Archive for the ‘Innovation in print’ Category

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Travel Is Hot & So Is Print – The Reinvention of Travel+Leisure – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Jay Meyer, Publisher & Nathan Lump, Editor-In-Chief, Travel+Leisure Magazine

May 1, 2015

“If you look at travel media; travel media has had a growth of 37% in the last three years and the research team says that because of two reasons. One: because travel is luxury, and two: because we’re all so attached to our desktops, tablets and phones; at some point in time, people actually want to put those devices away and have a lean-back experience and dream a little bit and plan a trip; do something for themselves.” Jay Meyer

“What we’re seeing from the business community is that obviously, from a brand awareness and storytelling perspective, print is still a really important tool for us and that’s also partially because we’re living in the luxury space. And luxury advertisers have really seen that print still works for them from that perspective.” Nathan Lump

TL_May_2015_COVER Travel and magazines are two luxuries that go hand-in-hand, or so the powers-that-be over at Travel+Leisure believe whole-heartedly, and I would have to agree with them. While no one necessarily needs to read a magazine or travel to Europe just to see the Eiffel Tower; more often than not, it’s called for, if for no other reason than simply to disconnect from the real world and all of its devices that seem compelled to proclaim yet another notification of information. Something else travel and magazines have in common is their ability to transport you to idyllic locations totally different from the norm, another much-deserved, take-a-breath experience in our world of fast-paced existence.

Jay Meyer is vice president and publisher of Travel+Leisure magazine and Nathan Lump is editor-in-chief. The two are the highly-proud parents of the reinvented, more immersive and transporting travel magazine. With a redesign aimed at the current ravenous appetite affluent consumers have for travel, the magazine reaches out and touches that audience with an experience that shares their own memories through the art of travel. And for some, travel is art. And the new Travel+Leisure magazine showcases that trait beautifully.

I spoke with Jay and Nathan recently about the positive changes the magazine has made and about some of the numbers that support the idea that travel is a hot commodity right now in the world of magazine media. According to Jay, T+L is enjoying its largest audience ever in print, with 6.7 MM and in digital, 3.3 MM. The magazine is twice as large as its nearest competitor and has more millionaires in its audience than any measured publication.

Also, according to Time Inc.’s 10th Annual Time Inc./YouGov Survey of Affluence and Wealth which was recently released; leisure travel is expected to grow the most among all categories studied, with an increase of 15.9% from 2014 to $115.2 billion. When asked about passions, travel was the top response (67%), followed by “spending quality time with my family” (65%).

The findings certainly bode well for the future of Travel+Leisure and the two men whose passion for travel is exceeded only by their ardor for their brand.

So, I hope you enjoy this “trek” into the minds of two avid travelers as they talk about the magazine that always goes with them on their travels – the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jay Meyer, Publisher, and Nathan Lump, Editor-in-Chief, Travel+Leisure.

But first the sound-bites:


On why Jay believes travel is so hot right now on the publishing scene:
If you look at travel media; travel media has had a growth of 37% in the last three years and the research team says that because of two reasons. One: because travel is luxury, and two: because we’re all so attached to our desktops, tablets and phones; at some point in time, people actually want to put those devices away and have a lean-back experience and dream a little bit and plan a trip; do something for themselves.

On Nathan’s opinion of the lean-back experience:
I think for me, it’s really true in the sense that when you think about it, we have so much information at our fingertips; no one necessarily needs to read a magazine in order to learn things, so those that do are obviously making a very conscious choice that they want to give a certain amount of their leisure time to that experience.

On whether Nathan can ever imagine Travel+Leisure not having a print component:
Sure. We’ve seen the growth in digital and all of us can imagine that world. I don’t think that world is upon us yet. Our readership in print is actually larger than it’s ever been in its history.

On Jay’s opinion of why Travel+Leisure’s audience numbers have increased within its print media, rather than its digital: I think there are a lot of reasons, but the simplest is that we needed to re-platform, which is now done. And in the past we have been producing about 10 pieces of content per week, and Nathan and his team are moving into a place where they’re going to produce 20 pieces of content per day, high velocity publishing, and we expect those numbers to increase exponentially.

On whether as a publisher, digital makes Jay’s life harder or easier when it comes to selling the brand to advertisers:
I think digital absolutely makes our lives easier. Nathan was talking about consumer behaviors earlier; if you actually think about the process and mindset of looking at travel as being inspired and then planning and considering and then buying and sharing; we need to be on all of those channels; we’re not there yet, but obviously, digital is a huge part of that process.

On how Jay sees the magazine’s attempt to attract luxury advertisers, but stay grounded and keep the magazine at mass appeal at the same time:
The answer is if you look at syndicated research, to your point, we have a really great audience and marketers see that audience as exactly what I said previously, in terms of, they have a healthy income, they take action, they travel, and outside of Travel+Leisure, if you look at it from the advertiser’s brand perspective, these are people that they want as customers.

On the humanization of the magazine and who would appear if Nathan struck the magazine with a magic wand:
Everything that we’ve done with the changes to the brand really begins with who we see this reader as, and fundamentally for me, it is that person who Jay mentioned earlier who takes 23 trips per year. So, when you think about that person, that person has been a lot of places, done a lot of things; they’ve crossed a lot of things off of their bucket list and they are fundamentally worldly people. They bring a sophisticated and cosmopolitan point of view to their lives and to their travels.

On why the magazine’s logo wasn’t changed during the redesign according to Nathan:
Partially, because I think that the brand is in such a healthy place and it has such great awareness and recognition. I felt why tinker with something that is working for us.

On the biggest stumbling block Jay had to face as publisher of the magazine:
In terms of Nathan’s arrival and from that point to where we are now, I think the biggest challenge has been time.

On how he overcame it: Honestly? Relentless hard work and a ton of travel. (Laughs)

On anything either would like to add – Jay first:
One thing that I would add is that we kind of summed up that the travel space is doing quite well and Nathan talked about the travel industry as a whole, the GDP and the number of jobs; I would just say that I want to applaud Time Inc. for giving us the resources to make this happen in print and digital, which as you know, doesn’t always happen together.

On what Nathan would like to add:
The one thing that I would add, Samir, is that we focused quite a bit on the print magazine, but I think the other thing that is really important here too is the digital piece because obviously we see tremendous opportunity for us to grow and also to evolve our business, particularly leveraging our digital platforms.

On Nathan’s opinion of why it took five to six years for the media industry to realize when it comes to print and digital, it’s not either/or, it’s both: I think for a lot of people there was just some basic fear and lack of understanding of how people were really using the product.

On what keeps Jay up at night: As we move forward, it’s an interesting time in the media world; it’s all about ideas. So, ideas keep me up at night, my own and others.

On what keeps Nathan up at night: What does keep me up at night is the fact that I have so many things that I want to do, that we want to do, and there is always that thinking like, oh no, are we going to be able to do it all and do it all as quickly as I would like.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Jay Meyer, Publisher, and Nathan Lump, Editor-in-Chief, Travel+Leisure.

Samir Husni: First, congratulations on the magazine; I love the new design; actually, I love the whole reinvention of the magazine.

Jay Meyer: Thank you.

Samir Husni: Jay, what’s the status of the travel magazine market today? You’ve reinvented Travel+Leisure; Condè Nast Traveler is upscaling their magazine and changing the size; National Geographic Traveler has a new editor; Smithsonian came out with a new travel magazine and so did Airbnb; suddenly, it looks as though travel is hot. Why do you think this is happening now?

Style: "Rich_Color" Jay Meyer: Travel is hot. If you look at travel media; travel media has had a growth of 37% in the last three years and the research team says that because of two reasons. One: because travel is luxury, and two: because we’re all so attached to our desktops, tablets and phones; at some point in time, people actually want to put those devices away and have a lean-back experience and dream a little bit and plan a trip; do something for themselves.

We believe, and these products were built for, the reader and viewer of Travel+Leisure who wants to be inspired and we call those people: experience-collectors. They travel 23 times per year; they all have passports, and they have a really healthy income. And that 23 times per year breaks down to 13 business trips and 10 leisure.

Samir Husni: Nathan, you wrote in your letter from the editor that reading a magazine is a luxury. Can you expand on that a little bit more and on what Jay just said, in terms of the lean-back experience?

Nathan Lump: Sure. I think for me, it’s really true in the sense that when you think about it, we have so much information at our fingertips; no one necessarily needs to read a magazine in order to learn things, so those that do are obviously making a very conscious choice that they want to give a certain amount of their leisure time to that experience.

I’ve spent a lot of time looking at what behaviors look like across the platforms. One of the things, and it sounds very intuitive and I think it’s important to keep it in mind, because we live in a digital age, if I’m looking for information about something in particular, I’m going to engage in digital behaviors around finding that information. If I’m a traveler and I’ve decided to go to Spain; I’m not sitting around waiting for my Travel+Leisure to come and hoping there’s going to be an article about Spain in it for me. I’m going to go online and find out more information about the place that I’m going to go to.

From the magazine reading experience, I think what that means is we have this audience whether they purchased the magazine on the newsstand or they’re a subscriber, they’re interested in travel; they’ve decided to give us some of their leisure time, and they’re basically coming to us in an open mindset. They’re saying, I am open to the idea of discovering new places, new experiences and new things, so they’re issuing an invitation to us to get them excited.

For me, editorially, the bar that we set for ourselves, particularly in print, is to try and create an experience that is immersive and rich enough that we are, in fact, actually getting people excited about things that they didn’t know they should get excited about. And that’s a lot of what I mean when I talk about the luxury of magazine reading.

I would also add, just building on what Jay has said too about the travel category in general, and you probably know some of this, so forgive me if I’m telling you something that you already know; travel is over a $7 trillion industry globally. One in every 11 jobs is generated by the travel industry, so this is a huge category. It’s bigger than a lot of other categories or industries that we think about when we think about media and verticals.

When you look at spending; over the years travel has become much more essential to people. Twenty years ago when you used to ask people if times got tough, what would you cut out of your lives in terms of spending, travel would be right up there at the top. This has actually changed in the years since and it’s become much more of a thing that people say they wouldn’t cut out. They’ll say they won’t buy that new sofa, but they’re still going to take that trip. And that’s been a really important shift.

Recently, Time Inc. released the results of an annual survey that we do, a survey of affluence and wealth, and among the findings, one that I found compelling was of all the discretionary spending categories that these folks said they were going to spend money on this coming year; their desire for travel was the second biggest category in that survey for spending after automobiles. So, it’s obviously a real priority for people, which I think contributes to the durability of the category.

Samir Husni: As an editor-in-chief, Nathan, can you ever imagine Travel+Leisure not having a print component after what you told me about the strength and power of print?

Nathan Lump Headshot 4.15 Nathan Lump: Sure. We’ve seen the growth in digital and all of us can imagine that world. I don’t think that world is upon us yet. Our readership in print is actually larger than it’s ever been in its history.

Jay Meyer: Yes, it’s at 6.7 million.

Nathan Lump: I would say that for the moment we see print still as a healthy piece. Obviously, digital is a really important growth opportunity, but we still see that there is a desire for this kind of luxurious, more lean-back experience, at least, in our category.

Samir Husni: Jay, it has been your print audience that has almost doubled in number, rather than your digital audience. Yet, when I look at statistics and numbers from other magazines and hear about their 3 million in print circulation and their 25 million in digital audience, why do you think Travel+Leisure’s audience is still attached to the print media?

Jay Meyer: I think there are a lot of reasons, but the simplest is that we needed to re-platform, which is now done. And in the past we have been producing about 10 pieces of content per week, and Nathan and his team are moving into a place where they’re going to produce 20 pieces of content per day, high velocity publishing, and we expect those numbers to increase exponentially.

Now, having said that, I think the key was to re-platform and redesign, so that we were able to move this forward.

Samir Husni: Did digital make your life easier or harder, Jay, in terms of selling the brand Travel+Leisure? Is digital making your job as a publisher harder or can you just walk into any ad agency and not hear the word crazy when talking about the reinvention of a print magazine in this digital age?

Jay Meyer: I think digital absolutely makes our lives easier. Nathan was talking about consumer behaviors earlier; if you actually think about the process and mindset of looking at travel as being inspired and then planning and considering and then buying and sharing; we need to be on all of those channels; we’re not there yet, but obviously, digital is a huge part of that process.

Nathan Lump: I would add that what we’re seeing, and Jay correct me if I’m wrong, what we’re seeing from the business community is that obviously, from a brand awareness and storytelling perspective, print is still a really important tool for us and that’s also partially because we’re living in the luxury space. And luxury advertisers have really seen that print still works for them from that perspective.

And then digital gives us an additional tool in our toolkit to do that, but also to help those partners who are interested in really driving bookings or consideration via their own website. It satisfies those kinds of needs, so in fact, I think it gives us, from a strategic perspective; it gives us more to sell as opposed to selling against. It allows us, depending on what the partner is looking for, to provide them with the product that makes sense for them, or in many cases, both products because many of our advertisers advertise across platforms with us.

Jay Meyer: And that’s really the point. I think what we’re seeing and what we’ve seen in the last couple of years is that most core partners of Travel+Leisure are using both. They’re not choosing one over the other; they’re actually using both for different reasons.

Samir Husni: Jay, as I look at the May issue and the variety of ads; we go from Cartier to GEICO; can you briefly tell me how you’re trying to capture that luxury market and at the same time stay grounded and be as mass as the magazine can be since you are the largest travel magazine?

Jay Meyer: That’s a good question and a tough question. And the answer is if you look at syndicated research, to your point, we have a really great audience and marketers see that audience as exactly what I said previously, in terms of, they have a healthy income, they take action, they travel, and outside of Travel+Leisure, if you look at it from the advertiser’s brand perspective, these are people that they want as customers.

On the luxury side, if you break down the 6.7 million, we actually have 1.1 million who are millionaires. So, there is a super healthy top end of that audience and certainly the luxury marketers understand that and want to reach those people.

Samir Husni: Nathan, let me shift gears a little bit and talk about the content. If you could humanize the magazine, strike it with a magic wand and have a person appear; would I see Nathan materialize, and if so, what type of conversation would he and I have about Travel+Leisure?

Nathan Lump: That’s a good question and I may end up answering it in a slightly roundabout way. Everything that we’ve done with the changes to the brand really begins with who we see this reader as, and fundamentally for me, it is that person who Jay mentioned earlier who takes 23 trips per year. So, when you think about that person, that person has been a lot of places, done a lot of things; they’ve crossed a lot of things off of their bucket list and they are fundamentally worldly people. They bring a sophisticated and cosmopolitan point of view to their lives and to their travels. So, from my perspective what that means is, editorially, we need to be where they are. We need to be as sophisticated as they are or more so, because they’re looking at us to surprise them and to give them novelty.

We’re really trying to push the boundaries in terms of what we give them, making sure that we are not only super current and in the know, but that we’re also really insightful. These folks are also, I think, really engaged with the world and understand what’s going on around them, they comprehend that travel is a tool for understanding the world.

You’re going to see in upcoming issues, such as in our June edition, our cover story is about Cuba; we have another big story in that issue looking at New Orleans 10 years after Katrina. These are two of the big stories of our time and we’re looking at them particularly through the lens of travel because we know that our audience use travel as a means of understanding. It’s pleasurable, of course; we want to capture the pleasure and the joy and fun of travel, but we also understand that we need to engage with some of the big issues, so, you can tell me if I’m answering your question, but I’m trying to conjure that reader.

And if we’re personifying ourselves; I want to be them. I want the product to feel, in that way, very intelligent and sophisticated, very worldly and with a very strong global perspective; that we’re paying attention to the entire world, we’re engaged with that; we’re as interested in what’s happening on the other side of the planet as we are with what’s in our backyard.

Samir Husni: So, when the June issue arrives at my home and I peer through the peephole in my door; do I see Nathan standing there?

Nathan Lump: Well, sure; I am definitely this person myself, I would say. I’m a serious traveler and have been my whole life. I probably travel a bit more than 23 times per year; that may or may not be recommended. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too)

Nathan Lump: But I love it. For me, travel is the great passion in my life; it is the thing that has changed me. It’s opened my eyes to so many things. I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin and I’ve had this travel bug ever since I was a child. Who knows why – I do try to bring to the product my own passion for this subject.

In the very first issue that I touched, which was the December issue of last year, and was largely completed when I arrived, but I did make a couple of small changes to it; we changed the cover, but I also wrote my first editor’s note for Travel+Leisure. And one of the things that I said in there was that I believe the fundamental hallmark of a traveler is curiosity. A true traveler is genuinely curious. And they don’t lose that. The more that they see and travel; the more curious they become. And that is absolutely true of myself in my own life and I definitely bring that to the page.

So, yes, I hope that the magazine is a reflection of me in that way.

Samir Husni: You’re also sounding like a journalist because I tell my students that a true journalist is a curious journalist. I tell them they don’t need a degree in journalism; they need a degree in curiosity.

Nathan Lump: I completely agree with that and that’s the thing about our subject matter. A lot of people say that this is fluffy stuff, but I really charge my team with bringing a journalist’s point of view to the work that we do. And that doesn’t mean that it’s all serious, a lot of travel is about joy, and the traveler’s experience is having fun, but I think there is a lot about learning and exploring and seeing the world and that is journalism.

Samir Husni: So, my next curious question is why did you leave the design of the logo the same? You changed everything except the nameplate.

Nathan Lump: That’s true. Partially, because I think that the brand is in such a healthy place and it has such great awareness and recognition. I felt why tinker with something that is working for us. Sometimes an editor will come in and feel that they have to change absolutely everything, including that, but because our brand has such great awareness and such great affection from our readers, I didn’t want to confuse them in that way. I just thought it was better to keep that piece stable.

Samir Husni: Jay, what has been the biggest stumbling block that you’ve had to face with Travel+Leisure and how did you overcome it?

Jay Meyer: In terms of Nathan’s arrival and from that point to where we are now, I think the biggest challenge has been time.

Samir Husni: As in the company, the magazine, or real time? (Laughs)

Jay Meyer: No, real time. In terms of setting the course of what we wanted to do with the product and who we were talking to and actually making that happen in a very short amount of time, which was certainly tough on both sides of the house.

Samir Husni: How did you overcome it?

Jay Meyer: Honestly? Relentless hard work and a ton of travel. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too)

Jay Meyer: I think Nathan and I would have the same answer, which is just relentless determination to make sure it happened.

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

Jay Meyer: One thing that I would add is that we kind of summed up that the travel space is doing quite well and Nathan talked about the travel industry as a whole, the GDP and the number of jobs; I would just say that I want to applaud Time Inc. for giving us the resources to make this happen in print and digital, which as you know, doesn’t always happen together.

Travel as a category is not a core category for Time Inc. and not one that they have played in before Travel+Leisure arrived here. So, we applaud them for seeing the opportunity and giving us the resources to make it happen.

Nathan Lump: The one thing that I would add, Samir, is that we focused quite a bit on the print magazine, but I think the other thing that is really important here too is the digital piece because obviously we see tremendous opportunity for us to grow and also to evolve our business, particularly leveraging our digital platforms.

As Jay said, and as you know, we re-launched the print magazine and the website at the same time, and like Jay said that almost never happens. I can’t think of the last time someone did it. And we did it because I was really committed and the company was committed and supportive of the idea to reimagine the platforms holistically, understanding the ways in which they’re related to each other and the existing dialogue they have with each other and they allow us to do slightly different things to serve our audience.

From my perspective, what we’re going to be doing digitally; you’re going to see a lot more from us and the dispersion of the website is really just the beginning. There is a lot more to come in terms of features and functionality, but also in terms of how we use that to engage and serve the audience.

So, the digital piece of it is, I think; we don’t really look at it as a threat; we look at it as an opportunity. I’ve actually been more focused on digital, although I have a long background in print, I’ve been more focused on digital in recent years. And that’s also a little bit unusual for a magazine brand editor. The last five or six years, I’ve been almost exclusively focused on digital products, and so I really see the ways in which we can leverage that.

Samir Husni: Nathan or Jay, why do you think it took us almost five or six years to except the fact that it’s not either/or, it’s both?

Nathan Lump: I think for a lot of people there was just some basic fear and lack of understanding of how people were really using the product.

I also think too that some categories have been more challenged by digital than we have in the travel verticals; for instance, news media have had a harder time adjusting to the balance between print and digital. And those are obviously some of the biggest and best-known brands out there. So, I think that’s also driven the narrative a little bit. Publicly, because the news organizations have such large audiences, such a big pulpit, they’ve also been the ones that have in some ways seen digital be more of a challenge to print than we have in the travel verticals.

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

Jay Meyer: I’m not a strong sleeper, so a lot of things keep me up at night. (Laughs) I would say, and I won’t speak for Nathan, but I’m ambitious and curious. As we move forward, it’s an interesting time in the media world; it’s all about ideas. So, ideas keep me up at night, my own and others.

Samir Husni: And Nathan?

Nathan Lump: You kind of stole it from me, Jay. (Laughs) What does keep me up at night is the fact that I have so many things that I want to do, that we want to do, and there is always that thinking like, oh no, are we going to be able to do it all and do it all as quickly as I would like. Like Jay said, the world is evolving so quickly and so is the industry, that there’s always that concern if you’re moving along with it quickly enough. I think that’s why we’ve been so aggressive in the last six or seven months and why we’re going to keep that pace up. That is really the biggest thing, honestly, for me.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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PLUS, A Magazine With A Mission: Where The Readers Are Much More Than Their Status. The Rebranding Of HIV Plus Magazine – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Diane Anderson-Minshall, Editor-In-Chief.

April 27, 2015

“Print is not dead for us; it’s thrilling. Of course, I hear it in other magazines and it scares me to death because I’m such an old print horse that I never want it to go away. And so it’s really exciting for me to be at a magazine where there’s never talk of not doing print anymore. Yes, it’s doing well.” Diane Anderson-Minshall

PLUS 2-2 Although we live in the 21st century and in an era of natural enlightenment overall; unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to the three letters HIV virus and the implications and stereotypes that may follow.

That’s why the powers-that-be at HIV Plus magazine decided that their message of care and concern for people who suffer from HIV and all chronic, medically-managed illnesses would be better served to rebrand without those three letters. Hence, Plus magazine was born with the intent of opening up a whole new conversation with people who felt uncomfortable picking up the magazine when it was known as HIV Plus.

Diane Anderson-Minshall is editor-in-chief of the magazine and is a staunch advocate for the magazine’s mission. I spoke with Diane recently and we talked about the rebranding and how the hope of reaching more people with the magazine’s message was the driving force behind the change in title and design.

I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Diane Anderson-Minshall, Editor-in-Chief, Plus magazine, and a woman whose passion for the HIV/AIDS community and all who endure the pain of chronic illnesses, is genuine and far-reaching.

But first the sound-bites:


Head Shot - Diane Anderson-Minshall On changing the name from HIV Plus to simply Plus:
We did have people who told us if you don’t have HIV in the title, even though we’re still a magazine for people with HIV, but if we don’t have it in the title, it looks like a health magazine about several things, including HIV. You don’t have to be HIV positive to read it.

On the new tagline; you’re more than your status:
The bottom line is we’re recognizing that our readers have HIV, which is a chronic manageable condition and it’s not a definer of their lives, so we have to recognize that they need more out of a magazine than just treatment information. They’re looking for a whole magazine for the whole totality of their lives.

On keeping the website and social media with the original name:
We didn’t rebrand the website or the social media sites and part of that is because a magazine is something that is very visible versus a website where anyone can sneak onto it; we all know that because we sneak onto certain websites all the time.

On the new celebrity-oriented covers and whether they convolute the message the magazine is trying to render:
I don’t actually. I think that our mission is the same. We started doing celebrity covers when I came onboard as editor-in-chief and part of that is because celebrity covers are aspirational. I think that we’d be foolish to not recognize that people like to see aspirational profiles of other people who are doing something related to their lives.

On whether any celebrity has ever rejected the magazine’s offer to be on its cover:
Yes, absolutely. I’m not sure I can name who those people are, but that absolutely happens all of the time. And those are oftentimes celebrities who are doing something with an AIDS charity already, but who don’t want to be associated with a magazine. Sadly, it has happened a number of times.

On the biggest stumbling block she’s had to face:
The biggest stumbling block was getting our people who write for the magazine to recognize that our readership is a high school educated level readership, because I think people find that’s sometimes harder to write to.

On her most pleasant moment at the magazine: There have been so many. But at the U.S. Conference on AIDS last year in San Diego, for example, we made a life size cover of the magazine, with just the logo and a little bit of text, and then basically people came up and posed in front of the magazine like they were the cover star of the magazine. And then they Tweeted out the photos or we did and that was a great moment.

On whether she considers herself a journalist first or an advocate for the magazine’s mission:
I consider myself a journalist first, but there’s no denying that this is advocacy journalism. There’s just no denying that in order to do this magazine, you have to consider yourself an advocacy journalist.

On anything else she’d like to add:
One thing that people do keep asking me is whether we’ve made this change because we’re losing money? And this is the very first time I can say this, because a lot of times I’ve been at publications where what I’m about to say was not the case; where we did make a change and it was because we needed to deal with dropping revenue. In this case, we’ve been doing phenomenally well and we’ve been consistently doing well over the last few years that I’ve been here.

On why she believes print is not dead:
Print is not dead for us; it’s thrilling. Of course, I hear it in other magazines and it scares me to death because I’m such an old print horse that I never want it to go away. And so it’s really exciting for me to be at a magazine where there’s never talk of not doing print anymore.

On what keeps her up at night:
In terms of publishing, just production can keep me up at night. Just knowing production is two weeks away and that I have to file 80,000 words by then. That can keep me up at night. And that’s just the very beginning of what keeps me up at night.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Diane Anderson-Minshall, Editor-in-Chief, Plus magazine.

Samir Husni: Why did you change the name of the magazine from HIV Plus to just Plus?

Diane Anderson-Minshall: My publisher, Joe Valentino, and I had been talking for a couple of years about whether the name of the magazine was kind and modern and really reflected all that we were doing with it for readers. We started doing some informal questioning of those readers and of people who distribute the magazine; because we’re a bit like WebMD in that we reached our quarter of a million reader’s right at the point of care, for the magazine in particular, of course, the mobile app and the web as well.

We started talking about how the name was; what we were doing with it; if it was reaching readers, that kind of thing, because when we started the magazine in the late 1990s it was a very different landscape in terms of who was reading the magazine and the kind of information that we were providing.

In the last couple of years, we’ve definitely become much more service-oriented than we were before. The magazine before had been very newsy, of course in part because it was also run by that staff of The Advocate, which is an LGBT news magazine, so it had been very newsy, but maybe wasn’t as useful when it came to what readers were looking for at that point.

This sort of informal questioning and surveying people kind of coalesced at the U.S. conference on AIDS last fall, where we did informal focus groups and we talked with a lot of people who were reading the magazine and also people who provided the magazine, like social workers, clinicians and people who ran LGBT centers or health centers or AIDS service organizations.

And when we started questioning them, we found a couple of things at that point and one of them was that we had a number of people who came up to the booth, picked up the magazine and said, oh my, I love Plus magazine and I read it all the time. And that made us realize that there was a chunk of our readership that was already calling us Plus magazine, sort of like the little HIV in our masthead or our logo at that point wasn’t resonating for them that it was part of the name of the magazine the way we had designed it.

And then at the same time we spoke with a number of people who said, I have a lot of people who read your magazine when they’re at my office or at the center, or getting their monthly healthcare or shots, but they won’t take it home, in part because it’s called HIV Plus. It’s really clear that it’s a magazine only for people with HIV.

So, I asked those people by just dropping the word HIV from the title, would it allow them to take the magazine home and feel comfortable about it? And the consensus was from all these people, yes, just removing the word; those three little letters from the title kind of eliminated the stigmatizing language that led with the virus. And this helped us think, well, OK, maybe this is a time for us to rebrand ourselves as Plus and eliminate the stigmatizing language that leads with the virus and tell our readers that at this point we understand that they more than their HIV status; you’re you, plus a little something more and for a lot of our readers that can be HIV or Hepatitis C or another condition.

At the same time, the change would open the magazine up for those people who would not pick it up or take it home because of having that HIV in the title. The change would make those people feel comfortable and safe to carry the magazine on a subway or read it in their cubicle or leave it on their coffee table if their friends come over.

A part of it was we recognized that there were different types of people reading our magazine and several of those people were very happy and proud to use HIV as a way to describe themselves and those are the people that we feel we were reaching at that point, and those people aren’t often living in the areas hardest hit by the virus. And we knew that there were a lot of people living in areas where they weren’t getting the right kind of treatment or getting connected to care; they’re weren’t getting the right kind of information because they were afraid for people to recognize that they had HIV.

So, we did have people who told us if you don’t have HIV in the title, even though we’re still a magazine for people with HIV, but if we don’t have it in the title, it looks like a health magazine about several things, including HIV. You don’t have to be HIV positive to read it. That’s kind of our angle; we’re trying to work to get those people who are afraid to pick up the magazine and we’re asking those people who lead with HIV in their lives to understand that we’re not going in the closet about being a magazine for people with HIV, we’re just asking them to make some considerations for those people who are afraid to pick up the magazine. By losing those three little letters in the title, we sort of open ourselves up for those people to join the conversation and have access to the information that they desperately need and aren’t getting yet.

Samir Husni: And that led to the new tagline under the name: because you’re more than your status?

PLUS 1-1 Diane Anderson-Minshall: Yes, I mean, we’re really just sort of playing around with different things and for me; I kept thinking with Plus, we wanted to tell our readers that we get you, you’re you, plus something extra, in this case, HIV, but it could be other things too.

But the bottom line is we’re recognizing that our readers have HIV, which is a chronic manageable condition and it’s not a definer of their lives, so we have to recognize that they need more out of a magazine than just treatment information. They’re looking for a whole magazine for the whole totality of their lives.

Samir Husni: You’re website is still HIV Plusmag.com…

Diane Anderson-Minshall: It is and that’s actually going to stay that way for now. We didn’t rebrand the website or the social media sites and part of that is because a magazine is something that is very visible versus a website where anyone can sneak onto it; we all know that because we sneak onto certain websites all the time. People generally don’t see a browser history; they don’t look into what we’re searching for, so you can actually go onto HIV Plusmag.com without feeling the stigma. And I’m assuming a lot of people will still do that, so you don’t feel any stigma when you do it because no one knows what you’re doing online, versus a magazine which is very visible; it’s something that you take home or have on your coffee table or next to your bed.

It’s something very different for people when they’re carrying the magazine versus reading the website. And we recognize that sometimes those are two different audiences with two different needs. So, we went ahead and left the social media and the web and our mobile app with the brand HIV Plus for a variety of reasons, but that’s one.

And then another reason is that making a change to those things right now; we just don’t want to scare off the readers that are accessing us through those channels at this point and we don’t need to lose traffic or any of those kinds of things. And we felt like again, with the website and the social media accounts, it just wasn’t as pressing to change those because people aren’t monitoring you when you’re looking at those sites versus when you have a magazine and it’s everywhere around you. Does that make sense?

Samir Husni: Oh yes, that makes perfect sense. In fact, you give more ammunition to my fight that digital and print each has its own role in today’s world.

Diane Anderson-Minshall: Yes, absolutely.

January February 2015 - Tyson Beckford HI Samir Husni: We all know that we live in a digital age and as you mentioned, it’s much easier for somebody with HIV to sneak onto the web and look for answers or help; yet with the magazine, it’s like announcing it to the world. As you move into Plus, even into the design of the cover with its celebrity-oriented nature; do you see any conflict between the message the magazine is providing and the look of the magazine?

Diane Anderson-Minshall: I don’t actually. I think that at this point, we’re the leading provider of HIV health information through the magazine and our online portals and mobile platforms and we still have the same mission, which is bringing accurate and trustworthy information about HIV and other related mental and physical health conditions, but in a way that’s empowering and entertaining and up-to-the-minute.

And so I think that our mission is the same. We started doing celebrity covers when I came onboard as editor-in-chief and part of that is because celebrity covers are aspirational. I think that we’d be foolish to not recognize that people like to see aspirational profiles of other people who are doing something related to their lives. Everybody picks up a magazine with a celebrity on it; it’s much harder to get people to pick up a magazine without a celebrity, so there’s no reason for us not to run those as well.

What we do is interview celebrities who are either people who do have HIV or have some relationship to HIV or AIDS, maybe through a family member or they work in a social cause related to it as a charity or they’re playing a role of an HIV-positive person on television or in film. And those are some of our most popular pieces.

What I think of these celebrity pieces is a little bit like the cherry in the cough syrup, you know; we need to make this sweet for people to pick up and then they get the information they need inside. The celebrity covers bring people in.

You’re at the doctor’s office and you’re looking at the array of magazines on the table and you’re next to us and you’ve got Sofía Vergara on the cover of WebMD and we’ve got somebody to compete with that so you’ll pick us up. And then you’ll find the information that you need; the treatment and medication information, but also the fitness, mental health, nutrition, sex and dating advice and the real, but aspirational profiles of other people living healthy lives with chronic conditions.

Samir Husni: Have you ever been rejected by a celebrity or a celebrity’s agent who said, no, we don’t want to be on the cover?

Diane Anderson-Minshall: Yes, absolutely. I’m not sure I can name who those people are, but that absolutely happens all of the time. And those are oftentimes celebrities who are doing something with an AIDS charity already, but who don’t want to be associated with a magazine. Sadly, it has happened a number of times.

And then we’ve also reached out to some celebrities we know who are HIV-positive themselves and tried to see if they were ready to have their coming-out interview and they were not. We don’t hold any ill will in those cases because we understand how difficult it is to come out about being HIV-positive, but again if you’re a celebrity with all the resources of the world at your fingertips and you’re not able to come out about being positive, imagine how difficult it is for the 18-year-old kid in the southeast who’s just found out he’s positive and has no resources.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest stumbling block that you’ve had to face since becoming editor-in-chief of the magazine and how did you overcome it?

Diane Anderson-Minshall: The biggest stumbling block was getting our people who write for the magazine to recognize that our readership is a high school educated level readership, because I think people find that’s sometimes harder to write to. We’ve had to refocus the magazine a little bit and recognize that there are a couple of things happening here with this readership and one is that the readership isn’t college educated. And that changes how you’re writing things. I have a policy where I send back any story if I have to go to the writer and say, do you understand this sentence, and they say no, and I respond, then neither will our readers. I’ll send back anything where I can’t understand it and I think it’s really hard for people to like medical stuff without getting very science-oriented and boring. So, I believe we have a responsibility to our readers to make this stuff more interesting and understandable; to make it information that they’re going to want to read, rather than information that feels like it’s a package insert.

I feel like in a lot of ways one of our responsibilities is to take what pharmaceutical companies are saying about their medication for example, or about clinical trials or studies or new research and development, take that information and then translate for actual readers. And that’s a really heated task because there’s just such a big disconnect between science, academia and the way that they speak and the way an average real person does and the way that we understand things.

That’s actually been a challenge, making the magazine more service-oriented and more understandable to a group of readers who basically don’t know that kind of language and information that I think we sometimes fall back on.

We’re a niche magazine and I’ve always managed niche magazines, but I think in this case, we’re a niche magazine that’s finding out consistently that we have a wider audience than we once thought and so we’re trying to understand how to reach and speak to that audience cross range; 90% of our readers are men and among those, over half are people of color, and a larger majority are gay or bisexual, so that means we have 10% of women who are almost entirely straight, some are transgender, and of our readership, only about 88% have HIV, so I feel like we speak to the health needs of these readers more than any other magazine does. And I can say that even though we belong to the company that has the two largest gay publications on their roster; that we can speak to the health needs of gay and bisexual men in a way that other publications just can’t because we have the know-how and the experience.

But I do think we speak to both gay men and straight women and across different ethnic groupings; it’s a pretty broad range.

Samir Husni: And what has been your most pleasant moment at the magazine?

Diane Anderson-Minshall: There have been so many. I went to the ‘HIV is not a Crime,’ which is an anti-criminalization conference that was held last summer and was the very first, and is basically aimed around reforming HIV criminalization laws in the country, many of which were put together in the 1980s when AIDS was a terrifying thing and a lot of the lawmakers who originally worked on those initial laws are now arguing for those laws to be updated, reformed or ditched completely. I went to the conference, both to cover it and lend any advice and to really just support it to show that our organization supports that movement.

And I met so many people there who just treated me like a rock star, being the editor of Plus magazine, and it was amazing seeing these people who are frontline activists, working directly with politicians and people who had gone to the White House to speak to President Obama about HIV; people who are really major players in what we would call the HIV activist movement. And they were just very excited to have Plus represented there and excited to meet the people behind the magazine. I wouldn’t say it was like being One Direction or something, but it was really amazing.

Certainly, when we go to these events, it’s for us; it’s partly about a new opportunity for audience development, because that’s a part of what events are for publishers and their publications. And we love it. When we go these events we see people moving between our platforms with the brand, and once they get one platform, they explore the other and we’re a part of that when we’re doing these events.

But at the U.S. Conference on AIDS last year in San Diego, for example, we made a life size cover of the magazine, with just the logo and a little bit of text, and then basically people came up and posed in front of the magazine like they were the cover star of the magazine. And then they Tweeted out the photos or we did and that was a great moment because, again, when we’re trying so desperately to reach people who are afraid to pick up the magazine, at the same time, we have all of these other people who are so proud of the work that they’re doing or so proud of the life they’re living.

And some of them aren’t activists; they’re ordinary people living with HIV. But they were so proud to be on the cover of the magazine, to be like cover stars. Just the excitement and the energy around something like that; it wasn’t even about our social media numbers shooting up, which they did, but it was really about that wonderful feedback that people were getting what we were doing, that they like what we’re doing and that we’re giving them something that’s really adding to their lives.

Samir Husni: What do you consider yourself? I know you’re the editor-in-chief, but what do you consider yourself to be first, a journalist, an advocate, or a rock star?

Diane Anderson-Minshall: (Laughs) I consider myself a journalist first, but there’s no denying that this is advocacy journalism. There’s just no denying that in order to do this magazine, you have to consider yourself an advocacy journalist. I think those two things are first and the rock star is very, very far down on the line. I have moments of feeling like a rock star, but I know I’m not.

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

Diane Anderson-Minshall: I feel like we reflect the best the country has to offer in coverage of HIV and Aids and we’re trying to take a magazine that’s largely a service publication and work in hard-hitting news and health investigations and have the latest treatment information, and these interviews that are always inspirational, for our readers.

We’ve won a number of awards for our coverage of HIV and AIDS, including the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; they have an excellence in HIV/AIDS coverage award which we’ve won a few times. We’ve won some other awards as well and I was given the Western Publishing Association; the Maggie Award last year. They have an inaugural leadership award and I was given that for the work on HIV Plus mobile app. So, we get pretty good validation from other journalists in other areas media.

One thing that people do keep asking me is whether we’ve made this change because we’re losing money? And this is the very first time I can say this, because a lot of times I’ve been at publications where what I’m about to say was not the case; where we did make a change and it was because we needed to deal with dropping revenue.

In this case, we’ve been doing phenomenally well and we’ve been consistently doing well over the last few years that I’ve been here. In fact, we’ve often been the top print magazine in the company and that includes both Out and The Advocate magazines, because our ad sales are consistent and we don’t face the same economic setbacks that other advertising arenas do, like fashion or travel and advertising industries, for example. Pharmaceutical industries have specific things they need to advertise and they have requirements for that advertising, so as long as the medication market is robust, then we continue to have consistent ad sales, which is our primary driver of funds.

So, it’s important for me to make it clear that this was not a decision we made because we weren’t selling, it was quite the opposite and I’m really proud of that.

Samir Husni: So, you’re telling me that print is not dead?

Diane Anderson-Minshall: Print is not dead for us; it’s thrilling. Of course, I hear it in other magazines and it scares me to death because I’m such an old print horse that I never want it to go away. And so it’s really exciting for me to be at a magazine where there’s never talk of not doing print anymore. Yes, it’s doing well.

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

Diane Anderson-Minshall: Everything. Even though we’re doing well, we still have limited resources allocated to editorial, so we still have everyone doing the job of four different people.

In terms of publishing, just production can keep me up at night. Just knowing production is two weeks away and that I have to file 80,000 words by then. That can keep me up at night. And that’s just the very beginning of what keeps me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Harvard Business Review: A Magazine That Readers Care About. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Adi Ignatius, Editor-In-Chief.

April 24, 2015

“When I’ve worked at legacy publications, we’d create this content that was basically designed to be an adjacency to advertising. Whatever, fine. Then the advertising disappears. Advertising definitely comes and goes; you have to make sure that you have a product at the end of the day that your readers actually care about, because the advertising dollar today will disappear tomorrow.” Adi Ignatius

Apr15 Cover 300dpi Focusing on areas such as leadership, finance, marketing and the art of managing people, among many other business-related topics, Harvard Business Review (HBR) is a magazine dedicated to improving all facets of management in today’s fast-paced world.

Adi Ignatius is editor-in-chief, or as he likes to refer to himself, the balancer-in-chief of HBR. He came to the magazine in 2009 from TIME, where he was deputy managing editor, helping to oversee the week-to-week editing of the magazine and was also responsible for many of TIME’s special editions, including the Person of the Year and TIME 100 franchises.

After coming onboard at Harvard Business Review, Adi set about reinventing the academic read into more of a consumer-type magazine, one that has seen circulation growth and subscription prices increase since his joining the team.

I spoke with Adi recently and the discussion was both fun and informative. He has definite opinions on where HBR is heading and the future of magazine media in general.

So, I hope you enjoy this conversation with a man who believes in the timelessness of his brand and the collectability factor he thinks all magazines need today, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Adi Ignatius, Editor-in-Chief, Harvard Business Review.

But first the sound-bites:

Adi Ignatius On the transition he had to make in 2009 when he came to HBR right after the Market crash: When I came on in 2009, Harvard Business Review hadn’t written a word about the recession and that seemed odd. I understood that the magazine always wanted to be timeless in everything it did, but it seemed that this was a different period; readers were desperate for information about the worst economic situation that we’ll all hopefully face in our lifetimes. Luckily, the people who run this place wanted somebody who had that kind of metabolism, someone who could bring a sort of timely sensibility to the timeless tradition and deal head-on with some of the topics people were worried about.

On the advice he would give media leaders about the future of print today:
I think getting past the sense of a lot of things that we thought were traditionally important like print, front pages, home pages, viewing yourself as only a destination site; I think you have to let go of these assumptions and really follow where the market is going and where readers are going. And make sure your content is unique and valuable and make sure you are maximizing every possible connection and platform that you could be on.

On some of the stumbling blocks that would prevent magazine media from implementing his common sense advice:
We all know where this plot line is heading; we all know that we are moving rapidly toward a more digital, or even fully digital, future. The problem is we’re in the present. And the present is still in some ways attaching more value to the print part of our operations than is likely to happen in the future. So, it’s very difficult to handle that transition when we’re still relying on print for the bulk of our revenue and ad revenue, in some cases. It’s very hard to forego the short-term revenue that we all depend on to make the sort of long-term future digital.

On whether he thinks publishers are placing too much dependence on social media these days:
We used to depend on LinkedIn for a huge amount of traffic, but when LinkedIn realized they weren’t simply a place for people to search for jobs, they decided to have content and stickiness, and a lot of that content was HBR. Then they sort of realized that they could be developing their own content and didn’t really need partners. So, that was a moment of panic, but I think as long as you’re creating content that’s valuable to your audience, whether it’s a big or a niche audience, you can adapt to these things.

On whether he can ever see a day when HBR will not have a print component: In theory, yes; it’s not a part of any of our plans at this point. I can imagine a reduction in print, in the number of print copies, and I would say that’s probably likely for us. And that would be driven by two main things: the decline in print advertising, which is real and profound and we see no sign of that being reversed, and more interestingly, a kind of shift in consumption habits.

On the cover price of HBR: Yes, we are higher-priced, but this magazine is for people who love ideas and you’ll find ideas in this publication that can improve your company and your career, well beyond what we’re charging. That’s essentially our value proposition.

On whether the collectability factor is important in magazine media today:
I think we’ve all realized the value of the archives. We have an archive that goes back 25-30 years and subscribers get full access to anything that we’ve published during that time. And we tested that a couple of years ago and found out that subscribers were willing to pay significantly more when they realized they had access to that archive.

On anything else he’d like to add:
That was a reinvention in 2010 and by any measurement that you could use, it worked. Our circulation has risen and is now at a record level, about 300,000. We have to do this again. We have to reinvent the business model again for all the reasons that our colleagues in the industry are doing it.

On what keeps him up at night:
Our situation is a little more complicated because we also need contributors to feel like we’re the best place for them to publish their ideas. We’re this hybrid; we’re somewhere in between a normal magazine and an academic journal. And that sometimes keeps me up at night; whether I can keep that balance intact, while still driving the business forward. That’s what I do; I’m balancer-in-chief.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Adi Ignatious, Editor-in-Chief, Harvard Business Review.

Samir Husni: You’ve been at Harvard Business Review since 2009, so you had just come onboard when the Market crashed. Can you describe how the transition for you was during that precarious time?

Adi Ignatius: I interviewed for the job in 2008, so when I came on in 2009, Harvard Business Review hadn’t written a word about the recession and that seemed odd. I understood that the magazine always wanted to be timeless in everything it did, but it seemed that this was a different period; readers were desperate for information about the worst economic situation that we’ll all hopefully face in our lifetimes. And a publication like Harvard Business Review could provide insight.

Luckily, the people who run this place wanted somebody who had that kind of metabolism, someone who could bring a sort of timely sensibility to the timeless tradition and deal head-on with some of the topics people were worried about.

We took that opportunity to kind of reinvent the magazine, the website and set out a path for growth from that.

Samir Husni: If you were going to apply the same formula that you did for the Harvard Business Review on its business side to magazine media today, in 2015; what type of magazine would you create to help magazine publishers and editors adapt to all the changes that are taking place and what advice would you give those media leaders about the future of print today?

Adi Ignatius: I wouldn’t necessarily get hung up on print. I don’t think the answer for all of us is finding out a way to maximize print; some of us will be print; some of us will be digital, and then some of us will be a hybrid.

I think getting past the sense of a lot of things that we thought were traditionally important like print, front pages, home pages, viewing yourself as only a destination site; I think you have to let go of these assumptions and really follow where the market is going and where readers are going. And make sure your content is unique and valuable and make sure you are maximizing every possible connection and platform that you could be on. That’s obvious maybe, and the hard part might be actually implementing that. I guess that would be my first bit of advice.

Samir Husni: What do you think are some of the stumbling blocks that are stopping people from implementing that common sense solution?

Adi Ignatius: I guess some of them you’re probably very familiar with. We all know where this plot line is heading; we all know that we are moving rapidly toward a more digital, or even fully digital, future. The problem is we’re in the present. And the present is still in some ways attaching more value to the print part of our operations than is likely to happen in the future. So, it’s very difficult to handle that transition when we’re still relying on print for the bulk of our revenue and ad revenue, in some cases. It’s very hard to forego the short-term revenue that we all depend on to make the sort of long-term future digital. And we all think that we can manage that transition and jump from one to the other and do it at the perfect time versus our knowledge of a company like Kodak, which knew very well the digital future was coming, didn’t handle the transition well at all. And that’s what happens if you don’t.

But I think one big problem is simply the fact that print remains hugely important for most of our business models and, as I said, it’s very difficult to forego the short-term revenue.

The second thing is just the landscape is moving so quickly. If you look at social media, the Harvard Business Review is very successful in social media. We have a huge number of shares and a huge number of followers; we generate a lot of traffic through social media. What will our relationships be with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others in a few years; it’s impossible to know. Probably very different from what they are now.

There’s a fundamental uncertainty that means we’re all experimenting a lot, but it’s somewhat difficult to have as much confidence in precise, future digitally-focused plans because it’s such a moving target.

Samir Husni: Do you think we’re making the same mistake as we did when we put all of our dependence upon advertising, because now we’re trying to depend so much on social media? What if Facebook decides to listen to the rumors I’ve been hearing and becomes an enclosed website, where it won’t take you to your website?

Adi Ignatius: I think we have to be open to that possibility. I think the most important thing is not to panic. There will be surprises like that. We used to depend on LinkedIn for a huge amount of traffic, but when LinkedIn realized they weren’t simply a place for people to search for jobs, they decided to have content and stickiness, and a lot of that content was HBR (Harvard Business Review) and I think HBR was some of the best performing content on that site.

And then they sort of realized that they could be developing their own content and didn’t really need partners. So, that was a moment of panic, but I think as long as you’re creating content that’s valuable to your audience, whether it’s a big or a niche audience, you can adapt to these things. So, we don’t have the same kind of relationship with LinkedIn now, but we’re working on developing other relationships with LinkedIn. Facebook and Twitter are great referrals to our site. If they’re cut off, we’ll figure something else out. A good brand with good content just has to be nimble. And if some of these things happen, we’ll figure something else out; I really do believe that.

Samir Husni: Can you foresee a day when HBR will not be in print?

Adi Ignatius: In theory, yes; it’s not a part of any of our plans at this point. I can imagine a reduction in print, in the number of print copies, and I would say that’s probably likely for us. And that would be driven by two main things: the decline in print advertising, which is real and profound and we see no sign of that being reversed, and more interestingly, a kind of shift in consumption habits. The challenge for us is to truly make digital a long-form reading experience that is as effective as print is now. And that involves new personalization, new utility, kind of a reinvention of what a long-form article is online, which is what we’re doing.

You talked about advertising before; the trap that many legacy publications have fallen into over the years is the pursuit of advertising at the expense of the relationship with the reader and the creation of quality content.

Nowadays, native advertising is viewed as a panacea for a lot of publications and a lot of native advertising solutions are great. We at HBR haven’t plunged into that yet, but we will and that’s fine. But I worry when I see some legacy publications, when they talk about what they’re doing; all they seem to be able to discuss is native. And my only feeling on that is advertising comes and goes, that is fact.

When I’ve worked at legacy publications, we’d create this content that was basically designed to be an adjacency to advertising. Whatever, fine. Then the advertising disappears. Advertising definitely comes and goes; you have to make sure that you have a product at the end of the day that your readers actually care about, because the advertising dollar today will disappear tomorrow. And there will be a new model, fine, you just have to make sure that you’re creating content that people actually care about and that isn’t just being created or advertising dollars.

Samir Husni: Somebody recently told me that the magazine industry doesn’t have an ink on paper problem; it has an advertising problem. Do you agree?

Adi Ignatius: Meaning what, exactly?

Samir Husni: That advertising is disappearing from print.

Adi Ignatius: Well, yes, that’s true. There are other models; some of the magazines that you and I love most are essentially subsidized by, I don’t know, a wealthy benefactor, maybe, something like that.

Samir Husni: (Laughs)

Adi Ignatius: And that’s also a good model. At HBR, just so you know; we’re not subsidized by the school, quite to the contrary. I’ve worked at Dow Jones and I’ve worked at Time Inc. And at HBR, we’re as commercially focused as any other publication that I’ve ever worked at. And we have to be successful on the bottom line and we have to be significantly profitable and the money that we make goes back to Harvard Business School to fund its case studies and research.

So, we’re very much in the real world and we’re very aware that advertising dollars have disappeared, but we’re a premium-priced subscription. Advertising is an important revenue source for us, but subscription is a more important source. What we’ve been able to accomplish in recent years is to increase circulation and increase the average price of a subscription and we want to keep doing that. So, I think there are ways if you have the right model and a target audience.

Samir Husni: With the price of the newsstand edition for just one copy, you can buy a year’s subscription to other magazines.

Adi Ignatius: Yes, that’s true. But I think if you get a subscription offer from Time magazine for $20 for a year and a half, it feels a little like the magazine is saying this publication has no value, please subscribe. And that’s not our approach. Yes, we are higher-priced, but this magazine is for people who love ideas and you’ll find ideas in this publication that can improve your company and your career, well beyond what we’re charging. That’s essentially our value proposition.

Samir Husni: One of the things that you mentioned earlier in our conversation was the need to create this timely, yet timeless, content. Do you think this is the future of print, that the printed word has to have a collectability factor and that it can’t be something described as disposable?

Adi Ignatius: I think we’ve all realized the value of the archives. We have an archive that goes back 25-30 years and subscribers get full access to anything that we’ve published during that time. And we tested that a couple of years ago and found out that subscribers were willing to pay significantly more when they realized they had access to that archive. And I think other publications are doing the same thing and unearthing archival ways that are proving valuable, informative and fun. I think in that sense, a smart curation of archives is a way to prove the timelessness of some of the ideas that we publish. And we want to do more of that.

The Harvard Business Review in the past was only about timelessness and I think the brand has proven adaptable enough that now, particularly on the web, we do things that are really timely.

Samir Husni: On a personal level with the magazine; what has been the biggest stumbling block that you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

Adi Ignatius: When I came in 2009, we decided that we were going to reinvent the magazine. The company had just hired a consultant who had done focus groups and research and who had talked to people and concluded that the way we used to produce our covers, I don’t know of you remember it, but HBR used to be like an academic journal or like National Geographic in the old days, where the table of contents was fully listed on the cover.

And the consultant concluded that the table of contents on the cover was as iconic for Harvard Business Review as the red border is for Time magazine. And that you mess with that at your own peril. And I wasn’t sure that I bought that. (Laughs) And I saw the focus groups and heard what they were saying, things like, yes, I’m a marketing guy and I can see the table of contents, check out if there’s anything for me and if I’d really like to read it.

But to me that meant they were looking at the table of contents and if there wasn’t anything that appealed to them, they weren’t even going to open the magazine or even tear the plastic covering off, so all that work that one does to produce a magazine, the photos, the layout, the headlines and callouts; they weren’t even going to see any of that.

And our readership was pretty much going to decide that they should just go online and research what they wanted and buy articles there and they weren’t even going to subscribe.

So, we decided to do nothing that was revolutionary, but basically remake HBR more like a magazine. Maybe it was late in the era of print magazines, but it was still very important to us to create more of a personalization. HBR articles are hard going, so we wanted to make them somewhat more accessible, in terms of the art, headlines and presentation, because that’s it, right? You want people to read the articles they didn’t think they wanted to read from the table of contents, but they’re drawn into it for some reason and realize how interesting it really is.

Samir Husni: Anything else you’d like to add?

Adi Ignatius: That was a reinvention in 2010 and by any measurement that you could use, it worked. Our circulation has risen and is now at a record level, about 300,000; our newsstand sales, even in this climate, basically have risen every year from 2010 onward, we average about 40,000 on the newsstand at $17.95, so by any measure, that’ s been successful.

We have to do this again. We have to reinvent the business model again for all the reasons that our colleagues in the industry are doing it. We’re kind of in the process of a strategic rethink to redefine what it means to be a subscriber, a member who belongs to Harvard Business Review. And I believe we’ll have some pretty interesting things to talk about in a few months.

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

Adi Ignatius: (Laughs) Business thinkers often say that you need to focus on one audience primarily and that would be readers, focus on your readers and keep your eye on them. But our situation is a little more complicated because we also need contributors to feel like we’re the best place for them to publish their ideas. We’re this hybrid; we’re somewhere in between a normal magazine and an academic journal.

And maintaining that sweet spot requires us to play this game of wanting HBR to be more accessible, but it also needs to sustain its level of rigor so that we remain true to who we are, but we also remain the place for the kind of authors that we want, who come up with the great ideas and that we remain the place they want to publish them. And that sometimes keeps me up at night; whether I can keep that balance intact, while still driving the business forward. That’s what I do; I’m balancer-in-chief.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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“My Smart Newspaper”… From Dubai With Love: Tomorrow’s Print Newspaper. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Faisal Salem Bin Haider, CEO, Printing & Distribution Sector, Dubai Media Inc.

April 21, 2015

“By creating My Smart Newspaper, with its 16 pages, the reader will be able to spend 10 or 15 minutes to get a summary of everything that’s in the market today through a small, compact newspaper, and at the same time has the feel and look that only print can deliver. You are getting all the information with no waste whatsoever. No waste in paper and no waste of the readers time… it is a win-win situation.” Faisal Salem Bin Haider

Imagine It's 2020 Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Imagine it’s 2020, that was the theme of the 10th WAN-IFRA, the international newspaper association, Middle East Conference in Dubai, The United Arab Emirates. I was a speaker at, and an attendee of, the conference. One of the presentations, My Smart Newspaper, caught my attention and made me think: why wait to 2020 when the future here in Dubai seems to have started yesterday, if not yesteryear.

My Smart Newspaper is a project of Dubai Media Inc.’s Masar Printing and Publishing, an arm of the Government of Dubai under the leadership and vision of Shaikh Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

My curiosity got the best of me and I was fascinated by the idea of My Smart Newspaper and at the same time had tons of questions. For the first time during a media conference I was seeing and hearing someone considering the promotion of the future of print in a digital age. After all, when I started the Magazine Innovation Center at The University of Mississippi in 2009, the tag line for the center was, is, and will continue to be, “Amplifying the Future of Print in A Digital Age.”

Mr. Faisal Salem Bin Haider, CEO, Printing & Distribution Sector, Dubai Media Inc.

Mr. Faisal Salem Bin Haider, CEO, Printing & Distribution Sector, Dubai Media Inc.

So, as soon the conference was over, I reached out to Masar Printing and Publishing and requested a visit and an interview with its CEO Mr. Faisal Salem Bin Haider, CEO of Printing and Distribution. My main conversation with him centered on the My Smart Newspaper project, but he was also gracious enough to fill me in on the history of Masar Printing and Publishing facilities that occupy a space of 50,000 square meters (almost 540,000 square feet), equivalent to 7 soccer fields…

After the tour of Masar’s very impressive facilities, I sat down with Mr. Faisal for this Mr. Magazine™Interview that I am sure you will find as informative, captivating, and delightful as I did.

But first the sound bites:

On the concept of My Smart Newspaper: I am sure that you know why we need to go to a smart platform today. We are bombarded with news, newspapers, magazines, digital platforms, etc.; in newspapers alone, each newspaper arrives with at least 80 pages daily. Add to that mobile news arriving every second of the day. We believe that the reader will go through only 10 or 20 pages max of useful information from any newspaper they receive, with the other pages of content going to waste. The readers’ time and interests are of an essence.

On how the transformation will help My Smart Newspaper: The idea starts with building the readers’ profiles and matching that profile with the wants and desires of the readers. We found out that there are four major areas folks are interested in: front page news, columnists, certain specific information and thumbnails of different newspapers.

On the goal of My Smart Newspaper: The goal of My Smart Newspaper is to match the reader’s profile with the content of the printed newspaper. My Smart Newspaper will also have your name and picture with all the pertinent information related to the reader’s profile.

On the fact that a printer came up with this editorial-type innovation: As you know, we are not only printers, but also publishers. We started with Al-Bayan newspaper where I started in 1990 working in the pre-press department. We are so tight with our publishers and we are always coming up with ideas to improve on the quality of the printed product.

On why they invested so much time and money on new printing machines: Today we are in a much better scenario than we were before. We started investing in 2007, before the crisis of 2008; we had already placed the order for the machines. At that time, yes, it was challenging. Many people in the market liked our business model, but as you know; we are in Dubai. In Dubai, we are always thinking ahead.

On whether it takes a lot of guts to swim against the current: Actually, on this subject, digital, most of us came from the IT side into this in the 1990s, so from the beginning we would like to go digital and we learned the offset on these traditional printing machines maybe a few years back. But we always believed that digital should succeed.

On when My Smart Newspaper will become a reality instead of a dream waiting in the wings: Soon, I think. It isn’t cheap. I recently briefed a publisher about the concept and he said, wow, that’s good. Key people in the government, this is what they want; all of them. The challenge will be with the publishers. Are they willing or not to team up to provide this service?

On anything else he’d like to add: The main thing about this technology is the possibilities. This is what has driven us. To make a change you have to really think out of the box. And this is something that we’re really working on and the technology helps us and the cost is becoming more reasonable.

On what keeps him up at night: (Laughs) I’m always thinking about our business.

And now for the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Mr. Faisal Salem Bin Haider, CEO of Printing & Distribution Sector, Dubai Media Inc.

Samir Husni: Would you please tell me about the concept of “My Smart Newspaper.”

Faisal Salem Bin Haider: I am sure that you know why we need to go to a smart platform today. We are bombarded with news, newspapers, magazines, digital platforms, etc.; In newspapers alone, each newspaper arrives with at least 80 pages daily. Add to that mobile news arriving every second of the day. We believe that the reader will go through only 10 or 20 pages max of useful information from any newspaper they receive, with the other pages of content going to waste. The readers’ time and interests are of an essence.

So, for that reason, and as you know, today we arrived to a very high-end digital printing machines with acceptable ratings and good quality. We do not believe that the newspaper will die, but we believe we have to become smarter in creating our newspapers.

The idea of My Smart Newspaper started with the simple premise: why don’t we create a paper as the reader would create the paper and not as a publisher. The days when the reader depended on the publisher to tell them what content they need to read are limited, if not gone. Today the reader has many different sources of information. Newspapers, TV’s, agencies, blogs; there are just too many to count. So we said, why don’t we curate all this information on paper, compact it, and produce a 16- page-newspaper on average in which the readers can get the daily articles and content that they prefer.

Digital printing has come of age. Today in Switzerland they’re installing a digital machine that will produce maybe 25,000 daily copies of a newspaper. They moved from web offset to digital. The trend is to move from offset to digital. Digital will make My Smart Newspaper real.

Samir Husni: Can you please explain a little bit more on how this transformation is going to help My Smart Newspaper?

The front page of the prototype issue of My Smart Newspaper.

The front page of the prototype issue of My Smart Newspaper.

Faisal Salem Bin Haider: Well, as print publishers and publishers of two major dailies, we asked ourselves why can’t we be different? What and how can we offer readers more in this digital age? What’s the readers’ preference? How can we put those preferences in a platform that the readers want.

For example, if a reader just wants to read the front page of a specific newspaper, the columns from another paper and the sports section of yet another paper, our idea is learn as much as possible about that reader, create a profile about that reader and create a physically printed newspaper. I know that some are offering such services on the web and on the tablet, but here we are more focused on the look and feel of the platform, and because we know the newspaper, and we know how to built it, the final product we will be a newspaper, however it will be my individualized newspaper. That look and feel can never be created on the internet.

So the idea starts with building the readers’ profiles and matching that profile with the wants and desires of the readers. We found out that there are four major areas folks are interested in: front page news, columnists, certain specific information and thumbnails of different newspapers.

Samir Husni: What is the goal of My Smart Newspaper?

Faisal Salem Bin Haider: The goal of My Smart Newspaper is to match the reader’s profile with the content of the printed newspaper. My Smart Newspaper will also have your name and picture with all the pertinent information related to the reader’s profile.

By creating My Smart Newspaper, with its 16 pages, the reader will be able to spend 10 or 15 minutes to get a summary of everything that’s in the market today through a small, compact newspaper, and at the same time has the feel and look that only print can deliver. You are getting all the information with no waste whatsoever. No waste in paper and no waste of the readers time… it is a win win situation.

Samir Husni: What’s fascinating to me is you’re a printer; how did this whole idea of My Smart Newspaper come about? Rather than coming from a publisher, it’s coming from a printer. What’s in it for you?

Faisal Salem Bin Haider: As you know, we are not only printers, but also publishers. We started with Al-Bayan newspaper where I started in 1990 working in the pre-press department. We are so tight with our publishers and we are always coming up with ideas to improve on the quality of the printed product. From utilizing our printing machines to their best capacity, to ensuring that we are meeting the needs of the publishers to create a competitive product without great cost or sacrificing the quality. So in short, we work very close with the publishers almost on a daily basis.

In the office of Mr. Faisal Salem Bin Haider with Hala Hatem, director, sales and marketing and Samer Sabri Abdel Qader, director, pre-press & digital

In the office of Mr. Faisal Salem Bin Haider with Hala Hatem, director, sales and marketing and Samer Sabri Abdel Qader, director, pre-press & digital

Samir Husni: I just took a tour of the printing plant and it looks as though you’ve invested a lot, in terms of new machines. Are you out of your minds? People tell us that print is on its way out; why are you investing so much in new printing machines, both commercial and newspapers?

Faisal Salem Bin Haider: Today we are in a much better scenario than we were before. We started investing in 2007, before the crisis of 2008; we had already placed the order for the machines. At that time, yes, it was challenging. Many people in the market liked our business model, but as you know; we are in Dubai. In Dubai, we are always thinking ahead.

So, from the beginning when we studied the market, we built our list on the budget, which started maybe with $150 million as the initial fund to serve in the international market at that time. The international market based on a newspaper, as you know, and also in the commercial world of magazines and such. So, from that perspective we went big. Why? Let’s go one step back.

At that time, we studied the market, we found that there were maybe 500 printers in U.A.E., in small warehouses, one or two presses here and there, and they called themselves printers. So, we asked ourselves whether we should compete (Laughs) with this red ocean or should we go to the blue ocean.

From that moment on, we said that we would not go with the small machines; we’ll go with the big machines. For that reason we went with the, as you can see in the newspaper press, 16 towers at the same time. On the commercial also, we went with the big web machine, which can print and bind 48 pages in one stroke.

When we ordered these big machines, many people asked us what we were doing, but they don’t know the business. We have a faith that those big machines are good business and good for the business. From there, if we didn’t have these machines, we would not have survived during that time.

Today when we have one of our customers spending his week working on what emotions they want to do, the art work, whatever, but when he’s ready to create and print his content, he wants it to be in the market in one hour…(Laughs)

This big commercial press gives them an advantage. They can get 50,000 copies in one hour in the market. So, this machine can produce a 48 page magazine in one stroke. That is the advantage and that is the reason we decided to go big.

Today, we are celebrating the success. Everybody now knows that was the right move from the beginning.

Interviewing Mr. Faisal Salem Bin Haider

Interviewing Mr. Faisal Salem Bin Haider

Samir Husni: When I started the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi, the tagline was “Amplifying the Future of Print in a Digital Age.” And you are a prime example of that. You are actually working on amplifying the future of print using all the digital technology and the latest in the printing technologies that are out there. Does it take a lot of guts to swim against the current?

Faisal Salem Bin Haider: Actually, on this subject, digital, most of us came from the IT side into this in the 1990s, so from the beginning we would like to go digital and we learned the offset on these traditional printing machines maybe a few years back. But we always believed that digital should succeed.

Since 2008 in Drupa (Drupa Print Media Fair) we were seriously working on that. From that time when the digital machines’ makers were invading Drupa, people would come to us and say that they believed we had a big setup and we would like to put our machine on your premises and share the revenues.

In that time it was good news, something given as though a gift. What’s next? If the machine is here, that’s good, but can we sell that type of printing to our clients? At that time, we were doing the visibility studies about digital and digital printing at that time, the answer was no no, we cannot, sell that type of digital printing.

We continued studying this market until we reached 2014 and then we knew it was the time. The time had come when we could successfully implement this business.

Samir Husni: When do you think we’ll see My Smart Newspaper a reality, rather than a dream waiting in the wings?

Faisal Salem Bin Haider: Soon, I think. It isn’t cheap. I recently briefed a publisher about the concept and he said, wow, that’s good. Key people in the government, this is what they want; all of them. The challenge will be with the publishers. Are they willing or not to team up to provide this service?

Today, most of the online content is lifted from its original providers and it seems nobody can do anything with the digital theft. We can’t be like digital. We have to ensure we have permissions to republish the articles, columns, pictures, etc. Some people say this is a crazy idea, but we believe that sometimes out of a crazy idea, a great one is coming.

Yes, today we are telling publishers that the machine is real; we are here to help; let’s sit together and see how we can build this together.

What I think is it will be something like the Newspaper Direct; if you want to read a daily newspaper from anywhere in the world, you can read it online or you can print it. This is the same concept that I’m thinking about today. Today we can build this in Dubai. We will build the portal. In this portal, any reader can build his preference. Then we will have another printer, another hub, in any city; in all of those cities we will have it. This is what we believe; this business model will start penetrating this market. The reader will have all his preferences on his card, think of it as an airline’s frequent flyer card with all your preferences stored in it, from the type of food you like to the seat preference. So, this is his newspaper. When he’s on the plane he can get his Smart newspaper.

Samir Husni: The more I think about it; people go to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, they know she’s there, but then they get surprised by all the other beautiful treasures. So, you have your preferences with the Smart Newspaper and then you surprise them with other areas that fit that same preference.

Faisal Salem Bin Haider: I’ve always thought the sky is the limit. If you are traveling to a different city, maybe something may come with some dynamic information from that city.

Samir Husni: NewspaperDirect was amazing to me. When I was speaking in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and I checked into the hotel, they gave me a list of all the newspapers so I could choose which newspaper I wanted at my hotel room door in the mornings. So, I picked one from Lebanon. But you are taking this concept one step further. I love the idea of the airline frequent flyer card and all the preferences. We know you like Real Madrid and politics from this region and…

Faisal Salem Bin Haider: Yes, they will have your account on the portal. The hotel chains can use this portal, so all you’ll have to do is give them your account number, and then they will use your account to produce your newspaper. All the information is there.

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

Faisal Salem Bin Haider: The main thing about this technology is the possibilities. This is what has driven us. To make a change you have to really think out of the box. And this is something that we’re really working on and the technology helps us and the cost is becoming more reasonable.

To make the dream come true, when we went through this project, we bought an excellent machine, a very fast machine, 300 meters per minute. Then on the finishing part, we were thinking should we go cheap or average. So, there were some options on the printing side. But we went with the high-end; it’s very expensive, the only fold-up that can do inline finishing, the gluing and stitching; everything. We decided to go with the speed of the machine if we want to present this idea of commercial on the hardware side.

We asked ourselves what is the core business of our initiative; it is the portal. The portal could be smart and dynamic. And we want the person who will use the portal to be able to understand the newspaper. We want to keep the feeling of the paper; I want the reader to say this is a paper, not online. So, for that reason we worked with a specialized company out of Lebanon, Layout International, they are international and dominate a big market share with most of the content management systems for newspapers. Today all our newspapers in Dubai are using their system. We told them this is what we want; we can easily get information from online, but we want to have a full page. This is why we need to work closer with the publisher. And today they’re working with us too and we all want to make this business successful.

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

Faisal Salem Bin Haider: (Laughs) I’m always thinking about our business.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Seeing Science As An ‘Engine Of Human Prosperity,’ Scientific American’s Editor-In-Chief & Senior Vice President, Mariette DiChristina, Marches Boldly Into The Future – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

March 26, 2015

“Now that digital media are around, print hasn’t disappeared, but it has changed. And it’ll continue to change and I would expect it to. It would probably be very boring living on this planet if things didn’t change.” Mariette DiChristina

sa0415Cvr_Lo Propelling science into the 21st century might seem like an odd statement, but that’s exactly what Mariette DiChristina, Editor-in-Chief and Senior Vice President of Scientific American magazine has done. Mariette has been inspired and challenged by her career at Scientific American since she began in 2001. And she and the magazine have both benefited from those stimulating revelations.

From a challenging idea posed by Scientific American President, Steven Inchcoombe some years ago: wouldn’t it be wonderful if the magazine could become a major player in the digital field; Mariette proceeded to make that dream a reality. Bringing her print and digital staffs together on equal footing, the two previously separated groups became one team and the website went from 1.3 million unique monthly visitors in 2010 to 7.24 million uniques in January 2015.

Mariette is a firm believer in using every tool available to meet her audience on their own turf, their platform of choice, be it print, laptop, tablet or mobile. I spoke with her recently and discovered that she’s a woman who is passionate about science and about her brand. And that being versatile with every platform possible to engage with her audience is her prime focus and goal. We talked about the past, the present and the future of Scientific American and its diversity when it comes to communicating with readers.

The fascination and love she has for the subject matter of her brand is revealed in every sentence she speaks. Mariette was a science journalist for more than 20 years and her acumen on the topic is irrefutable. She is the eighth person and first female to assume the top post in Scientific American’s 170-year history. Under her leadership, the magazine received a 2011 National Magazine Award for General Excellence and many other awards.

So, I hope you enjoy this interesting and thought-provoking conversation with a woman who believes science is “an engine of human prosperity,” the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Mariette DiChristina, Editor-in-Chief and Senior Vice President, Scientific American magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

Mariette_DiChristina On the secret that has kept Scientific American going all of these years: I guess one answer to your question, at least from my perspective, and of course, I’m partial; although the magazine will be 170 years old this year, it’s really new every day, thanks to a lot of our digital platforms.

On how she is manifesting the brand digitally: We have a website, apps, digital products such as e-books; we have digital products such as PDF collections of our archive material; we call those ‘Classics.’ For instance, if you’re a student and you want to write a story about the history of aviation; we can tell you about it before the Wright Brothers; we have an archive compilation, a ‘Classic’ on that topic, that’s one digital product that we offer.

On whether she can imagine the Scientific American brand without a print component: Well, I think I can imagine anything; I have a pretty good imagination. (Laughs) But a counter point to that, I always think is, what the customers want is what we’ll provide. And as long as there are people who would like to consume in print, Scientific American will provide them with a print product.

On her expectations from new journalists she might hire: What I expect now is what I’ve always expected, which is, first and foremost; you’re an excellent reporter and storyteller, but the tools have changed and as the tools have changed, we’ve changed the way in which we produce that storytelling.

On a major stumbling block she’s had to face over the years and how she overcame it: A challenge that I faced happened in 2011; it was really the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011. I got a couple of, again, inspiring, challenges from management and one of them was from Steven, who said, it would be great if we could, in a few years’ time, say in five years, get to be a large digital player. And there was a specific number he said to that, which was, he would love it if we could get to 8 to 10 million unique visitors.

On how she thinks the job of editor has changed over the years: My whole team has responsibilities in both directions (print and digital). If you’re an associate editor with not as much experience maybe as a senior editor, then your print work might be editing a column and you might spend more of your time writing. You’ll get some editing experience too, so that eventually you’ll learn how to manage entire packages of content like a special report

On anything she’d like to add: I’d just like to mention a couple of other different platforms to you and these are conventional platforms; they’re kind of ancillary in a way. Scientific American has a book in print with Farrar, Straus and Giroux. So online, we might have short stories or longer stories that are really a fast turnaround. In print, we have longer feature articles that are providing analysis and then we have book-length.

On what keeps her up at night: That’s a great question. I sleep really well actually; I think that’s an executive skill. (Laughs) What keeps me up at night? Well, it’s not that it keeps me up at night, but I think anybody who runs a publication likes to solve problems and likes to solve puzzles, so I’ll think about, what we should consider trying to delight our audiences. I’m always thinking about the audience as people we’re having a conversation with.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Mariette DiChristina, Editor-in-Chief, Senior Vice President, Scientific American magazine…

sa0315Cvr_Lo Samir Husni: Looking at the history of science magazines since their inception; Scientific American is, of course, one of the oldest, if not the oldest, continuously-published magazine in the country; what’s the secret that has kept Scientific American going all of these years?

Mariette DiChristina: First of all, let me confirm for you, as far as our records show, we are the oldest, continuously-published magazine in the United States, not the oldest continuously-published science magazine, but the oldest continuously-published magazine with no gaps of any sort.

And I guess one answer to your question, at least from my perspective, and of course, I’m partial; although the magazine will be 170 years old this year, it’s really new every day, thanks to a lot of our digital platforms. You know once upon a time, Scientific American was even weekly, which was very frequent in those days, but now we have multiple ways of reaching our audiences and for each of those audiences, we have a unique way of expressing what is Scientific American.

Samir Husni: And with that expression; what do you think that you’ve done differently? I remember when I first came to the United States in the late 1970s, there were an amazing number of new science magazines that came to the market and then disappeared.

Mariette DiChristina: You’re referring to the 1980s, aren’t you?

Samir Husni: Yes.

Mariette DiChristina: I remember that and it was a very fun time in traditional print magazines around science. Like you, I was very excited as well.

Samir Husni: I remember Gerald Piel coming to speak to our class. And I asked him that same question and he said, well, at least now we have competition, which means it’ll keep us on our toes and give us the incentive to be better.

Mariette DiChristina: I have to agree with Mr. Piel on that. I’ve always liked the idea of competition, and I guess for all of us who produce magazines, especially in the science area, by that metric, we have more competition than ever. In fact, by many metrics I think people can agree, there is more science communication being consumed today than ever before.

The fact that there aren’t as many that are traditional brands and magazines like Scientific American, well, in some ways I’m sorry about that because I’m a traditional, old-time journalist, but in other ways I would never turn the clock back from people’s active engagement with science across lots of media. I find it all very exciting, actually.

Samir Husni: And how are you translating that? I know you have the monthly print magazine; you have all the SIP’s, the line extensions; how are you manifesting the brand now in the digital world?

Mariette DiChristina: We have a website, apps, digital products such as e-books; we have digital products such as PDF collections of our archive material; we call those ‘Classics.’ For instance, if you’re a student and you want to write a story about the history of aviation; we can tell you about it before the Wright Brothers; we have an archive compilation, a ‘Classic’ on that topic, that’s one digital product that we offer.

We also have digital subscription products that are at different frequencies than Scientific American digital, the main magazine, because the magazine itself, as a print and digital component, digital replica, is monthly, although it’s new every day with news on the site. We also have a weekly product that collects research summaries together called ‘Briefings.’

So, we have a variety of ways to reach out, and let me add to that; like everyone else in the modern era; we have videos and podcasts and we have infographic and interactive images that we put on our website as well.

Samir Husni: Can you imagine all of those different digital platforms existing without a print component?

Mariette DiChristina: Well, I think I can imagine anything; I have a pretty good imagination. (Laughs) But a counter point to that, I always think is, what the customers want is what we’ll provide. And as long as there are people who would like to consume in print, Scientific American will provide them with a print product.

I think one of the things that we’re seeing is, as new media have come on, our consumption patterns have changed. This shouldn’t be surprising. Magazines are organic creatures, like anything else that lives on earth. When TV came along and radio was around, radio didn’t disappear, but it did change.

And now that digital media are around, print hasn’t disappeared, but it has changed. And it’ll continue to change and I would expect it to. It would probably be very boring living on this planet if things didn’t change.

sa0215Cvr_lo Samir Husni: As an editor and someone who’s responsible for the hiring and firing of personnel; what are your expectations now from a new team of journalists that you hire or that come onboard the magazine?

Mariette DiChristina: That’s a great question. I’ve been editor-in-chief here for five years, December was my fifth anniversary, and I can tell you how it was and things we did by way of answering your question.

What I expect now is what I’ve always expected, which is, first and foremost; you’re an excellent reporter and storyteller, but the tools have changed and as the tools have changed, we’ve changed the way in which we produce that storytelling.

When I was first acting editor-in-chief in 2009, I got, at the time, a new boss, his name is Steven Inchcoombe, he’s the president of Scientific American, and he came up to me and he asked, Mariette, what’s your vision? What should Scientific American be? What do you want it to be if you were the editor-in-chief? And I have to tell you; Steven’s questions were probably some of the most inspiring ones I’ve ever had in my career, because I did what you just asked me, Samir; I asked myself, what does it need to be and how do we make it be that?

So, I thought, let’s start with the core; science, I think, is an engine of human prosperity. I really think that everything you care about and I care about, when we read the headlines every day; the phones we’re using to talk on now; the computers that we compose our work on; all these things were developed through basic research and then applied and improved our lives over time.

Knowing that science is an engine of human prosperity, and that Scientific American has played quite a role in that for the past century and a half, I started to think about the things that people need from it and who are those people. And how do they consume their media, because everything has to start with who you’re talking to. If you’re talking to a child, you speak on way; if you’re talking to an adult, you speak another way. So, who are we talking to now and what are their needs?

So, we did a lot of basic reader research at that time, and we do it ongoing, everybody does it ongoing, but I’m just talking about when I first started thinking about where Scientific American needed to go and how we needed to accomplish that.

And I thought about the people who depend on science, which is all of us, but we depend on it in two, rather unique ways. One is people who depend on it because they just love it; they believe science for its own sake is a wonderful thing, that humans are curious creatures and we are inspired to learn about everything around us and science is an amazing evidence-based tool to do that with. I call those people, ‘Mr. Core,’ they’re our core audience.

Then there are people around ‘Mr. Core’ who really appreciate science if only they understand how it connects to something they value. Maybe they need science because they’re policy leaders and they have to make decisions that are going to be good for the populace they’re supporting or serving. Maybe they need to understand science because they’re a business leader and they want to know where to invest or what innovations are the ones that they need to invest in. Maybe they’re scientists and they want to know about other fields; maybe they’re educators or students who have their unique perspectives and needs. So, I thought about all of these customers and then I thought about what do the customers use.

Once upon a time, Samir, you and I as magazine people only had one way to talk to our audiences; we had this print product. We would tell our stories, maybe get some letters back in the mail and occasionally a phone call. But today, it occurred to me one day like a bolt of lightning that was easy then, we had the idea that we were speaking to this mass audience, but I started to look at the way the audience behaved differently in different places. On the iPad, they downloaded certain things; on the website, they did others. Then I really began to realize in a visceral way, and you’ll know this too, because every magazine editor has kind of a character that we have in our heads that we’re writing to or who their particular readers are, or examples of reader personas.

But it occurred to me that they differed not just demographically, but also by temperament, depending on the media they chose to consume. After I had a better understanding of different ways people like to consume the content that Scientific American produces; I could then find the staff to produce that, and when I say ‘I,’ of course I mean, getting training or university training to support our team, so that they had the right digital media skills to do it.

So, the short answer to your question is, we know we need to deliver on a lot of different types of media; the storytelling is and remains the core and then we have specialists who support the editorial team in producing a story and video or producing a podcast or any of the other media that we use.

Samir Husni: You assumed your position as permanent editor-in-chief in December 2009 right after the economy crashed and digital really came onto the scene; what was the major stumbling block that you had to face then and how did you overcome it?

Mariette DiChristina: There are editorial stumbling blocks and business ones, and I’m going to put the business ones to the side, because I think everyone saw the same challenges with advertising, starting around 2009, and the industry has experienced that. And all of us have seen similar challenges, I would say, in newsstand distribution shake-ups and in thinking about last year.

But editorially, let me tell you the biggest challenge. I told you a little bit about 2009 and how I started to, with Steven Inchcoombe’s support, think about a vision for Scientific American that really served the public and would inspire them about science as an engine of human prosperity, which by the way, was not a new invention on my part. Scientific American has always supported innovation in the United States ever since it was founded. In my case, I wanted it to apply to the modern era.

A challenge that I faced happened in 2011; it was really the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011. I got a couple of, again, inspiring, challenges from management and one of them was from Steven, who said, it would be great if we could, in a few years’ time, say in five years, get to be a large digital player. And there was a specific number he said to that, which was, he would love it if we could get to 8 to 10 million unique visitors. We’d had similar challenges for other areas of the business.

Remember when I was telling you earlier about all of the different products that we produce? Also in 2010, we were producing around 20 digital issues. We had 12 of Scientific American, 6 of Scientific American Mind, which is the sister publication that I started in 2004 about behavioral and neuro sciences; I launched that here in the U.S. And then we did a couple of newsstand anthologies per year. So, let’s call it 20 issues of for-sale content, not counting all the things we put online that’s open-access and supported by advertising, but just counting the paid packages.

We wanted to go from 20 one year to 120-plus the following year as a business. And you might ask: what was the 120-plus? Well, it was the e-books that I mentioned; the ‘Classics,’ which are PDF packages; the series of ‘Briefings’ that I mentioned to you also, and we were going to launch our iPad issue app. We had done iPad tests, but we were a little later than some on the issue app.

And if you add all those things together, knowing that an iPad issue app, which we were using the Adobe DPS platform, requires an issue in adding multimedia content; I called that in my head another 100 issues of content per year basically. Not all original, a lot of it repackaged, but it was a volume question.

So, I looked at my goal; and I also had a personal goal at the same time of wanting to make this a great place to work for the editorial team, because I love to be challenged and I think all editorial people are very curious people who love to tell great stories. So, how could I make it fun, while we’re at it, and make it a good growth experience?

It occurred to me, just like it occurred to me about different platforms and how the audiences were different; it occurred to me that my team was optimized really for content creation, but not yet for content curation.

So, that was the challenge. How was I going to take a team of journalists and make them efficient I curation and still able to continue to deliver inspiring, award-winning editorial content and get to those volumes? That was my biggest challenge.

I took a series of initiatives. First of all; nobody was telling me that I had to do anything in particular, but it occurred to me that we weren’t structured in a way that people could succeed.

So, I got the management group together and I told them, here are our challenges; we’re trying to get to these numbers; we have only a certain amount of staff and we want this to be a great place to work; we don’t want to give up on getting national magazine award nominations or anything like that.

We did what a lot of people do, which is, first of all, we looked for ways we weren’t being efficient. And one of the biggest ways was, like everybody else; our online team was separate from our print team. Everybody was doing that; online was a small thing and it grew over time. And it seemed to me they were similar to silos; at the time, and this was 2011, online team were rather newer in their careers and all they did was churn copy really fast, and a lot of the other people that focused on print were more experienced, dutiful journalists, but not necessarily, because of that, as well connected to the news of the day.

I decided to eliminate the barriers and what I did was remove separate meetings, where everyone met together, paired up the then-called online reporters with the then-called print editors, so they could talk about together how we should cover something. They could think about what was our daily coverage and then what was our longer-term coverage. We had to work out some of the workflows around that too, but the result was startling traffic growth, really startling.

And also startling volume output change of my senior team, because once they were looking more at their colleagues working online, and looking more at the news cycle, they started to write about it more. In one year, there were on the order of about 300 additional articles out of not a very big editorial team. It was just due to opening up some time for them, bringing them together and the act of simply supporting each other.

We went from, in 2010, an average of 1.3 million unique visitors each month to January 2015, we hit 7.24 million unique visitors and I would argue to you that that’s faster than organic growth, because I haven’t added headcount. The reason is because it’s a more digitally adept and a more digitally comfortable team supplying the content behind the science that matters to the public.

Samir Husni: When you were editor of Scientific American Mind, which you launched in 2004; how has the job of an editor changed in those years?

Mariette DiChristina: Let me clarify something to you also. I came to Scientific American in 2001 as its executive editor. And while I was Scientific American’s executive editor, I launched Scientific American Mind. So, I’ve been at Scientific American this whole time. I’ve been the editor-in-chief since 2009. I just wanted you to know that I wasn’t at Mind and then came to Scientific American after. I was at Scientific American and then started Mind.

In 2004, the online team, as I just said, was separate from the print team. So, if you were an online writer, you wrote stories for online and if you were a print editor, you produced content for print.

But now my whole team has responsibilities in both directions. If you’re an associate editor with not as much experience maybe as a senior editor, then your print work might be editing a column and you might spend more of your time writing. You’ll get some editing experience too, so that eventually you’ll learn how to manage entire packages of content like a special report. We’re always trying to make sure that people can grow their skills.

If you’re a senior editor, you’re handling large packages like a 300 to 500 word story, a special report, or maybe a whole single topic issue, but you also write online, and you also take a turn twice a month editing all the copy online. We have kind of a rotating city editor workflow, which lets the senior editors get a break of just editing content that’s running through the website; it puts them in direct touch with the website and it gives the team who are writing every day different editors to work with so it hones their skills as well.

Samir Husni: So surrounded by all these platforms, all these devices and teams that work with you; what makes you eager to get out of bed each morning and say, wow, I’m going to work?

Mariette DiChristina: (Laughs) What doesn’t make me say wow, I’m going to work? I think I have one of the world’s greatest jobs; I can’t imagine anything more inspiring and important than sharing news about science with our audiences.

Samir Husni: Anything else that you’d like to add?

Mariette DiChristina: I’d just like to mention a couple of other different platforms to you and these are conventional platforms; they’re kind of ancillary in a way. Scientific American has a book in print with Farrar, Straus and Giroux. So online, we might have short stories or longer stories that are really a fast turnaround. In print, we have longer feature articles that are providing analysis and then we have book-length.

Also, with Macmillan Education, we have a textbook for non-majors that Scientific American branded. There’s There is one on biology; one on earth science and there is one on psychology.

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

Mariette DiChristina: That’s a great question. I sleep really well actually; I think that’s an executive skill. (Laughs) What keeps me up at night? Well, it’s not that it keeps me up at night, but I think anybody who runs a publication likes to solve problems and likes to solve puzzles, so I’ll think about, what we should consider trying to delight our audiences. I’m always thinking about the audience as people we’re having a conversation with.

Or think of it like you’re a host of a dinner party and at the dinner party you’re expecting your friends to come by and see you. And you hope you have everything that they like. And if you notice that one friend likes watermelon and another likes bananas, then next time, you make sure you have enough of those things for those people.

Running a magazine, and when I say a magazine, I really mean running a brand with all the platforms, is a lot like that dinner party. What are the things that they like and how can you make sure that you have them so that they’ll visit you again? I think magazine editing is a grand conversation.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Norman Pearlstine to Samir Husni: There Has Never Been A More Exciting Time To Be In Journalism. The Mr. Magazine™ Exclusive Interview With Norman Pearlstine, Executive Vice President and Chief Content Officer, Time Inc.

March 23, 2015

When Norman Pearlstine Talks, Editors And Publishers Listen.

“We may change the (publishing) model in different ways; we may become more sophisticated about printing and delivering content by zip code or by ways in which our readers define themselves, but I think that there’s still a robust market for print having had such a long tradition of creating content.” Norman Pearlstine

“I do believe there will continue to be an audience for a printed product who will be willing to pay for that delivery system.” Norman Pearlstine

“Having to figure out how to make a story a compelling one, but where a desire for fairness really forces you to understand what people do; why they do it, and to really seek out that kind of balance, I think doesn’t come automatically. And that’s one of the things that I always worry about.” Norman Pearlstine

Sometimes practicality and greatness go hand in hand. Toss in almost 50 years of experience and you have a recipe for editorial distinction that can’t be argued or compared. So, when Norman Pearlstine talks, editors and publishers listen.

Norman Pearlstine is the executive vice president and chief content officer for Time Inc. He is a man who has worked at some of the most prestigious and stalwart publishing and financial venues that have ever existed. From The Wall Street Journal to Bloomberg, Norman has been in the business of magazines and newspapers for a long time and has seen the changes that technology has brought to the forefront, and also, how those changes have affected publishing overall. And while the years of experience he has in the industry may have molded his acumen to perfection, his mind is open to 21st century innovation and the excitement of the future.

Recently I spoke with Norman and heard the down-to-earth rationale of a man who knew how to hold the editorial reins of a company like Time Inc., I listened to each and every word he said. His spot-on answers were tight and succinct and his goal clear: keeping Time Inc. engaged with its audience and propelling it forward into a technological position of strength and vitality.

I hope you enjoy this inspiring and exclusive 40-minute-conversation with the “Dean” of editors; a man who knows more about the business than most have forgotten; the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Norman Pearlstine.

But first the sound-bites:

Norm-Pearlstine18198RETOn how he believes the role of editor has changed over the years: First, I think that we have to acknowledge the changes that technology has imposed on us. From Gutenberg until this century, we had a one-to-many model, as everyone has written endlessly, and now we have a model in which increasingly, it’s an interactive one where producers of content and recipients of content engage in a conversation, often digital or video.

On whether having more than 392 million in gross audience across all of Time’s platforms puts enough pressure on him to keep him awake at night: In terms of the business of media, and as we as a company that was just spun off from Time Warner last June feel this; the economic pressure on revenues from print is great and is likely to continue. At the same time, I think it’s never been a more exciting time to be in journalism as we try to sort out all of these new technologies and new ways of interacting with our customers.

On whether he believes a journalist could start a magazine in the 21st century the way Luce and Hadden did, as opposed to a businessperson: I think there are probably three categories, if you will: there are journalists; there are managers or executives, and there are also the technologists. And we should not ignore the people who can introduce a technology without necessarily understanding the implications of it for information or content. I do think that it is certainly possible for a journalist to begin an enterprise today, and in some cases, it’s never been easier because you don’t need a lot of capital to start a blog or something like that.

On the major stumbling block that he’s had to face over the years: I’ve come to appreciate over the years that our best stories have heroes and villains, but more often than not, the situation is more gray than black or white. Having to figure out how to make a story a compelling one, but where a desire for fairness really forces you to understand what people do; why they do it, and to really seek out that kind of balance, I think doesn’t come automatically. And that’s one of the things that I always worry about.

On whether he can ever envision a period where Time Inc. would have no print publications: I believe print will continue to be an important part of Time Inc. for the foreseeable future. Never is a long time. I do think that it is very possible that advertising support for print will continue to be under pressure, but I do believe there will continue to be an audience for a printed product who will be willing to pay for that delivery system.

On why he believes print media reporters are determined to write the industry’s demise, despite the reality: I think the media has always been obsessed with covering itself; it’s a fact that’s not all that new. If you close a news bureau, it’s likely to get much more attention than say, layoffs in the auto industry would. And that’s kind of natural, that on one hand we’re serving an audience, trying to give a worldview, and on the other hand, what happens to us becomes newsworthy and we have that platform.

On creativity and innovation across the platforms: One thing I will say; I believe mobile has come farther and faster and is more significant than certainly any of us thought, say, around 2007 or 2008, when we were thinking about the future of our business. To me, mobile is going to be increasingly a video experience.

On whether he believes we’ll find an audience that’s willing to pay for digital: I think that there will be people who have desires for specialized information they’ll pay for. That B to B may actually have a renaissance for a period on smart phones. I care about college football and I want to know about the May 1st Declaration Day, when every high school athlete in the country makes a decision about where they’re going to school; a service that would shoot me emails on that would probably be something I’d pay for.

On what keeps his momentum up and what keeps him in a positive state of mind: As a chief content officer, I am just exhilarated by the speed with which this business is changing, by the challenges we have, and by the uncertainties, but by an absolute belief that we will continue to create great products that tell stories that address the needs of passionate audiences.

On what keeps him up at night: Just emails from Jill (Jill S. Davison, VP, Corporate Communications) telling me that I have an interview with Samir at noon and I better be prepared for it. (Laughs)

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Norman Pearlstine, Executive Vice President and Chief Content Officer, Time Inc.

Samir Husni: You’ve been in the business of journalism and editing for almost 50 years, from The Philadelphia Inquirer to The New York Times to The Wall Street Journal to Time Inc.; how do you think the role of editor has changed over the years?
Norman Pearlstine: First, I think that we have to acknowledge the changes that technology has imposed on us. And I do show my age that when I was a copyboy at The New York Times, I nearly caused a walkout in the pressroom above the newsroom when I touched a piece of hot type and a linotypist informed me that only linotypists were allowed to touch hot type. That was in 1967.

As late as 1985, when I was managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, we were still using Royal manual typewriters, ten-ply carbon paper and sending stories by six-level teletype to Chicopee, Massachusetts. And you realize that Netscape went public in 1994, Google was founded in 1998, Twitter and Facebook are only a decade old and the Apple introduction of the tablet was in 2010, only five years ago. As an editor, I think you first have to confront the ways that these technological changes have affected journalism and in some respects very beneficially, in terms of ability to quickly research a story, to get information; if I want to know your address and phone number, I don’t have to spend half a day researching that, so it’s a great time to be a reporter in terms of access to information.

At the same time, from Gutenberg until this century, we had a one-to-many model, as everyone has written endlessly, and now we have a model in which increasingly, it’s an interactive one where producers of content and recipients of content engage in a conversation, often digital or video.

Samir Husni: And does that change the role of the editor? At one stage of your career, I remember reading that 16 of the top magazine editors in the country worked for you at one time or another.

Norman Pearlstine: There was a time, and I think that Jim Friedlich said that once in an introduction to a speech I gave, in 2012 when that was probably correct. First of all, we’re still doing great long-form journalism that requires all the skill sets that we’ve always wanted to have from our editors.

And that hasn’t changed. Nancy Gibbs (managing editor, TIME magazine) does a cover on the threat of ISIS and works with David Von Drehle, who writes the piece, and that process is very similar to the kind of work that Time has been doing for decades. The big difference is that sitting 30 feet away from her desk is Edward Felsenthal (managing editor time.com) with the Time.com staff and next to him is Callie Schweitzer, who’s in charge of social audience development and social media, trying to make sure that we are getting our content to as many people as possible and in as many forms as possible. When we do a cover story like, say the year-end Person of the Year on the Ebola Fighters, the editor also has to think about what the digital package will be, the video presentation, and how are we going to get as much audience for this as possible.

The editor’s job now involves not only all of the skill sets that were once important, but then this whole new set of ways of interacting with audience. And I’d say probably along with that come pain points; we all want to generate content from users that enriches experience for other consumers of information, but at the same time you have to have some kind of a correcting mechanism for things that don’t work and that puts a lot of pressure on people.

Samir Husni: Speaking of pressure; Time Inc. is the largest magazine company worldwide and now you have the largest gross audience. You have more than 392 million in gross audience across all the platforms. Does this put more pressure on you and keep you awake at night?

Screen shot 2015-03-22 at 11.57.09 PM Norman Pearlstine: In terms of the business of media, and as we as a company that was just spun off from Time Warner last June feel this; the economic pressure on revenues from print is great and is likely to continue. And those of us who are now stewards of the brands of Time Inc., begin with this recognition, that while we finished 2014 with 23 magazines producing 33 million print subscriptions and those 23 totals were all profitable; we know that if we don’t move quickly to become multiplatform and multimedia, we’ll be in real trouble. So, the headwinds and the pressures on the core business are there and we just have to acknowledge that.

At the same time, I think it’s never been a more exciting time to be in journalism as we try to sort out all of these new technologies and new ways of interacting with our customers.

Samir Husni: Do you have any fears from the new technologies, from the internet for example? Joe Ripp (CEO of Time Inc.) told me in an interview that the internet can be a force for good as much as a force for evil. What is your fear from the internet or digital?
Norman Pearlstine: With anything as new as the digital age or the internet, there’s a fear of the unknown and there are certainly examples that cause concern, whether it’s the anonymity that allows for bullying on some sites to aggregating content from sources that are unreliable and incorrect. We just have to remind ourselves these are early days.

When I left The Wall Street Journal in 1992 there was no browser, no real search that allowed for personalization. So, when you think about a relatively short period of time, there are certainly concerns and risks that come with embracing a lot of these new technologies.

I do think that one of the things shown is the way in which community corrects itself. Wikipedia, when it first came out, everybody said it would never be as accurate as the Encyclopedia Britannica, and you wouldn’t be able to trust anything in it, and while it’s certainly not foolproof or flawless, but to a remarkable degree the community of people who care about that content corrects things pretty quickly. If anything, if you make a mistake today, you’re much more likely to be found out and exposed.

It’s a balancing act. There’s no doubt that there are areas of risk and danger when you think about the global internet. You think about the sophisticated videos that are being produced by ISIS as a recruiting tool; this is something that society has to learn to deal with. I don’t want to paint a picture that is just all optimism, but I am optimistic that society will figure out ways to correct these abuses.

Samir Husni: At the turn of the 20th century, we had people like Henry Luce, DeWitt Wallace and Briton Hadden who were journalists first, rather than businesspeople. Do you think in this day and age that a journalist instead of a businessperson can start a magazine or a website and gain the same footing that Time has gained?

Norman Pearlstine: I think there are probably three categories, if you will: there are journalists; there are managers or executives, and there are also the technologists. And we should not ignore the people who can introduce a technology without necessarily understanding the implications of it for information or content, but who become very important players.

When Facebook first started, it’s hard to imagine that it would be everything that it is today. When Jeff Bezos started Amazon, he saw it as a way to sell books. Some of these technologists are every bit the visionaries that a Turner or a Luce was. And Turner didn’t start as a journalist, and in fact it was Brit Hadden who was the editor and Luce was the publisher when Time started. It was only after Hadden’s death that Luce took on the editorial role with great energy and enthusiasm.

I do think that it is certainly possible for a journalist to begin an enterprise today, and in some cases, it’s never been easier because you don’t need a lot of capital to start a blog or something like that. I know Andrew Sullivan just walked away from his experiment, but there was an example of someone who had a pretty good following of people who were supporting something that was purely journalistic. And there are other examples like that.

But as I said, these are really early days. As difficult as it may be to start an effective information journalism blog or something in a community; on the other hand, when I think about the ways in which global distribution will allow long-form to find its audience, I think that there are great opportunities for journalists that will be coming and will continue to be around.

Samir Husni: If you were asked to deliver a journalism graduation speech; what would be your challenge to the recent graduates?
Norman Pearlstine: For many years I was kind of dubious about journalism schools, if only because I thought you could get such good training just working at a newspaper or something. But with the decline in the number of jobs for journalist’s right out of school, I’ve come to think that actually journalism schools are places where you can, first of all, learn basic principles of journalism and learn the importance of fairness and accuracy and all those things that have always been taught.

But in addition, without wanting to make it sound like too much of a trade rather than a profession, learning how to code or to use a Smartphone to take video; those kinds of skill sets I think can now be taught in a way that makes you much more versatile when you come out of school than might have once been the case.

I would encourage people to try and understand the technology as much as possible, recognizing too how quickly it is moving.

Samir Husni: If we look back on your masterful career of being an editor and a chief content officer; what was the major stumbling block that faced you and how did you overcome it?
Norman Pearlstine: Well, first of all, I had to get really serious about my work. I started as a summer intern in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and the first day I was assigned an obituary of a Mrs. Druckenmiller and I spelled it ‘Drunkenmiller’ with an ‘n’ and learned rather quickly the importance of accuracy. To this day I’m always afraid that even after I’ve edited something that I’ve written and spellchecked it, that I’ll make another dumb mistake like that. And that was one early lesson.

I’ve come to appreciate over the years that our best stories have heroes and villains, but more often than not, the situation is more gray than black or white. Having to figure out how to make a story a compelling one, but where a desire for fairness really forces you to understand what people do; why they do it, and to really seek out that kind of balance, I think doesn’t come automatically. And that’s one of the things that I always worry about.

For example, if we’re going to print a long, investigative piece, I try to project what the six-page, single-spaced letter I’m going to receive from the person we’re writing about saying what we didn’t understand or what we misconstrued or what we failed to report, will be. And I always worry about that. I continue to think that the use and misuse of anonymous sources is one of the biggest challenges for credibility and trust for journalists.

We live in a world in which, whether it’s Hollywood or Wall Street or Washington, there are spin doctors and managers who insist on anonymity and I’m enough of a realist to understand that it is a part of our profession. But I do worry about ascribing credibility to people who really want to remain anonymous when giving quotes to journalists.

Samir Husni: Is that the lawyer in you, or did you completely give up that law degree that you have when you went into journalism?
Norman Pearlstine: Well, I never practiced. But the law degree was, in many ways, a kind of graduate course of logic. I think the lawyer in me would say just don’t print anonymous sources, but the journalist in me says that’s a disservice to readers. I believe it’s the editor in me that says every time we use an anonymous source, we are taking our brand that the reader trusts and, if you will, asking to extend that to a source that we’re not identifying. I think it’s inevitable and we have to do it, but I also think we have to exert much more care than we do in the use of anonymous sources.

Samir Husni: With all the audience growth for Time Inc. publications across the board, from People to Sports Illustrated; do you ever envision a Time Inc. company with no print publications?
Norm-Pearlstine18198RET Norman Pearlstine: I believe print will continue to be an important part of Time Inc. for the foreseeable future. Never is a long time. I do think that it is very possible that advertising support for print will continue to be under pressure, but I do believe there will continue to be an audience for a printed product who will be willing to pay for that delivery system. And what we’re really talking about in print is a delivery system which in some respects you can understand how technology has created real challenges for.

If the internet had come first and we had electronic distribution of content and I came to you with a business model that said we’ll chop down some trees, get some paper, get a big press and we’ll print on it; we’ll hire drivers to deliver it to your home and we’ll call it a newspaper or a magazine, then we’ll flood the post office with it; you’d probably be a reluctant investor in that product. But having started first with print, we have hundreds of millions of people around the world who still rely on it and appreciate its affordability; who actually like having an editor make determinations of what’s important or what’s entertaining and who are willing to pay a fair price for that content.

So, we may change the model in different ways; we may become more sophisticated about printing and delivering content by zip code or by ways in which our readers define themselves, but I think that there’s still a robust market for print having had such a long tradition of creating content. One of our magazines, The Field (in the United Kingdom), is, I think, over 160 years old. So, we’ve been putting words on paper for a long time and I think the audience for print, the people who are willing to subscribe and pay for content on the printed page, is probably more loyal at this point than the advertisers, who are very much in love with the metrics and measurements that are being promised. It’s not clear to me yet how accurate those metrics are, but there’s certainly affection for them.

Samir Husni: There have been a few controversies taking place in our industry like native advertising or even when you permitted that tiny line for Verizon on the label of the cover and some media people were up in arms. (Laughs)
Norman Pearlstine: Yes, five days of coverage in Ad Age, I think.

Samir Husni: And you had to hunt and find where that ad was. Why do you think the media people are more determined to write our obituary than the actual reality of the situation is? We changed from “print is dead” five years ago, to “print is declining” now, and no one reports on that more than our own media.
Norman Pearlstine: I think the media has always been obsessed with covering itself; it’s a fact that’s not all that new. If you close a news bureau, it’s likely to get much more attention than say, layoffs in the auto industry would. And that’s kind of natural, that on one hand we’re serving an audience, trying to give a worldview, and on the other hand, what happens to us becomes newsworthy and we have that platform.

I do think that there are extraordinary changes that we have to acknowledge. There are now more mobile phones on earth than there are people. And if you live a life where, for instance, you spend a lot of time in airports waiting to get on planes, you don’t find a lot of people reading a newspaper, maybe a few more looking at a magazine, but an awful lot of people are just exchanging emails with friends or telling their kids to do their homework, or using a Smartphone as a form of entertainment that’s very different from what was true before. There are a number of people I know who would bring on a briefcase full of newspapers and magazines for a long flight, and now with a choice of 30 movies and Wi-Fi, we have to share that audience, if you will, with new ways of communication. I think if you’re in the business and every day you’re feeling that pressure, it’s easy to be pessimistic.

I have to look at our own business and say that we finished this year with revenues of $3.3 billion dollars and our operating margin was 16%, and with 33 million print subscriptions per month being delivered to our customers and all of our titles profitable; I have to remind myself that this is still a great business. It may be less than a decade ago when revenues at Time Inc. were $5 billion dollars, we’ve sold off some magazines, but it’s still a very healthy business. Having said that, what’s so wonderful about being spun off from Time Warner is we are able to embrace new technology and create new products for new markets and new consumers. And that’s exciting to me.

I’m not negative on print, but I absolutely believe that some of these new products that we’re creating are really quite exciting. I think you’ve heard about MIMI (mimichatter.com), for example, which is this new product that’s going to focus on fashion and beauty coming out of the InStyle Group. That’s a kind of product that maybe 20 years ago we would have started a small spinoff magazine for millennials, but now we’re excited about the opportunity to be able to reach them using whatever devices that are important to them to take in information.

Samir Husni: Congratulations on MIMI. I read about it and I guess that’s a part of Time Inc.’s future, it’s not, as you said, like a spinoff, but rather thinking about something more innovative and creative to meet the digital age.
Norman Pearlstine: One thing I will say; I believe mobile has come farther and faster and is more significant than certainly any of us thought, say, around 2007 or 2008, when we were thinking about the future of our business. To me, mobile is going to be increasingly a video experience. I’m not saying people won’t read long-form on their Smartphones, but I think video is going to be important.

I think it’s incumbent on every one of our titles to really be creating great, inspiring storytelling through video and print for the mobile audience. So far, of course, there is more Smartphones than tablets, but I’m actually quite optimistic about both.

Samir Husni: We live in a digital age; even a print junkie like me can’t deny that.
Norman Pearlstine: Right. But I also think that if there is an audience that’s willing to pay for print, we’ll continue to produce it and I would say that all of our evidence to date shows that actually our subscription circulation has held up pretty well.

Samir Husni: My question to you then is; are we going to find an audience that is willing to pay for digital? Or have we created a welfare information society?
Norman Pearlstine: When I started watching television it was free and advertiser-supported. It was only with cable that people started paying for it. Outside of Philadelphia, where I grew up, we had three networks and we didn’t pay anything for them. So, there has been a tradition of free information for a while. Your question is a very important one, because, especially on a Smartphone, things like banner ads and pre-roll don’t seem to resonate at this point.

The question of how you get revenue for the products that you’re producing for Smartphones is one that we have to focus on. My guess is that it’ll be a combination of some advertising, some paid products and then a fair amount of linking to commerce. If you’re looking at the latest newsletter from InStyle on your cell phone, your ability to click on that pair of shoes and find out how to buy them within three miles of where you’re located will create some business opportunities. I think that there will be people who have desires for specialized information they’ll pay for.

That B to B may actually have a renaissance for a period on Smart phones. I care about college football and I want to know about the May 1st Declaration Day, when every high school athlete in the country makes a decision about where they’re going to school; a service that would shoot me emails on that would probably be something I’d pay for. If I’m going to pay $1.99 for Angry Birds, chances are there will be some kind of content that we’ll create for a paying audience.

Samir Husni: Why do you think people in the magazine and newspaper industries failed to follow the cable model? I came to the United States in 1978 and everybody was saying, nobody will ever pay for television; why would they pay $10 for cable when television is free? And now, of course, the average American family is paying around $70 or $80 per month to get cable. Why do you think the magazine and newspaper business failed to follow that cable model?
Norman Pearlstine: First of all, until quite recently our margins were so good we didn’t feel any need for change. I do think that Next Issue Media, which Time Inc. has been very supportive of; Joe (Ripp) was very involved in its latest management and Lynne Biggar is now chairman of Next Issue Media, who is our head of consumer marketing. Next Issue Media has a 14.95 per month price tag, which allows you to subscribe to 140 magazines, so we’re beginning to discover some of this.

Meanwhile, of course, HBO just did a deal with Apple recently, which, if you will, sort of walks a little bit away from its subscription model. So, everything is up for grabs.

Samir Husni: What makes Norman get up each morning and say it’s going to be another great day?
Norman Pearlstine: As a chief content officer, I am just exhilarated by the speed with which this business is changing, by the challenges we have, and by the uncertainties, but by an absolute belief that we will continue to create great products that tell stories that address the needs of passionate audiences. To me, to be able to continue to be a journalist, to create new products, to continue to try and serve our audiences the way that we do is a blessing. I feel lucky every day I go to work.

Samir Husni: When you go home in the evening; would we catch you with a magazine in your hand, an iPad or a Smartphone, while you’re sitting and relaxing with a glass of wine?
Norman Pearlstine: I’ve tried that. I do a lot of my reading at night and I still try to read a number of our publications prior to our going to press. I’ll read all of Time or Fortune, Entertainment Weekly or People or Sports Illustrated. That has been my night and weekend activities. And to get paid to be able to read great stories is a wonderful life.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night? Norman Pearlstine: Just emails from Jill (Jill S. Davison, VP, Corporate Communications) telling me that I have an interview with Samir at noon and I better be prepared for it. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs) Thank you.

h1

Nifty At Fifty: The Never-Aging, Always-Rocking Cosmopolitan Magazine. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Donna Kalajian Lagani, Senior Vice President, Publishing Director & Chief Revenue Officer, Cosmopolitan…

March 5, 2015

“The whole idea of this one-to-one; she (Helen Gurley Brown) used to say that she wanted to have a one-to-one conversation with millions of women at the same time. So that whole idea of community, which is now what everyone is talking about, that’s something that Cosmo has always had. We’ve always said that we were the first interactive medium. Before there was an internet, there was Cosmo.” Donna Kalajian Lagani

Cosmo April '14 Cover Addictive content, beautiful models that articulate style and fashion to readers, and a core concept created by the woman who started it all – Helen Gurley Brown – that is based on relationships and the ability to openly discuss every aspect of the male-female, family-to-family connection. That is the definition of success; that is Cosmopolitan.

Recently, I was in New York and had the chance to speak with Donna Kalajian Lagani, Senior Vice President, Publishing Director and Chief Revenue Officer of Cosmopolitan. Donna is an open, friendly and totally animated person who welcomed me in her office on the 38th floor of the Hearst Tower. She shared her thoughts on Cosmo’s upcoming 50th birthday and its past and, more importantly, the brand’s future.

We talked about what it takes to keep a magazine fresh and successful with its readers after 50 years on the newsstands and how the brand is pivotal in its presentation, in terms of its digital/print relationship. The conversation was lively, fun, and totally a joy to participate in. I hope you have as much enjoyment reading it as I did visiting with the inimitable Ms. Lagani. Cosmopolitan is a world filled with beauty, fashion and advice that you might not necessarily get from your mother, but you’d definitely get from your best friend.

But first the sound-bites…

Sound-bites:

donna1 On the secret ingredient that continues to make Cosmopolitan click, tick and stick with its audience: I think it’s that we understand in this country and all around the world, one of the most important things to women is to talk about their relationships. Relationships with their family, boyfriends and their girlfriends; and if you look at any pop culture today, any television shows or movies; it all comes back to the relationships.

On Cosmopolitan’s sense of community that has been going strong for 50 years: You brought up something great when you talked about Helen; the whole idea of this one-to-one; she used to say that she wanted to have a one-to-one conversation with millions of women at the same time. So that whole idea of community, which is now what everyone is talking about, that’s something that Cosmo has always had. We’ve always said that we were the first interactive medium. Before there was an internet, there was Cosmo.

On whether the brand would exist without the print component: Sure, I think the community would exist. Of course it would. It would be a different community and certainly shaped differently. But the magazine isn’t going anywhere. I like to say when the earth is over there will be cockroaches and there will be Cosmo. We are an enduring brand through thick and thin.

On the major stumbling block the magazine faces today and how she plans to overcome it: What we often hear from advertisers is digital, digital, digital. I think one of the stumbling blocks is that younger marketers coming up in the business are being brought up by digital media. That’s what they know the best and that’s what they’re the most comfortable with. And we just need to be sure that we continue to educate them and have them understand that when someone crawls into bed at night or boards a plane or goes to the beach, and they’re reading a magazine, there is something very close and intimate about that.

On why she believes Hearst never stopped investing or believing in their print product: It’s that the consumer demand was and is still there. As long as we have 17 million women every month who are reading Cosmo; that’s really powerful. So, why shouldn’t we invest in something that consumers are showing incredible demand for? And innovation is just part of what we always do.

On how she combats the stereotype of sex-only that the magazine seems to have cultivated: I think that stereotype comes from people who don’t read the magazine; that may be their perception and we know that perceptions are very difficult to overcome. But what we have to do is to show people what we’re actually doing.

On her most pleasant moment over the last 20 years at Cosmo: Maybe because it has just happened, but I would have to say standing up on the stage in Times Square and looking 360° around and seeing Cosmo everywhere put a shiver up my spine and tears in my eyes.

On what keeps her up at night: Just thinking about all the fun and exciting new things that we can continue to do with the brand. What’s next and what’s new?

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Donna Kalajian Lagani, Senior Vice President, Publishing Director and Chief Revenue Officer of Cosmopolitan.

Samir Husni: You have a brand that’s 50 years old, yet it’s still going as strong as ever. What’s the secret ingredient that makes Cosmopolitan continue to click, tick and stick with its audience?

Donna Kalajian Lagani: I think it’s that we understand in this country and all around the world, one of the most important things to women is to talk about their relationships. Relationships with their family, boyfriends and their girlfriends; and if you look at any pop culture today, any television shows or movies; it all comes back to the relationships. And that’s what differentiates Cosmo from any other women’s media brand that’s out there. We really understand that relationships are the heart and core of everything.

If you’ve been around for 50 years that also means that you have had to adapt, change and stay very modern. And I would say Helen Gurley Brown, of course, who was the founder of our brand and the long-time, four-decade editor set the standard. Three years ago when Joanna Coles, our editor-in-chief, came over, she elevated everything about the brand. She kept the heart and the core and the DNA of Cosmopolitan the same as Helen had it, which was important. And remember when Helen launched our magazine, she was at the beginning of the women’s movement, the beginning of the sexual revolution and believed that women could have it all, believed that our mission as a brand was to empower women to have whatever they wanted.

Joanna comes onboard three years ago; she dusts off the original mission and brings back the original DNA of our brand to be all about empowerment. And she’s brought smarter voices into the magazine; she’s just elevated everything. So, on one hand, we’re 50 years old and on the other, we change every moment. The photographers, models and the stylists; everything has been elevated in the magazine and that has kept us really fresh.

And it’s not just about the magazine. It’s about the community of Cosmo, which is so much bigger than just the magazine. On our website; we’re up to 30 million unique visitors a month, that’s huge, and 9 million social followers.

Samir Husni: I remember a quote from Helen Gurley Brown where she was telling her husband after she published the book, Sex and the Single Girl, that she was getting all these letters and having to spend a lot of time answering them, and he asked her why she just didn’t do a magazine so that she could respond to everyone at the same time.

Donna Kalajian Lagani: That’s exactly right.

Samir Husni: So this sense of community has been going strong for 50 years. And Cosmo is still, by far, the leading selling magazine on college campuses; the second or third largest-selling monthly on the newsstands; yet you hear people in ad agencies and other places saying young women don’t read anymore. We don’t have anyone coming to us to advertise in print any longer. Why do you think there is this stereotype that’s as far from reality as you can get? Do you face those problems when you call on advertisers, telling you that young women no longer read print anymore?

donnaandsamir Donna Kalajian Lagani: We face it, but it can also be just a negotiation ploy. They’re using that as a way to negotiate with us, perhaps. But you brought up something great when you talked about Helen; the whole idea of this one-to-one; she used to say that she wanted to have a one-to-one conversation with millions of women at the same time. So that whole idea of community, which is now what everyone is talking about, that’s something that Cosmo has always had. We’ve always said that we were the first interactive medium. Before there was an internet, there was Cosmo.

So, are women reading magazines? Of course they are. We’re selling 3 million copies a month; we’re reaching 17 million women every month. But we have to do more than that; we have to be everywhere that 18 to 34-year-old is; we have to make sure that we’re intersecting with her. So when she wakes up in the morning and rolls out of bed, reaches for her phone; the first thing she wants to see is cosmo.com.

And what we’re doing now with Snapchat is very cool. We’re not supposed to be telling numbers, but I can tell you this; we guarantee 700,000 views per day and we’re over-delivering above that, 700,000 views per day of Cosmo on Snapchat. That tells us that our community has a thirst for this information, not only monthly with the magazine, but daily online and certainly daily on Snapchat.

Samir Husni: Do you think that community would exist without the print magazine?

Donna Kalajian Lagani: That’s a great question. Sure, I think the community would exist. Of course it would. It would be a different community and certainly shaped differently. But the magazine isn’t going anywhere. I like to say when the earth is over there will be cockroaches and there will be Cosmo. We are an enduring brand through thick and thin. You said it: we’re the number one best-sold magazine on college campuses and yes, we still are the best-sold magazine on the newsstands.

Samir Husni: What is the major stumbling block that you’re facing today and how do you plan on overcoming it?

Donna Kalajian Lagani: I would say what you said, what we often hear from advertisers is digital, digital, digital. I think one of the stumbling blocks is that younger marketers coming up in the business are being brought up by digital media. That’s what they know the best and that’s what they’re the most comfortable with. And we just need to be sure that we continue to educate them and have them understand that when someone crawls into bed at night or boards a plane or goes to the beach, and they’re reading a magazine, there is something very close and intimate about that, especially for beauty and fashion advertisers where it’s all about the color and seeing and touching and being able to rip out; I don’t think that’s ever going to go away, that whole tactile experience. Do you think that’ll ever go away?

Samir Husni: Oh, I agree, it never will. In fact, I’m known in the industry as the one who defines a magazine as: if it’s not ink on paper, then it’s not a magazine. I even trademarked that phrase.

Donna Kalajian Lagani: There you go; I love that. I think what we have to keep doing is showing marketers all the innovative things that can be done in our magazine that does break through.

TSq15-Horizontal-ScrnSize Two things: it’s our 50th birthday, so we thought OK, we knew it was coming; it wasn’t a surprise. We planned on it and said, OK – let’s celebrate our 50th and we are Cosmo; we only know how to do things in a very big way; what could we do that would make a very big brand statement? Do you know what we did on New Year’s Eve? We went to Times Square on New Year’s Eve and we had 30,000 pink hats and balloons, we had two musical stages; everywhere you looked that night was Cosmopolitan. And every single person that I have spoken to since saw what we did on New Year’s Eve, because it was live-streamed on Cosmo.com everywhere around the world. So, that was sort of a big, big brand way to say: here we are, this is Cosmo, and we’re powerful. And everyone got that.

Then every single month this year, and there are such cool things that you can do with print; we’ve done special sections or units every month in the magazine. We did this in partnership with Cover Girl. And what we did is took their Colorlicious brand, which is their new line of lipsticks that have four different shades, we took the colors to make it really native, you’ve heard of native advertising for digital, we did native advertising for print, and we took the background of the colors of the magazine and made it into the same color family as the lipstick.

And we just did a cover peel-off where with the subscriber covers we actually take the ad and put it on the front cover of the magazine with the Cosmo logo. It’s very intrusive and it really stands out. And that’s the kind of thing that can really be done only in print.

For the March issue we did a multiple cover with Lancome. In April, and it’s not out yet; with Unilever, we developed a big section on hair. So their ad: Cosmo cover hair secrets inside, which tells the consumer to open up the magazine, and then becomes what we call a nested booklet; it’s 24 pages of content, all with advertising from Unilever brand. Then it can be removed and held onto.

Samir Husni: Why are Hearst Magazines in general and Cosmo specifically, doing a lot of this innovation in print? If you look at the paper quality of your magazines and the size; Hearst did not ignore print while running after digital. Hearst invested in print, and went after digital, providing the customer with both. Why?

Donna Kalajian Lagani: It’s that the consumer demand was and is still there. As long as we have 17 million women every month who are reading Cosmo; that’s really powerful. That’s bigger than the top-ten network television shows, in terms of a GRP. If Cosmo were a rating point in magazine brand alone; we’d be bigger than the top-ten TV shows. So, why shouldn’t we invest in something that consumers are showing incredible demand for? And innovation is just part of what we always do. That’s what makes me wake up in the morning; what am I going to do today that’s different from yesterday? And that’s what makes my job so much fun. I have so much fun at my job, if you can’t tell. (Laughs) I love my job. And part of what is so much fun about it is that I’ve been here for 20 years and I’ve never had the same job two years in a row. Every year we’re doing something different; every year we’re recreating something. And that’s what a media brand is and does; we’re this living, breathing thing that we have to keep nurturing and coming up with new things to do to keep the audience and the advertisers delighted.

Samir Husni: Give me a synopsis on a day-in-the-life of Donna.

Donna Kalajian Lagani: I wake up in the morning and roll out of bed; I look at Cosmo.com, download what I’m going to read for the day onto my tablet; I make breakfast every morning for my 17-year-old son, when he’ll let me. (Laughs) And then the day gets really busy; I spend a lot of time out of the office and with clients. I spend a lot of time ideating about all of the cool new things we could be doing with the brand and I’m out on the streets all the time with our salespeople. And that’s why I have fun.

Samir Husni: Does your 17-year-old son read Cosmo? Just so he can know the mind of the opposite sex, maybe?

Donna Kalajian Lagani: He does sometimes. But his 17-year-old girlfriend does. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: How do you feel about the fact that when most people think about Cosmo, they think about sex, when we know that there is much more to Cosmo than just sex. How do you combat such a stereotype?

Donna Kalajian Lagani: I think that when Joanna Coles came onboard and pivoted the editorial, it made that objection pretty much go away. We are reporting on Washington; we’re reporting on politics; we’re reporting on women’s health issues; we just won an ASME award last year for the excellent piece we did on contraception.

I think that stereotype comes from people who don’t read the magazine; that may be their perception and we know that perceptions are very difficult to overcome. But what we have to do is to show people what we’re actually doing. I’ve always said, and I don’t know whose quote this is, but I’ve stolen it and it’s a good one; you’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts. And the facts are that of course we cover relationships; sex is an important part of what we do at the magazine; it’s an important part of what all girls are about today, but the amount of beauty, fashion and journalism and health that we do exceeds that. So, those are the facts.

Samir Husni: In 2008 we were hit by a double whammy: the economy crashed and technology really came onto the scene. Do you recall how life was before 2008 and then right after?

Donna Kalajian Lagani: Oh, yes, definitely. (Laughs) Before 2008 people were marketers who spent more in advertising-to-sales in overall advertising. I think after that everyone really tightened on the amount they were doing as an advertising-to-percentage-of-sales ratio. And the internet was there, but it didn’t come up in every conversation.

But that doesn’t bother me because it’s such an important part of our brand. We love the internet; I love mobile and I love the tablet and what we’re doing on Snapchat; it’s just part of who our community is. And what’s fascinating about it is the duplication is practically nothing. The duplication between our magazine brand and our digital brand is only 3 or 4%, so that says to me that the community of Cosmo is only getting larger. And isn’t that a good thing for us at the Hearst Corporation and isn’t it a great thing for marketers too?

Samir Husni: I know that the duplication of content is very little.

Donna Kalajian Lagani: Very little.

Samir Husni: Is their audience duplication, or do you know?

Donna Kalajian Lagani: That’s what I’m saying; 3 to 4% duplication is it. So that’s why the footprint is just getting larger.

Samir Husni: Five years from now, you and I are sitting and talking about Cosmo at 55; what will you tell me?

Donna Kalajian Lagani: That it’s as beautiful and young as ever. We will continue to have a very large print footprint and probably an even larger mobile footprint.

Samir Husni: Many publishers had put a lot of odds and wagers on the iPad; on the tablet, and then five years later nothing really came from it. Now are we moving our wagers from the tablet to mobile?

Donna Kalajian Lagani: Well, I wouldn’t count the tablet out. We still have about 200,000 subscriptions that are sold – paid for. And I would suppose as the tablet increases in just the percentage of Americans who own one, that that number will probably continue to grow. Mobile is a big play. Right now, 65% of all of our traffic comes from mobile. So, girls that are reading Cosmo.com; they’re all doing it either on their mobile phone or on their tablet. It’s very important today and will probably be more important five years from now.

Samir Husni: You’ve been at Cosmo for 20 years; what has been the most pleasant moment for you? An experience that you can remember thinking: Wow!

Donna Kalajian Lagani: Maybe because it has just happened, but I would have to say standing up on the stage in Times Square and looking 360° around and seeing Cosmo everywhere put a shiver up my spine and tears in my eyes. I was literally teary-eyed thinking, oh my goodness, Helen, you’re up there in the universe looking at this great brand. It was a very proud moment for our brand. (See Times Square picture above).

Samir Husni: Anything else you’d like to add?

Donna Kalajian Lagani: We’re doing a lot of really fun stuff to celebrate 50 years; we touched on Unilever and next month in Austin, Texas, South by Southwest, for the first time, is doing something called South by Style, which is sort of the convergence of technology and fashion and Cosmopolitan is the their media partner. We have a 1,000 sq. foot space where we’ll be having incredible speakers come in and talk and it’ll be a place where women can come and listen to those great speakers and at the same time get their hair touched up and get their nails redone; just a place to unwind a little. And our sponsors for that are Intel and Cover Girl.

And in May, we’re doing two big birthday issues; why have one birthday per year, when you can have two? In that May issue we have an iconic cover; I can’t tell you who it is. But for that same issue we have a spectacular opening that’s done by L’Oreal Paris; they’re doing a butterfly gate of advertising, adjacent to a very interesting, cool cover model.

In November is our other big issue for the year and we’re going to celebrate with a heck of a party; I hope you’re in New York; you can come and hang out with us.

Samir Husni: Just send me an invite and I’ll be here. Now, my typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Donna Kalajian Lagani: Just thinking about all the fun and exciting new things that we can continue to do with the brand. What’s next and what’s new? What’s going to delight the reader and the advertiser?

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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