him, there’s so much I can offer him, but I can’t offer him car expertise. (Laughs) He’s teaching me. It’s been a slow process, I’m trying.

On whether we will see her fingerprints throughout all of the brands or each brand is going to continue to have its own identity:I really hope that’s the case. I worry about that a lot, and that’s such a good question, because I do strongly feel that in this moment of saturated media, being unique and having a distinction is the best thing you can do for a brand. So, I really do worry and fret about that a lot and some of the decisions that I have made here have been a reflection of that.

 On whether she is a believer in audience first:Yes, I am. That statement I need to credit to Kristine Brabson, who runs content strategy for us. She’s a genius. We often hear if you look at top-performing content that’s spiking on any given day; recently it was Adam Levine’s tank top because it was the Super Bowl. And you have to be really careful not to look at the things that spike or the things that are common denominators as being a reflection of what our brands are or being a reflection of what our audience loves. We must go audience first, but it has to be a mix of the things that are a daily habit for them, that gets them reading. We’re all talking about Adam Levine’s tank top, then we should write about it, if it’s within the wheelhouse of our brand.

On whether she feels her editors are still editing with the same rigor or has the rigor been diluted due to the speed and daily necessity of the content:I think we’re doing both. And I think that there are groups of people who excel at both. We had a features team in digital that could take, over the course of a year they would produce maybe six stories. Those people are as valuable as the person who is covering “This Is Us” and writing five stories every Tuesday, because they just watched the show. You really need to make sure, and this is why I would say that we lead with audience, you really need to make sure that you’re hitting every interest that a reader might have and that includes really carefully honed crafted multilayered content. And that includes the light touch.

On how they are utilizing data about their many audiences:I actually had a big editor’s meeting recently and we were talking about some of the ways that data works for us. And I think for the editors, data is not a new word, every year for the past five years has been the year of data for us. I think as a company, we’ve gotten far more extraordinary in the way that we produce it and make it accessible and make it a part of the daily life of people. But editors have always known how to hunt down the information that they need to help them decide what to write, how to write it, when to publish it, where to publish it. And all of those decisions have always been influenced by what our audience is doing on any given day and what the data tells us about that.

On her reaction when she was first offered the position of chief content officer:There were so many complicating factors, but what I thought was, I’m ready. That’s what I thought. I’m ready for this. And I was excited. I had spent five years in digital; I was excited to be able to return to the media I had fallen in love with, which was print. That was the thing that defined my decision to become a magazine person in the first place. I had been a maniacal print obsessive for my whole childhood.

On the biggest challenge she’s had to face:My biggest challenge honestly is the thing that you pointed to before, which is that there are so many brands, so excellent each in their own way, and I am just one human. So, how do I manage this incredibly big organization with all of these talented people that allows me to get smarter from just spending time with them. I hope that they get smarter from spending time with me too. Then, how do I build that connectivity and collaboration across the org. We’re doing good so far, but I definitely have not solved it. (Laughs)

On what she would hope to tell someone that she had accomplished as chief content officer in 2019:I want there to be a complete continuity between all of the creators in this building. I want everyone who is on the creative team in this building to let their ideas go where they may. And not be challenged by: I’m in this bucket, I work for this person, I think this way. But instead, to say: I have a great idea, now where can it live? And then to be able to call upon on all of the right people to help them do that. So, for me, it’s both the freedom to think of creation in any media, reaching the audience in any media, and then the ability to collaborate with the right people to make it happen.

On anything she’d like to add:The only thing I would add is that I hope one year from now that I feel like I’m having as much fun as I am right now. I think the environment in my editorial team is trepidatious, because we see what is happening to media companies  around us, but actually it’s full of joy. To me that’s extraordinarily important, that we delight in our work, because it shows up on the page. And you can really tell when you’re reading a magazine or a post, looking at an Instagram post, whatever it is, that the person who did it took pride in it and felt happy doing it. And that is really important to me.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her:We’ve always said that my tombstone is going to read “Enter Smiling.” And that is definitely my approach, which is that I look at challenges and opportunities with optimism. So, that’s what I would want tattooed on me.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home:Probably working. I’m so bad to admit that. I have two extraordinary kids, but they’re teenagers, so they have a ton of homework. And we have really fun dinners, but I’d say after dinner, you might find us all working.

On the biggest misconception she thinks people have about her:I feel like I’m such an open book, that I’m not sure how many misconceptions there are, but that’s maybe just what I think of my own delivery. The biggest misconception about me may be, it’s either one thing or the other, but they’re opposites. It would either be that I’m sophisticated or that I’m basic. And the truth is I’m a combination of both, so I feel like some people see me as being incredibly basic, because I really do understand that mass market audience in the U.S. and I really subscribe to it and I love trashy culture. Probably more than I should. My avatar in social media is Taylor Swift, she’s my favorite person on earth, even though I have never met her. But one can dream.

On what keeps her up at night:My to-do list; again, because I feel quite overwhelmed by the number of people that I want to touch base with and connect with every day. And quality. It goes back to that thing of do we still craft features the way we always did? I think that I have a team that is incredibly good at scale and I think that I have people on my team who are very good at quality. And how do you make sure when you have more people working on scale and less people working on quality that the quality has a voice and a seat at the table.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Kate Lewis, chief content officer, Hearst Magazines.

Samir Husni: I read your interview with WWD and I saw where your own son is an avid magazine reader, whether it’s Road & Track or Car and Driver. And I’m about to speak as an educator, someone who teaches 18-year-olds; do you feel that the industry has given up on Generation Z and millennials when it comes to print or is that a myth that no one knows how to correct?

Kate Lewis: I don’t think that we’ve given up on them. In fact, a couple of meetings ago I was talking to our editor of Seventeen, where we’re actually making some changes to what the next issue will be. With that brand we’re very focused on a single topic, a single theme, because I think that will speak to those girls in a more specific way.

But, you were saying this before, I think discoverability with that generation is very hard. I grew up as a kid reading every magazine under the sun, because I walked by 15 newsstands on my way to school every day. They were very much in my face. And kids today, even if they do walk by a newsstand, of which there are very few, you have to go all the way to 55thand Third to find yours. And even if they are walking by a newsstand, they have their faces in their phones anyway. So, I don’t think giving up on them is the right phrase, because I think they have an appetite for this kind of content packaged in this way, but I think we have work to do around how they discover it.

Samir Husni: Besides reinventing Seventeen, what are some other tricks that you have in your bag to try and reach out to that audience?

Kate Lewis: I think this is one of the things that we’re really thinking about with Cosmopolitan; Cosmo has now united print and digital under Jessica Pels and she should definitely be your next interview, she’s amazing. We have such a huge audience of readers for Cosmo in digital, she’s been thinking a lot about how do we use digital to help those readers to connect and understand that there is more from this brand, that you can get print from them. And I think it’s something that Brian Madden, who is our head of consumer marketing, is also really focused on.

Because the daily habit that we’ve established with our readers now is through digital. This is the potentially “new” newsstand. So, how do we turn that into a way to say, “Hey look, you can see us in different packages.” We’re good at getting people to move from following us on Instagram to YouTube to reading us onsite, so this is just another thing that we should try and connect with them on.

Samir Husni: You were quoted once, “We don’t judge the audience. We want to go where the audience is and not judge them.” Why do you think that the industry has done so much when it comes to bringing people from print to digital, as if it were a one-way street, but has not done as much in taking people from digital to print?  

Kate Lewis: I think both are hard, to be honest. I don’t know how much we have done, bringing people from print to digital. I think society has just moved there. I think we have as much Google, Facebook, Yahoo, AOL; all of those things in a day to thank for making people digital. But I don’t think we’ve done enough work and I think we need to so that we can remind people of print. And the fact that there’s a different way of receiving a different slant on this information that’s extremely rewarding. And to sell that to them through their phones.

Samir Husni: It seems today’s audience, in general, are less concerned about their privacy and are willing to give you more information than ever before. How can a trusted medium, a trusted brand, use that information about the audience, but at the same time protect their privacy?

Kate Lewis: We do that now, because the content that we deliver to them digitally is not overly personalized and that’s true in what we print too. But I bet if you give us 10 years that readers will seek more personalized deliverables, so the people that I know, the characters that I’m interested in, the trends that I’m interested in, and the topics that I’m interested in; I would like for that to be curated for me by the brands that I trust. So, I bet overtime you will see us use that information in ways that are more productive for the reader.

Samir Husni: Tell me a bit more about the power of the brand and what differentiates, let’s say, Harper’s Bazaar or Good Housekeeping from a blog or Facebook?

Kate Lewis: First, let me go back to how we now feel less sad about how we’re targeted. And I totally agree with that. But I think the one risk with that, and I think this is where printed magazines can help set us free in a way, is you’re often delivered digitally the thing that you already knew you wanted.

So, I know that I’m interested in new lights, but I find a billion new lights. And if I looked at one that had a white bulb, then I’m going to be shown all the lights with the white bulbs. But there is one with a red bulb, but I’ll never be shown that one. And the nice thing about print is that it does draft off consumer interest, but it also injects a kind of authority and expertise that helps me go somewhere I might not have gone. It helps bring inspiration. Digital delivery can often be extraordinarily targeted to the point where you are never exposed to new ideas. And I think print can allow people to be exposed to things they wouldn’t have known before.

Now, how do I think that Good Housekeeping is different than a blog? (Laughs) I don’t even know where to begin. We have learned a lot from bloggers in how we produce magazines, and I think we’ve learned a lot in terms of consumers wanting there to be voice in the things that they see and even in the way that things are packaged. You think about food blogs and consumers seem to like step-by-step, so there have been things we’ve learned from bloggers.

But at the end of the day, there is a kind of expertise and authority and breadth of a brand like Good Housekeeping that is just really different from what a blogger is doing. For the most part, a blogger has a niche and they’re sticking to that niche; it’s parenting, cooking, autos, just whatever it is, and they’re delivering in depth their point of view and their point of view alone.

And I think a brand like Good Housekeeping delivers an array of subjects about which they have an array of experts who have opinions that are vetted and have been honed over the years. I gives you a much bigger cornucopia of intelligence than you’re getting from a single blog. Both have value, but they’re strikingly different.

Samir Husni: Michael Clinton told me that somehow the business was mistaken in thinking that the bloggers were the influencers, when in reality the brands are the bigger influencers. And you’ve been in the business since the ‘90s, so do you feel that the print business as a whole, not just Hearst, the legacy print business has surrendered a lot of  its brand power due to a fascination of this digital mistress it now has?

Kate Lewis: I don’t think we’ve surrendered our power at all. The difference for me between influencers and media brands is that influencers have usually one platform on which they exist. So for example, if we put a YouTube star on Instagram or an Instagram star onsite, it doesn’t translate. They have a platform that is their natural habitat and that’s where they belong. A brand can traverse any platform. You can have a brand be executed across any of the places that we publish and be pretty darned successful in those places with the right ambition. So, I think that’s one way in which we are really different than influencers.

And I would say that the other way that we’re different is that influencers are often really admired by women, because they want to be them. So, I want to be Jane Doe because I look at her and I see her life and I want to be her. Brands are something that I am. I am an Elle woman; I am. I am in the tent; I am part of the club. And I don’t want to be an Elle woman because that’s not a human, it’s a thing, it’s a feeling, it’s a spirit; it’s a state of mind. And so I think that’s another way in which we differ.

Influencers are inspiring, I’m not besmirching them. They have motivated women to make purchasing decisions in all the ways that brands do, but I don’t want to be them. I want to be friends with them and I want to know them because I’m inspired by them. But with the brand, I can wake up in the morning and say, “Okay, I’m a Cosmo girl. That’s who I am.”

So, I think that’s a big difference between how influence is wielded from an influencers point of view and how influence is wielded from a brand point of view.  We do sometimes do the same things. We help them make decisions, but in really different ways. And I would like to think of our way as being super-inclusive.

Samir Husni: Between the platforms and between your job, you’ve been in this position now for almost six months. You’ve humanized the brands, as you referred to the Cosmo Woman or the Elle Woman, so how do you go through your day wearing so many brand’s hats? Are you the Popular Mechanics expert or the Seventeen Girl; are you the HGTV person?

Kate Lewis: First and foremost, I am extremely lucky because the people who individually run these brands, they are the people. Travis Okulski, who runs Road & Track, I don’t need to know about cars, Travis knows about cars. But I can help Travis be a leader; I can help him be a strategist; I can help connect him to his peers. Even last night, we were back and forth on a story; I can edit with him, there’s so much I can offer him, but I can’t offer him car expertise. (Laughs) He’s teaching me. It’s been a slow process, I’m trying.

In some ways I think I would be best-served in this job if I was actually none of the brands, that I don’t particularly identify with any of them more or less than the other. There are obviously ones that speak to me. I own a house, so all of the shelter brands are interesting to me. I am a woman, so all of the women’s brands are interesting to me. But so are all of the men’s brands, and so are all of the specialty brands.

My job is to help editorial leadership, which at this company is so excellent in its own category. Our editors in chief are the most impressive people I have ever worked with. They really understand their beats, and my job is to help them be excellent editors and excellent leaders. And so that frees me up from having category expertise across all of these many brands (Laughs), because I would be very much in trouble.

Samir Husni: And what about the brand dillusion? Will we see Kate’s fingerprints throughout all of the brands or each brand is going to continue to have its own identity? Good Housekeeping will never look like Food Network.

Kate Lewis: I really hope that’s the case. I worry about that a lot, and that’s such a good question, because I do strongly feel that in this moment of saturated media, being unique and having a distinction is the best thing you can do for a brand. So, I really do worry and fret about that a lot and some of the decisions that I have made here have been a reflection of that.

When I came, the shelter group had a bunch of shared teams and I split them back up, so now Elle Décor and House Beautiful and Veranda all have their unique teams. We did that on digital too; we kept the teams separate. I would rather have a small team. People should come to work here because they want to work at Veranda, or House Beautiful or Elle Decor. And so I’m looking for people who have that kind of passion and affinity for a brand to work on it, and hopefully that will help steer that brand to be its own unique execution.

Samir Husni: How do you translate that to your statement about you don’t judge the audience? Is it audience first, rather than platform first, rather than digital first, rather than print first? Are you a believer in audience first?

Kate Lewis: Yes, I am. That statement I need to credit to Kristine Brabson, who runs content strategy for us. She’s a genius. We often hear if you look at top-performing content that’s spiking on any given day; recently it was Adam Levine’s tank top because it was the Super Bowl. And if you think that’s what your audience is and that’s all you wrote about that day, and you look at our top-performing stories and there are five of them that are about Adam Levine’s tank top, you would think what a bunch of uninteresting content they produced today or how can Americans only care about his tank top? There’s so much in the world that we could be writing about.

And you have to be really careful not to look at the things that spike or the things that are common denominators as being a reflection of what our brands are or being a reflection of what our audience loves. We must go audience first, but it has to be a mix of the things that are a daily habit for them, that gets them reading. We’re all talking about Adam Levine’s tank top, then we should write about it, if it’s within the wheelhouse of our brand.

And then also to make sure that we infuse into every day, content that will surprise them and inspire them, take them to someplace new. So, that content mix feels really critical to me to keep our audiences engaged.

Samir Husni: Are you seeing any difference in your editors, where they used to have the luxury of producing a magazine once a month, now they have to create on a daily basis.

Kate Lewis: We’re all running around like crazy. (Laughs) For sure.

Samir Husni: But do you feel that you’re still editing with the same rigor or has the rigor been diluted due to the speed and daily necessity of the content?

Kate Lewis: I think we’re doing both. And I think that there are groups of people who excel at both. We had a features team in digital that could take, over the course of a year they would produce maybe six stories. Those people are as valuable as the person who is covering “This Is Us” and writing five stories every Tuesday, because they just watched the show. You really need to make sure, and this is why I would say that we lead with audience, you really need to make sure that you’re hitting every interest that a reader might have and that includes really carefully honed crafted multilayered content. And that includes the light touch.

Samir Husni: In this digital age where it’s much easier to collect the data about your audience, how are you benefiting from that? How are you using that data? When I asked Michael Clinton what would be the one word to define 2019, he said data. Last year it was audio; the year before it was video. Do you spend your time crunching data?

Kate Lewis: No. I actually had a big editor’s meeting recently and we were talking about some of the ways that data works for us. And I think for the editors, data is not a new word, every year for the past five years has been the year of data for us. I think as a company, we’ve gotten far more extraordinary in the way that we produce it and make it accessible and make it a part of the daily life of people. But editors have always known how to hunt down the information that they need to help them decide what to write, how to write it, when to publish it, where to publish it. And all of those decisions have always been influenced by what our audience is doing on any given day and what the data tells us about that.

There was a great example that our editor from Country Living dotcom, Michelle Profis, gave recently, which I may bungle, but basically she decided to go hard after “The Voice,” the TV show, this year. And they wrote a lot of content around it and it was very popular with her audience.

And they did so many polls in that content that they actually knew who the winner would be. It wasn’t even polls. What they did was related links. So, if you were reading a story that was about two contestants, at the bottom there would be: for more information on Contestant A, click here. For more information on Contestant B, click here. And they started to track who was going where and what it was, and they ended up knowing before it was over basically who was going to win.

And that kind of thing helps them have a content strategy. They obviously need to write more stories about the person who is the bigger hit. And it’s been interesting to see editors use data in those kinds of ways. It doesn’t change so much instinct about what people like. The first instinct was to go hard after “The Voice” this year, because they thought it would be a big season. That’s just a thing, and then you begin to understand how to craft that narrative in a way that will connect more deeply with people. And data helps to do that.

Samir Husni: Where do you find those people who still have that gut feeling?

Kate Lewis: I find them everywhere. I think the instinct of editors is the thing that makes them want to do this. Anyone who is applying for a job here already has that instinct, because they understand how media affects people and they have sort of a gut about it.

Samir Husni: When you were asked by WWD, you said that only in your dreams did you ever think you would be here, where you are today.

Kate Lewis: Yes.

Samir Husni: In the large span of being a magazine editor, you have had a short lifespan, you haven’t been in this business for 50 years or so before you achieved this position. If you can recall that moment when you were offered this job, what was your reaction?

Kate Lewis: There were so many complicating factors, but what I thought was, I’m ready. That’s what I thought. I’m ready for this. And I was excited. I had spent five years in digital; I was excited to be able to return to the media I had fallen in love with, which was print. That was the thing that defined my decision to become a magazine person in the first place. I had been a maniacal print obsessive for my whole childhood.

And spending those years in digital really helped me have perspective on consumers and consumer behavior. That instant feedback that you get from digital is extraordinarily valuable, and I felt like that this would be a great chance to bring the things that I had learned there to bear on print and to see if we could help engagement and connectivity to readers in print as well.

Samir Husni: What was the biggest challenge that you had to face and how did you overcome it?

Kate Lewis: I’m not sure I have overcome it yet. (Laughs) My biggest challenge honestly is the thing that you pointed to before, which is that there are so many brands, so excellent each in their own way, and I am just one human. So, how do I manage this incredibly big organization with all of these talented people that allows me to get smarter from just spending time with them. I hope that they get smarter from spending time with me too. Then, how do I build that connectivity and collaboration across the org. We’re doing good so far, but I definitely have not solved it. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: If you and I have this conversation a year from now, what would you hope to tell me that you had accomplished as chief content officer in 2019?

Kate Lewis: I want there to be a complete continuity between all of the creators in this building. I want everyone who is on the creative team in this building to let their ideas go where they may. And not be challenged by: I’m in this bucket, I work for this person, I think this way. But instead, to say: I have a great idea, now where can it live? And then to be able to call upon on all of the right people to help them do that. So, for me, it’s both the freedom to think of creation in any media, reaching the audience in any media, and then the ability to collaborate with the right people to make it happen.

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

Kate Lewis: The only thing I would add is that I hope one year from now that I feel like I’m having as much fun as I am right now. I think the environment in my editorial team is trepidatious, because we see what is happening to media companies  around us, but actually it’s full of joy. To me that’s extraordinarily important, that we delight in our work, because it shows up on the page. And you can really tell when you’re reading a magazine or a post, looking at an Instagram post, whatever it is, that the person who did it took pride in it and felt happy doing it. And that is really important to me.

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

Kate Lewis: We’ve always said that my tombstone is going to read “Enter Smiling.” And that is definitely my approach, which is that I look at challenges and opportunities with optimism. So, that’s what I would want tattooed on me.

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

Kate Lewis: Probably working. I’m so bad to admit that. I have two extraordinary kids, but they’re teenagers, so they have a ton of homework. And we have really fun dinners, but I’d say after dinner, you might find us all working.

Samir Husni:  What’s the biggest misconception people have about you?

Kate Lewis: I feel like I’m such an open book, that I’m not sure how many misconceptions there are, but that’s maybe just what I think of my own delivery. The biggest misconception about me may be, it’s either one thing or the other, but they’re opposites. It would either be that I’m sophisticated or that I’m basic. And the truth is I’m a combination of both, so I feel like some people see me as being incredibly basic, because I really do understand that mass market audience in the U.S. and I really subscribe to it and I love trashy culture. Probably more than I should. My avatar in social media is Taylor Swift, she’s my favorite person on earth, even though I have never met her. But one can dream.

But on the other hand, as you know, I have this big fancy office and this big fancy job and I think that one assumes that to be in this position you have to be fairly sophisticated.

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

Kate Lewis: My to-do list; again, because I feel quite overwhelmed by the number of people that I want to touch base with and connect with every day. And quality. It goes back to that thing of do we still craft features the way we always did? I think that I have a team that is incredibly good at scale and I think that I have people on my team who are very good at quality. And how do you make sure when you have more people working on scale and less people working on quality that the quality has a voice and a seat at the table.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Where Women Create Work Named The 2018 Magazine Launch Of The Year by MPA: The Association of Magazine Media & Mr. Magazine™

February 7, 2019

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 05: Jo Packham speaks at American Magazine Media Conference 2019 on February 05, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for MPA The Association of Magazine Media)

New York, NY (February 7, 2019) – MPA – The Association of Magazine Media today announced WHERE WOMEN CREATE WORK is the 2018 Magazine Launch of the Year.  The award was presented by Samir “Mr. Magazine ™” Husni at the American Magazine Media Conference on February 5 at 225 Liberty Street in downtown Manhattan.

“As MPA celebrates its centennial and recognizes the 100-plus years of magazine media excellence, it is wonderful to see so many new magazine brands launch year after year,” said Linda Thomas Brooks, President and CEO, MPA – The Association of Magazine Media.  “Companies big and small continue to see the value in magazine media and its ability to connect with audiences in a way no other medium can.”

“WHERE WOMEN CREATE WORK gives women a much-needed platform to tell their own stories, in their own words about their own passions,” added Husni. “Launching a new magazine is an accolade in itself, but this brand was the clear winner because of its ability to connect with women on numerous levels and because of its beautiful, eye-catching design.”

To be eligible for the Launch of the Year award, magazine brands must have a regular print frequency and have launched between January 1 and December 31, 2018. They are evaluated on creativity and reaction from both the magazine media industry and consumers. Almost 200 magazine brands qualified for the award based on these criteria, which is more than 40% higher than last year.

“I am so honored to receive this award—especially among such an esteemed group of finalists,” said Jo Packham, Creator and Editor in Chief, WHERE WOMEN CREATE. “WHERE WOMEN CREATE WORK points out the most extraordinary women of our time. I am extremely proud of the stories we have told and cannot wait to shed even more light on the artisan entrepreneurs, the makers’ creative processes and artistic work spaces, and those passionate about all things food from around the world.”

And here is a video used with permission from the Women’s Leadership LIVE Facebook who were at the event…

 

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Tom Tom Mag: Born From The Womb Of Digital With The Mission Of Giving Female Drummers The Respect That Google Search Engines Didn’t – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Mindy Abovitz-Monk, Founder & Publisher…

February 4, 2019

It was really not my decision, it was the people who were already coming to our parties and the people who were looking at our website and really wanted to see our content in print and I really had no idea what that was going to do to my life and how it was going to change everything. But I agreed to do print because I felt like you couldn’t ignore print; you can’t ignore print, it’s an object. And I knew that we were going to make the print quality as high as we could. And we were going to design it really well. So, I figured we would get a lot of respect, that female drummers would get a lot of respect, once we had a print object. More so than if it was just digital.” Mindy Abovitz-Monk (On the print edition being born from digital)…

 In 2009, a young woman decided to put “female drummer” into the Google search engine to see what results came up and was appalled with the content that was available to her. Everything from bikini-clad women standing next to drum sets, to articles about whether or not women could play drums was about her only choices when it came to something that she was passionate about, but nothing substantial or meaningful was to be found. So, she decided to do something about it. And that was eventually to start her own brand; her own movement.

Mindy Abovitz-Monk is a self-taught drummer and drum machine programmer with a Masters in Media Studies from The New School in New York. She started Tom Tom Magazine; the first and only magazine about female drummers, in 2009 with the goal to change Google search results for the word pairing, “female drummer.” And that she did. Tom Tom is now a full color print magazine and media company with global distribution that reaches millions.

I spoke with Mindy recently about Tom Tom and the mega influence it has had on female drummers and women musicians in general. As a feminist and an activist herself, Mindy is determined to take on ethics and morality in media making and to do it across all of Tom Tom’s platforms, including the print magazine. She hopes to impact the music industry through print media, new media, showcases, panels and community interactions and see a large increase of female drummers in the next ten years. The magazine itself has a feminist mission and seeks to raise awareness about female percussionists from all over the world and hopes to inspire women and girls of all ages to drum, while strengthening and building the community of otherwise fragmented female musicians.

To some, it may seem a lofty goal, but to Mindy, it’s a way of life and her message. But more importantly, it’s the worthy message of her brand. And now, without further ado, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Mindy Abovitz-Monk, founder and publisher, Tom Tom Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the genesis of Tom Tom Mag: I’m a feminist and I have a degree in media from The New School in New York, and I have been drumming since I was 21-years-old and working in the music industry, both as a volunteer and for paid work since I moved to New York City in 2002. Also, I’ll back up just a little; when I was a teenager I was introduced to Riot grrrl music, which has had a resurgence recently, but it’s basically an unapologetic genre of music made by women. The women were not necessarily adept at their instruments, but they could really create their messaging, and that inspired me really early on. Fast forward to New York City about 20 years later, then my introduction to Riot grrrl, and I had been working in the music industry; I had been volunteering in the music industry and I had been drumming, touring, and I realized that I didn’t think that female drummers were getting very good representation. And specifically in Google search. I Google searched girl drummer back in 2009 and the results were offensive. It was like pictures of girls next to drum sets in bikinis and articles about whether or not girls could play drums. And I decided if things still looked like that in the media, it was going to be up to someone like me to change it.

On Tom Tom Mag, the print edition, being born from the womb of digital: It was really not my decision, it was the people who were already coming to our parties and the people who were looking at our website and really wanted to see our content in print and I really had no idea what that was going to do to my life and how it was going to change everything. But I agreed to do print because I felt like you couldn’t ignore print; you can’t ignore print, it’s an object. And I knew that we were going to make the print quality as high as we could. And we were going to design it really well. So, I figured we would get a lot of respect, that female drummers would get a lot of respect, once we had a print object. More so than if it was just digital.

On whether launching the magazine has been a walk in a rose garden for her or she has had some challenges along the way: No, it was never a walk in a rose garden. The only rose garden part of this entire experience has been the support coming from our fans and from our community. That was an overwhelming blossoming garden and continues to be. Every other part was a challenge and a hurdle; print was difficult in 2009 and it’s difficult today. Monetizing what so many people consider to be a niche subject around a niche market has been challenging and difficult. Prior to us coming along, the majority of the drum industry didn’t even believe that there were female drummers.

On the biggest mistake she made and how she corrected it: I honestly am not going to believe that we make mistakes, so I can’t off the top of my head think of the biggest mistake we made. But I can tell you a mistake that was perceived to be made this past year and the consequences that we faced because of it. We released an issue themed “Sex + Love” at the beginning of last year. We’ve been theming our issues almost the whole time and so we themed that issue “Sex + Love.” Of course we’re still talking about drums, percussion, and beatnikking. We talked about sex toy guide for tours, band names that had racy names like “Thunderpussy” and “Boob Sweat.” We talked about your relationship with your bandmates and being single on the road. We did not inform our advertisers that we were theming our issue “Sex + Love” and we ended up losing close to $50,000 of sponsorship money.

On the most pleasant moment of her journey: I have had many, many pleasant moments. But one really pleasant moment that I had was when I put in a proposal to MoMA PS1, which is a museum in Queens, to show the museum drummers. I put a proposal together, it was a total stab in the dark. I didn’t think that they would agree and they did. And I think that allowed me to broaden my horizons and to realize that we were going to reach people outside of just the music industry. And that the art world saw value in us, by valuing us as the female drummer and also in me as an owner of this magazine and as someone who can use different platforms to articulate a similar message. And that platform was their museum. So, that was an incredible moment for me.

On whether the magazine has given some people not only hope, but also ignited interest in them to get into this field: Yes, 100 percent. I don’t have the statistics in front of me, but there’s Tom Tom Magazine, which I started; there’s Hit Like a Girl, which I co-founded, which is a female drummer contest that’s global and based online. She Shreds Magazine started because of Tom Tom and loads of other media companies and organizations kind of sprouted up and felt supported by us or felt inspired by us. And I think Tom Tom itself and all of the other companies that started up because of us has greatly affected the music industry and introduced many more girls and women to it. And they have given the women already there more confidence to stand up and promote themselves. And to ask for things, such as tour money, or whatever it might be.

On what she hopes to accomplish with the brand in 2019: This year is a very big year for us, it’s our 10 year anniversary year. That whole landmark happened for us 10 years ago, which was launching the blog, buying our URL, and finally at the end of the year in 2009, we printed our first issue. So we’re spending the entire year, this year, looking back at what we did, focusing on what we’re doing now and readjusting for 2020 to what we want to do in the future, what impact we want to make moving forward.

On anything she’d like to add: I would add that my main reason for starting this was to infuse ethics and morals into media making. And I do believe as a media maker, and it seems like almost all of us are one now, if you have a social media handle or you have Twitter or Instagram or you have a blog, I feel like we all have a responsibility to portray accurate stories that inspire folks to be themselves. And there was a drought for that when I started the magazine and I feel like in a lot of ways there’s still a need for people to step up and tell their true stories.

On the biggest misconception she thinks people have about her: The biggest misconception that people have about me is if they don’t know me, they might think that I’m just all business and not very friendly actually. When you step into a position like the one I have, you don’t have a lot of time and that may look elusive to someone from the outside, such as if I don’t return an email, which is very often. Or if I don’t have a lot of time to talk at a show or a party. So, I think people might not realize that I’m very warm, very caring, and very generous, but with only a limited amount of time in the day. Maybe that’s the biggest misconception. (Laughs)

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: Back in the day you would have caught me drumming or running to town for a house party, a house show. These days you’re going to find me cooking, playing with my dog, catching up with a friend, or watching some kind of documentary that’s inspiring.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: I want them to think about the power that they have as an individual. In everything I do, I hope to show people that they have, as an individual and as a small group and then a larger group if they can, that they have the power to set change.Years ago I used to love the quote “With great power comes great responsibility.” But these days I think I would say “Be kind and gentle with myself.” That’s where I’m at right now.

On what keeps her up at night: The health of my loved ones. But in relationship to Tom Tom, what keeps me up at night is trying to understand where information is being disseminated to the younger generation most. I am desperate to know where everyone is, what’s the media watering hole, and where is it going to be in two to five years from now, because I want to be wherever it is. So, I spend a lot of time thinking about YouTube , Instagram, and Snapchat, trying to understand how we can be a part of it. That keeps me up at night.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Mindy Abovitz-Monk, founder and publisher, Tom Tom Magazine.

Samir Husni: Can you tell me the genesis of Tom Tom Mag?

Mindy Abovitz-Monk: I’m a feminist and I have a degree in media from The New School in New York, and I have been drumming since I was 21-years-old and working in the music industry, both as a volunteer and for paid work since I moved to New York City in 2002. Also, I’ll back up just a little; when I was a teenager I was introduced to Riot grrrl music, which has had a resurgence recently, but it’s basically an unapologetic genre of music made by women. The women were not necessarily adept at their instruments, but they could really create their messaging, and that inspired me really early on.

Fast forward to New York City about 20 years later, then my introduction to Riot grrrl, and I had been working in the music industry; I had been volunteering in the music industry and I had been drumming, touring, and I realized that I didn’t think that female drummers were getting very good representation. And specifically in Google search. I Google searched girl drummer back in 2009 and the results were offensive. It was like pictures of girls next to drum sets in bikinis and articles about whether or not girls could play drums. And I decided if things still looked like that in the media, it was going to be up to someone like me to change it.

I knew how to code, per three-level of coding and SCO to search engine documentations. I started a blog with the sole intention to change Google search results around “female drummer,” “woman drummer,” and “girl drummer,” and that very quickly evolved into a website, events, and then within one year, a print magazine focusing on female drummers, beatnikers, and producers, essentially just to give credibility and a home to the women of the past, present and future who were and are going to be drummers, and who didn’t really have a home until then.

Samir Husni: So, Tom Tom Mag, the print edition, was born from the womb of digital?

Mindy Abovitz-Monk: Yes. And it was really not my decision, it was the people who were already coming to our parties and the people who were looking at our website and really wanted to see our content in print and I really had no idea what that was going to do to my life and how it was going to change everything. But I agreed to do print because I felt like you couldn’t ignore print; you can’t ignore print, it’s an object. And I knew that we were going to make the print quality as high as we could. And we were going to design it really well. So, I figured we would get a lot of respect, that female drummers would get a lot of respect, once we had a print object. More so than if it was just digital.

Samir Husni: And now 35 quarterly issues later, do you feel your journey has been like a walk in a rose garden, or have you had many challenges along the way? And if so, how did you overcome them?

Mindy Abovitz-Monk: No, it was never a walk in a rose garden. The only rose garden part of this entire experience has been the support coming from our fans and from our community. That was an overwhelming blossoming garden and continues to be. Every other part was a challenge and a hurdle; print was difficult in 2009 and it’s difficult today. Monetizing what so many people consider to be a niche subject around a niche market has been challenging and difficult. Prior to us coming along, the majority of the drum industry didn’t even believe that there were female drummers.

And so my biggest challenge was to convince this industry that we existed. And not only that we existed, but to invest in us, so to sponsor and advertise within every platform of our magazine. Distribution and essentially every conversation that you might imagine a business owner having was for the most part challenging and then rewarding. Challenging in that I was pressed to convince people that female drummers are not a niche, we are a viable customer to speak to. And then rewarding when people came around and agreed and actually gave us a chance, opened their doors and let us perform. Larger companies invested in us overtime and that made it all worthwhile.

Samir Husni: If you had to evaluate this journey you’ve been on, what has been the biggest mistake you’ve made and how did you correct it?

Mindy Abovitz-Monk: That’s a good question. I honestly am not going to believe that we make mistakes, so I can’t off the top of my head think of the biggest mistake we made. But I can tell you a mistake that was perceived to be made this past year and the consequences that we faced because of it. We released an issue themed “Sex + Love” at the beginning of last year. We’ve been theming our issues almost the whole time and so we themed that issue “Sex + Love.” Of course we’re still talking about drums, percussion, and beatnikking. We talked about sex toy guide for tours, band names that had racy names like “Thunderpussy” and “Boob Sweat.” We talked about your relationship with your bandmates and being single on the road. We did not inform our advertisers that we were theming our issue “Sex + Love” and we ended up losing close to $50,000 of sponsorship money.

When members of the drum industry’s advertisers who lean more conservative and are what they call family-oriented, or whatever they said, gave us a call and said they were not happy and would have to see the advertising piece for the next issue, I gave all of this tons of thought and even wrote out an entire podcast season that addressed the issue of censorship in the media and the relationship between advertisers and media makers.

Some people would say that we made a mistake by printing racy content and not letting our advertisers know what we were doing. And other people, myself included, would say this is the same content that we’ve been printing the whole time. We’re a feminist organization and we’re an activist organization and we always put our readers and our community first. And our readers and our community need to know that positive sexuality exists, that you can be in control of your own sexual narrative and there are lots of ways that that exists and that’s what this issue addressed. How to be safe as a musician and have an intimate lifestyle.

So, we’re true to our mission and we lose some of our sponsors. It was a huge hit for us and we’ve been basically suffering all year, all last year. Was it a mistake? I don’t know. I don’t think so, but it’s a business mistake maybe, if you look at it simply as dollars and cents.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant moment in this journey? Was it when the first issue came out or when issue 35 came out, or something else?

Mindy Abovitz-Monk: I have had many, many pleasant moments. But one really pleasant moment that I had was when I put in a proposal to MoMA PS1, which is a museum in Queens, to show the museum drummers. I put a proposal together, it was a total stab in the dark. I didn’t think that they would agree and they did. And I think that allowed me to broaden my horizons and to realize that we were going to reach people outside of just the music industry. And that the art world saw value in us, by valuing us as the female drummer and also in me as an owner of this magazine and as someone who can use different platforms to articulate a similar message. And that platform was their museum. So, that was an incredible moment for me.

Samir Husni: Have you noticed since the magazine launched whether there has been an increase of female drummers or the audience has stayed the same? Has the magazine given some people not only hope, but also ignited interest in them to get into this field?

Mindy Abovitz-Monk: Yes, 100 percent. I don’t have the statistics in front of me, but there’s Tom Tom Magazine, which I started; there’s Hit Like a Girl, which I co-founded, which is a female drummer contest that’s global and based online. She Shreds Magazine started because of Tom Tom and loads of other media companies and organizations kind of sprouted up and felt supported by us or felt inspired by us. And I think Tom Tom itself and all of the other companies that started up because of us has greatly affected the music industry and introduced many more girls and women to it. And they have given the women already there more confidence to stand up and promote themselves. And to ask for things, such as tour money, or whatever it might be.

I don’t have a hard number, but I would say at least we’ve grown the female drummer industry by 10 percent, probably more like 20 to 25 percent. And in general, girls and women in music by 10 percent as well, probably more.

Samir Husni: If you and I were having this conversation a year from now, what would you hope to tell me you had accomplished with Tom Tom Mag?

Mindy Abovitz-Monk: This year is a very big year for us, it’s our 10 year anniversary year. That whole landmark happened for us 10 years ago, which was launching the blog, buying our URL, and finally at the end of the year in 2009, we printed our first issue. So we’re spending the entire year, this year, looking back at what we did, focusing on what we’re doing now and readjusting for 2020 to what we want to do in the future, what impact we want to make moving forward.

So, this is a very big year for us. It’s evaluation; we’re stepping back from some projects; we’re pushing forward into new projects, doing things that we’ve never done before and pressing pause on things that we’ve done in a rote fashion. All in the hopes of celebrating what we’ve done, celebrating where we are and celebrating where we’re heading in the future. So, I think this time next year I’ll probably tell you a lot that I don’t know right now. But I’m hoping to learn a lot this year.

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

Mindy Abovitz-Monk: I would add that my main reason for starting this was to infuse ethics and morals into media making. And I do believe as a media maker, and it seems like almost all of us are one now, if you have a social media handle or you have Twitter or Instagram or you have a blog, I feel like we all have a responsibility to portray accurate stories that inspire folks to be themselves. And there was a drought for that when I started the magazine and I feel like in a lot of ways there’s still a need for people to step up and tell their true stories.

I just want to see more of that happen in the future and I hope to continue to do the same, to continue telling stories about real people and inspiring other people to feel good about themselves and confident to be greater than who they are.

Samir Husni: What’s the biggest misconception people have about you?

Mindy Abovitz-Monk: The biggest misconception that people have about me is if they don’t know me, they might think that I’m just all business and not very friendly actually. When you step into a position like the one I have, you don’t have a lot of time and that may look elusive to someone from the outside, such as if I don’t return an email, which is very often. Or if I don’t have a lot of time to talk at a show or a party. So, I think people might not realize that I’m very warm, very caring, and very generous, but with only a limited amount of time in the day. Maybe that’s the biggest misconception. (Laughs)

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

Mindy Abovitz-Monk: Back in the day you would have caught me drumming or running to town for a house party, a house show. These days you’re going to find me cooking, playing with my dog, catching up with a friend, or watching some kind of documentary that’s inspiring.

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

Mindy Abovitz-Monk: I want them to think about the power that they have as an individual. In everything I do, I hope to show people that they have, as an individual and as a small group and then a larger group if they can, that they have the power to set change. Years ago I used to love the quote “With great power comes great responsibility.” But these days I think I would say “Be kind and gentle with myself.” That’s where I’m at right now.

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

Mindy Abovitz-Monk: The health of my loved ones. But in relationship to Tom Tom, what keeps me up at night is trying to understand where information is being disseminated to the younger generation most. I am desperate to know where everyone is, what’s the media watering hole, and where is it going to be in two to five years from now, because I want to be wherever it is. So, I spend a lot of time thinking about YouTube , Instagram, and Snapchat, trying to understand how we can be a part of it. That keeps me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.  

 

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: FORM: Pioneering Design Magazine: Reborn In Print & Digital By Someone Who May Not Be An Architect, But Who Is Passionate About Southern California Architecture & Design & The Community It Serves – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Jerri Levi, Owner & Publisher…

January 31, 2019

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

I really did have to examine print. What I did is I went around and talked to different architects and people in the industry and I just put it out there. I asked did anybody see a need for print? And what I’m seeing now is, I think there is going to be a new renaissance in print. And of course the purpose of print is going to be changing, because it’s no longer a primary source of information. But I think by and large architects are visual, they’re tactile; I think there is something about having something sitting in front of you that you can lay down, pick up again and use it as reference.” Jerri Levi…

Celebrating Southern California Architecture, Design & Artwork, :Form: Pioneering Design magazine has been reborn into a robust, beautiful print publication that also has its own digital footprint. The magazine focuses on the Southern California area and the artists, designers and architects who inspire and create there. Owner and publisher Jerri Levi bought the magazine with the vision of celebrating Los Angeles and Southern California in general.

I spoke with Jerri recently and we talked about the quality and beauty of the magazine and on why she chose to bring it back to life in print as well as online. It ceased publication some four years ago and Jerri, as a former marketing director for :Form, saw the value it had for the Southern California design community and sought to revive it and to bring back a regional publication to serve that community. And after much examination, Jerri realized that architects and designers were tactile and visual people and a print magazine would be the best way to serve them.

Jerri isn’t an architect, but she is passionate about the subject and knows her way around the world of marketing, so :Form was reborn. And what a great time to do it. Entrepreneurs are breaking new ground in the world of magazines and Jerri is no exception. I hope that you enjoy this delightful conversation with a woman whose strongest desire is to serve the community she loves and respects. And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jerri Levi, owner and publisher, :Form: Pioneering Design magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On why she bought the magazine and brought it back to print:I used to work for the magazine. I was their marketing and advertising director for eight years, so I started working for an L.A. architect when it was still the official publication for the AIA (American Institute of Architects) of Los Angeles. And so I always had a deep affection for the magazine and I’ve always recognized the value it has had for the design community out here. So, basically what happened is I went my separate ways, I ended up getting an art gallery and got into real estate. When I heard that the magazine was no longer going to be in print and no longer on the website; I’m still a very good friend of Ann Gray who is the original publisher, and kind of on a whim I decided to say if no one else wants it, I’ll take it, naively thinking that because I had worked for it before I knew all about publishing, of which I now know I don’t.It’s been a very humbling experience trying to bring a publication back to life.

On what made her feel there was a need to bring this publication back to life in print:First of all, as you know there have been a lot of changes in the publishing industry. And of course when I was working for :Form way back when, and I also used to work for Metropolis, print used to be the primary form of getting your information. It’s really an interesting thing to come back now and really examine why you would want to go into print. The one thing that I realized was there were no longer any regional publications that reached out B to B to the architectural and design community.

Head shot

On whether relaunching the magazine has been a walk in a rose garden for her or she has had some challenges along the way:No, I tell you, once again, it’s a humbling experience, because everybody laughed at me. First of all, I had two different crowds. I had people who immediately got it, like Michael Webb, God bless him, he’s one of the absolute cornerstones of architectural criticism out here in Southern California. And Michael, God bless him, he stepped up and wanted to be a part of the new :Form almost immediately.

On people’s initial reaction since the magazine has come out:People have been blown away. I commissioned a fine artist by the name of Timothy Robert Smith to do a definitive map of Los Angeles and I think just that pullout map is really blowing people away.  I had Michael Franklin Ross essentially do an article about the best architectural design in L.A. for the past 100 years. And I think what’s going to happen is this magazine is going to start a new dialogue, just having experts go: I think the concert hall is the greatest building in Los Angeles, that’s going to get people talking. And it’s really going to get eyeballs back on how Los Angeles is developing and how we see this metropolis.

On anything she’d like to add:Just that I’m very happy to be here and I’m very happy to be exploring this magazine in a way that I never have before, coming in as a publisher, as opposed to coming in as the marketing director. It’s a very different experience. And in some ways it’s very daunting, because I still don’t know if I’m going to be accepted by this very distinguished community. But I’m also very excited and challenged, and I feel like we’re going to serve a greater purpose. So, I’m very happy to be here.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home:I play with my dogs. I have three dogs, two Shih Tzus and a Standard Poodle. I do a lot with them. I have one dog that’s a service dog and I take him to hospitals to visit people. I lead a pretty quiet life really.

On the biggest misconception she thinks people have about her:I don’t know, but I think that some of the pushback that I’m getting is because I am not an architect. And so they feel like I’m not qualified to address this very sophisticated architectural community. And I think because I surround myself with great talent and people who are much smarter than myself, I believe I’m underestimated. But I think people are going to be surprised when they see the high quality of writing and journalism that we’re going to be bringing to the table. So, I’m hoping I’m going to prove some people wrong.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her:Just that I’m sincere, that I have absolute respect for what I’m doing and that I want to bring the best quality and bring the best out of people. And I’m hopefully to be trusted and embraced eventually.

On what keeps her up a night:Money. (Laughs) Creating a magazine is an expensive endeavor and I guess my biggest challenge right now is sustaining the vision and being able to follow through. I’m thrilled that I was able to do my January/February issue, and I have to look at the bigger picture and I’m hoping that I’m going to be able to sustain it.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jerri Levi, owner and publisher, :Form: Pioneering Design magazine.

Samir Husni: Why did you decide to buy the magazine and bring it back to print?

Jerri Levi: I used to work for the magazine. I was their marketing and advertising director for eight years, so I started working for an L.A. architect when it was still the official publication for the AIA (American Institute of Architects) of Los Angeles. And so I always had a deep affection for the magazine and I’ve always recognized the value it has had for the design community out here.

So, basically what happened is I went my separate ways, I ended up getting an art gallery and got into real estate. When I heard that the magazine was no longer going to be in print and no longer on the website; I’m still a very good friend of Ann Gray who is the original publisher, and kind of on a whim I decided to say if no one else wants it, I’ll take it, naively thinking that because I had worked for it before I knew all about publishing, of which I now know I don’t. It’s been a very humbling experience trying to bring a publication back to life.

Samir Husni: What made you feel that there was a need for this publication, for :Form, and an even bigger need to bring it back in print? And of course on the web too.

Jerri Levi: First of all, as you know there have been a lot of changes in the publishing industry. And of course when I was working for :Form way back when, and I also used to work for Metropolis, print used to be the primary form of getting your information. It’s really an interesting thing to come back now and really examine why you would want to go into print. The one thing that I realized was there were no longer any regional publications that reached out B to B to the architectural and design community.

The Architect’s Newspaper has gone, it no longer has a regional side to it. Obviously, Architectural Record is a national publication, so nothing was really speaking to the community, particularly in Southern California, which is huge. The AIA of Los Angeles is the second largest architectural body in the United States. And there was really nothing that was serving this very unique crowd of highly educated, influential designers.

The second thing is I really did have to examine print. What I did is I went around and talked to different architects and people in the industry and I just put it out there. I asked did anybody see a need for print? And what I’m seeing now is, I think there is going to be a new renaissance in print. And of course the purpose of print is going to be changing, because it’s no longer a primary source of information. But I think by and large architects are visual, they’re tactile; I think there is something about having something sitting in front of you that you can lay down, pick up again and use it as reference.

And this magazine is almost like a small work of art. I have the best graphic designers working on it; I have a brilliant editor. And these issues are going to be saved. A long time ago, when it was L.A. Architect, people collected L.A. Architect. And I’m hoping in a way that :Form is going to be coming back to being almost a collectible.

Samir Husni: I tell all of my students that print is the new “new” media.

Jerri Levi: I love print. And once again, I’m an old-timer. I remember when there were dozens of regional print publications in our area and they’ve all fallen by the wayside. And I think there’s a real hunger for it. I have to say, going to the printers and actually having a conversation about paper, and about what this magazine is visually going to look like, how it’s going to be formatted; you really are looking at a three-dimensional object, which conveys its own sensibility. It’s a completely different experience when you have a print publication in front of you versus getting your information online.

Samir Husni: Since you got the idea of purchasing the magazine and relaunching it, has it been a walk in a rose garden for you? Or have you had some challenges along the way?

Jerri Levi: (Laughs) No, I tell you, once again, it’s a humbling experience, because everybody laughed at me. First of all, I had two different crowds. I had people who immediately got it, like Michael Webb, God bless him, he’s one of the absolute cornerstones of architectural criticism out here in Southern California. And Michael, God bless him, he stepped up and wanted to be a part of the new :Form almost immediately.

But I’ve also had people essentially question me as to why I think I am worthy of taking this on, because my predecessor Ann Gray was an architect herself, she was very much a part of the industry, she was an insider; she’s an AIA Array FAIA. She’s a bigshot. And so people feel comfortable with that. I, on the other hand, I’m a salesman. I’m a marketing person and I’m a publisher. But I think that also gives me the perspective of being able to work with different talents and different points of view that I think an insider doesn’t have.

So, it’s been a challenge and I’ve had  a lot of criticism, but on the other hand, now that the magazine is out, I think I’m going to see a lot of enthusiasm.

Samir Husni: The first issue has been out for a bit now; what has been the initial reaction?

Jerri Levi: (Laughs) People have been blown away. I commissioned a fine artist by the name of Timothy Robert Smith to do a definitive map of Los Angeles and I think just that pullout map is really blowing people away.  I had Michael Franklin Ross essentially do an article about the best architectural design in L.A. for the past 100 years. And I think what’s going to happen is this magazine is going to start a new dialogue, just having experts go: I think the concert hall is the greatest building in Los Angeles, that’s going to get people talking. And it’s really going to get eyeballs back on how Los Angeles is developing and how we see this metropolis.

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

Jerri Levi: Just that I’m very happy to be here and I’m very happy to be exploring this magazine in a way that I never have before, coming in as a publisher, as opposed to coming in as the marketing director. It’s a very different experience. And in some ways it’s very daunting, because I still don’t know if I’m going to be accepted by this very distinguished community. But I’m also very excited and challenged, and I feel like we’re going to serve a greater purpose. So, I’m very happy to be here.

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

Jerri Levi: I play with my dogs. I have three dogs, two Shih Tzus and a Standard Poodle. I do a lot with them. I have one dog that’s a service dog and I take him to hospitals to visit people. I lead a pretty quiet life really.

Samir Husni: What’s the biggest misconception people have about you?

Head shot

Jerri Levi: I don’t know, but I think that some of the pushback that I’m getting is because I am not an architect. And so they feel like I’m not qualified to address this very sophisticated architectural community. And I think because I surround myself with great talent and people who are much smarter than myself, I believe I’m underestimated. But I think people are going to be surprised when they see the high quality of writing and journalism that we’re going to be bringing to the table. So, I’m hoping I’m going to prove some people wrong.

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

Jerri Levi: Just that I’m sincere, that I have absolute respect for what I’m doing and that I want to bring the best quality and bring the best out of people. And I’m hopefully to be trusted and embraced eventually.

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

Jerri Levi: Money. (Laughs) Creating a magazine is an expensive endeavor and I guess my biggest challenge right now is sustaining the vision and being able to follow through. I’m thrilled that I was able to do my January/February issue, and I have to look at the bigger picture and I’m hoping that I’m going to be able to sustain it.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Midwest Living: Defining Life In The Midwest With The Brand That Knows It Best – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Trevor Meers, Editorial Content Director, Midwest Living/Meredith Travel Marketing Content Studio…

January 28, 2019

I think that’s going to depend somewhat on that brand. What is its identity? What is its target audience? I think it would be hard to give a one-size-fits-all answer to that. Certainly that print component has such an enormous part in continuing to ensure your permanence and credibility. And obviously we’ve seen that a lot with many digital brands and TV brands going into print rather than the other direction when you look at the success of say, Allrecipes or the Magnolia Journal. So, I think it depends on your audience, but that print piece still plays such an anchor role in defining who your brand is.” Trevor Meers (On whether he thinks a legacy brand can exist today without its print component)…

 Celebrating the richness of life in the Midwest, Midwest Living magazine is dedicated to providing its readers with a wealth of region-specific information and inspiration, focusing on travel and events, food and dining, and home and garden, as well as other editorial content that entertains and informs about the area. Founded in 1987, the magazine is a legacy brand that is unequivocally proving that longevity is all about innovation in content and the magazine’s editorial content director, Trevor Meers, is leading the way for those innovations.

I spoke with Trevor recently and we talked about a few of those amazing innovations in print that the magazine is implementing with its May/June issue, such as augmented reality between its pages, using QR codes to virtually bring the pages to life. And the thematic profiles of content that also begin with that issue, which will focus on how vitally important the cabin lifestyle is in the Midwest.

The magazine may be sporting a reputation of excellence that is over 30 years old, but it’s certainly not resting on those laurels comfortably, Instead, the publication is using Trevor’s word of the times for Midwest Living – reinvention, and practicing it.

Indeed. Midwest Living is keeping print moving forward, while being proud of its innovations and digital footprints as well. Mr. Magazine™ bids you enjoy this great conversation with a man who has dubbed travel, food, home and design, and adventure the DNA of his brand, Trevor Meers, Editorial Content Director, Midwest Living/Meredith Travel Marketing Content Studio.

But first the sound-bites:

On his view of the job of editorial director today versus when he joined Midwest Living in 2003:The biggest change that I’ve seen is we’re all required to be more entrepreneurial. We’re still journalists at heart, but we all are tasked with looking for ways to see where our brand can go next. And that’s been a really exciting development for those of us who embrace it, which we certainly have at Midwest Living. To not just be doing the stories, but be thinking about ourselves as brand leaders, and that really goes to the idea  of being out of the office, which I reference in my bio, and that’s relationship building. So, certainly we’re in the travel category, so we’re out visiting the destinations we cover constantly.

On how he would define Midwest Living:Midwest Living certainly draws on the tradition of brands like Sunset and Southern Living that were our predecessors, and when Midwest Living was created in the late ‘80s, certainly those brands were part of the template that was looked at to create this one. So, Midwest Living is a mix of home and garden, food, and travel. And we are the only journal of life in the Midwest and we capture all of those passionaries’ for our readers. I talk a lot about the travel category with Midwest Living, because that’s one of the first obvious endemic categories for us, in terms of advertising. So, we’re clearly a staple for a lot of advertisers in the travel category.

On what differentiates an ink on paper brand that also has a digital presence from just any blogger or individual out there who tells you about great places in the Midwest to visit:Certainly brand has a lot to do with that. And that’s obviously a staple for Meredith as a whole, we have these strong brands that built up their credibility over time. We haven’t just appeared on the scene; we’ve been around and we’ve proven that we’re trustworthy. And we’ve proven that we have staying power. One of the great advantages still, not just for brands but for print specifically that I like to point to is discoverability.

On whether he thinks any legacy brand can exist today without its print component:I think that’s going to depend somewhat on that brand. What is its identity? What is its target audience? I think it would be hard to give a one-size-fits-all answer to that. Certainly that print component has such an enormous part in continuing to ensure your permanence and credibility. And obviously we’ve seen that a lot with many digital brands and TV brands going into print rather than the other direction when you look at the success of say, Allrecipes or the Magnolia Journal. So, I think it depends on your audience, but that print piece still plays such an anchor role in defining who your brand is.

On what would be his lead if he were writing an article about the many changes that have taken place in publishing and magazines and magazine media:I’m thinking of words more than a full lead and reinvention is definitely one of them. And the successful brands, the successful content leaders over the last decade have been the ones who are willing to reinvent and that can be in a variety of ways. And we’ve really done that well and successfully at Midwest Living, whether that’s looking for different revenue streams or defining your voice as your audience is potentially changing.

On whether the last 13 years has been a walk in a rose garden for him:(Laughs) I don’t know that anyone would call the media landscape a walk in a rose garden for the last 13 years, but I think it’s all in how you look at it. You choose to embrace this as an opportunity, and that’s what we’ve done. We have looked at this as a chance to get to do things that we haven’t done before.

On what he looks for in potential employees from a human resources perspective:The core is still good reporting when I’m looking for a particular editor or writer, because that will never change. Now your tools might change and the way you go about gathering that information, but if you don’t have good reporting instincts and drive to find the best story, you’re going to struggle regardless of the platform. And you asked earlier about one thing that differentiates legacy brands from other brands that might pop up and come and go, and I think that solid reporting is a big part of that.

On the highlight of accomplishment for him at Midwest Living:One of the things that I’m proudest of at Midwest Living is I’ve been the editor for almost four years now, and when I took over in 2015 we looked at a brand that needed a shot in the arm, in terms of thinking about, not just the way it looked, but also the kinds of stories we told. But we knew that we had a legacy brand that was strong, so we had to figure out the right way to adapt a brand to a new era while preserving what we had.Recently a friend of mine, another editor in the industry, was giving a talk and she said that if you want to look at a brand that has reinvented itself while holding on to its core DNA, look at Midwest Living. And I think that’s one of the highest compliments; that we’ve been able to understand who we are while recognizing that there are different ways that we can go about carrying out that same DNA.

On the biggest challenge he’s faced at Meredith and how he overcame it:I think the biggest challenge is one that’s ongoing and that is when you have so many opportunities in front of you now, you have to choose. And because of all of the different platforms and the different ways that we can tell stories, we have more ideas that we can execute on, so it’s a matter of choosing where we should tell that one, which avenue should we go down, in terms of whether it’s a custom product that we might be able to work on, where should we invest those resources. I had a professor once who called it the economizing problem, which is unlimited wants and limited resources. And it’s a good problem to have that we have more great ideas than we can execute, so that way we get to pick the best of them. And that’s exciting but it’s challenging to pick them and figure out the best path to take.

On how he balances his time between Midwest Living and the content marketing, custom publications:There are a few answers to that question. One is we do have separate teams, we have editors and designers who focus just on Midwest Living and we have some who work just on the custom products. And my creative director and I have a hand in all of that, but we do have teams that are dedicated to those. So, that allows those folks to really concentrate specifically on their topics and their audiences. There are some things that are different, but if you’re doing  good content marketing, there aren’t going to be that many differences. You still want to tell a good story.

On whether he feels Midwest Living is helping to unite all of the Midwestern states to be more relevant and real to people:I definitely think we have helped to define the region after 30-plus years of doing this. There are 12 states that are officially a part of the Midwest, and that was originally sent out by the U.S. Census Bureau and we kept with that definition of our 12 states. And there are still pockets just like there is in any region. There is a place that just calls themselves the North, when you get into places like Minnesota, but the identity of the center of the country has been increasingly coalescing over the last few years. I think a lot of it has been brands like Midwest Living and they’re putting it all together in a cohesive storyline and helping people recognize what’s going on in this region even if you’re a resident of it.

On anything he’d like to add:I’d like to talk a little bit about the exciting new innovations that we have going on at Midwest Living. Coming up in our May/June issue are a couple of special features going forward. One is its theme is the cabin issue, and cabin culture if anyone knows the Midwest, it’s an important part of the Midwest culture. So, we’re going to cover that in more aspects, in terms of locations where you can go to rent cabins. We’re going to be doing stories about families who have renovated theirs, to get the home and design angle. We’re doing food stories about chefs who do outdoor cooking and how you can do that at home. And decorating for your cabin. So, that will all be covered with our theme.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him:I would like people to think that there’s a person who embraces reinvention. Personally, I don’t do really well with people who talk all of the time about how things were. There are a lot of good things from the past that we want to hang onto, but we need to test all of that to make sure it’s really the best way to keep doing it. I said earlier that I’m interested in what’s effective and what’s true, not simply what’s familiar. So, reinvention can be scary and painful, but it’s also what makes life an adventure if you’re willing to see it as an opportunity.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him:Well, I would lump myself and the Midwest into one answer on that. The Midwest as a whole, including all of us who cover it, is a far more relevant region than a lot of people give us credit for. We have about 52 million consumers within the Midwest, about 21 percent of the population, and so it’s a vast audience that a lot of products aren’t reaching with their media messaging. And if you look at our spendable income, our dollar is worth about a dollar and eight cents in the Midwest compared to other regions. So, if you just think about a consumer in any region and increase their income by eight percent, think what they could do with that.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home:It’s a bit of a busman’s holiday with me and my family, because we cover a lot of travel at our magazine, but we love to travel, so a lot of times you will find us flipping through a guidebook or an Instagram feed or it might even be a U.S. Forestry Park map, planning our next adventure. I count myself very fortunate that I’ve landed at a place where I get to do so much of my work in a category that I personally love. And if you look at our living room raw, it’s going to look like a bit like a Tetris puzzle because we’re always trying to find room for more of the photos from our trips because we like to relive those memories.

On what keeps him up at night:I’d say, going back to relatively the same answer that we talked about with the biggest challenge, and that’s really choosing the best way to use our resources. And when we see so many directions that we could take a story, it’s picking the one that we think is going to give us the biggest exposure and have the best results for our readers.

 

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Trevor Meers, Editorial Content Director, Midwest Living/Meredith Travel Marketing Content Studio.

Samir Husni: You’re the third editor in chief of Midwest Living and it has been published now for almost 33 years. And you’re also the editorial content director for the Travel Studio at Meredith. I read part of your bio and it said that you “spend most of your time scheming ways to escape the office in search of more food, adventures and interesting people.” Tell me about the job of an editorial director today versus when you joined Midwest Living in 2003.

Trevor Meers: The biggest change that I’ve seen is we’re all required to be more entrepreneurial. We’re still journalists at heart, but we all are tasked with looking for ways to see where our brand can go next. And that’s been a really exciting development for those of us who embrace it, which we certainly have at Midwest Living. To not just be doing the stories, but be thinking about ourselves as brand leaders, and that really goes to the idea  of being out of the office, which I reference in my bio, and that’s relationship building. So, certainly we’re in the travel category, so we’re out visiting the destinations we cover constantly.

But we’re also getting to know our clients and as we’ve really realized to a stronger degree than we have in the past, our brand leaders are such great spokespeople for what story we’re telling. And that’s valuable; we take that out to our advertisers and represent our brand in that way.

Samir Husni: You referred to Midwest Living as being in the “travel category.” If you met someone on the street and you told them you worked for Midwest Living, how would you define that brand, because the first thing that comes to some people’s minds would be Southern Living or Sunset, a regional magazine, yet you just defined it as travel. So, how would you truly define Midwest Living?

Trevor Meers: Midwest Living certainly draws on the tradition of brands like Sunset and Southern Living that were our predecessors, and when Midwest Living was created in the late ‘80s, certainly those brands were part of the template that was looked at to create this one. So, Midwest Living is a mix of home and garden, food, and travel. And we are the only journal of life in the Midwest and we capture all of those passionaries’ for our readers. I talk a lot about the travel category with Midwest Living, because that’s one of the first obvious endemic categories for us, in terms of advertising. So, we’re clearly a staple for a lot of advertisers in the travel category.

But obviously we have an important role in helping to define the taste of the food and home design and gardening in the region, just as Sunset and Southern Living has throughout their history. But travel is especially important to us because that’s been able to give rise to a really robust custom content that we’ve launched off the brand in a big way here in the last four years.

Samir Husni: You mentioned when we started this conversation about the importance of journalism. In this day and age where anyone can blog or Tweet or write anything about travel or places they like or don’t like, what differentiates an ink on paper brand that also has digital extensions and a digital presence from just anyone out there telling you about a great restaurant or a great place to visit in Iowa?

Trevor Meers: Certainly brand has a lot to do with that. And that’s obviously a staple for Meredith as a whole, we have these strong brands that built up their credibility over time. We haven’t just appeared on the scene; we’ve been around and we’ve proven that we’re trustworthy. And we’ve proven that we have staying power. One of the great advantages still, not just for brands but for print specifically that I like to point to is discoverability.

The digital world has done a lot to segregate us off into intellectual feed fills where we can set things up to only feed us the information that we already either know about or agree with. And when you purchase a magazine, I talk to our editors about the fact that’s really a contract with the reader. Giving a contract to a trusted team of curators to present content that know you’re going to like even if you’re not sure you know anything about it yet. You’re trusting that these people have the taste and that they understand this audience, that they’re going to give me information that I am going to find interesting and it’s going to be reliable.

Samir Husni: Do you think any legacy brand can exist today without its print component?

Trevor Meers: I think that’s going to depend somewhat on that brand. What is its identity? What is its target audience? I think it would be hard to give a one-size-fits-all answer to that. Certainly that print component has such an enormous part in continuing to ensure your permanence and credibility. And obviously we’ve seen that a lot with many digital brands and TV brands going into print rather than the other direction when you look at the success of say, Allrecipes or the Magnolia Journal. So, I think it depends on your audience, but that print piece still plays such an anchor role in defining who your brand is.

Samir Husni: You’ve been at Midwest Living now for 13 years. As a journalist, let’s imagine that you’re writing an article about the many changes that have taken place in publishing, magazines and magazine media; what would be your lead in that article?

Trevor Meers: I’m thinking of words more than a full lead and reinvention is definitely one of them. And the successful brands, the successful content leaders over the last decade have been the ones who are willing to reinvent and that can be in a variety of ways. And we’ve really done that well and successfully at Midwest Living, whether that’s looking for different revenue streams or defining your voice as your audience is potentially changing.

So, we really look a lot at thinking about holding to what is effective and what is true, not just what we used to do. And that might mean, as I said, different revenue strategies, it could mean different platforms. To some degree you’re thinking about being platform agnostic, thinking where’s the best place to tell that story. And many times that’s going to be across multiple platforms.

Samir Husni: Has it been easy for you, difficult, challenging; or has it been a walk in a rose garden for the last 13 years?

Trevor Meers: (Laughs) I don’t know that anyone would call the media landscape a walk in a rose garden for the last 13 years, but I think it’s all in how you look at it. You choose to embrace this as an opportunity, and that’s what we’ve done. We have looked at this as a chance to get to do things that we haven’t done before.

I talked about being entrepreneurial at the beginning, and I think that’s really drawn out the content creators who have that entrepreneurial strength. And some people didn’t even know they had it in them until a new landscape was put out there and they started looking at it as new ways to tell stories that hadn’t even been thought of before. And if things hadn’t changed we probably wouldn’t have ever tried that. But now that we have a chance to we can see all of these advantages to telling stories in different ways.

Samir Husni: As you interview and hire people for jobs at Midwest Living and at the Travel Studio at Meredith, are you looking at things differently today than, let’s say, when you were hired? From a human resources perspective, what do you look for in potential employees?

Trevor Meers: The core is still good reporting when I’m looking for a particular editor or writer, because that will never change. Now your tools might change and the way you go about gathering that information, but if you don’t have good reporting instincts and drive to find the best story, you’re going to struggle regardless of the platform. And you asked earlier about one thing that differentiates legacy brands from other brands that might pop up and come and go, and I think that solid reporting is a big part of that.

The visual aspect is also huge, so your editors need to be able to take some photography that can be used, they need to be able to capture video, they need to be able to do a good interview in audio, in case we decide to turn something into a podcast or something like that. So, that’s a broader skillset. Where we used to segregate more between a print journalist and a radio journalist, there are specialties within that skillset, but we do need more of a general purpose person who can capture that kind of content.

And an ability to tell a story in some different voices, because there is going to be a different voice in your print piece versus how you write that on Instagram, or even potentially on Facebook being different from Instagram. And having the ability to adapt your voice to the proper platform is something that we really watch for.

Samir Husni: In your own experience, if you recall your tenth year at Meredith, what would you consider the highlight of accomplishment for you or the moment you said wow? Can you pinpoint a specific moment?

Trevor Meers: One of the things that I’m proudest of at Midwest Living is I’ve been the editor for almost four years now, and when I took over in 2015 we looked at a brand that needed a shot in the arm, in terms of thinking about, not just the way it looked, but also the kinds of stories we told. But we knew that we had a legacy brand that was strong, so we had to figure out the right way to adapt a brand to a new era while preserving what we had.

Recently a friend of mine, another editor in the industry, was giving a talk and she said that if you want to look at a brand that has reinvented itself while holding on to its core DNA, look at Midwest Living. And I think that’s one of the highest compliments; that we’ve been able to understand who we are while recognizing that there are different ways that we can go about carrying out that same DNA.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest challenge that you’ve faced at Meredith and how did you overcome it?

Trevor Meers: I think the biggest challenge is one that’s ongoing and that is when you have so many opportunities in front of you now, you have to choose. And because of all of the different platforms and the different ways that we can tell stories, we have more ideas that we can execute on, so it’s a matter of choosing where we should tell that one, which avenue should we go down, in terms of whether it’s a custom product that we might be able to work on, where should we invest those resources. I had a professor once who called it the economizing problem, which is unlimited wants and limited resources. And it’s a good problem to have that we have more great ideas than we can execute, so that way we get to pick the best of them. And that’s exciting but it’s challenging to pick them and figure out the best path to take.

Samir Husni: How do you balance your time between editing a major print magazine, with almost a million in circulation and with a web presence, and doing the custom publications? Is there any difference between creating a content marketing, custom publication than creating a general interest, regional magazine?

Trevor Meers: There are a few answers to that question. One is we do have separate teams, we have editors and designers who focus just on Midwest Living and we have some who work just on the custom products. And my creative director and I have a hand in all of that, but we do have teams that are dedicated to those. So, that allows those folks to really concentrate specifically on their topics and their audiences. There are some things that are different, but if you’re doing  good content marketing, there aren’t going to be that many differences. You still want to tell a good story.

And I think many of the clients that we work with on the content marketing side have gotten much more savvy about that, in that a few years ago they would also come to us dictating exactly what they wanted the message to be. Now they’re hiring us and saying that we know the audience, here’s the way we’re generally trying to go, tell that story in the way that you think will resonate with our audience.

I think we’ve seen a real increase in the quality of a lot of content marketing that’s done by the better companies. So, at the core it’s still telling a good story; it’s still doing content that you know readers are going to be interested in.

Samir Husni: When Midwest Living was launched the challenge was that people did not believe that there was something called the Midwest. There was Chicago and Des Moines, there was Kansas City, there was St. Louis, do you feel that misconception is still there now or has Midwest Living help to unite all of these Midwestern states?

Trevor Meers: I definitely think we have helped to define the region after 30-plus years of doing this. There are 12 states that are officially a part of the Midwest, and that was originally sent out by the U.S. Census Bureau and we kept with that definition of our 12 states. And there are still pockets just like there is in any region. There is a place that just calls themselves the North, when you get into places like Minnesota, but the identity of the center of the country has been increasingly coalescing over the last few years. I think a lot of it has been brands like Midwest Living and they’re putting it all together in a cohesive storyline and helping people recognize what’s going on in this region even if you’re a resident of it.

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

Trevor Meers: I’d like to talk a little bit about the exciting new innovations that we have going on at Midwest Living. Coming up in our May/June issue are a couple of special features going forward. One is its theme is the cabin issue, and cabin culture if anyone knows the Midwest, it’s an important part of the Midwest culture. So, we’re going to cover that in more aspects, in terms of locations where you can go to rent cabins. We’re going to be doing stories about families who have renovated theirs, to get the home and design angle. We’re doing food stories about chefs who do outdoor cooking and how you can do that at home. And decorating for your cabin. So, that will all be covered with our theme.

We’re also launching this as our first Smart issue, so we’ll have augmented reality available throughout the issue, both in the editorial and the advertising. So readers will be able to bring a lot of the stories to life with QR codes and they’ll be able to hear from the chefs behind the recipes, they’ll be able to see a furniture maker making furniture. It’s a great example of how print continues to innovate and Midwest Living specifically continues to find new ways to tell stories through the print avenue.

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

Trevor Meers: I would like people to think that there’s a person who embraces reinvention. Personally, I don’t do really well with people who talk all of the time about how things were. There are a lot of good things from the past that we want to hang onto, but we need to test all of that to make sure it’s really the best way to keep doing it. I said earlier that I’m interested in what’s effective and what’s true, not simply what’s familiar. So, reinvention can be scary and painful, but it’s also what makes life an adventure if you’re willing to see it as an opportunity.

Samir Husni: What’s the biggest misconception you think people have about you?

Trevor Meers: Well, I would lump myself and the Midwest into one answer on that. The Midwest as a whole, including all of us who cover it, is a far more relevant region than a lot of people give us credit for. We have about 52 million consumers within the Midwest, about 21 percent of the population, and so it’s a vast audience that a lot of products aren’t reaching with their media messaging. And if you look at our spendable income, our dollar is worth about a dollar and eight cents in the Midwest compared to other regions. So, if you just think about a consumer in any region and increase their income by eight percent, think what they could do with that.

So, that’s a message that we want to get out there about a region that also has so many innovative things happening, in terms of the chefs and the performing arts, and even the landscape, because people underestimate how great it really is. The Midwest by nature, we tend to be very self-effacing, and a big part of the new Midwest Living approach is we need to be louder and prouder about this region that we cover.

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

Trevor Meers: It’s a bit of a busman’s holiday with me and my family, because we cover a lot of travel at our magazine, but we love to travel, so a lot of times you will find us flipping through a guidebook or an Instagram feed or it might even be a U.S. Forestry Park map, planning our next adventure. I count myself very fortunate that I’ve landed at a place where I get to do so much of my work in a category that I personally love. And if you look at our living room raw, it’s going to look like a bit like a Tetris puzzle because we’re always trying to find room for more of the photos from our trips because we like to relive those memories.

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

Trevor Meers: I’d say, going back to relatively the same answer that we talked about with the biggest challenge, and that’s really choosing the best way to use our resources. And when we see so many directions that we could take a story, it’s picking the one that we think is going to give us the biggest exposure and have the best results for our readers.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

 

 

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