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

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Adam Moss On Magazine Covers, Long-Form Journalism, Change, Print, Digital, And More Great Words Of Wisdom From The Longest Serving Editor-in-Chief Of New York Magazine. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

February 19, 2018

“The cover is no longer really to sell magazines on newsstand. As newsstands have become so much less important to all of us, the cover has a different function. It is basically the brand statement of what we make. It declares what we think is important or interesting; it declares our voice. Also, it’s an amazing document for the purposes of social media. Social media takes your cover and distributes it all over the place and it becomes an advertisement for the magazine that’s actually more important than it was originally meant to be when it was to stimulate newsstand sales.” Adam Moss…

“Before anyone was in this business at all, the New York Metro website was attracting a lot of people and it was attracting the sort of people who, if you were also an advertiser for a high-end luxury product, that was the only way you could reach them. So, from the very beginning, New York Magazine’s website was profitable, which was really unheard of. And what that meant was when the Wasserstein’s bought the magazine, and when I got here, the web wasn’t looked at as dangerous. The web wasn’t looked at as something that was going to steal business, the web was looked at as actually a way to build business. So, the logic of investing into the web, making our site a news site, was kind of obvious.” Adam Moss…

Being Print Proud Digital Smart isn’t just a mantra for showcasing a certain way of thinking when it comes to magazines and magazine media today. The phrase is much more than four words strung together in a random order that makes sense. It’s a vibrantly healthy way of doing business in today’s rapidly changing world of media publishing. New York Magazine and its very humble, and hard-working editor, Adam Moss, has a firm grip on this prescription for success. And why wouldn’t they? They have been looking at the web as a way to build business and not steal it from print years before anyone else had even heard of the word paywall, let alone knew what it meant.
 
And while the magazine’s editor in chief would never admit that he had a definitive hand in all of the success he and New York Magazine have seen, him earning Editor of the Year for Guiding the magazine’s election coverage in 2016 and the magazine winning the overall Magazine of the Year Award when ASME gave out the Ellie’s, it’s obvious to the naked eye that the two of them were made for each other. 
 
I spoke with Adam recently and we talked about many things, one of which was his celebrated abilities as an editor, yet his very un-celebrity type style when it comes to him presenting himself to the rest of the world. His response, and I paraphrase, he would rather his work speak for itself. And as the awards mount up and the magazine continues to buck the odds by making more revenue digitally than with its print component, Mr. Magazine™ would have to say his work definitely speaks for itself.  As does the Print Proud Digital Smart nature of the brand.
 
So, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Adam Moss, a magazine editor that I have followed and observed since 1988 when he launched 7 Days magazine in New York City. It was a delight to talk with Adam, and I am delighted to bring you this most engaging conversation.

But first the sound-bites:

On why he is a “celebrated” editor but not a “celebrity” editor: I think the reason I’m not a celebrity editor is that a ‘celebrity” editor is a somewhat different thing than an editor. And I’ve just never been comfortable doing celebrity-like things. I do my job and I hope I do it well. The more performance aspects of being an editor were never something that I was especially well-suited for.

On his concept of editing and creating a magazine: Well, of course, it’s changed over the years. Early in my career, I was very lucky to have worked at Esquire when Phillip Moffitt was the editor. He was fairly new to editing, certainly brand new to editing when it came to a magazine the scale of Esquire. So, to help him he brought in all of these legendary magazine editors from the ‘60s and ‘70s. And I was a junior editor at the time, and as he was being taught by this group of veterans, so was I.

On how he balances being Print Proud Digital Smart: By hiring good people who know things that you don’t know. And then you learn from them and try to help them think about things in a certain way, but essentially you let them do their jobs. As everything gets more complicated, the role of an editor is to hire specialists and let them do their thing.

On whether he feels more like a manager today rather than an editor: I certainly enjoy editing much more than I enjoy managing. (Laughs) But yes, inevitably, as the organizations that we run, in order to put out magazines and other content, get bigger, you have more and more the job of management, which is a necessary evil.

On his belief that an editor’s job is to know that great magazines are steeped in point of view, voice, and tone: Your main job is to understand what the point of view ought to be and to constantly evangelize it within your own organization, and try to coerce the organization to adapt and speak in that point of view. That’s an essential job.

On deciding what content goes where when it comes to the print and digital platforms: Well, you ask yourself where the audience is for an individual story. And the answer is usually obvious. But often, very often, you publish it in more than one place. Certainly, anything that is in the print magazine is then published on “Vulture” on “The Cut” or “Daily Intelligencer.” And often, something published on Daily Intelligencer also runs on The Cut because it’s of interest to The Cut reader; it’s of interest to the more politically-obsessed Daily Intelligencer reader. You just have this huge canvas now. And you use it in the most creative way that you can think of to reach the maximum audience that story might get.

On whether he thinks we are reaching a danger spot today, in terms of long-form journalism and storytelling in journalism: I think there are lots of threats to what we do, but I don’t believe long-form itself is in danger. In fact, because you can reach so many people through digital distribution, you can find readers for almost anything. And there’s a big, big audience out there for our longer stuff. Our longer stuff tends to do way better than the shorter stuff. It’s a good business to be in to make longer-form journalism. People really like stories and they like storytelling.

On the print platform now being biweekly, but the brand itself being by the hour or by the minute: By the minute, exactly. (Laughs too) When we went biweekly, the point that we were trying to make was that we were trying to adjust to the way in which people now read. They want an instant response to what is happening in the world and we provide that. And then they also want a deeper, more meditative content, not necessarily on a weekly schedule, which made us comfortable with having our stuff read on a biweekly basis.

On whether he thinks there is somehow a halo around a printed magazine cover that does not exist in digital: Probably. The cover is no longer really to sell magazines on newsstand. As newsstands have become so much less important to all of us, the cover has a different function. It is basically the brand statement of what we make. It declares what we think is important or interesting; it declares our voice. Also, it’s an amazing document for the purposes of social media. Social media takes your cover and distributes it all over the place and it becomes an advertisement for the magazine that’s actually more important than it was originally meant to be when it was to stimulate newsstand sales.

On whether he thinks this new idea of magazine covers is good or bad: I try not to think in those terms, because everything is both. Things change; there’s no fighting the things that change. And you just have to adjust to them and think of them as opportunities and not as problems. And I think basically most of the changes have been, not all, but most, have been for the better.

On being one of the few magazines that makes more money from digital than print: We’ve been at it for a very long time. We’ve been at it way longer than most, if not all, magazines. The story of New York and its digital incarnations have preceded me being here. It was kind of coincidence that the previous owners of this magazine went into a joint partnership with Cablevision in order to do their website. There was a website called New York Metro, and New York Metro had the magazine on it and it also had listings and that sort of thing. It was ahead of its time in that way, but it had one other thing that was crucially important, which is the reason that Cablevision wanted the partnership because they wanted to promote a fashion show that they had called “Full Frontal Fashion,” I believe. And what that meant was the promotional device was to run the runway pictures on the website. This was before any fashion designer had his/her own website. So, we were the only place you could get runway pictures, which meant that we got a lot of traffic from the very beginning.

On why he thinks magazine media created a welfare information society at the beginning of the digital age and offered for free the only product they created: It was similar to what almost all content fields did. The music business was famously very confused by the beginning of the digital age. People needed and wanted to get information for free and from the music side, it was easy to steal music. Everybody has been confused about how to make money off of digital habits. And I think the magazine business has been confused too. And it’s only now beginning to reckon with that in a serious way. That’s why you’re seeing paywalls and e-commerce, which we do here, actually very successfully. But also, our experience was that you could actually make advertising money off of the digital content. And so, we did that too.

On whether he feels the brand is a projection of himself: It’s a projection of a group think, and it’s the editor’s job to get the right group together to have that group think. So, it’s not because of me exactly, but it is a projection of a worldview that I’ve helped shape here. And it’s the product of a lot of people thinking. I can’t say that I’ve done anything particularly on purpose. The reason that I’m not out there giving parties and that sort of thing is because I can’t. (Laughs) Not because I willfully decided that was a bad tactic. I actually think it’s a good tactic. I think it’s often very helpful for places to have magazine editors with a higher profile. But for me, that’s just not the way that I work. For me, what it’s about is the work, and that’s what interests me.

On whether he is the longest-serving editor of New York Magazine so far: Yes, that is now true. It happened about two years ago that I passed Ed Kosner, who previously held that honor. I’ve been here almost twice as long as Clay Felker himself was here. I’ve been here forever.

On what we can expect in the next seven years from him and the magazine: I can’t even tell you what to expect tomorrow. (Laughs) This business changes so fast. And it’s a race to catch up to the changes in the business and also, of course, the changes in the world and what we cover.

On what piece of advice he would give upcoming editors or future industry leaders: Listen and watch. Don’t get too entrenched in your ways. Adapt. I think that, right now, is the most important thing an editor has to do, because the changes are so constant and profound. That said, at the same time, know who you are and know what your magazine or brand, if you will, is, and make sure that as things change, you’re true to the essence of what you’re making.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: He tried. (Laughs)

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: Lately, I’ve gotten into drawing. (Laughs) So, I’m drawing madly when I go home. I watch TV and eat. I hang out with my friends and I also do work.

On what keeps him up at night: Everything, I can’t sleep.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Adam Moss, editor in chief, New York Magazine.

Samir Husni: Since 1988 when you launched 7 Days Magazine, I have followed your career, and 7 Days was a great magazine while it lasted, but you have continued the greatness. I was Googling your name, as I do with everyone I interview, and I was stunned that under your name on Google the only title you have is American editor. You are one of the most celebrated editors out there; were, in fact, named Editor of the Year, yet you aren’t a celebrity editor. Why is that?

Adam Moss: Why am I not a celebrity editor? (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too) Yes, you are a “celebrated” editor, but you’re not a “celebrity” editor.

Adam Moss: Yes, I think the reason I’m not a celebrity editor is that a ‘celebrity” editor is a somewhat different thing than an editor. And I’ve just never been comfortable doing celebrity-like things. I do my job and I hope I do it well. The more performance aspects of being an editor were never something that I was especially well-suited for.

Samir Husni: You mentioned in your 50th anniversary issue of New York Magazine that you fell in love with the magazine’s cover, where the picture and the headline were in unison, and you never looked back. You knew you were going to be the editor of the magazine you fell in love with. Can you tell me a little bit about your concept of editing and creating a magazine?

Adam Moss: Well, of course, it’s changed over the years. Early in my career, I was very lucky to have worked at Esquire when Phillip Moffitt was the editor. He was fairly new to editing, certainly brand new to editing when it came to a magazine the scale of Esquire. So, to help him he brought in all of these legendary magazine editors from the ‘60s and ‘70s. And I was a junior editor at the time, and as he was being taught by this group of veterans, so was I.

So, my original concept of being a magazine editor was being an editor of the type that proliferated, and what I still think of as the Golden Age of Magazines. That was a terrific learning experience. I have tried to bring those old values of magazines as a kind of theatre, really, to the work I’ve done in other later eras.

Now, being a magazine editor is something else entirely, because you’re not only dealing with the printed page, you’re dealing with material that gets read, consumed, viewed in all sorts of other ways. It’s a much more expansive role. And I’ve learned as I’ve gone along, as I think all editors have. I’ve learned how to adapt the original values of storytelling, and of interesting and sometimes exciting an audience into the modern era with material consumed in video and digitally, interactive digital and all of the other tools that are available right now.

Samir Husni: Needless to say, you ended up being an excellent student of all of these changes.

Adam Moss: (Laughs) Well, thank you.

Samir Husni: New York Magazine won the overall Magazine of the Year when ASME gave the Ellie Awards, in terms of both the digital and print. Your print magazine is now biweekly and yet, you create covers that people talk about. You give the feeling that you’re Print Proud Digital Smart. How do you balance that?

Adam Moss: By hiring good people who know things that you don’t know. And then you learn from them and try to help them think about things in a certain way, but essentially you let them do their jobs. As everything gets more complicated, the role of an editor is to hire specialists and let them do their thing.

Samir Husni: Do you feel that you’re now more of a manager, rather than an editor?

Adam Moss: I certainly enjoy editing much more than I enjoy managing. (Laughs) But yes, inevitably, as the organizations that we run, in order to put out magazines and other content, get bigger, you have more and more the job of management, which is a necessary evil.

Samir Husni: Yet, you as an editor, believes that great magazines are steeped in point of view, voice, and tone.

Adam Moss: Yes, and that’s your main job. Your main job is to understand what the point of view ought to be and to constantly evangelize it within your own organization, and try to coerce the organization to adapt and speak in that point of view. That’s an essential job.

Samir Husni: However, you’re no longer just ink on paper, you’re all over the platforms. How do you decide what content goes where? This is a great story for print and that is a great story for the web? Do you struggle with those types of decisions when you read a story? Or do you never ask yourself those kinds of questions?

Adam Moss: Well, you ask yourself where the audience is for an individual story. And the answer is usually obvious. But often, very often, you publish it in more than one place. Certainly, anything that is in the print magazine is then published on “Vulture” on “The Cut” or “Daily Intelligencer.” And often, something published on Daily Intelligencer also runs on The Cut because it’s of interest to The Cut reader; it’s of interest to the more politically-obsessed Daily Intelligencer reader. You just have this huge canvas now. And you use it in the most creative way that you can think of to reach the maximum audience that story might get.

One of the great things about magazines these days and their distribution digitally and the way that the magazine business has changed is that with any individual story or piece of content, you are reaching so many more people than you could ever have reached when magazines were just print.

Samir Husni: One of the more famous, or maybe infamous would be a better description, writers of our time by the name of Michael Wolff, wrote a profile about you in 1999. He wrote that when you started at The New York Times Magazine you were an anti-Times sort of figure in the middle of the Times, because you were more into storytelling. As we look at long-form journalism today, do you have any fears that between digital, social media, and a president who believes media is the enemy; are we reaching a danger spot, in terms of long-form journalism and storytelling in journalism?

Adam Moss: I think there are lots of threats to what we do, but I don’t believe long-form itself is in danger. In fact, because you can reach so many people through digital distribution, you can find readers for almost anything. And there’s a big, big audience out there for our longer stuff. Our longer stuff tends to do way better than the shorter stuff. It’s a good business to be in to make longer-form journalism. People really like stories and they like storytelling.

And so, we publish a lot of long-form and we publish way more long-form than we did when I first got here 14 years ago. We also publish a lot of shorter stuff definitely, but we publish a lot more material period. We’re publishing about 140 things per day, so that’s a big difference from when I first got here when we were publishing maybe 30 articles per week.

Samir Husni: So, while the printed platform is biweekly, the brand itself is now by the hour, by the minute, by the second…(Laughs)

Adam Moss: By the minute, exactly. (Laughs too) When we went biweekly, the point that we were trying to make was that we were trying to adjust to the way in which people now read. They want an instant response to what is happening in the world and we provide that. And then they also want a deeper, more meditative content, not necessarily on a weekly schedule, which made us comfortable with having our stuff read on a biweekly basis.

Samir Husni: During these 14 years that you’ve been at New York Magazine, you have laid the groundwork for so many imitators. Your cover designs, what you’ve done to the covers of New York have been imitated worldwide. Wherever I travel overseas, people are always referring to the covers of New York Magazine.

Adam Moss; That’s good to hear.

Samir Husni: Do you still feel that the cover of a printed magazine today makes an impact? Is there somehow a halo around a printed magazine cover that does not exist in digital?

Adam Moss: Probably. The cover is no longer really to sell magazines on newsstand. As newsstands have become so much less important to all of us, the cover has a different function. It is basically the brand statement of what we make. It declares what we think is important or interesting; it declares our voice. Also, it’s an amazing document for the purposes of social media. Social media takes your cover and distributes it all over the place and it becomes an advertisement for the magazine that’s actually more important than it was originally meant to be when it was to stimulate newsstand sales.

Samir Husni: And do you think that is a good thing or a bad thing?

Adam Moss: I try not to think in those terms, because everything is both. Things change; there’s no fighting the things that change. And you just have to adjust to them and think of them as opportunities and not as problems. And I think basically most of the changes have been, not all, but most, have been for the better.

Samir Husni: I heard your CEO last week in New York when she was talking about the revenue from digital; you’re one of the few magazines that is making more money from digital than print.

Adam Moss: Yes, we’ve been at it for a very long time. We’ve been at it way longer than most, if not all, magazines. The story of New York and its digital incarnations have preceded me being here. It was kind of coincidence that the previous owners of this magazine went into a joint partnership with Cablevision in order to do their website. There was a website called New York Metro, and New York Metro had the magazine on it and it also had listings and that sort of thing. It was ahead of its time in that way, but it had one other thing that was crucially important, which is the reason that Cablevision wanted the partnership because they wanted to promote a fashion show that they had called “Full Frontal Fashion,” I believe. And what that meant was the promotional device was to run the runway pictures on the website. This was before any fashion designer had his/her own website. So, we were the only place you could get runway pictures, which meant that we got a lot of traffic from the very beginning.

Before anyone was in this business at all, The New York Metro website was attracting a lot of people and it was attracting the sort of people who, if you were also an advertiser for a high-end luxury product, that was the only way you could reach them. So, from the very beginning, New York Magazine’s website was profitable, which was really unheard of.

And what that meant was when the Wasserstein’s bought the magazine, and when I got here, the web wasn’t looked at as dangerous. The web wasn’t looked at as something that was going to steal business, the web was looked at as actually a way to build business. So, the logic of investing into the web, making our site a news site, was kind of obvious. And so, we did that very early. It was successful and the way we were doing it was successful and was a sort of model, which we did it first with food and then entertainment, etc. That model was easy to just keep replicating. And we’ve built the modern digital New York Magazine from a position of strength.

Samir Husni: And now, you’ve been imitated on both sides. Sports Illustrated just moved to a biweekly schedule in their print edition. Wired is starting a paywall for their digital content; why do you think the majority of some of the “smartest people on the face of the Earth,” magazine editors and publishers, created this welfare information society and gave away the only thing that they actually create?

Adam Moss: It was similar to what almost all content fields did. The music business was famously very confused by the beginning of the digital age. People needed and wanted to get information for free and from the music side, it was easy to steal music. Everybody has been confused about how to make money off of digital habits. And I think the magazine business has been confused too. And it’s only now beginning to reckon with that in a serious way. That’s why you’re seeing paywalls and e-commerce, which we do here, actually very successfully. But also, our experience was that you could actually make advertising money off of the digital content. And so, we did that too.

It’s very confusing. I mean, the smartest people on earth, as you put it, (Laughs) have a lot of reason to be confused. And have had a lot of reason to be confused, because it’s confusing.

Samir Husni: Everyone I’ve talked to, once they found out I was interviewing you, had nothing but compliments to say about you, such as the most humble editor, a hardworking editor. And these words were from people who don’t pay compliments easily. So, you have this halo around you, yet as I stated in the beginning of this conversation, you’re not a “celebrity” editor. Do you thrive on letting your work become the celebrity, such as the cover of New York Magazine with the Bill Cosby accusers on it? Do you feel the brand is a projection of Adam Moss?

Adam Moss: It’s a projection of a group think, and it’s the editor’s job to get the right group together to have that group think. So, it’s not because of me exactly, but it is a projection of a worldview that I’ve helped shape here. And it’s the product of a lot of people thinking. I can’t say that I’ve done anything particularly on purpose. The reason that I’m not out there giving parties and that sort of thing is because I can’t. (Laughs) Not because I willfully decided that was a bad tactic. I actually think it’s a good tactic. I think it’s often very helpful for places to have magazine editors with a higher profile. But for me, that’s just not the way that I work. For me, what it’s about is the work, and that’s what interests me.

Samir Husni: And correct me if I’m mistaken, but aren’t you the longest-serving editor of New York Magazine so far?

Adam Moss: Yes, that is now true. It happened about two years ago that I passed Ed Kosner, who previously held that honor. I’ve been here almost twice as long as Clay Felker himself was here. I’ve been here forever.

Samir Husni: What can we expect in the next seven years, since we’re going in multiples of seven, you’ve been there 14 years now?

Adam Moss: I can’t even tell you what to expect tomorrow. (Laughs) This business changes so fast. And it’s a race to catch up to the changes in the business and also, of course, the changes in the world and what we cover.

Samir Husni: What piece of advice would you give upcoming magazine editors, future industry leaders? From somebody who has been there and done that, adapted to all of the changes; what piece of advice would you give them?

Adam Moss: Listen and watch. Don’t get too entrenched in your ways. Adapt. I think that, right now, is the most important thing an editor has to do, because the changes are so constant and profound. That said, at the same time, know who you are and know what your magazine or brand, if you will, is, and make sure that as things change, you’re true to the essence of what you’re making.

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

Adam Moss: He tried. (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?

Adam Moss: Lately, I’ve gotten into drawing. (Laughs) So, I’m drawing madly when I go home. I watch TV and eat. I hang out with my friends and I also do work.

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

Adam Moss: Everything, I can’t sleep.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Two and a Half Days of Magazine and Magazine Media Bliss. An Invite to Attend the Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT 8 Experience April 17 to 19 in Oxford, Mississippi.

February 2, 2018

ACT 8 Experience is dedicated to the memory of Jennifer Reeder, VP of Sales at Democrat Printing and Lithography and a board member of the Magazine Innovation Center whose untimely death shocked all of us. May she rest in peace.

Welcome back, lovers of magazine and magazine media! I know you’ve all been lurking the blog to find out more information regarding our annual ACT Experience, the only Experience that we talk about nothing but magazines and magazine media. This year’s conference – ACT 8 Experience: Print Proud Digital Smart – is not for the faint-hearted. I can assure you we have an interesting lineup of professionals from all over the world. If you’re interested in marketing, journalism, digital or a combination of all, you need to attend this conference. It will be a wild ride of critiquing the current magazine industry and welcoming my magazine students who plan to change it for the better. Mark your calendars for April 17-19, because this will be the biggest and best ACT (Amplify, Clarify and Testify) to date.

For less than $400 you can attend and be part of this annual experience. ACT 8 Experience will be a chance for you to inspire industry leaders and future industry leaders to propel the world of magazines into a profitable future. I guarantee you will walk away with better connections and feel inspired about the magazine world outside your bubble.

This year we are welcoming several new faces including Linda Thomas Brooks, President & CEO of MPA, James Hewes, President and CEO of FIPP, the global media network based in the Untied KIngdom, Erik van Erp, Founder and Editor of Print Media News in The Netherlands, Bonnie Kintzer, President & CEO – Trusted Media Brands (formerly Reader’s Digest, and Newell Turner, Editorial Director of the Hearst Design Group.

You’ll have direct access to more than 10 editors and editorial directors, 9 presidents and CEO’s and a slew of marketers, designers and sales consultants. See the list of confirmed speakers so far at the end of this blog. A total of 33 magazine and magazine media makers sharing their knowledge and wisdom in the world of magazine and magazine media making.

Consider this a small vacation. Sit back and listen to prolific speakers tell their stories – their trials and tribulations we all rallied against to become the best writers, designers marketers and business people we could be.

Immerse yourself in the foothills of Mississippi by exploring the small but mighty town of Oxford. Take a step into southern past by strolling the streets in Clarksdale, Mississippi where the Delta Blues Museum and Morgan Freeman’s famous Ground Zero restaurant sit tucked into a humble downtown. Allow your creative juices to flow as you network with industry leaders.

I personally guarantee you will leave Oxford not only with a leg up on the industry but with a belly full of Mississippi fried catfish and an ear full of soothing, Delta blues. It’s a refreshing experience to slow down to the Mississippi pace of life. Enjoy a memorable ACT experience of learning, doing, seeing and living the Mississippi way.

Here is the link to register: http://maginnovation.org/act/register/. We only permit 100 attendees, so hop on now to reserve your spot. Join us this April for an (ACT) experience to remember!

Confirmed ACT 8 Experience Speakers (in Alpha Order) as of Feb. 1, 2018

Joseph Ballarini: Founder and Editor-in-Chief – Tail Fly Fishing magazine

Joe Berger: Publishers Marketing & Sales Consultant, Joseph Berger Associates
 
Linda Thomas Brooks: President & CEO – MPA: The Association of
Magazine Media
 
Deborah Corn: Principal, Chief Blogger, and Intergalactic Ambassador to The Printerverse™ – Print Media Centr
 
Marisa Davis: Associate Director, Product Marketing – MNI Targeted Media
 
Daniel Dejan: North American ETC (Education, Consulting and Training),
Print Creative Manager – Sappi Fine Paper
 
Jim Elliott: President – The James G. Elliott Company. 

Erik van Erp: Founder and Editor, Print Media News, The Netherlands
 
John French: Co-Founder – French LLC

Tony Frost: Senior Vice President, TVGM LLC, TV Guide

Natashia Gregoire: Reputation Manager, Editor, Access magazine – Fed Ex

Abdulsalam Haykal: Founder and Publisher, Harvard Business Review Arabic, United Arab Emirates

James Hewes: President & CEO – FIPP: The Network For Global Media
 
Mona Hidayet: Executive Director, Clients & Products – Advantage CS

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: Founder and Director, Magazine Innovation Center
 
Joe Hyrkin: CEO – issuu

Todd Krizelman: CEO – MEDIAradar
 
Bonnie Kintzer: President & CEO – Trusted Media Brands
 
Jerry Lynch: President – Magazine And Books, Retail Association
 
Daren Mazzucca: Vice President/Publisher – Martha Stewart Living

Mark Potts: Managing Editor – Alta The Journal of Alta California

Sebastian Raatz: Publisher/Co-founder – Centennial Media

Jen Ripple: Founder and Editor in Chief – DUN magazine

Monique de Ruiter: Former Editor Diversity magazine and VTWonen – The Netherlands

Bo Sacks: President, Precision Media Group

Ray Shaw: Executive Vice President/Managing Director – MagNet

Tony Silber: Former editor – Folio

Franska Stuy: Founder & Editor – Franska.NL, The Netherlands

John Thames: Founder & Publisher – Covey Rise Magazine
 
Newell Turner: Editorial Director – Hearst Design Group
 
Liz Vaccariello: Editor in Chief, Parents Magazine, and Content Director, Meredith Parents Network
 
Jeffrey Vitter: Chancellor – University of Mississippi
 
Thomas Whitney: President, Democrat Printing & Lithographing

Stay tuned as more speakers are added to the roster…

Don’t wait, register today. Registration is limited to the first 100 people. See you in April.

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William R. Hearst III to Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: I Like To Feel That Our Readers Aren’t A Mailing List, That They Are An Actual Community. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With The Publisher & Editor Of Alta Journal Of Alta California…

January 29, 2018

“I wanted to deal with things that last a little bit longer. I was thinking about the people that I know: writers, photographers, editors; these are people who often write books, that take some time to write something. I was less interested in immediacy; I wanted things that had a lasting quality.” Will Hearst…

“We look at the advertising as the person who creates that product telling the story of their product. And if we believe that their product is good and their story is honest or amusing, then we induce them to advertise. In the long run, I think we’re going to make it or not make it on whether readers think we’re doing a good job and are willing to pay something. And if you look at the balance sheets of magazines and newspapers, what you’ll see is more revenue is coming from circulation, sometimes online circulation, sometimes print, and less revenue is coming from traditional advertising.” Will Hearst…

“Publishing magazines, to use a mathematical analogy; it’s an infinite, dimensional space. It’s not like there’s five niches and you have to pick one. There’s always something else; it’s always around the corner that there’s some originality. I believe in Michael Porter’s theory: Don’t compete to be the best at something that exists, compete to be different. Compete to find something that no one is doing and then do that better than anyone else does.” Will Hearst…

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch story…

William R. Hearst III (Will Hearst) is certainly no stranger to the world of publishing. From newspapers to magazines, he has ran the gamut of creating and guiding content for most of his life. Publishing to him, magazines in particular, is like facing an infinite, dimensional space, with the possibility of originality around every corner. Today, that originality comes in the form of a beautifully-done, large format title called “Alta Journal of Alta California.”

I spoke with Will recently and was fascinated by many of his ideas and suggestions when it came to business models, advertising, and the fact that he believes in Harvard’s Michael Porter’s theory that one shouldn’t compete to be the best at something that already exists, but instead, one should strive to compete to be different. Compete to find something that no one is doing and then do that better than anyone else does. Enter Alta. The magazine is dedicated to speaking to the local communities of the area that Will felt wasn’t being included in any conversation that already existed. So, being uniquely different was organic for the brand.

He is a firm believer in print, yet has a definitive desire to serve the online reader as well, and definitely represents the Print Proud Digital Smart model excellently. His staff gets full credit from him when it comes to editorial talent and factuality. In fact, he also follows mathematician, Don Knuth’s lead when it comes to monetarily rewarding readers for pointing out typos and factual errors in the editorial of the magazine. He has a penchant for exactness that in this age of “fake news” and “alternative facts” is greatly appreciated.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with a man whose greatest wish for his new publication is that he can make the experience of reading the magazine a little bit like the experience of actually living it, William R. Hearst III, editor and publisher, Alta Journal of Alta California.

But first the sound-bites:

On his idea of the new media model for Alta: My notion of the old media model is, and you can exaggerate here; the extreme of the old model is that you’re going to have a genius editor, William Shawn, or maybe you have Helen Gurley Brown, or somebody who is able to answer every question. And then the staff basically runs around executing that plan. At the opposite end of the spectrum, you have a complete, sort of blog community, every opinion is equal; you’re not really talking about facts; you have a comment section of the average website. And I thought there should be something in the middle where you had people who really wanted to work at being editors. I like to feel that our readers aren’t a mailing list, that it’s an actual community. And the community could disagree with us; the culture could change and we would need to change with it. So, I thought of a more dynamic, open model; a little more democratic, but not 100 percent democratic either.

On his challenge to readers that if a factual mistake or misstatement is found in the printed magazine, they will receive $10: I stole the idea from Don Knuth who wrote the print bible of software. He was writing technical articles where mistakes and typos meant that the software didn’t work or what was stated was wrong, but I just felt like we should challenge ourselves. And I worked for a guy when I was younger, the editor of the editorial page of The San Francisco Examiner, and his view was that there should be no typos on the editorial pages. There could be typos in the newspaper because you’re on deadline and you’re in a hurry, but in the things where you were really putting the brand of the owner on the page, there should be no typos.

On why he insisted on a print component for Alta: There are two reasons really and one of them is a content reason and one of them is a business reason. The content reason is that I wanted to deal with things that last a little bit longer. I was thinking about the people that I know: writers, photographers, editors; these are people who often write books, that take some time to write something. I was less interested in immediacy; I wanted things that had a lasting quality. And one reason print attracted me was I wouldn’t be yoked to the daily cycle of doing a website or a blog, because if you’re doing the Huffington Post or you’re doing these sites that have to be updated every 24 hours, you’re kind of forced to follow the news.

On whether he foresees a day without a print version: I don’t really. It’s like asking whether you think books will go away because there are books on Kindle? There’s a pace to writing a book. It just isn’t instant; it requires research, commitment, and digging deeper into a subject. And that’s the area in which I like to work, so I think that will persist. Maybe paper will go away, but I don’t think books will go away, and therefore I don’t think magazines and publishing will go away.

On what he would hope to say that he had accomplished with the brand one year from now: In your interviews, I was very struck by the guys from Garden & Gun magazine. This isn’t my demographic, but these guys really know what they’re doing. They know what kind of article fits in their magazine and what kind of article doesn’t. And they might have an article about hunting dogs that we would ever run, but for them it’s just right. They know their audience. And they’re regional, but they have the culture of their region in their blood. And that’s the kind of magazine that I’d like to be. I’d like to be favorably compared to those guys, in terms of writing quality and topical interest. If you live in that area; if you’re in my audience and in my community, I’d like you to feel this is your magazine. That’s what I’d like to say in a year.

On whether the editorial board and the inspirations that are credited in the magazine are his, Will Hearst’s, or Alta’s: They belong to the Journal of Alta California and we sort of rounded up the input of our staff and even wrote to a few people who told us we didn’t have enough women or people of other ethnicities, so we reedited the Inspiration Board to be a more complete history of our region. And less just people that “Will” liked to read. And we have our Board of Contributors, some of whom are active contributors and some of whom are on standby, because there are special topics where they have expertise.

On the 1970s-1980s magazine that tried to be the New York of California called “The New West”: They did a very good job, but I think they were to some degree yoked to this shorter cycle. They were modeled on New York Magazine, which was weekly, then bimonthly. But they had to keep up with events. A new politician comes onto the scene and they had to write about it. And new restaurants open.

On being both the editor and the publisher: Well, that’s another compromise. My title was originally going to be “proprietor.” I wanted people to think of the staff as the editorially creative talent, and I was there as a financial investor and as the owner; as the buck-stops-here. But I didn’t want to pretend that I would be doing everything, because you can’t do it all. The business is made out of people; it’s not made out of numbers.

On advertising and how he wants it to work in Alta: I wanted to follow the equation the way I think it’s moving, where readers have to be served well enough that you can begin to extract more revenue from them. They’re not going to pay for something that’s no good and they’re not going to overpay relative to competition. But my feeling is that good media will become more paid, and you’ve seen The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal start to charge for their websites. Kindle books are not free because there’s advertising in them. I think there’s a countertrend where readers have to pay a little more and advertisers are willing to pay more. And we wanted to anticipate that.

On advertising becoming less important over reader circulation revenue: Advertisers are more fickle than readers. Readers decide what they like and what they’re willing to pay for. Advertisers move in herds. And the herd is moving to online and the herd is moving to Facebook, and there may be good reasons to do that, but I think chasing the herd from the back is not a good business strategy.

On anything he’d like to add: Publishing magazines, to use a mathematical analogy; it’s an infinite, dimensional space. It’s not like there’s five niches and you have to pick one. There’s always something else; it’s always around the corner that there’s some originality. I believe in Michael Porter’s theory: Don’t compete to be the best at something that exists, compete to be different. Compete to find something that no one is doing and then do that better than anyone else does.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: We always had a great place to work; we always had fun and we were challenged.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: During the day, it’s probably reading or looking at manuscripts or calling people to see if I can cajole them into working with me. And at the end of the day, it could be a little bit of reading or it could be my kids. And once in a while, I like to solve math problems for fun.

On what keeps him up at night: What keeps me up at night is trying to make the experience of reading the magazine a little bit like the experience of living out here in the zone of arts and culture, technology and exploration. I’d like to do a little more environmental writing in the next year. I’d like to connect to that part of our history.


And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with William R. Hearst III, editor & publisher, Alta Journal of Alta California.

Samir Husni: In your second editorial of the magazine, you write that you’re not a big believer in the old media model, but rather you’re trying to create a new model; a community where subscribers, staff, everybody is curating the information. Can you expand a little bit on your understanding of the new model for Alta, Journal of Alta California?

William R. Hearst III: Like a lot of projects, this starts with an idea or sort of a notion. I didn’t wake up as a youngster thinking that I wanted to start a magazine someday. The notion was a certain uncovered coverage area of the West, and its arts and culture.

I like to read; I’m a voracious reader and I’m involved with a magazine company and a newspaper company. I’ve been a newspaper publisher, so I’m very comfortable with reading, but I just felt that there was this underserved community that had to do with experiences of people who live in the West. People who sort of see the world like that New Yorker cartoon, but from a different point of view. One where New York and Manhattan seem very faraway and the immediate foreground is the beach and surfing, the mountains and the environment, Hollywood and Silicon Valley; these are our local communities. And I felt that I wanted to do something to talk to those communities. Then the idea of a magazine came second.

My notion of the old media model is, and you can exaggerate here; the extreme of the old model is that you’re going to have a genius editor, William Shawn, or maybe you have Helen Gurley Brown, or somebody who is able to answer every question. And then the staff basically runs around executing that plan.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, you have a complete, sort of blog community, every opinion is equal; you’re not really talking about facts; you have a comment section of the average website. And I thought there should be something in the middle where you had people who really wanted to work at being editors. Who would cultivate writers; look at pictures and put packages together, but also where some of the people who were writers would become editors, and some of the people who were readers would become writers, and not just in “Letters to the Editor.” So, there would be a much more fluid boundary between who the official staff people were and who the reader people were; who were the contributors and who were the advertisers.

I like to feel that our readers aren’t a mailing list, that it’s an actual community. And the community could disagree with us; the culture could change and we would need to change with it. So, I thought of a more dynamic, open model; a little more democratic, but not 100 percent democratic either.

Samir Husni: But you take this community one step further; this is probably one of the few times in my 40 years of following the magazine industry that I find an editor challenging readers, telling them that you will pay $10 if they find a mistake in the printed magazine.

Will Hearst: I stole the idea from Don Knuth who wrote the print bible of software. He was writing technical articles where mistakes and typos meant that the software didn’t work or what was stated was wrong, but I just felt like we should challenge ourselves. And I worked for a guy when I was younger, the editor of the editorial page of The San Francisco Examiner, and his view was that there should be no typos on the editorial pages. There could be typos in the newspaper because you’re on deadline and you’re in a hurry, but in the things where you were really putting the brand of the owner on the page, there should be no typos. So, I grew up in a culture where typos were, while maybe you couldn’t eliminate them; they were costly. And if you made a typo you had to apologize; you had to correct it and admit your mistake.

So, I stole this idea from Don Knuth that we would pay when people told us that we had a fact wrong, a reference that was incorrect, or we had a date wrong. There could be other kinds of mistakes that are more subject to interpretation, but when there are straightforward, factual mistakes or misstatements, or even gross errors of omission, we would make ourselves pay a fine to our readers who had found those things and we would honestly acknowledge them and move on.

Samir Husni: And…

Will Hearst: You’re dying to ask how much it has cost us so far, right? (Laughs)

Samir Husni: I was going to say that you’re either a very wealthy man or…(Laughs too)

Will Hearst: (Laughs again) No, we’ve paid out less than $100, but more than $10 since we put the policy in place.

Samir Husni: In this digital age, why did you insist on a print component for the Journal of Alta California?

Will Hearst: We get asked that question a lot and I think there are two reasons really and one of them is a content reason and one of them is a business reason. The content reason is that I wanted to deal with things that last a little bit longer. I was thinking about the people that I know: writers, photographers, editors; these are people who often write books, that take some time to write something. I was less interested in immediacy; I wanted things that had a lasting quality.

I remember when I was a newspaper editor and being surprised that more people go to museums than go to sporting events. More people attend cultural events than attend things that we consider to be pop culture. And so I thought there was a large audience of people who were interested in the arts and culture and technology and ideas, and that audience was really not interested in breaking news.

So, the people that I wanted to work with were working on a different schedule. And one reason print attracted me was I wouldn’t be yoked to the daily cycle of doing a website or a blog, because if you’re doing the Huffington Post or you’re doing these sites that have to be updated every 24 hours, you’re kind of forced to follow the news. Something happens and you have to react to it.

I wanted to break away from that and print seemed more natural to enforce that discipline on us and we would bore the crap out of people online if we only updated the site once a quarter or once a month, or once a week even was too slow. So, that was kind of the content reason. The things that we wanted to write about and the people that we wanted to work with were not naturally immediacy people, they were people who were more reflective.

And the second reason was just economics. If you’re trying to do a daily, you have to have a large staff and you have to have people constantly working on a short deadline. It was just too expensive to do that. So, for the topics that we wanted to cover, something that had a more leisurely pace was better-suited.

Now, I do feel, going back to the community idea, that we need to serve people who don’t want print or who want to access articles online or want to access an archive. So we’re trying to find ways to make the online archive and the online edition of the Journal of Alta California be very complete and no additional charge, where part of being a member is you get it all. You become a member and then you get everything.

And one of the things that I’m debating is whether we should put more things on the website. For example, we have a person who writes an article; he writes 2,000 words and we can run maybe 1,500. Well, maybe we should let the author go longer online for the people who really want to drill down one more level. So, we’re still trying to figure out what our online strategy is. We know what our print strategy is; we’re print people so we kind of know what to do and what we can afford to do.

Another question becomes: what should we do online? It shouldn’t be a scaled-down version of print. It should be an alternative extension of print. And we haven’t quite figured that out yet. I’m not anti-online. The 2018 online newspaper has probably 10 times more readers than the print newspaper, just to give you an example. So, I’m not turning my back on the online edition, I’m just trying to figure out how to make the two work together. But my core goal is more this membership idea; writing about certain topics; covering it well; and then serving that membership with whatever form of content is more convenient for them.

And as 10 years goes by and we have 100 readers for print and one million readers for online, then we should probably give up the print and be 100 percent online.

Samir Husni: And do you ever foresee that happening in our lifetime?

Will Hearst: I don’t really. It’s like asking whether you think books will go away because there are books on Kindle? There’s a pace to writing a book. It just isn’t instant; it requires research, commitment, and digging deeper into a subject. And that’s the area in which I like to work, so I think that will persist. Maybe paper will go away, but I don’t think books will go away, and therefore I don’t think magazines and publishing will go away.

I happen to like print; I happen to like the physical, tactile quality. You don’t need batteries; you can fold it up; you can tear it apart. But I tend to be a media consumer; I’m not a vegetarian when it comes to media. I’m kind of an omnivore. I like online; I like print; I like video; I like media.

It’s not unheard of for me that when I buy a book, I’ll buy the audio book and then buy the print book, and I’ll buy the Kindle book because I just really like that particular book. (Laughs) And I consume it different chunks at different times. It’s a little more expensive than maybe settling on one habit, but I think media consumption is about information and about human beings. It’s about learning; it’s not about print or online. It’s not about technology; it’s about the content of content.

Samir Husni: That’s one thing I strive for in my teaching; to tell the students that I don’t want to teach them the toys of the profession, they keep changing. They need to learn the profession.

Will Hearst: It’s very interesting; I give speeches sometimes to newspaper people and I find that if you’re a 60-year-old newspaper person, you’re kind of happy, because you’re going to retire and you can forget all about this technology. And if you’re a very young person interested in journalism, you’re very enthused about your career, because you’re probably going to be a blogger and appear on television, write, shoot your own pictures and maybe edit other people’s work. So, you have this multidimensional talent group in the younger generation.

And people in the middle are sort of lost, because they’re a little too old to learn all of the new skills; they’re a little more craft-union oriented, but they’re not close enough to retirement to turn their backs on it. They still have another 20 years to go. (Laughs)

The Hearst Foundation has a journalism award, and these are people who are freshmen in college, sometimes they’re a little bit father along, but they’re typically pre-professional, and they’re enthusiasm is amazing. And their skillset is so much wider than when I was a student. These people aren’t just photographers; they’re writers, photographers, broadcasters, bloggers, reporters, travelers; they’re multidimensional people. If you like media, you better be prepared to be a multitalented athlete. It’s a decathlon; it’s not a single-sport object.

Samir Husni: Now that you have two issues under your belt; if we had this conversation a year from now again, what would you hope to tell me that you had accomplished in the year since Issue two was out?

Will Hearst: I’d like to do more things outside of just California; I’d like to do the West. I think that’s really the topic zone. If I’m successful, I’d like to have people in Portland, Seattle, and San Diego. Maybe someone in Mexico; maybe some people in Denver who are correspondents and are sending us story ideas, and be where people in those geographies feel that we’re to talking to them.

In your interviews, I was very struck by the guys from Garden & Gun magazine. This isn’t my demographic, but these guys really know what they’re doing. They know what kind of article fits in their magazine and what kind of article doesn’t. And they might have an article about hunting dogs that we would ever run, but for them it’s just right. They know their audience. And they’re regional, but they have the culture of their region in their blood. And that’s the kind of magazine that I’d like to be. I’d like to be favorably compared to those guys, in terms of writing quality and topical interest. If you live in that area; if you’re in my audience and in my community, I’d like you to feel this is your magazine. That’s what I’d like to say in a year.

Samir Husni: When I look at your editorial board and your inspirations; are these Will Hearst’s inspirations and editorial board or do these belong to Alta Journal of Alta California?

Will Hearst: They belong to the Journal of Alta California and we sort of rounded up the input of our staff and even wrote to a few people who told us we didn’t have enough women or people of other ethnicities, so we reedited the Inspiration Board to be a more complete history of our region. And less just people that “Will” liked to read. And we have our Board of Contributors, some of whom are active contributors and some of whom are on standby, because there are special topics where they have expertise.

But I like the idea of honoring the people who came before us, who were already part of the canon of Western literature. And Kevin Starr, who I wrote about in my editorial, was a big believer in the idea that there was a Western canon of writers, viewpoints and experiences. And that this was different than the East and that it was literature-defined; a little bit less academically and more from the life experiences of people who lived out here. So, I wanted to put that Board of Inspiration in to kind of show people that we were respectful of our elders and looking to take the next step, but also to be inspired by what they did before us.

Samir Husni: In the late ‘70s or early ‘80s, I remember there was a magazine that tried to be the New York of California called “The New West.”

Will Hearst: Yes.

Samir Husni: In fact, there was two of them.

Will Hearst: They did a very good job, but I think they were to some degree yoked to this shorter cycle. They were modeled on New York Magazine, which was weekly, then bimonthly. But they had to keep up with events. A new politician comes onto the scene and they had to write about it. And new restaurants open.

So, we wanted to step back from that kind of pace, which I don’t think works in the 2018 era. I think that’s very expensive to do. I don’t know how The New Yorker people can afford to be a weekly, because you have to have a permanent staff. And you have to have a large staff of writers who are employees, not just contributors. That’s a very expensive proposition. They have a great brand and they’ve been doing it for a long time and they have a very loyal audience, so I don’t think they’re in trouble. I don’t mean to suggest that. But for a startup that would be an impossibly ambitious idea, I think.

Samir Husni: Being the editor and the publisher…

Will Hearst: Well, that’s another compromise. My title was originally going to be “proprietor.” I wanted people to think of the staff as the editorially creative talent, and I was there as a financial investor and as the owner; as the buck-stops-here. But I didn’t want to pretend that I would be doing everything, because you can’t do it all. The business is made out of people; it’s not made out of numbers.

So, you have to get really good people and you have to give them a chance to shine. And to make their own decisions. Our editorial meetings are very, I want to say contentious; people are very candid about offering their opinions and we try and make decisions, and maybe my vote is the last vote, but I’m very interested in making sure that people feel like it’s their magazine, that it’s not the Will Hearst magazine; it’s a community magazine and I’m the proprietor. I’m the caretaker of the community, but I’m not the tsar. I’m not the president.

Samir Husni: But as publisher, you have a say even about the ads. One of the things that captivated me when I was flipping through the pages was the type of advertisements that are in the magazine.

Will Hearst: My study of publishing in this era is that little by little advertising is less and less important and more and more difficult to obtain. In the ‘70s and ‘80s when I was a younger person, advertising was 80 percent of the revenue. And circulation was something that you had to try and maximize, because you used it to support your advertising rate base. And I think little by little what has happened is that it’s become very expensive to keep giving magazines away, and you become a slave to advertising.

And I wanted to follow the equation the way I think it’s moving, where readers have to be served well enough that you can begin to extract more revenue from them. They’re not going to pay for something that’s no good and they’re not going to overpay relative to competition. But my feeling is that good media will become more paid, and you’ve seen The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal start to charge for their websites. Kindle books are not free because there’s advertising in them. I think there’s a countertrend where readers have to pay a little more and advertisers are willing to pay more. And we wanted to anticipate that.

I looked at the Whole Earth Catalog and other places where the advertising is really products that would be of interest to the readers as opposed to whomever is willing to pay the freight. So, we give very discounted packages for people who want to advertise with us and we’re very selective about advertising, because we’re not charging them very much and we can afford to be a little bit choosy. We don’t take ads from people whose products we don’t think our readers would be interested in.

We look at the advertising as the person who creates that product telling the story of their product. And if we believe that their product is good and their story is honest or amusing, then we induce them to advertise. In the long run, I think we’re going to make it or not make it on whether readers think we’re doing a good job and are willing to pay something.

And if you look at the balance sheets of magazines and newspapers, what you’ll see is more revenue is coming from circulation, sometimes online circulation, sometimes print, and less revenue is coming from traditional advertising.

Samir Husni: Yes, in fact, one of the last new magazines that Meredith published, The Magnolia Journal, was based on 85 percent revenue from circulation and 15 percent from advertising, which is almost the opposite of the way things were.

Will Hearst: But if you go back to the 19th century, when my grandfather was publishing in San Francisco, circulation was 80 percent and advertising was kind of like an extra. It was nice to have; it was an extra. But the real make-or-break was would people put a coin in the box to buy the newspaper? Or typically, buy it in single copy form. And I think, to some degree, we’ve come full circle.

Advertisers are more fickle than readers. Readers decide what they like and what they’re willing to pay for. Advertisers move in herds. And the herd is moving to online and the herd is moving to Facebook, and there may be good reasons to do that, but I think chasing the herd from the back is not a good business strategy.

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

Will Hearst: Publishing magazines, to use a mathematical analogy; it’s an infinite, dimensional space. It’s not like there’s five niches and you have to pick one. There’s always something else; it’s always around the corner that there’s some originality. I believe in Michael Porter’s theory: Don’t compete to be the best at something that exists, compete to be different. Compete to find something that no one is doing and then do that better than anyone else does.

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

Will Hearst: We always had a great place to work; we always had fun and we were challenged.

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?

Will Hearst: During the day, it’s probably reading or looking at manuscripts or calling people to see if I can cajole them into working with me. And at the end of the day, it could be a little bit of reading or it could be my kids. And once in a while, I like to solve math problems for fun.

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

Will Hearst: What keeps me up at night is trying to make the experience of reading the magazine a little bit like the experience of living out here in the zone of arts and culture, technology and exploration. I’d like to do a little more environmental writing in the next year. I’d like to connect to that part of our history.

And the other thing that keeps me up is who are the writers; who are the editors; who are the photographers, and where are the young writers? I think I have a pretty good Rolodex of people my generation who are proven writers, write on deadline, and who are good reporters, but we will have failed if we don’t find two or three young voices that no one has ever heard of. And I hope that we give them their first chance to be in the big-time. I hope that we discover them earlier and we promote them properly. And when they become so famous that we can’t afford them anymore; we will wish them good luck.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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The Mr. Magazine™ Manifesto 2018: Never Stop Learning…

January 1, 2018

A Student Of Magazines For 40 Years

Humbled and proud to be on the Jan. 2018 cover of the Lebanese magazine Al Iktissad Al Jadeed. The cover story traces my journey and love of magazines from the streets of Tripoli, Lebanon to the United States and beyond. Thank you Bassem Bakkour.

I came to America in 1978 as a student of magazines and 40 years later I continue to be a student of magazines. That was a very profound year for me, as it laid the final foundation for something that was started much longer ago than that, when I was a mere boy growing up in Tripoli, Lebanon: my love and addiction for magazines. My hobby became my education, and my education became my profession. I have never worked a day in my life.

As a student of magazines, I have been very fortunate to have interviewed many eminent heads of magazines over the years. In fact, I interviewed 70 industry leaders in 2017 and it was the toughest job ever to highlight only 18 quotes (since it is 2018 that we are celebrating) out of those 70. Each and every interview provided me with many lessons to learn from. So, in true student form, and for the Mr. Magazine™ Manifesto, I decided to let them speak about the industry that I study so profusely. Their words are eloquent and resonate with what magazines are all about: an experience that transforms and transcends time and circumstances, while staying honest and hopeful about the digital age we’re living in.

So, Happy New Year from Mr. Magazine™. Let’s make 2018 the best year yet and I hope you glean as much wisdom and inspiration as I did from the following 18 lessons presented in no particular order:

1. Magazines Are Money Makers:

“We like to make money. We think there is money in print and more print, and we like to make money and grow profits in digital. You can’t have one be primary and one be secondary. We have to be good at both. The businesses have some things in common, but also, a lot of things that are not in common with each other. And we have to be very skilled at running good, solidly-profitable businesses in all of the areas that we operate.” David Carey, President Hearst Magazines.

2. Never Lose Sight Of The Soul And Purpose Of The Magazine:

“But here’s the thing, and this is the important thing; my job and our job in this moment in time is to get all of the technological things right, but never to lose sight of, or the feel for, what The New Yorker is or should be. That if we only concentrate on these questions of technology and business and all the rest, and lose sight of the soul of the place, of the purpose of the place, of the integrity of the place, all-knowing that we’re going to make mistakes along the way, that if we lose sight of that then it’s not worth it.” David Remnick, Editor, The New Yorker

3. Always Put Readers First:

“I tell my staff all of the time; think about your reader, and when you have a million things coming at you; when you’re wrestling with a story or when you’re confused about what to do next, just think about your reader and put yourself in their shoes and look at it from their perspective. And as long as you do that, you’re going to make the right decision.” Sid Evans, Editor In Chief, Southern Living & Coastal Living

4. Hope To Grow Again:

“I’d also like to say that it’s great to speak to someone who is passionate about print. I’m someone who grew up loving print. I love the print medium and nothing would make me happier than helping this company win in this new world and grow again. That’s what we wake up every day to do here.” Rich Battista, President and CEO, Time Inc.

5. Readers Will Pay For Quality Content:

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

6. Magazines and Magazine Media Brands Are Credible:

“Part of what we’re doing is talking to consumers to remind them that magazine media brands have that credibility…People have figured out that not all content is created equal and consumers are using magazine brands as a shortcut to quality…All of the outside research, not MPA research, proves that magazines build brands and sell products at the same time better than any other media channel.” Linda Thomas Brooks, President & CEO, MPA: The Magazine Media Association

7. Inspiration Versus Utility:

“Consumers and women still love the printed format to turn to for inspiration and for more of that lean-back experience. And what we look for more with digital is as a utility to help them to do something in the short-term. So, inspiration versus utility, as I like to say.” Tom Harty, President & COO, Meredith

8. Print Is Restorative:

“I think you’re seeing a move-back to print; a move-back to the appreciation that print is restorative; it’s actually information that you take in. We know that there was a connection between the tactile, taking in of information… so, the touching of print and the absorption of information. And I feel very confident that print will continue to evolve and remain relevant.” Joanna Coles, Chief Content Officer, Hearst Magazines

9. Magazines Provide A Bonding Time That Makes You Feel Special:

“Right now there isn’t a digital component for Coloring with Mommy, because it’s really print and paper-driven. It’s a book that digitally, even if you printed out a comic book page, it wouldn’t be the same quality and it wouldn’t have the heart that we put into the magazine, because it’s not just coloring book pages. It’s that bonding time and the extra stuff that makes the magazine feel more special.” Brittany Galla, Editorial Director, Bauer Media Group’s Youth Division

10. Great Magazine and Magazine Media Ideas Get Funded:

“Great ideas do get funded. You know, create and sell. Great ideas get funded. Oftentimes, what I would tell our team when they would say, “Well, they don’t have a print budget.” I would say, “Let me ask you a question: do they have a budget?” Because every brand has a marketing budget, right? And, if you bring them a great idea, a great idea will get funding. And so we have many, many, many examples of business that has been created with no budget. The idea creates the budget. So, my mantra is “Great ideas do get funded” when you have the great, innovative idea.” Michael Clinton, President, Marketing and Publishing Director, Hearst Magazines

11. True Audience Based Magazines Are Here To Stay:

“I think my son at age 12 is pretty engaged across the spectrum of technology, but it was eye-opening to hear him say there might not be print when he becomes an adult. But I’m convinced there will be for my lifetime, particularly for kid’s magazines. I think we face different issues in some types of adult titles and different issues in current events and news than in true audience-based magazines. But at Highlights, we’re believers in print.” Kent Johnson, CEO, Highlights

12. Bookazines Must Reinvent Themselves:

“There was a time when people would put out any bookazine and it did well, because it was a bookazine, and it was single-topic, and it was a novelty. But these days the market is so flooded and the consumer has gotten so used to the bookazine that if you’re not changing the face of what the bookazine is; if you’re not recreating the entire bookazine itself and the bookazine category, it’s just going to start to drop and plummet and it’s going to be catastrophic for anyone in the bookazine business.” Tony Romando, Co-Founder, CEO, Topix Media Lab

13. Be In The Relationship Business:

“There’s room for it (print), of course, and if you’re in the relationship business, to some extent you’re agnostic. Your job is to really know the customer and how they want content experiences delivered to them. And if they’re raising their hands and saying they want magazines, then you provide magazines. And they still today provide fantastic and immersive lean-back experiences.” Dan Hickey, CEO, Kalmbach Publishing

14. Long-form Quality Engagement Is Where People Are Spending Their Time:

“I think this is really an exciting, rich topic right now, because what we are actually seeing is all of the platforms and all of the digital experiences that have endeavored to make the world revolve around the short-form snippet stuff, have all actually come around to the fact that long-form quality engagement is really where people are spending time.” Joe Hyrkin, CEO, issuu

15. Magazines Offer A Much Quieter Editorial Experience:

“When she’s (the consumer) reading the magazine, she needs a much quieter editorial experience. It needs to be more inspiring. And she has more time. She wants to take more of an emotional journey, rather than be hit over the head with all sorts of practical advice and alarming statistics and stories.” Liz Vaccariello, Editor In Chief, Parents Magazine

16. Magazines and Magazine Media Have A Different Business Model:

“I think fundamentally digital businesses are not the same as the magazine media business. We all have social media and you could say a magazine audience might be, from a community standpoint, like the original social media, but Facebook’s business model and Google’s business model are pretty radically different than the traditional magazine business model. So, it wasn’t a natural progression that if you’re in the magazine media business, you should have, would have figured all of that out.” Andy Clurman, President & CEO, Active Interest Media

17. A Tangible Magazine Is A Feather In The Cap For A Digital-First Brand:

“I actually think the tangible magazine you can hold in your hands is a feather in the cap for a digital-first brand. It’s what says, “We’ve made it. We’re here to stay. We’re legitimate.” And, almost counterintuitively, I suspect a lot of that is being driven by millennials. For as digitally savvy, and as digital-first a generation as millennials and Gen Z’s are, there’s also this yearning for authenticity and for something real. Again, I think it’s based on the type of content. I think with that generation in particular. It’s not fair at all to say millennials aren’t magazine readers. They’re magazine readers, but they want different types of magazines and want to consume information in different ways.” Doug Kouma, Editorial Content Director, Meredith

18. There Is No Need To Beat Up On Print:

“Why do people feel this need to beat up on print, in particular people in the industry? We closed our fiscal year June 30; we were up on advertising for both Reader’s Digest and Taste of Home year over year. Print is strong for us. We have a great respect for print and we have a great respect for the print reader. Of course, we expect greater growth to come from digital advertising, but one does not preclude the other.” Bonnie Kintzer, President & CEO, Trusted Media Brands

And there you have 18 lessons from 18 magazine industry leaders about the power of print; the expected growth of digital; and the MANY ways consumers want to consume their information. And in 2018, isn’t it time the industry let the audience decide that for themselves? Whether it’s a gloriously printed ink on paper magazine, a fantastic website that has depth and clarity, or a social media site that brings people and their comments together; the decision of where, how, and when these readers soak up and absorb content is one that in 2018 (and in the 21st century) should be made by them, magazines and magazine media are here to simply provide those outstanding experiences.

Thank you magazine industry leaders for all the lessons you taught me in 2017 and here’s to a great 2018 and more lessons to learn…

Happy New Year!
Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

* All quotes are taken from my interviews with the industry leaders in 2017 and all titles used are those that the industry leaders held at the time of the interview.

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The New Yorker’s Editor, David Remnick to Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “I Have Great Alarm About This War Against Fact; This Profusion Of Lying In High Places. But I Also Stake My Claim With A Journalism That Tries To Do The Best It Can. And Do An Honest Job. Whether It’s Traditional Media Or New Media, That Doesn’t Matter, It’s A True Media.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

December 17, 2017

“I find words, and I understand why they’re used all of the time, but sometimes I bridle a little bit at words like content or products or platform, they seem a little cold. They seem a little remote and cold-blooded, because I think of The New Yorker as something much more warm-blooded or hot-blooded, which is alive. I don’t think of it as a can of soup or any of the other household products or a status symbol. I think of it as something, and I don’t care if it’s digital or on paper, I think of it as something that can reach your heart and mind in a unique way; in a surprising way. There aren’t too many household items or products that can do that.” David Remnick (on defining content in today’s digital age)…

“But here’s the thing, and this is the important thing; my job and our job in this moment in time is to get all of the technological things right, but never to lose sight of, or the feel for, what The New Yorker is or should be. That if we only concentrate on these questions of technology and business and all the rest, and lose sight of the soul of the place, of the purpose of the place, of the integrity of the place, all knowing that we’re going to make mistakes along the way, that if we lose sight of that then it’s not worth it.” David Remnick…

In this age of propaganda phrases like “fake news,” and “alternative facts,” The New Yorker brings forth a true journalism that many today are turning to for answers. In an article that Forbes.com ran this past February entitled, “10 Journalism Brands Where You Find Real Facts Rather Than Alternative Facts,” The New Yorker’s non-fiction content was deservedly touted as: long-form reports on politics, culture, business and other topics (that) often take months to report, write and fact check. The result is deep reporting and analysis each week that is hard to find elsewhere.

For over 92 years, The New Yorker has been providing its readers with excellence in journalism, whether it’s the brand’s commentary, fiction, satire, cartoons, poetry, or long-form stories that always give us food for thought and the information that we need to understand the issue at hand. For 19 years of that almost-century, David Remnick has been the editor and guiding force behind the award-winning publication. And while David himself is very quick to point out that The New Yorker is not, nor ever will be, a one-man show, he has left an indelible mark on the brand with his own strong beliefs in honesty, accuracy, fairness, and total teamwork.

I spoke with David recently and we talked about the status of true journalism in this age of Internet hoaxes, fake news, and alternative facts. It was an enlightening discussion with a man who lives in reality, recognizing that the dark powers of the Internet and the charlatans do exist, but also has the deep-seated integrity of his brand buried deep within his own chest, and believes that true reporting and accurate facts can be presented in both ink on paper and pixels on a screen.
So, I hope that you enjoy this very inspiring and delightful conversation with a man who began his reporting career at the Washington Post and has never forgotten the stalwart rules of good and true journalism, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with David Remnick, editor, The New Yorker.

But first the sound-bites:

On his feelings that today The New Yorker is the place to go for news, politics and humor, almost taking the place of newsweeklies: Well, I’m thrilled to hear it. I don’t think of The New Yorker at all as what we used to refer to as a newsweekly, like the old Time or Newsweek, or anything like that. The only parts of the print magazine that you could probably predict to some extent that we’re going to have something about that is in the cultural pages, in fact; reviews of this movie or that play. Beyond that, it’s open season. There’s a large measure of unpredictability in The New Yorker.

On where he thinks journalism is heading in 2018; is it the best of times, is it the worst of times for the profession: I think Dickens probably had it right. On the one hand, we live in an age in which the president of the United States and other leaders around the world have tried to muddy the waters about the difference between what is real and what is not real. What’s real and what’s fake. This phrase “fake news” is a weapon in the hands of, unfortunately, some very powerful people and their followers. On the other hand, I think a lot of people, many millions of people, reacted to this unfortunate turn by looking to what is best in journalism, what’s true. And that has been true at The New Yorker.

On The New Yorker’s revenues being 50/50 from print and digital: Well, obviously, print advertising everywhere is not a growth industry. And we also live in the reality that Facebook and Google own some enormous percentages of digital advertising as well. That’s just a reality. And we will go on battling for what part of the market we can get. And I think our advertisers will and should recognize that readers who seek out quality in their editorial matter are also great potential customers, but I leave those decisions to them.

On The New Yorker having a cult following and being almost a status symbol: I don’t mind the idea that readership of The New Yorker is somehow a club or an association or a marker, but I hope and pray that it’s something more serious than that. That it’s more joyful than that. That it’s not merely a status symbol, but something that people read and read deeply. And that it complicates and enlightens and brings joy to their lives. The idea that we can do that, with some very strange mixes, short fiction, journalism, humor, arts, and all the other ingredients that make up The New Yorker, that’s a very uplifting thing to know that you’re doing as a living.

On how he would define content today: I find words, and I understand why they’re used all of the time, but sometimes I bridle a little bit at words like content or products or platform, they seem a little cold. They seem a little remote and cold-blooded, because I think of The New Yorker as something much more warm-blooded or hot-blooded, which is alive. I don’t think of it as a can of soup or any of the other household products or a status symbol. I think of it as something, and I don’t care if it’s digital or on paper, I think of it as something that can reach your heart and mind in a unique way; in a surprising way. There aren’t too many household items or products that can do that.

On what The New Yorker is doing to ensure that true and factual journalism will always have a place in the industry: I can only speak with any authority about The New Yorker, I can’t speak for anybody else. And all I can tell you is that we have, at any one time, 17 or 18 fact-checkers working full-time, making sure the veracity of what we publish is as best as it can possibly be. We have all kinds of editors of enormous skill working with writers to make sure these pieces are clear, fair and rigorous. And at the same time, we don’t back away from a point of view, if that point of view can be substantiated and made clear.

On the voting down of Net Neutrality: If you ask me about Net Neutrality, I think that’s a shame. I think the Trump policy on Net Neutrality that really undermines the initial early idea of the Internet itself and gives great advantage to the biggest commercial companies, is an enormous step backward, if that’s what you’re asking.

On whether there is anything that traditional media companies can do about the recent vote: As an editor, all I can do is have The New Yorker voice its opinion and we’ve done that. And we’ve done it very clearly. Recently, on The New Yorker Radio Hour, one of my guests was Nicholas Thompson, who’s the editor of Wired, and I interviewed him and he was extremely forceful, and I agree with him. He was extremely forceful in his denunciation of the Trump policy rolling back New Neutrality.

On whether he can recall one moment in time of the 19 years he’s been the editor in chief of The New Yorker where he was thankful to be in that position or one moment where he said, oh my gosh, what am I doing here: (Laughs) That’s a good question. The feeling of “oh my gosh, what am I doing here” is what I first felt, because I’d never been the editor of anything and then suddenly, one second you aren’t and one second you are. One moment you’re not in that room, and then you’re in the room, and suddenly these decisions are yours to make. Or at least, you have to learn how to make them. So, I admit looking back in some early sense of panic that you can’t let show. But I’ve been grateful ever since.

On what’s next for The New Yorker: When you ask the question what’s next: I think in the last year especially, we’re living in this incredibly…I don’t know how to describe it. I have no clue what will happen from moment to moment. Dorothy Parker used to say, “What fresh hell is this?” And there is this feeling of what fresh hell will today bring, mainly from Washington, but not only. These are tough times.

On whether he feels that journalism as a whole is failing its audience, or that a few are managing to succeed: Well, I hope not. I’m not running around and patting myself on the back, and I don’t think that Dean Baquet is or Marty Baron, or any other editor worth his or her salt. I don’t think, at the same time, that we should hang our heads low just because the president is screaming fake news, just the opposite. You just have to redouble your efforts, because that’s the job. It’s not personal; it’s not a sense of personal defiance. It’s a sense of that’s the job.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: My boys are in their twenties and unfortunately they’re out of the house, happily for them, but unfortunately for nostalgic old me, but they’re well-launched. And I have an 18-year-old daughter who is at home and has autism, so it’s a personal challenge that will always be with us. So, that’s a large thing in my life and in my wife’s life. My wife is Esther Fein, who for many years was a reporter and editor at The New York Times. What do we do to relax? We try to spend some time together. And it’s not out of the question to watch the news on TV or even better, some show. But there’s a lot of reading to be done. It’s very hard to read in the office, and that means reading pieces that are actually going to go in the magazine or online, but also pieces that aren’t, that people send in and deserve an answer. Or reading galleys of books that may find their way into The New Yorker in some ways. And the reading never stops, but again I want to say that this is not by any stretch a one-person operation. It’s a very complicated, and ultimately team-oriented thing.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: I don’t know about me individually, but I want this place to be ruled by a sense of kindness, without swagger. I want there to be a sense of overall decency about The New Yorker. But again, that doesn’t mean we’re not going to have disagreements, arguments, or bad days, or all the rest. But I want that sense of decency between and among us to prevail.

On what keeps him up at night: There’s no end to it; there’s no end to it. (Laughs) But that’s my problem, not yours; don’t worry about it.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with David Remnick, editor, The New Yorker.

Samir Husni: Whether intentionally or unintentionally, The New Yorker has become the place to go if you’re interested in news, politics and humor. It seems with most everyone I talk with, in and out of journalism schools, you have taken the place of a newsweekly on a daily basis.

David Remnick: Well, I’m thrilled to hear it. I don’t think of The New Yorker at all as what we used to refer to as a newsweekly, like the old Time or Newsweek, or anything like that. The only parts of the print magazine that you could probably predict to some extent that we’re going to have something about that is in the cultural pages, in fact; reviews of this movie or that play. Beyond that, it’s open season. There’s a large measure of unpredictability in The New Yorker.

Now online, there are more pieces that are reactive to the news, whether it’s political news or cultural news. But I think a lot of our readers are reading both at once. It’s not important to me particularly whether they’re reading on a screen or a phone or on paper, but I think a lot of people are reading all of what we do, which is to say, everything that’s coming out of The New Yorker.com, whether it’s the daily pieces or the long-form ones; in order for The New Yorker to be The New Yorker there has to be a huge measure of serendipity, unpredictability, surprise, delight; as well as depth, seriousness and accuracy. It’s a complicated piece of business, The New Yorker. It’s hard to define in a few words. Louis Armstrong was once asked the definition of jazz and he said: if you can’t hear it, I can’t explain it to you. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

David Remnick: And the funny thing about The New Yorker is that it’s evolving, obviously. What we used to do, not so many years ago, was publish a dozen things, once a week, with some cartoons, very little of graphic interest. No photographs, just cartoons. And now we’re something much, much more and more varied, that exists both in the longer term and in the shorter term. It’s visual and also a deep-reading experience. I hope our soul is much the same; our DNA is much the same, but we’ve evolved quite a lot.

Samir Husni: Through that evolvement, and considering the current status of journalism, where do you think journalism is heading in 2018? Is it in a better place today? Or can we paraphrase Charles Dickens and say, “These are the best of times, these are the worst of times?”

David Remnick: I think Dickens probably had it right. On the one hand, we live in an age in which the president of the United States and other leaders around the world have tried to muddy the waters about the difference between what is real and what is not real. What’s real and what’s fake. This phrase “fake news” is a weapon in the hands of, unfortunately, some very powerful people and their followers.

On the other hand, I think a lot of people, many millions of people, reacted to this unfortunate turn by looking to what is best in journalism, what’s true. And that has been true at The New Yorker. I think my brothers and sisters at The New York Times and the Washington Post and other publications have also felt this in very concrete terms. In terms of more readers wanting what we do. And it becomes not less important to them in a noisy, complicated world, but more important.

So, I have great alarm about this war against fact; this profusion of lying in high places. But I also stake my claim with a journalism that tries to do the best it can. And do an honest job. Whether it’s traditional media or new media, that doesn’t matter, it’s a true media. It’s a media that seeks to separate the wheat from the chaff; the true from the false. So, it is a very mixed picture and Dickens had it right, but where he was talking about the French Revolution, we’re talking about the 21st century.

Samir Husni: Chris Mitchell (The New Yorker’s Chief Business Officer) told me that the revenues of The New Yorker now are like 50/50 from digital and print.

David Remnick: Well, obviously, print advertising everywhere is not a growth industry. And we also live in the reality that Facebook and Google own some enormous percentages of digital advertising as well. That’s just a reality. And we will go on battling for what part of the market we can get. And I think our advertisers will and should recognize that readers who seek out quality in their editorial matter are also great potential customers, but I leave those decisions to them.

The other part of the picture is that the ever-increasing net percentage of our revenue comes from consumer revenue, as opposed to ad revenue. And that’s a reflection of readers wanting what we do, and they’re willing to pay for it. And that’s incredibly encouraging about the future.

Samir Husni: When I first came to America, I had a professor at Missouri who talked about The New Yorker, saying that it had those cult-like worshippers, readers, who just had to get the magazine every single week. It was a status symbol.

David Remnick: I don’t mind the idea that readership of The New Yorker is somehow a club or an association or a marker, but I hope and pray that it’s something more serious than that. That it’s more joyful than that. That it’s not merely a status symbol, but something that people read and read deeply. And that it complicates and enlightens and brings joy to their lives. The idea that we can do that, with some very strange mixes, short fiction, journalism, humor, arts, and all the other ingredients that make up The New Yorker, that’s a very uplifting thing to know that you’re doing as a living.

Samir Husni: And that mix; is that your definition of content today? If someone were to ask you, David, how do you define content today?

David Remnick: I find words, and I understand why they’re used all of the time, but sometimes I bridle a little bit at words like content or products or platform, they seem a little cold. They seem a little remote and cold-blooded, because I think of The New Yorker as something much more warm-blooded or hot-blooded, which is alive. I don’t think of it as a can of soup or any of the other household products or a status symbol. I think of it as something, and I don’t care if it’s digital or on paper, I think of it as something that can reach your heart and mind in a unique way; in a surprising way. There aren’t too many household items or products that can do that.

I think of it in different terms. I don’t want to get all spiritual and gooey on you, but I think of it as something on a very emotional level as well. And I think what’s important is people’s attachment to it is very heartfelt and very emotional. I get letters and emails reflecting that all of the time.

Samir Husni: There are more so-called journalism outlets today than ever before. What are you doing to ensure that the true voice of journalism, the factual rather than the fake journalism, still has a place in the industry?

David Remnick: I can only speak with any authority about The New Yorker, I can’t speak for anybody else. And all I can tell you is that we have, at any one time, 17 or 18 fact-checkers working full-time, making sure the veracity of what we publish is as best as it can possibly be. We have all kinds of editors of enormous skill working with writers to make sure these pieces are clear, fair and rigorous. And at the same time, we don’t back away from a point of view, if that point of view can be substantiated and made clear.

What we’re against is sloppiness, fakery, and inaccuracy. I totally understand that we’re going to make mistakes; I just want to keep them to an absolute minimum. And keep good faith with the reader.

Samir Husni: As those readers are searching for the truth and hungry for the truth in this sea of chaos that exists out there, what do you think The New Yorker’s role, in both print and digital, should play in this time of the darker side of the Internet? I’m sure you’ve heard that they voted down Net Neutrality; so, where do you think we’re heading?

David Remnick: If you ask me about Net Neutrality, I think that’s a shame. I think the Trump policy on Net Neutrality that really undermines the initial early idea of the Internet itself and gives great advantage to the biggest commercial companies, is an enormous step backward, if that’s what you’re asking.

Samir Husni: Now that the vote is in, is there anything that traditional media companies can do about this?

David Remnick: As an editor, all I can do is have The New Yorker voice its opinion and we’ve done that. And we’ve done it very clearly. Recently, on The New Yorker Radio Hour, one of my guests was Nicholas Thompson, who’s the editor of Wired, and I interviewed him and he was extremely forceful, and I agree with him. He was extremely forceful in his denunciation of the Trump policy rolling back New Neutrality.

We have different platforms that The New Yorker can exploit. Again, the weekly magazine, the website, which is coming at you, not just every day, but every hour of a moment, a radio program, which is on I think 230 or 240 public radio stations around the country, and obviously podcasts. We had a television show with Amazon at one point, what I would call a noble experiment (Laughs). And we have all kinds of events, the biggest of which is The New Yorker Festival. And I look for more, but always with the idea toward the highest quality. Whatever we do; whatever new initiative we have has to be, if not right away, then soon, at the level of quality that we take pride in.

Samir Husni: During the 19 years of your tenure as editor of The New Yorker, can you look back on one moment that made you so thankful that you’re the editor of The New Yorker, or one moment that made you think: oh my gosh, what am I doing here?

David Remnick: (Laughs) That’s a good question. The feeling of “oh my gosh, what am I doing here” is what I first felt, because I’d never been the editor of anything and then suddenly, one second you aren’t and one second you are. One moment you’re not in that room, and then you’re in the room, and suddenly these decisions are yours to make. Or at least, you have to learn how to make them. So, I admit looking back in some early sense of panic that you can’t let show. But I’ve been grateful ever since.

Some stories we published are extremely painful or tough, but I feel great gratitude, not only to be the editor of The New Yorker, but to live in a place where we can do that without fear of favor, whether it’s the Harvey Weinstein material or the recent piece on opioids, written by Patrick Keefe, or Jane Mayer’s extraordinary political coverage, most recently her profile of Mike Pence; Evan Osnos’s work has been remarkable, and here I’m just talking about political stories. It’s a bounty.

And I’m extremely grateful to our editors, people like Daniel Zalewski or Henry Finder, Dorothy Wickenden, Susan Morrison; and these are people who have been around for quite a while, editing these pieces and making them better and working with writers. Pam McCarthy is the deputy editor and does about a million things, and Michael Luo who is the web editor and has been so effective.

And I mention these people, not just to throw bouquets in various people’s direction, because there are many more, but also because I don’t believe in this business of the imperial editor. I don’t believe that one person has enough creativity or enough ideas or intellectual versatility to be capable of singlehandedly putting out something like The New Yorker. It requires a team. A team that argues; a team that gets along; a team that treats each other decently; a team that gets annoyed with each other once in a blue moon, like in any good team or family or whatever. It’s hard work, but it’s not the work of one person. And if you publish anything; I would appreciate you publishing that, because I think it’s true. And I’m not mentioning nearly enough people, I know that.

Samir Husni: What’s next for The New Yorker?

David Remnick: In terms of next week or in terms of six months from now or forever?

Samir Husni: (Laughs)

David Remnick: When you ask the question what’s next; I think in the last year especially, we’re living in this incredibly…I don’t know how to describe it. I have no clue what will happen from moment to moment. Dorothy Parker used to say, “What fresh hell is this?”

Samir Husni: (Laughs)

David Remnick: And there is this feeling of what fresh hell will today bring, mainly from Washington, but not only. These are tough times. We have existential crises that range from the global environment to the threat of a nuclear war with North Korea, to a renewed and very dangerous political rivalry with Russia, an ascendant China, which we seem to be mishandling spectacularly.

And it’s only incidentally that we see a story, you can barely breathe on the streets of New Delhi. There are real existential crises going on and we are, at the same time, obsessed with a million other things that are smaller and sucking the wind out of us. It’s very hard to live, it seems at times.

We just had a political race where we’re relieved and delighted that an accused sex offender and racist barely lost. This is what constitutes relief. These are tough times. And so it’s a big sense of responsibility.

I remember the morning after Trump won and talking with the staff about essential responsibility, about the need for rigor and covering the story in all its many directions with real boundless energy, and it’s tough. It takes a toll; it tires people out. But we can’t afford to be worn out by this; we have to be alert and on it.

Samir Husni: Do you feel that collectively, journalism as a whole is failing its audience, or that a few are managing to succeed?

David Remnick: Well, I hope not. I’m not running around and patting myself on the back, and I don’t think that Dean Baquet is or Marty Baron, or any other editor worth his or her salt. I don’t think, at the same time, that we should hang our heads low just because the president is screaming fake news, just the opposite. You just have to redouble your efforts, because that’s the job. It’s not personal; it’s not a sense of personal defiance. It’s a sense of that’s the job.

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

David Remnick: It could be any of those things. My boys are in their twenties and unfortunately they’re out of the house, happily for them, but unfortunately for nostalgic old me, but they’re well-launched. And I have an 18-year-old daughter who is at home and has autism, so it’s a personal challenge that will always be with us. So, that’s a large thing in my life and in my wife’s life. My wife is Esther Fein, who for many years was a reporter and editor at The New York Times.

What do we do to relax? We try to spend some time together. And it’s not out of the question to watch the news on TV or even better, some show. But there’s a lot of reading to be done. It’s very hard to read in the office, and that means reading pieces that are actually going to go in the magazine or online, but also pieces that aren’t, that people send in and deserve an answer. Or reading galleys of books that may find their way into The New Yorker in some ways. And the reading never stops, but again I want to say that this is not by any stretch a one-person operation. It’s a very complicated, and ultimately team-oriented thing.

And the editors that I mentioned before, whom I hope you will mention; it’s only the start of it. I didn’t even mention the fiction editor, Deborah Treisman, who is remarkable and is publishing a story a week, and just published a story that went incredibly viral.

We’re in an innovative stage at The New Yorker. For years, because of the nature of technology and for commercial reasons, 90 percent of the task or more was putting out this print magazine of enormous quality. And I’m sure nobody thought that was easy. But now we do that and we do much else, and we also have to figure out all kinds of technological questions to make sure that 19-year-old readers and 25-year-old readers will find The New Yorker something that’s not only fascinating and enriching, but also convenient, easy to access, and modern in the best sense. And we’re experimenting with different ways of telling stories on film, or presenting stories online that are different from the way we were doing it two years ago or last week.

But here’s the thing, and this is the important thing; my job and our job in this moment in time is to get all of the technological things right, but never to lose sight of, or the feel for, what The New Yorker is or should be. That if we only concentrate on these questions of technology and business and all the rest, and lose sight of the soul of the place, of the purpose of the place, of the integrity of the place, all knowing that we’re going to make mistakes along the way, that if we lose sight of that then it’s not worth it. But if I can help us, along with all of my colleagues, by all means, modernize The New Yorker, but make it The New Yorker that we want it to be, that we’re proud of, that deeply values accuracy, fairness, rigor and clarity, and originality in writing, and soul, then we will have accomplished something great.

That’s a long answer to a question that really wanted to know if I have a glass of wine; the answer is I usually have a beer.

Samir Husni: (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 Remnick: I don’t know about me individually, but I want this place to be ruled by a sense of kindness, without swagger. I want there to be a sense of overall decency about The New Yorker. But again, that doesn’t mean we’re not going to have disagreements, arguments, or bad days, or all the rest. But I want that sense of decency between and among us to prevail.

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

David Remnick: There’s no end to it; there’s no end to it. (Laughs) But that’s my problem, not yours; don’t worry about it.

Samir Husni: (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Connectiv’s Managing Director Michael Marchesano to Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “We Need To Make Sure We Are Ahead Of The Curve… When It’s Obvious, It Is Too Late.” – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

December 11, 2017

“My view as part of the Industry Association is that we need to be able to continue to push the envelope; we need to make sure that we are ahead of the curve, in the sense of what are the topics and what are the issues; what’s on the agenda and the radar, because when it’s obvious, it’s too late. We need to make sure that we’re putting forward the topics.” Mike Marchesano…

“The idea of print being gone forever will not be, certainly, in my lifetime. I have two children, 30 and 25; I don’t know, maybe in their lifetimes. But right now, no. I see print as part of the equation; it’s part of the branding; it’s part of the history.”Mike Marchesano…

The Software & Information Industry Association’s Connectiv (formerly American Business Media ABM), is the Business Information Association that strives to help members and nonmembers alike to understand the behaviors of their audiences. In the B2B space, information is critical and with the ever-changing technological landscape, staying on top of the many ways customers can and want to consume that information is just as vital.

Michael (Mike) Marchesano is managing director of Connectiv and joined SIIA in 2013, but he has been in the B2B field, in some capacity, for his entire career. Before coming onboard at SIIA, he was President and CEO of Aequor Media, a consulting firm dedicated to providing strategic, customized technology solutions for B2B and consumer magazines, newspapers, and Fortune 1000 companies. He was also Managing Director at the Jordan Edmiston Group, an investment banking firm, and before that, Executive Vice President & Chief Transformation Officer at the Nielsen Company; President and CEO at VNU Business Media; and President at BPA International (now BPA Worldwide). So, Mr. Magazine thinks it’s safe to say that Mike is a bit of a notable in the field of B2B.

I spoke with Mike on a recent trip to New York, and we talked about the B2B industry in general, and the status of the Association in 2017 and beyond. It was an enlightening conversation about an industry that is as complex as its sister counterpart, consumer magazines. Where business information is giving way to technology, Mike is convinced that just having technology isn’t enough, but having the right technology is all-important. Being where and when your audience wants you is critical. And knowing what the topics and the issues are beforehand, and what’s on the agenda and the radar, can be the difference between success and failure, because when it’s obvious, it’s too late.

So, I hope that you enjoy this very informative conversation with a man immersed in the B2B industry and who knows that in today’s media world, it doesn’t matter whether you’re print, digital, mobile, or video, as long as you’re all of the above and completely agnostic when it comes to platform, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Mike Marchesano, managing director, Connectiv.

But first the sound-bites:

On where the B2B market is today as we approach the end of 2017: I would say that it’s very strong. The association that represents B2B media information companies, Connectiv, which was originally American Business Media (ABM), which before that was American Business Press, continues to be strong and is a reflection of the strength that B2B is presenting in probably over 100 different market sectors. And as the need for information becomes more and more critical, because technology is impacting every market, the need for independent, objective journalism and content is critical.

On whether his tenure at SIIA Association’s Connectiv has held its challenges: It’s been a challenging time for associations, because associations are going through transformations as well, as audiences rethink what’s the value of an association. The Great Recession really affected the Association and B2B, because as a result of it and the continued secular change that was happening in media investment, print was really becoming less and less the revenue-driver that it had once been. Digital was transforming the business, but digital was not closing the gap. The digital dimes weren’t replacing the print dollars.

On whether culture has been the biggest obstacle when it comes to the changes in the B2B space: Absolutely; absolutely. It really does require a mind shift in all aspects, whether it’s an editorial and content development, sales, in collaboration; you need a whole new DNA and a willingness to understand how to adapt to change. Some companies are better than others at it, but that’s a major challenge to make that pivot.

On what Connectiv is doing to make that pivot: We have really focused on two key temples for our organization; we are a learning and networking community. So, we do the learning through a variety of ways, through our events; we have a number of high-profile events that really bring together the C-Suite and their teams and then down a level to those that are really in the trenches to help affect change.

On whether he thinks Connectiv and other information companies can compete with technology companies as media companies: I think it’s not so much becoming a technology company, but it’s having the right technology that allows you to deliver your content in a way that your audiences will really want. So, yes, it’s not that we’re saying we won’t be technology companies, but there’s a big technology investment for a partnership.

On how he envisions moving business forward, in terms of the content and the information that the B2B audience is wanting: There’s more and more focus on audience, audience segmentation and understanding audience behavior. And what is the persona of your audience? And what are the different personas, because it isn’t just one. Through the different tools, you can go in and really understand how your audience is consuming information, which lets the media owner understand how they deliver value; how they use that to say to their advertisers: you’re interested in this particular segment of segments. I can show you how my audience, through these tools, is consuming this information. So, allowing that alignment of audience and marketer’s information.

On whether data and mining your audience is a trending buzzword phrase or the future: I would say it’s the future. But to really make it work, you just can’t flip a switch. There’s an investment; you have to build the platform to be able to collect the data and have it. And then you need a team to really analyze the data. It’s almost like, to use an example, you put sales force in, but if your team isn’t trained on how to use it, or any tool, you’re not going to get an ROI.

On where you find data scientists and data analysts: (Laughs) It’s a challenge; they’re not inexpensive. But they’re there, and companies are finding them. And the ones that are putting them into place and have the vision and the strategy; I think they’ll pay dividends.

On whether he can envision a day where print won’t be a part of B2B: The idea of print being gone forever will not be, certainly, in my lifetime. I have two children, 30 and 25; I don’t know, maybe in their lifetimes. But right now, no. I see print as part of the equation; it’s part of the branding; it’s part of the history.

On the biggest landmine he wants people to avoid in 2018: Not to be too risk-adverse. I think this is an exciting and interesting time. Not that you want to have a cavalier attitude, but change is happening so quickly and you really have to look at your audience and understand the audience behaviors.

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

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: Reading B2B magazines. I have a long commute, so I do read a lot. Although, I’m old school; I read two newspapers in the morning, print papers. I don’t read online. And at night I read too. But at the end of the day, my eyes do get tired. (Laughs) But I do like magazines. I am a consumer of information. I like media, but I do like real estate and design, travel and food service. And those are crossover markets that go from B2B to consumer.

On what keeps him up at night: Just making sure that we can continue to deliver and have a valued proposition for our members and for our industry. I think about that all of the time. And as I said, what’s next and when it’s obvious, it’s too late. Those are the questions that I ask myself. What are we not doing? What should we be doing? And to continue to elevate and put a spotlight on what our member companies are doing.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Mike Marchesano, Managing Director, Connectiv.

Samir Husni: All the talk we hear in the media business is mainly about consumer magazines, yet there is a big segment of the business that consists of the B2B market. Can you give me an overview of where B2B magazine media is today, as we approach the end of 2017?

Visiting with Mike Marchesano in NYC.

Mike Marchesano: I would say that it’s very strong. The association that represents B2B media information companies, Connectiv, which was originally American Business Media, which before that was American Business Press, continues to be strong and is a reflection of the strength that B2B is presenting in probably over 100 different market sectors. And as the need for information becomes more and more critical, because technology is impacting every market, the need for independent, objective journalism and content is critical.

Audiences now have so many choices for information, more so than ever before. B2B and the strength of B2B, and it’s recognition of being an independent third party with credible journalists, continues to serve the markets. So, I would say the state of B2B content continues to be very strong for its audiences.

There are challenges, absolutely; significant challenges, because audiences want content when they want it, where they want it, almost in a 24/7 environment. So, media owners really have to think about not how they want to deliver it, but how their audiences want to consume information. And that has impacted investment, staffing, technology and platform. So, the onus is on media owners to really understand and create a strategy and a plan to deliver continued value to its audiences.

Samir Husni: During your tenure at the association, what has been some of the major stumbling blocks that you’ve faced and how did you overcome them? Or has it been a walk in a rose garden?

Mike Marchesano: (Laughs) No, it’s been a challenging time for associations, because associations are going through transformations as well, as audiences rethink what’s the value of an association. But that aside, I’ve been leading Connectiv since 2013, so coming up it will be four years. But I’ve been in B2B my entire career, I ran BPA, the circulation auditing firm for five years as CEO, but I was there for 21, so I learned about B2B in its glory days, the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. And then I ran a media company, Nielsen, VNU Media, and did some work in investment banking, so I have a long history of B2B. And I was on the board of ABM in 2001 to 2006.

The Great Recession really affected the Association and B2B, because as a result of it and the continued secular change that was happening in media investment, print was really becoming less and less the revenue-driver that it had once been. Digital was transforming the business, but digital was not closing the gap. The digital dimes weren’t replacing the print dollars. So, there was a lot of stress on B2B.

Also, a lot of the big players in B2B started to leave the market. There was McGraw-Hill, which was an institution in B2B; they really exited the market. There were big players like Reed Business Information. They started selling all of their brands and exited B2B.

VNU Business Media, which I was the CEO; when Nielsen came in as far as being part of the equation with A.C. Nielsen and Nielsen Media Research, Nielsen sold off the media assets, it kept the trade shows, but eventually sold off the media assets. So, big companies that were major players started leaving the Association and leaving the industry. That put a financial strain on the Association.

In 2013, ABM merged with the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) for strategic and economic reasons, economic because they could become part of the larger constellation, if you will, and a lot of the support services that were made up of the SIIA, and could be provided to ABM to reduce our head count.

But there was a strategic reason for it, and I think the strategic reason was the current challenge and opportunity for B2B. And what I mean by that is, within SIIA there are different communities: education, technology and financial services. And within SIIA there is a content information group, so companies like Thomson Reuters and LexisNexis; that’s where they played. And these were business to business companies, information providers that really focused on their audiences and created data and information products, solutions and content, but it was really subscription-based, not an advertising model.

More and more B2B media companies were looking at how they could evolve into becoming information companies. So, that merger, bringing those two communities together was strategic. Fast forward four years later, that is still part of the equation, but it’s very different changing your moniker from media company to information company; that’s easy to do. Really, actually having the DNA within your organization to create the products and services that really deliver that type of value to your audience, for a media company that’s a challenge. That’s a work in progress.

A great successful example of that in my view is Hanley Wood and Frank Anton. Probably a decade ago they started looking at how data and information assets would help enhance their leadership position in residential real estate. So they bought a company called Meyers Research, which provided product information that went into a residential project. Then they doubled-down maybe five years ago; they sold all of their trade shows, which were formidable, and took those proceeds to buy probably the leading information company in their space, Metrostudy, and pivoted, an aggressive pivot, and they became truly a media and information company.

My view is, that was a bold move; it was a risk, but Hanley Wood has always been a leader in its space and I would say it’s now paying dividends, because they really are positioned as a media and information company in that space.

Another good example is a company called Winsight and Mike Wood, Jr. is CEO, son of one of the founders of Hanley Wood. And over the last five to seven years, he acquired B2B assets in the food service group, which is a strong business, one of the big brands that he acquired. And he built a nice business, but about two years ago he acquired an information company called Technomic, which is sort of the Metrostudy for restaurants and food service, and it’s doing exactly that. It’s truly creating a media and information company.

And from that, obviously they have the print brands, a strong, digital platform; a very strong information platform, and events. To me that is the opportunity for B2B media; a strong marketing services and solutions element to that. So, it’s creating this bundle of services that, going back to the earlier point, provides the audience with just a host of information that they need to be successful in their market. And obviously, when you capture the audience, the marketers will follow.

So, those are just two examples of big change and big pivots; some risks, but knowing your market – I mean, Hanley Wood knows residential construction six ways to Sunday, and really changing what is a B2B media and information company going forward.

But that’s a bold move and not every company can get there, has the resources, has the opportunity to acquire those assets, or is even comfortable with that model, because that takes a different DNA. It’s taking a traditional print B2B media company and not just saying: well, tomorrow let’s change our whole structure, it’s hard work.

Samir Husni: One of the things that I hear a lot with the consumer magazine business is that the culture has been the biggest obstacle in all of the change. Is that true in the B2B space?

Mike Marchesano: Absolutely; absolutely. It really does require a mind shift in all aspects, whether it’s an editorial and content development, sales, in collaboration; you need a whole new DNA and a willingness to understand how to adapt to change. Some companies are better than others at it, but that’s a major challenge to make that pivot.

Samir Husni: What is Connectiv doing to help make that pivot?

Mike Marchesano: We have really focused on two key temples for our organization; we are a learning and networking community. So, we do the learning through a variety of ways, through our events; we have a number of high-profile events that really bring together the C-Suite and their teams and then down a level to those that are really in the trenches to help affect change.

And a great example of this is our Business Information Media Summit, which occurred November 13-15 in Ft. Lauderdale. We had about 300 attendees for two and a half days, looking at the entire business to business media and information landscape. And we did this through the keynotes; we had four keynotes. The lead keynote was Debra Walton, who is the chief content information officer for Thomson Reuters, talking about how they have migrated their different platforms of content and information to serve mainly the financial services industry.

And she really talked broadly about Thomson Reuters, and did a great job because she used Thomson Reuters as an example, but brought into play that if you’re not Thomson Reuters, and not many of us are; how could you apply this to your business? What are the struggles; what are the challenges; what are the opportunities that I need to be thinking through? So, that was a great keynote.

Then we had a different sort of take, a company called Brief Media; Elizabeth Green is the CEO and founder of this business. And she talked about being a small to midsized company; how she sort of broke the rules and really engaged her team and her company to take risks, which I think is important as you’re trying to transform your business. She gave her team the confidence to challenge and break through the models that maybe they had accepted and not challenged.

She gave two examples, and this was in the early 2000s. They were thinking about how to deliver their content digitally and this was when Apple and the iPad really weren’t making a big push. They asked themselves why they wanted to be limited to that device; instead they would invest in responsive design, so that they would be platform agnostic. And that was a big bet and a risk; it was a debate inside her team and they went forward and it was a great move. So, that was an example that the audience really took to heart. It doesn’t always go with what you think is expected behavior.

The other was she said they fired their best customer, because strategically and going forward, it wasn’t going to be, on the long term, the best for their business; it was a big move and a risk because they were losing a significant amount of revenue, but again, it paid off. It gave them the courage and the opportunity to push through and to find other markets.

So, those are some examples of an event where the speakers and the conversation really focuses on that. The Summit includes five tracks, dedicated tracks, on building data information products; on audience marketing and development; on strategy; on revenue-generating tactics that really give the audience the opportunity over those two and a half days to do a deep dive into those topics. It’s about 70 sessions and it really speaks to those issues. That’s our real learning community.

Our CEO Summit, which will be May 2018 in New Orleans, looks at the big issues and challenges that will be moving the business forward, so the theme for 2018 is how to truly move from an information company to a technology company. And we’ll look at the investments, challenges and opportunities to create the new technology stack. In our board meeting we talked about that; how do you look at the technology stack through business and how does it affect your entire business? Whether it’s audience, marketing; whether it’s account-based marketing or audience-segmentation. So, those are the big issues, and that’s really a CEO meeting.

Then we have 10 committees, 10 different subject matter committees, that bring the managers on the ground who have to execute the strategy of their CEOs, and those are virtual meetings. They meet periodically throughout the year and cover topics such as audience, data and information, revenue and digital So, those are roll-up-your-sleeve type meetings.

And then the last element is that in July 2017 we introduced Connectiv U, which is an online learning platform for distance learning that will allow members and nonmembers to go into different topic areas and really have a learning environment that they can go to whenever they need it. We led with digital to grid sales training, which is a curriculum of 10 courses. They are bite sized, anywhere from 10 to 14 minutes, focused on digital topics, from media to consultive selling.

And that is the first of a number of other curriculum that we’ll be adding, such as a curriculum on building data information products. And a curriculum on content development; social media strategies to video storytelling. And a track on events and conferences, because events and conferences are a big part of B2B, and a revenue driver for them.

So, those are just some of the examples of the dialogues that we’re having, and my view as part of the Industry Association is that we need to be able to continue to push the envelope; we need to make sure that we are ahead of the curve, in the sense of what are the topics and what are the issues; what’s on the agenda and the radar, because when it’s obvious, it’s too late. We need to make sure that we’re putting forward the topics.

In 2015, we had a session at our CEO Summit on artificial intelligence. We had the Director of Partnerships at the New England Journal of Medicine with IBM Watson talking about the partnership that they had entered into back in 2013 or so, where they were using IBM and the New England Journal of Medicine’s great content to further patient diagnostics for physicians.

And that was really: what are you talking about? And now, in 2017, we brought in the head of a company, NAI, who was a part of the team that founded Siri. And he spoke about artificial intelligence in applications of retail and media.

And again, fast forward from 2015 to 2017, some thought it was terrific; they really went away thinking, how do I apply this to my business? Others were not sure why that speaker was there, but you’re not going to get everyone to stand up and say this or that is great, but again, picking topics or having discussions that really move the agenda forward is what we need to be doing.

Samir Husni: Do you think the CEO Summit next May about changing from an information company to a technology company is a wise move? Can you compete with technology companies as media companies?

Mike Marchesano: I think it’s not so much becoming a technology company, but it’s having the right technology that allows you to deliver your content in a way that your audiences will really want. So, yes, it’s not that we’re saying we won’t be technology companies, but there’s a big technology investment for a partnership.

One of the things that we introduced this past year was our Innovation Awards. The Innovation Awards look at innovation in a half a dozen different categories. One of the categories that was probably the most popular was, “How do you use innovation with third-party partnerships to advance your agenda?” It used to be “Bill versus Bobby.” And now it’s “Bill, Buy or Rent,” and that partnership is the renting element. More and more B2B media companies that are not technology companies are partnering with third-party technology companies that really give them that DNA and that IQ that they need to advance that agenda.

So, it’s not really becoming a technology company, but the technology stack, whether you own it or rent it, is critical to how you’re going to move your business forward.

Samir Husni: And how do you envision moving that business forward, in terms of the content and the information that the B2B audience is wanting?

Mike Marchesano: There’s more and more focus on audience, audience segmentation and understanding audience behavior. And what is the persona of your audience? And what are the different personas, because it isn’t just one. Through the different tools, you can go in and really understand how your audience is consuming information, which lets the media owner understand how they deliver value; how they use that to say to their advertisers: you’re interested in this particular segment of segments. I can show you how my audience, through these tools, is consuming this information. So, allowing that alignment of audience and marketer’s information.

That’s one way, and the other is, when you look at audience behaviors, you find the ability to create new products. A good example is a company that was looking at particular key topics; what’s trending; what are the audience behaviors when it comes to these topics? And they saw a concentration in certain areas. From there, they said, okay, let’s build a conference. They had never done a conference on that topic, but they saw the behaviors and the trending of their audience in this type of content consumption, and they used that and it became a big draw for them and a revenue-driver.

So, the tools in the toolbox now are getting more and more sophisticated so that you can really zero in through these technology solutions and personalization to create new offerings that benefit your audience, but are also marketing opportunities for your customers. So, it’s a much more strategic, account-based marketing type of approach, as opposed to a broad base. It’s like fishing with a spear, as opposed to just fishing.

Samir Husni: We hear a lot about the importance of data and mining your audience; is it a buzzword phrase for just a year or two, or is it the future?

Mike Marchesano: I would say it’s the future. But to really make it work, you just can’t flip a switch. There’s an investment; you have to build the platform to be able to collect the data and have it. And then you need a team to really analyze the data. It’s almost like, to use an example, you put sales force in, but if your team isn’t trained on how to use it, or any tool, you’re not going to get an ROI.

If you’re going to really get into data and data mining, you have to put the platform in; you have to have a team that’s trained to do it. So, the idea of a data scientist five or seven years ago wasn’t even in the realms of possibility, but today you hear of it in more and more companies as you look at staffing. What are the functional areas that are most important: data scientists; data analysts, those are key functions that are now part of the marketing team; it’s a part of audience

The whole idea of digital, marketing content and audience, is all tied together. It’s not separate plumbing; it’s not siloed. And the data analysts and data scientists sit over and really create that.

Samir Husni: Where do you find those people?

Mike Marchesano: (Laughs) It’s a challenge; they’re not inexpensive. But they’re there, and companies are finding them. And the ones that are putting them into place and have the vision and the strategy; I think they’ll pay dividends.

Samir Husni: People used to talk about magazines as a magazine, whether it was Ad Age or Automotive News or Waste Age, but now they’ve become brands. Can you envision a day where some of the platforms that have existed will no longer be there? Can B2B survive without print publications? Can they go digital-only?

Mike Marchesano: The idea of print being gone forever will not be, certainly, in my lifetime. I have two children, 30 and 25; I don’t know, maybe in their lifetimes. But right now, no. I see print as part of the equation; it’s part of the branding; it’s part of the history.

Is it the future; no, it’s not the future, because audiences will continue to look for different ways to consume. But for now it’s part of the equation, but it’s a legacy part of the business, so media CEOs have to optimize it for profitability, making sure it’s as efficient as possible. And rethink how they’re delivering in print. A lot of companies are rethinking frequency. If they’ve always been 12 times; why are they 12 times? Is there a more efficient way to communicate in print with our audiences? So, I think that’s part of the examination.

As far as the brand, I do think that while companies have built their brands with print, that’s evolving, but still part of the equation. And now it’s how do we, through digital, through marketing services, through events and conferences, through data solutions, and print, serve our audiences. I think a good example of that transformation is in the AG market. It’s a really interesting market. It’s almost like a tale of two cities, because you have an audience where print is still part of the equation, they’re not office-based, they’re field-based, but information is still critical. So texting is very important. Data information on weather conditions; using data information for the way they feed their livestock and crops is critical. The radio is important, but so is print. So, it’s an interesting market where print is still part of the equation.

We do a research study every two years, a channel study, with the AG market. We’re getting ready to do one in 2018. We essentially look all of our titles in the group, which is significant, and we do a composite audience selection. And we ask them what channels they’re using, and print continues to be an important part of it.

As you look at the age breaks, 65 and older, they love print and they’re not going to change their behavior. They do look a little at the technology tools, but as you look at the next generation of leadership, the owner-operators that are 45-65, they’re using the tools more and more. They still use print, but are more interested in what is the technology toolbox. And then the 45 and under are shifting as well.

So, it’s a good example of print being a part of the equation, but it’s evolving, moving and changing. But that technology part, information and data, is really critical in the AG market. I think that’s a good example of maybe how other markets are going to follow as well. And that builds the brand, such as Farm Journal; great brand. Meister; they’re all really strong brands in that field.

Samir Husni: What’s the biggest landmine you want your people to avoid in 2018?

Mike Marchesano: Not to be too risk-adverse. I think this is an exciting and interesting time. Not that you want to have a cavalier attitude, but change is happening so quickly and you really have to look at your audience and understand the audience behaviors. And not where we are now, but as I said; when it’s obvious, it’s too late. So, you really have to start looking beyond the pale and start moving and pushing and thinking about what’s next.

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

Mike Marchesano: Committed to exceeding expectations.

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?

Mike Marchesano: Reading B2B magazines. I have a long commute, so I do read a lot. Although, I’m old school; I read two newspapers in the morning, print papers. I don’t read online. And at night I read too. But at the end of the day, my eyes do get tired. (Laughs) But I do like magazines. I am a consumer of information. I like media, but I do like real estate and design, travel and food service. And those are crossover markets that go from B2B to consumer.

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

Mike Marchesano: Just making sure that we can continue to deliver and have a valued proposition for our members and for our industry. I think about that all of the time. And as I said, what’s next and when it’s obvious, it’s too late. Those are the questions that I ask myself. What are we not doing? What should we be doing? And to continue to elevate and put a spotlight on what our member companies are doing.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Hearst Magazines’ Joanna Coles to Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “Print Is Never Going To Go Away… It Will Continue To Evolve And Remain Relevant.”– The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Joanna Coles, Chief Content Officer, Hearst Magazines…

December 6, 2017

“I think you’re seeing a move-back to print; a move-back to the appreciation that print is restorative; it’s actually information that you take in. We know that there was a connection between the tactile, taking in of information… so, the touching of print and the absorption of information. And I feel very confident that print will continue to evolve and remain relevant.” Joanna Coles…

“In a magazine, you want to indulge in fabulous flights of fantasy with great photographers who can transport you and take you on a voyage of discovery that you didn’t know you wanted to go on. If you’re on your phone, you want digestible bits of information, some to make you laugh, some to make you feel, and some to inform you.” Joanna Coles…

“What is content? I think it is information served up in a responsible and entertaining way, that helps you understand and appreciate the world that you’re living in. And at its best, it resonates, and adds to your appreciation and understanding of the world we live in. And it’s also a fantastic emotional distraction. And at its worst, it’s full of misinformation and leaves you depressed and restless.” Joanna Coles…

From New York bureau chief for The Guardian to New York columnist for The Times of London, Joanna Coles knows her way around the world of journalism. With a stalwart stance on the future of her company and its print core, along with a vast knowledge of the digital world, where she sits on the board of Snapchat, part of her editorial strength lies in her talent, skillsets, and creativity. The other part is a combination of her humbleness when it comes to her own contributions, unequivocally giving credit to the teamwork at Hearst, and her own belief that the disruption of digital has only made print stronger.

I spoke with Joanna recently, upon a return trip from New York, where I had the pleasure of speaking with David Carey and Michael Clinton for an earlier Mr. Magazine™ interview, so it seemed only natural to talk with the first-ever chief content officer at Hearst Magazines, a position that Joanna Coles seems tailor-made for. With the intimate, tightly knit leadership that keeps Hearst Magazines on a steady course, Joanna’s adamant belief in print and intriguing eye on the company’s digital future is in sync, making it apparent that this woman knows how to define content; good, high quality content. The only kind Hearst creates.

In fact, she defined the word for me: “information served up in a responsible and entertaining way, that helps you understand and appreciate the world that you’re living in,” with a bit more added. And if out of those 21 words, the one that grabs you most is “responsible,” you would be in perfect accord with Joanna, because she feels responsible and accurate journalism is the only acceptable kind.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who is navigating her part of the Hearst vessel with a steady hand and an eye on that future with the expanding horizons, Joanna Coles, chief content officer, Hearst Magazines.

But first the sound-bites:

On what makes her enjoy journalism most in this day and age: It’s really a great time to be a magazine journalist, because there’s so much news going on and everybody is trying to make heads or tails of it. And we’re in the perfect position to do that. Not only have you seen magazines like The New Yorker completely changing the conversation around sexual harassment, but you also see a lot of magazines that are able to help readers make sense of a world that doesn’t feel like it makes sense anymore.

On whether she feels magazines are now well-primed to be the future leaders of the media industry: I do. I think that digital, which I’m also a part of through my connection on the Snapchat Board; digital has grown very much in the moment. What magazines are able to do is to think about where we are going as a culture; what kind of conversations we will be having; and we are soothsayers to the future. We are the predictors of what will happen. And it’s a very different skillset. And I think digital has only made us stronger and better.

On her being quoted as saying print isn’t dead yet: Well, I was being ironic, because since I’m British, I tend to end everything with “yet.” Print is never going to go away, and actually what we’re seeing now and what I like to say, which I’m very intrigued by too, is that we’re now in a moment of “post-the-euphoria-of-digital.” And we’re now beginning to understand the more destructive impact that some digital media have. And I think people are beginning to understand through their own behavior, which as we know is still very, very new, that if you spend a certain amount of time on your phone, you don’t actually end up feeling better educationally informed, you actually end up feeling restless and like you can’t focus or concentrate on anything.

On how, as the first-ever chief content officer at Hearst Magazines, she wraps her mind around all of the many titles that she’s in charge of: David (Carey) runs an incredibly organized ship. So, we have issue previews, where we learn what’s going to be in the magazine coming up, so we have regular meetings with the editors and publishers. I have a regular once-a-month, editor in chief meeting, where all of the editors come together; sometimes we bring in outside speakers from other industries to inspire us and to help us think strategically.

On how she feels the role of editor has changed in the last five years: The basic elements of journalism remains the same, which is to ask questions. What has become more challenging is the number of outlets to try and keep on top of, in terms of just the sheer amount of content they generate. And also the speed with which stuff goes out there with digital, that is really challenging and we’ve seen numerous incidents where people have gone out too early with misinformation that has caused enormous ramifications.

On what letter grade she would give present-day journalism: I think the journalism being practiced at the moment is extraordinary. The Washington Post; The New Yorker; Esquire: Town & Country; The New York Times, are all doing exceptional jobs of really trying to reflect the chaos going on in Washington and to explain it. I think we have some extraordinarily brave and dedicated journalists who are doing their jobs. And I’m sure they’re exhausted. The trolling that goes on with journalists is really a depressing development, but I think we have some astonishingly good journalism going on at the moment.

On what she expects to see editorially from Hearst in 2018: It’s always exciting to have new energy come in to the company, so we’re very excited about expanding to include both Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Prevention. And what those three titles do is give us even more expertise in the health and wellness area. And I think if you look at the demographic of the population, you look at what people are interested in; health and wellness and fitness are subjects that people are increasingly excited about. And also the sense of mental health and mindfulness are important to people. So, being able to offer more to readers around those subjects is really great for us.

On whether all of this seems like a walk in a rose garden, or she sees some thorns along the way: We are going through a walk in a rose garden, but we’re paying attention to the thorns along the way. (Laughs) I mean, I don’t want to pretend that this isn’t a challenging time, but as David is always telling us, the same word in Chinese that means crisis also means opportunity.

On her definition of content today: That’s a very good question; no one has asked me that before. What is content? I think it is information served up in a responsible and entertaining way, that helps you understand and appreciate the world that you’re living in. And at its best, it resonates, and adds to your appreciation and understanding of the world we live in. And it’s also a fantastic emotional distraction. And at its worst, it’s full of misinformation and leaves you depressed and restless.

On whether she believes content differs with the different platforms: Of course, because you want to always play to a platform’s strength. So, in a magazine, you want to indulge in fabulous flights of fantasy with great photographers who can transport you and take you on a voyage of discovery that you didn’t know you wanted to go on. If you’re on your phone, you want digestible bits of information, some to make you laugh, some to make you feel, and some to inform you.

On how she decides what content goes where: The editors make that decision. The editors are always thinking through the prism of their own brand; is this right for video, is this right for digital, is this print, is this a podcast, so the individual editors will have a good sense of where that material goes. For example, if you shoot Miley Cyrus, as Cosmo did recently; Miley Cyrus took Cosmo through her old childhood home and back to her childhood bedroom. That is a great story in print, because it’s emotional; the photos were terrific. But it was also a great video and it got great traction online, because you the viewer were taken into a private place that you don’t normally have access to. But in print, it was equally powerful.

On something that wished she hadn’t done during her professional career as an editor: I never think about what I shouldn’t have done. I’ve spent half my life in the fetal position about what I shouldn’t have done, but I also move on. I’ve made hundreds of mistakes, everybody who’s doing a job well has made hundreds of mistakes, but I don’t dwell on them.

On the best decision she’s made in her professional career: Probably saying yes to opportunity.

On the advice she might give a millennial who wanted to become the next Joanna Coles: First of all, I would instruct them to have fun. If you’re not passionate about doing it then you won’t enjoy it, because it’s a hard job; it’s long hours, but if you love it, it whistles past. And to be good to your peer group, because you will rise and fall with them, and there is no room in this business for people who misbehave. And the job is too big to waste energy treating people poorly.

On anything she’d like to add: I think that the importance of teamwork is one that gets overlooked in this business. Editors in particular get lavished with a lot of attention, but behind every good editor, or every editor with a certain amount of bravery to push the brand forward, there is always a loyal team who have got your back. And that’s the thing that I would like to make clear, that it’s easier to focus on individual people, but actually it’s always teamwork.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: When my husband first saw me at a party, he wanted to know who I was and the man next to him said, oh, that’s Joanna Coles, she’s the rudest woman in London, which of course intrigued him. I hope they wouldn’t say that now. I think if they knew me and had worked with me, I hope that they would say that she was fun to work with.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: You would find me walking the dog.

On what keeps her up at night: I’m embarrassed to say that I sleep like a log. Nothing keeps me up at night. I go to bed thoroughly exhausted and very excited about waking up the next morning.

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

Samir Husni: Joanna, you’ve done it all. You’ve been in newspapers, on TV; you’ve been in film, and magazines. What makes Joanna Coles enjoy this profession of journalism most in this day and age?

Joanna Coles: It’s really a great time to be a magazine journalist, because there’s so much news going on and everybody is trying to make heads or tails of it. And we’re in the perfect position to do that. Not only have you seen magazines like The New Yorker completely changing the conversation around sexual harassment, but you also see a lot of magazines that are able to help readers make sense of a world that doesn’t feel like it makes sense anymore.

Samir Husni: Do you feel that magazines are now well-primed to be the future leaders of print; of the industry?

Joanna Coles: I do. I think that digital, which I’m also a part of through my connection on the Snapchat Board; digital has grown very much in the moment. What magazines are able to do is to think about where we are going as a culture; what kind of conversations we will be having; and we are soothsayers to the future. We are the predictors of what will happen. And it’s a very different skillset. And I think digital has only made us stronger and better. But there is no question that as agenda-setters, magazines are very much still out in the forefront.

Samir Husni: You’ve been quoted as saying that print is not dead yet…

Joanna Coles: Well, I was being ironic, because since I’m British, I tend to end everything with “yet.”

Samir Husni: (Laughs).

Joanna Coles: And when people ask me how am I doing, I say, well, I’m still working. I don’t mean that I actually think I’m going to “stop” working; I’m always grateful for whatever I have and I’m happy to acknowledge that the future is unpredictable, but I don’t mean it literally. I’m sure that I said that in response to someone probably asking me if print is dead.

Print is never going to go away, and actually what we’re seeing now and what I like to say, which I’m very intrigued by too, is that we’re now in a moment of “post-the-euphoria-of-digital.” And we’re now beginning to understand the more destructive impact that some digital media have. And I think people are beginning to understand through their own behavior, which as we know is still very, very new, that if you spend a certain amount of time on your phone, you don’t actually end up feeling better educationally informed, you actually end up feeling restless and like you can’t focus or concentrate on anything.

And so, I think you’re seeing a move-back to print; a move-back to the appreciation that print is restorative; it’s actually information that you take in. We know that there was a connection between the tactile, taking in of information…so, the touching of print and the absorption of information. And I feel very confident that print will continue to evolve and remain relevant.

With our fashion titles, you see extraordinarily creative photography that cannot be replicated online. And you see people wanting to disengage or unplug from their phones. It’s not a zero-sum game, which is how people seem to think of it; it’s very much an additive game, I think.

Samir Husni: Your role is the first-ever chief content officer at Hearst Magazines, and one of the things that David (Carey) and Michael (Clinton) mentioned to me recently in New York was how small the leadership circle is at Hearst Magazines. There are five of you in top leadership positions and that’s one reason for the stability at Hearst. But as the chief content officer, you have a large portfolio under your leadership.

Joanna Coles: I do and it’s a portfolio that I hope will grow. We’ve added two new magazines this year: The Pioneer Woman and Airbnb, which we’re phenomenally excited about. And of course, we’ve just bought Rodale, so we’ll be adding Men’s Health and Women’s Health to the mix, and Prevention, Runner’s World and Bicycling.

Samir Husni: How do you wrap your mind around all of these different titles and the fact that you’re in charge of all of them?

Joanna Coles: David (Carey) runs an incredibly organized ship. So, we have issue previews, where we learn what’s going to be in the magazine coming up, so we have regular meetings with the editors and publishers. I have a regular once-a-month, editor in chief meeting, where all of the editors come together; sometimes we bring in outside speakers from other industries to inspire us and to help us think strategically.

There is always some minor crisis going on (Laughs), and then we’re always out thinking about new business; thinking about new partnerships. Hearst is a very creative partner, with the way that we work. There is an enormous team of extremely talented people at Hearst who do all of the work. And honestly, I do sit and listen to them and just say yes or no.

Samir Husni: From your days in the U.K. with The Guardian and The Times; you’ve seen a lot; what do you think was the major change that took place in your job as a magazine editor, as a journalist? How are things different from five years ago; from your days at Cosmo?

Joanna Coles: The basic elements of journalism remains the same, which is to ask questions. What has become more challenging is the number of outlets to try and keep on top of, in terms of just the sheer amount of content they generate. And also the speed with which stuff goes out there with digital, that is really challenging and we’ve seen numerous incidents where people have gone out too early with misinformation that has caused enormous ramifications. So, the speed to publish has changed dramatically and the scale of what’s out there has also changed dramatically, but the fundamental responsibility of journalism is more important now than ever, which is to hold the powerful to account and to keep on asking questions when everybody obfuscates or lies to your face.

Samir Husni: If you are awarded a Ph.D. in journalism and you’re teaching journalism today, what grade would you give present-day journalism as a whole?

Joanna Coles: I think the journalism being practiced at the moment is extraordinary. The Washington Post; The New Yorker; Esquire: Town & Country; The New York Times, are all doing exceptional jobs of really trying to reflect the chaos going on in Washington and to explain it. I think we have some extraordinarily brave and dedicated journalists who are doing their jobs. And I’m sure they’re exhausted. The trolling that goes on with journalists is really a depressing development, but I think we have some astonishingly good journalism going on at the moment.

Samir Husni: So, that’s A+ or an A?

Joanna Coles: I wouldn’t say an A+, because I think in the runs after the election there was some disappointing mix in understanding what was going on in the country, but I think the election was a wakeup call that journalists were out to touch the elite, where the elite from both coasts had somehow missed the story that was going on in rural communities. And I believe that everyone is very conscious that they’re trying to reflect the country as it is and reflect what’s going on in D.C. as it is, as well. They all need to double their staff, because there’s just so much news at the moment.

Samir Husni: Hearst launched two new magazines this year, and now you have acquired Rodale. If you were to put your editorial fortuneteller hat on; what do you expect to see in 2018?

Joanna Coles: It’s always exciting to have new energy come in to the company, so we’re very excited about expanding to include both Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Prevention. And what those three titles do is give us even more expertise in the health and wellness area. And I think if you look at the demographic of the population, you look at what people are interested in; health and wellness and fitness are subjects that people are increasingly excited about. And also the sense of mental health and mindfulness are important to people. So, being able to offer more to readers around those subjects is really great for us.

We already offer extraordinary riches when it comes to food. We have the Food Network Magazine; Good Housekeeping; Woman’s Day; Redbook; we have our online brand, Delish. So, we’re extraordinarily powerful in food. In the women’s fashion space, we have Marie Claire; Elle; Harper’s Bazaar; so again, extreme strength there.

We had traditionally less strength in the health and wellness space, which we’ve now doubled-down on with the Rodale purchase. And if you also throw in Oprah Magazine there, which has tremendous strength in the mental health and wellness fields, we build up an industry expertise which is unrivaled.

Samir Husni: So, do you think this transition will be a walk in a rose garden, or do you think there will be some thorns along the way?

Joanna Coles: We are going through a walk in a rose garden, but we’re paying attention to the thorns along the way. (Laughs) I mean, I don’t want to pretend that this isn’t a challenging time, but as David is always telling us, the same word in Chinese that means crisis also means opportunity.

The other thing that is becoming obvious is that the big tech companies are all feeling more responsibility toward thinking about content. We are constantly approached now by the companies on the West Coast, wanting to partner with us to create good quality content. And I think everybody realizes now there is an absolute block of, quite frankly, crap out there, and that brand feels both an obligation and an excitement around producing high quality, premium content.

Not only are there moral reasons for doing that, but there are also great business reasons for doing that. If you’re AT&T, or you’re JPMorgan Chase, you don’t want to be advertising next to nonsensical stories. You want to be up against high quality content, and that’s what Hearst is in the business of doing. I know, because I field a lot of the calls. There’s tremendous excitement working with a company like Hearst that knows what we’re doing.

We’ve just launched My Beauty Chat with Amazon and it uses Alexa Skill. And they’re incredibly upbeat about the potential for that. And we’ll definitely be doing more content with emerging text, with voice being a part of that. So, I see us developing that a lot. And obviously, Apple has its HomePod coming out next year, it’s just been delayed, but they’re excited to work with Google Home. We’re working on a lot of what we call “listenables,” which is bite sized pieces of audio content. So, I’m having conversations with chief content officers at many different companies than I would have been doing three years ago.

Samir Husni: Would you define the word content for me today? What’s content in 2018?

Joanna Coles: That’s a very good question; no one has asked me that before. What is content? I think it is information served up in a responsible and entertaining way, that helps you understand and appreciate the world that you’re living in. And at its best, it resonates, and adds to your appreciation and understanding of the world we live in. And it’s also a fantastic emotional distraction. And at its worst, it’s full of misinformation and leaves you depressed and restless.

Samir Husni: And does content differ with the many platforms?

Joanna Coles: Of course, because you want to always play to a platform’s strength. So, in a magazine, you want to indulge in fabulous flights of fantasy with great photographers who can transport you and take you on a voyage of discovery that you didn’t know you wanted to go on. If you’re on your phone, you want digestible bits of information, some to make you laugh, some to make you feel, and some to inform you.

Samir Husni: As you go through your day, how do you decide where the content goes? This belongs to print, this belongs to digital, this content is voice, this content is video; do you have to really think about those decisions or does it just come naturally to you?

Joanna Coles: The editors make that decision. The editors are always thinking through the prism of their own brand; is this right for video, is this right for digital, is this print, is this a podcast, so the individual editors will have a good sense of where that material goes. For example, if you shoot Miley Cyrus, as Cosmo did recently; Miley Cyrus took Cosmo through her old childhood home and back to her childhood bedroom. That is a great story in print, because it’s emotional; the photos were terrific. But it was also a great video and it got great traction online, because you the viewer were taken into a private place that you don’t normally have access to. But in print, it was equally powerful.

There are many subjects which lend themselves to the different forms of content, but the ideal is when you’re doing one story and you can package it out across all different media.

Samir Husni: What has been something that you wished you wouldn’t have done in your professional career as an editor?

Joanna Coles: I never think about what I shouldn’t have done. I’ve spent half my life in the fetal position about what I shouldn’t have done, but I also move on. I’ve made hundreds of mistakes, everybody who’s doing a job well has made hundreds of mistakes, but I don’t dwell on them.

Samir Husni: What’s the best decision you’ve made in your professional career?

Joanna Coles: Probably saying yes to opportunity.

Samir Husni: What advice would you give millennials who might want to follow in your footsteps? How can someone become the next Joanna Coles?

Joanna Coles: First of all, I would instruct them to have fun. If you’re not passionate about doing it then you won’t enjoy it, because it’s a hard job; it’s long hours, but if you love it, it whistles past. And to be good to your peer group, because you will rise and fall with them, and there is no room in this business for people who misbehave. And the job is too big to waste energy treating people poorly.

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

Joanna Coles: I think that the importance of teamwork is one that gets overlooked in this business. Editors in particular get lavished with a lot of attention, but behind every good editor, or every editor with a certain amount of bravery to push the brand forward, there is always a loyal team who have got your back. And that’s the thing that I would like to make clear, that it’s easier to focus on individual people, but actually it’s always teamwork. And the real skill of a good editor in chief is managing a team. And also balancing all of their creative differences to make sure that you get the sum of the part, not the fragment of the part.

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

Joanna Coles: When my husband first saw me at a party, he wanted to know who I was and the man next to him said, oh, that’s Joanna Coles, she’s the rudest woman in London, which of course intrigued him. I hope they wouldn’t say that now. I think if they knew me and had worked with me, I hope that they would say that she was fun to work with.

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?

Joanna Coles: You would find me walking the dog.

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

Joanna Coles: I’m embarrassed to say that I sleep like a log. Nothing keeps me up at night. I go to bed thoroughly exhausted and very excited about waking up the next morning.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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