Archive for the ‘Innovation in print’ Category

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Condé Nast’s President & CEO, Bob Sauerberg, to Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “I Think That Print Is Really Here To Stay; Consumers Just Love It. And I Think That They Love Our Magazines And They Love Other Companies’ Magazines.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

November 17, 2017

“We’re building a big experiences business. It’s not just that everything is going digital, consumers also want to have real experiences. And we see that as a big business. My plan isn’t just the plan to pivot to digital; it’s a plan to build great brands and different forms of content in a variety of platforms. And that’s what really makes our future so exciting and so dynamic.” Bob Sauerberg…

“What’s been the most exciting thing to happen over this time is the consumer’s willingness to pay for quality content in all forms, be it print, digital, etc. And that’s a trend that’s increasing and is an exciting thing for folks that want to create great content for consumers. It’s going to allow us to think about all kinds of different ways that we can sell direct, so that’s an exciting shift over that time period.” Bob Sauerberg…

In January 2016, Condé Nast, one of the world’s most highly regarded and watched magazine media companies, with revered titles such as The New Yorker, Vogue, GQ, Vanity Fair, Wired, W, and Glamour, elevated Bob Sauerberg to the position of President and CEO, and the company has been moving forward with forceful and news-generating changes ever since. In less than two years under his CEO tenure, Condé Nast has seen more changes than the entire decade before. Following a strategy that is permeating the industry with premium content across all platforms, Condé Nast also has seen its digital revenues increase; has created different brand collections at the company, such as the Women’s Collection under the leadership of Alison Moore, and the Culture Collection under the leadership of Chris Mitchell; and has launched a digital-only platform, Them, that has seen phenomenal success, all without putting its traditional print content on the backburner. In short, Condé Nast is gearing up for a very exciting future and Bob Sauerberg is steady and strong at the helm.

I spoke with Bob recently and we talked about the changes and shifts throughout Condé Nast’s hallowed halls. From the departure of Graydon Carter as Vanity Fair’s editor in chief, to Radhika Jones being named as his successor, Bob expressed confidence and excitement about the company’s future. His supreme belief in the talented people who create Condé Nast’s high quality products is palpable, and his vision is on mark and focused when it comes to what he sees for the company’s future: sealing its position as a premium media company, diverse and varied, but with one sacred cow; the company’s valued position as a high-quality content-maker with 100 + years of expertise.

So, without further ado, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Bob Sauerberg, president & CEO, Condé Nast.

But first the sound-bites:

On his upcoming second anniversary as CEO of Condé Nast and how he would evaluate those first two years: My first two years have been very focused on putting the people, the employees, in place to do that. It’s not just words, there has to be a lot of action; reprioritizing which platforms we’re going to be publishing our content on over time, and really getting us properly set up so that we can scale those new growth initiatives.

On what percent of the strategic goals he set forth for Condé Nast he feels he’s at right now: We’re probably about 75 percent there. I think the foundation is all set, but it’s been disruptive. Going through massive change like this is incredibly disruptive. It’s very easy to put it down on paper and set up the vision, but it’s really harder to get people to understand it and execute it.

On the biggest challenge he’s had to face since putting those strategic goals in place: I’m going to say that the biggest challenges are culture. Every industry that’s going through massive transformation, by definition, if you’ve been a traditional business that’s been around for 100+ years like we have; we’ve created real expertise in content making, particularly in magazines. And as you go through these transformations, you’re doing different things, so getting the organization to change at a pace that’s at or greater than the marketplace is really difficult.

On whether anything has surprised him during the almost 18 years total that he’s been at Condé Nast: I’ll tell you what surprises me now, and I’ve been saying this forever, but the rate of change; I’ve been telling people that it’s going to keep changing faster than it has in the past, but it’s really mind-blowing to see how the marketplace is changing, particularly the advertising marketplace. It’s astonishing to see how there is always constant shift and change. So, that’s one change that’s been frustrating and perhaps difficult.

On whether he thinks he’ll see the day at Condé Nast where revenue is coming from both print and digital: Yes, I do. Our strategy for the next three years; the digital aspects of our business will be at least 50 percent. And I’m hoping within that composition that a big piece of that is coming from the consumer and not just from the advertiser.

On what the reader can expect from a Bob Sauerberg tenure with all of the changes that are taking place at Condé Nast: The latest announcement is the replacement of Graydon Carter, and that’s with Radhika Jones, who is an absolutely fabulous editor, and one with really endless potential. She’s brilliant; she’s innovative; she’s experienced on all platforms; and she has relationships with people everywhere, and she’s a very cool person. So, that’s the latest. And you’ve seen over the last couple of years a lot of changes; senior management here, and yes, these are my people and I’m really proud of them.

On whether there are any of the Condé Nast brands that would be considered sacred cows: What’s sacred here is quality content. That’s our expertise and it has been for 100 years. We may monetize that content differently over time; we may prioritize different brands at different points in time, because the marketplace changes. Those are all shifts that will happen naturally, but the DNA of our company, the expertise of it, is our quality content and that’s sacred.

On whether he can envision a day there isn’t a printed Vogue or Vanity Fair: I actually really don’t. I think that print is really here to stay; consumers just love it. And I think that they love our magazines and they love other companies’ magazines. All you have to do is hop on an airplane, or you’re sitting at a resort or something, by a pool, and everyone is reading a magazine.

On the thinking process behind folding a magazine such as Teen Vogue, and launching a digital-only entity such as Them: The print advertising business for the teen categories has just been struggling for some period of time. So, we just determined that when we looked out over the three-year plan, that we were fighting that platform; the cost versus the return; we were just finding a marketplace that was not going to return an outcome that we really liked. And most of our revenue was coming from our digital business; it had already transitioned to a digital brand. And we’re just getting started with Them. How many platforms we’re publishing; how things play out; that will change over time, but it could very well be a great magazine opportunity. But we’re just out of the gate and it’s wildly successful so far.

On whether he ever dreamed when he was a student at the University of Arkansas that he would one day become the leader of one the major publishing companies in the world: No, I really didn’t. I’ll tell you something; I’ve never interviewed for a job. I haven’t, I just sort of always tried to redefine every job I was in, and evidently people liked what they saw. I’ve always thought about the future and developing whatever I was doing. I’m obviously motivated, but I never really had a specific outcome that I had planned for my career. These things just sort of played out through just trying to do good work.

On being quoted as saying that he does not motivate people, he hires motivated people: I think that’s true. I would also say that my leadership approach is very much focused on mentoring and developing great people, so I’m not trying to put myself on the pedestal; I’m trying to keep the company on the pedestal. And then having all of the boats that we have rowing toward the vision that we all believe in. And I think motivated people like that.

On whether there are any surprises in store between now and the end of the year: It’s been reported that we’re gearing up to announce a Glamour editor, and I think that will probably be the last bit of noise that you’ll hear from us until 2018.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: Bold.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: I’m a SoulCycler. I’m the oldest guy SoulCycling in the back row. (Laughs) But I’m exercising hard. I’m not sure you have that in Mississippi, but it’s a cycling class that is an incredible workout for 45 minutes. It’s a real fun thing to do.

On what keeps him up at night: It really goes back to molding the culture, because I think that we’re working on the right things; we know what we need to do, and getting individuals there and really working on the right things, getting that culture right is really the thing that keeps me up.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Bob Sauerberg, president and CEO, Condé Nast.

Samir Husni: In January 2018, you’ll complete your second year as CEO of Condé Nast, and probably in that last two years there have been more changes at Condé Nast than in the previous decade. How would you evaluate those first two years?

Bob Sauerberg: I would say that our transformation plan is very focused on maintaining our leadership position of putting out the best magazines in the world. And trying to turn the magazine business into a better business by using that foundation to develop a very significant digital, video, branded content, and data business. And these experiences could really fuel our growth long-term, because the magazine business is obviously not a growing business.

My first two years have been very focused on putting the people, the employees, in place to do that. It’s not just words, there has to be a lot of action; reprioritizing which platforms we’re going to be publishing our content on over time, and really getting us properly set up so that we can scale those new growth initiatives. And everything we’ve done over the last two years has been really in concert with that plan.

Samir Husni: And if you were going to give yourself a grade, and I know it’s very tough to be your own professor and student at the same time, but do you feel that you’ve accomplished 90. 95, or 100 percent of that new strategic goal you put forth for Condé Nast?

Bob Sauerberg: We’re probably about 75 percent there. I think the foundation is all set, but it’s been disruptive. Going through massive change like this is incredibly disruptive. It’s very easy to put it down on paper and set up the vision, but it’s really harder to get people to understand it and execute it.

This year we reorganized our sales organization from 22 different siloed brands – 22 different sales organizations into one, which was a massive undertaking. Recently, we had our first national sales and marketing leadership meeting that the company has ever had, and it was the most satisfying day of my career at Condé Nast. We came together and it was incredibly clear the things that we could do differently to provide scaled programs for the marketplace, as well as amazing, individually branded things. So, I would say that when you go through transformation, the scorecard continually changes. And I’m feeling really good about the foundation we’ve put in place.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest challenge that you’ve had to face since you began these changes?

Bob Sauerberg: I’m going to say that the biggest challenges are culture. Every industry that’s going through massive transformation, by definition, if you’ve been a traditional business that’s been around for 100+ years like we have; we’ve created real expertise in content making, particularly in magazines.

And as you go through these transformations, you’re doing different things, so getting the organization to change at a pace that’s at or greater than the marketplace is really difficult. You’ve got digital organization that’s coming in, that can do things quicker, and they have to work with the traditional content-makers who are so important to us. So, getting them to really find a way to work together, not frustrate each other, but really work together is the biggest challenge. When it happens and it works, it’s the greatest thing you’ve ever seen, when you’ve got talented people coming together toward a really great outcome.

Samir Husni: You’ve been at Condé Nast since 2000, so you’ve been there since the beginning of the 21st century, has anything surprised you in those 18 years?

Bob Sauerberg: I’ll tell you what surprises me now, and I’ve been saying this forever, but the rate of change; I’ve been telling people that it’s going to keep changing faster than it has in the past, but it’s really mind-blowing to see how the marketplace is changing, particularly the advertising marketplace. It’s astonishing to see how there is always constant shift and change. So, that’s one change that’s been frustrating and perhaps difficult.

What’s been the most exciting thing to happen over this time is the consumer’s willingness to pay for quality content in all forms, be it print, digital, etc. And that’s a trend that’s increasing and is an exciting thing for folks that want to create great content for consumers. It’s going to allow us to think about all kinds of different ways that we can sell direct, so that’s an exciting shift over that time period.

Samir Husni: I spoke with Chris Mitchell recently and he was telling me that The New Yorker is now almost at a 50-50 revenue break between print and digital. Do you think you’ll see the day at Condé Nast where almost all of the content is generating revenue both from print and digital?

Bob Sauerberg: Yes, I do. Our strategy for the next three years; the digital aspects of our business will be at least 50 percent. And I’m hoping within that composition that a big piece of that is coming from the consumer and not just from the advertiser.

The New Yorker very quietly has had one of the most successful consumer paywalls in existence. It’s a huge business and growing fast. And that’s a very prideful thing for a company, because we’ve got hundreds of thousands of people paying us for content in a variety of formats, in both digital and print. We’re feeling really good about that, and separately, we’re building a big experiences business. It’s not just that everything is going digital, consumers also want to have real experiences. And we see that as a big business.

My plan isn’t just the plan to pivot to digital; it’s a plan to build great brands and different forms of content in a variety of platforms. And that’s what really makes our future so exciting and so dynamic.

Samir Husni: With all of the changes that are taking place, and the fact that you’re also the first CEO without S.I. Newhouse in the house; will we be seeing more of Bob Sauerberg’s fingerprints upon the magazine? From the choices of new editors to the choices for new chief business officers; what can we, the readers, expect from a Bob Sauerberg tenure at Condé Nast?

Bob Sauerberg: The latest announcement is the replacement of Graydon Carter, and that’s with Radhika Jones, who is an absolutely fabulous editor, and one with really endless potential. She’s brilliant; she’s innovative; she’s experienced on all platforms; and she has relationships with people everywhere, and she’s a very cool person. So, that’s the latest.

And you’ve seen over the last couple of years a lot of changes; senior management here, and yes, these are my people and I’m really proud of them. They’re coming to the table with a couple of simple common traits, and one is that they want to do something really special and they want to do something that really creates a level of influence over the world that doesn’t exist elsewhere.

They come with skills that are expansive and not set on just one platform. And they not only want to do it, they know how to do it, whether it’s a chief business officer or an editor, or quite frankly, our digital team, who are really quite fabulous here. And our video team. The entertainment group we have here is second to none.

We started Condé Nast Entertainment five years ago. We had no video views; we were not doing video at all. And this year we’ll have 11 billion views of short-form video; five or six TV shows in production; a movie that’s out in the theaters now, with more to come; and this didn’t exist five years ago. It was an idea that I basically had on my whiteboard and we hired Dawn Ostroff and we made that happen.

What I’m proud about is that we have seen the trends; we know what they are and we’re trying to really balance out where we put our time, attention and investment, between the things that got us here, these great magazines that we produce, and these great brands that were created under S.I.’s leadership. So now, we’re finding ways to spin them into other platforms and to build other businesses around them and change the business model. All these things take time and determination, but it’s really happening and it’s not like a business plan; it’s real action and real revenue and real profit.

Samir Husni: As you move forward, are there any sacred cows with any of the brands, be it print or digital, or you’re going to do whatever it takes to stick to that strategy?

Bob Sauerberg: What’s sacred here is quality content. That’s our expertise and it has been for 100 years. We may monetize that content differently over time; we may prioritize different brands at different points in time, because the marketplace changes. Those are all shifts that will happen naturally, but the DNA of our company, the expertise of it, is our quality content and that’s sacred.

Now, will we figure out how to create that content with different cross-structures or different approaches, of course, everyone will do that, but I want our content to lead our company and I want it to be influential, different, and market-making. To me that’s our sacred cow.

Samir Husni: Do you envision a day when we won’t have a printed Vogue, Vanity Fair, or GQ?

Bob Sauerberg: I actually really don’t. I think that print is really here to stay; consumers just love it. And I think that they love our magazines and they love other companies’ magazines. All you have to do is hop on an airplane, or you’re sitting at a resort or something, by a pool, and everyone is reading a magazine.

The issue right now is the advertising marketplace is a bit fickle with it, because they’re shifting gears in terms of ow they’re spending their monies. What that’s really going to make us do is to think about how to monetize the magazines differently, get the consumers to pay more, find different ways to leverage those brands. And we will do that. But it’s a cultural moment when Vanity Fair’s cover hits the newsstands. And that’s an important part of our business. Just like it is with Vogue and with GQ.

Samir Husni: We’ve never seen anything digital create the same buzz as the covers of Vanity Fair have or the cover of GQ this month. When you fold a print magazine, such as when you folded the print edition of Teen Vogue, how is that different from say, Vogue? Or when you launched Them as a digital-only entity; what’s the thinking behind those types of decisions in the hierarchy at Condé Nast?

Bob Sauerberg: The print advertising business for the teen categories has just been struggling for some period of time. So, we just determined that when we looked out over the three-year plan, that we were fighting that platform; the cost versus the return; we were just finding a marketplace that was not going to return an outcome that we really liked. And most of our revenue was coming from our digital business; it had already transitioned to a digital brand. I wasn’t excited that we were going through that, but it was a good business decision.

And we’re just getting started with Them. How many platforms we’re publishing; how things play out; that will change over time, but it could very well be a great magazine opportunity. But we’re just out of the gate and it’s wildly successful so far. I think we had our first video that in its first day had 1.5 million views. It’s crazy. Our instinct was if we did this right we were going to catch a cultural wave and I think we have. One that makes that level of innovation very exciting.

Samir Husni: From a personal point of view, since your days in Arkansas, when you were a student at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, did you ever expect that one day you’d be the leader of one of the major magazine companies in the world?

Bob Sauerberg: No, I really didn’t. I’ll tell you something; I’ve never interviewed for a job. I haven’t, I just sort of always tried to redefine every job I was in, and evidently people liked what they saw. I’ve always thought about the future and developing whatever I was doing. I’m obviously motivated, but I never really had a specific outcome that I had planned for my career. These things just sort of played out through just trying to do good work.

So, I can’t say that it was calculated or anything; I just spent time doing whatever I was doing and tried to it as well as anyone could. And then you show up, and here’s where you end up.

Samir Husni: One of your famous quotes is “You do not motivate people, you hire motivated people.”

Bob Sauerberg: I think that’s true. I would also say that my leadership approach is very much focused on mentoring and developing great people, so I’m not trying to put myself on the pedestal; I’m trying to keep the company on the pedestal. And then having all of the boats that we have rowing toward the vision that we all believe in. And I think motivated people like that.

They like having a big runway where they can develop their skills, and I think that’s why I’m here at Condé Nast, because we have such talented people and I’m not trying to get in the way of their development or growth; I’m just trying to channel it toward the outcomes that we need to grow the company.

Samir Husni: Are there any surprises in store between now and the end of the year?

Bob Sauerberg: It’s been reported that we’re gearing up to announce a Glamour editor, and I think that will probably be the last bit of noise that you’ll hear from us until 2018.

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

Bob Sauerberg: Bold.

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

Bob Sauerberg: I’m a SoulCycler. I’m the oldest guy SoulCycling in the back row. (Laughs) But I’m exercising hard. I’m not sure you have that in Mississippi, but it’s a cycling class that is an incredible workout for 45 minutes. It’s a real fun thing to do.

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

Bob Sauerberg: It really goes back to molding the culture, because I think that we’re working on the right things; we know what we need to do, and getting individuals there and really working on the right things, getting that culture right is really the thing that keeps me up.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Elle Décor’s Editor In Chief, Whitney Robinson To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “It Isn’t About Showcasing Just The Pretty Or The Chic, But Showcasing Also The Cutting Edge And The Sublime.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

November 16, 2017

“I want to thank you for reading the magazine. It means a lot, because what I say to people is this, especially in a world of 15-second sound-bites; a world where everything refreshes literally in seconds, on your phones, on your screens, in front of you; for people to actually know what’s happening in the magazine, they have to read it cover to cover. And they have to go on the journey with us and with me to see how we are iterating this magazine and how we’re changing it for the 21st century.” Whitney Robinson…

“I’m doing this out of the deep passion and love and commitment that I have for this industry, but it’s also because I really do believe passionately that design is all around us; everywhere we are.” Whitney Robinson…

For nearly 30 years Elle Décor has been on the cutting edge of design, of where fashion and the home meet. The magazine has showcased international trends, with its 30 worldwide editions, and has also kept the American Dream of a sanctuary at home alive and well, while opening its pages to a unique mix of culture, cuisine, art and travel, at the same time.

This past summer Whitney Robinson was named editor in chief after his most recent position as style director at Town & Country, where he wrote, assigned and collaborated on a wide variety of stories and topics. Whitney comes to Elle Décor with a diverse blend of knowledge and vision for the brand.

I spoke with Whitney recently and we talked about that knowledgeable vision he has. His thought processes are very straightforward: audience first, readers first. Put the beautiful out there alongside the unusual and the unique, and then let the readers decide. But always show them everything, respecting their ability to discern what they prefer. Audience first; Mr. Magazine™ definitely agrees with that course of action.

So, before you begin reading this most intriguing interview with a man who definitely has a panache and style of his own, let us all take a moment to wish Whitney a very Happy Birthday, as he celebrates on November 16. Happy Birthday, Whitney! And here’s wishing you many, many more! And now the interview with Elle Décor’s editor in chief.

But first the sound-bites:

On what a print magazine should look like in 2017: That’s a very good question; I call it a 3-D Venn Diagram, because I don’t think it can look like one thing and I don’t think it’s the same thing day-to-day and I don’t think it’s the same thing from medium to medium. What that means is, especially for a magazine like Elle Décor; we have many different facets of the magazine.

On whether the reengineering of the magazine, beginning with the October issue, presents a more intentionally humanized element within the pages: We’re iterating in real time. And this is something that I think few magazine editors have done before, probably for good reason (laughs), because we’re a little crazy here, which I think you have to be. And that means, rather than showcase a magazine the way it was, and then just spend six months figuring it out, or eight months, or a year, whatever it is for a typical redesign, and then introduce that to your audience…which by the way, historically has always failed. There are very few instances of a full redesign of any magazine in the last 30 years that has worked, both for subscribers – the loyalists, and also on the newsstand. So, what we decided to do was take a much more contemporary approach to that by experimenting.

On whether he feels the American edition of Elle Décor sets the precedent for the international editions: Historically, you’re talking about a numbers game here. We had the most subscribers and newsstand sales and therefore as a de facto, we became the global leader in showcasing what the magazine could be. And I think taking a more holistic view of this brand; it’s a very American concept, as opposed to dividing it into total, and so, sure; I love for our European counterparts; our Asian counterparts; and our South American counterparts to take a look at what we’re doing here and dovetail into it.

On whether he’s on top of the mountain now or he feels there’s more climbing for him and the magazine: Oh, we haven’t even started. We’re just beginning, and I say that to our readers as well. They’re along on this journey with us, and I thank them for that, because it is a journey. And again, rather than dumb it down or placate them or showcase this monolithic vision of something, I’ve really invited everybody to the party.

On the human feel of the magazine: And there’s a lot of reasons for that. And I’ve said this before, it’s about bringing in the whole world of design and that includes our sections on interiors, fashion and food. And it’s really not the specific topics, because I didn’t invent that coverage in this magazine. I didn’t invent celebrity coverage in this magazine, they’ve been covering it for 30 years. I didn’t invent food in this magazine, Daniel Boulud has been our resident chef for 25 years. What we’ve done is made the topics that we’re covering with those people more relevant, so they don’t feel evergreen or out of time. But actually, and this is where fashion comes in, similar to fashion or pop culture magazines, and more plugged into what’s actually happening in the world around us.

On the back page of the magazine, which has been dubbed the “Not for Sale” page: The genesis of that came from a studio visit with Lindsey Adelman, who is a very well-respected designer in Manhattan. She’s been working in the business for about 25 years, but when she created this brass chandelier, she became super-well-known and super-lauded, and now has a robust global practice. I was in Lindsey’s studio and she showed me ceramic vessels that her son had made for her and I told her they were fantastic. I said that we have to put them in the magazine, and she told me that they weren’t for sale. And I thought that was a sentiment for our time, and because there is so much product in the magazine and so many things for sale, I felt that we needed something that was a bit different.

On his biggest challenge: My biggest challenge is to convince everybody, that’s everyone’s biggest challenge. I’m doing this out of the deep passion and love and commitment that I have for this industry, but it’s also because I really do believe passionately that design is all around us; everywhere we are. From the look of our coffee cups to the cars that we drive to the design of our iPhones it’s absolutely everywhere. And so, talking about it in such a way where it’s more than just pretty; although “just pretty” sometimes matters just as much. But we’re talking about it in a deeper way.

On what’s coming up in 2018 for the brand: It’s a journey. So, we’re ever-evolving; I’m also a Scorpio so it’s my nature. You should do the zodiac signs of editor in chiefs, because I think there’s quite a few of us in this building who have birthdays this week. It’s ever-evolving, but it isn’t that we break news, just to get down to brass tacks and practicality, but it’s that we look like that moment in time that we’re making this magazine.

On anything else he’d like to add: I’m very glad that Elle Décor is a part of the conversation. Again, historically, design magazines have been put to the side, where people say they love design and décor magazines, and they’re so easy to read. But actually, design magazines are functioning in the space that everyone else is too, and we’re asking challenging questions; we’re showcasing magnificent homes around the world, but we’re also relevant.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: That I thought differently and we were able to change people’s perceptions. I think that’s the ultimate goal. It’s the hardest one. Someone once told me that if you think you’re going to a “clap, clap” emoji for changing people’s opinions, think again. (Laughs)

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: What day is it? Some days you’ll find me at CVS on a Sunday morning, reading all of the papers. Or I’ll be reading articles, ripping things out, getting mad at my editors because we didn’t get something first, calling our contributors to do it, and then watching 60 Minutes. That’s my Sunday. Yesterday, I was playing with a Nintendo Switch all day, and it’s a fantastic piece of technology, by the way. It changes day-to-day, I guess.

On what keeps him up at night: Zero. I sleep like a baby. I’m a deep sleeper. People ask me this question, and it’s so funny; we do this for passion. It’s a passion project. People have a lot of different goals; if your goal is cash, go work for Goldman Sachs. If your goal is politics, go work in the White House or you can work for the Peace Corps. The passion for what we do in magazines is such a specific thing; it’s a band of outsiders, a gangly group, who really believe passionately in this industry.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Whitney Robinson, editor in chief, Elle Décor.

Samir Husni: In your editor’s letter for the October issue, you write – Apologies to those who have heard this spiel before, but here it goes: What should a print magazine look like in 2017? So, what should it look like?

Whitney Robinson: That’s a very good question; I call it a 3-D Venn Diagram, because I don’t think it can look like one thing and I don’t think it’s the same thing day-to-day and I don’t think it’s the same thing from medium to medium. What that means is, especially for a magazine like Elle Décor; we have many different facets of the magazine.

So, we have our print magazine, which is the core of what we do; it’s what brings in the majority of our revenue, and it’s where most people familiarize themselves with the brand historically. At the same time, we have 2.2 million Instagram followers, a huge social following for any brand at Hearst, but also the most socially-engaged brand at Hearst, which means we get the most comments per post than any other brand here, and that’s extraordinary.

We have a robust online platform, elledecor.com. And we have 31 editions total of Elle Décor around the globe. And on top of that, we have the halo of Elle too. And if you were sitting in front of me now, you’d see me drawing circles with a coffee cup and a candlestick to demonstrate the fact that this is a moving Venn Diagram. And depending on where we are in a cycle, and what stories we’re trying to tell, the importance of each medium changes and ebbs and flows.

But what a magazine should look like in 2017, a print magazine specifically, is something that you want to have pride-of-place on your coffee table or your bookshelves, but it should also be reflective of the time and place that it’s being made. That is to say, if you’re working on a December issue, and our December issue recently hit newsstands; that issue should look like December 2017. It should be reflective of both the topics and the subjects that are inside of it, and also what’s on the cover, and of any given moment of that particular time. Not six months before; not six months after.

Samir Husni: Since you began the reengineering of Elle Décor, from the October, November and December issues; are you trying to humanize the brand? As I read those three issues, I felt there was a strong element of humanization within the brand; is that intentional, or am I now seeing more of Whitney on the pages of Elle Décor?

Whitney Robinson: I want to answer your question, but first I want to thank you for reading the magazine. It means a lot, because what I say to people is this, especially in a world of 15-second sound-bites; a world where everything refreshes literally in seconds, on your phones, on your screens, in front of you; for people to actually know what’s happening in the magazine, they have to read it cover to cover. And they have to go on the journey with us and with me to see how we are iterating this magazine and how we’re changing it for the 21st century.

And what I would say is that we’re doing just that; we’re iterating in real time. And this is something that I think few magazine editors have done before, probably for good reason (laughs), because we’re a little crazy here, which I think you have to be. And that means, rather than showcase a magazine the way it was, and then just spend six months figuring it out, or eight months, or a year, whatever it is for a typical redesign, and then introduce that to your audience…which by the way, historically has always failed. There are very few instances of a full redesign of any magazine in the last 30 years that has worked, both for subscribers – the loyalists, and also on the newsstand.

So, what we decided to do was take a much more contemporary approach to that by experimenting. We’re saying, here’s what the world of Elle Décor looks like, which simply is wherever design happens, and that’s everywhere design happens. So, we’re taking a look at global design, and as a journalist of global design, if you read my editor’s letter, it isn’t about showcasing just the pretty or the chic, but showcasing also the cutting edge and the sublime. And making sure that we show you everything that’s out there, and then letting the reader decide what they like or don’t like.

And I think, perhaps controversially, it’s not about someone saying that they love everything in the magazine or they even like it, it’s about them seeing what’s out there and then letting them choose their own adventure. Iterating in real time means that you show the breadth of what the magazine could be. It does not mean that every section we do or that we have in the magazine that you see in any given issue will continue. And the idea that a magazine can be a living thing doesn’t mean we don’t want a consistency or a thread of a vision that runs through all of it, but that’s a more subtle concept or conceit, than the fact that we can change columns as we see fit. We can reflect, again, the time and the place that it’s being made, to make sure that we’re staying as current as possible.

It doesn’t mean breaking news, by the way. If you want to break news, then you should work on the digital platform. If you want to reflect the news and if you want to create a specific point of view…which is, by the way, what these magazines were able to do and why they were so popular in the beginning, because they provided a specific point of view. You knew what you were going to get when you picked up the magazine. And I hope people pick up this magazine and realize that they’re going to get the best global design. And they’re going to get the most informed, smartest, the most beautiful visceral vision of that global design.

Samir Husni: In your editor’s letter, you’re engaging your readers with all of the evolution that’s taking place at Elle Décor, and as an editor of a brand that exists in over 30 markets worldwide, do you feel an intense responsibility to the other markets? As though whatever you do here is going to be reflected worldwide? How do you interact with the responsibility of the American edition of Elle Décor? Is it setting the stage for everybody else?

Whitney Robinson: Historically, you’re talking about a numbers game here. We had the most subscribers and newsstand sales and therefore as a de facto, we became the global leader in showcasing what the magazine could be. And I think taking a more holistic view of this brand; it’s a very American concept, as opposed to dividing it into total, and so, sure; I love for our European counterparts; our Asian counterparts; and our South American counterparts to take a look at what we’re doing here and dovetail into it.

And I tell you, we’ve already gotten great feedback from our counterparts in Europe, particularly from the U.K. and Ben Spriggs, an editor who just took over the helm of that magazine, and he’s thrilled with what we’re doing and we’re talking about how we can collaborate better together already. And that’s unprecedented.

Samir Husni: Are you now on top of the mountain or is there still more climbing you and Elle Décor need to do?

Whitney Robinson: Oh, we haven’t even started. We’re just beginning, and I say that to our readers as well. They’re along on this journey with us, and I thank them for that, because it is a journey. And again, rather than dumb it down or placate them or showcase this monolithic vision of something, I’ve really invited everybody to the party.

Are there more people in this magazine; sure; lifestyle has been a dirty word, but not for me. If people want to call it lifestyle, then so be it. It is about the best of design, but it really shows how people live today. And if anyone thinks that’s radical, then they’re not actually living in the world here. It’s about how people interact with everything; the ME generation, so we’re talking about how we can reflect out, but imitate in a beautiful way. And it’s not about selfies and writing LOL in my copy, which I’ve been quoted as saying before. But it is about taking a more conversational approach to our text; it’s about taking a looser look at our photography, so it doesn’t feel so tight.

Samir Husni: And I felt that humanization; it was very evident to me.

Whitney Robinson: And there’s a lot of reasons for that. And I’ve said this before, it’s about bringing in the whole world of design and that includes our sections on interiors, fashion and food. And it’s really not the specific topics, because I didn’t invent that coverage in this magazine. I didn’t invent celebrity coverage in this magazine, they’ve been covering it for 30 years. I didn’t invent food in this magazine, Daniel Boulud has been our resident chef for 25 years. What we’ve done is made the topics that we’re covering with those people more relevant, so they don’t feel evergreen or out of time. But actually, and this is where fashion comes in, similar to fashion or pop culture magazines, and more plugged into what’s actually happening in the world around us.

Samir Husni: One of the things that really stands out to me is your back page; the “Not for Sale” page. Would you tell me a little more about the idea of showcasing and having something in the magazine that’s not for sale?

Whitney Robinson: The genesis of that came from a studio visit with Lindsey Adelman, who is a very well-respected designer in Manhattan. She’s been working in the business for about 25 years, but when she created this brass chandelier, she became super-well-known and super-lauded, and now has a robust global practice.

I was in Lindsey’s studio and she showed me ceramic vessels that her son had made for her and I told her they were fantastic. I said that we have to put them in the magazine, and she told me that they weren’t for sale. And I asked, what do you mean they’re not for sale? And she explained how meaningful they were to her, because they were made by her son. And she didn’t feel that everything had to have a commercial value placed on it in order to be valuable.

And I thought that was a sentiment for our time, and because there is so much product in the magazine and so many things for sale, I felt that we needed something that was a bit different. And back pages are often; I won’t say they’re a throwaway, but they’re often the last thing that you get to. Often, they’re easy to produce and don’t require a ton of thought, and again that goes across the board from fashion to home. And this is really an antidote to the rest of the commerciality of the magazine. The idea that it has a social conscience as well was built into the fact that we wanted people to be able to donate to charities of their choice by showcasing these items. So, it’s something that does well for the magazine, but also does good. And that’s a model that I’m always using in the creation of Elle Décor.

Samir Husni: What’s your biggest challenge now?

Whitney Robinson: My biggest challenge is to convince everybody, that’s everyone’s biggest challenge. I’m doing this out of the deep passion and love and commitment that I have for this industry, but it’s also because I really do believe passionately that design is all around us; everywhere we are. From the look of our coffee cups to the cars that we drive to the design of our iPhones it’s absolutely everywhere. And so, talking about it in such a way where it’s more than just pretty; although “just pretty” sometimes matters just as much. But we’re talking about it in a deeper way.

Samir Husni: What is coming up for Whitney and Elle Décor in 2018?

Whitney Robinson: It’s a journey. So, we’re ever-evolving; I’m also a Scorpio so it’s my nature. You should do the zodiac signs of editor in chiefs, because I think there’s quite a few of us in this building who have birthdays this week. It’s ever-evolving, but it isn’t that we break news, just to get down to brass tacks and practicality, but it’s that we look like that moment in time that we’re making this magazine.

And our schedule is really just about four weeks out now, which has made everyone on the staff get on their toes, and that’s exciting. And rather than know what’s going to happen a year from now, which is historically how a lot of shelter magazines are produced, they produce about a year in advance and that’s how they photograph; ours is produced to the cuff. So, we produce as a news magazine would, like a New York Times Magazine. We produce really close up until we ship.

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

Whitney Robinson: I’m very glad that Elle Décor is a part of the conversation. Again, historically, design magazines have been put to the side, where people say they love design and décor magazines, and they’re so easy to read. But actually, design magazines are functioning in the space that everyone else is too, and we’re asking challenging questions; we’re showcasing magnificent homes around the world, but we’re also relevant.

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

Whitney Robinson: That I thought differently and we were able to change people’s perceptions. I think that’s the ultimate goal. It’s the hardest one. Someone once told me that if you think you’re going to a “clap, clap” emoji for changing people’s opinions, think again. (Laughs)

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

Whitney Robinson: What day is it? Some days you’ll find me at CVS on a Sunday morning, reading all of the papers. Or I’ll be reading articles, ripping things out, getting mad at my editors because we didn’t get something first, calling our contributors to do it, and then watching 60 Minutes. That’s my Sunday. Yesterday, I was playing with a Nintendo Switch all day, and it’s a fantastic piece of technology, by the way. It changes day-to-day, I guess.

What day are we at? For example, today, I’m off on the Red-Eye; I have to ship the magazine today. We’re shipping a cover, and I do not have a dinner tonight, so I will be home with my partner, and we’ll probably cook a Persian meal, because Mark is half Persian, half German, so we’ll cook a Persian stew up, and I’ll put on a rerun of Charlie Rose or Masterpiece. We’re real housewives; we flip through it all. We like a little bit of everything. You know, you can say that you watch Real Housewives or you can lie about watching Real Housewives, but the truth is, you know what we’re talking about. So, we watch a little bit of everything.

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

Whitney Robinson: Zero. I sleep like a baby. I’m a deep sleeper. People ask me this question, and it’s so funny; we do this for passion. It’s a passion project. People have a lot of different goals; if your goal is cash, go work for Goldman Sachs. If your goal is politics, go work in the White House or you can work for the Peace Corps. The passion for what we do in magazines is such a specific thing; it’s a band of outsiders, a gangly group, who really believe passionately in this industry. So, I wake up excited to do this every day. I get to talk about and write about and tell stories about incredible people, places and things. What more could you ask for?

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Vanity Fair’s, David Friend, On His Latest Book “The Naughty Nineties”: I Was Making A Transition That Mirrored, In Terms Of The Magazine World, What The Culture Was Doing In Miniature – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With David Friend, Editor Of Creative Development, Vanity Fair…

November 13, 2017

“I would maybe say “Disruptive Millennials.” We’re looking at our navel; everything is a selfie. And instead, we need to really look at the globe and globalization; at the environment; and we need to reconnect to the human soul; to humanism. And I think we’re getting too far away from what we are at our core and what really matters in life, which is connecting to one another and communicating honestly with one another. And being fulfilled as human beings, family members, friends and colleagues. What I think is happening is that we’re looking at our screens and our navels.” David Friend (on what word or phrase he would designate the “teen” years of this 21st century)…

The culture wars of the 1990s and the red-faced years of the Clinton administration are something that David Friend thoroughly researched and then penned a book about, designating its title as “The Naughty Nineties,” and showcasing his idea that those less than wholesome years set the course for many of the issues we face today. Along with being a prolific author, David also joined the staff at Vanity Fair in 1998 as editor of creative development, after serving as Life magazine’s director of photography.

I spoke with David recently and we talked about his latest book and how the culture changes of the 1990s also impacted magazines and magazine media, with the onset of the Internet and the many disruptions that cable and satellite television presented. It was a fascinating and intriguing conversation that opened up many possibilities for answers to some questions that are being asked today.

So, without further ado, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with David Friend, author and editor of creative development, Vanity Fair.

But first the sound-bites:

On the tipping point that made him decide to write a book about “The Naughty Nineties,” and what role the magazine industry played during that decade in the book: My last book was on the 9/11 tragedy in 2006, and that book was so depressing and so much to confront emotionally as a writer and reporter, deeply reporting people’s stories. So, I felt that in my next book I needed something that would be a lot more fun for me, and I looked back on the nineties as being sort of this overlay of sexuality in our lives. And when you talk about magazines, I looked at myself and my transition from a magazine editor; in April 1998, I made the move from Life magazine, which was middle of the road, middle-American, centrist and wholesome, to Vanity Fair magazine. And that was sophisticated, chic, smart, leaning-left; and it’s really the change that the culture was making, I think; the Boomers had grown up and the counterculture had become the culture.

On whether he believes there will be another revival of the “Gay Twenties” in magazines, where they return to that legendary sophistication: You and I are both glass-half-full people; we look at the world in rose-colored glasses, so I would love to think that you’re right. I love the ‘20s and ‘30s in magazines; I love the between-the-wars Vanity Fair. I love the early New Yorker, and I love when Time magazine and Esquire began. But the jury is out about what’s going to happen with print magazines now. We have real questions with big media companies and the value placed on them. We have big questions about young people who are spending so much time on digital devices. But I’m Pollyannaish and hopeful. I hope we are not at the end of the lifespan of magazines. I hope that there is still kick in the old girl.

On whether he was surprised to find out, after doing research for his book, that it appeared the men’s sophisticate magazine was a dying breed: No, I went into the book understanding that it was as dead as a doornail. What surprised was when I interviewed this very smart guy named Professor Samir Husni and he said to me, and I quote, and I am going to read from the book: “From the late ‘80s and until 1997, there were more new sex magazines published than any other genre. One year in the ‘90s, I still remember the number vividly, one-seventh of all new publications were sex magazines, often devoted to special interests. You could dissect the human body, name any part, and you’ll have five magazines for it.” So, there was this boom, and yet, as I point out in the book, you had three or four other things that were going on at the same time.

On whether by the time he finished the book he felt like judge and jury, defense attorney or prosecutor of the nineties: I think I’m more of a prosecutor, because what I find out at the end is we have Donald Trump and so much of what happened in the ‘90s; the coarseness; the rise of reality TV; the rise of lying as a public default among our leaders, our athletes and our stars; the cheapening of culture to the point of there almost isn’t a business in high culture anymore.

On if he was writing a new book about this teen decade of the 21st century, instead of the “Naughty Nineties,” what would he call 2013-2017: I’m not doing that, but were I to do it, I would maybe say the “Disruptive Millennials.” We’re looking at our navel; everything is a selfie. And instead, we need to really look at the globe and globalization; at the environment; and we need to reconnect to the human soul. To humanism and I think we’re getting too far away from what we are at our core and what really matters in life, which is connecting to one another and communicating honestly with one another. And being fulfilled as human beings, family members, friends and colleagues. What I think is happening is that we’re looking at our screens and our navels.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: He was like his name, a good friend.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: I’m rushing to drink very good wine with my wife or my buddies or an exciting group of people. And then for a late nightcap, it’s Soho House.

On what keeps him up at night: The meaning of existence. Why are we here; what is our purpose? How am I spending and how have I spent my life?

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with David Friend, author and editor of creative development, Vanity Fair.

Samir Husni: You’ve written a book called “The Naughty Nineties.” And of course my area of particular interest is the magazine coverage in the book and the entire magazine industry in that sector; what we used to call “The Men’s Sophisticate.” Tell me a little about your interest in this subject matter. What was that tipping point that made you decide to write a book on this subject?

David Friend: Thank you; I’m glad you think we’re innovative. My last book was on the 9/11 tragedy in 2006, and that book was so depressing and so much to confront emotionally as a writer and reporter, deeply reporting people’s stories. So, I felt that in my next book I needed something that would be a lot more fun for me, and I looked back on the nineties as being sort of this overlay of sexuality in our lives. I was raising two kids; my daughter was continually doing sit-ups to have a washboard ab stomach, because she wanted to get a belly-ring like Britney Spears, who she and her girlfriends looked up to.

And there were these sexual cues in MTV and society. And then my son, who was her twin brother, was playing a lot of these online, massive, multiplayer games, as they call them, with older people at night and that was nerve-racking to me and my wife. But I saw this sort of coarsening of the culture in the ‘90s, and the president was talking about his relationships with Gennifer Flowers and what happened with Paula Jones, then his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, and this was a sort of drumbeat throughout the ‘90s.

So, I looked back on the ‘90s and I thought, if the Boomers are the ones that screwed this all up, maybe there’s a book in this. And when you talk about magazines, I looked at myself and my transition from a magazine editor; in April 1998, I made the move from Life magazine, which was middle of the road, middle-American, centrist and wholesome, to Vanity Fair magazine. And that was sophisticated, chic, smart, leaning-left; and it’s really the change that the culture was making, I think; the Boomers had grown up and the counterculture had become the culture.

And even though now we’re still fighting some of the same culture wars that we were in the ‘80s and ‘90s, that transition, that pivot that I made in 1998 was partially reflecting this migration in the culture toward a more open sensibility, both socially and culturally; culturally at least. Maybe not socially, but culturally there was that shift.

My first day on the job, which was April Fool’s Day 1998, Graydon Carter was the editor of Vanity Fair, and he called me in to talk about getting exclusives. And one of the reasons that he hired me was he knew my reputation at Life because we worked together there in the ‘80s. He asked me to see if I could line up Monica Lewinsky, and this was at the height of the scandal with Clinton.

And sure enough, within 22 days I had landed a photo shoot with Herb Ritts and text by Christopher Hitchens. Then I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. (Laughs) It wasn’t Life magazine; this was a new sense of general interest magazine. This bubbling, exciting Vanity Fair. At the same time, the gentrification of the culture and the sophistication of the culture, and the sophistication of magazines, really, was becoming the norm. Graphic design was important; storytelling was important; print was significant, and print still seemed to be, in many ways, driving the conversation. When journalists woke up in the morning, blogging was a new thing in 1998, they still looked to their morning newspapers to get their leads. That’s not true anymore.

So, I think I was making a transition that mirrored, in terms of the magazine world, what the culture was doing in miniature.

Samir Husni: As we move forward, and as I look at and study the magazines of the last century, the 1920s and 1930s, including Vanity Fair; is this the centennial return of that sophistication that you talk about in magazines, and are we going to see another Gay Twenties in 2020 and beyond?

David Friend: You and I are both glass-half-full people; we look at the world in rose-colored glasses, so I would love to think that you’re right. I love the ‘20s and ‘30s in magazines; I love the between-the-wars Vanity Fair. I love the early New Yorker, and I love when Time magazine and Esquire began. But the jury is out about what’s going to happen with print magazines now. We have real questions with big media companies and the value placed on them. We have big questions about young people who are spending so much time on digital devices.

So, what a magazine is today is hard to say. I think it was Kurt Andersen in The New York Times, quite recently, who had a quote: “The 1920s to the 2020s was kind of the century of the magazine,” he said, noting that The New Yorker and Time were founded in the decade before the Great Depression. Today, he added, the industry was in “more of a dusk, a slow dusk, and we’re closer to sunset.” But I’m Pollyannaish and hopeful. I hope we are not at the end of the lifespan of magazines. I hope that there is still kick in the old girl.

Samir Husni: Of course, my position is that as long as we have human beings, we’re going to have magazines. And from your research, technically you had enough evidence to show that there is a life cycle even for categories within magazines. And what you’ve done with the men’s sophisticate magazines in your book, with the research, and the interviews done with Diane Hanson; were you surprised by the conclusions that this is a dying category within the magazine business?

David Friend: No, I went into the book understanding that it was as dead as a doornail. What surprised was when I interviewed this very smart guy named Professor Samir Husni…

Samir Husni: (Laughs).

David Friend: …and he said to me, and I quote, and I am going to read from the book: “From the late ‘80s and until 1997, there were more new sex magazines published than any other genre. One year in the ‘90s, I still remember the number vividly, one-seventh of all new publications were sex magazines, often devoted to special interests. You could dissect the human body, name any part, and you’ll have five magazines for it.” So, there was this boom, and yet, as I point out in the book, you had three or four other things that were going on at the same time.

Why was there a rise in so many different magazines? One, I would say that the cost of entry was declining; it was much easier to produce magazines. It was a print boom. Secondly, there were lax pornography laws. With Janet Reno as the Attorney General under Clinton, people were not being litigated against for porn. So, there was just more of a freedom to generate magazines.

Then there were more lax values; the people who had grown up in the sixties, a generation had passed, and by the nineties, their values became what was driving commerce. So, I think that it was easier to print some of these things with the lax attitudes.

Plus there was AIDS in the eighties. And people were looking for avenues for safer sex, and there’s nothing safer than a magazine. This was a period where strip clubs were on the rise; you didn’t take your clothes off. You went to these places and you had people who were taking their clothes off next to you, but you were “safe.” But for all of those reasons, you had this boom in magazines. There was also a liberation among people who were modeling, men and women, for these magazines.

What else did you have? You had two other big things then that spelled doom for the “men’s sophisticate” magazines, one was the VHS video boom. You had cable TV, satellite TV and VHS tapes. And CD-ROMs. People were seeing sex that didn’t even have to have plots anymore, it was just sex tapes everywhere. And the photos in a magazine didn’t hold a candle to moving pictures. You say something very funny in my book where I quote you as saying: “When pornography became disseminated on cable and on your laptops; you can’t compete in print. No matter how much you shake the magazine, it’ll never move the same way.” (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

David Friend: But you also had this new thing called the Internet. The Internet had been around for a while, but the Worldwide Web really began in ’92 and ’93. And by the end of the decade, people were getting pornography online. People were having sex chat on AOL People were connecting online and were then able to meet up offline. People were seeing almost the entire smorgasbord of sexuality, every single fetish or desire could be met or found in a community somewhere online. This also spelled doom for the publications, because you had this new medium.

Magazines tried to keep up; you’d have fun sex ads in the magazines and you’d have DVDs and CD-ROMs poly-bagged with these magazines, but it was too late. It was just not to be. There is a fellow who is a historian named Robert Rosen, who did a very good book called, oddly-titled “Beaver Street” about this same period. And he talks about this same thing; the collapse of the companies that were able to sustain these magazines for 15-25 years. They just couldn’t sustain them anymore, because the market fell out.

Samir Husni: Yes, you can’t compete with free. It’s as simple as that.

David Friend: You’re absolutely right; you cannot compete with free.

Samir Husni: As you finished the book; did you feel that you were the judge and jury; the defense attorney and the prosecutor of the ‘90s?

David Friend: I think I’m more of a prosecutor, because what I find out at the end is we have Donald Trump and so much of what happened in the ‘90s; the coarseness; the rise of reality TV; the rise of lying as a public default among our leaders, our athletes and our stars; the cheapening of culture to the point of there almost isn’t a business in high culture anymore.

The 24/7 scandal that arose when you had CNN competing suddenly with a new channel called Fox News, starting in 1996, and the Census spectacle. All of this led to an environment in which voters would be comfortable voting for Donald Trump. And that’s the afterword of the book, really how the nineties laid the groundwork for the sorry state we’re in now.

Samir Husni: If you were working on a new book about the “teens” decade of the 21st century, what’s the word that comes to mind? You named the nineties the “naughty” nineties; what would you call 2013-2017 of this century?

David Friend: I’m not doing that, but were I to do it, I would maybe say “Disruptive Millennials.” We’re looking at our navel; everything is a selfie. And instead, we need to really look at the globe and globalization; at the environment; and we need to reconnect to the human soul; to humanism. And I think we’re getting too far away from what we are at our core and what really matters in life, which is connecting to one another and communicating honestly with one another. And being fulfilled as human beings, family members, friends and colleagues. What I think is happening is that we’re looking at our screens and our navels.

Samir Husni: One phrase I coined and that I use in my teaching is that we live in an age of isolated connectivity.

David Friend: Yes, it’s almost like psychologists talking about parallel play, where children are engaging themselves in the same room with others, but each is doing their own thing next to each other, as opposed to engaging with one another.

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

David Friend: He was like his name, a good friend.

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

David Friend: I’m rushing to drink very good wine with my wife or my buddies or an exciting group of people. And then for a late nightcap, it’s Soho House.

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

David Friend: The meaning of existence. Why are we here; what is our purpose? How am I spending and how have I spent my life?

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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DuJour Magazine: The Superlative Of Luxury Magazines – Setting The Standard High By Concentrating On A Dual Audience, Online and Offline – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Jason Binn, CEO/Publisher…

November 9, 2017

“It was time to create something that didn’t exist, that conformed to what 2012 was bringing on and what 2017 today has really embraced, which is publishing a high-quality product on the highest-quality paper stock; a quarterly book. Obviously with print, no one can deny or challenge that print is really where the majority of the ad revenue still comes from. And I don’t believe, whether it’s the bigger media companies or whomever, they are feeling anything different. And there’s the power of print to create your community, your brand, in a physical and meaningful way.” Jason Binn…

DuJour is the luxury magazine that makes no apologies for its exquisite tastes. The magazine promotes and revels in the intoxicating lifestyles of the rich and famous. And does it with style and class. Since 2012, when the word magazine was becoming more and more taboo, DuJour burst through the publishing door and dropped a print diamond in the middle of a plethora of pixels. And the man who stepped over that threshold and brought the magazine to the targeted audience with a smile and a flourish was Jason Binn.

Jason has been in the publishing business for almost 25 years, so he knows something about magazines and magazine brands, having launched Ocean Drive in 1993. But with DuJour he has tapped into a very elite market that appreciates his efforts of bringing them a quarterly magazine and a digital monthly. I spoke with Jason recently and we talked about what he feels is and will continue to be a hot topic in the months and years to come: staying in front of your audience both online and offline, playing that dual role. And so far, DuJour is everywhere their readers want them to be. And that’s exactly the idea.

So, with the confetti and pomp that Jason’s DuJour cover parties are known to feature, I bring you the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a true entrepreneur, a man who believes that if it doesn’t come to life, it just won’t work, Jason Binn, CEO/Publisher, DuJour magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On how life changed for him as a publisher/CEO of luxury magazines since his launch of Ocean Drive magazine over 20 years ago: Having the opportunity to launch a multi-tier platform; a digital, print, hybrid publication that was in a sense responsible for getting the audit by BPA for my digital distribution, and leveraging the data and transparency of accessing the most affluent individuals in 10 markets that are responsible for the affluent consumers and/or the majority of the sales and purchasing power, was amazing. It was a great time to evolve, not just personally, but as a business.

On what he has learned in his almost 25 years of being in the publishing business: I learned that while everyone is playing so many channels, everyone is also chasing their consumers and ways to message the audience, but when I go back and look at the evolution of media and social media, I look at how people feel content. And whether it was 1999 when it was an advertorial, or 2000 with Myspace, or 2001 with QR codes, or even 2002 with Google+, or 2004 with Twitter; Tumblr in 2007, or Pinterest in 2010, and native advertising content just a few years ago; you learn that you are in control of your audience and your messaging. And your success is to maintain and retain your audience and build your community.

On why he thinks no one has ever been able to do what he does with the cover parties, events and the success of DuJour’s glitz and glamour-type business model: I think people try to do it, but I think it’s no different than the business model of distribution of content and leveraging your platforms. If you look on DuJour.com at our media kit, we have these robust channels, and what I’m doing today through my social distribution, whether it’s our million followers – and by the way, Departures has 34,000 followers on Instagram, Robb Report has around 60,000, and DuJour has 60,000 , so between Robb Report and Departures, that’s 100,000 followers. And those businesses have been around for 100 years.

On whether DuJour is a reflection of himself: You see the people. Our job is to access and make these people accessible to our readers and consumers. The amazing thing about DuJour now is that everybody who gets the magazine and opts in on and offline, self-collected; those people also get to be a part of our community and our events. And when we do events, whether we have 100 people or 200 people, or 30 people, I always know those people are the best potential audience for our clients, because they have the three highest filter-checks that exist today with the most prominent and prestigious data mining companies.

On the biggest challenge that he’s facing today and how he plans to overcome it: To keep going deeper into the mindset, lifestyles and behaviors of that one-percent that we own. To constantly communicate and win them over and make them partake in responsible and more meaningful ways, so our advertisers can communicate their brands or their messaging, or expose their products to these people. We’re going deeper into the one-percent and evolving the platforms more and more.

On anything he’d like to add: It’s important to be a dual audience, lifestyle magazine today that focuses on a fashion issue, an arts issue, and a music issue. When you’re a lifestyle and you’re focusing on fashion, art, entertainment, accessories; you have all of these constant columns on and offline. And you’re thinking toward a dual audience and it’s great to be in their homes and invited to sit on their coffee tables, because yes, today, there aren’t as many magazines in people’s homes. And to be invited and accepted into their homes, and to be a magazine that caters to all, 80 percent of our readers are female, but we still walk a very responsible line, so that it is something that men and women can enjoy in their homes and that speaks to everyone.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: When it comes to DuJour, my work or my art, I’m a passionate, engaged and responsible entrepreneur.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: For me, it’s work and family. When I’m not working I’m at home with the kids and the family, and that’s it. To me working is playing. I enjoy what I do. I’m on the frontline with my team. And I think that’s important today. A lot of people hide behind their titles or their businesses, and then there’s people who go out there and really fight for what they believe in and what they have. And I have been fortunate enough since 2012 to have people want to go on this mission with me, this journey. And win. And we only win.

On what keeps him up at night: I just want to make sure we’re always ahead of the competition. It wasn’t any different than when I started Niche Media. National advertisers didn’t do regional; they just didn’t do it. And they didn’t do a network in markets that multiple magazines were in for many years. And redefine it and see where those city magazines ended up later in the game. It’s great to know that what you do has purpose and that it has staying power. We’re not here to do what everyone else is doing, because that wouldn’t make us different.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jason Binn, CEO/Publisher, DuJour magazine.

Samir Husni: You’ve come a long way since Ocean Drive magazine, so between Ocean Drive and DuJour; how did life change for you as a publisher/CEO of luxury magazines?

Jason Binn: I was very fortunate. Do you know many luxury magazines that launched in 2012?

Samir Husni: (Laughs) I think I could count them on one hand.

Jason Binn: Having the opportunity to launch a multi-tier platform; a digital, print, hybrid publication that was in a sense responsible for getting the audit by BPA for my digital distribution, and leveraging the data and transparency of accessing the most affluent individuals in 10 markets that are responsible for the affluent consumers and/or the majority of the sales and purchasing power, was amazing. It was a great time to evolve, not just personally, but as a business.

Just because back in the old days when I first started, data was leveraged to intellect with things and learn about homes, etc., eventually we’d get to know their names. But in 2012, I had a whiteboard and I was able to build from the bottom up and look at what the advertisers and the readers wanted. And back then, in 2012, when I called the Magazine Publishing Association, and I wanted to find out what the recommended frequency was, or the least amount of frequency you could publish, and they said to me quarterly, if you had won awards and accolades, which we had the hottest magazine by Adweek and we got the Webby Award, 60 countries, 50 states, 14,000 applicants, and we won the Webby for homepage and navigation, beating out Google and Condé Nast.

So, it was time to create something that didn’t exist, that conformed to what 2012 was bringing on and what 2017 today has really embraced, which is publishing a high-quality product on the highest-quality paper stock; a quarterly book. Obviously with print, no one can deny or challenge that print is really where the majority of the ad revenue still comes from. And I don’t believe, whether it’s the bigger media companies or whomever, they are feeling anything different. And there’s the power of print to create your community, your brand, in a physical and meaningful way.

And there are other platforms, no different than maybe a Refinery29 or Vice, where these platforms complement each other and are strategically aligned so that you’re messaging people through newsletters, data mining, events; through content and photography. It just becomes more channels and creates more communities and interaction and experiences with your readers and consumers.

Samir Husni: In 2018, you’ll be celebrating 25 years in the publishing business, that’s when you launched Ocean Drive in 1993. Then 20 years later came DuJour; you’ve set a standard for luxury magazines, both in print and digital. What have you learned in those 25 years?

Jason Binn: I’ve learned that the rich stay rich or get richer (Laughs). I learned that while everyone is playing so many channels, everyone is also chasing their consumers and ways to message the audience, but when I go back and look at the evolution of media and social media, I look at how people feel content. And whether it was 1999 when it was an advertorial, or 2000 with Myspace, or 2001 with QR codes, or even 2002 with Google+, or 2004 with Twitter; Tumblr in 2007, or Pinterest in 2010, and native advertising content just a few years ago; you learn that you are in control of your audience and your messaging. And your success is to maintain and retain your audience and build your community.

And quarterly magazines if done right, are timed with the seasons: winter, spring, summer and fall. And being a lifestyle book, to be invited into a home, to the opt-in selected audiences that we have, where each recipient has opted in for the digital with the print. But if they opt out, we don’t send the print.

So, we have this engaged audience on and offline, and we leverage our platforms; we don’t sell against them. We don’t break it up by digital emails, social media, events; we don’t breakdown those channels of distribution and different P&L’s or revenue streams. We actually work hard to integrate them all and create a budget that has monthly or quarterly billing where these assets are laid out and clients can use it at their leisure when they want to.

I think the more that we can put our business model and audience, and shape it around the readers and the clients, and then give them the affordability and access to choose those assets when or how they want over the fourth of their contractual agreement, it gives the advertiser more freedom and flexibility. Because what’s going on today is everyone is creating assets for distribution no differently than someone who creates a movie and is looking for distribution. And the luxury brands’ clients are distributing these assets through their own distribution channels, whether it’s their websites, or their social media outlets.

And what I’m seeing is that they’re getting zonked after the first eight months or a year; they don’t really see a building of their community or audience on or offline. They keep distributing their own assets through their own channels and messaging the same people over and over again. And what DuJour has become to many clients is a distribution channel of content and assets. I’m not here to create native content for our clients. I’d rather distribute content through our unique channels that’s on-brand with them, and what we do. I think that’s the point of differentiation.

I also think a point of differentiation in where we’re heading is print and digital need to be bundled, which is how DuJour has been packaged since its launch in 2012. We were bundled up into one buy. Or you can buy us individually, but 80 percent of the clients that came in our first issue in 2012, bought the combination buy of print and digital. And to me that was a revelation. There were only a handful of clients that just said we don’t want to be in the digital sense.

I also find that our digital lines push content out sooner and aren’t beholden to print when it comes out. Many times the magazine’s stories come out and they’re great, but they are great sooner online. Sometimes the companies are competing with themselves. It’s no different than a publisher or an editor, knowing who’s on the cover and how to market those people, whether through cover parties or through integrations that are meaningful. Where the advertisers can connect with the consumers in a social environment and be a part of what that media company does.

Samir Husni: Many people say that you’re the whiz of social parties around the magazine and having all of the events; can DuJour’s model be duplicated or does it have to be Jason Binn that makes it work? Why do you think no one else has succeeded in doing what you do? Is it because of you and your “Binn” there skills?

Jason Binn: I think people try to do it, but I think it’s no different than the business model of distribution of content and leveraging your platforms. If you look on DuJour.com at our media kit, we have these robust channels, and what I’m doing today through my social distribution, whether it’s our million followers – and by the way, Departures has 34,000 followers on Instagram, Robb Report has around 60,000, and DuJour has 60,000 , so between Robb Report and Departures, that’s 100,000 followers. And those businesses have been around for 100 years.

What that shows me is a rich desire or appetite on social and Instagram with affluent people, especially when their brands are on-brand on and offline. I think very key to your business is being defined on and offline. Not moving your message or your audience on your different platforms, which I believe is one of those things that helps make these events get bigger and better every year, and makes us keep doing them.

The other thing is DuJour’s knowledge; the business model that I created at Niche and the mindset when I was there; everything needs to come to life, else it doesn’t work. It’s a very simple idea. Everything must come to life. I don’t care if it’s bringing the people on the pages to the parties; I don’t care if it’s posting the screenings for the films of the celebrities on the cover; whatever it is. Editors have to think like marketers. We spend millions of dollar a year, millions, on creating great content. If we don’t bring it to life, whether it comes off the screen, the mobile device; off the magazine, whatever platform; if we don’t bring it to life it’s not successful to me. It’s not a win. And my editors have always known that from day one.

Samir Husni: Are your magazines a reflection of yourself? Do I see Jason on the pages of DuJour or on the pixels on the website’s screen?

Jason Binn: You see the people. Our job is to access and make these people accessible to our readers and consumers. The amazing thing about DuJour now is that everybody who gets the magazine and opts in on and offline, self-collected; those people also get to be a part of our community and our events. And when we do events, whether we have 100 people or 200 people, or 30 people, I always know those people are the best potential audience for our clients, because they have the three highest filter-checks that exist today with the most prominent and prestigious data mining companies. They have a million dollar-plus home, $250-plus income, and they have a net worth of $5 million.

A consumer today lives in the money, makes the money, and has the money. They’re not saving up to buy a home; they don’t have money in the bank to earn income off their investments; these are people who can go on their devices and buy products. And that’s a unique thing. If we talked about building something like that today; I definitely would question myself today. Would I be able to do today what I did in 2012, because 2012 was such a point of challenges for print. And so when people ask what’s going on today, 2012 was worse. No one was even talking about magazines. All of the big layoffs were coming the year before and into 2012. All of the big layoffs. It was the first time that people had said the big companies were human and actually could bleed.

So, for me today, what I see now is I’m going deeper into the one-percent; I’m getting to know them better. And I see that the other media companies are going wider and farther out there to reach more and more people through more and more channels, which has become an exercise where I know 95 percent of the people in our universe.

So, our wheelhouse between all of our platforms is six million people a quarter. That’s using the magazine, the quarterly rhythm of the magazine, and then plugging in all of the newsletters, direct mail, and email. We have 400,000 people that are responsible for over 70 percent of the nation’s wealth and purchasing power. It really does come down to, 25 years later, the one-percent. It comes down to a small select group of people and when you hit six million people a quarter for your wheelhouse, that’s 24 million people a year. So, I’m not reaching what a traditional national book has of 250 million maybe over the course of a year, but I know out of 24 million people, 95 percent of those people could actually afford the products and services that we do business with.

Samir Husni: What’s the biggest challenge that you’re facing today and how do you plan to overcome it?

Jason Binn: To keep going deeper into the mindset, lifestyles and behaviors of that one-percent that we own. To constantly communicate and win them over and make them partake in responsible and more meaningful ways, so our advertisers can communicate their brands or their messaging, or expose their products to these people. We’re going deeper into the one-percent and evolving the platforms more and more.

Today to be a lifestyles, dual audience magazine, and have access to the homes and coffee tables of these people, we break it down this way – Tier-One distribution: Miami, New York, L.A., and Chicago., which gets anywhere from 15 to 20,000 books direct mail. Tier-Two markets are: San Francisco, Dallas, the markets you would assume, Orange County, and then Houston. The sizzle markets are Aspen during the summer and winter; the Hamptons during the summer and fall; and Palm Beach during the spring and winter. So, it’s not super-complicated, and everything we do is transparent, so what you see on the magazine’s spine are the markets we’re in.

The business model hasn’t been touched since we launched, which to me is a good thing. The business model we set and announced in the summer of 2012 and went live in the fall has not changed course. I was fortunate enough to have access to these people who have really wanted to be a part of our world. And it’s been accredited and documented all over, so I don’t really know who does what I do, because it’s kind of something that I had the luxury over the last 25 years to understand each market and the styles and sensibilities of these communities. So, 70 percent of the magazine is national and 30 percent is the New York City section.

What I’ve learned is 47 percent of the people that go to Miami are from New York. Aspen gets people from Dallas, Chicago, Houston, and New York. The Hamptons, that resort market gets Philly, Boston, and that area, the East Coast and New York City and Miami. And then Palm Beach gets a different crowd, it’s a very ancestral kind of community, where people are first cousins or second cousins.

So, those 100 or 200 influencers are the ones that move each market. Their families and/or themselves have primary, secondary and third homes in these markets. And the news that we cover comes a lot from New York and L.A. These seasonal markets and second Tier markets, there’s news, but not a lot of it, but we’re responsible to cover each market in our DuJour cities. Obviously, the Tier-One cities get more coverage; Tier-Two markets get less; and then the sizzle markets we cover during the seasons. It’s a glocal magazine. It just feels to me like a very responsible magazine that’s engrained in these markets editorially and promotionally.

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

Jason Binn: It’s important to be a dual audience, lifestyle magazine today that focuses on a fashion issue, an arts issue, and a music issue. When you’re a lifestyle and you’re focusing on fashion, art, entertainment, accessories; you have all of these constant columns on and offline. And you’re thinking toward a dual audience and it’s great to be in their homes and invited to sit on their coffee tables, because yes, today, there aren’t as many magazines in people’s homes.

And to be invited and accepted into their homes, and to be a magazine that caters to all, 80 percent of our readers are female, but we still walk a very responsible line, so that it is something that men and women can enjoy in their homes and that speaks to everyone. Younger people want to feel a little more sophisticated, and sophisticated people want to feel younger, and we’re fortunate enough that we own DuJour, the name, on every level.

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

Jason Binn: When it comes to DuJour, my work or my art, I’m a passionate, engaged and responsible entrepreneur.

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

Jason Binn: For me, it’s work and family. When I’m not working I’m at home with the kids and the family, and that’s it. To me working is playing. I enjoy what I do. I’m on the frontline with my team. And I think that’s important today. A lot of people hide behind their titles or their businesses, and then there’s people who go out there and really fight for what they believe in and what they have. And I have been fortunate enough since 2012 to have people want to go on this mission with me, this journey. And win. And we only win.

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

Jason Binn: I just want to make sure we’re always ahead of the competition. It wasn’t any different than when I started Niche Media. National advertisers didn’t do regional; they just didn’t do it. And they didn’t do a network in markets that multiple magazines were in for many years. And redefine it and see where those city magazines ended up later in the game. It’s great to know that what you do has purpose and that it has staying power. We’re not here to do what everyone else is doing, because that wouldn’t make us different.

By looking at the playing field of lifestyle magazines at the big media houses, there’s only three or four of them in the country, and when I look at the market, it comes out at the end of the day, 25 years later, those top markets that I’ve been fortunate enough to work and play in, it’s great that I was able to evolve my brand and put out the highest-quality content on the highest-quality paper, and work with people that I’ve never worked with before. Being able to work with Bruce Weber or Peter Lindbergh is another level.

Even the guy in the magazine with the navigation bars at the top and the page numbers on the side, where your fingers hold the magazine; all those little things, those details, are important. Why are the page numbers on the side? Someone a thousand years ago put them on the bottom right. It’s almost like the monthly magazines come out two weeks before the month. September comes out in November. My digital monthlies come out on the first and goes through that month, whether it’s January or February; it’s the entire month.

And today to be a monthly digital with a quarterly print is exciting too, because you want to keep active and engaged with your audience, and to be able to have this audience that we talk with every month, and do covers and activations; it just keeps your brand out there and keeps people talking about what you’re doing. And then we do the quarterly print, which wraps ourselves around that season. I think many magazines, as we have seen, are reducing their frequency, but they’re not leveraging that distribution of content and creating a digital magazine every month. Magazines were trying to sell digital subscriptions on their own and charging premium for them in 2012, and then they were charging print a different price, and then they did the combo, and now they just do all access and wrap it all in together. I think people are still trying to find their way. And I believe we’ve found our way and we just keep beating to that beat.

Today, being in a controlled environment and dictating and shaping around the right audience is important. We’ve laid out the map and we’ve built it and people have come and embraced it.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Jack And Jill Magazine: 80 Years Of Publishing And As Young As Ever With A Mission To Create A Magazine By, For & About Kids – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Joan SerVaas, Publisher & Steve Slon, Editorial Director…

November 6, 2017

“A magazine connects a lot better with kids today, because it’s something that they can hold and touch and feel, and use to interact with their parents. And it’s something that they can write on and color and fill-in, and just discover and go back to. It’s a much different aspect that being on a computer and looking at a screen. So, when we were talking about us connecting as editors to our audience, there’s also what connects the kids to their parents. How do they connect?” Joan SerVaas…

“I’ll tell you that one shift I’m working on developing now with our editor is to make it even more by, for and about kids. Many children’s magazines, including Jack and Jill, have traditionally been about some created kid content, let’s say, but generally we’re sort of instructional or didactic material, delivered by adults or teachers, and more in the vein of teaching. In rethinking the magazine, we’re looking at making it all about you, changing the little slug line on the cover to be “All about you,” and more by, for and about kids. And have more kid-created content; more stories about kids who are doing interesting things; inspirational pieces, and so on. As well as continuing our games and cartoons, recipes, and fun stuff for kids.” Steve Slon…

For a magazine that’s about to turn 80 years old next January, one might think with that kind of legacy behind them, they don’t need a plan for the future; just keep on doing what they have been for almost eight decades and get ready for the next 80. But Jack and Jill magazine doesn’t believe in resting on its laurels, the powers-that-be behind the magazine, namely Publisher, Joan SerVaas, and Editorial Director, Steve Slon, have a definitive plan for the brand’s foreseeable future; make it more kid-centric. More by, for and about kids. And according to Joan SerVaas, that’s what it’s all about.

I spoke with Joan and Steve recently and we talked about the historical title and about the other two very esteemed magazines that reside in Joan’s family tree: The Saturday Evening Post and Humpty Dumpty. All three publications have a legacy of tradition and prominence in the world of publishing, and with Jack and Jill’s list of past contributors, from Pearl S. Buck, who contributed “One Bright Day,” a two-part story that appeared in August and September of 1950, to Cartoonist Ted Key (best known for his “Hazel” cartoons, which appeared in the Post), and who contributed the 2-page cartoon feature “Diz and Liz” from 1961 to 1972, to New York Times bestselling author, Ben H. Winters, who contributed an original short story in the Nov./Dec. issue from 2012, the children’s title deserves its 80-year recognition.

Steve shared with me the many kid-loved aspects of the magazine, such as the cover contest, in which Steve said Jim Davis (cartoonist and creator of Garfield) has been a judge for in recent years. The cover contest is an art contest in which readers are invited to send their original illustrations for use as cover art. Steve was excited by the 1300 entries they had last year combined for Jack and Jill and Humpty Dumpty, and that the winner’s school receives a check for up to $1,500 to support their art classes, with the winning illustration used on the cover of the magazine.

And while the magazine is certainly a business, it’s not all about the bottom line. Joan and Steve agree that the future is the children and the magazine is about the betterment of children and everything that concerns them, from health and education, to just plain fun; all of the things that the Jack and Jill brand believes in.

So, without further ado, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with the living, breathing counterparts of “Jack and Jill,” two people who are determined to make the hill climb a wonderful experience for children, Joan SerVaas, publisher, and Steve Slon, editorial director, Jack and Jill magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the status of children’s magazines in this digital age (Joan SerVaas): Well, I don’t think it matters what age you’re in, children always love a story. And they like to play games and interact with their parents or parents like for them to be entertained by stories, activities and games, and we’ve been introducing those in a traditional way. But we’re not shying away from the digital age either.

On what has kept the magazine going for all of these years (Joan SerVaas): What has kept the magazine going is the fact that children are being born every day and are entering into what the editor used to refer to as their “growing up.” And as they grow up, they are learning and discovering and are curious, and I think that we continue to provide that option for parents through our magazine by finding wholesome, entertaining material.

On what role Editorial Director, Steve Slon thinks the printed children’s magazine plays in today’s marketplace (Steve Slon): That’s a good question. Certainly, there are many other entertainment sources competing for a child’s attention, so to make a magazine relevant, the magazine has to kind of reach in and grab the attention of the kids about subjects that they are already interested in. Today, of course, there is so much digital content going on that we’re increasing our coverage of, say, the digital stars, so we’re doing stories about kids who are famous on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and this is our way of finding that same connection to the reader that the magazine has always had.

On whether connectivity to the reader today is easier or harder or has digital made it simpler to connect with them (Steve Slon): I think it’s a little harder if your primary publication is print these days, because we’re talking to them in print about digital subject matter. Of course, we also have an online presence too, so through Facebook, Q & A’s, and that kind of possible engagement; it’s still certainly not easy. As I said, there are so many competing resources.

On whether connectivity to the reader today is easier or harder or has digital made it simpler to connect with them (Joan SerVaas): A magazine connects a lot better with kids today, because it’s something that they can hold and touch and feel, and use to interact with their parents. And it’s something that they can write on and color and fill-in, and just discover and go back to. It’s a much different aspect that being on a computer and looking at a screen. So, when we were talking about us connecting as editors to our audience, there’s also what connects the kids to their parents. How do they connect?

On why it’s important for her to continue the SerVaas legacy in publishing with their historic titles, such as The Saturday Evening Post, Humpty Dumpty and Jack and Jill (Joan SerVaas): Carrying on the tradition, especially for children, is important because we need to give them that continuity and to continue to reach out to them and respect their capabilities for learning. And I feel like it’s a little more challenging today to connect to children, because in a lot of ways there’s a lot of censorship out there now. You have to go through much today, especially in school-age kids and books, to be politically correct. And so, you don’t want to offend anybody; you want to be careful. Sometimes it’s a little more difficult to go in and bring something out that might be an uncomfortable aspect of life.

On whether her position as guardian of three very powerful brands weighs on her as a burden (Joan SerVaas): It doesn’t weigh on me as a burden; I feel like it’s an opportunity and something that’s important to preserve, because it goes back to 1938, before World War II. They continued through the war, although they did not continue to put it on the newsstand because they had to save paper, but when you go through and look at the activities and the type of interest that kids had in those days, it’s interesting to see how it evolved and how it was considered a modern magazine. And we want to continue to be a modern magazine, but for kids growing up, with their curiosity and interest to absorb all of this information; we want them to be stimulated. But the important thing is it’s entertaining and joyful for them.

On whether his position as editorial director of three very powerful brands weighs on him as a burden (Steve Slon): I would add that as far as The Post is concerned, rather than being a burden, I see it as incredibly exciting to look at the extraordinary reporting and illustration and fiction that makes up the body of this legacy publication. We can draw on some of that and put stories of today in context by talking about something that happened 50 years ago that we reported on. It’s been very exciting and not at all a burden. Just thrilling, really.

On the letter grade they would give Jack and Jill magazine, compared to other children’s magazines (Joan SerVaas): I would give us an A on content. The struggle for us is the cost of getting the distribution of the magazine to readers. It’s a very expensive process to do it through the mail, and getting circulation. So, that’s our biggest challenge and our biggest burden.

On the letter grade they would give Jack and Jill magazine, compared to other children’s magazines (Steve Slon): The whole circulation model of magazines is antiquated and extremely expensive. You send out a million pieces of mail to get maybe 20 to 30,000 responses. It’s a horrendous amount of waste and cost. And that’s very difficult. One thing we do that’s a little unique with Jack and Jill is that we have the mailing list, of course, for subscribers of The Saturday Evening Post. And probably our most successful mailing now, and I would rate it maybe B+ if not an A, is that we do an Annual around this season, for a gift-giving offer to The Saturday Evening Post reader, for their children or grandchildren.

On why they think there seems to be two extremes in magazine pricing today; the magazines with high cover prices for one issue and the magazines with the same price for an entire year (Steve Slon): The usual relationship is very high-priced, high-quality paper; very expensive production with very low circulation. Then you have Highlights, for example, which is low-priced and has high circulation; we’re somewhere in between. Certainly, we’d like to increase our circulation, but we’re delivering high-quality substance at lower cost than the new arrivals.

On why they think there seems to be two extremes in magazine pricing today; the magazines with high cover prices for one issue and the magazines with the same price for an entire year (Joan SerVaas): There is a lot of effort being made with people trying to figure out how to continue to reach the market for the younger audience, and it’s directed to parents, not to children when it’s selling on a newsstand. And I’m not an expert in this area, but I would say there are a lot of magazines that come and go that are trends. We’re trying to navigate, but I feel like magazines will not go away and we’re looking for the right formula to provide it.

On the plans for Jack and Jill as the brand approaches its 80th anniversary in 2018 (Steve Slon): I’ll tell you that one shift I’m working on developing now with our editor is to make it even more by, for and about kids. Many children’s magazines, including Jack and Jill, have traditionally been about some created kid content, let’s say, but generally we’re sort of instructional or didactic material, delivered by adults or teachers, and more in the vein of teaching. In rethinking the magazine, we’re looking at making it all about you, changing the little slug line on the cover to be “All about you,” and more by, for and about kids.

On the plans for Jack and Jill as the brand approaches its 80th anniversary in 2018 (Joan SerVaas): I think our audience will continue to grow and we’ll continue to provide great content. We want to make it more kid-centric and not necessarily focus on the educational points, such as math and science, and all the things that are so important in the curriculum-building that seems to be popular. We want kids to enjoy the magazine and be engaged and we want parents to be able to enjoy reading it with their children and discovering new things about parenthood and childhood as they go. I don’t see a big shift; I think that kids are going to always enjoy our magazine. It’s a great magazine.

On how long they think they can survive in an ink on paper business in this digital age (Steve Slon): We’re surviving fine, but we’re expanding our digital footprint, and we’re developing a website now that will allow readers of The Post and Jack and Jill to see past issues of the magazines and past covers, past articles and fantastic illustrations of The Saturday Evening Post, all the way back to the turn of the last century. Obviously, we have to keep up with that kind of aspect, but we’re solid, in the black with the magazine as it is. So, we expect to have continuing interest in a readable magazine. A magazine, as Joan said, that you can hold, interact with, share with friends, color, read with your parents and talk about.

On how long they think they can survive in an ink on paper business in this digital age (Joan SerVaas): I would add to that, we’ll see. Because if it becomes not worth our while; if it gets to the point where the mail is too expensive and we can’t do it, maybe we’ll continue to publish it, but we will have it on the newsstand. Or we’ll go to different intervals in publishing, instead of monthly we would go to a four times a year, larger booklet that would go out. We’re going to remain open-minded, because it’s not worth it if we can’t afford to send it by mail.

On any plans to go beyond what they’re doing now with the Jack and Jill brand (Joan SerVaas): I think it’s important, and yes, I think especially if we’re not going out to individual parents and selling it, that it would be much more important. We’re lucky to have such an iconic brand that people know and so, I don’t disagree with it. It’s something that we’ll continue to focus on . And what Steve was talking about; if we did it more child-centric or got more children involved in it. We’ve talked about working with schools and having kids interact with us in the publishing part of the magazine.

On any plans to go beyond what they’re doing now with the Jack and Jill brand (Steve Slon): I don’t know what “brandier” means, but we have an 80-year-old brand. And just by that alone, we have recognition that really gives us an advantage over the startups.

On whether a children’s magazine could implement the changes of a magazine like Sports Illustrated that is going to less frequency, higher-quality paper, and making its presence known on every available platform (Joan SerVaas): The difference between us and Sports Illustrated is that the kids grow up and the parents’ interests change as they get older, and different types of material become more important. And we’ve set this on a younger age, so that brand marketing has to be continuous, in terms of contacting parents.

On anything they’d like to add (Steve Slon): We’re a non-profit, so part of the mission is education, of course, and part of it is health and self-care; better awareness of health issues for kids. And Joan has developed as a brand extension the Fitness Farm in Indianapolis, which is a summer camp dedicated to health and weight loss, but it’s really more than just a camp; it’s developing a prototype of programs that would guide and could be replicated elsewhere. And it’s received significant outside funding to help kids with learning about health and fitness and childhood obesity is one of the big subjects.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her (Joan SerVaas): Creative thinker.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him (Steve Slon): I think I’m a good magazine creator and revitalizer and help people, as far as my industry reputation goes.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home (Joan SerVaas): I would be out running three miles.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home (Steve Slon): A glass of red wine and a good book. And it would be print. The Kindle is certainly a convenience for traveling, but when you’re at home and you have time, it’s print.

On what keeps them up at night (Joan SerVaas): (Laughs) My dog. There are a lot of challenges today, but I look forward to the challenge, so I sleep well. But what I do want to make sure of; we have a lot of great employees and I want the magazines to work and I want them to have a job. We have a great group and so we’re working really hard to survive in a world that’s transitioning big into the digital age. I want to keep this team together. And we’re going to work hard to do it.

On what keeps them up at night (Steve Slon): On a large scale, I’m worried about global warming, which we can’t even call global warming anymore; we have to call it climate change. I live in Florida, and Miami is already flooding regularly. And it’s pretty scary. I have grandchildren who are going to have to face this. I doubt we will overmuch in the next ten or twenty years, but in 100 years; I have no idea how we’re going to cope.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Joan SerVaas, publisher, and Steve Slon, editorial director, Jack and Jill magazine.

Samir Husni: In this digital age that we live in, when you tell somebody that you have a children’s magazine that’s now entering its 80th year, some people probably ask you what gives? What’s the status of children’s magazines in this digital age?

Joan SerVaas: Well, I don’t think it matters what age you’re in, children always love a story. And they like to play games and interact with their parents or parents like for them to be entertained by stories, activities and games, and we’ve been introducing those in a traditional way. But we’re not shying away from the digital age either.

Samir Husni: What has kept Jack and Jill going for all of these years?

Joan SerVaas: What has kept the magazine going is the fact that children are being born every day and are entering into what the editor used to refer to as their “growing up.” And as they grow up, they are learning and discovering and are curious, and I think that we continue to provide that option for parents through our magazine by finding wholesome, entertaining material.

Samir Husni: And Steve, from an editorial standpoint, you’ve seen your share of magazines that you’ve edited and that you continue to edit; what role do you think the printed children’s magazine plays in today’s marketplace?

Steve Slon: That’s a good question. Certainly, there are many other entertainment sources competing for a child’s attention, so to make a magazine relevant, the magazine has to kind of reach in and grab the attention of the kids about subjects that they are already interested in. One of the innovations that the magazine did historically was when adult magazines were focusing on movies, this was back in the 1950s, movie stars had started talking about television, which was something that kids were more engaged with. And they would go behind the scenes on TV shows and it would attract and be something that kids would really relate to, because 1950-era kids were TV addicts, as we all know.

Well today, of course, there is so much digital content going on that we’re increasing our coverage of, say, the digital stars, so we’re doing stories about kids who are famous on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and this is our way of finding that same connection to the reader that the magazine has always had.

Samir Husni: You talk about that connection to the reader; do you feel your job as an editor today is easier or harder than what it used to be? Is that connectivity more elusive today or has digital made it simpler to connect?

Steve Slon: I think it’s a little harder if your primary publication is print these days, because we’re talking to them in print about digital subject matter. Of course, we also have an online presence too, so through Facebook, Q & A’s, and that kind of possible engagement; it’s still certainly not easy. As I said, there are so many competing resources.

You asked is it easier today or not to be an editor; one thing that’s harder for me as the overseer of this whole program, is relating to the interest of, say, six, seven and eight year olds. It’s one thing when I’m dealing with The Saturday Evening Post, which is a magazine whose readers are my peers and I can intuit or feel in a sense what we’re looking at. But we have a terrific young editor, Jennifer Burnham, who is in her twenties and who’s tapped into the age group. She visits schools and she talks to kids all of the time, so we rely on her to have that feel of where kids are at and what they’re doing.

Joan SerVaas: A magazine connects a lot better with kids today, because it’s something that they can hold and touch and feel, and use to interact with their parents. And it’s something that they can write on and color and fill-in, and just discover and go back to. It’s a much different aspect that being on a computer and looking at a screen. So, when we were talking about us connecting as editors to our audience, there’s also what connects the kids to their parents. How do they connect?

Samir Husni: Joan, Steve mentioned The Saturday Evening Post, which is a part of your family heritage; as a family member that is guardian of these very highly-esteemed, traditional and historic magazines such as The Post and Humpty Dumpty and Jack and Jill, why is it important that you continue the legacy?

Joan SerVaas: Carrying on the tradition, especially for children, is important because we need to give them that continuity and to continue to reach out to them and respect their capabilities for learning. And I feel like it’s a little more challenging today to connect to children, because in a lot of ways there’s a lot of censorship out there now. You have to go through much today, especially in school-age kids and books, to be politically correct. And so, you don’t want to offend anybody; you want to be careful. Sometimes it’s a little more difficult to go in and bring something out that might be an uncomfortable aspect of life.

So, I think having the continuity and the structure; it’s important for us to continue to find ways to reach kids to bring deeper character descriptions about the things that are happening. When Steve mentioned our editor today, she is connected very well with our current audiences and also with what parents want for their children.

Samir Husni: Does your position feel like a burden, that you have been entrusted with three very powerful brands, that at one stage were the movers and shakers of the magazine media industry? How does that weigh on you?

Joan SerVaas: It doesn’t weigh on me as a burden; I feel like it’s an opportunity and something that’s important to preserve, because it goes back to 1938, before World War II. They continued through the war, although they did not continue to put it on the newsstand because they had to save paper, but when you go through and look at the activities and the type of interest that kids had in those days, it’s interesting to see how it evolved and how it was considered a modern magazine. And we want to continue to be a modern magazine, but for kids growing up, with their curiosity and interest to absorb all of this information; we want them to be stimulated. But the important thing is it’s entertaining and joyful for them.

So, we have to continually translate what is going on in our society to continue to reach those kids. And it’s very interesting to go back and look at what was important. And to look at the games, where you might see a wooden spool for knitting and thimbles. It probably wouldn’t make any sense to kids today, because their mothers don’t have the sewing machines necessarily, in some families. It’s a different society. But it’s an interesting historical retrospective, if you’re interested in that.

Steve Slon: And I would add that as far as The Post is concerned, rather than being a burden, I see it as incredibly exciting to look at the extraordinary reporting and illustration and fiction that makes up the body of this legacy publication. We can draw on some of that and put stories of today in context by talking about something that happened 50 years ago that we reported on. It’s been very exciting and not at all a burden. Just thrilling, really.

Samir Husni: As you’re enjoying this thrill of editing an 80-year-old magazine for children, with no advertising; where does that place you on the marker of successful publishing? If you were going to give yourself a letter grade, in terms of children’s magazines, what would that be, specifically with Jack and Jill?

Joan SerVaas: I would give us an A on content. The struggle for us is the cost of getting the distribution of the magazine to readers. It’s a very expensive process to do it through the mail, and getting circulation. So, that’s our biggest challenge and our biggest burden.

And what everybody is going to today is going online to see if kids do in fact read online. We’re searching for the right formula to be able to continue getting the actual magazine to kids, with a mix of opportunity online to read stories and enjoy looking at the magazine online. And those are challenges. I don’t know that we can really give ourselves a grade, but it’s A for effort.

Steve Slon: The whole circulation model of magazines is antiquated and extremely expensive. You send out a million pieces of mail to get maybe 20 to 30,000 responses. It’s a horrendous amount of waste and cost. And that’s very difficult. One thing we do that’s a little unique with Jack and Jill is that we have the mailing list, of course, for subscribers of The Saturday Evening Post.

And probably our most successful mailing now, and I would rate it maybe B+ if not an A, is that we do an Annual around this season, for a gift-giving offer to The Saturday Evening Post reader, for their children or grandchildren. The average age of The Saturday Evening Post reader is high-40s to mid-50s. Some have children, some have grandchildren, and they’re more likely to subscribe and we do have those lists. So, we have that going for us, but again, it’s an inefficient system.

Samir Husni: If you look at the market as a whole; we’ve seen a lot of new magazines arrive on the marketplace aimed at children, more at young girls than young boys. But there’s certainly no shortage of new magazines coming to the marketplace. And some of them have cover prices for one issue that costs as much as an entire year’s subscription of Jack and Jill. Why do you think we have those two extremes now? We have magazines that sell for $12 per issue and magazines that sell for $12 for the whole year.

Steve Slon: The usual relationship is very high-priced, high-quality paper; very expensive production with very low circulation. Then you have Highlights, for example, which is low-priced and has high circulation; we’re somewhere in between. Certainly, we’d like to increase our circulation, but we’re delivering high-quality substance at lower cost than the new arrivals.

Joan SerVaas: There is a lot of effort being made with people trying to figure out how to continue to reach the market for the younger audience, and it’s directed to parents, not to children when it’s selling on a newsstand. And I’m not an expert in this area, but I would say there are a lot of magazines that come and go that are trends. We’re trying to navigate, but I feel like magazines will not go away and we’re looking for the right formula to provide it.

We’re not going to lose money; we’re going to try and do it so that we can make money. We’re not on the newsstands; we’re not selling to parents on those newsstands, so we’re trying to keep them engaged through various ways of communication, which used to be the mail, or through affordable magazine sales to schools and that type of thing. The income from that has gotten lower and lower, in terms of what actually comes to the publisher. We’re hanging in there because we think it’s an important part of our mission as well. And we’ll continue to do it. But it’s not easy, but I’m not going to call it a burden.

Samir Husni: As you look toward 2018, you’ll be celebrating the 80th anniversary of Jack and Jill, what are your plans? What do you have in store for Jack and Jill?

Steve Slon: Well, I’ll tell you that one shift I’m working on developing now with our editor is to make it even more by, for and about kids. Many children’s magazines, including Jack and Jill, have traditionally been about some created kid content, let’s say, but generally we’re sort of instructional or didactic material, delivered by adults or teachers, and more in the vein of teaching. In rethinking the magazine, we’re looking at making it all about you, changing the little slug line on the cover to be “All about you,” and more by, for and about kids. And have more kid-created content; more stories about kids who are doing interesting things; inspirational pieces, and so on. As well as continuing our games and cartoons, recipes, and fun stuff for kids.

Joan SerVaas: I think our audience will continue to grow and we’ll continue to provide great content. We want to make it more kid-centric and not necessarily focus on the educational points, such as math and science, and all the things that are so important in the curriculum-building that seems to be popular. We want kids to enjoy the magazine and be engaged and we want parents to be able to enjoy reading it with their children and discovering new things about parenthood and childhood as they go. I don’t see a big shift; I think that kids are going to always enjoy our magazine. It’s a great magazine.

Samir Husni: You have two children’s magazine and one adult magazine, The Saturday Evening Post; you’re doing quite a few SIPs; how long can you survive in this ink on paper business in this digital age?

Steve Slon: We’re surviving fine, but we’re expanding our digital footprint, and we’re developing a website now that will allow readers of The Post and Jack and Jill to see past issues of the magazines and past covers, past articles and fantastic illustrations of The Saturday Evening Post, all the way back to the turn of the last century. Obviously, we have to keep up with that kind of aspect, but we’re solid, in the black with the magazine as it is. So, we expect to have continuing interest in a readable magazine. A magazine, as Joan said, that you can hold, interact with, share with friends, color, read with your parents and talk about.

Joan SerVaas: I would add to that, we’ll see. Because if it becomes not worth our while; if it gets to the point where the mail is too expensive and we can’t do it, maybe we’ll continue to publish it, but we will have it on the newsstand. Or we’ll go to different intervals in publishing, instead of monthly we would go to a four times a year, larger booklet that would go out. We’re going to remain open-minded, because it’s not worth it if we can’t afford to send it by mail.

Samir Husni: One of the things I hear throughout the industry these days is about the importance of making the brand “brandier” and the print “printier,” as we move into 2018 and beyond. Any plans for the Jack and Jill brand to go beyond what you’re doing now?

Joan SerVaas: I think it’s important, and yes, I think especially if we’re not going out to individual parents and selling it, that it would be much more important. We’re lucky to have such an iconic brand that people know and so, I don’t disagree with it. It’s something that we’ll continue to focus on . And what Steve was talking about; if we did it more child-centric or got more children involved in it. We’ve talked about working with schools and having kids interact with us in the publishing part of the magazine. And I think there’s a lot of opportunity in that area as well, but I do believe it’s important and it’s something that we try to do and will continue to do.

Steve Slon: I don’t know what “brandier” means, but we have an 80-year-old brand. And just by that alone, we have recognition that really gives us an advantage over the startups.

Samir Husni: When I interviewed the editorial director of Sports Illustrated, he told me they’re reducing the frequency of the magazine; they’re enhancing the quality of the paper; increasing the editorial pages; and trying to be on every platform, wherever the readers are. Can we do that with a children’s magazine?

Joan SerVaas: The difference between us and Sports Illustrated is that the kids grow up and the parents’ interests change as they get older, and different types of material become more important. And we’ve set this on a younger age, so that brand marketing has to be continuous, in terms of contacting parents.

Today millennials are getting everything through the digital world and social media, so that’s how brand is developed now, so we’ll continue to try and do that. At the same time, we’re continuing our traditional way of doing things too. I think through educational programs and events and sponsorships, that’s the way we will continue to try and reach out and work on the branding. But it’s going to be a continuous effort, because our audience comes and goes pretty fast.

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

Steve Slon: We’re a non-profit, so part of the mission is education, of course, and part of it is health and self-care; better awareness of health issues for kids. And Joan has developed as a brand extension the Fitness Farm in Indianapolis, which is a summer camp dedicated to health and weight loss, but it’s really more than just a camp; it’s developing a prototype of programs that would guide and could be replicated elsewhere. And it’s received significant outside funding to help kids with learning about health and fitness and childhood obesity is one of the big subjects.

You asked earlier about brand and by implication, brand extension, and this is a really strong example of Joan’s creative ideas around what can be done always for the benefit of the children; it’s not strictly bottom line issues, it’s what we can do to take the message of good health and good self-care and good fitness to kids.

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

Joan SerVaas: Creative thinker.

Steve Slon: I think I’m a good magazine creator and revitalizer and help people, as far as my industry reputation goes.

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

Joan SerVaas: I would be out running three miles.

Steve Slon: A glass of red wine and a good book. And it would be print. The Kindle is certainly a convenience for traveling, but when you’re at home and you have time, it’s print.

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

Joan SerVaas: (Laughs) My dog. There are a lot of challenges today, but I look forward to the challenge, so I sleep well. But what I do want to make sure of; we have a lot of great employees and I want the magazines to work and I want them to have a job. We have a great group and so we’re working really hard to survive in a world that’s transitioning big into the digital age. I want to keep this team together. And we’re going to work hard to do it.

Steve Slon: On a large scale, I’m worried about global warming, which we can’t even call global warming anymore; we have to call it climate change. I live in Florida, and Miami is already flooding regularly. And it’s pretty scary. I have grandchildren who are going to have to face this. I doubt we will overmuch in the next ten or twenty years, but in 100 years; I have no idea how we’re going to cope.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Condé Nast’s New Culture Collection Tsar, Chris Mitchell: Bringing the Diverse Strength & Power of Individual Brands Together For A Solid Future – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Condé Nast’s Chief Business Officer…

November 1, 2017

“I’m one of those people who believe that despite all of the changes we’ve seen, magazines have a very important place, their print components as well, and I don’t think they’re going away anytime soon. I think they may shift and change in frequency and circulation size and advertising, but they are a very important part of this culture and I think people continue to recognize that.” Chris Mitchell…

The power of the brand as a whole is a vital component to the health wheel of publishing, and when you have a very significant number of powerful brands, bringing them together into a collection of culture is an innovative and intriguing direction. And Condé Nast certainly has the number of powerful, individual brands to make that collection even stronger than it was, especially with the right person moving that force into the future.

Chris Mitchell is definitely the right person. Chris has held the responsibility of publisher and chief revenue officer of Vanity Fair since 2014, and now has become the chief business officer for seven different brands under the Condé Nast banner. From The New Yorker to Vanity Fair to W to Teen Vogue to them platform to the Fashion Enterprise and the Entertainment Enterprise, Chris sees the diversity of demographics as a plus not a minus, and is determined to use the power of the individual brand to reinforce each other and bring even more strength and solidarity to the company.

I spoke with Chris recently and we talked about this new position he finds himself in. Chris said he is both excited and busy as he slides into the driver’s seat of his shiny, new machine. Busy, because of the hectic nature of his schedule, excited because of the possibilities this opportunity offers Condé Nast. New revenue streams, new advertising business; just the entire move seems right and he’s ready to take on the challenge. It’s the perfect time and he’s looking forward to a broader spectrum of responsibilities and possibilities.

So, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a man who is the Tsar of Culture in a Collection of diverse strength and power – Chris Mitchell, chief business officer, The Condé Nast Culture Collection.

But first the sound-bites:

On being named chief business officer of the new Condé Nast Culture Collection: Obviously, it’s been a little bit hectic in this transition phase, but it’s also been really fun. It’s giving me new and different things to do, which I’m enjoying a lot. And that’s been rewarding.

On the difference between his role as publisher, and today as chief business officer and whether it’s just semantics: I’m sure some of it is semantics, because obviously much of the role that I did before as a publisher, I’m still doing as a chief business officer. I’d say the notable difference is as our business evolves, the company sort of charged all of the CBOs with thinking even more broadly than the advertising responsibilities that we previously thought of ourselves as really owning as a publisher.

On whether overseeing the pure digital entity “Them” required a mind adjustment for him or it just came naturally: I’m sure the dynamic will be slightly different because it is digital-only. And The New Yorker, as you probably well know, has become a very sizeable digital business; something like The New Yorker is really evenly split between its print and digital revenues, which I think is another interesting dynamic. So, they are further along in this evolution of truly becoming a balanced business between print and digital. But Vanity Fair is a sizeable, $20 million digital business in and of itself, so while there is even a certainly larger print business at Vanity Fair to run, we’ve had experience running a pretty big digital business already.

On whether he envisions a day where everyone will be talking about brand advertising, rather than print or digital or print plus digital advertising: I can tell you that we’re experimenting with some things in some of the enterprise accounts and enterprise selling that we’re doing. What we want our advertising partners to really think of the relationship with Condé Nast as, is a marketing relationship. We want that investment to be a holistic investment as a marketing partner now.

On whether today it’s about the Condé Nast brand as a whole, rather than individual entities having their own brands, such as Vanity Fair and The New Yorker: I think this can happen on an enterprise level, on a Condé Nast level, where we’re going to marketing partners and saying Condé Nast, with its 100 million consumers and multi 100 million digital and social footprints is something that we can aggregate across all of our brands for these partners. But at the same time, individual brands, or individual brand collections, The Culture Collection being a great example, I can go to a marketing partner and give them some real scale across the various titles and various demographics within The Culture Collection.

On the biggest challenge he’s faced so far and how he overcame it: As you said, it’s early days, so I’m sure I’m yet to face my biggest challenge, but I think broadly speaking, this is an important time management exercise for me. So, I’d like to think that where I’ve found success at this company has been in building teams of incredibly talented people and frankly, staying out of their way to the degree that I am letting them do their job that they’re imminently capable of doing.

On whether he feels overwhelmed by all of the brands he oversees and all of the different demographics that they represent: No, I think that’s what’s great about it. And what’s interesting is, and again, I think if we look at the company’s strategy behind this, and perhaps this collection more than the other; what S. I. Newhouse was so brilliant at in his long career at Condé Nast was really having his finger on the pulse of culture. He shaped it with all of the magazines at the time and the editors and the choices that he made, so to me culture is really the heart of what this company stands for. And this collection is notable for just what you’ve pointed out; as a collection it really spans the full breadth of our culture in so many ways demographically, not even just age.

On whether he thinks it will be smooth sailing ahead despite all of the changes, or that he has some rough seas to get through: This year has certainly been a challenging one for media companies. In our case, and in all of the media companies cases, I think we’ve all seen the print lines have been somewhat challenging this year as the shift continues to digital. We’ve all seen a decline in our print advertising, but a market growth in our digital advertising. I would like to believe that going into 2018, we’re going to see a stabilization of print. I think that we have reached a level where print has just found its natural level among the other platforms. And I expect that we will continue to see a real rise in digital display, but more even in video and in the growth of social.

On what message he gives his team when they leave their offices to sell the various brands in the collection: I like to use the old saw that I got from my mother, which is: if you want something done, give it to a busy person. And I think while we’re still integrating these various brands into one collection, to answer your question honestly, it’s going to be a work in progress to really figure out what is that collective message.

On anything else he’d like to add: It’s early days, but it’s exciting. For the last six months, we were a smaller collection, which was made up of just Vanity Fair and W, two brands that have a lot of similarities and fit well together, but it didn’t fully make a collection. And what pleases me about this is, as you noted, you get a real gestalt in putting these brands together, and in some cases, seemingly very different brands, with The New Yorker and Teen Vogue. But the whole is greater than some of its parts, in how they can all fit together in a collection. And that’s exceptionally exciting for me.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: If I’m lucky enough for this to be where I spend my whole career, and certainly I have more years behind me than ahead of me, I’d guess, I would want people to say he put his mark on the very important thing that Condé Nast stands for. And if I could be known as someone who worked very hard to make Condé Nast an even more successful place than I found it, and the brands that I’ve had the pleasure of working on, better when I left them than when I started, I’ll feel like it was a life’s work well done.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: My wife works at Condé Nast as well, you may recall that, Pilar Guzmán, she’s the editor of Condé Nast Traveler. We have two boys, one’s a teenager and one is almost, so like a lot of working families, it’s somewhat of a juggling act in our hectic schedules. The truth is I, as does Pilar, we go home every night that we possibly can and try to have as quiet and as normal a life with our two kids that we can.

On what keeps him up at night: I’d say that it’s seven different things: Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Teen Vogue, Them, W, our fashion and entertainment business as a whole. But all that said, I sleep pretty well. And I think if I can spend more of my time thinking about new ways that we’re going to market, that we are working with our partners, that we are thinking about everything from the pricing strategies, the value proposition, the ways that we can continue to innovate in our marketing, the ways that we can make this collection and each of its individual brands stronger; the more of my time that I can lie awake excitedly thinking about those things and trust in really strong people to continue to manage the advertising, revenue piece, I’m a happy man.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Chris Mitchell, chief business officer, The Condé Nast Culture Collection.

Samir Husni: Chris, you’re now the “Culture Tsar” of The Condé Nast Culture Collection. (Laughs)

Chris Mitchell: (Laughs too) I like Tsar along with culture, I hadn’t thought of that yet.

Samir Husni: Congratulations on being named chief business officer of The Condé Nast Culture Collection. I’m sure you’ve been extremely busy.

Chris Mitchell: Thank you. Obviously, it’s been a little bit hectic in this transition phase, but it’s also been really fun. It’s giving me new and different things to do, which I’m enjoying a lot. And that’s been rewarding.

Samir Husni: You’re overseeing this new Culture division at Condé Nast, which includes Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, W, Teen Vogue and Them. What’s the difference between the title of publisher and chief business officer? Is this just semantics or is there a difference?

Chris Mitchell: I’m sure some of it is semantics, because obviously much of the role that I did before as a publisher, I’m still doing as a chief business officer. I’d say the notable difference is as our business evolves, the company sort of charged all of the CBOs with thinking even more broadly than the advertising responsibilities that we previously thought of ourselves as really owning as a publisher.

And so, that’s probably your big difference is that the chief business officer role encompasses our business development, broader partnerships, and M&A work that we think could be interesting for our collections, and particularly in that vein, as we grow these digital footprints, Bob Sauerberg (Chief Executive Officer & President – Condé Nast) has charged us with really bringing back to him this holistic view of what other things we should be building, buying, and partnering with in the digital space to really accelerate that growth.

So, the job does become broader, especially in my case, since this has become a fairly sizeable collection. And by the way, in addition to the collection, I also oversee our enterprise relationships for the fashion category for the company, as well as for the entertainment and media categories. I’ve got teams who really work on the enterprise products selling for the whole company around the fashion relationships and also around the entertainment relationships.

But in addition to those things; we’re constantly thinking about how can we really grow this business and I now have VPs underneath me who I’m asking to step up and take on more of what frankly used to be a publisher’s role, really, owning that advertising revenue piece of the business.

Samir Husni: You’ve been publisher of many magazines before, and now you’re also dealing with a pure digital entity with Them. Did that require a mind adjustment or did it just come natural?

Chris Mitchell: I’m sure the dynamic will be slightly different because it is digital-only. And The New Yorker, as you probably well know, has become a very sizeable digital business; something like The New Yorker is really evenly split between its print and digital revenues, which I think is another interesting dynamic. So, they are further along in this evolution of truly becoming a balanced business between print and digital.

But Vanity Fair is a sizeable, $20 million digital business in and of itself, so while there is even a certainly larger print business at Vanity Fair to run, we’ve had experience running a pretty big digital business already. And frankly speaking, the evolution that I’ve gone through as a publisher, a chief business officer over the last five years, has been that digital education. That self-education that we’ve all had to give ourselves as the world has moved to a more digital advertising model and as a lot of our clients have shifted more of their money from print to digital.

Samir Husni: Do you envision a day where everyone will be talking about just the “brand” advertising, rather than print versus digital or print plus digital?

Chris Mitchell: I can tell you that we’re experimenting with some things in some of the enterprise accounts and enterprise selling that we’re doing. What we want our advertising partners to really think of the relationship with Condé Nast as, is a marketing relationship. We want that investment to be a holistic investment as a marketing partner now.

And that’s more than just words or semantics. That’s a sizeable shift from what we’ve done before, where we were looking at these as individual platforms and frankly where we probably had some legacy behavior toward protecting one platform versus another. I think those days are gone. We’re not doing service to the brand and we’re not doing service to our marketing partners if we’re here trying to protect print. That isn’t our job. And I think there will be a natural evolution and that this will level itself.

What level of print advertising a brand is doing is going to depend entirely on the brand itself; what category of advertising that brand is in, and then a lot of other things that about the maturity or development of that brand. But if we let those brands decide, find a natural level of what is the role of print; what is the role of digital; and then importantly, what is the role of other marketing services that Condé Nast is invested in the last couple of years, things like Data Solutions, things like Branded Content and Experiential Events. Those are all huge areas of growth for this company. And we want our partners to invest in those areas, as much as they’re investing in our traditional media areas.

Samir Husni: If I understand you correctly, you’re moving in the direction of Condé Nast being the brand, rather than individual brands, such as the Vanity Fair brand and The New Yorker brand?

Chris Mitchell: It’s two things. I think this can happen on an enterprise level, on a Condé Nast level, where we’re going to marketing partners and saying Condé Nast, with its 100 million consumers and multi 100 million digital and social footprints is something that we can aggregate across all of our brands for these partners. But at the same time, individual brands, or individual brand collections, The Culture Collection being a great example, I can go to a marketing partner and give them some real scale across the various titles and various demographics within The Culture Collection.

I can also go to them on a brand-by-brand and say, let’s talk about how you can work with The New Yorker specifically or Vanity Fair specifically and still be able to touch a lot of different areas. They can do digital advertising, print advertising; we can monetize our social media with our partners. We can do native advertising across any of those platforms. They can also do events and sponsorships and things like that, things that are non-media expenditures that are obviously very important marketing expenditures. And as this company has evolved, even a single brand partner, a New Yorker specific advertiser, should be able to take advantage of an entire suite of marketing services that The New Yorker itself, or that Condé Nast can offer.

So, these are brand conversations; these are collection conversations; and then these are also Condé Nast-wide conversations. And I think that’s the mix that allows us to be the most versatile partner and frankly the best in overall business.

Samir Husni: You’ve been less than two weeks on this job; what has been the biggest challenge that you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

Chris Mitchell: As you said, it’s early days, so I’m sure I’m yet to face my biggest challenge, but I think broadly speaking, this is an important time management exercise for me. So, I’d like to think that where I’ve found success at this company has been in building teams of incredibly talented people and frankly, staying out of their way to the degree that I am letting them do their job that they’re imminently capable of doing.

And as I explained to my bosses when we were doing this transition, I was very clear-eyed about the fact that there was going to be a lot on my plate and it will require me to empower and delegate to the really strong VPs and executive directors, and very senior sales and marketing talent that we already have at this company.

What we’re in the middle of right now is putting the finishing touches on what that organization looks like, but I know already that it’s going to depend very greatly on the very talented VPs of revenue and marketing who will be working on the various brands.

The other thing that’s interesting and what I love about this, and given how long that I’ve been at this company, I worked at The New Yorker for three years, from 2001 to 2004 as the associate publisher then with David Remnick, and I regard that as the three probably most enjoyable years I’ve spent at this company, so to be back working at The New Yorker is a privilege as much as it is a great challenge. I’m lucky in the sense that I get to now dip into a lot of different things. The New Yorker has a huge consumer business, which will be a great learning experience for the rest of the brands in this collection.

I think where we’re going to see real synergy is where we can apply the strength of one brand and have that work for the other brands. The advocacy and millennial audience and buzz of Teen Vogue; the exciting and experimental project that is Them; the consumer business of Vanity Fair; we’re doing some very interesting things with W to really lean into its oversized format for print; and then of course Vanity Fair, which has a host of things from the experiential conferences, to the web strategy we put into place a couple of years ago with these three different verticals. So, we’re going to have a lot of learning across all of these brands that I think will benefit the collection, and hopefully the company.

Samir Husni: Do you feel overwhelmed, like you’re almost reaching every age group, from the teens, all the way to the aging baby boomers?

Chris Mitchell: No, I think that’s what’s great about it. And what’s interesting is, and again, I think if we look at the company’s strategy behind this, and perhaps this collection more than the other; what S. I. Newhouse was so brilliant at in his long career at Condé Nast was really having his finger on the pulse of culture. He shaped it with all of the magazines at the time and the editors and the choices that he made, so to me culture is really the heart of what this company stands for. And this collection is notable for just what you’ve pointed out; as a collection it really spans the full breadth of our culture in so many ways demographically, not even just age.

I also think what’s interesting is most of the individual titles within The Culture Collection have that really broad range. The New Yorker is a prime example of being incredibly relevant to millennials, just take a subway anywhere in New York and look at the number of New Yorker tote bags that you see on 20-somethings, and as you noted, all the way up to aging baby boomers and beyond.

And we have great examples like that with all of the brands, where the breadth of the readership, age-wise and otherwise, is much broader that you might even expect. Something like a Teen Vogue that actually has a median age of 24, and quite a few readers, because of its female empowerment message, skew far older than what the title would suggest.

So, this is going to be an exercise in dispelling certain notions, even within the individual brands, as well as using the breadth of the collection to be that much more powerful as a marketing partner for our advertisers.

Samir Husni: As you plan for the changes, such as the editorship of Vanity Fair; how do you think that particular ship will continue to sail? Is it smooth sailing ahead or maybe some rough seas?

Chris Mitchell: This year has certainly been a challenging one for media companies. In our case, and in all of the media companies cases, I think we’ve all seen the print lines have been somewhat challenging this year as the shift continues to digital. We’ve all seen a decline in our print advertising, but a market growth in our digital advertising.

I would like to believe that going into 2018, we’re going to see a stabilization of print. I think that we have reached a level where print has just found its natural level among the other platforms. And I expect that we will continue to see a real rise in digital display, but more even in video and in the growth of social. Our company is betting big that video is going to continue to be a very strong growth area, and an area where we really can excel as a company, as we compete with things like linear TV. A great number of dollars go into video advertising in non-linear formats, and I think Condé Nast can and should be the major player within the upscale lifestyle space.

Samir Husni: As the Culture Tsar now at Condé Nast, what’s the message that you give your teams before they go out from their offices? You have The Culture Collection; you have the two enterprises, the fashion and entertainment categories. I once read a quote from Bob Sauerberg saying that he doesn’t motivate people; he hires motivated people…

Chris Mitchell: I think that’s a great quote. And I certainly second that. I like to use the old saw that I got from my mother, which is: if you want something done, give it to a busy person. And I think while we’re still integrating these various brands into one collection, to answer your question honestly, it’s going to be a work in progress to really figure out what is that collective message.

But we’re going to have a matrixed organization here, within this collection, where we will have some people who are dedicated to advertising categories across the entire collection, and we’ll have other people dedicated to specific brands. And I think that’s going to be the right way. Some of the advertising categories certainly learned this on a company level within the last reorganization. These advertising categories behave differently and should be staffed and structured differently.

So, what we consider the inventive fashion accounts should probably be handled on a more specific brand-by-brand basis, those are very hand-sold, handheld relationships. And other categories, like perhaps automotive, can be done across the whole collection, where you’ll get more power from the breadth of brands.

And where we are going out to the market with a collection story; I would point back to what I said earlier, that’s the beating heart of this company, our ability to shape and reflect culture. So, we have this great mantle of responsibility within this collection, that we can go out and speak to so many advertisers and categories because we’re at the real center of relevance for that.

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

Chris Mitchell: No, it’s early days, but it’s exciting. For the last six months, we were a smaller collection, which was made up of just Vanity Fair and W, two brands that have a lot of similarities and fit well together, but it didn’t fully make a collection. And what pleases me about this is, as you noted, you get a real gestalt in putting these brands together, and in some cases, seemingly very different brands, with The New Yorker and Teen Vogue. But the whole is greater than some of its parts, in how they can all fit together in a collection. And that’s exceptionally exciting for me.

I’m one of those people who believe that despite all of the changes we’ve seen, magazines have a very important place, their print components as well, and I don’t think they’re going away anytime soon. I think they may shift and change in frequency and circulation size and advertising, but they are a very important part of this culture and I think people continue to recognize that.

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

Chris Mitchell: That’s a good question. I’ve essentially spent my entire career at Condé Nast. I’ve left just once to do a startup for about a year and then I came right back to Condé Nast. And given the tumult in our industry, and obviously the changes in our company, I haven’t for a day taken lightly the honor of working here.

If I’m lucky enough for this to be where I spend my whole career, and certainly I have more years behind me than ahead of me, I’d guess, I would want people to say he put his mark on the very important thing that Condé Nast stands for. And if I could be known as someone who worked very hard to make Condé Nast an even more successful place than I found it, and the brands that I’ve had the pleasure of working on, better when I left them than when I started, I’ll feel like it was a life’s work well done.

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

Chris Mitchell: My wife works at Condé Nast as well, you may recall that, Pilar Guzmán, she’s the editor of Condé Nast Traveler. We have two boys, one’s a teenager and one is almost, so like a lot of working families, it’s somewhat of a juggling act in our hectic schedules. The truth is I, as does Pilar, we go home every night that we possibly can and try to have as quiet and as normal a life with our two kids that we can.

Time management is time management. I think it doesn’t matter if you have the top job at this company or you’ve got a junior job here, two people working, whether you have kids or you have pets, whether you have responsibilities in your life otherwise, everyone has a juggling act. We don’t feel like ours is more difficult or complicated, and there’s certainly no sympathy that we’re looking for here. I think everybody in this economy is working harder than ever to make sure that they’re staying ahead and contributing, and all that stuff. So, I don’t think we have anymore pressures or time pressures than most people. We lead a very normal life. (Laughs)

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

Chris Mitchell: I’d say that it’s seven different things: Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Teen Vogue, Them, W, our fashion and entertainment business as a whole. But all that said, I sleep pretty well. And I think if I can spend more of my time thinking about new ways that we’re going to market, that we are working with our partners, that we are thinking about everything from the pricing strategies, the value proposition, the ways that we can continue to innovate in our marketing, the ways that we can make this collection and each of its individual brands stronger; the more of my time that I can lie awake excitedly thinking about those things and trust in really strong people to continue to manage the advertising, revenue piece, I’m a happy man.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Sports Illustrated: Making The Entire Brand A Much “Brandier” Experience And The Print Magazine A Richer, More “Printier” Component – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Chris Stone, Editorial Director, Sports Illustrated.

October 30, 2017

“A friend of mine recently wondered; he had written a story in 2011, which prophesized that the Kansas City Royals would win the World Series in 2014, which turned out to be true, and is actually one step further ahead than where the Astros stand right now. The Astros haven’t won the World Series yet. And yet my friend was openly wondering on social media recently why more people hadn’t paid attention to that particular prediction, as opposed to the Astros prediction, which actually hasn’t come to full fruition yet. And the reason is very simple; one of the biggest reasons is that the Astros prediction was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. And we are talking about it to the extent we have recently because that prediction was on the cover of a print magazine, and if it wasn’t on the cover of a print magazine, it would not be the same discussion.” Chris Stone…(On the Houston Astros cover that SI ran in 2014 and has been a hotbed of discussion recently)…

Sports Illustrated has been the go-to source for everything that is “sports” for over 60 years. The brand’s coverage of all types of sports is a trusted source for enthusiasts who want to get that deeply immersive print experience and those who want to get their scores quick and clean online. From the ink on paper magazine to Si.com, Sports Illustrated always has and still does reflect some of the best journalism in sports.

And with Chris Stone, a 25 year SI vet, who began his career at the magazine as a fact checker and now holds the reins of the entire brand, Sports Illustrated has some new moves on the field for 2018 that will bring a deeper, more premium print experience to its readers and a much larger digital footprint as well.

I spoke to Chris recently and we talked about these new and improved changes that will begin in 2018, starting with a reduction in frequency from a weekly to 26 issues per year, which will allow for some aesthetic changes to the magazine as well, such as an increase of 15 percent in its paper stock. And of course, the continuation of the rich content that SI is known for.

And when it comes to its digital footprint, Chris said new platforms are being explored in order to bring the digital audience a more diverse and varied portal to receive their content, with the goal of giving consumers what they want, when they want it, and how they want it.

As far as their current digital space, he added that SI.com is coming off its best traffic month in the history of the site for September 2017 and according to the September 2017 comScore report, traffic to SI.com (UVs) was up an amazing 62 percent year over year. And October is on track to be an even bigger traffic month for the site. So, it seems SI has found the right playbook for its future and the right man to order up those plays in Chris Stone.

So, without further ado, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Chris Stone, editorial director, Sports Illustrated.

But first the sound-bites:

On his 25-year journey from Sports Illustrated fact checker to editorial director for the brand: It’s hard to remember what I thought when I was 22-years-old and arrived at Sports Illustrated. I was fairly certain that I wanted to stay a while, whether I anticipated being here 25 years, I’m not sure. But I did want to be around for quite a while, and be able to participate in the evolution of Sports Illustrated in whatever direction it was going.

On how his thought processes switch between all of the different platforms within the brand: The core of what we do, and I anticipate the core of what we’ll always do, will be built around the stories we tell and the journalism that we do. Over my 25 years, the stories and the commitment to those stories, especially the ambitious, longer form stories; the commitment to those things hasn’t changed at all. They’re very much an essential part of our DNA. Now how we get those stories out to our audiences has most certainly changed in a huge way.

On how he feels the brand will evolve with some of the recent changes in frequency and paper upgrades he is making: Much of our reputation over the last 60-plus years has been built on the back of a weekly magazine, so we were creating a premium weekly experience. And once upon a time that seemed like a high-velocity thing. Think about it, once upon a time to create a weekly magazine meant that you were really working fast. That was a high-velocity product. But in 2017, there’s nobody who is going to suggest that a magazine is a high-velocity product. If you were building a magazine in 2017 from scratch and you said we want to build a weekly magazine because it’s moving at the speed that all of our consumers are, people would laugh at you. In fact, what we have to create in the magazine is an experience that in some ways better replicates what a monthly magazine does.

On whether he feels the industry as a whole, and Sports Illustrated as well, took longer than necessary to realize there needed to be differentiation among its many platforms: I think that’s a fair point. I wish we had done this 10 years ago.

On why he thinks the industry did not implement this type of differentiation 10 years ago: I think that the marketplace was less cluttered and that the foothold magazines had 10 years ago was still pretty strong, with a lot of revenue that was still being thrown off. And when you’re throwing off solid revenue and solid margins, I think a lot of companies, not just within the media industry; it’s hard to recalibrate yourself and anticipate that those margins and revenues might continue to decline. And if you’re still throwing off big profits, I think there’s an inclination not to mess with that.

On how his past decisions as managing editor will impact the brand and his decisions today as editorial director: The goal when I became the managing editor in 2012, in context with my boss, Paul Fichtenbaum and Matt, was to create a more seamless organization, more of a single ecosystem, in which all of the great content that we produced to some degree would be platform agnostic. It’s funny, I was thinking about when I got here in 1992, and all of these great stories would come in a week ahead of time, these great college football stories that were written overnight Saturday and come in on Sunday morning. The same with the NFL Sunday night into Monday morning. And in 1992, imagine if we had the capacity to be able to deliver those stories to our readers immediately?

On the biggest challenge he thinks the brand will face moving forward into 2018 and how he plans to overcome it: The biggest challenge remains economic. There are more good storytelling and journalistic entities out there now than there has ever been, competing for a finite amount of revenue. And that will always remain. And that will remain our biggest challenge going into the new year. Now, the way to combat that and overcome it is to really fortify those new platforms that we’re creating. The digital platforms and the video platforms that enable us to take the best of what we do and reach people the way they want to be reached. And to reach them as quickly as possible.

On some who have compared the recent changes to be implemented at Sports Illustrated to what ESPN does and whether he thinks that’s a fair comparison: No, I think that would be an unfair comparison. I would argue that the fact that there are similar methods that we might be adopting from some of our competitors such as ESPN, it’s not just ESPN that’s adopting that model, it’s all of our competitors out there to some degree that are trying to find a model that happily optimizes the things that they do best. And many of the things that we do best will remain what we do in the magazine.

On whether he’s enjoying his position as editorial director of the SI brand, or he feels as though he has the whole wide world of sports upon his shoulders: No, I don’t feel like I have any particular burden on me, other than the same burden that’s always existed. You don’t stay at a company for 25 years unless you really love what you’re doing. And I’ve been here for 25 years for a reason, and that’s because I love what we’re doing and I love the possibilities that exist. I love the heritage that we have and I love how that heritage enables us to build something bigger and really exciting for our future.

On anything else he’d like to add: Obviously, the future of Sports Illustrated is not going to be built on the back of the magazine, and certainly not the magazine alone. But I’ll tell you a little story that is reflective of why the magazine is a very powerful part of our future in whatever form it takes. A friend of mine recently wondered; he had written a story in 2011, which prophesized that the Kansas City Royals would win the World Series in 2015, which turned out to be true, and is actually one step further ahead than where the Astros stand right now. The Astros haven’t won the World Series yet. And yet my friend was openly wondering on social media recently why more hadn’t paid attention to that particular prediction, as opposed to the Astros prediction, which actually hasn’t come to full fruition yet. And the reason is very simple; one of the biggest reasons is that the Astros prediction was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. And we are talking about it to the extent we have recently because that prediction was on the cover of a print magazine.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: I’ll borrow something from my old boss and mentor, Mark Mulvoy – sometimes right, sometimes wrong; never in doubt.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: Often cooking, while watching a live sporting event.

On what keeps him up at night: Sports Illustrated keeps me up at night.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Chris Stone, editorial director, Sports Illustrated.

Samir Husni: First, congratulations; this is your 25th year at Sports Illustrated.

Chris Stone: It is and thank you.

Samir Husni: You started as a fact checker for Sports Illustrated, and now you’re in charge of the entire brand, not only the magazine, but everything that makes up the Sports Illustrated brand. Can you describe that journey from fact checker to editorial director?

Chris Stone: It’s hard to remember what I thought when I was 22-years-old and arrived at Sports Illustrated. I was fairly certain that I wanted to stay a while, whether I anticipated being here 25 years, I’m not sure. But I did want to be around for quite a while, and be able to participate in the evolution of Sports Illustrated in whatever direction it was going.

I knew from the start that this wasn’t just a job, but it was something that felt very much like an extension of my adolescence. I was doing the same thing that I had been doing pretty much every day since I was seven years old, when I became a sports fan. I was paying attention to sports and I was contemplating what it meant; why we cared about it so much. Why I cared about it so much. So, being here 25 years later, I feel very lucky, and if I could have mapped it out this way, there are worse scenarios that could have unfolded.

Samir Husni: Today, you’ve almost assumed every editorial position conceivable at the brand, at the magazine. You were the managing editor and now you’re the editorial director; how do you shuffle between the changes you’re implementing at the printed magazine; the video facet of the brand and the app? How does your thought processes switch between all of these different platforms within the brand?

Chris Stone: The core of what we do, and I anticipate the core of what we’ll always do, will be built around the stories we tell and the journalism that we do. Over my 25 years, the stories and the commitment to those stories, especially the ambitious, longer form stories; the commitment to those things hasn’t changed at all. They’re very much an essential part of our DNA. Now how we get those stories out to our audiences has most certainly changed in a huge way.

So, if you start with the foundation of great stories and great journalism, and continue doing that, you’ve accomplished one important part of our mission going forward. The harder part, and perhaps maybe even the most essential part, is how are we going to get these great stories and this great journalism in front of as many people as possible?

When I got here in 1992, Sports Illustrated to some degree represented a virtual monopoly on national and global sports coverage, and we had a certain competitive advantage that has been eroded by digital changes, because there’s more great storytelling journalism than there has ever been before because of access to the platforms to tell those stories in journalism. So, we have to accept that we’re now competing in a very cluttered marketplace.

The two things we have to do is continue to tell the best stories and do the best journalism, and to find and build those platforms that help us reach those audiences, because I’m certain that the audience is out there as much as they have evolved over the years, and they still have an appetite for the best, most differentiated content there is. Now, it’s our mandate to find a way to get this to those people.

Samir Husni: One of the things that I read you’re doing as you’re changing the existing platforms and introducing new ones, is decreasing the frequency of Sports Illustrated to 26 times per year, but adding more editorial pages and using better paper for print. How do you feel the brand is evolving with that mix of print and digital in a very cluttered sports marketplace today?

Chris Stone: Much of our reputation over the last 60-plus years has been built on the back of a weekly magazine, so we were creating a premium weekly experience. And once upon a time that seemed like a high-velocity thing. Think about it, once upon a time to create a weekly magazine meant that you were really working fast. That was a high-velocity product. But in 2017, there’s nobody who is going to suggest that a magazine is a high-velocity product.

If you were building a magazine in 2017 from scratch and you said we want to build a weekly magazine because it’s moving at the speed that all of our consumers are, people would laugh at you. In fact, what we have to create in the magazine is an experience that in some ways better replicates what a monthly magazine does. In other words, when the magazine arrives in your hands, the stories that you’ll read in that magazine have to resonate a week later; two weeks later. We can’t just anticipate that every consumer of our magazine, every reader, is going to pick the magazine up from their mailbox on a Thursday or Friday and immediately start reading it. It might lie around for a week or even two weeks, but when that reader does ultimately pick up the magazine it still has to feel fresh.

And the other reason for the frequency change is that the magazine is a product; it is a physical product. And with the changing marketplace, the ability to create a weekly magazine that felt thick, in the way that we remembered Sports Illustrated, was becoming increasingly difficult. So now we have the opportunity to actually create a more premium product on a biweekly basis. It’s not just going to be a single issue of Sports Illustrated; in 2018, it will be 64 to 68 edit pages. Right now it ranges between 48 and 52. So, that’s a pretty substantial change right there.

And on top of that, again, as I mentioned, this is a product, and paper is an essential piece of that product. So, we want to create something that feels more like a premium product in a literal sense. And so, we’re increasing our paper stock by 15 percent. In a year, if we’re having this conversation, I think we’re going to be marveling at what a different product the magazine is, as opposed to what it is now.

Samir Husni: Do you think the industry as a whole, and Sports Illustrated too, took longer than it needed to reach that point of realization that in the midst of all this clutter in the marketplace it had to differentiate between the different platforms: print, digital, and everything else that’s being done?

Chris Stone: I think that’s a fair point. I wish we had done this 10 years ago.

Samir Husni: Why do you think the industry did not?

Chris Stone: I think that the marketplace was less cluttered and that the foothold magazines had 10 years ago was still pretty strong, with a lot of revenue that was still being thrown off. And when you’re throwing off solid revenue and solid margins, I think a lot of companies, not just within the media industry; it’s hard to recalibrate yourself and anticipate that those margins and revenues might continue to decline. And if you’re still throwing off big profits, I think there’s an inclination not to mess with that.

Samir Husni: When you became managing editor in 2012, five years ago, before you became editorial director, you seemed to start two tracks; you were investing in the content of the print magazine, having great editorial moments, whether it was the Jason Collins story or the LeBron James piece, and you also invested in the brand’s digital footprint with Matt Bean, who was your managing editor for SI.com, with the MMQB and the SI Edge. You also built the video production unit, which was the first at Time Inc. So, you had all of these things in the making; how did that impact your current decision to go 26 times a year with the print magazine and the other changes that will happen?

Chris Stone: The goal when I became the managing editor in 2012, in context with my boss, Paul Fichtenbaum and Matt, was to create a more seamless organization, more of a single ecosystem, in which all of the great content that we produced to some degree would be platform agnostic.

You referenced Jason Collins and LeBron, but remember those two pieces lived first digitally, and they probably resonated most deeply as digital stories. What we really wanted to do was recognize that we have this extraordinary trove of content that we produce on a daily basis. So, how do we get that in front of as many people as possible?

And obviously, some of that could work in the magazine, but the fact that digital is every day, digital is every hour and every minute; when stories started to come in, we began to evaluate them as to how they could work best for our audience. Are we holding this story to create a better magazine at the expense of what is the best reader experience? If we have a piece of news like LeBron James or Jason Collins, people should be able to access that as quickly as possible.

It’s funny, I was thinking about when I got here in 1992, and all of these great stories would come in a week ahead of time, these great college football stories that were written overnight Saturday and come in on Sunday morning. The same with the NFL Sunday night into Monday morning.

And in 1992, imagine if we had the capacity to be able to deliver those stories to our readers immediately? In other words, on Sunday for college football; on Monday for pro football, rather than requiring them to wait an extra three or four days. Wouldn’t we sign up for that? And so, digital has afforded us that opportunity. Video affords us the ability to tell those great stories we do in documentary format.

Obviously, this resonates with audiences, especially younger audiences, when you look at the success of something like 30 for 30 and that’s what we want to do with our video going forward. We want to recognize that one enduring trait of Sports Illustrated; that there is always going to be great stories and there’s always going to be great journalism. But if we’re not maximizing those stories in journalism by putting them on the best platform, then we’re doing a disservice not just to our readers, but to ourselves.

Samir Husni: What do you think will be the biggest challenge that you’ll have to face as the brand moves into 2018 and how will you overcome it?

Chris Stone: The biggest challenge remains economic. There are more good storytelling and journalistic entities out there now than there has ever been, competing for a finite amount of revenue. And that will always remain. And that will remain our biggest challenge going into the new year. Now, the way to combat that and overcome it is to really fortify those new platforms that we’re creating. The digital platforms and the video platforms that enable us to take the best of what we do and reach people the way they want to be reached. And to reach them as quickly as possible.

Samir Husni: One of your critics suggested that Sports Illustrated was taking a page from ESPN with the changes; would that be a fair comparison?

Chris Stone: No, I think that would be an unfair comparison. I would argue that the fact that there are similar methods that we might be adopting from some of our competitors such as ESPN, it’s not just ESPN that’s adopting that model, it’s all of our competitors out there to some degree that are trying to find a model that happily optimizes the things that they do best. And many of the things that we do best will remain what we do in the magazine.

We have the opportunity, as we’ve already discussed, to create the most premium magazine experience than an SI reader has had in a long time, in at least a decade. At the same time, we have the opportunity to tell the stories in new ways, and just because the platforms are similar to the platforms that competitors are leveraging, the big differentiating piece is, what is it that we are putting on those platforms? What are the stories that we’re telling; what is the journalism that we’re putting on those platforms? That’s what will represent the competitive advantage for Sports Illustrated and what will differentiate us from what our competitors are doing. It’s in the premium natures of that experience.

Samir Husni: Are you enjoying your work today as an editorial director much more than, say, five or 10 years ago? Or do you feel as though you have the whole wide world of sports on your shoulders now?

Chris Stone: No, I don’t feel like I have any particular burden on me, other than the same burden that’s always existed. You don’t stay at a company for 25 years unless you really love what you’re doing. And I’ve been here for 25 years for a reason, and that’s because I love what we’re doing and I love the possibilities that exist. I love the heritage that we have and I love how that heritage enables us to build something bigger and really exciting for our future.

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

Chris Stone: Well, you’re Mr. Magazine™, right? That’s what they call you, correct?

Samir Husni: (Laughs) That’s my trademark, yes.

Chris Stone: I bring that up because I want to make one more point about the magazine and the power of the magazine. Obviously, the future of Sports Illustrated is not going to be built on the back of the magazine, and certainly not the magazine alone. But I’ll tell you a little story that is reflective of why the magazine is a very powerful part of our future in whatever form it takes. Are you familiar with the cover of the Houston Astros that we did three years ago?

Samir Husni: Yes, I am.

Chris Stone: Obviously, recently that has been a big discussion point that we received a lot of attention for. And I can tell you that a friend of mine recently wondered; he had written a story in 2011, which prophesized that the Kansas City Royals would win the World Series in 2015, which turned out to be true, and is actually one step further ahead than where the Astros stand right now. The Astros haven’t won the World Series yet.

And yet my friend was openly wondering on social media recently why more people hadn’t paid attention to that particular prediction, as opposed to the Astros prediction, which actually hasn’t come to full fruition yet. And the reason is very simple; one of the biggest reasons is that the Astros prediction was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. And we are talking about it to the extent we have recently because that prediction was on the cover of a print magazine, and if it wasn’t on the cover of a print magazine, it would not be the same discussion. I think we have to recognize that there are parts of the magazine that are always going to be appealing to a broad audience as long as you can continue to deliver topnotch content within that magazine.

I think it’s been a revelation how many people have wanted to talk about that particular prediction. I guarantee you that very few, if any, people would want to talk about that particular story prediction if it had not been on the cover of a magazine. The magazine still represents a point of differentiation, and by extension, a competitive advantage. So, why wouldn’t we feed that competitive advantage, especially when our bosses are giving us the opportunity to create the best print product that we can from a product standpoint in a very long time.

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

Chris Stone: I’ll borrow something from my old boss and mentor, Mark Mulvoy – sometimes right, sometimes wrong; never in doubt.

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

Chris Stone: Often cooking, while watching a live sporting event.

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

Chris Stone: Sports Illustrated keeps me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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