Archive for the ‘Inside the Great Minds of Magazine Makers’ Category

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The Definitive Guide On How To Launch Your Own Magazine In This Digital Age… A Mr. Magazine™ New Ink On Paper Book.

November 8, 2019

This last summer I spent quite a bit of time traveling and working on two new books: The Magazines And I which is in progress and The Definitive Guide on How To Launch Your Own Magazine + Lessons Learned From Those Who Have, which is out now and can be ordered by sending a check or money order for $80 to the Magazine Innovation Center, 114 Farley Hall, 555 Grove Loop, University, MS 38677.

Below is the Introduction to the book to give you an idea of how unique, applicable and spot on the advice is; advice from both me (Mr. Magazine™) and the 17 industry leaders and magazine entrepreneurs who were interviewed during 2018/2019 on Mr. Magazine’s™ blog. It’s a defining moment for all dreamers out there who want to start their own magazine, but just don’t know where to begin.

So, enjoy the Introduction and order your copy of the book today! The sooner you have it, the closer you are to fulfilling your magazine dreams!

The Never-Ending Power of Print in A Digital Age.

One word sums up the power of print in a digital age for me: magazines. That’s what this book is all about: magazines and how to launch them in this digital age.

It won’t be the first time or the last that someone will accuse me of losing my mind for advocating launching a print magazine today. In 2009 when I started the Magazine Innovation Center at The University of Mississippi with the tag line “Amplifying the Future of Print in A Digital Age,” colleagues, friends and foes alike thought that I had lost it. They all believed that I was so in love with print and magazines that I wasn’t thinking clearly. The future is digital and there is no room for magazines, they told me. But is it?

We have more magazines today on the marketplace than ever. More than 260 new magazines were published in the last 18 months, and more than 1,000 bookazines arrived on the nation’s newsstands. Both major publishers, Meredith and Hearst have published new magazines in the last six months, and so did hundreds of entrepreneurs.

Columbia Journalism Review wrote an article at the end of 2015 titled “Print Is The New New Media.” My reaction to the naysayers was very simple: I told you so. Every time someone starts a new magazine, or pub- lishes a new issue, it is new media. Magazines are ever changing and each issue is a continuation of what was published before.

Magazines, like the rest of humans and products, have a life cycle. A time to be born and a time to die. Today’s magazines, both new and old, are not like yesterday’s magazines and will not be like tomorrow’s magazines. However, they all have one thing in common. They are all much more than just content providers. They are experience makers that will take you into a “me time” journey like no other medium or platform can, engaging, appealing, pleasing, rewarding and above all satisfying to all your senses.

You are here for a reason. You are ready to take on one of the biggest undertakings of your lifetime. Without any delay, dive into this book that is the culmination of 40 years of studying, teaching, and consulting about the only subject I know, magazines. Allow me to present to you the definitive guide on how to launch your own magazine in this digital age.

Enjoy and let the fun begin.

And check out the Mr. Magazine™ interviews at the end of each chapter to read how 17 different people launched 17 new titles into the marketplace. Their stories are definitely worth the read. The interviews are:

  • Tom Tom magazine
  • MJ Lifestyle
  • Luckbox
  • The Magnolia Journal
  • The Pioneer Woman
  • Jugular
  • Sesi
  • Chill
  • Culturs
  • Jez
  • What Women Create
  • Sports History Magazine
  • Happy Paws
  • The Golfer’s Journal
  • Showstopper
  • Weekend Escapes
  • Oh-So

Millions of thanks to Canon Solutions America, Inc. and Domtar Paper for making this book possible.

Don’t forget, in order to get a copy send a check or money order for $80 to the Magazine Innovation Center, 114 Farley Hall, 555 Grove Loop, University, MS 38677.

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Print Smart Digital Proud: The Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT 9 Experience Opens April 23

April 17, 2019

OXFORD, Miss. – A who’s who of the international magazine industry will be at the University of Mississippi from April 23 to 25, but it won’t be the movers and shakers of publishing who will be in the spotlight.

The real stars of the show, according to ACT 9 Experience founder and coordinator Samir Husni, are the Ole Miss students.

“There are a whole bunch of magazine conferences, but, to me, what makes this conference unique is the presence of the students,” said Husni, a UM journalism professor, Hederman Lecturer and director of the Magazine Innovation Center. “This conference brings together current industry leaders and the future industry leaders.”

More than 30 speakers from the highest ranks of magazine publishing will be on campus, and Husni places a priority on having students in the university’s magazine publishing and management specialization interact with those professionals.

“I assign students to shadow the speakers; they actually will pick them up from the airport,” Husni said. “I want that interaction. I want the students to have enough time to spend time with these leaders of the magazine industry.”

For junior Sarah Smith, the ACT 9 Experience serves as a chance to further her knowledge of the industry in which she wants to work, but also to meet people who will prove to be invaluable for her future career.

“This is the only opportunity I know of that you’re going to get a taste of worldwide magazine making anywhere near here,” said Smith, a journalism major from Mount Pleasant. “I expect to gain a lot of information about the next few years of magazine making.

“For media students, this is an unparalleled event where we can meet and mingle with industry leaders. This is a great chance to secure a summer internship or even a job after college.”

The ACT Experience, which stands for “amplify, clarify and testify,” is hosted by the Magazine Innovation Center at the School of Journalism and New Media. The event began in 2010 and has more than doubled in size in nine years.

The university has created a name for itself as a higher education hub for magazine publishing, and the ACT 9 Experience is the highlight of that achievement, Husni said.

“We have people from all over the world coming to this conference, coming to Ole Miss,” he said. “That’s why I tell people, when they say, ‘You need to have something like this in New York or you need to do something like this here or there,’ I’m like, ‘No, the ACT Experience is Ole Miss and Ole Miss is the ACT Experience.’”

The theme of this year’s ACT 9 Experience is “print smart, digital proud,” which Husni said emphasizes the ever-changing landscape of print publications.

“I want to focus on the integration between print and digital, that we are no longer an either/or industry,” he said.

Among the speakers for this year’s event are Linda Thomas Brooks, president and CEO of MPA: The Association of Magazine Media; James Hewes, president and CEO of FIPP, the network for global media; Michael Marchesano, managing director of Connectiv, a leading business-to-business magazine media network; and Jerry Lynch, president of the Magazine and Books at Retail Association.
Husni will moderate a discussion featuring these industry leaders.

“We will talk about some of the challenges facing the entire magazine and media industry locally and worldwide,” Husni said. “It should be fun to have those CEOs at the same place on the same campus in front of future industry leaders.”

The diversity and depth of the speakers makes the event unique, Smith said.
“Dr. Husni is a genius when it comes to magazines, and he puts his heart and soul into this event,” she said. “I think that the fact someone as successful and well-known as him puts his heart in it, always creates something genuine and fresh that you can’t get anywhere else.”

All lectures at the Overby Center are open to the public.

Activities begin Tuesday (April 23), with an opening gala for registered participants, featuring welcoming remarks by Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannenhill and UM Provost Noel Wilkin and keynote speaker Stephen Orr, editor in chief of Better Homes and Gardens.

Speakers will continue all day Wednesday and Thursday, and Thursday’s events for paid participants feature a bus trip and tour of the Mississippi Delta. The Overby Center for the Study of Southern Journalism and Politics will host the majority of speakers, and a full list of speakers can be found online.

Registration for the event includes all meals, sessions and transportation to and from the Delta. The Inn at Ole Miss is also offering special rates to ACT 9 attendees.

Click here to see the entire agenda.

Ole Miss Press Release BY JUSTIN WHITMORE

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The Magazine Innovation Center Presents: The ACT 9 Experience — Print Smart Digital Proud! April 23, 24, & 25, 2019

March 14, 2019

Don’t miss the magazine experience of a lifetime taking place this Spring, April 23-25, on the beautiful University of Mississippi campus in Oxford, Miss. The Magazine Innovation Center and Mr. Magazine™ present the ACT 9 Experience, where industry leaders and future industry leaders will meet once again to Amplify (A), Clarify (C), and Testify (T) about the power of print in a digital age.

Daniel Dejan
Print Creative Manager, North America, Sappi Paper

Linda Thomas Brooks
President & CEO
MPA: The Association of Magazine Media


For nine years, the Magazine Innovation Center has brought industry leaders together for a two and a half day think-and-do experience. However, there is one major difference between the ACT Experience and other magazine and magazine media conferences: student involvement. For those two and a half days students from across campus can connect and engage with magazine media CEO’s, publishers, editors and many other media professionals. There are one-on-one connections, group sessions and just overall camaraderie between these future industry leaders and the people who rock the magazine and magazine media world today. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to have all of these professionals under one roof together, connecting with students and connecting with each other to share inspiration and ideas about the future of magazines and magazine media.

The South in the springtime is magical in and of itself, but when you get all of these creative minds together, the mental chemistry dial is set to enchantment! Along with three days of magazine informational bliss, there is a trip to the Mississippi Delta, for Blues & Barbeque such as you have never experienced, a Fish Fry Extraordinaire, set up right onsite for a traditional Southern take on catfish, hush puppies & all the fixins’.

And on top of the great food and great ambience, the ACT 9 Experience has some of the most prestigious people in the industry sharing their time and wisdom with everyone and is shaping up to be the most exciting magazine event of the year!

Jo Packham
Creator/Editor In Chief
Where Women Create Series

Stephen Orr
Vice President/Group Editorial Director, Meredith Corporation, Editor In Chief, Better Homes & Gardens


The confirmed speakers so far are (in alphabetical order):

David Adler: CEO & Founder, BizBash Media

Donnyale (Doni) Ambrosine: Founder & Publisher, Culturs Magazine & Faculty Staff Member At Colorado State University

Jay Annis: Vice President, Business Manager, Hello & Hola Media, Inc.

Marta Ariño Barrera: CEO, Zinet Media, Spain

Nicole Bowman: Founder and principal of Bowman Circulation Marketing

Linda Thomas Brooks: President & CEO, MPA: The Association of Magazine Media

Andréa Butler: Founder & Editor In Chief, Sesi Magazine

Daniel Dejan: Print Creative Manager for North America, Sappi Paper

Jimmy Dean: Southeast U.S. Sales Representative, Trend

Jim Elliott: President, James G. Elliott Co.

Alan English: Vice President, Communications, Military Officers Association of America

Will Estell: Chief Creative Officer, Travel South Media LLC, Editor In Chief, Beaches Resorts, & Parks Magazine

Dennis Hecht: Vice President for Business Intelligence, Farm Journal magazine

Dan Heffernan: Vice President, Sales, Marketing & Product Planning, Advantage CS

James Hewes: President & CEO, FIPP

Rob Hewitt: Founder, Oh-So Magazine

Mona Hidayet: Executive Director, Clients & Products, Advantage CS

Samir Husni: Founder and Director, Magazine Innovation Center

Joe Hyrkin: CEO, Issuu

Michael Kusek: Publisher, Different Leaf Magazine

Jeremy Leslie: Founder & Curator, MagCulture, The United Kingdom

Jerry Lynch: President, Magazine & Books Retail Association

Michael Marchesano: Managing Director, Connectiv/SIIA/AM&P

John Mennell: Founder, Magazine Literacy

William Michalopoulos: Vice President, Retail, Sales & Marketing, PubWorX

Mindy Abovitz-Monk: Founder & Publisher, Tom Tom Magazine

Lori Oglesbee: Former Journalism Instructor, Prosper High School

Will Norton: Dean, School of Journalism and New Media

Stephen Orr: Vice President/Group Editorial Director, Meredith Corporation, Editor In Chief, Better Homes & Gardens

Jo Packham: Creator/Editor In Chief, Where Women Create, Where Women Cook, Where Women Create Work, & What Women Create Magazines

Monique Reidy: Publisher & Editor In Chief, Southern California Life Magazine & Weekend Escapes Magazine

Bo Sacks: President, Precision Media

Darren Sanefski: Associate Director, Magazine Innovation Center

Kevin Shirin: Media Publishing, Focus on the Family

Tony Silber: President, Long Hill Media

John Walters: Editor, Eye Magazine, The United Kingdom

Noel Wilkin: Provost, University of Mississippi

Pam Woody: Editor In Chief, Brio Magazine

A must attend event for those in the magazine and magazine media industry and for those who plan to be in the magazine and magazine media industry!

Register today. Click here to register. Registration is limited to 100 guests only! Do it today!

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Troy Young, President, Hearst Magazines, On Creating Content With Purpose And Making Life Better For Customers. An Exclusive In-Depth Interview with Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni.

November 18, 2018

Troy Young On The Role Of Print In A Digital Age; The Role Of Digital In Today’s Magazine Media; Legacy Brands and Digital; Hearst Global; Data & Research; Magazine Launches & Closures; And On Troy Young Himself. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview

“I would say that in all mediums we have to serve the customers and understand how we are serving those customers. And I call that content with purpose. And I think we just have to be incredibly mindful, whenever we’re delivering a magazine into someone’s home or we are engaging that consumer on YouTube, why we’re there and how we make someone’s life better. Print is heavily edited and curated and it’s like a celebration or an event that happens once a month. And there’s something really wonderful about that. And it’s a lean-back experience that I think gives a consumer a break from the intensity of the digital world. And I think increasingly that people are going to look for that. So, print plays a really important role in saying this is important and this has a place in culture, and take a moment to think and read about this and consume it. And I think our magazines are going to play an important role in how we do that for a long, long time.” (On the role of print today) Troy Young…

“I think digital performs a different role in that it’s about being relevant in the moment and responding to the news cycle, as well as reinforcing a very clear point of view that the brand has. There is a very complementary role that they play to each other. And I would actually add that video is largely an entertainment medium. Obviously, also useful or valuable as a service delivery mechanism, helping people do things.” (On the role of digital) Troy Young…

Troy Young was president of Hearst Magazines Digital Media since 2013 and this past summer was named president of Hearst Magazines, succeeding David Carey, who stepped down as president and is now chairman of the division. In his new role, Troy will oversee Hearst Magazines’ global business, encompassing more than 300 print editions and 240 digital brands. In the U.S., Hearst publishes 25 magazine brands in print and 6 additional digital-led brands, and of course in January, the company also acquired Rodale, the health and wellness publisher, with brands including Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Runner’s World.

It’s certainly a diverse and wide array of both print and digital brands that might be a daunting task for just anyone to oversee, but not for Troy, who is a man that knows what’s important in today’s magazine media world: research, data, and an all-encompassing conjoining of print + digital across all platforms. There is nothing more important, in Troy’s opinion, than having the data needed to serve the reader and deliver content with purpose and excellence in the ways in which the audience wants to consume that content.

I spoke with Troy recently and we talked about his new role at Hearst magazines and the concept of content with purpose. And how an even more prominent print + digital role can complement an already solid foundation of success, such as Hearst has. It was an informative and most pleasant conversation with a man who says he is not defined by digital, even though he has spent a portion of his career studying the ins and outs of it, but instead, he’s a lover of all media. And one who realizes that a successful magazine media company in the 21st century must have a vastness of both. And now the Mr. magazine™ interview with Troy Young, president at Hearst Magazines.

But first the sound-bites:

On some of the pleasant moments he’s had so far since becoming president of Hearst magazines: It’s a great privilege to have this job and it’s a great privilege to follow David Carey, who did so much for Hearst and built such a solid foundation for me to build on. I love the job because there are so many amazing people here and I think when you go to work every day, a big part of it is laughing and enjoying your time with smart people. So, that part of it is incredibly rewarding.

On what have been some of the challenges or stumbling blocks that he’s had to deal with: To be quite honest, it’s a really complicated time. It’s a very complicated business because we operate in many markets around the world, because we have in general businesses like CDS. and it’s complex simply because we produce basically every media type for multiple distribution endpoints. And that means you have to be an incredibly agile, nimble company.

On whether it’s easier or harder for a legacy brand to move into digital: I think it’s an advantage. You know, creating a new brand has its advantages, but the great advantage of a legacy brand is the trust that it has with the consumer. I think that you can evolve your voice and point of view while still being true to what made the brand great. Media trust matters and that trust is built over a long period of creative time, so having a 100-year-old brand as a starting point is a really good opportunity.

On how he would define the role of print in this digital age: I would certainly be broad in answering that question and I would say that in all mediums we have to serve the customers and understand how we are serving those customers. And I call that content with purpose. And I think we just have to be incredibly mindful, whenever we’re delivering a magazine into someone’s home or we are engaging that consumer on YouTube, why we’re there and how we make someone’s life better.

On his reaction to naysayers who say or think that because decisions were made to, for example, close Redbook or change Seventeen, the entire industry is going to hell in a handbasket: Well, it’s definitely not going to hell. Seventeen will continue being published, but we will always evolve as a company. And we’ll always evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of our brands across channels and figure out what the best mechanism is to deliver that brand and that content to the target market. We’ll invent new products and we’ll look at how to best deliver existing brands.

On the new research team of 12 and which area of the business this team will focus on: I won’t comment on the specific numbers, but I think that our ability to turn data into insight and to augment that with research is incredibly important across all aspects of the business, not the least of which is our editorial team. As I described a minute ago, this notion of content with purpose is supported by the idea of pulling a lot of the insight and knowledge out of our readers. I think that for a long time there has been the research practice in magazines that really involved face-to-face dialogue with readers, now we have so much data because we’re connected with consumers every day that we need a group that can help take that information and make it really actionable by editors.

On any new magazines or products that are up and coming that he can talk about: Nothing that I can really talk about. I think we have deep, deep expertise in how to create an incredible print product and get that out to people. And so to the extent that that’s relevant to building a new brand in partnership with someone else, we’ll look at that. I think in all cases now we want it to have some kind of digital companion and really understand how digital and print will work together in a really complementary way. But absolutely, new products are really important. And our work on Pioneer Woman and Airbnb are the two most recent indications that we’re really open to partnering and creating new print products.

On whether Hearst Global in the magazine media world is going to be reflective of all of the changes that are taking place at Hearst Tower: I think that the mechanics of the business in every market are very similar. The timing of what’s important or urgent in any of those markets is a bit different. The big difference between where we are today and where we were when we started those companies is that there’s no difference really in the relevancy and importance of these brands or types of content in those markets, but increasingly media is becoming a platform-driven business and there’s a lot of complexity on the tech and data side that is harder for smaller markets to master. And I would say that if you were to do it all again, you would roll out your international markets, it would be no less important, but you would do it on the back of a single, global platform.

On what he thinks is the biggest misconception that people have about him: You’d have to ask them that, but I’d say that maybe I’m cast narrowly as a digital guy, and I think of myself as a media executive, so I’m not defined by digital. I have spent a lot of my career thinking about how the pieces fit together in the digital world, but I’m more of a media person and a media lover and someone who really appreciates media brands and how they meet consumer’s needs.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: Let me answer this in a different way; I did tattoo something on my body and it wasn’t a message to other people, it was a message to me. It was a sticky note on my body. And it says that faith is greater than fear. And I think that fear often gets the best of us and I think having faith in ourselves, that we can solve complex problems, that we can do things that we might not imagine. Having faith in other people, that they can do things that are remarkable. And having faith that people are fundamentally good was something that I wanted to remind myself of every day, because again, when people start from a place of fear it’s never good.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: That’s a good question. I would say I’m a voracious media consumer so you’d likely find me, if I wasn’t having dinner with my family, you’d likely find me – I have a room that has incredible stereo equipment and vinyl records and I would probably be sitting down there reading my iPad or a magazine and I might have a Scotch.

On what keeps him up at night: I would go back to how I answered one of the previous questions. What keeps me up at night is how do I make Hearst Magazine media a better culture for creators, and everybody who supports the process of creating media? So, how do I create a culture of excellence is something that I think about a lot because it’s a big company. And how do I get to a new time of stability in this category of media? What’s it really going to take to find that stability? And I think closely related to that is what can we do to simplify the business and empower all of the people who work here to make better decisions to grow our business?

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Troy Young, president, Hearst Magazines.

Samir Husni: Congratulations are in order, I haven’t had a chance to congratulate you since you became president of Hearst Magazines. You’ve been on the job for a few months now; what have been some of the most pleasant moments where you were extremely glad you took this job, and what have been some moments where you maybe wondered “why” you took this job, if any?

Troy Young: It’s a great privilege to have this job and it’s a great privilege to follow David Carey, who did so much for Hearst and built such a solid foundation for me to build on. I love the job because there are so many amazing people here and I think when you go to work every day, a big part of it is laughing and enjoying your time with smart people. So, that part of it is incredibly rewarding.

Obviously, the brands that we have are incredible, and are foundations on which to build a lasting media company upon and to navigate these channel-ships. And the leadership of the Hearst Corporation is incredible as well, and it’s a company built on evolutions, so all of that makes it an exciting, supportive place to continue to reinvent the magazine business.

Samir Husni: What have been some of the challenges or stumbling blocks that you’ve had to deal with?

Troy Young: To be quite honest, it’s a really complicated time. It’s a very complicated business because we operate in many markets around the world, because we have in general businesses like CDS. and it’s complex simply because we produce basically every media type for multiple distribution endpoints. And that means you have to be an incredibly agile, nimble company.

On the positive side, I have the great privilege of starting to integrate our business more. And what that means to me is, take the great things that existed historically in the print world, that really made our brands so important and famous, and that is the authority of editors and the insight they bring to creating content, and balancing that with what is the virtue of a digital organization, which is, they live in the moment, they’re incredibly nimble; it balances editorial expertise with technical and data expertise. And it’s a highly iterative, more data-led business. So, you bring those two things together and I think you have an incredible competency in which to navigate through the new world of magazine media.

Samir Husni: You’re the president of a company that has at least five titles that are over 100 years old; is it easier or harder for a legacy brand to move into digital?

Troy Young: I think it’s an advantage. You know, creating a new brand has its advantages, but the great advantage of a legacy brand is the trust that it has with the consumer. I think that you can evolve your voice and point of view while still being true to what made the brand great. Media trust matters and that trust is built over a long period of creative time, so having a 100-year-old brand as a starting point is a really good opportunity.

I think that you have to continually make a media brand relevant and make it relevant for the time and for the medium in which people discover and consume it. And there are lots of examples in our world of how we evolved brands that have a legacy, whether that’s Cosmo, which has an incredible legacy, but it evolves all of the time. And clearly environments like Snapchat and Instagram and our dot com has examples of how we stay relevant to a young woman and I think we’ve done that incredibly well.

Cosmo, again, is an example, it has a bigger audience than it ever has. And that audience extends across every digital touchpoint and in print, so I think it was a good starting point. You know, we’ve taken our fashion and luxury brands, like Elle and Bazaar, and made them part of the daily dialogue. And being daily and being in the moment with brands like that changes what you cover; you’re thoughtful about what underpins the brands and how that shapes what you do moment to moment.

I like where we are and I like what positions our brands have. If you look at a brand in a different category like Good Housekeeping, its reputation through the seal as a symbol of trust and the rigor it brings to testing products, is incredibly valuable when consumers are trying to make decisions. And I would say that’s also true for many of our other brands, whether that’s Car and Driver, Road & Track, or Elle Décor.

I think you use your position and you try to invest in how you keep it relevant for a new distribution environment and that’s what we’ve done.

Samir Husni: How do you define the role of print in this digital age? And tell me a little more about that integration; what’s the role of print and what’s the role of digital, especially with your legacy brands as you move forward?

Troy Young: I would certainly be broad in answering that question and I would say that in all mediums we have to serve the customers and understand how we are serving those customers. And I call that content with purpose. And I think we just have to be incredibly mindful, whenever we’re delivering a magazine into someone’s home or we are engaging that consumer on YouTube, why we’re there and how we make someone’s life better.

Print is heavily edited and curated and it’s like a celebration or an event that happens once a month. And there’s something really wonderful about that. And it’s a lean-back experience that I think gives a consumer a break from the intensity of the digital world. And I think increasingly that people are going to look for that. So, print plays a really important role in saying this is important and this has a place in culture, and take a moment to think and read about this and consume it. And I think our magazines are going to play an important role in how we do that for a long, long time.

I think digital performs a different role in that it’s about being relevant in the moment and responding to the news cycle, as well as reinforcing a very clear point of view that the brand has. There is a very complementary role that they play to each other. And I would actually add that video is largely an entertainment medium. Obviously, also useful or valuable as a service delivery mechanism, helping people do things.

But we look at all of those mediums in very different ways. What do those mediums need to do to be purposeful? And underneath that is, how are you establishing whether or not something is doing its job, whether it’s pleasing a consumer, whether it’s bringing delight. And that’s where data insight and research become really important in the modern media world.

And I look at it really simply; there’s a huge amount of media in our world, we are awash in media. We produce literally hundreds and hundreds of pieces of content every day in the Hearst Tower and we distribute those to fifteen different imports, whether that’s in newsstand or Instagram. And so the company that is able to do that in a very nimble way and in a way that is informed by insight from the consumer is going to do really well.

We sit in a different place in the media ecosystem than pure news, so we focus on passions and we focus on point of view and we focus on things that people do in their lives that are not just defined by the news of the day. And I think as such we play a really vital role in the media ecosystem and if we can get the different channels working together in a way that is complementary it’s a powerful mix.

Samir Husni: When you hear people in the media talking or writing about the fact that, for example, Redbook was just killed or Seventeen is changing, what’s your response to people who are very reactionary to one or two decisions that may have had to be made and now the entire industry is going to hell in a handbasket?

Troy Young: Well, it’s definitely not going to hell. Seventeen will continue being published, but we will always evolve as a company. And we’ll always evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of our brands across channels and figure out what the best mechanism is to deliver that brand and that content to the target market. We’ll invent new products and we’ll look at how to best deliver existing brands.

That kind of criticism doesn’t really bother me. I think that we are very visible as a media business and people are going to look at us and comment on what we do. I look at it like that’s just going to work, we have to keep inventing. And if I were to summarize what I think is really important to us as a business, in terms of how we operate, is that our goal is to bring a new stability to this type of media, one that existed for many, many years when it was a print-only business. And to continue to create and grow a culture of excellence in the business or in the content that we create. Now we have different tools and we have to look at that differently than we used to.

And I think in all cases what I really try to do is find the fastest way to feedback. To me that means that we live in a world where it’s pretty easy to get data signals back from the market. And so our goal in anything that we create is to ask, how do we get the water flowing? How do we understand that what we’re doing is working quickly? Or if it’s not working we move on.

So, I think that’s the kind of culture we’re trying to create, one that’s rooted in excellence, but one that is good at listening. And we’re highly critical of why we do things. I think that if we can do all of that and we can learn how to work together more closely across the print and digital world, we’ll keep evolving and we’ll have a really healthy business.

Samir Husni: There is talk of this new “team of 12,” a research team. Is this going to be for editorial, for the business side, or for launching new products? Can you expand a little on this research team of 12?

Troy Young: I won’t comment on the specific numbers, but I think that our ability to turn data into insight and to augment that with research is incredibly important across all aspects of the business, not the least of which is our editorial team. As I described a minute ago, this notion of content with purpose is supported by the idea of pulling a lot of the insight and knowledge out of our readers.

I think that for a long time there has been the research practice in magazines that really involved face-to-face dialogue with readers, now we have so much data because we’re connected with consumers every day that we need a group that can help take that information and make it really actionable by editors. I would say that at the same time our advertisers have never been more hungry for data and they’re looking at how we help them understand their audiences better. From cosmetics to luxury fashion, they’re all becoming more CRM-driven. And they want to understand more about their audiences. And our goal is to help them do that. The role of data science and analysts and researchers is just becoming more important in our business and I think that comment was a reflection of that.

Samir Husni: Hearst has gotten us accustomed to seeing one or two new magazines coming out for the last decade or so, is there anything up and coming or on the backburner that you can talk about?

Troy Young: Nothing that I can really talk about. I think we have deep, deep expertise in how to create an incredible print product and get that out to people. And so to the extent that that’s relevant to building a new brand in partnership with someone else, we’ll look at that. I think in all cases now we want it to have some kind of digital companion and really understand how digital and print will work together in a really complementary way. But absolutely, new products are really important. And our work on Pioneer Woman and Airbnb are the two most recent indications that we’re really open to partnering and creating new print products.

Samir Husni: You just came back from Europe, and I heard that the CEO of Hearst Magazines in Spain just resigned or retired. There are so many changes taking place; do you think that Hearst Global in the magazine media world is going to be reflective of all of the changes that are taking place at Hearst Tower?

Troy Young: I think that the mechanics of the business in every market are very similar. The timing of what’s important or urgent in any of those markets is a bit different. The big difference between where we are today and where we were when we started those companies is that there’s no difference really in the relevancy and importance of these brands or types of content in those markets, but increasingly media is becoming a platform-driven business and there’s a lot of complexity on the tech and data side that is harder for smaller markets to master. And I would say that if you were to do it all again, you would roll out your international markets, it would be no less important, but you would do it on the back of a single, global platform.

And that’s really what we’re working on. How do we connect all of these countries so that they can innovate at the same pace as the U.S. market that’s had more investment. If you look at the customer, the advertiser, what you’ll see is – I was just in Milan last week and the luxury advertisers want our help to connect real storytelling and brand-building expertise with performance advertising. And they all appreciate our literacy and data and they want those solutions rendered in multiple markets. And they can come to us through our team in London or our team in Milan and get a single solution from any international market. So, I think to the extent that those clients drive a big part of our business, they’re global and they’re thinking globally and they want global solutions.

Samir Husni: What do you think is the biggest misconception that people have about you?

Troy Young: You’d have to ask them that, but I’d say that maybe I’m cast narrowly as a digital guy, and I think of myself as a media executive, so I’m not defined by digital. I have spent a lot of my career thinking about how the pieces fit together in the digital world, but I’m more of a media person and a media lover and someone who really appreciates media brands and how they meet consumer’s needs.

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

Troy Young: Let me answer this in a different way; I did tattoo something on my body and it wasn’t a message to other people, it was a message to me. It was a sticky note on my body. And it says that faith is greater than fear. And I think that fear often gets the best of us and I think having faith in ourselves, that we can solve complex problems, that we can do things that we might not imagine. Having faith in other people, that they can do things that are remarkable. And having faith that people are fundamentally good was something that I wanted to remind myself of every day, because again, when people start from a place of fear it’s never good.

So, that’s how I remind myself. In terms of what other people might think – I have to tell you the first thing that comes to mind is remember to laugh. That would be it.

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

Troy Young: That’s a good question. I would say I’m a voracious media consumer so you’d likely find me, if I wasn’t having dinner with my family, you’d likely find me – I have a room that has incredible stereo equipment and vinyl records and I would probably be sitting down there reading my iPad or a magazine and I might have a Scotch.

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

Troy Young: I would go back to how I answered one of the previous questions. What keeps me up at night is how do I make Hearst Magazine media a better culture for creators, and everybody who supports the process of creating media? So, how do I create a culture of excellence is something that I think about a lot because it’s a big company. And how do I get to a new time of stability in this category of media? What’s it really going to take to find that stability? And I think closely related to that is what can we do to simplify the business and empower all of the people who work here to make better decisions to grow our business?

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

BizBash’s Founder & CEO David Adler To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “I Love What We Do As Publishers. I Think It’s The Most Exciting Thing That You Can Do In The World Because You Are The Mayor Of The Niche In A Sense.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

November 4, 2018

David Adler, photo by Rodney-Bailey

“I took the NYU publishing course back in the ‘70s and the first exercise that we did was to ask what is the personality of a particular magazine. Who would that magazine be if it was a person? And I believe that we’ve gotten away from that. And I think that digital is making it harder to do that. So, what a print product does is; when you’re creating a print product, you have to pace it like a human being and it has to be like a human being. It has to have good days and bad days; it has to have good taste and bad taste; you have to take risks. And that’s my advice.” David Adler…

Ideas, inspiration and things that make people do their jobs better. This is how David Adler, founder and CEO of BizBash describes what his company and its annual New York event, held at the Jacob Javits Center, is all about. BizBash covers the event industry completely, from planning, production, new openings, events and trends in marketing, design and style, to food rules planners need to follow for meeting menus. There is no stone left unturned for David and his company when it comes to connecting with people and their products. It’s “contact” not “content” that is king for him and as publisher of the BizBash recently relaunched print magazine, David is “mayor of the niche,” as he thinks all publishers of magazines are.

But he’s not only a publisher but a media entrepreneur as well, one who is always working on collaboration as a tool to change the world. From the Washington Dossier Magazine, which he founded, to working for PriMedia where he was VP of corporate communications, David is a man who has both intriguing ideas and the experience and knowledge to back them up. His belief that augmented reality and the printed page is where the future is headed is hard to argue with when he puts his proof on the table.

I spoke with David recently and we talked about BizBash magazine’s return to print with its debut of augmented reality-enhanced content. The relaunched print and digital magazine brings editorial features and advertising to life through an app-based augmented reality program. And as far as the future of print, David believes this is the new “reality.” Merging the printed page with the digital screen to have true integration is the goal, and bringing the print magazine experience to digital could possibly humanize online so that it doesn’t feel like a reader is freefalling through cyberspace. It’s innovation at its best.

And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with David Adler, founder and CEO, BizBash.

But first the sound-bites:

On the successful BizBash event that recently took place: This was our 18th year of doing our BizBash Trade Show. The first year that we did it was 9/11. We had scheduled it for around the end of September, so we had to move it a month and a half because the Jacob Javits Center was being used for the emergency situation there. And even the first one started out really well too, because it became a reunion of the whole industry and it helped to bring the entire industry together. That’s kind of where I learned that leadership is an important aspect of it. The way I think about media is that when you publish a magazine, you’re the mayor of your niche. And that’s like you’re running a political office almost.

On what exactly the event is about: The New York event is held at the Javits Center in one of the big halls. And you walk in and you feel like you’re walking into the brand. It’s packed with ideas and inspiration, things that make people do their job better and love their job. For example, one of our exhibitors was a grandma hugging. Grandmas came and they hugged you as you entered. (Laughs) It was incredible. Every year there are new things that are in the business, such as we had a used meditation van that somebody brought in, because meditation is now part of events. People want not only to get together, they also want to have some private time alone.

On being in the “contact” business not the “content” business: I believe that because content is everywhere, you can find it everywhere, contact is king, not content as much anymore. You have to have good content, but you can get that anywhere, but you can’t get you and me in the same room together, having a conversation that we can build this relationship on that extends online and in all different ways. And so the Holy Grail now is the contact, especially in the B to B world. The contact is the king element. In order to make it contact is king, it also has to be experiential. And experiential is very hard because every time you have an experience once, you have to up it the next time.

On bringing his print product back after stopping it: We did magazines in five or six different markets in New York, L.A., Chicago, Miami, and Toronto for years. Then what happened after the recession is that everybody said that print was dead and all of my brilliant advisors, who were in the investment banking field, said that I wasn’t going to get any valuation if I ever wanted to sell, so I made the decision to kill print while we were still doing good. You know, for a few years you couldn’t just rely on the cash flow from online and events and print became a really important aspect, but we found that out later after we’d killed it. So, we brought it back.

On how even the advertising industry has responded well to it as the current issue is over 200 pages: Oh yes. It’s a big thick issue that we say has that “plop” factor. Over 250 to 300 pages, it has been an incredible success and I was able to pack it with videos of me on the front page, explaining what the hell it was. We had an overlay of every single ad that had all of the details behind the ads, because the key to it is not to go crazy with it, but make it a data-driven thing so someone can sit and look up the page and click on it and make a phone call, to click on it and find the website you’re going to have, and click on it and see other information.

On the launch of a photo essay type segment within the magazine: We’re doing more large photo essays, but we’re combining them – and we’re also using podcasts – I’m doing very multimedia podcasts, photo spread stories and everything so that you can take one piece of content and use it in every possible place. We’re doing it with customers as custom-content as well. I think that the sponsored content is so boring sometimes that you need the editorial voice in the content to make it better. We’re using large photography for that of the people in our industry and we’re kind of doing it in ways that are more provocative as opposed to safe.

On now that he has brought the printed product back if he thinks the future will be an easy path: It’s not that I’m bringing print back, what I’m doing is turning the printed page into digital. And that answers the question that all of these brilliant investment bankers have of how do you create a digital product out of a print product? And I think that’s going to solve the investment issue, because the print product becomes a screen on top of the printed page.

On some of the challenges facing the B to B community: That’s easy. They’re not taking risks. They’re so busy being me too and follow the leader. The fact that I was able to do this and all of the big companies are just so far behind is kind of amazing. And I made the decision to do it within a very short period of time. And was able by using technology, and not the most expensive versions of it, to test it out and practice. A colleague at PriMedia used to say, we have to practice before we do, so we’re kind of in the practice stage of all this stuff, because the minute you stop practicing, you stop innovating.

On whether there was any different feeling working for a company, such as PriMedia and being an entrepreneur as he is with BizBash: I loved PriMedia; I loved the idea. And what I found to be the common denominator among the magazine people was the innovation of the content and the business side together. I love communications and I knew all of the magazines; I had a newsstand in my office with 350 magazines from Hog Farmer to New York Magazine. And we were doing incredibly interesting things that helped promote the whole company. So, you had to look at it a little differently.

On anything he’d like to add: I think the magazine business is really hard now and it’s all corporate-driven, so everybody is afraid to do things and they’re afraid to make changes. That’s a hard thing and I don’t know how to solve that problem entirely. But I think scaling in certain areas is a good thing and trying things that don’t work makes you stronger.

On what he believes is the biggest misconception about himself: I think some people think that what I do is lightweight. And what I have found is that I have studied the social physics of how humans gather and how important it is. People used to not take us as seriously as they should. I used to feel that people in the event industry were sitting at the children’s table for Thanksgiving, but now when you see the books about social physics and the studies of how important conversations are at an event and how important learning and development is and how important having fun at events actually adds to the learning experience. I think people begin to take me more seriously the minute I start talking to them about the most powerful word in the English language is the word “let’s,” because whenever people get together they say “Let’s go to lunch,” “Let’s go to dinner,” “Let’s hook up and start a revolution.” It actually is true.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: I’m doing a lot of audio books now. And I’m totally into things like sapiens and I’m listening to “Civilization,” which is a 40-hour, 10-book series on all of the different civilizations. And I get such joy out of listening. I’m an auditory learner, so listening to books is really good. I love watching television too; I’m a total news junkie. I grew up in Washington D.C. and the idea that I’m the mayor of the news comes from the idea that I grew up in Washington and I always wanted to run for office. Then I found out that being the publisher of a media company or a magazine is even better. You get all the good, but not the bad.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: Here’s my theme thing: I believe there’s something in the world called managed serendipity, that everything is just right in front of your nose, but you have to put yourself in the right atmosphere where you have a chance to see who’s right in front of your nose. And to me, it’s everywhere. Whenever I come up with a story idea, first I’ll ask what’s going on right outside of the window? So, managed serendipity is something that I would put on my tombstone. (Laughs)

On what keeps him up at night: One of the things that I get ragged on is that I have a million ideas and I am obsessed with actually executing the ideas that I come up with. And making sure that the ones I want to do, I really do well. And to me it’s I want to finish that job; I want to finish this job. But at the same time, I want to go to the next thing too. So, it’s like there’s not enough time.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with David Adler, founder and CEO of BizBash.

Samir Husni: You recently returned from New York where you had a very successful event.

David Adler: Yes, this was our 18th year of doing our BizBash Trade Show. The first year that we did it was 9/11. We had scheduled it for around the end of September, so we had to move it a month and a half because the Jacob Javits Center was being used for the emergency situation there. And even the first one started out really well too, because it became a reunion of the whole industry and it helped to bring the entire industry together. That’s kind of where I learned that leadership is an important aspect of it. The way I think about media is that when you publish a magazine, you’re the mayor of your niche. And that’s like you’re running a political office almost.

Samir Husni: As the mayor of BizBash who has been elected for 18 consecutive years, tell me a little bit about the New York event that took place recently.

David Adler: The New York event is held at the Javits Center in one of the big halls. And you walk in and you feel like you’re walking into the brand. It’s packed with ideas and inspiration, things that make people do their job better and love their job. For example, one of our exhibitors was a grandma hugging. Grandmas came and they hugged you as you entered. (Laughs) It was incredible. Every year there are new things that are in the business, such as we had a used meditation van that somebody brought in, because meditation is now part of events. People want not only to get together, they also want to have some private time alone.

There are all sorts of different types of photo booths, you can take a photo in a DeLorean, for example. So it’s all of these ways that people are getting engaged at live events. And what we do in the magazine and in our media play is allow people to peek over the fence and see what other people are doing to give them the inspiration to create these things on their own, give us that emotional touchpoint.

So I think that we achieved it. We basically do a conference called “The Event Innovation Forum,” which I call a live journalism piece, where we bring in six speakers who are not necessarily professional speakers, for example, one was the head of Condé Nast events, Erica Boeke, who talked about how Condé Nast uses events to engage. We had agencies with clients like BMW that were talking about how events were the way to touch clients in ways that they had never done before.

You can see why magazines and media products are moving to events, because it’s the only place that you can actually look your audience in the eye and can see them and touch and feel them. And an editor can actually get correct feedback, which is something that hasn’t happened for years in magazines because everyone is always in their ivory tower, and they relied on surveys which don’t really work.

Samir Husni: In this age of screens or this age of isolated connectivity, where everybody is attached to their laptops or to their mobile phones, you mentioned recently when I saw you in New York and we were chatting that you are not in the content media business, you’re in the “contact” business. Can you expand on that a little?

David Adler: Yes, I believe that because content is everywhere, you can find it everywhere, contact is king, not content as much anymore. You have to have good content, but you can get that anywhere, but you can’t get you and me in the same room together, having a conversation that we can build this relationship on that extends online and in all different ways. And so the Holy Grail now is the contact, especially in the B to B world. The contact is the king element. In order to make it contact is king, it also has to be experiential. And experiential is very hard because every time you have an experience once, you have to up it the next time.

Samir Husni: Part of that contact and part of that deal is that you had a print magazine and you stopped it, and then you came back to it. Can you tell me that story?

David Adler: Yes, I came back. Let me give you the context of the entire company. I started the company in 2000 as an online venture only. I was head of corporate communications for PriMedia and I was spending millions of dollars on events. We did everything from Seventeen magazine’s 50th anniversary to New York Magazine’s 25th and the Daily Racing’s 100th anniversary. We were using events for all of these different products and I saw that there was no marketplace. You just talked to friends and said who can do this and who can do that, so we realized that there was a need for it in the marketplace. So we started, basically, this directory business with the event industry.

Then I started going to events and seeing who did what at the events to conclude a contextualized database. My family started something referred to as real estate by the month, and what I’ve figured out with BizBash is that we’re the real estate by the hour business. The first thing that anybody needed to do was create a place to have an event. And once they had the place, they needed then to do other things to engage people.

And so we started out as an online product, then got very involved after 9/11 helping to promote New York City, so we started a print product. Then we went to the Javits Center and the people there said they wanted to get all of their customers together and asked could we do a trade show for them. So, for the first three years the Javits Center gave us a free trade show, which launched our whole company.

We did magazines in five or six different markets in New York, L.A., Chicago, Miami, and Toronto for years. Then what happened after the recession is that everybody said that print was dead and all of my brilliant advisors, who were in the investment banking field, said that I wasn’t going to get any valuation if I ever wanted to sell, so I made the decision to kill print while we were still doing good. You know, for a few years you couldn’t just rely on the cash flow from online and events and print became a really important aspect, but we found that out later after we’d killed it. So, we brought it back.

And the reason we brought it back was because last year I was at a Will.i.am event for one of my customers, one of the people that we cover, and I heard Will.i.am talk about his graphic novel that he’d created. And he made this really compelling case about using print and then he talked about his augmented reality that he overlaid on top of print. And then it was a blinding light in my brain that said augmented reality is the ultimate “use” case for magazines because there’s a boundary to a magazine that makes it usable. It’s not like Pokémon Go where you’re holding your phone in the air and you’re seeing all of these crazy things going on. If you use augmented reality correctly and create a CMS for your AR, it’s all about data and it will be a way to enhance the experience tremendously with print. And I think that we’re still in the beginning stages of it.

We started the magazine last year and we did really, really well. And we’re now going to go from three times a year to probably four or five times a year within the next couple of years. And when I announced it at our L.A. show back in the Spring, the audience stood up and cheered because there was a need, especially in our industry, to touch it and to see it. And to have a place where they could go back and explore things, because we’re basically the brainstorming tools of the event industry in an era that experiences have to get better every year, so everyone is under pressure to keep scoring for good, new ideas.

Samir Husni: It seems that even the advertising industry has responded well. Your current issue is almost 200 pages.

David Adler: Oh yes. It’s a big thick issue that we say has that “plop” factor. Over 250 to 300 pages, it has been an incredible success and I was able to pack it with videos of me on the front page, explaining what the hell it was. We had an overlay of every single ad that had all of the details behind the ads, because the key to it is not to go crazy with it, but make it a data-driven thing so someone can sit and look up the page and click on it and make a phone call, to click on it and find the website you’re going to have, and click on it and see other information.

It can’t be too complex in the beginning right now and it has to be built on a CMS the same way that content is built on a CMS, so it’s easy to do. And we’re evolving and learning how to do it and it’s not as expensive as people think. I hired some outside developers who are not in the magazine business, who are in the gaming business, and I sort of had to drive the ship in terms of what I wanted. We wanted to keep it sort of like that movie “Minority Report” that had that overlay of all the data; we tried to make it more of a “Minority Report” model as opposed to a very graphical thing, because that made it much cheaper and also you can’t have a lot of bandwidth, right now at least, in an AR. So there’s a certain way to do it correctly.

I think it’s going to be everywhere in our industry at some point. It certainly is going to revolutionize the event industry because you’ll be able to go into an event, hold your phone up, and you’ll have all of the information about the speaker around them while they’re speaking. So then you don’t have to necessarily print more documents and you’ll have queues and all sorts of deeper data that you’ll be able to put into the presentations. You’ll be able to go to a booth at a trade show and hold up your phone and you’ll be able to know all of the data around that. Eventually, you’ll be able to hold your phone up and see who the person is because of the AR aspect of it. I think it’s going to be incredible.

You’re also going to be looking at an hors d’oeuvre and you’ll know how many calories are in it. It’s just the beginning. It’s even better than virtual reality, because an augmented reality situation makes you part of the room as opposed to a VR situation that makes you sort of isolated in your own world.

Samir Husni: In addition to that, you’ve also launched in the recent issue “First Impressions,” which is more of a photo essay.

David Adler, photo by-Rodney-Bailey

David Adler: Yes, we’re doing more large photo essays, but we’re combining them – and we’re also using podcasts – I’m doing very multimedia podcasts, photo spread stories and everything so that you can take one piece of content and use it in every possible place. We’re doing it with customers as custom-content as well. I think that the sponsored content is so boring sometimes that you need the editorial voice in the content to make it better. We’re using large photography for that of the people in our industry and we’re kind of doing it in ways that are more provocative as opposed to safe.

We’re in an era in the event industry…and I think in the magazine industry we’re trying to break the fourth wall; we’re in an era where intimacy is more important. And you want to see the producer actually come up onto the stage in a sense and say, “Okay, now you have to do this” or “Now you have to do that,” because we all want to be behind the scenes.

And whether you’re political or not, you see what Trump is doing and you see what YouTube is doing and what all of the different Instagram’s are doing, it’s all about the breaking of the fourth wall. And magazine people have to get less uptight about that. And it’s hard to do, but you can have video content that is about how you did your interview, within the interview using AR too. So, you’re able to get that emotional piece.

Samir Husni: Since you brought print back and since you’re seeing growth in the contact industry, do you think the path ahead will be a walk in a rose garden now?

David Adler: It’s not that I’m bringing print back, what I’m doing is turning the printed page into digital. And that answers the question that all of these brilliant investment bankers have of how do you create a digital product out of a print product? And I think that’s going to solve the investment issue, because the print product becomes a screen on top of the printed page. And also the joke is with millennials, they get a magazine and say, “Oh my, they printed it out for you!” And it’s kind of funny that we go back to the concept of the dominant theory of media, but the stuff that you thought was all gone becomes even more important and becomes more specialized if done well.

Samir Husni: What are some of the challenges facing, not specifically BizBash, but the entire B to B community and media brands?

David Adler: That’s easy. They’re not taking risks. They’re so busy being me too and follow the leader. The fact that I was able to do this and all of the big companies are just so far behind is kind of amazing. And I made the decision to do it within a very short period of time. And was able by using technology, and not the most expensive versions of it, to test it out and practice. A colleague at PriMedia used to say, we have to practice before we do, so we’re kind of in the practice stage of all this stuff, because the minute you stop practicing, you stop innovating.

The sales people learning how to use it is a really hard thing. Having a CMS for this was part of the key learning. We put it out right at the same time the new iPhone came out and some of the technology wasn’t ready for it, so we also learned that we have to future-proof it in different ways. We’re also now getting feedback directly from customers, because the other thing that I don’t believe in is survey feedback. I believe in observational feedback. That’s one of the things that we did at our trade shows and that we do on our magazines. Talking to a customer, especially for a CEO or something like that, to actually talk to customers and have lunch with people, is great.

Tom Peters was on a podcast recently with Kara Swisher and he was talking about the whole AI (artificial intelligence) movement that’s happening and that it’s going to kill us if we don’t move to the idea of radical humanism. And his version of radical humanism was going out to lunch with people. Take a 27-year-old out to lunch and you’ll learn more than all the surveys that you’ll never really analyze anyway. And for me, that’s what I do.

And the one thing great about the event industry and when you go to an event, is you’re talking to people at the event. And it becomes your built-in focus group. It makes us sharper than ever before because we actually have to talk to our customers. I think that CEO’s are terrible hosts, and so now what I do at all of my events is I am at the receiving line at the door of the events and I talk to everyone as they walk in. I do a dinner and I go to every single table and I encourage every person there that is in the magazine industry to do that.

I took the NYU publishing course back in the ‘70s and the first exercise that we did was to ask what is the personality of a particular magazine. Who would that magazine be if it was a person? And I believe that we’ve gotten away from that. And I think that digital is making it harder to do that. So, what a print product does is; when you’re creating a print product, you have to pace it like a human being and it has to be like a human being. It has to have good days and bad days; it has to have good taste and bad taste; you have to take risks. And that’s my advice. I love what we do as publishers. I think it’s the most exciting thing that you can do in the world because you are the mayor of the niche in a sense.

Samir Husni: One of the phrases I use in my consulting and in all my work since I graduated in the early ‘80s is “humanizing print.” I give the editors a magic wand and ask them to strike their magazine and describe the human being that would appear.

David Adler: That’s it. That’s why we love what we do because we see it that way. It’s the context in which we look at what we do. If we’re just selling ad pages, we’re dead. I do this poll before every event I do and it’s to see how many people love their job. And every hand in the room goes up. And then I say, okay forget the technology, just look around and take it all in. It all comes down to Maya Angelou and her “it’s not what people say, it’s how you make them feel.” A magazine and a human being can make you feel really great. When I get my magazine that I love, I feel like I’m in that club. And I think that’s what people need to have again. And sometimes I don’t get that when I go online.

Samir Husni: If you reflect back on your life, between the entrepreneurial part with the Washington Dossier and BizBash, and working for a company like PriMedia, is there a different feeling? When you were with PriMedia, did you really want to wake up and go to work?

David Adler: Yes, I did, I really did. I loved PriMedia; I loved the idea. And what I found to be the common denominator among the magazine people was the innovation of the content and the business side together. I love communications and I knew all of the magazines; I had a newsstand in my office with 350 magazines from Hog Farmer to New York Magazine. And we were doing incredibly interesting things that helped promote the whole company. So, you had to look at it a little differently.

And going to each one of the brands and seeing the passion that each one had was really interesting. Now the corporate people needed more of the feeling of what it was like to be in the brand. At the corporate level the interesting thing that we did was we kept the event budget for all of the magazines, the brands at the corporate level, so we were able to get the management team involved in the local events for Seventeen and Soap Opera Digest and brands like that. So, the main reason was we wanted to use it to engage the street and Wall Street so that the analysts could see what was inside these brands. And it was a really interesting strategy because you want to get the investors to feel as well. It still comes back to Maya Angelou, you know? It comes back to what do they feel about this thing.

So, when we’re able to bring them to the New York magazine events, they got this feeling of this company has something below the surface that is important. And the fact is, we knew all of these niche markets because we controlled the budgets on them, and it was collaboratively, it wasn’t like it was a Wizard of Oz type of thing. But they were able to get more money from us from the corporates, so they were very nice to us too. And it solved some of the political problems.

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

David Adler: I think the magazine business is really hard now and it’s all corporate-driven, so everybody is afraid to do things and they’re afraid to make changes. That’s a hard thing and I don’t know how to solve that problem entirely. But I think scaling in certain areas is a good thing and trying things that don’t work makes you stronger.

Samir Husni: Here’s a question that I borrowed from one of our graduate students who now works for 60 Minutes, she asked Paul McCartney: what do you think is the biggest misconception about you?

David Adler: I think some people think that what I do is lightweight. And what I have found is that I have studied the social physics of how humans gather and how important it is. People used to not take us as seriously as they should. I used to feel that people in the event industry were sitting at the children’s table for Thanksgiving, but now when you see the books about social physics and the studies of how important conversations are at an event and how important learning and development is and how important having fun at events actually adds to the learning experience. I think people begin to take me more seriously the minute I start talking to them about the most powerful word in the English language is the word “let’s,” because whenever people get together they say “Let’s go to lunch,” “Let’s go to dinner,” “Let’s hook up and start a revolution.” It actually is true.

So, they really think what we do is very lightweight. When I’m advising people like Hillary Clinton, or I recently had this big talk with Cory Booker, telling him that he wasn’t connecting with people and the State Department; they understand that it’s all about people. And it’s all about the humanism of things, and that’s the biggest misconception I think I have. People just think I’m the party guy. (Laughs)

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

David Adler: I’m doing a lot of audio books now. And I’m totally into things like sapiens and I’m listening to “Civilization,” which is a 40-hour, 10-book series on all of the different civilizations. And I get such joy out of listening. I’m an auditory learner, so listening to books is really good. I love watching television too; I’m a total news junkie. I grew up in Washington D.C. and the idea that I’m the mayor of the news comes from the idea that I grew up in Washington and I always wanted to run for office. Then I found out that being the publisher of a media company or a magazine is even better. You get all the good, but not the bad.

So, I’m totally a sponge all day long. And I think this lifetime learning thing is great. And I love when I go home that I can’t wait to get up in the morning and go to work. (Laughs)

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

David Adler: Here’s my theme thing: I believe there’s something in the world called managed serendipity, that everything is just right in front of your nose, but you have to put yourself in the right atmosphere where you have a chance to see who’s right in front of your nose. And to me, it’s everywhere. Whenever I come up with a story idea, first I’ll ask what’s going on right outside of the window? So, managed serendipity is something that I would put on my tombstone. (Laughs)

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

David Adler: One of the things that I get ragged on is that I have a million ideas and I am obsessed with actually executing the ideas that I come up with. And making sure that the ones I want to do, I really do well. And to me it’s I want to finish that job; I want to finish this job. But at the same time, I want to go to the next thing too. So, it’s like there’s not enough time.

And I love the idea of learning how to do stuff. I think what technology has given me is the ability to try stuff on my own so that I know enough about it that I can go to another person and say what about this? Or what about that? Like I learned how to do my podcasts, so I completely learned how to do everything about audio editing. And I learned how to remove sound; I learned how to remove noise and change pitch, just all of that. But I don’t do it myself anymore, but I ask can we remove this sound or that? And sometimes I have to do it myself, but most of the time it’s me managing other people. Learning and development is the key to life I think.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Martha Stewart Living’s Christine Guilfoyle Talks To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni About Embracing Disruption & Finding Excitement In The Constant Change Of Today’s Magazine Media World – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Senior Vice President, Group Publisher Meredith’s Women’s Group…

October 15, 2018

“I think that editorial integration in celebrity brands is more delicate. I don’t want to say more challenging, I think it’s more delicate, because again, it’s about the consumer. You have to make sure that the integration is authentic to the consumer. And I don’t know that agencies and/or clients fully understand intellectually the relationship that the content and the consumer have and the level of authenticity around the integration.” Christine Guilfoyle…

From Rachael Ray Every Day to Better Homes & Gardens, Martha Stewart Living to the former ink on paper MORE magazine, Christine Guilfoyle has been a staple at Meredith Corporation for over eight years. Today she has Martha Stewart Living back in her stable and is enjoying yet another round of promoting and selling the one and only Martha Stewart and her brand. The original, as Chris touts the entrepreneurial businessperson who has become a household name with her media empire.

I spoke with Chris recently and we talked about her admiration for Martha Stewart and her appreciation for the opportunities that Meredith has given her over the years, such as launching the phenomenal The Magnolia Journal. And while disruption in magazines and magazine media has become the norm, Chris says that she embraces disruption and finds excitement in the many opportunities that the constant changes of today’s publishing industry brings. Of course, Chris isn’t naïve either, she knows that never taking anything for granted is the rule of thumb in the present-day world of magazines, but she also knows the power of the brand, especially the tried and true ones, such as Martha Stewart Living, always giving hope to a brighter and more stalwart future.

So, I hope that you enjoy this lively and interesting Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman just as lively and interesting as her magazine adventures – Christine Guilfoyle, senior vice president, group publisher Meredith’s Women’s Group.

But first the sound-bites:

On what has been going on at Meredith: I have to tell you, I just came from a meeting recently with Tom Harty (president and CEO, Meredith) and I said to him, seven years ago we, the Meredith Corporation, announced the acquisition of Everyday with Rachael Ray, which is a bit mindboggling to me that it has been seven years ago. I had just been back at the company for a year, I was on MORE at the time, so my personal journey in these seven years, and I think you know that I have known Tom for a long time, twenty-plus years, seeing what he has been able to accomplish, not only for his own personal development, but also for the company, has been extraordinary.

On what she has been up to at Meredith over the last seven years: Well, I’m repeating myself. You know, two times at Rachael Ray; two times at Better Homes & Gardens; this is my second time now at Martha Stewart Living; my third celebrity assignment. What am I doing? Well, listen, what we’re all doing. I’m blocking and tackling. Everyday I’m blocking and tackling.

On some of the challenges she faces today that are different from those she faced when Rachael Ray Every Day launched: Today versus 2005 when Rachael launched; here’s the thing, every single thing is different, from one year to the next, from one assignment to the next and it really has more to do with the industry than it has to do with the platform and the work, the content that you represent. The media industry, the traditional publishing industry, is in complete and utter disruption. And as you and I have talked about many times, I embrace that. I think it’s exciting.

On how she feels being back at Martha Stewart Living once again: From a personal standpoint, I have been a Martha Stewart Living brand evangelist for a long time. She is someone who I have personally admired, and over the course of my career, have voraciously tear sheeted and I couldn’t be more honored to get to work with a woman who continues to evolve, embrace technology and reinvent and/or reinvigorate not only herself, but her brand. And I feel humbled to have that opportunity.

On the power of the brand today versus what it was when it was introduced 28 years ago: I think that the brand has always been incredibly powerful with consumers. The vitality with the consumer is not necessarily in our industry what gets celebrated, it’s the vitality with the advertiser, and that kind of dims the light on the consumer involvement. Martha’s relationship with the consumer, in my opinion, has never been stronger. And she has had the ability, both personally and through the leadership of Elizabeth Graves in Living, to be as relevant as ever.

On whether she is selling Martha Stewart or Martha Stewart Living: It’s the same thing to me. Ultimately, we sell the woman that has made the brand and then we talk about the platform of content extensions, both those that are operated by the Meredith Corporation as it relates to digital and video and social, but we also discuss Martha’s own social activities and her television, in the form of PBS or celebrity judge on Chopped or VH1 with Snoop. To me it’s all the same.

On whether she does things differently when selling Martha Stewart Living versus selling Rachael Ray Every Day: I would say that I do everything differently than I did seven years ago. I do everything differently than I did three years ago. The basic fundamentals of sales account management kind of guides me, they’re my guiding principles, but how I would talk about Rachael or Martha, or Jo as it relates to The Magnolia Journal; I talk about each one of those women in a very different way because they are different, but also because the time of which my assignment corresponds to the external ad market is different.

On how the role of publisher has changed over the last five years: I can’t talk about the overarching role because I think that everyone brings their own individual experience and expertise to a job. I can tell you how it has changed for me because it’s what I personally own and can control. To me, I feel like there was a time in my career where I really was a management role, where I, as much as I like to get out and about and I think it is something that I can do because of the relationships that I have, I had full staffs of very senior people in all of the key markets and I could just do my flyover to say thank you. I now feel like my role, if we’re going to talk about titles, senior vice president group publisher, that’s my title, but I’m a super sales person.

On how she differentiates Martha Stewart Living brand from the other competitors in the marketplace: That’s a very good question. She’s the original. In a world that is infatuated with celebrity and/or influencers, Martha Stewart is the original. And she practices what she preaches. There is nothing that we cover from a content-based standpoint that she herself has not done. That she has not intellectually curious about; where she has not rolled up her sleeves and participated in the action. And that’s home, food, travel, entertaining, etc. She is the original.

On anything she’d like to add: First of all, I want to say thank you for wanting to talk to me. I think the thing for me is that although I have had a lot of jobs, I have never been in a position in my eight years back at the company where I have ever been allowed to be bored (Laughs). And I think that’s a gift because if that had not happened, up until the last seven years, like Martha says, when you stop living you’re dead; when you’re afraid of change I think you’re out. I feel like my career here has very much paralleled Martha’s life mission. And I feel invigorated and grateful that I have been given the opportunity here at the company to do all that I have been able to do.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: No, I don’t know that I would change that tattoo. And I think about in today’s world, think about what has just gone on. The closing of Redbook, and when I say closing, the moving to digital, but we all know what that means, it means taking resources away from traditional platforms. Redbook is not a surprise to me, and probably not to you. The rumor of Glamour, that scares me to the core of what it is that I have learned. A brand like that, that I have competed against, a newsstand giant, that quakes me to the core as somebody who has studied and championed and heralded the industry, so no, I don’t take a single thing for granted. And I remind myself of that every single day.

On what she believes is the biggest misconception about herself: About me personally? (Laughs) That’s a good one. A long time ago Tom Harty and Dick Porter in our TV Guide days said I am too emotional. In my performance review when I moved from Better Homes & Gardens to Shape, Doug Olson told me that I was not as excited about the move from BH&G to Shape as the company would have liked me to be. So, I don’t know if that was a misconception, but I feel like the brands that I have led are like my children and the people at those brands become part of my family literally. And ultimately, I do in fact love all of them and all of the brands. But I have favorites, so maybe the most common misconception is that I become too emotionally connected, but I would say that in each and every assignment I never ever lose sight of the P&L and what it is that I have to do to drive the business. Never.

On what keeps her up at night: Outside of my teenaged daughters? No. What keeps me up at night is each and every close, and each and every client, and I would say this whole native and editorial integration – I think there are brands, Allrecipes for example, another brand that I helped my good buddy Steve Grune, who I hired to the company, launch. I think that Allrecipes is a brand made for client integration. I grapple with integration as it relates to a brand that has a real person attached to it.

On whether the integration of editorial and ads makes her job tougher: Well, I don’t know that it’s even tougher; I think as a steward of the brand I am more diligent. I’m more involved and more critical of the agency and our client/partner, because if we do something that is not brand-true, we will hear about it.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Christine Guilfoyle, Senior VP, Publisher, Meredith Women’s Group at Meredith Corporation.

Samir Husni: Chris, give me an update; since the last time we spoke a lot of things have changed, what’s going on these days at Meredith?

Christine Guilfoyle: I have to tell you, I just came from a meeting recently with Tom Harty (president and CEO, Meredith) and I said to him, seven years ago we, the Meredith Corporation, announced the acquisition of Rachael Ray Every Day, which is a bit mindboggling to me that it has been seven years ago. I had just been back at the company for a year, I was on MORE at the time, so my personal journey in these seven years, and I think you know that I have known Tom for a long time, twenty-plus years, seeing what he has been able to accomplish, not only for his own personal development, but also for the company, has been extraordinary.

I don’t want to sound like I’m gushing, because believe me that has never been my goal, but Tom has done an incredibly amazing job and it has been so interesting and exhilarating to be sitting and watching what has gone on in the last seven years.

Samir Husni: So, tell me, what are you up to these days – what have those seven years brought for you?

Christine Guilfoyle: Well, I’m repeating myself. You know, two times at Rachael Ray; two times at Better Homes & Gardens; this is my second time now at Martha Stewart Living; my third celebrity assignment. What am I doing? Well, listen, what we’re all doing. I’m blocking and tackling. Everyday I’m blocking and tackling.

Samir Husni: As you block and tackle your third celebrity venture, what are some of the challenges you face today that are different from those you faced when you first started with Rachael Ray Every Day?

Christine Guilfoyle: Today versus 2005 when Rachael launched; here’s the thing, every single thing is different, from one year to the next, from one assignment to the next and it really has more to do with the industry than it has to do with the platform and the work, the content that you represent.

The media industry, the traditional publishing industry, is in complete and utter disruption. And as you and I have talked about many times, I embrace that. I think it’s exciting. I have two teenaged daughters and every single day is filled with disruption and the bombardment of new media. And I feel incredibly fortunate that I have had 14 assignments in the last eight years where I’ve been able to start each assignment really as though they were brand new jobs. It’s an entrepreneurial environment, so I can try new things, not only because the industry demands it, but because each of these assignments are new and differentiated.

Samir Husni: And when you got your latest assignment and knew that Martha Stewart Living was once again in your domain, what was your first reaction? Not again or you were so happy to be back at the brand?

Christine Guilfoyle: From a personal standpoint, I have been a Martha Stewart Living brand evangelist for a long time. In 1988 when I was at TV Guide, I had the classic meatloaf and the classic macaroni and cheese recipes in my bag that I had brought in for clients, and they’re recipes that I still cook. Martha and her daughter Alexis were at a table in Nobu and Harrison Ford, Edd Byrnes, Calista Flockhart, Christy Turlington, and Tony Bennett were all in Nobu that night that I was there with clients. I mustered my way past the bouncers to go over and introduce myself to Martha. To me she is extraordinary.

She is someone who I have personally admired, and over the course of my career, have voraciously tear sheeted and I couldn’t be more honored to get to work with a woman who continues to evolve, embrace technology and reinvent and/or reinvigorate not only herself, but her brand. And I feel humbled to have that opportunity. And when Martha Stewart calls you a badass, which is what she said to me when she found out I was back on the brand, that’s not something I would ever take lightly.

Samir Husni: So, how do you use that as you go out and meet with clients and prospective clients? What is the power of the brand today versus what it was when it was introduced around 28 years ago?

Christine Guilfoyle: I think that the brand has always been incredibly powerful with consumers. The vitality with the consumer is not necessarily in our industry what gets celebrated, it’s the vitality with the advertiser, and that kind of dims the light on the consumer involvement. Martha’s relationship with the consumer, in my opinion, has never been stronger. And she has had the ability, both personally and through the leadership of Elizabeth Graves in Living, to be as relevant as ever.

We are finding that millennials, not only millennial readers of Martha Stewart Living, but also U.S. millennials, look at Martha the person and Martha Stewart Living the brand, as being the ultimate influencer. And they look to her and the content that surrounds her brand proposition as being modern and trustworthy. So, that’s exciting from a consumer proposition standpoint.

When I’m speaking to millennials, which is most of our audience, I try to be as dynamic and energizing and on millennial point as I can be. And frankly, this story resonates. Her doing the Justin Bieber Roast, in my opinion, was a pivotal, social, zeitgeist moment for her. She’s gone on now to do the Bruce Willis Roast and she’s next door neighbors with Blake Lively and she’s at New York Fashion Week and continues to modernize her footprints, so clients and agency people are more aware of her than ever before. The Snoop Dogg relationship obviously is very much talked about within the agency cycle. And I’m finding it to be incredibly fun and that there is a high level of brand receptivity that should translate itself into ad pages and integrated deals.

Samir Husni: Are you selling Martha or are you selling Martha Stewart Living?

Christine Guilfoyle: It’s the same thing to me. Ultimately, we sell the woman that has made the brand and then we talk about the platform of content extensions, both those that are operated by the Meredith Corporation as it relates to digital and video and social, but we also discuss Martha’s own social activities and her television, in the form of PBS or celebrity judge on Chopped or VH1 with Snoop. To me it’s all the same.

Samir Husni: What is the difference between selling Martha and Rachael Ray? Do you do anything differently?

Christine Guilfoyle: Do I do anything differently because of the two women? I would say that I do everything differently than I did seven years ago. I do everything differently than I did three years ago. The basic fundamentals of sales account management kind of guides me, they’re my guiding principles, but how I would talk about Rachael or Martha, or Jo as it relates to The Magnolia Journal; I talk about each one of those women in a very different way because they are different, but also because the time of which my assignment corresponds to the external ad market is different.

When I went from Better Homes & Gardens and Martha to Shape, which was almost three years ago, every single thing that I did at Shape, not just because it was a new category to me, but because the market was moving so quickly, was incredibly different in how I rallied the sales team, the marketing team and the editorial infrastructure from a go-to-market standpoint than I had done two and half years ago when I first got to Better Homes & Gardens from Rachael Ray.

Samir Husni: It seems to me that your career has been like a walk in a rose garden.

Christine Guilfoyle: A walk in a rose garden? I would say that I love to smell the roses and I try to avoid the prickers. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: How has the role of publisher, chief revenue officer, changed over the last five years?

Christine Guilfoyle: I can’t talk about the overarching role because I think that everyone brings their own individual experience and expertise to a job. I can tell you how it has changed for me because it’s what I personally own and can control.

To me, I feel like there was a time in my career where I really was a management role, where I, as much as I like to get out and about and I think it is something that I can do because of the relationships that I have, I had full staffs of very senior people in all of the key markets and I could just do my flyover to say thank you. I now feel like my role, if we’re going to talk about titles, senior vice president group publisher, that’s my title, but I’m a super sales person.

Every team is leaner; there are far more people internally because of our new Brady Bunch family that I need to continually look to educate, to differentiate, to be solution-based so that both the people internally in the broader Meredith Corporation, the corporate digital foundry, are educated on the nuance of my brand, Martha Stewart Living. And I am going out into the market to make sure that I am blocking and tackling and driving revenue to each and every issue and/or platform every single day.

Samir Husni: Give me your elevator pitch on how you differentiate Martha Stewart Living brand from the rest of the competitors in the marketplace.

Christine Guilfoyle: That’s a very good question. She’s the original. In a world that is infatuated with celebrity and/or influencers, Martha Stewart is the original. And she practices what she preaches. There is nothing that we cover from a content-based standpoint that she herself has not done. That she has not intellectually curious about; where she has not rolled up her sleeves and participated in the action. And that’s home, food, travel, entertaining, etc. She is the original.

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

Christine Guilfoyle: First of all, I want to say thank you for wanting to talk to me. I think the thing for me is that although I have had a lot of jobs, I have never been in a position in my eight years back at the company where I have ever been allowed to be bored (Laughs). And I think that’s a gift because if that had not happened, up until the last seven years, like Martha says, when you stop living you’re dead; when you’re afraid of change I think you’re out. I feel like my career here has very much paralleled Martha’s life mission. And I feel invigorated and grateful that I have been given the opportunity here at the company to do all that I have been able to do.

Being able to meet Rachael Ray at the start – really the start, because when she was on the Food Network it was not what it is today. And to sit around the kitchen table with her and John (Cusimano), who was not her husband at the time, to launch her magazine, that’s extraordinary. It’s an experience that can’t be taken away. And then to get to work on it twice, that was just icing on the cake.

To launch The Magnolia Journal for the Meredith Corporation, which will go down as its most successful launch probably ever, that’s pretty cool. To onboard the Martha Stewart Living brand for the company and have it as my sole assignment during these highly disruptive days, that’s amazing.

Samir Husni: Last time we talked, I asked you if you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be and you said don’t take anything for granted. Have you changed your tattoo or is that still true?

Christine Guilfoyle: No, I don’t know that I would change that tattoo. And I think about in today’s world, think about what has just gone on. The closing of Redbook, and when I say closing, the moving to digital, but we all know what that means, it means taking resources away from traditional platforms. Redbook is not a surprise to me, and probably not to you.

The rumor of Glamour, that scares me to the core of what it is that I have learned. A brand like that, that I have competed against, a newsstand giant, that quakes me to the core as somebody who has studied and championed and heralded the industry, so no, I don’t take a single thing for granted. And I remind myself of that every single day.

Samir Husni: Here’s a question that I borrowed from one of our graduate students who now works for 60 Minutes, she asked Paul McCartney: what do you think is the biggest misconception about you?

Christine Guilfoyle: About me personally? (Laughs) That’s a good one. A long time ago Tom Harty and Dick Porter in our TV Guide days said I am too emotional. In my performance review when I moved from Better Homes & Gardens to Shape, Doug Olson told me that I was not as excited about the move from BH&G to Shape as the company would have liked me to be.

So, I don’t know if that was a misconception, but I feel like the brands that I have led are like my children and the people at those brands become part of my family literally. And ultimately, I do in fact love all of them and all of the brands. But I have favorites, so maybe the most common misconception is that I become too emotionally connected, but I would say that in each and every assignment I never ever lose sight of the P&L and what it is that I have to do to drive the business. Never.

Samir Husni: Anything changed about what keeps you up at night these days?

Christine Guilfoyle: Outside of my teenaged daughters? No. What keeps me up at night is each and every close, and each and every client, and I would say this whole native and editorial integration – I think there are brands, Allrecipes for example, another brand that I helped my good buddy Steve Grune, who I hired to the company, launch. I think that Allrecipes is a brand made for client integration. I grapple with integration as it relates to a brand that has a real person attached to it. Not because of the women, and by all means I am not leaving out Chip (Gaines), I am not anti-Chip Gaines. (Laughs) But as you and I have discussed, it is truly Joanna who is the editorial driver.

I think that editorial integration in celebrity brands is more delicate. I don’t want to say more challenging, I think it’s more delicate, because again, it’s about the consumer. You have to make sure that the integration is authentic to the consumer. And I don’t know that agencies and/or clients fully understand intellectually the relationship that the content and the consumer have and the level of authenticity around the integration.

Samir Husni: Does this make your job even tougher?

Christine Guilfoyle: Well, I don’t know that it’s even tougher; I think as a steward of the brand I am more diligent. I’m more involved and more critical of the agency and our client/partner, because if we do something that is not brand-true, we will hear about it.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Bauer Media Group USA’s CEO, Steven Kotok, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “…We’re Just Reader-First”…The Mr. Magazine™ Interview

October 3, 2018

The women’s service readers definitely like the experience of buying something in print. As much as they love the product and as proud of the product as we are, the buying experience is a big part of it as well. We’re growing our subscriptions, but the physical act of making the purchase from the supermarket and giving yourself a treat after a long day, that is part of the pleasure of these products. Even if some of the information is available online, it’s that retail experience that ultimately excites our consumers.” Steven Kotok…

Bauer Media Group USA publishes the top 2 selling magazines at retail, Woman’s World #1 and First for Women #2. And with newsstands declining and single copy sales fading, that is no small feat. Steven Kotok is CEO of Bauer Media Group and believes that the secret to those titles’ success is really no secret: they connect with their readers on every level.

I spoke with Steven recently and we talked about his two years and counting at Bauer. In 2016 when Steven first took over the reins I spoke with him about his then new position and goals for the company. So this time around we discussed whether he felt the company was stronger today than it was a year ago. His answer was an emphatic yes. After whittling things down a bit at Bauer by American Media acquiring Bauer’s celebrity and teen brands, Steven said the company could now put all of their energies behind their successful and reliable women’s service group and continue with their highly popular SIPs, especially in the food category. They also retained their two soap opera titles, which he attributed to the loyalty of the audience that keeps them healthy and strong.

It was a very interesting conversation as Steven gave us a status report on how things have moved forward since his coming onboard and a few changes he has implemented, such as a digest-sized First for Women SIP that was added. But the one thing that hasn’t changed in those two years is his dedication to the reader and his continued belief that above all else Bauer and its very loyal audience maintain a great connection. And that they continue to do what Bauer does best, provide the reader with the content they want. And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steven Kotok, CEO, Bauer Media Group USA.

But first the sound-bites:

On what’s going on at Bauer today: I started at Bauer two years ago, October 3, 2016. In that time we’ve been, I don’t want to say transforming the company, because it was a very healthy company, but definitely shifting the way we do things. The primary metric of the company previously had really been newsstand copy sales. We’re looking a lot more now at margins. So one thing we did is raise prices across the portfolio in January 2017, three or four months after I started. We have a very loyal audience, especially these days. You know I think we benefit from the fact that we’re one of the last publishers really focusing on the newsstand and that kind of engagement with the reader. And so in a sense we have some of those markets to ourselves.

On whether he has any worries about newsstands since Bauer has the number one and number two magazines when it comes to single copy sales: We have fears as much as independent publications, all have fears for their own reasons. It’s a tough time of rapid transitions, so anyone who is sleeping well at night probably isn’t doing their job. But this is where we’re dominant and this is where we make our money, so we do want to diversify, but we can’t really change our stock either. We can’t suddenly become a luxury, ad-driven company. We do things our way with a reader-engaged product. It’s definitely scary and we’re definitely pushing further into subscriptions as a way for us to leverage the reader connection that we have, but still be able to not live and die on any one channel.

On Bauer’s secret recipe that gives Woman’s World and First for Women the number one and number two spots when it comes to sales on newsstands: I don’t know if it’s a secret recipe so much as it’s that we’re really playing a different game than a lot of other publications. If you look at some recent redesigns of other titles in the space you really see a redesign focused on persuading advertisers that this is a product read by millennials or being a nice ad environment. And that stuck. There’s nothing wrong with that, those magazines run great businesses and they work at what they do and they’re smart, but we are doing something else. We’re wholly focused on the reader and we won’t make the compromises for other channels of revenue.

On what’s cooking on the backburner for Bauer: A lot more food titles. We find that in addition to selling well, they’re very reliable. If we do what we know how to do, with all of our years – I tried to calculate once how many recipes we’ve run in Woman’s World, 52 issues a year for 40 years. And we’ve produced a lot of recipes on any given thing, which isn’t just a great source of content, but we just know what people care about. So, the food SIPs have really been successful for us and again, not just because they sell nicely, but because the SIP market is kind of a hit and miss business. Some things sell great, some not so great, but food, and maybe it’s just for us because we know about markets so well, but food is very reliable.

On why he decided to keep the soap opera titles at Bauer: It’s a very healthy and dedicated audience. There’s one competitor that it beats every single week. It’s a nice business. The celebrity titles we felt weren’t that differentiated and didn’t have the same loyalty. These products really have loyalty and they’re really reliable. And we’re really good at it; we know how to do it. It’s a very stable and dedicated business. The scary thing is, again you’re dependent on the networks to broadcast soap operas. It’s not the type of audience who is going to transition to reality shows or nighttime soap operas, it’s really this is where they are. But that kind of risk aside, we hate things being out of our control, but that risk aside, it’s exactly what Bauer should be doing and what Bauer is good at, producing products that exactly connect with the right audience and do so consistently.

On what role he feels print will play in today’s multimedia market and beyond: For the reader and for advertisers it’s a different question. For advertisers I think the pendulum can swing back and forth, from what’s going to hit on the digital side and what is most effective on the print side. But on the reader’s side, it’s part of the reason that we focus on this women’s service space; we feel we have to be providing a significant service value. In a way, celebrity news does compete with digital and it doesn’t always win. The teen titles that were beloved internally, that’s a market that’s shifted to digital. I think print is going to have a very important place for certain groups of readers that we can provide value for.

On what he would consider his most pleasant moment in the two years he has been CEO of Bauer:
All my pleasant moments at all of my jobs come from things that go on with the team. It’s not as interesting to an outside audience, but at Bauer, having the first all-company holiday party in seven or eight years; having the company’s first all-hands meeting. A lot of the time two different people who have been at the company for 10 years will meet each other for the first time and watching them have these animated conversations is so great to see. Doing new things, where people at the company are stretching themselves and doing things for the first time—it’s really rewarding.

On if there has been a moment when he asked himself why he took the job at Bauer: (Laughs) There’s definitely a challenge in the supply chain. In one sense, you have really strong relationships with supply chain partners and very good personal relationships, but then there are times when you’re really adversarial. And some of those times you’re dealing with a partner that controls a significant amount of the market, and as a publisher we control a significant amount of the market, so you both have a lot of power and there’s Murphy’s Law. Some of those moments can be pretty fraught, but the individuals who run those organizations seem to be as dedicated as I am to building a good personal relationship to keep things from getting scarier than they need to be and to running good businesses. Most of those operations are privately-owned as well, they’re in it for the long term too. Those would be some of the scarier moments; anything out of your control.

On whether he feels Bauer USA is stronger today than it was a year ago: Oh yes, yes. The sustainability and strength of the company is stronger now than before we did the transaction with the other titles and before we made some of the changes to focus more on margin. So, yes, that’s kind of unquestioned. That doesn’t mean that things aren’t hard, part of the appeal of the job is that it’s a tough job. It’s strangely rewarding to take on something tough. So, it’s still tough, but as a company compared to a year ago or a year and a half ago, that part is, as I said, unquestioned.

On what he feels is the biggest misconception about himself: I don’t know that people have a lot of conceptions about me. I feel like I make a better impression as time goes on, for whatever reason. I remember when I was executive producer of Dennis Interactive, when Dennis had this digital thing and we would have these meetings with Mercedes and all of these people. The first meeting would be about how cool the programmers were and others, so I was kind of forgotten. By the fifth meeting any question anyone asked, all of the heads would swivel toward me because they knew I had the answer, so I think there’s some sense of being more of a third impression guy than a first impression guy, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s the business of being an extrovert and I’m more of an introvert, but I have noted that, the sense of being initially underestimated and that kind of recalibrating as people get to know me better.

On any big announcements he’d like to share: No big announcements. We’re working on developing big and exciting announcements. We’re starting to look more earnestly at opportunities for acquisitions. I don’t think we’ll have any big announcements until next year, but that’s a big focus here. We feel confident in our ability to operate reader-driven businesses effectively, so we’re looking for opportunities to acquire things. That’s our next big focus.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: From a business perspective it would be that I focused on and understood the reader. My whole career has been based on that; it’s just something I know how to do and that I love and the thing that’s meaningful to me. As a person, that’s kind of a tougher one. I need more self-knowledge than I have, but certainly I think as a person I would hope that people would say he cared in general about whatever was important to care about. As a business person, understanding and being focused on the reader, so maybe it is tattooed on my brain and I didn’t know.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly at his home one evening:
Since joining Bauer, my wife and I moved to the country so I can be closer to the NJ office, so sitting on our deck and just enjoying being together is our main after work activity. For dinner many nights we have a smorgasbord of dips and vegetables and snacks and cheeses and stuff—that’s our favorite thing.

On what keeps him up at night: Things outside my control. Along with the supply chain, another aspect you see now is retailers reducing the space allocated to magazines, and all those things. We know that we connect with our readers and anything that comes between us and our readers and is not in our control is going to be what keeps us up at night. The supply chain and retailers, just all of these things. It’s an appeal of the digital ecosphere, that there’s less coming between you and your readers.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steven Kotok, CEO, Bauer Media Group.

Samir Husni: You’re the CEO of a major magazine company that’s still very heavy on single copy sales. And although you’ve downsized, you now have a trimmer, slimmer, yet more vibrant Bauer Media Group. Give me a status report; what is going on these days at Bauer?

Steven Kotok: I started at Bauer two years ago, October 3, 2016. In that time we’ve been, I don’t want to say transforming the company, because it was a very healthy company, but definitely shifting the way we do things. The primary metric of the company previously had really been newsstand copy sales. We’re looking a lot more now at margins. So one thing we did is raise prices across the portfolio in January 2017, three or four months after I started. We have a very loyal audience, especially these days. You know I think we benefit from the fact that we’re one of the last publishers really focusing on the newsstand and that kind of engagement with the reader. And so in a sense we have some of those markets to ourselves.

We repriced across the portfolio on the newsstand and that really helped the margins. Also, in terms of keeping margin and making the company healthier, we have really been pushing subscriptions, which wasn’t something that was really done in the past. And even though at the time we sold the most magazine copies on the newsstand, we actually didn’t put insert cards in a lot of those magazines, at any price. So, we really started pushing subscriptions and we grew our subscription revenue significantly. A lot of publishers will sometimes grow their subscriptions, but they might do it by actually reducing subscription revenue and reducing prices. We actually promote subscriptions at very high prices. By being more aggressive, we’re able to bring a significant increase in subscription revenue.

So, we did a lot of things like that and other less exciting stuff. And as we’ve been looking at the company and at not what just made it a bigger company, but what made it a healthier company, the notion of focusing on our women’s group where we see, not just the highest margins, but the most stable margins where we publish a product that’s utterly unique in its approach to readers. There were other products, those celebrity magazines were great magazines and had a loyal audience, but they weren’t incredibly differentiated from the competition. That entire market has seen a lot of decline and in 2017 we actually grew our ad market share and in 2018 we also grew our ad market share in celebrities and we grew our newsstand revenue market share.

And even though we were outpacing the competition, we just weren’t seeing those products get financially healthier, even though they had many years of productive life left in them; as a private company, we are really focused on the long term. It seemed the celebrity titles really needed to have one owner to get the most out of them, and we thought for the long term it was better that the owner wasn’t us. So, we made that transaction and have been focusing on the women’s group.

At the same time, we consolidated the two women’s magazines. We used to run them very much as competitive titles, but now that we have that market a little more to ourselves, in terms of the newsstand, instead of having two groups, two health groups or two beauty groups, we can kind of center all of our expertise on one group and also focus on differentiating them a little more. They still obviously compete as number one and number two, but we can balance what’s on the cover and other things. So, we put those under one editorial director and that’s really been successful.

We also put in a significant price increase toward the end of last year on First for Women, a 20 percent price increase on that, and we’ve seen First for Women generate more income than the year before. And since Carol (Brooks) took over Woman’s World, it has seen its newsstand sales up 10-15 percent. So, we’re very happy with this category. Phase one was getting margin out of our existing products and phase two was consolidating what we did in the women’s group, where we see the most likely sustainability, and phase three is really looking for acquisitions around this women’s space, where we can kind of consolidate our leadership position and grow for the long term.

Samir Husni: With that diversification of revenue from the newsstand, you’re still the number one and number two on the newsstand. Do you have any feel for all the talk about what’s going on with single copy sales? When you have the two largest selling magazines on the nation’s newsstands; are you sleeping okay at night?

Steven Kotok: (Laughs) We have fears as much as independent publications, all have fears for their own reasons. It’s a tough time of rapid transitions, so anyone who is sleeping well at night probably isn’t doing their job. But this is where we’re dominant and this is where we make our money, so we do want to diversify, but we can’t really change our stock either. We can’t suddenly become a luxury, ad-driven company. We do things our way with a reader-engaged product. It’s definitely scary and we’re definitely pushing further into subscriptions as a way for us to leverage the reader connection that we have, but still be able to not live and die on any one channel.

And that’s always been the case. The last company I ran we were wholly dependent on Google and Amazon. And at the previous company, The Week, we also wanted to get the company to a place where we could survive just on subscriptions, just on advertising, just on digital, where if any one leg of the stool went away we would still be viable because we want to live beyond any one channel or any one dependent partner. So, that’s where we’re trying to get the company and clearly right now we’re very dependent on the newsstand, But if we’re going to be dependent on something, I’d rather be number one in that space and really have a voice in the channel and know that we’re thriving as we work to make ourselves stronger over the long term.

Samir Husni: What is Bauer’s secret recipe, if you can reveal it? Or the magic that actually gives those two magazines the number one and the number two spots when it comes to sales on newsstands.

Steven Kotok: I don’t know if it’s a secret recipe so much as it’s that we’re really playing a different game than a lot of other publications. If you look at some recent redesigns of other titles in the space you really see a redesign focused on persuading advertisers that this is a product read by millennials or being a nice ad environment. And that stuck. There’s nothing wrong with that, those magazines run great businesses and they work at what they do and they’re smart, but we are doing something else. We’re wholly focused on the reader and we won’t make the compromises for other channels of revenue.

If you look at any one of our covers for Woman’s World, a lot of natural remedies, all very medically tested and our editor in chief has a health background and is rigorous about what goes in the magazine, but a lot of other titles just won’t cover that because it’s something that pharmaceutical advertisers don’t like. We still get pharmaceutical advertising because we have a very large audience and we have very, very little overlap with other publications. We have an audience that if you want to reach them you have to come through us, but that’s just an area of emphasis. What choices you make as a brand; we’re always going to put what helps the reader and what the reader wants first. So, there’s no secret sauce, it’s really just what game you’re playing.

Samir Husni: I noticed that you’ve continued with your line of SIPs, such as the food magazines. And you’ve introduced the digest size of First for Women, a special SIP. What else are you planning; what’s cooking on the backburner?

Steve Kotok: (Laughs) A lot more food titles; we find that those are very – they don’t just sell well, but they’re reliable. If we do what we know how to do, with all of our years – I tried to calculate once how many recipes we’ve ran in Woman’s World, 52 issues a year for going on 40 years. And we’ve done a lot of recipes on any given thing, which isn’t just a great source of content, but we just know what people care about. So, the food SIPs have really been successful for us and again, not just because they sell nicely, but because many times the SIP market is kind of a hit and miss business. Some things sell great, some not so great, but food, and maybe it’s just for us because we know about markets so well, but food is very reliable.

We know if we do something on Mediterranean food or gluten-free or something, we’re going to get it right and we’re going to find our audience. So, we see ourselves doing a lot more of that. Other areas have been more hit and miss, and maybe that’s the nature of the business. But it’s also a very saturated market, so we’re trying to find areas where we can really be the best and rely on our expertise and know that we’re going to put out our best product. In some areas, you’ll see five or ten products on the exact same thing and a lot of copycat products. But we’ll be doing more of that, but it can be a tough market because of the saturation.

Samir Husni: And you kept the soap opera magazines, the CBS and ABC soap opera titles. Why did you decide to keep those?

Steven Kotok: It’s just a very healthy and dedicated audience. There’s one competitor that it beats every single week. It’s just such a nice business. The celebrity titles we felt weren’t that differentiated and didn’t have the same loyalty. These products really have loyalty and they’re really reliable. And we’re really good at it; we know how to do it. It’s just a very stable and dedicated business. The scary thing is, again you’re dependent on the networks to broadcast soap operas. It’s not the type of audience who is going to transition to reality shows or nighttime soap operas, it’s really this is where they’re at. But that kind of risk aside, we hate things being out of our control, but that risk aside, it’s exactly what Bauer should be doing and what Bauer is good at, producing products that exactly connect with the right audience and do so reliably.

Samir Husni: With your background, you’ve been in print, in digital; what role do you feel print will play in 2018 and beyond with the multimedia mix that’s out there today?

Steve Kotok: For the reader and for advertisers it’s a different question. For advertisers I think the pendulum can swing back and forth, from what’s going to hit on the digital side and what is most effective on the print side, and now you have an issue with not everyone that’s buying print is even that familiar with it, so the effectiveness doesn’t even interest them as much as we feel it should.

But on the reader’s side, it’s part of the reason that we focus on this women’s service space; we feel we have to be providing a significant service value. In a way, celebrity news does compete with digital and it doesn’t always win. The teen titles that were beloved internally, that’s a market that’s shifted to digital. I think print is going to have a very important place for certain groups of readers that we can provide value for. As a company and as a person, I’m not pro-print, anti-print; you see what’s going on in other companies and they’re trying to be digital-first and we’re just reader-first. We’re going to be the last guy trying to push a print magazine if that’s not what readers want; it’s reader-first.

The women’s service readers definitely like the experience of buying something in print. As much as they love the product and as proud of the product as we are, the buying experience is a big part of it as well. We’re growing our subscriptions, but the physical act of making the purchase from the supermarket and giving yourself a treat after a long day, that is part of the pleasure of these products. Even if some of the information is available online, it’s that retail experience that ultimately excites our consumers.

People talk about retail becoming an event, an entertainment, and a retail-tainment, I’m sure that may be possible, but I think on a very micro level, just buying something that’s for you, that you feel like understands who you are and is a treat, that in itself is a kind of micro retail entertainment. Print will have a role, a very significant role.

Samir Husni: In the two years that you’ve been heading up Bauer, what would you consider the most pleasant moment you have experienced?

Steven Kotok: All my pleasant moments at all of my jobs come from things that go on with the team. It’s not as interesting to an outside audience, but at Bauer, having the first all-company holiday party in seven or eight years; having the company’s first all-hands meeting. A lot of the time two different people who have been at the company for 10 years will meet each other for the first time and watching them have these animated conversations is so great to see. Doing new things, where people at the company are stretching themselves and doing things for the first time—it’s really rewarding.

When I think back on previous jobs, that’s the stuff I remember much more than the “wins,” which when looking back in time, the world changes so much the “wins” aren’t necessarily as relevant, but the people who you see move into leadership positions is what lasts. So, all of my pleasant moments have been that.

Bauer was a very well-run company before I got here, but I think kind of opening it up and making it less about the individual brands and more about the company as a whole, doing things like the one holiday party instead of a bunch, and all-hands meeting, that’s personally rewarding.

Samir Husni: And has there been a moment where you asked yourself why you took this job?

Steven Kotok: (Laughs) There’s definitely a challenge in the supply chain. In one sense, you have really strong relationships with supply chain partners and very good personal relationships, but then there are times when you’re really adversarial. And some of those times you’re dealing with a partner that controls a significant amount of the market, and as a publisher we control a significant amount of the market, so you both have a lot of power and there’s Murphy’s Law. Some of those moments can be pretty fraught, but the individuals who run those organizations seem to be as dedicated as I am to building a good personal relationship to keep things from getting scarier than they need to be and to running good businesses. Most of those operations are privately-owned as well, they’re in it for the long term too. Those would be some of the scarier moments; anything out of your control.

Samir Husni: Do you feel that Bauer USA is on stronger footing today than it was a year ago?

Steven Kotok: Oh yes, yes. The sustainability and strength of the company is stronger now than before we did the transaction with the other titles and before we made some of the changes to focus more on margin. So, yes, that’s kind of unquestioned. That doesn’t mean that things aren’t hard, part of the appeal of the job is that it’s a tough job. It’s strangely rewarding to take on something tough. So, it’s still tough, but as a company compared to a year ago or a year and a half ago, that part is, as I said, unquestioned.

What we do going forward and how we make ourselves even stronger, that’s the part tougher to say, whether we’ll be 100 percent stronger a year, two years, three years from now, but we feel that we’re making the same types of decisions for the same right reasons as the previous ones that worked out.

Samir Husni: This is a question that one of our former students,Sharyn Elizabeth Alfonsi, who works for 60 minutes now, asked Paul McCartney and I really love the question, so I figure I am going to use it in every interview I do since she was a former student: what’s the biggest misconception about you, Steven?

Steven Kotok: I don’t know that people have a lot of conceptions about me. I feel like I make a better impression as time goes on, for whatever reason. I remember when I was executive producer of Dennis Interactive, when Dennis had this digital thing and we would have these meetings with Mercedes and all of these people. The first meeting would be about how cool the programmers were and others, so I was kind of forgotten. By the fifth meeting any question anyone asked, all of the heads would swivel toward me because they knew I had the answer, so I think there’s some sense of being more of a third impression guy than a first impression guy, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s the business of being an extrovert and I’m more of an introvert, but I have noted that, the sense of being initially underestimated and that kind of recalibrating as people get to know me better.

Samir Husni: Is there anything you’d like to add? Any big announcements you’d like to share?

Steven Kotok: (Laughs) No big announcements. We’re working on developing big and exciting announcements. We’re starting to look more earnestly at opportunities for acquisitions. I don’t think we’ll have any announcements until next year, but that’s a big focus here. We feel confident in our ability to operate reader-driven businesses effectively, so we’re looking for opportunities to acquire things. That’s our next big focus.

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

Steven Kotok: From a business perspective it would be that I focused on and understood the reader. My whole career has been based on that; it’s just something I know how to do and that I love and the thing that’s meaningful to me. As a person, that’s kind of a tougher one. I need more self-knowledge than I have, but certainly I think as a person I would hope that people would say he cared in general about whatever was important to care about. As a business person, understanding and being focused on the reader, so maybe it is tattooed on my brain and I didn’t know.

Samir Husni: Last time we talked in 2016, I asked you if I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing, reading a magazine, watching television, cooking, or something else, and you said winding down for you was cooking and having a glass of wine. Are you still doing that or your life is now busier than ever?

Steven Kotok: Since joining Bauer, my wife and I moved to the country so I can be closer to the NJ office, so sitting on our deck and just enjoying being together is our main after work activity. For dinner many nights we have a smorgasbord of dips and vegetables and snacks and cheeses and stuff—that’s our favorite thing

Samir Husni: What keeps you up at night these days?

Steven Kotok: Things outside my control. Along with the supply chain, another aspect you see now is retailers reducing the space allocated to magazines, and all those things. We know that we connect with our readers and anything that comes between us and our readers and is not in our control is going to be what keeps us up at night. The supply chain and retailers, just all of these things. It’s an appeal of the digital ecosphere, that there’s less coming between you and your readers.

So, anything that comes between us and our readers. I never worry about whether we’re connecting with our readers or serving our readers. We work like hell to make sure we are, so we worry about it in essence, but we don’t really worry. We don’t wonder because we have such instant feedback and look into it in such depth. Anything that comes between us and our readers and isn’t in our control is going to keep us up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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