Archive for the ‘Innovation in print’ Category

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Good Day! Magazine: The National Grange’s New Magazine That Offers A Positive Message To People Who Desire The Grass Roots Beneath Their Feet – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Amanda Brozana, Editor, Good Day! Magazine…

March 25, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“Getting that first printed copy. I think that has to be the most pleasant moment for anybody who has done a magazine. I loved when I opened the box, and it was in Connecticut at our president’s conference. And I got to see the first one and put it into my hands and smell it. Maybe that makes me a print geek, and I’m okay with that. That was definitely the most satisfying moment, even more satisfying than when our president said, wow, this is a real magazine. And I think we’ve really received a lot of that initial shock reaction. And I get really excited when I hear people say that we really can do this.” Amanda Brozana…

The National Grange was founded as a fraternal organization for farm families in 1867 and today is celebrating its 150th anniversary. The icing on the cake for this milestone occurrence for the Grange is the organization’s latest endeavor, the launch of a new print magazine called Good Day! Amanda Brozana is editor of this new publication and is a staunch advocate for all things sustainable and community-oriented, a mindset that aligns perfectly with the 150-year-old, member-based organization. And while the National Grange may be member-based, the magazine is not.

I spoke with Amanda on a recent trip to Washington D.C. and we talked about the fact that the print magazine is geared toward anyone who believes in a grass roots effort of sustainability when it comes to their food and their lives and community caring for all, not just Grange members alone, but the public in general. With its positive title that beckons all of us to have a “good day” and its contents that are written in a wider, more enveloping context, where everyone is included, not just Grange members, the magazine is a breath of fresh air on the newsstand shelves. In a world of chaos, confusion and, oftentimes, a frigidity toward our neighbors, Good Day! Magazine actually succeeds in its encouragement of all to have a “good day.”

And now, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Amanda Brozana, editor, Good Day! Magazine.

*Truth in reporting: Proud to report that Amanda Brozana is a former student of mine…

But first a Mr. Magazine™ minute with Amanda Brozana followed by the sound-bites:

On the genesis of Good Day! Magazine: Good Day! is actually a magazine under the umbrella of the National Grange, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year of being a fraternal family organization. And the concept was that we would introduce the Grange to people who may or may not have heard of it, but also to make our members more aware of what was going on in Granges throughout the country and reconnect them in a way that they haven’t been in several decades.

On the folding of the Grange’s monthly publication and the relaunch of the publication Good Day!: We had the other publication for more than 50 years and it had kind of cleaved itself from the organization as a whole and became almost an entity unto itself. And like many publications, it had its own financial troubles. And so, that was resolved in the ‘50s or ‘60s, I can’t remember exactly when. Introducing the publication again allowed us to bring back a little bit of that heyday and that nostalgia, but also allowed us to connect the primary membership that would be really interested in what was going on nationally with the Grange.

On who came up with the name Good Day! for the magazine: We talked quite a bit here in the office about what the name should be, there’s only a small staff of us, about six, and we had gone through the iterations of Grange News and Grange Monthly, and all of the Grange-oriented ones, but since we wanted to be more of a general interest publication, I had pitched Good Day! along with a couple of others. And we came down to that because it wasn’t used here in the states, and it was available. But also it gives a very positive vibe and right now, the way that our society currently is, we’re not happy; we’re pretty negative. So, I think all of us are looking for that positive news, those positive connectors and connecting moments.

On all of the different movements that are going on across the country today and how she plans on addressing those types of issues and whether just Grange members will be able to access that information: Obviously, our core audience right now are Grange members, just by virtue of who found out that we were going to be publishing, but this magazine really is oriented towards anybody who is interested in both the new food movements that you referred to, or sustainability. As well as issues in their own communities, that idea of volunteerism and being a little bit more than just yourself.

On her most challenging moment: We are a staff of six full-time here in the national office and we have an intern who has been here since February who has really helped us put this publication together entirely from the concept, Kim Stefanick from New Jersey. And I think the biggest challenge is the fact that this publication is just one part of an already full platter, a job that used to be three or four people’s jobs here even ten years ago. Juggling your normal day-to-day and adding this brand new thing, in addition to the other elements of our 150th birthday celebration, it was really a challenge when it came to time management, which I always felt that I was pretty good at, but it was stressful.

On her most pleasant moment: Getting that first printed copy; I think that has to be the most pleasant moment for anybody who has done a magazine. I loved when I opened the box, and it was in Connecticut at our president’s conference. And I got to see the first one and put it into my hands and smell it. Maybe that makes me a print geek, and I’m okay with that. That was definitely the most satisfying moment, even more satisfying than when our president said, wow, this is a real magazine. And I think we’ve really received a lot of that initial shock reaction. And I get really excited when I hear people say that we really can do this.

On anything else she’d like to add: I think that we play a really unique role and I hope that Good Day! helps reflect that. I hope that the magazine is something that can go way beyond our membership, because there is a need for people to look and think about what they’re doing to improve the lives that they’re living. Many of us talk about whether or not we want bigger government or other organizations involved in making decisions for us or doing things in our lives, and the only way that we get away from that is doing for ourselves and doing for others.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: Probably cooking for the household; I have a couple of roommates. I am also playing with my dog or at the dog park with the dog, you never know. Hopefully, as soon as the weather breaks, we’ll have a garden in the back and I think that’s very reflective of what people my age and my generation are doing.

On what keeps her up at night: Besides the fact that I work directly next to the White House and I realize that I have to drive an hour in everyday? No, honestly, what keeps me up at night is that I’m part of a 150-year-old legacy here, and I worry about having 150,000 members, instead of the one million members that we used to have. I worry about what that means for the Grange and what it means in general.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Amanda Brozana, editor, Good Day! Magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the genesis of Good Day! Magazine.

Amanda Brozana: Good Day! is actually a magazine under the umbrella of the National Grange, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year of being a fraternal family organization. And the concept was that we would introduce the Grange to people who may or may not have heard of it, but also to make our members more aware of what was going on in Granges throughout the country and reconnect them in a way that they haven’t been in several decades.

Samir Husni: There used to be a monthly publication for the National Grange Society, why did that magazine fold and why did you decide to bring back another publication?

Amanda Brozana: We had the other publication for more than 50 years and it had kind of cleaved itself from the organization as a whole and became almost an entity unto itself. And like many publications, it had its own financial troubles. And so, that was resolved in the ‘50s or ‘60s, I can’t remember exactly when.

From then on, you could notice in trend on all of these organizations like us, where there was a peak of membership in the ‘50s, and that meant that many people were entering the Grange and other organizations like us at 20 and 30 years of age. Those people have stayed with the organization and have aged, so we’re now talking about people who are in their 70’s, 80’s or 90’s, who are a part of the organization. So, their primary mode of connection and communication is still print, yet we were servicing them mostly through digital means, which didn’t make a lot of sense.

So, introducing the publication again allowed us to bring back a little bit of that heyday and that nostalgia, but also allowed us to connect the primary membership that would be really interested in what was going on nationally with the Grange.

Samir Husni: Who came up with the name Good Day!?

Amanda Brozana: We talked quite a bit here in the office about what the name should be, there’s only a small staff of us, about six, and we had gone through the iterations of Grange News and Grange Monthly, and all of the Grange-oriented ones, but since we wanted to be more of a general interest publication, I had pitched Good Day! along with a couple of others. And we came down to that because it wasn’t used here in the states, and it was available.

But also it gives a very positive vibe and right now, the way that our society currently is, we’re not happy; we’re pretty negative. (Laughs) So, I think all of us are looking for that positive news, those positive connectors and connecting moments. And that was the one chosen in the end.

Samir Husni: There are all kinds of movements taking place in the country right now, in terms of things like, returning to the good old days, raising chickens on your balcony, putting a beehive on your roof, all those good things. How are you going to address these issues and do you have to be a Grange member to access the magazine or get that information?

Amanda Brozana: Obviously, our core audience right now are Grange members, just by virtue of who found out that we were going to be publishing, but this magazine really is oriented towards anybody who is interested in both the new food movements that you referred to, or sustainability. As well as issues in their own communities, that idea of volunteerism and being a little bit more than just yourself.

Maybe, it’s because I’m about to turn 35 and I think when you get to your mid-thirties you start having a legacy complex. I don’t have kids, so I have to figure out how to leave my mark, but I think that organizations like the Grange allow you to have those outlets, and so the magazine is allowing us to focus on people who are doing things for others. And also who are having some of the similar values that we have, which is figuring out how to be back to nature a little bit; back to being rooted in community and in your home and sustaining yourself, those types of things.

Certainly, you don’t have to be a member, we hope that everyone gets introduced to what the Grange’s values are what the organization is all about, but that doesn’t mean you have to become a member either. We hope that people enjoy the publication and that we’re a little bit more of a hometown and an in-home used name again.

Samir Husni: In the process of launching the magazine and getting the first issue out, what was the most challenging moment and how did you overcome it?

Amanda Brozana: We are a staff of six full-time here in the national office and we have an intern who has been here since February who has really helped us put this publication together entirely from the concept, Kim Stefanick from New Jersey. And I think the biggest challenge is the fact that this publication is just one part of an already full platter, a job that used to be three or four people’s jobs here even ten years ago. Juggling your normal day-to-day and adding this brand new thing, in addition to the other elements of our 150th birthday celebration, it was really a challenge when it came to time management, which I always felt that I was pretty good at, but it was stressful.

And the way that we overcame it was really compartmentalizing what needed to be done, by whom, and at what point in time. And where could we get assistance? So, we actually reached out to some freelance writers, something that I wasn’t expecting to have to do. I was thinking that we could do all of it in-house, but it just wasn’t going to happen, if we were going to be sure that we had the publication coming together with the quality content that we wanted.

But, I would also add that I think having those outside people writing gave it the shape and perspective that we wanted, of it being not just Grange. So, when we talk about family traditions in this first issue, we talked about the idea that the story would be about more than just Grange members’ experiences with this, but the fact that we had a non-member writing the story allowed them to pull in other resources and other contacts to put into it, that we wouldn’t have probably thought about or had otherwise. And that makes the story more appealing for somebody who doesn’t know a lot about the National Grange.

Samir Husni: What was the most pleasant moment throughout this first issue journey?

Amanda Brozana: Getting that first printed copy. I think that has to be the most pleasant moment for anybody who has done a magazine. I loved when I opened the box, and it was in Connecticut at our president’s conference. And I got to see the first one and put it into my hands and smell it. Maybe that makes me a print geek, and I’m okay with that. That was definitely the most satisfying moment, even more satisfying than when our president said, wow, this is a real magazine. And I think we’ve really received a lot of that initial shock reaction. And I get really excited when I hear people say that we really can do this.

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

Amanda Brozana: I think that we play a really unique role and I hope that Good Day! helps reflect that. I hope that the magazine is something that can go way beyond our membership, because there is a need for people to look and think about what they’re doing to improve the lives that they’re living. Many of us talk about whether or not we want bigger government or other organizations involved in making decisions for us or doing things in our lives, and the only way that we get away from that is doing for ourselves and doing for others.

And people don’t seem to see that. So, I think the Grange and organizations like us have a real place and we just need to refocus in on that. If we had magazines like Good Day! and other ones that tell people how to be more engaged in their communities and show them what it means to really be a good neighbor and a good citizen again. It’s stressful. I drive an hour to go 14 miles every day. It’s hard to go home and think about what I can do to help my own community. Do I really have the time or the patience to do that today? But it’s important. And so I’m hoping that this magazine is part of that revolution to get people to say what do they need to do to make sure that they have the life and the community that they want to live in.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly to your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing?

Amanda Brozana: Probably cooking for the household; I have a couple of roommates. I am also playing with my dog or at the dog park with the dog, you never know. Hopefully, as soon as the weather breaks, we’ll have a garden in the back and I think that’s very reflective of what people my age and my generation are doing. We have roommates maybe, instead of large families or small children, and we have pets. We have gardens and we have ways that we are kind of reengaging, getting involved in little things in our communities.

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

Amanda Brozana: Besides the fact that I work directly next to the White House and I realize that I have to drive an hour in everyday? No, honestly, what keeps me up at night is that I’m part of a 150-year-old legacy here, and I worry about having 150,000 members, instead of the one million members that we used to have. I worry about what that means for the Grange and what it means in general.

I don’t know if any of your readers have ever read “Bowling Alone” by Robert Putnam, it’s a 15 or 16-year-old book now, but he documented the disengagement basically of people from civic and social life and from civic organizations. And we’re still there. We’re still on that downward trend and I don’t know what we will look like if we don’t have organizations figuring out how to get prescription eyeglasses to kids who are in need or socks to the homeless, or anything like that. I don’t know what the country will look like if we don’t have people engaged with our communities. It really disturbs me to think that the Grange and any other organization like us would struggle to survive, and what we would look like without these organizations.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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An Experience Like No Other: Future Industry Leaders Meet Current Industry Leaders At The Magazine Innovation Center April 25 to 27.

March 21, 2017

act7Magazines Matter. Print Matters. That is the theme for the Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT (Amplify, Clarify, Testify) 7 Experience that will take place April 25 to 27. Space is limited, so check the agenda and register to join us for an experience of a life-time.

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Afropolitain Magazine: A New Afro Lifestyle Magazine That Inspires To Bring All Africans & People Of Color Together Under “One United States Of Africa” – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Nsayi Keziah Makoundou, Founder & Creative Director, Afropolitain Magazine…

March 20, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“We want to do both, (print and digital) because a lot of people were asking us where they could find our print magazine. And every time I would tell them to just pull up the website, they were insistent that they would rather have the print version. So, we’re definitely going to do both. But just to make sure that we reach as many people as possible, we’re going to pursue digital more, because there are a lot of countries right now where people do not have access to the print, so if we’re digital they can just grab their phones and access the content.” Nsayi Keziah Makoundou…

“Everybody was telling me not to do print. I heard that at least 2,000 times, maybe more. But there is something inside of me that has always said that somehow, print is not dead. Obviously, I’m a big fan of magazines and books because of my background, but I feel like the people that I’m trying to reach, they’ve never really had a product like this. So, I won’t say that print is dead, because a lot of people have been asking for the printed magazine. If we’d listened to what everyone had said, we would have never moved forward. I usually go with my gut feeling, and my gut was telling me that I should definitely do the print magazine.” Nsayi Keziah Makoundou…

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou (Keziah) had a dream: launching her own magazine. Keziah comes from a magazine background, working for publications such as Popular Mechanics, UPTOWN Magazine and Vibe. But when the entrepreneurial bug bit, she literally stopped everything she was doing to focus on this project, Afropolitain Magazine.

I spoke with Keziah recently and she told me that what motivated her the most was that she realized there was a lack of a good Afro lifestyle magazine – especially in France, and in a lot of countries in Europe, hence the bilingual aspect of the publication, every issue is half English and half French. So, ignoring the naysayers and the fact that her creative side was much, much stronger than her business side, Keziah took a risk and launched Afropolitain’s first issue. And soon, Issue #3 will hit newsstands.

If passion and belief in your product makes a success, then look out world, Afropolitain is on its way, because Keziah has an ample amount of both. And her entrepreneurial spirit is no more pronounced than her philanthropic one, as she wants the magazine to be a tool that unites all Africans and people of color together to see what a difference they can make in business, fashion, and any other interest that grabs them, by amplifying each of their strengths. It’s a beautifully done magazine and one that Mr. Magazine™ is very excited to see on the newsstand.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who believes, as the magazine’s tagline reads, that her magazine provides “The Afro of Today For Tomorrow,” Nsayi Keziah Makoundou, founder and creative director, Afropolitain Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the genesis of Afropolitain Magazine: I worked in the magazine business and I had always wanted to do a magazine that spoke to me and to African people. And with me being in the industry and working for all kinds of different magazines, I just decided to jump in the pool and start my own magazine.

On how she actually created the magazine: It was probably 2010 when the idea took hold in my mind, and I realized I needed to create a prototype, so I talked about it with some of my friends. It had been in the back of my mind for quite some time. And I worked a little bit on it, stopped, and then a couple of years ago I actually did a different prototype for someone who wanted to start a magazine for black women. And I think doing that prototype gave me a wakeup call, where I asked myself, instead of doing prototypes for other people, why don’t you just finish your own project? Who don’t you just push it until this project becomes a reality?

On the DNA of the magazine: Basically, Afropolitain represents the young, modern African that’s competitive, travels, has a good job, whether they’re in Africa, Europe or America. To me, Afropolitain is for people like us who are educated and who change the game in what we do. It’s to show the younger generation, and really, everybody, that you can be black, African, and be great at everything that you do. We just need to let people know that in every industry, there’s a black or of color person who is on a higher level.

On whether launching the magazine has been simple and easy for her: Oh, no, no, definitely not easy. The team is very, very small and we just started, so right now we’re just trying to put our name out there. We’re growing carefully, but we really need to be out there everywhere, on social media, but make sure that we’re consistent with the magazine. And we’re actually looking at a digital version of it, which will come out soon.

On the most challenging moment for her throughout this journey: Everything is challenging. I’m a woman and African, and trying to be a businesswoman. I’m an artist more than anything else, so being a businessperson is very new to me. It’s a big challenge to focus on the business side of the magazine, but it’s a learning process and I am learning it. It’s also challenging to be an African woman and to try and launch a business; is everyone taking me seriously, especially when you deal with African men.

On why she decided to make the magazine bilingual by creating half in English and half in French: There is a big break between Africans who speak English and Africans who speak French, in general. I feel like there is a lot about the English-speaking part of Africa that people in the French-speaking part don’t know about, and vice versa. For me, it was about trying to unite the continent.

On any conflict she finds between her creative side and her newly acquired business side: So far, the only conflict that I have is in doing the business part of it. Sometimes it can take away from me being creative, and that’s why in the context of growing, I want people who know how to handle the business side of the magazine better, so that I can focus on the product that we have and in making sure it’s always excellent. There are some problems with any beginning enterprise.

On launching with print first, and then considering digital: We want to do both, because a lot of people were asking us where they could find our print magazine. And every time I would tell them to just pull up the website, they were insistent that they would rather have the print version. So, we’re definitely going to do both. But just to make sure that we reach as many people as possible, we’re going to pursue digital more, because there are a lot of countries right now where people do not have access to the print, so if we’re digital they can just grab their phones and access the content.

On whether anyone asked her had she lost her mind for launching a big, thick print magazine in this digital age: Everybody was telling me not to do print. I heard that at least 2,000 times, maybe more. But there is something inside of me that has always said that somehow, print is not dead. Obviously, I’m a big fan of magazines and books because of my background, but I feel like the people that I’m trying to reach, they’ve never really had a product like this. So, I won’t say that print is dead, because a lot of people have been asking for the printed magazine. If we’d listened to what everyone had said, we would have never moved forward. I usually go with my gut feeling, and my gut was telling me that I should definitely do the print magazine.

On anything she’d like to add: Just that with Afropolitain, I want to unite people because I feel like being African, we don’t come together enough and in doing this product it brings us together. Everything you see in the magazine is done by Africans or black people: the photographers, the writers; my editor in chief is from Congo, my art director is from the Caribbean, so it’s really a black-made, African-made product. And I really want people to know that and to understand how we can come together and do something great. And I think that’s what we need in our communities. To come together and do something, instead of always trying to outshine or hate on the next black or African next to you.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up at her home unexpectedly one evening: It’s really very simple, you’d find me sitting on my couch, on my computer, doing something for the magazine or emailing people or looking for different things to do. But most likely you would catch me working.

On what keeps her up at night: Being successful. Making sure that our magazine will always move forward and that people find out about us. Thinking about the next plan and the next move. My main focus right now is to be out there and reach the max number of people. My ultimate goal is that I want this magazine to become the top magazine for our community, so that’s what keeps me up at night. What is the next move for us to get there?

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Nsayi Keziah Makoundou, founder and creative director, Afropolitain magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the genesis of Afropolitain.

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: I worked in the magazine business and I had always wanted to do a magazine that spoke to me and to African people. And with me being in the industry and working for all kinds of different magazines, I just decided to jump in the pool and start my own magazine.

Samir Husni: So, was it as easy as just deciding it? One day out of the blue, you created your own magazine, just like that?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: It was probably 2010 when the idea took hold in my mind, and I realized I needed to create a prototype, so I talked about it with some of my friends. It had been in the back of my mind for quite some time. And I worked a little bit on it, stopped, and then a couple of years ago I actually did a different prototype for someone who wanted to start a magazine for black women. And I think doing that prototype gave me a wakeup call, where I asked myself, instead of doing prototypes for other people, why don’t you just finish your own project? Who don’t you just push it until this project becomes a reality?

That’s when I decided to quit my job and focus on Afropolitain and do the prototype. And from the prototype we did Issue #1 and now the second issue just hit the market and we’re working on the third one. So, it was that wakeup call that motivated me to stop wasting time and to just do it.

Samir Husni: How did you come up with the name and what is the DNA of the magazine?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: I was looking for a unique and different name and a friend of mine, who is an artist, were having the conversation about what the name should be. I wanted something modern and that spoke to young Africans, young black people, and we were exchanging ideas when my friend suggested “Afropolitain” and I thought it was perfect.

Basically, Afropolitain represents the young, modern African that’s competitive, travels, has a good job, whether they’re in Africa, Europe or America. To me, Afropolitain is for people like us who are educated and who change the game in what we do. It’s to show the younger generation, and really, everybody, that you can be black, African, and be great at everything that you do. We just need to let people know that in every industry, there’s a black or of color person who is on a higher level.

And that’s what we hope to do with Afropolitain, I want the magazine to become a tool for people, so that they can grab the magazine and get advice for business, beauty, travel, recipes; learn things about African tradition, modern traditions, just a mix of lots of things. We’re in those Western countries too, so we need to bring everything together to make a great product.

Samir Husni: You’re working on Issue #3 now, so was it a walk through a rose garden for you with the first two issues? I mean, was it that easy?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: Oh, no, no, definitely not easy. The team is very, very small and we just started, so right now we’re just trying to put our name out there. We’re growing carefully, but we really need to be out there everywhere, on social media, but make sure that we’re consistent with the magazine. And we’re actually looking at a digital version of it, which will come out soon.

It’s an everyday challenge, but it’s worth it. We get a positive reaction from people and we’ve received positive critiques, so it’s good to know that we’re getting somewhere. We just have to keep pushing.

Samir Husni: What has been the most challenging moment for you throughout this journey?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: Everything is challenging. I’m a woman and African, and trying to be a businesswoman. I’m an artist more than anything else, so being a businessperson is very new to me. It’s a big challenge to focus on the business side of the magazine, but it’s a learning process and I am learning it. It’s also challenging to be an African woman and to try and launch a business; is everyone taking me seriously, especially when you deal with African men.

So, every step of the business is challenging. There are mistakes that we did with the first issue that we corrected with the second issue. And we’re working very hard on the third issue now. Every issue is a challenge for us to make sure we do better each time.

Samir Husni: Why did you choose for the magazine to be bilingual? You have half in English and half in French.

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: There is a big break between Africans who speak English and Africans who speak French, in general. I feel like there is a lot about the English-speaking part of Africa that people in the French-speaking part don’t know about, and vice versa. For me, it was about trying to unite the continent.

It was really important to me to have French and English, because I wanted to be able and touch the whole continent, not just the French-speaking countries or the English-speaking countries. Or people just in America or Europe. That’s why it was very important to do both French and English, and to really include everybody from the continent.

Samir Husni: Where are you originally from?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: My origins are Congo Brazzaville (my dad’s side) and Côte d’Ivoire (my mother’s side).

Samir Husni: Being a creative person; being an artist, and being a creative person myself, I know that we think more with passion and our hearts than anything else, yet we have to apply a business type of thinking to most things. Do you feel a conflict between the two when it comes to Afropolitain?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: So far, the only conflict that I have is in doing the business part of it. Sometimes it can take away from me being creative, and that’s why in the context of growing, I want people who know how to handle the business side of the magazine better, so that I can focus on the product that we have and in making sure it’s always excellent. There are some problems with any beginning enterprise

But for me, I will say that there can be a little havoc that can take away from me wanting to be creative, such as doing a photo shoot. But, as I said, it’s a learning process, and the longer we go, the better I will learn how to balance the business side without taking away from the other.

Samir Husni: You’ve managed to create almost two magazines in one; it has that flip quality, where on one side it’s geared more toward men and the other side is geared more toward women. And you started with print first, and now you’re considering digital.

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: Yes, we want to do both, because a lot of people were asking us where they could find our print magazine. And every time I would tell them to just pull up the website, they were insistent that they would rather have the print version. So, we’re definitely going to do both. But just to make sure that we reach as many people as possible, we’re going to pursue digital more, because there are a lot of countries right now where people do not have access to the print, so if we’re digital they can just grab their phones and access the content.

So, it’s very important to have a digital presence, but we’re going to continue to do both. We’re going to continue making sure that our print magazine is great, but also that people have access to the content wherever they want it.

And the fact that we do men and women, I think with my research into ethnic magazines, I felt like I never really saw a lifestyle magazine just for men, something where men can go and read about business, fashion, traveling, and relationships. Most of the magazines that are geared toward African men are more about politics and the economy. I’m not going to say they’re boring, but I felt like in today’s world African men travel, they go shopping , they like fashion, and they enjoy good restaurants. So, it was important for me to include men too, and that’s why I sort of divided the magazine into two parts, one for men and one for women.

Samir Husni: And when you talked to people about your idea of launching this print magazine, and a hefty-sized one too, we’re not talking about a 96-page publication; Afropolitain is a substantially thick, big magazine, did anybody ask you had you lost your mind for what you were about to do? You were launching a print magazine in this digital age.

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: Everybody was telling me not to do print. I heard that at least 2,000 times, maybe more. But there is something inside of me that has always said that somehow, print is not dead. Obviously, I’m a big fan of magazines and books because of my background, but I feel like the people that I’m trying to reach, they’ve never really had a product like this. So, I won’t say that print is dead, because a lot of people have been asking for the printed magazine. If we’d listened to what everyone had said, we would have never moved forward. I usually go with my gut feeling, and my gut was telling me that I should definitely do the print magazine.

The print product is a great-looking one and we’re going to progress and do better and better, and keep pushing forward. The people that were telling me that print was dead weren’t even in the magazine industry, they were just going by what they had heard or the little bit they did know about the industry. It is more expensive to do print, but it costs money for digital too. To have an app up and running; to make sure the product is good, that’s expensive too. Right now, I want to keep doing both, and in the next year or two, we’ll see if doing print was a good idea or not. But so far, people are reacting very positively to it.

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

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: Just that with Afropolitain, I want to unite people because I feel like being African, we don’t come together enough and in doing this product it brings us together. Everything you see in the magazine is done by Africans or black people: the photographers, the writers; my editor in chief is from Congo, my art director is from the Caribbean, so it’s really a black-made, African-made product. And I really want people to know that and to understand how we can come together and do something great. And I think that’s what we need in our communities. To come together and do something, instead of always trying to outshine or hate on the next black or African next to you.

If we understand that teamwork is important. I’m a creative person, but I can’t write. I have an editor in chief who can write and writers that are terrific, so they make the product look good. That’s another message that I want people to understand, working together is the future. If we want Africa to do better, we have to combine our strengths and create a unit that’s going to move forward together, not just country by country or tribe by tribe. It’s a group effort.

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

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: It’s really very simple, you’d find me sitting on my couch, on my computer, doing something for the magazine or emailing people or looking for different things to do. But most likely you would catch me working.

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

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: Being successful. Making sure that our magazine will always move forward and that people find out about us. Thinking about the next plan and the next move. My main focus right now is to be out there and reach the max number of people. My ultimate goal is that I want this magazine to become the top magazine for our community, so that’s what keeps me up at night. What is the next move for us to get there?

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Model Railroader Magazine: Celebrating Over 80 Years Of Publishing Success With A 1000th Issue That Captures Both The Past & The Future With An Authentic Vision – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Steve George, Vice President – Content, And Neil Besougloff, Editor, Model Railroader Magazine…

March 15, 2017

“There is something about print that is innately impactful and tangible. We’re in an era where we have websites that the pages just scroll endlessly, so you don’t get the same effect with a bottomless well of interest and content that you do when you have a tangible, physical product. And Model Railroader isn’t the only one in our stable. In about six years Trains Magazine is going to have its 1000th issue and. I just don’t see that analog on the digital side, where you show such a longevity, which of course, speaks immediately to its endurance as a brand and to the fact that it has flourished for literally generations and has attracted people with its authenticity.” Steve George…

“We do like to have fun at Model Railroader and our readers are so loyal. It’s so common for us to encounter readers who tell us that they have been reading the magazine since the 1950s or the 1960s, this is very common. And they know these names and the sequences of events, so we have the ability to have a little fun and recall some of these things from the past. The only challenge we have is the balance between newer readers and making sure that they aren’t lost should I make too many references to things that have occurred in the past. So, we can strike that balance and have some fun.” Neil Besougloff…

After over 80 years of publishing success, Model Railroader magazine, the world’s most notable monthly magazine about the hobby of model railroading, has reached a milestone, its 1000th published issue. The magazine, owned by Kalmbach Publishing, has been around since 1934 when Al Kalmbach decided to launch a magazine against all odds. According to legend, Kalmbach couldn’t get a loan from any bank to start his magazine because it was the Great Depression, but somehow he did it anyway, and the rest as they say is history. A long, profitable and passionate history, one that has flourished into 12 different SIP titles for the company.

Steve George is vice president of content for all Kalmbach titles and Neil Besougloff is editor of Model Railroader. I spoke with both men recently and we talked about the past, present and future of the long-running title. The staying power of this legacy brand is a proven strength that cannot be denied and the love and passion the readers have for the brand, both in print and in digital, according to Steve and Neil, is consuming. Even after 1,000 issues, both men are not concerned with resting on their laurels, they’re gearing up for the next 80+ years with authentic content ,print innovation, such as the Color-Logic Special Effects for print process that they used with the recent milestone issue, and a dedication to the brand’s video future and web presence with their subscription-based MRVP (Model Railroader Video Plus) program offered to their readers online.

It’s a compelling past, and a bright future that keeps Steve, Neil, Kalmbach Publishing and Model Railroader magazine smiling and looking toward that next 1000th issue. So, without further ado, enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steve George, vice president – content (all titles), and Neil Besougloff, editor, Model Railroader magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On where he thinks the idea came from that the special interest category is a recent one, rather than a legacy product (Steve George): I think what’s happening is a lot of broader, special interest publishers, and I’ve worked for some of them, have slowly come around to this realization. In many ways, specialized interest has been around all along. Obviously, with companies like Kalmbach and other publishers, they’ve been doing this from day one, as in our case. It’s kind of a reverse Darwinism; we’re seeing that the specialized animal is one that’s surviving in the challenge market because, if they’re done well and they’re authentic enough, they’re going to find those smaller, but more passionate audiences who will stick with them through thick and thin over the years.

On the April issue of Model Railroader, which is its 1000th issue (Neil Besougloff): We wanted to do something to acknowledge this mark with our readers. Usually, we shy away from looking at ourselves, we want to talk about the hobby and tell people how to build model railroads and better enjoy model railroads, but we decided to do something different for the 1000th issue. The readers are our friends; they all know us, even though we may live thousands of miles away. Their passion draws them to us, so we decided to, like in the Wizard of Oz, open up the curtain and reveal the man behind that curtain.

On using the Color-Logic Special Effects for print (Neil Besougloff): We have a very good relationship with our printer, Quad/Graphics. And we are fortunate that they are located within the same county in Wisconsin that we’re in. We were looking to do something different with the cover and talking about an extra color, metallic ink. Our production coordinator was speaking to our representative at Quad/Graphics and she suggested this new process. They showed us some examples and we thought it looked pretty cool, so we decided to try it.

On how he came up with the idea of stacking 1,000 copies of the magazine on the cover to represent the 1000th issue (Neil Besougloff): One day I was looking at Google images, and I don’t know where the idea came from for a stack of magazines, but I was looking for stacks of anything, and I found a photograph of a stack of manila folders that I don’t even remember what they were for now, or why the picture had been taken. So, I thought maybe we should put magazines in a stack like that, and see how big it looks, almost as if it were “Jack and the Beanstalk.” You’re Jack and you’re at the top of the beanstalk looking down on this seemingly endless beanstalk, which would actually be the 1000th issue of Model Railroader on top of this seemingly endless stack of 1,000 magazines.

On whether he thinks as editorial director of all of the brand’s titles, he could achieve the same impact without a print component to the brand (Steve George): No, honestly, I don’t. You’ve said this, and you’ve heard others in the field say it; there is something about print that is innately impactful and tangible. We’re in an era where we have websites that the pages just scroll endlessly, so you don’t get the same effect with a bottomless well of interest and content that you do when you have a tangible, physical product.

On the conversational engagement offered to the audience on the editor’s page and the scribblings included from Neil’s notes (Neil Besougloff): With the scribblings on the Editor’s page, one of the page designers that works on the magazine, I think it was Drew Halverson, came up with the idea and the art director showed it to me, and at first I said that it wouldn’t look right. But then the more I thought about it, I finally said why not. And then I asked the people on the editorial staff if they thought we had enough two-word questions to sustain this. It’s easy to do things once; it’s hard to continue to do them. And they convinced me that it would work, so we’re going to keep doing it.

On the common thread that runs through all 12 of Kalmbach’s SIP magazines (Steve George): The common thread here is that we’re as intensely passionate about producing the brands that we do in the different categories as the readers who buy those magazines and who engage with those brands. And that’s something that is consistent, even as diverse as our titles and our interest areas are, that is a consistent thread.

On anything they would like to add (Neil Besougloff): One thing that helped us do this was the thread that’s among model railroad hobbyists; I think they all minored in history in college, because they have this attraction for the subject and most of them are modeling a railroad that’s set in the past. And here at Kalmbach Publishing Company, we’ve always owned ourselves, and we’re packrats. We keep everything. So, when Steve mentioned a little while ago about getting all 1,000 magazines and laying them on the floor side by side, up and down our hallway here in the building, we have all of that stuff. And the staff and our readers and the company just have this awareness of the company’s history and the objects and artifacts, that and the passion our readers have with history; all of it just comes together really easily.

On anything they would like to add (Steve George): To follow what Neil just said, while our history and our legacy is important and our readers see that, especially for some of our longer running brands, as important and have that perspective, we also recognize that we have to be looking forward. We’re not another stodgy legacy publisher just absolutely beholden to ink on paper. That’s’ still a core part of what we do, but we recognize that there are a number of our customers who, in addition to the print core of our brands, also look to us for other types of content.

On what someone would find them doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at either of their homes (Neil Besougloff): You’re going to find me in the basement of my home tinkering with mechanical things: motors, gears; electricity, model train parts. I also have a side hobby of slat cars; I tinker with those as well. I have an antique Ford in my garage, so there’s something else mechanical that I tinker with. It’s a 1931 Ford, so it’s pretty old. That’s what you’re going to find me doing.

On what someone would find them doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at either of their homes (Steve George): (Laughs) That’s impressive, Neil. I’m going to look like a slacker. (Laughs again) You’re going to find me at home with my three kids, one son and two daughters. I’m going to be doing stuff with them. Both my daughters are very crafty, they’re my inroad insight into jewelry and crafts. So, I’ll be spending time with them, but my evenings are spent reading.

On what keeps him up at night (Neil Besougloff): Too much coffee in the evening, I guess. (Laughs) No, I don’t know. It is a tough time for the magazine world and I think about do we have the advertising support anymore; how do we continually find new readers? But none of these are thoughts that are unique to me.

On what keeps him up at night (Steve George): I guess for me it’s just that question of are we doing enough? Are we doing enough for our readers and our customers? Are we presenting them content that they’re going to love and that’s going to be of high quality in all of the ways that they’re going to want to engage with us? Are we devoting enough of our resources to the places where we know they’re going to go, whether it’s in print or online? It really is that question of are we doing enough for them.

And before you read the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steve George, vice president – content (all titles), and Neil Besougloff, editor, Model Railroader magazine, click here to watch the making of the 1000th issue of Model Railroader.

Samir Husni: Almost 85 years ago when the first issue of Model Railroader started, people could have described it as a special interest magazine. Today, all of the buzz is that the future is in special interest titles. Where do you think this idea came from that special interest magazines are just a product of today and not a legacy category?

Steve George: I think what’s happening is a lot of broader, special interest publishers, and I’ve worked for some of them, have slowly come around to this realization. In many ways, specialized interest has been around all along. Obviously, with companies like Kalmbach and other publishers, they’ve been doing this from day one, as in our case.

It’s kind of a reverse Darwinism, we’re seeing that the specialized animal is one that’s surviving in the challenge market because, if they’re done well and they’re authentic enough, they’re going to find those smaller, but more passionate audiences who will stick with them through thick and thin over the years. And that’s certainly something that’s been a part of Kalmbach’s model. Obviously, we’re as concerned about newsstand as everybody else, but for us our great strength has always been that with our brands we get a very dedicated core of subscribers who keep renewing for the rest of their lives, especially in the case of long-running titles like Model Railroader or Trains Magazine, which we also do and dates back to 1940.

It’s something that I think has positioned us well. We can call Al Kalmbach a visionary for a lot of reasons; I don’t know that he envisioned today’s marketplace (Laughs), but I’m certainly glad that he did what he did, because it’s producing a very good position with strong brands that really resonate with our readers and they stick with us.

Samir Husni: And the fun part, of course, is that he started the magazine as a side business.

Neil Besougloff: (Laughs) Yes, he was a printer with a passion for trains and model trains and he made the magazine on a whim. It was the Depression, and the story goes that there were no banks that would loan him any money to launch the magazine, but he just went ahead and did it anyway.

Samir Husni: Neil, Steve mentioned the power of the brand and the relationship with the audience. The April issue, which is the magazine’s 1000th issue, is a testament to that brand power and longevity. Can you tell me a little bit more about that April issue?

Neil Besougloff: We wanted to do something to acknowledge this mark with our readers. Usually, we shy away from looking at ourselves, we want to talk about the hobby and tell people how to build model railroads and better enjoy model railroads, but we decided to do something different for the 1000th issue. The readers are our friends, they all know us, even though we may live thousands of miles away. Their passion draws them to us, so we decided to, like in the Wizard of Oz, open up the curtain and reveal the man behind that curtain.

Samir Husni: You mention in your editorial that you used the Color-Logic Special Effects for print, can you tell me more about that?

Neil Besougloff: We have a very good relationship with our printer, Quad/Graphics. And we are fortunate that they are located within the same county in Wisconsin that we’re in. We were looking to do something different with the cover and talking about an extra color, metallic ink. Our production coordinator was speaking to our representative at Quad/Graphics and she suggested this new process. They showed us some examples and we thought it looked pretty cool, so we decided to try it. And I just want to thank Quad/Graphics because we didn’t even know this process existed until they suggested us trying it.

Samir Husni: How did you come up with the idea of stacking 1,000 copies of the magazine on the cover to represent the 1000th issue?

Neil Besougloff: One day I was looking at Google images, and I don’t know where the idea came from for a stack of magazines, but I was looking for stacks of anything, and I found a photograph of a stack of manila folders that I don’t even remember what they were for now, or why the picture had been taken. So, I thought maybe we should put magazines in a stack like that, and see how big it looks, almost as if it were “Jack and the Beanstalk.” You’re Jack and you’re at the top of the beanstalk looking down on this seemingly endless beanstalk, which would actually be the 1000th issue of Model Railroader on top of this seemingly endless stack of 1,000 magazines.

It was kind of hard to pull off because it’s easy to imagine in your mind what such a stack would look like, but in reality once the stack of magazines gets to about three or four feet, it falls over. So, we had our photographer on a ladder, I think it was a 12-foot stepladder, shooting straight down on about a three and a half foot stack of magazines. He used a couple of different lenses to exaggerate the “Jack and the Beanstalk” effect. Then through the magic of Photo Shop, we took these photos and put them together and changed the size and a bit of the orientation, then a little more Photo Shop magic, it looked like a stack of magazines that would seemingly go on for 1,000 issues.

Steve George: What’s funny is it’s hardly an exaggeration. The cover is a great impression of the tenacity and the longevity of the magazine. We depict a stack of 1,000 issues on the cover, but one of the other things that we did was get every copy of Model Railroader out of our library and laid them out side by side here in the office on the floor, and shot a video for our website of the whole visual history of the magazine.

And that line of magazines ran from one end of the building to the other, and almost back again. It was quite an event here in the building and it took a while for our video folks to shoot it. They were on a cart slowly going down the hall and back. Obviously, we couldn’t put that on the cover, that would have required quite a foldout. And you look at all of those covers and at how the magazine has changed over time. From the first issue, which was a mere pamphlet; from that modest beginning to this brand that is so great today; it’s truly awesome. And I use that word in its truest sense.

Samir Husni: Steve, being the editorial director of all of the titles, do you think that you could ever achieve the same visual and editorial impact if you did not have a print component?

Steve George: No, honestly, I don’t. You’ve said this, and you’ve heard others in the field say it, there is something about print that is innately impactful and tangible. We’re in an era where we have websites that the pages just scroll endlessly, so you don’t get the same effect with a bottomless well of interest and content that you do when you have a tangible, physical product.

And Model Railroader isn’t the only one in our stable. In about six years Trains Magazine is going to have its 1000th issue and. I just don’t see that analog on the digital side, where you show such a longevity, which of course, speaks immediately to its endurance as a brand and to the fact that it has flourished for literally generations and has attracted people with its authenticity. And has a dedicated staff who are also lovers of the hobby and true experts in their field, and who deliver authentic content that readers continue to respond to year in and year out. I really do mean it when I say, here’s to the next 1,000 issues because I think Model Railroader will last that long and beyond. I don’t expect I’ll be here to see it (Laughs), but I have every confidence that day will come.

Samir Husni: Neil, you engage your readers with a conversation in your Editor’s Letter, even allowing them to read scribblings from your notes. Tell me about that dialogue between you and the audience in the 1000th issue.

Neil Besougloff: As I said earlier, we try not to make ourselves part of the content. So, we had to let go of that idea for this issue. With the scribblings on the Editor’s page, one of the page designers that works on the magazine, I think it was Drew Halverson, came up with the idea and the art director showed it to me, and at first I said that it wouldn’t look right. But then the more I thought about it, I finally said why not. And then I asked the people on the editorial staff if they thought we had enough two-word questions to sustain this. It’s easy to do things once; it’s hard to continue to do them. And they convinced me that it would work, so we’re going to keep doing it.

I figured our readers would ask why there was handwriting on the magazine, so I would rather explain it to them, in this case in the editorial, than to have them puzzled about something. I really believe our job is to have our readers enjoy the magazine, enjoy their hobby, and to not have to work very hard to read the magazine or to turn the page. We try not to use any kind of jump lines ever; we try to make everything linear. I don’t want the reader to have to fight to read the magazine.

As far as the content goes, I wasn’t lying when I said that we have been asked for decades to write a story about the layout here at Kalmbach’s building in Wisconsin. And it truly is in the magazine frequently, because we use that as sort of our test workshop for different stories that are written by staff members, rather than stories that are written by outside hobbyists. So, it was just time to put all of that stuff together.

And then to write the story, I looked at the 50th anniversary issue of Model Railroader magazine back in 1984 and there was a fictional character that was named Boomer Pete, which was a railroad name. He had written a story about visiting the company at the 50-year mark and he made reference to the fact that he was part of the early days; he was a columnist, which was true. I devised this idea that we would have his son come visit us for this 1000th issue.

And what this allowed me to do in writing the story was to be able to ask questions about the layout and make comments in the story that would have maybe been a little awkward for one of the actual staff members to do, but by using a pseudonym you could ask and answer questions and make observations that were more from a visitor’s point of view than a staff member’s.

Steve George: Neil, do you know who the original Boomer Pete was? It was Al, right? He was the alter ego for one of the staffers, correct?

Neil Besougloff: In the beginning, it was Al Kalmbach, and recently I found out that during the 50th anniversary, Russ Larson, who was one of the staff members, and went on to become the publisher of the magazine, wrote that story in 1984.

We do like to have fun at Model Railroader and our readers are so loyal. It’s so common for us to encounter readers who tell us that they have been reading the magazine since the 1950s or the 1960s, this is very common. And they know these names and the sequences of events, so we have the ability to have a little fun and recall some of these things from the past. The only challenge we have is the balance between newer readers and making sure that they aren’t lost should I make too many references to things that have occurred in the past. So, we can strike that balance and have some fun.

With this issue, we had eight pages of readers writing in about their favorite issues, which most of them were quite a while ago. So, they understand the whole body of work and they’re with us. They see it as we’re making this magazine for each one of them and they have this relationship with us, even though it exists through ink on paper, over hundreds, if not thousands of miles.

Samir Husni: Steve, when you think about the 12 SIP magazines that Kalmbach publishes, from Astronomy to Discover, from Bead & Button to Trains to Drone 360, and using your vision as editorial director, what is the common thread that runs through all of the magazines?

Steve George: The common thread here is that we’re as intensely passionate about producing the brands that we do in the different categories as the readers who buy those magazines and who engage with those brands. And that’s something that is consistent, even as diverse as our titles and our interest areas are, that is a consistent thread.

I started here almost five years ago as the editor of Discover, which seemed in many ways very different from the portfolio that Kalmbach has, but one of the things that I realized very quickly was just like Trains or Astronomy or Model Railroader, there was a passionate base of readers there who were intensely curious about science and intensely curious about the world.

I came from service magazines, so for me, I thought, let’s look at this through the lens of engagement, as we do with our other titles. Let’s do everything we can to make them feel that they’re part of a conversation with the editors and to show them that this isn’t just our magazine, it’s their magazine as well. And I would say that’s a pretty consistent thread that’s been part of Kalmbach’s legacy, and it’s something that when I took over this role one year ago, I immediately saw was not broken. So, I’m not going to try and fix it just to make my mark. (Laughs) That’s the secret sauce and it’s not really that big of a secret.

You look at your customer as the boss of everyone and you find a way within each of the different brands to deliver content that speaks to them and their passions. And also you need to articulate your own passions and enthusiasm as well. And even though you may never actually meet your customers and you’re separated by distance and time, they’re going to respond to that. It’s something that has been consistent and it’s something that, obviously, the editors here needed no direction from me on.

It’s funny, a year ago I did meet individually with the editors. Neil was the first that I sat down with, and that was one of my first questions for each of the editors so that I could understand a little bit more about their particular audience and their particular interests and needs. And they all have very unique interests and desires, things that look for from us and our individual brands, but the one thread that remains consistent is that this magazine is their magazine too, whichever title we’re talking about.

And they have a certain expectation. And even if they’re not necessarily articulating it this way, they respond to a level of authenticity in the content of our brands that can only come from a staff who is just as passionate as they are, and who truly embraces those special interests and categories that they serve. So, if anything, I just want to continue to reinforce that as we go forward. It really is the tie that binds all of our brands together.

Samir Husni: Is there anything that either of you would like to add?

Neil Besougloff: One thing that helped us do this was the thread that’s among model railroad hobbyists; I think they all minored in history in college, because they have this attraction for the subject and most of them are modeling a railroad that’s set in the past.

And here at Kalmbach Publishing Company, we’ve always owned ourselves, and we’re packrats. We keep everything. So, when Steve mentioned a little while ago about getting all 1,000 magazines and laying them on the floor side by side, up and down our hallway here in the building, we have all of that stuff. And the staff and our readers and the company just have this awareness of the company’s history and the objects and artifacts, that and the passion our readers have with history; all of it just comes together really easily. And the readers appreciate the recognition of the past and the model railroading of the past. They don’t just live for today or live for tomorrow, but they embrace the past as well. So, we were able to pull it off.

Steve George: To follow what Neil just said, while our history and our legacy is important and our readers see that, especially for some of our longer running brands, as important and have that perspective, we also recognize that we have to be looking forward. We’re not another stodgy legacy publisher just absolutely beholden to ink on paper. That’s’ still a core part of what we do, but we recognize that there are a number of our customers who, in addition to the print core of our brands, also look to us for other types of content.

That’s one of the things that Model Railroader as a brand has been very innovative about. We do a lot of how-to videos and have various other programming that exists on our website, and in fact, exists as a separate brand, if you will, or sub-brand, which is MRVP (Model Railroader Video Plus) and it’s an online subscription service. We do fresh video content weekly, and actually David Popp, who is in charge of that; it was actually his idea to lay out all of the magazines on the floor, thinking rightly that it would make for an impressive video.

So, we don’t rest on our laurels. We do absolutely celebrate and cherish our history; it’s part of our DNA. But we also want to make sure that as our readers, even as our oldest readers are starting to embrace, perhaps grudgingly in some cases, their Smartphones, iPads and computers, that we’re there on all platforms. While they still want the print experience, and they’re always going to want that, they’re voracious in their desire for fresh content, so we’re going to do what we can to give it to them in other platforms that they’re going to embrace, especially digital.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly to either of your homes one evening after work, what would I find you doing; playing with a model train; having a glass of wine; watching TV; cooking; or something else?

Neil Besougloff: You’re going to find me in the basement of my home tinkering with mechanical things: motors, gears: electricity, model train parts. I also have a side hobby of slat cars; I tinker with those as well. I have an antique Ford in my garage, so there’s something else mechanical that I tinker with. It’s a 1931 Ford, so it’s pretty old. That’s what you’re going to find me doing.

Steve George: (Laughs) That’s impressive, Neil. I’m going to look like a slacker. (Laughs again) You’re going to find me at home with my three kids, one son and two daughters. I’m going to be doing stuff with them. Both my daughters are very crafty, they’re my inroad insight into jewelry and crafts. So, I’ll be spending time with them, but my evenings are spent reading.

In my office at home, basically I have this little corner (Laughs), it’s really my wife’s house, and in this corner I have a desk with my iPad and I’m usually reading off of that. I’ll be searching various websites, looking at industry stuff or other categories or competitors for our brands and doing my own reading for pleasure. But right next to that is a stack of magazines. Ours and a lot of other folks’ issues. And right next to that is my vintage drugstore comic book spinner rack, which I have stuffed with tons of my old comics and which is still my great pleasure. One of the biggest pleasures for me is to walk into that space and smell that great smell of old, pulpy comics and magazines.

In many ways, the 1000th issue kind of intrigued me because of that. In fact, in my very first conversation with Neil, we were talking and I did this very quick math and said this magazine has been around since 1934, you’ve published monthly for all of this time, even war years, so we have to be close to our 1000th issue. And as you probably know, in comics, the 25th, 50th, or 100th issue, it doesn’t matter, they look for every opportunity to promote that as something special and an event. And I thought, whether you’re reading comics or Model Railroader, there’s that level of passion and engagement, where any kind of milestone is going to be a great opportunity to celebrate and be an event. So I thought that the 1000th issue would be a really cool thing for us to do. But yes, that’s me. I’m reading mostly, either digitally or in print.

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

Neil Besougloff: Too much coffee in the evening, I guess. (Laughs) No, I don’t know. It is a tough time for the magazine world and I think about do we have the advertising support anymore; how do we continually find new readers? But none of these are thoughts that are unique to me.

Steve George: I guess for me it’s just that question of are we doing enough? Are we doing enough for our readers and our customers? Are we presenting them content that they’re going to love and that’s going to be of high quality in all of the ways that they’re going to want to engage with us? Are we devoting enough of our resources to the places where we know they’re going to go, whether it’s in print or online? It really is that question of are we doing enough for them and I’m afraid the answer is no. (Laughs) We could be doing more, but I suppose that’s a good thing. I would be worried if the answer was yes, we’re good. (Laughs again) To me that would be the path to the road of complacency and that wouldn’t be good for any of us.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Cooking Light Magazine: Celebrating 30 Years By Redefining “Healthy” & Showcasing A New Approach To Cooking – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Hunter Lewis, Editor In Chief, Cooking Light Magazine…

March 13, 2017

“But what’s most important, and if I’ve learned anything about the business, it’s that you have to be adaptable. You have to be flexible, but you have to remain true to the fundamentals, and print is absolutely a part of the fundamentals. And as long as we’re making compelling content for each platform and as long as we’re strengthening our core, which is print; as long as we’re making a product that is even more engaging and is a lean-back and a lean-forward experience, and by that I mean something that people continue to dog-ear the recipes and use them every day, that gives us more license to try new things in digital.” Hunter Lewis…

With this year, Cooking Light celebrates its 30th Anniversary starting with the April issue: What Healthy Means Now. In April 1987, Cooking Light launched to empower people to cook more for good health. With fresh, accessible ingredients and weeknight-friendly techniques, Cooking Light’s recipes enabled busy home cooks to make healthy and delicious food choices for their families. But 30 years ago “healthy” meant eat this, not that. Traditional staples like beef, butter and eggs were swapped for lean poultry, fish and reduced-calorie butter.

Cooking Light’s editor in chief, Hunter Lewis, believes that the word restriction is something that no longer applies. I spoke with Hunter recently and we talked about Cooking Light’s redefinition of the word “healthy” and the progression of more and more fresh and whole foods within the perimeters of our supermarkets. Hunter said that no longer to people have to deny themselves taste and diversity when it comes to eating for overall good health. The 30th anniversary, April 2017 issue will showcase the magazine’s rededication to everyone’s own personal definition of healthy.

And with the upcoming November issue’s redesign, the magazine is setting a new course for the next 30 years by opening up the food space to be more inclusive of all forms of health and well-being through the art of each individual’s own food choices, and by showcasing this new definition of personal healthy across all of its many platforms.

So, grab your own idea of a healthy snack and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a man who has a long-term vision for Cooking Light that includes turning down the “light” just a bit and turning up the “healthy,” Hunter Lewis, editor in chief, Cooking Light magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On what differentiates Cooking Light today from all the other magazines out there: I think what sets us apart today and what has set us apart over the years is brand equity. We have 30 years of brand equity; 30 years of building and pushing this great brand forward, and I really credit the team that launched it in 1987 for having the wherewithal to really read the marketplace and to think about where the consumer was going. That consumer demand for fresher food is what drives us today, and it’s the reason so many other players are getting into the game now.

On the major challenges the magazine has had to face: The major challenges in the marketplace and the major challenges that consumers have faced has been the evolution of the American diet. When we launched, a healthy plate looked much different then than it does now. What the government recommended was a bit different then than it is now, and we hadn’t had this great awakening yet, in terms of consumer demand for all things fresh and clean.

On whether he thinks all of the reported digital “spying” will hurt magazines’ digital futures, or as long as the brand is trusted like Cooking Light, digital will remain strong: I can’t speak to the spying piece, but I think that as artificial intelligence becomes an even bigger part of our daily lives, such as adding recipes into the virtual assistant Alexa, or Amazon’s Echo, people are using their Smartphones to solve more food problems. I think companies are learning more and gathering more data about that consumer so that they can solve even more problems for them. But what’s most important, and if I’ve learned anything about the business, it’s that you have to be adaptable. You have to be flexible, but you have to remain true to the fundamentals, and print is absolutely a part of the fundamentals.

On something different that he’s doing today with the print component of Cooking Light that wasn’t being done when he first joined the team: The biggest thing is that in our 30th anniversary year, and now that healthy is becoming even more mainstream than it has been in the past 30 years, we’re putting a bigger stake in the ground to own healthy. And we’re putting a bigger stake in the ground to empower consumers to define what healthy means to them. And to give them even more solutions and more recipes and tips to take control of their own health through the home kitchen; at the stove, at the grocery store, and at a dinner party, using food as a solution for that. As we’re embracing healthy, we’re subtly positioning away from “light.”

On the theory behind the new approach to the cover, and in also using a lighter color for the word “Light” so that the word “Cooking” is what’s jumping at consumers: With this cover we wanted to make a statement. This is the first of our key moments for 2017 as we celebrate our 30th anniversary, and as we continue to seize momentum for 2018/2019. We wanted the cover to be a moment. We wanted the cover to make an impact on newsstand, and we wanted to photograph and design this in a way that felt like a statement. And that’s what we delivered.

On whether someone can get a completely wholesome experience from just reading the magazine without visiting all of the platforms the brand utilizes: I think our audience is slightly different on each platform. And I think the key to delivering compelling content on a particular platform is to understand that audience and to see visually and through the text, through the video and the sound, how best to capture the brand on each platform. If you’re just coming to us and you understand the brand only from Instagram, that’s awesome. If you just understand the brand through print; we love that too.

Cooking Light Ed Note Photography Caitlin Bensel

On how the magazine is using its DNA from 30 years ago to combine with today’s definition of the word healthy: I think healthy goes way beyond food and fitness. Healthy is very broad and very inclusive. Healthy goes beyond food, fitness, sleep and wellness. And what we love about healthy is that it means something different to every, single person. Our point when it comes to this whole repackaging and the call to action for the consumer to go and use the hashtag, to go and shoot a photo and caption it with their definition of healthy is that each person owns their own healthy. It’s personal and you define it. Use Cooking Light to help you achieve it.

On whether he’s afraid his colleagues at Health Magazine might feel Cooking Light is infringing on its territory with the new “Healthy” movement: No, but what I will say is I’ve seen a massive change here at Time Inc. in the way that with the way that we collaborate with our sister brands. And it’s one of the most exciting things that’s happening in the building right now; I’m actually in New York at the moment. The way that the brands are talking to each other and the way that these digital desks are communicating and syndicating and sharing stories is amazing.

On anything he’d like to add: Just going back to the licensed products and the new revenue streams, we talked about extending Cooking Light onto the supermarket shelves; I think you’re going to see an evolution of the Cooking Light diet that’s a two-year-old product that has been a successful launch.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly to his home one evening: You would find my wife and I wrapping up dinner. We have a five and a three year old, and we’re at the point now where we can sit down and have dinner together, which is the high point of my day. And yes, having a glass of wine.

On what keeps him up at night: My three year old, who still wants to wake up a couple of times per week at 3:00 a.m. (Laughs)

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Hunter Lewis, editor in chief, Cooking Light magazine.

Samir Husni: When Cooking Light was started 30 years ago, it was one-of-a-kind. Now, there are plenty of imitators in the food magazine marketplace, especially when it comes to “cooking light” or “cooking clean” or any of the things that Cooking Light introduced 30 years ago. What differentiates Cooking Light from all of those other magazines that are out there today?

Hunter Lewis: I think you’re right, and I think Don Logan and the whole team at Southern Progress and at Southern Living was very prescient. They were way ahead of the curve and they knew the marketplace really well when Cooking Light launched out of Southern Living 30 years ago. In 1987, the world was a different place and how we ate was much different, and to have the foresight to create a new brand and to launch that new brand with healthy messaging was super-smart.

And I think what sets us apart today and what has set us apart over the years is brand equity. We have 30 years of brand equity; 30 years of building and pushing this great brand forward, and I really credit the team that launched it in 1987 for having the wherewithal to really read the marketplace and to think about where the consumer was going. That consumer demand for fresher food is what drives us today, and it’s the reason so many other players are getting into the game now.

Samir Husni: What have been the major challenges that you’ve had to face and how did you overcome them?

Hunter Lewis: The major challenges in the marketplace and the major challenges that consumers have faced has been the evolution of the American diet. When we launched, a healthy plate looked much different then than it does now. What the government recommended was a bit different then than it is now, and we hadn’t had this great awakening yet, in terms of consumer demand for all things fresh and clean.

And so, it was the very dawning of this whole American food obsession and the very dawning of this new American food movement. You have to think about that in the context of, if you look at the recipes that were published in the April 1987 issue of Cooking Light, you see a lot of low fat, low-calorie recipes. And you see cornstarch in recipes to thicken sauces and things like that; you see gelatin used. So, what has happened through this, and I bring up recipes as an example, because that’s our bread and butter, but what’s happened is the definition of heathy and light has changed in a big way.

Now, if you look at our recipes, it’s much more about whole ingredients and eating a diversity of plants, and more than anything, it’s less about restriction and more about addition. We want to add healthy ingredients to our diet; we don’t want people to restrict their diet because eating a more diverse diet and eating a variety of foods and a more plant-based diet is the best way to hedge your nutritional bets against diet-related diseases. I think the consumer piece of it and how the American diet has changed and what the American dinner plate looks like now versus then, is vital.

In terms of challenges in the marketplace and in the industry; there have been many. But I’d say none more than this continued digital revolution, but that has also been the most fun challenge. Continuing to push the brand forward in print and continuing to protect and grow the core product, which is the print brand, while also making compelling video, growing our Instagram audience, doing compelling Facebook live videos, and going on Snapchat. So, we think about all of the places where the brand is, and making that content, making those videos and those digital articles and that food photography really pop. And making a joyful experience and empowering people to cook more at home for good health is our mission across every one of those platforms in a fun way. That has been our challenge and I would say that we’re succeeding.

Samir Husni: I recently tweeted that if you want another reason why print will be with us forever, it’s that print never spies on you, like the digital world has been reported as doing. Do you think these reports of “spying” and “watching” is going to hurt our digital future or as long as we have a trusted brand like Cooking Light, digital will remain strong?

Hunter Lewis: I can’t speak to the spying piece, but I think that as artificial intelligence becomes an even bigger part of our daily lives, such as adding recipes into the virtual assistant Alexa, or Amazon’s Echo, people are using their Smartphones to solve more food problems. I think companies are learning more and gathering more data about that consumer so that they can solve even more problems for them.

But what’s most important, and if I’ve learned anything about the business, it’s that you have to be adaptable. You have to be flexible, but you have to remain true to the fundamentals, and print is absolutely a part of the fundamentals. And as long as we’re making compelling content for each platform and as long as we’re strengthening our core, which is print; as long as we’re making a product that is even more engaging and is a lean-back and a lean-forward experience, and by that I mean something that people continue to dog-ear the recipes and use them every day, that gives us more license to try new things in digital.

Samir Husni: Give me a few examples of what you’re doing different today with Cooking Light in print that wasn’t being done when you first came onboard.

Hunter Lewis: The biggest thing is that in our 30th anniversary year, and now that healthy is becoming even more mainstream than it has been in the past 30 years, we’re putting a bigger stake in the ground to own healthy. And we’re putting a bigger stake in the ground to empower consumers to define what healthy means to them. And to give them even more solutions and more recipes and tips to take control of their own health through the home kitchen; at the stove, at the grocery store, and at a dinner party, using food as a solution for that. As we’re embracing healthy, we’re subtly positioning away from “light.”

And I’ll say this, if we were launching a brand now in 2017, we wouldn’t call it Cooking Light. That is nothing against the brand; I’m just being honest, because “healthy” resonates in the current marketplace more than “light” if you look at past packaging. “Light,” in 1987, meant something different than what it means now. We’re not apologizing for the brand, it has amazing brand equity as I said, but in our 30th anniversary year we are really embracing healthy moving forward and that gives us more permission to be in the health and wellness space.

As we do this, I’m seeing this as three major editorial tent poles for the year. The first is “What Healthy Means Now,” the 21-page cover story, and this is our first big stake in the ground. Defining what healthy means now across several different categories and encouraging consumers to go and to use hashtag “the new healthy” on their social platforms, to define what healthy means to them, to retweet and repost those definitions, to build our social communities, and to really remind people when they’re talking about healthy foods, they’re talking about Cooking Light. That’s the first thing.

The second one is, you asked what we’re doing in print, we’re redesigning the September issue. And we’re working on that now and kicked it off this week. We’re going to give it a fresher look. The key to the redesign will be to drive even more engagement on a page; to celebrate our beautiful photography even more, and to create a little bit more space around the text to make it feel even fresher. And then the November issue will be a double-issue, and that will be an anniversary issue for the advertising community.

All of these things translate beautifully to digital. The beauty of working for a food media brand is that our gorgeous imagery and our delicious recipes play well across the entire food space. By that I mean what we shoot for a feature story, in terms of a photo and a recipe, is also going to pop on Instagram; it’s going to drive traffic from Facebook back to our website; it’s going to get reviewed and commented on and printed off from our website and people are going to go to the store, buy the ingredients and cook it. It’ll show up on Pinterest. We might cook that recipe on Facebook live and have a highly-engaged group of 100,000 or so people watching us cook it live and bringing the brand to life through their computer screens or phones.

What I’m getting at in this day and age, in 2017 with food media, what we do in print we have to make it work across all platforms. And what’s so interesting about the long tail of a recipe at Cooking Light and at Time Inc. is that we can also put it into books. We’ve done cookbooks and bookazines, and as you know, bookazines have been driving a lot of great business over the years. So, there’s great print and digital value; there’s great long-term value in the type of content that shows up first in print. And now, more than ever, it shows up on Cooking Light.com before it ever goes into print. And that’s not really a digital-first mentality.

Samir Husni: I’m looking at the first issue of Cooking Light, the magazine for food and fitness, and I’m also looking at the April 2017 issue of the magazine, the 30th anniversary issue. And while the name is still the same, a lot has changed. With the anniversary issue, you’re giving me six tips immediately on the cover, answering your question of “What Healthy Means Now?” Even before I go to Page 82, you’re telling me to fill half my plate with crunchy veggies and to eat nuts, etc. What’s the theory behind the new approach to the cover, and in also using a lighter color for the word “Light” so that the word “Cooking” is what’s jumping at me?

Hunter Lewis: With this cover we wanted to make a statement. This is the first of our key moments for 2017 as we celebrate our 30th anniversary, and as we continue to seize momentum for 2018/2019. We wanted the cover to be a moment. We wanted the cover to make an impact on newsstand, and we wanted to photograph and design this in a way that felt like a statement. And that’s what we delivered.

If you look at the design assets on this cover, and how the assets translated through the 21-page cover story, and then if you look at the 30 Faces of the New Healthy that we launched on Cooking Light.com recently and how the design is translated through that impactful list, and then you look at the way it’s shown on Instagram, you begin to see what I’m talking about when it comes to how everything flows from print to our digital, social and video platforms in a seamless way to elevate the look, feel, tone and the sound of the brand.

Samir Husni: Let’s say you have some readers who only care about the printed magazine, some are only Instagram followers, some are only digital followers; do you think the experience of each of your platforms can be necessary, relevant and sufficient? If I don’t go to your Instagram or your web; I can get a completely wholesome experience from reading the magazine?

Hunter Lewis: I do. I think our audience is slightly different on each platform. And I think the key to delivering compelling content on a particular platform is to understand that audience and to see visually and through the text, through the video and the sound, how best to capture the brand on each platform. If you’re just coming to us and you understand the brand only from Instagram, that’s awesome. If you just understand the brand through print; we love that too.

Long-term, as we think about new revenue streams and engaging consumers on new platforms, part of what this 30th anniversary issue is about and part of “What Healthy Means Now” is about and what the redesign will be about is not just words and pictures. It’s about really capitalizing on that brand equity, carrying us into the next 30 years, and thinking about where else Cooking Light could play. By that I mean, if we think about where consumers are shopping now and healthy consumers are shopping now, they’re on the perimeter of the supermarket. They are shopping all fresh goods beyond just the produce aisle.

The perimeter of the supermarket, and we wrote about this in the story, is a battleground for everything fresh. It’s where all the companies want to be and where they want to play and sell their goods. If we play our cards right, we can have more Cooking Light products, more fresh products sold on the supermarket shelves. We can extend our meal kit partnership that we have with FreshRealm into the grocery store. There is no reason Cooking Light shouldn’t be selling meal kits at the grocery stores right now.

And that’s also what this is about. How do we solve for consumers as they’re planning and shopping, in addition to how they’re cooking? The American consumer and the way that they’re making dinner today is much different than it was 30 years ago. They’re using their phones as a tool nearly every minute of every day. The way that people shop for groceries and the way that they have ingredients delivered; I think that we can play in all of these spaces to extend the brand and create even more value.

Samir Husni: Am I assuming correctly then that you’re taking the DNA of Cooking Light from 30 years ago, the magazine of “food and fitness,” and you’re combining that phrase with the word “healthy?”

Hunter Lewis: I think healthy goes way beyond food and fitness. Healthy is very broad and very inclusive. Healthy goes beyond food, fitness, sleep and wellness. And what we love about healthy is that it means something different to every, single person. Our point when it comes to this whole repackaging and the call to action for the consumer to go and use the hashtag, to go and shoot a photo and caption it with their definition of healthy is that each person owns their own healthy. It’s personal and you define it. Use Cooking Light to help you achieve it.

Samir Husni: So, you’re not going to get your colleagues at Health Magazine mad at you for infringing on their territory?

Hunter Lewis: No, but what I will say is I’ve seen a massive change here at Time Inc. in the way that with the way that we collaborate with our sister brands. And it’s one of the most exciting things that’s happening in the building right now; I’m actually in New York at the moment. The way that the brands are talking to each other and the way that these digital desks are communicating and syndicating and sharing stories is amazing.

Two desks that I’m involved with everyday are the food and health desks. Health does an amazing job at writing compelling science stories. So, we could syndicate those stories. And they can syndicate our recipes, and so there is a mutually symbiotic relationship here where we can tap into their expertise. We can talk to Time’s health editors and share what we’ve got coming out about gut health or brain health and we can tap into that expertise, and then we can share that content socially and to a wider audience.

And that’s really what this is about, this collaboration among the brands. It’s not just about a brand’s audience, it’s about who is the overall Time Inc. food audience and how do we tap into that in a bigger way? How do we share across all of the platforms and how do we maximize that 40 million-plus social audience that clamors for Time Inc. food across all brands, including health? And what’s happening with this company is an amazing transformation.

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

Hunter Lewis: Just going back to the licensed products and the new revenue streams, we talked about extending Cooking Light onto the supermarket shelves; I think you’re going to see an evolution of the Cooking Light diet that’s a two-year-old product that has been a successful launch.

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

Hunter Lewis: You would find my wife and I wrapping up dinner. We have a five and a three year old, and we’re at the point now where we can sit down and have dinner together, which is the high point of my day. And yes, having a glass of wine.

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

Hunter Lewis: My three year old, who still wants to wake up a couple of times per week at 3:00 a.m. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Esquire Magazine: Reanimating Traditions For The 21st Century And Setting A Course For New Seas In A World Where Being Fashionable Isn’t Just About What You Wear – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Jay Fielden, Editor In Chief, Esquire Magazine…

March 6, 2017

march-newsstand-cover“I feel we should be publishing fiction. And I doubted that when I first got here, but I know in my heart that’s something that is very important to Esquire. In the same way that appetites come and go, trends come and go, rules about what you should and shouldn’t do with magazines come and go; I don’t think that we should let go of certain things that maybe didn’t work so well 15 years ago that could work again, depending on how you do it, how you frame it and what the look and feel of that thing is. And that’s what’s exciting to me. To realize that you can reanimate traditions as long as you’re clever enough to give it new life. And that’s what we spend a lot of our time doing.” Jay Fielden…

“I really think that we need the push and pull of female voices and editors, filling the magazine with that kind of tension that makes it really interesting and makes the reader ask what’s going on here, this is fascinating and I’m really engrossed by what the magazine is thinking. Tom Wolfe described it back in 1972 as the editors of Esquire hanging upside-down from the ceiling. There’s something to that; it’s very Wolfian, but I think it’s accurate. You get a vision of something that’s fun and funny, a bit cabaret-like; I want people to not only have fun when they look at the magazine, but to know that we’re having fun.” Jay Fielden…

For most of its illustrious life, Esquire magazine has always been the handbook for men who wanted to be “fashionable.” Since it drew its first breath in 1933, the publication has set the bar for men’s magazines, from literary giants who clamored to be featured between its covers; to the nattiest dressed and most dashing men who ever stepped off the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, the magazine hit the heart of manhood dead center.

Today, it’s the 21st century and being fashionable involves much more than a perfectly-cut Armani suit, although that is still a part of what Esquire’s DNA is all about. But other aspects, even past facets of the magazine, such as literary prose and fiction, are something that Editor in Chief, Jay Fielden wants to bring back to the newly reimagined Esquire, which hit newsstands this month. The new Esquire features a full redesign, including a larger trim size and a new logo, which was inspired by Esquire’s classic era, but recut to give it a feel for today.

Since the tragic fire a few years ago, where Jay and his family lost just about everything material, Jay said that he had discovered there were many, many things more important than his lifestyle, first and foremost, his family, but also not being afraid to take risks when it came to life. And that aversion to timidity also includes his role as Esquire’s editor in chief. Having an upstart sensibility, as he put it, and a fearlessness to take on new and exciting contemporary themes, while paying honor to the “Golden Age” of Esquire is something that he’s introduced and plans on continuing to showcase as he takes the magazine to another “age.” The one that utilizes the legacy of the magazine to create, what journalist, Tom Wolfe once described when talking about Esquire as that “hang upside-down from the ceiling” sense of surprise, excitement and delight.

And speaking of delight, Mr. Magazine™ was delighted himself that Jay had past ties with Oxford, Miss. where Mr. Magazine™ lives and works, as Jay’s family lived in Memphis, and his father actually resided in Oxford for a while. It is a small world, after all!

And now, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a man who is both dynamically in charge and humbly fearless about it, Jay Fielden, editor in chief, Esquire magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

ESBOn why he thinks people care about yesterday when it comes to magazine content, rather than just the present: That’s a great question and a complicated one, I think, because many things come to mind when I think about that. And certainly, first of all, there aren’t that many magazines where that’s the case. There are probably two or three that people seem to have a very vivid sense of what was and can even associate specific stories, writers, cover subjects, photographers to that period. And once someone is able to do that, you know they’re not just reaching at an abstract notion of tone or something that used to exist. And I think that’s very true. And one reason is because it’s a very unusual thing for a magazine to be decade in and decade out as consistently good at being relevant to its readers and to the culture of the world as Esquire has been.

On how he, as an editor, acts as creator and curator of all of the information that’s out there as he introduces the new Esquire to the market: Well, you’re always learning and I think that’s definitely key. Each magazine that I’ve been at, in a certain way, I’ve been prepared to take it over. And I don’t mean that in a boastful way, but I’ve also had to change my habits and reorient the way that I spend my time and think about all of the things you’re asking me. (Laughs) How are we going to digest so much information that’s out there? How am I going to create a staff in which we are able to divide things up and make sure that we all have a very clear sense of what we think the pillars of interest are in the magazine, so that we’re absolutely not missing anything when it comes to those things.

On who would be standing before him if he struck Esquire with a magic wand that could instantly turn the magazine into a human being: That’s an interesting question. I was once watching an interview that Charlie Rose did with Quentin Tarantino from the late ‘90s, around the time of “Pulp Fiction” and Charlie Rose asked the inevitable question: Who is the viewer that you have in mind when you make your movies, and Tarantino said, it’s me. (Laughs again) He added that he knew other people would see the movie, but he had to start with himself first. And I believe that’s very true. When I got this job there were a number of people that I was very close to, people who have been mentors in the past, people I had worked with at The New Yorker or at Condé Nast, or other places, or people who just knew me, they said just make sure that you trust your instincts. So, yes, if Esquire became a person, it has to be me.

On how the tragic fire where he almost lost all of his material belongings impacted him as an editor: There are moments where I would hate to see that happen again, but I think it gave me a kind of resilience and something to rely on. If I get into a moment where I’m not pushing myself hard enough or saying that something might not lead to the right place if I do that, or that might not be great for my job; I’m just really immediately able to remember that moment and say, that’s not the way that I want to be living my life and that’s not the way that I want to be editing a magazine. I want to be as fearless as I can be about it, and as much of an upstart that you can be. Don’t ever fall back into the comfort of trying to hold onto your possessions for the sake of that alone.

On is most intriguing experience so far in his career: Esquire is the crown. This one demands all of the different things I learned over the years and now know. It brings out everything I ever thought of studying and thinking about when I was at The New Yorker. It brings out all of the visual design, and tastes of the kind of questions that I learned to ask at Men’s Vogue. It requires the kind of ambidextrous editing that I learned at Town & Country. With Esquire, I don’t feel like there’s some part of me that isn’t fully engaged.

On how Esquire has always found balance for its male and female readers: It’s certainly a men’s magazine, but I realized very quickly, when we look back at that Golden Age, to me it didn’t have such a male identity that it would have been placed next to Playboy. And I don’t just mean because it didn’t have nudity; it didn’t feel chauvinist or Don Draper-ish, you know? It still had people like Nora Ephron, Joan Didion and Joy Williams writing for the magazine. The fact that it was one of the great literary magazines going, along with The New Yorker, allowed it to create a whole community of writers and voices, and therefore I think that the readers mirrored the diversity of that community too.

Esquire-cover April 1967On whether there will be another cover like the 1967 on of the “Holy Kennedy’s,” only featuring the “Holy Trumps”: I think you’re going to see some things that feels very animated by that spirit, but doesn’t seem as though it’s slavishly trying to recreate the past. The reason that we look back at those covers too is because of what they feel like; it’s not because of what they were actually about, but what they feel like. What they suggest and the creativity of them. And again, kind of like this “hang upside-down from the ceiling” sense of who created them.

On the cover image being an actual idea and story in itself: It’s not just about making the guy look good and having a handsome picture. And that’s hard to do too. I’m not looking down on that, because believe me, that can be very hard to do. But that’s just what you might call the lazy man’s approach to a magazine cover. It’s not breaking the mold. We’re living in a moment where the newsstand is not what it once was, so that’s all the more reason to break the mold again.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly at his home one evening: Fighting, for sure; I have three kids. (Laughs) I like to cook, so if I get home early enough I can blow off steam if I need to by cooking. That seems to get my mind onto one particular thing that blocks out all of the rest, and it’s very enjoyable. Of course, I’m pulled into everything that my kids are doing; I have a 14-year-old boy, two girls who are 11 and 8, so there is lots of violin practice and too many video games to fight about. And there is always a nice glass of wine, that’s for sure.

On what keeps him up at night: I’ll wake up in a sweat thinking, I haven’t dealt with the literary part of it, or the fiction, or the memoir piece; the profiles; the practical part of the magazine that will appeal to people wanting to know how to live a better life, whether it’s health or money or psychological advantages that you can have in your work. Esquire has done all of that and it’s also a magazine that is filled with pictures, so it’s a lot of plates spinning in the air, and whenever one of those plates falls off and crashes to the ground that’s when I wake up.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jay Fielden, editor in chief, Esquire.

Samir Husni: You just reinvented Esquire for the 21st century man and woman.

Jay Fielden: Yes.

Samir Husni: People always refer to the early years of Esquire as the “Golden Age,” why do you think readers care about yesterday rather than just now?

ESQ030117CoverGateFold_SUBS.pdfJay Fielden: That’s a great question and a complicated one, I think, because many things come to mind when I think about that. And certainly, first of all, there aren’t that many magazines where that’s the case. There are probably two or three that people seem to have a very vivid sense of what was and can even associate specific stories, writers, cover subjects, photographers to that period. And once someone is able to do that, you know they’re not just reaching at an abstract notion of tone or something that used to exist. And I think that’s very true.

And one reason is because it’s a very unusual thing for a magazine to be decade in and decade out as consistently good at being relevant to its readers and to the culture of the world as Esquire has been. And when you refer to the “Golden Age,” and I assume you mean the ‘60s and glances at the ‘30s and ‘40s, when Fitzgerald or Hemingway were in there; I think there is a tremendous interest in nostalgia right now and especially nostalgia of a kind that doesn’t simply feel that it’s for its own sake.

For instance, we’re considering how we might use the archives more and more, and I think that there’s a real legitimate argument to be made that if you can go back and pluck out pieces written 20 or 30 years ago that somehow bear directly on something that’s going on now, something that almost feels like it’s a forerunner to what is happening in the world today, then there’s a reason that we can maybe republish those pieces in the magazine.

It’s just an interesting moment, and one that wouldn’t have been considered at one time by any magazine, to republish something, but now there are so many other forms of media that do exactly that sort of thing. And when they give it the proper frame, it seems to work. And we want to investigate that, because I sense as you do, that there is tremendous interest in what Esquire has done and in what it’s doing.

Samir Husni: I was reading an article recently from an Esquire issue dated 1967 about a transsexual person who was in the army; so these topics that are timely today have been around for a long time.

Jay Fielden: Yes, some of these issues have always been around, but today feel like they’ve been amped up, such as what form is a women’s movement taking right now; what form is a men’s movement taking? The issue of gender orientation; the intense flare-ups in race relations; the obvious, tremendous friction, circus-like atmosphere in Washington, so many of these things feel like they were the topics of the era that would be called the “Golden Age” of Esquire, such as the issue from 1967 that you mentioned about a transsexual in the army.

It’s interesting to go back and look at what they had to say about those things then at a moment where we’re going through a lot of the reanimations of those ideas in such an intense way right now.

Samir Husni: From looking at a picture of you that has you in your office, you strike me as an editor who reads.

Jay Fielden: (Laughs) I’m glad that comes across. Yes, I do read. In fact, I wish that I could read even more. I often feel guilty for having a television set at home.

Samir Husni: (Laughs too). If I could go inside your brain, inside the mind of a great magazine maker, you hear people say that we are bombarded by information today; how do you act as the creator and curator of all of that information as you introduce the new Esquire?

Jay Fielden: Well, you’re always learning and I think that’s definitely key. Each magazine that I’ve been at, in a certain way, I’ve been prepared to take it over. And I don’t mean that in a boastful way, but I’ve also had to change my habits and reorient the way that I spend my time and think about all of the things you’re asking me. (Laughs) How are we going to digest so much information that’s out there? How am I going to create a staff in which we are able to divide things up and make sure that we all have a very clear sense of what we think the pillars of interest are in the magazine, so that we’re absolutely not missing anything when it comes to those things.

But this being a general interest magazine, really read very widely and deeply, we’re always looking for that next, fresh theme of story ideas, profile ideas and reporting ideas that will give the magazine that feeling of surprise, delight and animation.

It’s a great question, and how do I do it? I do it with the team, for sure. We all have to bear that burden together; there’s no way one person can sift through all of the stuff that’s out there. In some ways, maybe it’s a counterintuitive thing, you have to limit, to a certain extent, the pure garden-hose variety of information that comes into your life, so that you can sometimes shut that off and go down a rabbit hole or two.

I was having this thought the other day; I’m definitely a person who reads a number of newspapers every day, but lately I’ve been wondering is that really the best way to stimulate my creativity? Is that old habit something that makes me feel like I’m up-to-date or like I’ve checked that box that day, but is it really leading me to the kind of consequential, unusual stories that I really crave for Esquire to contain? Each of those habits that you form, those things that have given you gold in the past, may not be the things giving you gold anymore. We’re definitely living in a moment when, and as much as I love and respect The New York Times and enjoy, for the most part, reading it, it’s not the only place to go for a great story idea, or a glance at something that might lead to a story idea.

I’m also always on the hunt for that other source of information site, magazine, literary journal, or personality that will give me a new look at a landscape I may have not been looking at before.

Samir Husni: If I handed you a magic wand that could instantly turn Esquire into a living, breathing human being and you struck the magazine with that wand, who would immediately be standing before you? Instead of a magazine in my mailbox, I would have a person show up at my door to create that conversation. Would it be Jay Fielden?

Jay Fielden: (Laughs) That’s an interesting question. I was once watching an interview that Charlie Rose did with Quentin Tarantino from the late ‘90s, around the time of “Pulp Fiction” and Charlie Rose asked the inevitable question: Who is the viewer that you have in mind when you make your movies, and Tarantino said, it’s me. (Laughs again) He added that he knew other people would see the movie, but he had to start with himself first.

And I believe that’s very true. When I got this job there were a number of people that I was very close to, people who have been mentors in the past, people I had worked with at The New Yorker or at Condé Nast, or other places, or people who just knew me, they said just make sure that you trust your instincts. You have the instincts, so make sure you don’t get swayed by someone who thinks they know better. Now, I don’t mean that I do not collaborate with a lot of people or that I don’t listen to other people, but I think you do have to kind of live or die according to your own instincts, and if you do die, you want to be able to look back and say, I followed the instinct that I felt was right. At that point, you can’t blame it on anyone but yourself. So, yes, if Esquire became a person, it has to be me.

There’s a quote I like from Churchill when he stepped back into his office at the beginning of World War II that goes: “I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial…” And I feel like that for sure. I don’t know if it’s destiny (Laughs), but I feel like things that I’ve done have built a road all the way to the chair that I’m now sitting in. There are days that I have to remind myself, go in there and follow what it is you feel is the right thing to do, the right tone to take, the right kinds of pieces to put in the magazine.

For instance, I feel we should be publishing fiction. And I doubted that when I first got here, but I know in my heart that’s something that is very important to Esquire. In the same way that appetites come and go, trends come and go, rules about what you should and shouldn’t do with magazines come and go; I don’t think that we should let go of certain things that maybe didn’t work so well 15 years ago that could work again, depending on how you do it, how you frame it and what the look and feel of that thing is. And that’s what’s exciting to me. To realize that you can reanimate traditions as long as you’re clever enough to give it new life. And that’s what we spend a lot of our time doing.

Samir Husni: I was reading some background about you and I read about the tragic fire where you almost lost everything; all your material belongings. How did that impact you as an editor?

Jay Fielden: I have to make the point that was right after the most intense part of the financial crisis too, so there was a feeling of just not knowing what was going to happen in whatever industry you might be in, especially magazines, they felt very frozen and fragile. And I wondered would I ever go back to a magazine. It was a scary moment, and not having a job at a time when you go through an experience like losing a house and the things in it; you’re obviously thinking about how long can we get by without a job (Laughs), and you’re looking at your bank account.

And then suddenly you go into this mode of rebuilding a house and it’s almost the opposite of that. The insurance company is handing you checks and you’re looking at buying things again, wallpaper, sofas; things that two months ago you felt like you would need to be selling in order to keep going if you didn’t have a job. So, it was a very whip-saw moment to go through and I think what it really taught me was to not fall so in love with your lifestyle that you will do anything to maintain it, rather than take on the risks of the things that you really want to pursue. If I could live without my house and my things, as long as I have my family and that everybody survived, which is the key, I now know that I can survive without those things.

There are moments where I would hate to see that happen again, but I think it gave me a kind of resilience and something to rely on. If I get into a moment where I’m not pushing myself hard enough or saying that something might not lead to the right place if I do that, or that might not be great for my job; I’m just really immediately able to remember that moment and say, that’s not the way that I want to be living my life and that’s not the way that I want to be editing a magazine. I want to be as fearless as I can be about it, and as much of an upstart that you can be. Don’t ever fall back into the comfort of trying to hold onto your possessions for the sake of that alone.

Samir Husni: You’ve been editor in chief now for three major magazines, Men’s Vogue, Town & Country and now Esquire, and forgive me if I’m leaving any out, but those are the three that come to mind. So far, what has been the most intriguing moment in your career; launching a new magazine like Men’s Vogue, or reinventing Town & Country, or reinventing Esquire?

Jay Fielden: They’ve all been fascinating. Certainly, this has taken everything I’ve got, and it continues to. In that way, the level of satisfaction in editing Esquire is off the charts, and grows each day.

When it came to Men’s Vogue, obviously the experience of working with Anna (Wintour) and figuring out what the men’s version of a magazine as famous and as iconic as Vogue and so associated with women, would be. It was fascinating and fun and a great looking magazine that I’m very proud of. It’s where I learned so much about the world of style and the worldliness and level of taste that is so represented by Vogue. That was an exciting and great experience.

And Town & Country was probably great and exciting because it was so unexpected. I don’t know that I ever considered Men’s Vogue would lead to Town & Country. I always knew if I was at Men’s Vogue, there might be Esquire and some others; I was in that pool. And I thought of Esquire many times. As much as I liked what I was doing, I couldn’t help but think about a magazine with the iconic status of Esquire.

But then I went to Town & Country and I deeply loved that experience too, because I do have some strange ability to, or at least the experience of having been at a women’s magazine, that I could kind of create a hybrid book. And Town & Country is intrinsically that kind of thing. It leans female, but it’s got a male sensibility to it. That was very exciting and great, and being able to go into a rarefied world, that yet is full of a lot of interesting stories about how the American establishment works, meaning powerful, moneyed people who control a lot more than you might at first imagine; it was a great experience.

But Esquire is the crown. This one demands all of the different things I learned over the years and now know. It brings out everything I ever thought of studying and thinking about when I was at The New Yorker. It brings out all of the visual design, and tastes of the kind of questions that I learned to ask at Men’s Vogue. It requires the kind of ambidextrous editing that I learned at Town & Country. With Esquire, I don’t feel like there’s some part of me that isn’t fully engaged.

Samir Husni: How do you continue to balance Esquire for your male and female readers?

Jay Fielden: It’s certainly a men’s magazine, but I realized very quickly, when we look back at that Golden Age, to me it didn’t have such a male identity that it would have been placed next to Playboy. And I don’t just mean because it didn’t have nudity; it didn’t feel chauvinist or Don Draper-ish, you know? It still had people like Nora Ephron, Joan Didion and Joy Williams writing for the magazine. The fact that it was one of the great literary magazines going, along with The New Yorker, it created a whole community of writers and voices, and therefore I think that the readers mirrored the diversity of that community too. And that included diversity in the writers, in terms of black, white, etc.

That to me is a great strength that is timeless, especially in a moment like now. It seems to me that it’s backward-looking to want to be too reflective of one gender. To the point that I think even that one gender might get a little freaked out. (Laughs) It might make them feel like they’re in an isolation chamber. I just think it’s more fun and interesting, and it’s more of a reflection of how we all live our lives. Certainly, I’m not going to do pieces about couture for women; the fashion will be largely for men’s fashion. Will there sometimes be women who are in those shoots and might be wearing clothes, yes. And when they are, I think the level of what those women would be wearing should be as knowledgeable as what the men have on.

I really think that we need the push and pull of female voices and editors, filling the magazine with that kind of tension that makes it really interesting and makes the reader ask what’s going on here, this is fascinating and I’m really engrossed by what the magazine is thinking. Tom Wolfe described it back in 1972 as the editors of Esquire hanging upside-down from the ceiling. There’s something to that; it’s very Wolfian, but I think it’s accurate. You get a vision of something that’s fun and funny, a bit cabaret-like; I want people to not only have fun when they look at the magazine, but to know that we’re having fun.

One of my greatest challenges is, in a weird way, being able to answer a question honestly, which I get all the time, “Are you having fun?” I think when you first take over a magazine; I don’t know how much fun you’re having, to be honest with you. (Laughs) It’s a lot of work, and you’re worried about being worthy of the work you’ve been given. So, fun is a hard thing to find, but I had lunch with Frank Bennack right after I got the job, and he gave me a very good piece of advice, which was, you have to find a way to have fun. If you don’t have fun, it will show up in the magazine. And I think he was very right about that.

You have to get to a point where, yes, at the beginning, you go through staff changes and redesigns and you look for new writers and deal with the hair-raising experience of not knowing how much to assign for the next issue, which we’re still kind of in that mode to a certain extent. There’s a lot of stuff that’s just dyspeptic about the process, but I think right now, having gotten that March issue out and having the redesign out there, and with starting to get a sense for the number of writers and photographers that we have, finding out who our people are and who the family is, and reconnecting with some of the very important voices of the past to feel that depth of knowledge, well, it feels like fun now. And the more fun it is, the more fun the magazine will be. And that’s a great feeling.

Samir Husni: Since you’re having so much fun, do you think we’ll ever see a cover like the one in 1967 with the “Holy Kennedy’s” by Gore Vidal? Will we see the “Holy Trumps?”

Jay Fielden: (Laughs) I think you’re going to see some things that feels very animated by that spirit, but doesn’t seem as though it’s slavishly trying to recreate the past. The reason that we look back at those covers too is because of what they feel like; it’s not because of what they were actually about, but what they feel like. What they suggest and the creativity of them. And again, kind of like this “hang upside-down from the ceiling” sense of who created them.

And they’re also original and charming, and they’re sharp, witty and ironic. And I think all of those things very much have to live in the magazine today. Not to say that they haven’t been, in one form or another, but to bring them sharply together and to have the guts to push the covers, yes, I want to go back to what I said about what the fire taught me. Not to be timid, but to be completely strong about pushing the limits of what it is we should do, and to take real risks.

I don’t know if you saw the Pharrell Williams cover that we did of him holding the balloon. I think that cover has that feeling, a slight melancholy wit to it. It’s an unusual cover. But this is a “glossy” magazine, we take pictures of guys and they’re usually wearing clothes that we’ve put on them, so there is a kind of hangover that it always has to be a hot celebrity and that guy has to be a craggy, great-looking hunk, and then dust off your hands and move to the center of the book. I think there’s plenty of reason to do stuff like that, it’s valuable, especially when you pick the right guys who have something going on. But, like the Corden cover, you just need to get guys who are also from a different walk of life and who can represent something different. And then do something different with them that just isn’t an earnest attempt at taking a beautiful picture of someone.

Samir Husni: That’s what I felt with the new Esquire; the cover image is a story by itself.

Jay Fielden: Yes, it’s an idea. It’s not just about making the guy look good and having a handsome picture. And that’s hard to do too. I’m not looking down on that, because believe me, that can be very hard to do. But that’s just what you might call the lazy man’s approach to a magazine cover. It’s not breaking the mold. We’re living in a moment where the newsstand is not what it once was, so that’s all the more reason to break the mold again.

Samir Husni: If I showed up at your home unexpectedly one evening, what would I find you doing; having a glass of wine; reading a book; watching TV; biking; or something else?

Jay Fielden: Fighting, for sure; I have three kids. (Laughs) I like to cook, so if I get home early enough I can blow off steam if I need to by cooking. That seems to get my mind onto one particular thing that blocks out all of the rest, and it’s very enjoyable. Of course, I’m pulled into everything that my kids are doing; I have a 14-year-old boy, two girls who are 11 and 8, so there is lots of violin practice and too many video games to fight about. And there is always a nice glass of wine, that’s for sure.

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

Jay Fielden: I would say the overall goal of being worthy of the mission. I know that sounds very earnest, but I mean it in the sense of being hyper aware of the editors who have sat in this chair before, from Harold Hayes to David Granger, and the personal stamp that they put on the magazine.

And yet, as I said at the very beginning, it was held to this Uber standard and has been able to hold onto all the strands that make Esquire what it is today, and make it relevant in its own time and place. That keeps me up, in the sense that I’ll say, yes, I’ve got this part kind of settled. I know what these four pieces about this particular subject are and yes, I’m going to feel good about that, because the next issue is going to stand up its tent pole and not fall down.

Of course, I’ll wake up in a sweat thinking, I haven’t dealt with the literary part of it, or the fiction, or the memoir piece; the profiles; the practical part of the magazine that will appeal to people wanting to know how to live a better life, whether it’s health or money or psychological advantages that you can have in your work. Esquire has done all of that and it’s also a magazine that is filled with pictures, so it’s a lot of plates spinning in the air, and whenever one of those plates falls off and crashes to the ground that’s when I wake up.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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ROVA Magazine: A New Magazine For Millennials Who Love Their RV’s & Hitting The Open Road For Epic Adventures – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Gemma Peckham, Publisher & Editor, ROVA Magazine…

March 3, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

ROVA Issue 1“Sometimes I stop and wonder if I’ve gone a bit crazy, but I think those segments of millennials and younger people who are really into things that are a little bit retro, and who want authenticity and something that they can actually touch and hold; perhaps they even have a little bit of Internet fatigue, you know? There is a lot of scope for a magazine like ROVA, which is a niche area for these millennials who are out there on the road traveling. What I’m hoping is that it sticks to them and they enjoy reading it every few months.” Gemma Peckham (On whether she’s out of her mind for launching a print magazine for millennials)…

RV’s and millennials, the two haven’t necessarily gone together in the past, but a new title called ROVA thinks that they certainly do conjoin on today’s modern roadmaps. Gemma Peckham is a publisher and editor who works for an Australian company that has decided the United States has the right canvas to paint this particular portrait of millennials and RV’s on. And from the feedback she said she is receiving from the magazine’s premiere issue, they seem to be right.

I spoke with Gemma recently and we talked about the uniqueness of the concept. The premise is many millennials and Gen Xer’s are taking to the open road to work, explore and experience authentic, retro life. It’s a niche area usually reserved for retirees, but Gemma said that is no longer the case. From research she conducted herself; she discovered that RV buyers in the U.S. were getting younger by the mile and were off to find epic adventure in their homes on wheels.

Gemma herself is a digital nomad, as she describes younger people who like to jump in an RV and go, she loves road travel and she loves print magazines. And she believes that many millennials are a bit Internet fatigued, as she puts it, and Mr. Magazine™ would have to agree with her. There is nothing like the tangible print experience.

So, grab your paper map and your homey RV and let’s hit the road with Gemma Peckham, publisher and editor, ROVA magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

Gemma PeckhamOn whether she thinks she’s out of her mind for launching a print magazine for millennials: (Laughs) That is a very good question, and one that I’ve been asked numerous times. Sometimes I stop and wonder if I’ve gone a bit crazy, but I think those segments of millennials and younger people who are really into things that are a little bit retro, and who want authenticity and something that they can actually touch and hold; perhaps they even have a little bit of Internet fatigue, you know? There is a lot of scope for a magazine like ROVA, which is a niche area for these millennials who are out there on the road traveling. What I’m hoping is that it sticks to them and they enjoy reading it every few months.

On what her thinking was behind the premise of RV traveling for millennials: I’m from Australia and it came about because I work at a publishing company there, which I’ve brought here to New York, and we had a magazine there for RV traveling and it was called “Caravanning Australia” and it was very targeted toward the retired market, the audience had an average age of about 60 or so. When I decided to come here and bring the company over to the states, I looked at RVing here, because obviously we have experience in that area. And I did a bit of research and one of the things that I discovered was that the largest group of people buying RV’s currently is between the ages of 35-44. So, the demographic is slowly, but surely getting younger.

On the biggest challenge she faced in launching this first issue: Number one for us is this is the very first magazine that we’ve made in the United States. So, in terms of just making people aware of who we are and what we do, and then also trying to communicate the idea for this magazine to them was a bit of a challenge. And I guess that relates to advertising as well, as you said, some people asked were we crazy for doing a print magazine for millennials who are RV enthusiasts. They thought it was a very strange concept.

On how she is combining her passion for the magazine with business: In ROVA’s case, this is both. The stories that we have here and the kind of content that I’m curating for the magazine is really what I would like to read and other travelers that I know would like to read. We’ve created the design so that it appeals to people in my age group. But by the same token, I’m fully aware of the fact that we really need to make sure that what we’re putting into the magazine is really appealing to advertisers, because without them it’s not going to work.

On the future and other plans in the works: We definitely have more plans. ROVA is obviously our flagship publication at the moment, it’s the one we’ve been able to promote and it’s doing quite well. We think it’s doing quite well from the feedback we’re getting. The plan for ROVA is just to grow it, make it bigger and get it out there, and build on that. But Executive Media Global is a publishing company that’s based on a model in Australia where we have 50 or 60 different titles that we produce every year.

On her plan for connecting ROVA with its audience: Digital is a big part of it for us, simply because that’s where millennials and Gen Xer’s go to get their information. Other than that, we’re going toward a number of RV shows. For example, Escapees, which is a big RV club and they have a big yearly event. So, we have a booth and we’re going out there, where we’ll actually be talking to people and connecting with them, and showing them the magazine. We have plans to do a few of those over the next few months to get this first edition out there.

On whether she found any differences in traveling with an RV in the United States versus Australia and New Zealand: It’s very similar in one way, which is the size of the country. The size of the U.S. is very similar to the size of Australia. Road trips are a really big part of the way people explore their own countries. So, that’s very similar, both here and in Australia.

On any plans to take the magazine to Australia: I don’t know. I believe Australia is moving in a similar direction with the age of the people who are taking up the RV way of traveling. It could work. I think probably what we would do, because this is a very U.S.-centric publication, we could potentially make an Australian focus, and I think that’s definitely something that isn’t out of the question. It’s something that we have the resources to do.

On anything she’d like to add: The main thing that I’m experiencing is I have been so overwhelmingly pleased with the feedback that we’ve gotten and the way that people receive new magazines here. It’s very different than t is in Australia; people really give you kudos if you have an idea and you take it to the market and if you have passion behind the product, I think that people react in a really positive way. And that’s something that I’ve been really surprised by; the support and encouragement that we’ve gotten for this magazine. And that’s one of the things that make me happiest and most satisfied doing this, just seeing the reaction from people. And feeling like that we’re on the right track.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly to her home one evening: It will depend upon how hard the day was. After a very hard day, yes, it will be binge-watching TV and having a glass of wine. Otherwise, I know it’s very strange, since I work in publishing, but I like to read when I go home. I’ll read the latest book that has caught my attention, or just having dinner with my husband and chatting, just catching up on the day.

On what keeps her up at night: Usually I go to sleep pretty quickly, but the status of politics in this country probably keeps everyone up. (Laughs) But usually I’m just daydreaming about different things, whether it’s personal or something to do with the magazine. And new ideas, imaginations, travel destinations, things like that. I’m always thinking of what’s next in my life, so that takes up a lot of my headspace when I have free time.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Gemma Peckham, publisher and editor, ROVA magazine.

Samir Husni: You’re embarking on this new venture, a print magazine, for millennials. Are you out of your mind?

ROVA Issue 1Gemma Peckham: (Laughs) That is a very good question, and one that I’ve been asked numerous times. Sometimes I stop and wonder if I’ve gone a bit crazy, but I think those segments of millennials and younger people who are really into things that are a little bit retro, and who want authenticity and something that they can actually touch and hold; perhaps they even have a little bit of Internet fatigue, you know? There is a lot of scope for a magazine like ROVA, which is a niche area for these millennials who are out there on the road traveling. What I’m hoping is that it sticks to them and they enjoy reading it every few months.

Samir Husni: Not only is there a tendency for people to think you might be crazy because this magazine is targeted toward millennials and it’s in print, but you might be considered double-crazy because it’s for millennials who also like to travel in RV’s, rather than retirees. When most people think about RV travelers, retirees come to mind. What was your thinking on this?

Gemma Peckham: I’m from Australia and it came about because I work at a publishing company there, which I’ve brought here to New York, and we had a magazine there for RV traveling and it was called “Caravanning Australia” and it was very targeted toward the retired market, the audience had an average age of about 60 or so.

When I decided to come here and bring the company over to the states, I looked at RVing here, because obviously we have experience in that area. And I did a bit of research and one of the things that I discovered was that the largest group of people buying RV’s currently is between the ages of 35-44. So, the demographic is slowly, but surely getting younger.

And that seemed very positive to me, because I’ve been all over RVing myself, and I’m just a millennial, right on the cusp between a millennial and Gen X, and I’ve driven an RV across the states, around New Zealand, and in Europe. And to me there is a culture there that is really growing that isn’t necessarily catered to by any of the publications out there at the moment. The main RV magazines in America are “MotorHome” and “Trailer Life” and they do incredibly well. They’re geared toward the older, retired RV users, but there is this whole contingent of people who are missing out on a quality, print product that speaks to them and shows the kind of experiences that they want.

So, we set up shop and we’ll see how it goes. There’s obviously a bit of a lack in the market. We thought that we could reach a younger audience and appeal to millennials. And we’re giving it a shot. We’ll see how it goes. So far, the feedback has been great. We’ve managed to sell some advertising, and obviously that was a very important thing. I’m hoping that it will keep growing.

Samir Husni: As I look at the first issue, which recently hit newsstands, what was the biggest challenge that you had to face in launching it and how did you overcome that challenge?

Gemma Peckham: Number one for us is this is the very first magazine that we’ve made in the United States. So, in terms of just making people aware of who we are and what we do, and then also trying to communicate the idea for this magazine to them was a bit of a challenge. And I guess that relates to advertising as well, as you said, some people asked were we crazy for doing a print magazine for millennials who are RV enthusiasts. They thought it was a very strange concept.

Being able to communicate this vision that was something a bit different and probably unexpected was a bit of a challenge. But when you have something that you really believe in as we do, it’s easier. I have a vested interest in it just because this is the kind of stuff that I love. Our sales team is really excited about the product, so all of that has really helped to communicate to people what we’re doing. And it’s turned out well. In the first edition we have something like 15-16 advertisers, and in the next edition, which we’re working on now, we have a similar amount already, so it looks like it’s going to be a little bit bigger.

In terms of challenges, just really making ourselves known and getting the word out about what we’re doing would be the number one challenge.

Samir Husni: You wrote in the first issue that you started ROVA because you love road travel and you love print magazines. So, is it a magazine based on passion? How are you combining the passion part with the business part?

Gemma PeckhamGemma Peckham: It’s definitely a bit of both. When I was in Australia I tried to start a similar magazine, but it was more global travel than RV travel. And that was something that was definitely a passion for me, because I have traveled a lot and it was something that I felt really strongly about. And I think we did have a really strong niche for that magazine, but it was competing with a lot of other travel magazines and it just wasn’t getting the advertising that it needed to. From that experience I learned that it doesn’t really matter how much passion you have for something, if it doesn’t fit into a market in some way, it may not work.

But in ROVA’s case, this is both. The stories that we have here and the kind of content that I’m curating for the magazine is really what I would like to read and other travelers that I know would like to read. We’ve created the design so that it appeals to people in my age group. But by the same token, I’m fully aware of the fact that we really need to make sure that what we’re putting into the magazine is really appealing to advertisers, because without them it’s not going to work.

We’ve put a lot of effort into marketing; we had a 1,000 followers on Instagram before the magazine was even launched, which was great. It’s really a matter of balancing the two. I’ve been working in magazine publishing for 10 years and over that time I’ve learned that no matter how much you want something to work, it’s not going to unless you have a business plan in place as well.

Samir Husni: Tell me a little about your future plans. You’ve established a magazine and yourselves in the United States; what’s next? Is ROVA going to be the entire ball of wax or you have other things in the works?

Gemma Peckham: We definitely have more plans. ROVA is obviously our flagship publication at the moment, it’s the one we’ve been able to promote and it’s doing quite well. We think it’s doing quite well from the feedback we’re getting. The plan for ROVA is just to grow it, make it bigger and get it out there, and build on that. But Executive Media Global is a publishing company that’s based on a model in Australia where we have 50 or 60 different titles that we produce every year.

So, what we’re trying to do here is build a publishing company in a similar way and it will take a while. We already have another magazine that we’re working on, which is a custom publication for a private club in New York City, in Manhattan. What we do for them is produce a magazine for their membership and the magazine is sent to every member of this club, as well as targeted to essential members. So, that’s another aspect of the business that we established in Australia and we’re trying to establish here, custom publishing on behalf of organizations, clubs and those sorts of things. And that’s what we’re looking at for the moment, just trying to get some partnerships happening and build a stable of publications.

Samir Husni: What is your mechanism for connecting ROVA, the printed magazine, with its audience?

Gemma Peckham: Digital is a big part of it for us, simply because that’s where millennials and Gen Xer’s go to get their information. Other than that, we’re going toward a number of RV shows. For example, Escapees, which is a big RV club and they have a big yearly event. So, we have a booth and we’re going out there, where we’ll actually be talking to people and connecting with them, and showing them the magazine. We have plans to do a few of those over the next few months to get this first edition out there.

Other than that, just reaching out to PR companies; sending out press releases. We’ve been interviewed by a couple of the online RV news sources, industry people, manufacturers and dealers. So, it’s really just a matter of finding the kinds of people that we think would disseminate this kind of information, putting ourselves in front of them and hoping they see enough value in our product to tell their audiences about it.

Samir Husni: Content-wise, you mentioned that you’ve taken a few trips in the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Did you find any differences between traveling with RV’s here, in the United States, versus other countries?

Gemma Peckham: It’s very similar in one way, which is the size of the country. The size of the U.S. is very similar to the size of Australia. Road trips are a really big part of the way people explore their own countries. So, that’s very similar, both here and in Australia.

But I do think that in the United States there’s a bigger group of younger people who are doing this. What they’re trying to do is get out and see their country, have these really authentic experiences. They’re all about living life on their own terms, so they’re trying to make a life for themselves that they enjoy. A lot of them work through this too; they call themselves digital nomads. So, they might be graphic designers or writers or photographers. There’s a lot of that happening here; instead of people doing a normal 9 to 5 job, they decide to get out and work from there. And I think that’s something that’s a lot bigger here than it is in Australia. In general though, the cultures are pretty similar. Hit the road, drive to the place that you’ve always wanted to see, interact with people along the way, and just enjoy yourselves.

Samir Husni: I noticed that the company that’s publishing the magazine, Executive Media Global, lists not only New York, but Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Any plans to take the magazine to Australia?

Gemma Peckham: I don’t know. I believe Australia is moving in a similar direction with the age of the people who are taking up the RV way of traveling. It could work. I think probably what we would do, because this is a very U.S.-centric publication, we could potentially make an Australian focus, and I think that’s definitely something that isn’t out of the question. It’s something that we have the resources to do.

The thing with launching a magazine here as opposed to in Australia, we just have such a huge audience as a population; I can’t remember what exactly the difference in population is, but it’s quite substantial. Australia only has 20-25 million people, where the U.S. is around 370 million. I think ROVA is working because we really do have a large audience, but in Australia, we did very well with “Caravanning Australia” magazine, so it’s definitely something we’ll look at down the road.

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

Gemma Peckham: The main thing that I’m experiencing is I have been so overwhelmingly pleased with the feedback that we’ve gotten and the way that people receive new magazines here. It’s very different than t is in Australia; people really give you kudos if you have an idea and you take it to the market and if you have passion behind the product, I think that people react in a really positive way. And that’s something that I’ve been really surprised by; the support and encouragement that we’ve gotten for this magazine. And that’s one of the things that make me happiest and most satisfied doing this, just seeing the reaction from people. And feeling like that we’re on the right track.

Samir Husni: If I showed up at your home unexpectedly one evening, what would I find you doing; watching TV with a glass of wine; flipping through a magazine; or on the road in an RV?

Gemma Peckham: (Laughs) It will depend upon how hard the day was. After a very hard day, yes, it will be binge-watching TV and having a glass of wine. Otherwise, I know it’s very strange, since I work in publishing, but I like to read when I go home. I’ll read the latest book that has caught my attention, or just having dinner with my husband and chatting, just catching up on the day. Or I’ll go to the gym, if I’m feeling really energetic.

Samir Husni: Are those books you read ink on paper or e-books?

Gemma Peckham: Right now, I’m reading a paper book. But generally, I read on my Kindle, because it’s so much easier to store, because I travel with it. I just love being able to carry a 1,000 books with me if I want to.

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

Gemma Peckham: Good question. Usually I go to sleep pretty quickly, but the status of politics in this country probably keeps everyone up. (Laughs) But usually I’m just daydreaming about different things, whether it’s personal or something to do with the magazine. And new ideas, imaginations, travel destinations, things like that. I’m always thinking of what’s next in my life, so that takes up a lot of my headspace when I have free time.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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