Archive for the ‘Magazine Power’ Category

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Curious Jane Magazine: Empowering Young Girls To “Think With Their Hands” Through Innovative Summer Programs & A Quarterly Print Magazine – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Samantha Razook Murphy, Founder, Curious Jane…

February 24, 2017

Curious Jane Super Silly issue

“A few other people have said that I was crazy to launch a print magazine and that I really needed to be in the digital space, but part of it is a personal passion, having a background in design and loving objects and paper and magazines. So, the print part was very important to me. But also our audience is 6 to 11-year-old girls, so they’re not really consuming online media in a way that say, a 12 to 13-year-old girl would, so the in-print aspect of it was important to us. But plenty of people asked and still ask what in the world was I thinking.” Samantha Razook Murphy…

A community of confident, inquisitive girls between the ages of six and 11, who like to make things, is the heart of Curious Jane magazine. And the woman who pumps that heart with her passion and dedication is its founder, Samantha Razook Murphy.

I spoke with Samantha recently and we talked about the genesis of Curious Jane, the projects and the summer programs, and we talked about Curious Jane, the magazine. All of which fall under one brand that has become quite popular with its audience and with those readers’ parents. Samantha actually gave birth to the idea for a great summer camp when her own two daughters were small and has worked hard to grow the business since then. The magazine was launched two years ago and has become an incredible tool to promote the brand and engage with readers. Today, you don’t have to live in the NYC area (which is where Curious Jane originates from, Brooklyn to be exact) to have a Curious Jane experience. It’s happening for girls all across America with the magazine.

So, I hope that you enjoy this interview with a woman who believes empowering young girls to “think with their hands” and be curious, while learning to create at the same time, is done best through an environment of projects, programs and print, Samantha Razook Murphy, founder, Curious Jane.

But first the sound-bites:

Samantha Razook MurphyOn the genesis of Curious Jane: When I started Curious Jane, I literally opened up a bank account with $500, so there wasn’t a business plan, it wasn’t funded, anything like that. It was just its own truck, sort of motoring down the road. And when we received this grant we were able to use some of that to work with a group, focus on how we might grow Curious Jane and the business. And one of the ideas that came out of it was taking all of these projects and activities that we had developed over the years with the summer camps and repackaging it into an in-print magazine for girls that was ad-free, subscription-based, so that girls in different parts of the country who certainly couldn’t actually attend the camp due to geography could be a part of the Curious Jane experience. And girls who were a part of our programs could continue to have those projects during the schoolyear, instead of just during the summers.

On whether anyone told her she was crazy to start a print magazine in this digital age: This man I was chatting with said to me that just because I was getting bored with the camps didn’t mean that I should start a magazine. And that was a pretty eye-opening statement, but it did help me to reframe. We continued with the magazine though, and I actually had lunch with him recently and told him that we had continued, but that his statement was very helpful in reframing my thoughts about it and about how the numbers work around the magazine.

On how she chose the name Curious Jane: The fact that there is a Curious George and that people know it and it sort of rolls off the tongue has certainly worked in our favor. Honestly, I think it was right before the first summer of camp and I was thinking about what to name this little thing that I was doing for my young daughters in order for me to be able to work, and I truly think it was one day when I was walking back from the laundromat and thinking what was the most important attribute that I wanted to instill in my girls? And it was curiosity. And something that I say even now when I work with girls is, think with your hands. Take the thinking out of your head and think with your hands.

Curious Jane Kitchen ChemistryOn the biggest challenge that she’s had to face: I think the biggest challenge that we’ve had and continue to have is how to make it a financially positive aspect of what we do. When we started we had a very small subscriber base, a lot of them were our campers and people who knew us. And then about a year and a half into it, a mother of one of our camper’s works with a group called Sterling Publishing. She came to me and asked whether I had ever thought about doing a book of our projects. And I told her that in my mind a book meant taking a lot of time and resources and not making any money. We’re such a small business, wearing a million different hats; I can’t devote the resources to that. And she said that they wanted to make it really easy on me by taking all of the content that we’ve produced for the magazine so far and repackage it for the book.

On her most pleasant moment: Every time we work on the magazine is the most pleasant moment. We have a great time working on the projects and the fun little tidbits that have come up into it. A lot of things have changed from the first issue, in both the trim size and the layout. With my background in industrial design, something that I think has benefitted me is the comfort level I have of getting something to prototype stage and then getting it into people’s hands, and seeing the feedback we get and how we feel about it.

On how she met Jack Kliger and John Griffin: I met someone who knew Jack, and when I was telling this woman that we had just printed the first pre-issue of the magazine, she said she knew a few people who might be of help. I wrote down their names and she asked if I would like her to connect me with them. And one of them was Jack. And at that time we were looking for funding, we’re always open to it. But I specifically wanted to pick his brain and get as much advice as I could, so I met him for coffee. And at that point I understood what his very large and successful background in publishing and magazines was, and something that I really appreciated was he was willing to talk to someone who had only printed the second issue of a magazine. It was ad-free, we had 250 subscribers and he was able to give me very specific and useful suggestions for the magazine. About a week later, he called me and asked me was I interested in a little bit of funding and taking on an advisory board. He had another friend, John Griffin, who he wanted me to meet. So, that’s how I met them. And then they did ultimately become investors, but really advisors, and not just in the magazine, but in Curious Jane as a company.

On anything that she would like to add: Via the magazine, which has been a great tool for us, when I think of Curious Jane, it started as a camp, now we have a magazine; I really think of it as a community. I want it to feel like a community for girls, where they make things and feel empowered and self-confident. And to remove fear of failure is really at the core of that as well. In the past couple of years we have been able to work with a few organizations that have a national audience, Amy Poehler, Smart Girls, Parents Magazine, Family Fun, and we have our book coming out, so these types of collaborations with other groups, and likeminded organizations are something that we really enjoy and that we want to encourage and continue to grow.

The Curious Jane team: Melisa Coburn (L) – editorial, Samantha Razook Murphy (M) brainstorming, projects and layout, and Elissa Josse (R) –  artwork, doodles, layout and project creation.

The Curious Jane team: Melisa Coburn (L) – editorial, Samantha Razook Murphy (M) brainstorming, projects and layout, and
Elissa Josse (R) – artwork, doodles, layout and project creation.

On what drives her and makes her get out of bed every morning: All of the things that drive me are getting to work with the amazing people that I work with; we’re a small office year round. There are three to four of us; a tremendous, awesome, fun group. And then during the summer we hire about 100 to 120 young women to work with us, and the type of people that Curious Jane attracts to work with the girls over the summer is outstanding. So, getting to work with them is a complete honor.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly to her home one evening: I really value the evening time. You would find me cooking; I find that to be really enjoyable and relaxing. I put a lot of value on the family meal in the evenings. My older daughter is quite musical, and what you will find in my small, cozy, warm apartment is cooking and music and candles, things like that. I don’t have a television and I don’t really consume digital media, but I guess a lot of people don’t have a television anymore; they use their computers for that sort of thing.

On what keeps her up at night: That’s a good question and I have a very specific answer, which is that I constantly run numbers in my head. I’m very fortunate that I have two girls, sort of a reconstructed family, and none of these things keep me up at night. Everyone is doing great, knock wood. As far as enjoyment of my workday, all of that is wonderful. It’s the numbers and how to keep the business moving forward.

And now the lightly edited transcription of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Samantha Razook Murphy, founder, Curious Jane.

Samir Husni: There seems to be a movement when it comes to launching new magazines for girls. In the last two or three years, I’ve seen at least five or six magazines that have come to the marketplace and each one of them are one-of-a-kind. Tell me about the genesis of Curious Jane.

Curious Jane Spa ScienceSamantha Razook Murphy: I have two daughters; they’re now 13 and 15. And I started Curious Jane nine years ago. It really started as a summer camp and continues as a summer camp. I did my undergraduate degree in Graphic Design at Yale, and then I moved to Brooklyn and did my master’s in Industrial Design at Pratt. And both of my girls were born by that time. They were young during the summers when I was pursuing my master’s at Pratt, and I directed all-girls residential programs on college campuses, so that’s how I go into the all-girls summer camp environment.

And then 2008/2009 rolled around and the economy took a nosedive and at that time my husband and I had to get a bit creative with what we did and how we stayed in Brooklyn, so I started an overnight camp program because that’s what I was familiar with and used to. But I needed something for my own girls to do; they were early elementary school aged, so I started Curious Jane. And it began truly as something for them and their friends to do during the summer months while I tried to get this overnight camp for girls off the ground.

That was the summer of 2009 and I hired a couple of instructors; I rented a van from a rental place in the city, we were living in Brooklyn and still do, and literally drove the camp van, picked up their friends, dropped them off at a school where we had rented some classrooms and the teachers were the instructors who taught the programs.

So, from that first summer of Curious Jane, the way the camp worked was girls could sign up for a week or two or three weeks, and then they would choose their favorite theme for the week. And all of the themes revolved around science, engineering and design. And that’s still what we do. That first summer we had just a handful of girls, but they could take a week-long class called “Why Buildings Stand Up,” which was architecture and engineering combined. They could take a week of “Toy Design.” So, these were the types of things that were the foundation of Curious Jane.

Then over the years Curious Jane really grew. People were really receptive to it; the girls loved it; the parents loved the idea of it, and in the end the residential programs certainly didn’t grow at the same pace and ultimately shrank. So, we stopped running the overnight program and only focused on Curious Jane. We added things like after-school programs, and we did run it in a few other states, but now we just focus on the New York City area.

In 2014, we applied for and did receive a small business grant; we are for-profit, so the word “grant” is a little bit misleading, but we applied via Chase through a program they had at the time called “Mission Small Business” and it was an unrestricted quarter of a million dollars. It was pretty competitive, I think there were around 35,000 applicants, and we were one of 12 recipients. And that helped us continue doing what we were doing and it also gave us the opportunity to work with, for the first time, a business development group and they were wonderful.

When I started Curious Jane, I literally opened up a bank account with $500, so there wasn’t a business plan, it wasn’t funded, anything like that. It was just its own truck, sort of motoring down the road. And when we received this grant we were able to use some of that to work with a group, focus on how we might grow Curious Jane and the business. And one of the ideas that came out of it was taking all of these projects and activities that we had developed over the years with the summer camps and repackaging it into an in-print magazine for girls that was ad-free, subscription-based, so that girls in different parts of the country who certainly couldn’t actually attend the camp due to geography could be a part of the Curious Jane experience. And girls who were a part of our programs could continue to have those projects during the schoolyear, instead of just during the summers.

We have been printing the magazine itself for two years now and it comes out quarterly. I think the issue you have is the “Super Silly” issue, and most of our issues revolve around our popular camp themes and we have used those projects to repackage into a magazine. The “Super Silly” issue was kind of a fun departure from that. It was a little bit more lighthearted and filled with different craft projects. But for example, some of the others were a “Spa Science” issue, girls could make anything to do with bath products and spas, and also learn about science in the process. We had a “Spy Science” one, which is very popular at classic camp, which is learning about detective work and things like that.

Samir Husni: You took your passion and your necessity and created Curious Jane, both the summer programs and the magazine. Did anybody tell you that you were out of your mind to start a print magazine for girls in this digital age?

Curious Jane Pre Launch IssueSamantha Razook Murphy: Actually, there was a conversation that I had a couple of years ago, because when we started the magazine it wasn’t as though we were receiving additional funding, the camp business was what was funding and continues to fund the magazine, so a couple of years ago before I met Jack (Kliger) and John (Griffin), I had lunch with a brother of a friend of mine and he has a private equity group, and his group particularly focuses on grants, so it’s sort of a niche area for private equity. And I think at that time we had printed the first, very slim pre-issue of the magazine at great expense, and when I say “we” I mean our small office of two to three people, where most of what we do is other business and then we have a sunny space in the office where we do all of the photography and layout, because my background is in graphic design; all of that is done in-house.

So, this man I was chatting with said to me that just because I was getting bored with the camps didn’t mean that I should start a magazine. And that was a pretty eye-opening statement, but it did help me to reframe. We continued with the magazine though, and I actually had lunch with him recently and told him that we had continued, but that his statement was very helpful in reframing my thoughts about it and about how the numbers work around the magazine.

And then a few other people have said that I was crazy to launch a print magazine and that I really needed to be in the digital space, but part of it is a personal passion, having a background in design and loving objects and paper and magazines. So, the print part was very important to me. But also our audience is 6 to 11-year-old girls, so they’re not really consuming online media in a way that say, a 12 to 13-year-old girl would, so the in-print aspect of it was important to us. But plenty of people asked and still ask what in the world was I thinking.

Samir Husni: I know the name Curious Jane is obvious, but tell me how you chose that name. Everybody knows Curious George. Is it the fact that you have two girls and you didn’t want them reading Curious George, you wanted them to have their own magazine?

Samantha Razook Murphy: The fact that there is a Curious George and that people know it and it sort of rolls off the tongue has certainly worked in our favor. Honestly, I think it was right before the first summer of camp and I was thinking about what to name this little thing that I was doing for my young daughters in order for me to be able to work, and I truly think it was one day when I was walking back from the laundromat and thinking what was the most important attribute that I wanted to instill in my girls? And it was curiosity. And something that I say even now when I work with girls is, think with your hands. Take the thinking out of your head and think with your hands.

Having spent eight years in an educational environment, graphic and industrial design, we’re basically studio classes. I mean, everyday you’re putting your work in front of someone and having it critiqued and talked about and given feedback on. So this idea of continuing to be curious and collaborative, and to feel comfortable putting yourself and your work out into the world in order to learn and grow from it, rather than to feel defensive about it, private about it, or shutdown about it; the idea of curiosity is very important to me for myself, my girls and what we do as a business. So, that word was set. And Jane is just the idea that I wanted it to reference every girl, Jane being a sort of “every girl” theme.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest challenge that you’ve had to face and how have you overcome it?

Samantha Razook Murphy: I think the biggest challenge that we’ve had and continue to have is how to make it a financially positive aspect of what we do. When we started we had a very small subscriber base, a lot of them were our campers and people who knew us. And then about a year and a half into it, a mother of one of our camper’s works with a group called Sterling Publishing. She came to me and asked whether I had ever thought about doing a book of our projects. And I told her that in my mind a book meant taking a lot of time and resources and not making any money. We’re such a small business, wearing a million different hats; I can’t devote the resources to that. And she said that they wanted to make it really easy on me by taking all of the content that we’ve produced for the magazine so far and repackage it for the book.

That helped us continue the magazine and it sort of balanced out the cost that we were using to get the magazine off the ground. In order to produce this book, she made it very easy on us. Sterling happens to be owned by Barnes & Noble and so via that she asked why I didn’t send some magazines over to the woman who runs newsstand for Barnes & Noble. And we did that, and she has been incredibly supportive. So, the issue that you picked up at Barnes & Noble is actually only the second issue that has been on newsstand.

The obstacle has been how do we continue to print this, grow the word, get it into girls’ hands, and thrive as a business.

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

Samantha Razook Murphy: Every time we work on the magazine is the most pleasant moment. We have a great time working on the projects and the fun little tidbits that have come up into it. A lot of things have changed from the first issue, in both the trim size and the layout. With my background in industrial design, something that I think has benefitted me is the comfort level I have of getting something to prototype stage and then getting it into people’s hands, and seeing the feedback we get and how we feel about it.

So, the most pleasurable moments of all have been seeing the magazine itself. And I continue to look forward to working on it. Even for the next issue, which we’re working on now; we have new ideas for how we want to change a few things, really include more girls, that sort of thing. This growing organic product has been a huge amount of pleasure to me, and then also just the chance to actually work on the magazine is great fun.

Samir Husni: How did you meet Jack Kliger and John Griffin? These are giant names in the industry.

Samantha Razook Murphy: I really enjoy talking to people, learning about business, growing a business, and Curious Jane itself is a female-started and female-run business that, like I said, was started with $500 in the bank. A few years ago, we did cross the one million in revenue mark, which is somewhat of an indicator. So, we started connecting to other people in the business world. I like to meet other people. And they would tell me that more female business representatives were needed at such and such dinner and if I could please come.

So, through those channels I met someone who knew Jack, and when I was telling this woman that we had just printed the first pre-issue of the magazine, she said she knew a few people who might be of help. I wrote down their names and she asked if I would like her to connect me with them. And one of them was Jack. And at that time we were looking for funding, we’re always open to it. But I specifically wanted to pick his brain and get as much advice as I could, so I met him for coffee.

And at that point I understood what his very large and successful background in publishing and magazines was, and something that I really appreciated was he was willing to talk to someone who had only printed the second issue of a magazine. It was ad-free, we had 250 subscribers and he was able to give me very specific and useful suggestions for the magazine. About a week later, he called me and asked me was I interested in a little bit of funding and taking on an advisory board. He had another friend, John Griffin, who he wanted me to meet. So, that’s how I met them. And then they did ultimately become investors, but really advisors, and not just in the magazine, but in Curious Jane as a company.

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

Samantha Razook Murphy: What I would add is that we’re a small business, but we are completely committed to getting this off the ground and growing it. What I’m doing now is reaching out to as many people as possible to continue to spread the word, to grow subscriber base; and what I’m looking for is, in general, feedback and thoughts. I’m very open in that way in connecting and working with people.

Via the magazine, which has been a great tool for us, when I think of Curious Jane, it started as a camp, now we have a magazine; I really think of it as a community. I want it to feel like a community for girls, where they make things and feel empowered and self-confident. And to remove fear of failure is really at the core of that as well. In the past couple of years we have been able to work with a few organizations that have a national audience, Amy Poehler, Smart Girls, Parents Magazine, Family Fun, and we have our book coming out, so these types of collaborations with other groups, and likeminded organizations are something that we really enjoy and that we want to encourage and continue to grow.

Samir Husni: If someone were to stop you on the street and tell you that they had seen your brochure and that they knew you were the founder of Curious Jane. And they knew what all you did, summer programs, workshops, events and a magazine. And they asked you, with all of that, what drives you? What makes you get out of bed in the morning; everything or one thing in particular?

Samantha Razook Murphy: I do love getting out of bed every morning and coming to Curious Jane. That is something that I value so highly and have a great appreciation for. I actually had this conversation with my 15-year-old daughter the other night and we were talking about if you’re with a new social group, especially for adults, and they ask the common question: what do you do? And I said to her sometimes Eleanor, I’ll say to the person that I’m happy to tell you what I do, but something that’s even more relevant to me is “what do I enjoy about what I do?”

So, all of the things that drive me are getting to work with the amazing people that I work with; we’re a small office year round. There are three to four of us; a tremendous, awesome, fun group. And then during the summer we hire about 100 to 120 young women to work with us, and the type of people that Curious Jane attracts to work with the girls over the summer is outstanding. So, getting to work with them is a complete honor.

Getting to have a balance to my day; you know, sometimes it’s admin and paperwork, sometimes it’s getting to do photos for the magazine, sometimes it’s trying out a new project; there is so much variety. And then also there is challenge and that’s a complete pleasure. So, I would say that these things that create a work environment or a professional environment are what I enjoy so much. And then also I get to do something that has such a strong, positive social mission, and that’s a real treat.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly to your home one evening, what would I find you doing; reading a magazine; doing some designing; having a glass of wine; or something else?

Samantha Razook Murphy: I really value the evening time. You would find me cooking; I find that to be really enjoyable and relaxing. I put a lot of value on the family meal in the evenings. My older daughter is quite musical, and what you will find in my small, cozy, warm apartment is cooking and music and candles, things like that. I don’t have a television and I don’t really consume digital media, but I guess a lot of people don’t have a television anymore; they use their computers for that sort of thing. What you’ll see when you walk in is a guitar, a keyboard, a bass, a kitchen, a dining table, which is where we eat and do homework. It’s where we do crafts, when the opportunity arises I like to make things. But really the office is a great place to make things. And that’s what you would find me doing in the evening.

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

Samantha Razook Murphy: That’s a good question and I have a very specific answer, which is that I constantly run numbers in my head. I’m very fortunate that I have two girls, sort of a reconstructed family, and none of these things keep me up at night. Everyone is doing great, knock wood. As far as enjoyment of my workday, all of that is wonderful. It’s the numbers and how to keep the business moving forward.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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

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Long Live Vinyl Magazine: Some Things Are Meant To Be Connected Forever, Like Magazines & Music. The Print & Vinyl Love Affair Continues – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Ian Peel, Founder & Editor At Large, Long Live Vinyl Magazine…

February 16, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

long-live-vinyl597

“How valuable is print? Well, it’s incredibly valuable within the context of coexisting with online, because if I think of all of those people at BMG Records working away, they all look at email newsfeeds every morning. Then when you walk into their reception area, there are print magazines everywhere. And both have to exist, they each have their role.” Ian Peel…

Ink on Paper and vinyl records have always had an easy courtship. From Rolling Stone to Spin, these music magazine couplings usually turned into magic. That is, until the world decided both genres were dead or dying a slow, digital death. Of course, those with their fingers on the pulse of both industries knew that evolution did not necessarily mean extinction. In the 21st century our airspace is large enough for turntables and iPods; tablets and print magazines; and just about anything else the innovatively, creative human mind can come up with. No reason to fret.

And that’s exactly what the founder and editor at large of Long Live Vinyl magazine knew when he thought about the many ways you could make a print publication about vinyl records interesting in this day and age. As simple as “American Pie” really.

Ian Peel is a freelance journalist, marketing consultant, and magazine thinker and maker. He has contributed his fresh and innovative ideas to Anthem Publishing in the U.K., and so far, together, the two have created Classic Pop and Long Live Vinyl magazines, which are both increasing their frequency from bimonthlies to monthlies. Not bad for two industries that are on the verge of extinction, hmm?

ian-peel-long-live-vinyl-classic-popI spoke with Ian recently and we talked about the newest edition to the fold, Long Live Vinyl, and about the creative design, a 12-inch format that, as Ian put it, lacks only the hole in the middle to actually fit on a turntable. Ian is a man with two obvious passions: music and magazines. And his adoration for both runs deep, as I soon learned early in our conversation when I asked him what he’d say to people who would accuse him of using two dying or vanishing industries to create this magazine. His answer: I’d say to them they’re not dying, they’re changing. And his success is proof of that belief.

So, I hope that you enjoy this look into the relationship between magazines and music, because just like Diana Ross & Lionel Richie sang: it’s an “Endless Love.” OK – music puns are over – enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Ian Peel, Founder and Editor At Large, Long Live Vinyl magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On that moment of conception for the magazine and how he brought it to fruition: I started to talk to the team at Anthem Publishing about my ideas; how you could do a really interesting magazine about vinyl records. And of course this happened at the exact same time that the vinyl revival began. So, they thought about it for about two years, and then eventually we decided to give it a go.

On what he would say to those who would criticize him about combining two supposedly vanishing industries (print & vinyl) to create a new magazine: What would I say to them? Well, I’d say that these industries aren’t really dying, they’re changing. And with the changing times too, you have to be really, really bold, and try and strike out and do something new. When vinyl and magazines were both flourishing, it was probably harder to take risks, so it might have been harder to have done this 10 years ago, because there was far too much in the publishing world and the music world, so it was easy for people to just sit back and carry on with what they were doing and had always done. But when people’s backs are against the wall they have to be a bit more creative and daring. So, that’s what we did.

On why he thinks it took the magazine industry so long to realize that print and digital must co-exist with each other: Sometimes it’s just easier, isn’t it; to keep doing the same thing all of the time. And this is why maybe it was quite an interesting role for me, because I’ve never launched a magazine before Classic Pop. What I had been doing was working in the music business creating CD compilations and album reissues, and then trying to sell them into the media to get press coverage. So, I was coming from a slightly removed standpoint, and I was finding it very difficult in the case of classic pop music to get the page space in the traditional music magazines and newspapers.

On the biggest challenge he’s had to face: I don’t know if it was a challenge, but there was always a concern that I was just in a bubble and no one else would agree or see the value in it. That was a concern. There’s always this challenge that you have to create the magazine, or at least the structure and the style, before the publisher can start selling ad space, so there is a challenge, which is to get over that initial hump of going from concept to actually being able to gauge the revenue that the publication can generate.

On his most pleasant moment: When Anthem said yes, it was a surprise, because don’t forget, I had pitched Long Live Vinyl about two years ago to them, so they had sat very quietly and watched the vinyl revival grow for two years and remembered the proposal. So, it was a nice surprise when they phoned and said we will do this. We will make it happen.

On whether he thinks he could have achieved what he’s achieved with just a digital platform and no print component: We could have, but there are lots of vinyl blogs out there already, and I really like them. In fact, it’s interesting, because when I was devising Long Live Vinyl, there were some really great websites about vinyl, in terms of how they looked and what they said and their viewpoint. And I thought, none of that exists in print. There wasn’t a cool, contemporary vinyl print magazine. So, there was another reason, to replicate how far forward with vinyl journalism the Internet had moved.

On what role he will play at Long Live Vinyl now that he’s there full-time: On the masthead I’m founder plus editor at large. And in fact, that’s the title for both Classic Pop and Long Live Vinyl. So, that involves something that Anthem is quite keen on, and that is monitoring and developing what they call the DNA of the magazine. And I think they know from experience that it’s possible for the DNA to drift if it’s not sat up on a regular basis. And that could be anything from a font that someone has used temporarily for one issue that still accidentally in place 10 issues later, because no one has sat down and had a proper font discussion. Or it could be about the tone of voice that’s used.

On anything new he’s working on now: Yes. (Laughs) The third one is going to be brilliant. (Laughs again) Classic Pop was great and exists in its own way; Long Live Vinyl is kind of broader and a slightly wider platform, then the third idea is broader and wider still, but with a quite unique sense of purpose.

issue-01On whether he believes we’re seeing a return to a broader-topic type magazine with a niche audience, rather than a niche magazine itself: That’s a very interesting question, actually, because I think that one of the reasons that Classic Pop magazine did very well is that the four or five music magazines in the U.K. are all general list. They’ll have a Rock front cover, then they’ll have an Electronic front cover, and that was fine in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when the only way that you could get music content was to buy a magazine. They were duty-bound to cover all of the genres. But now that I can’t avoid music content, it’s coming out of my phone, computer, TV and everywhere, I think the job of the magazine is to be specialists, to celebrate more specialist areas.

On what advice he would offer to someone who came to him with an idea for starting a new magazine: If someone has a great idea for a print magazine, then I would encourage them to go and see a print publisher, because you’re taking them a revenue stream. And it would be great if that idea for a print magazine had really good unique content. And maybe you do start to blog, but I think if what we’re asking is, would it be best to do it online for a year and see how it goes, the answer is no, because you’re creating a totally different product than the one that you wanted to create in the first place. The best case scenario is they coexist together, straight on.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly at his home one evening: There’s quite an easy answer to that, which is, as soon as the magazine goes to bed, I go straight on to the next one. And it’s because it’s like this weird zone that you get into, when you’re finishing an issue, you just can’t stop. You’re on a roll.

On what keeps him up at night: (Laughs) I think the easy answer to that is the idea for magazine number three. It does keep me up at night, because when I look at this proposal, I’m excited. I’m excited and happy to read the proposal through.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Ian Peel, founder and editor at large, Long Live Vinyl magazine.

Samir Husni: Can you relive that moment of conception, that moment when you came up with the idea for Long Live Vinyl, and how did you bring it to fruition?

Ian Peel: It’s quite a long story, so I’ll try and give you the abridged version. There’s a magazine in the U.K. called “Record Collector” and I started writing for them when I left school in 1988. And I had lots of fun, really, writing for them. But I always had strong views as to how you could do a magazine for people who loved vinyl and loved records. And I would pitch these ideas to Record Collector over the years at different times and in the intervening 25 years. And some of those ideas they listened to and took onboard and some of them they didn’t.

Then flash forward to 2011when I had a great idea for a magazine about Pop music that I called “Classic Pop.” I went to Anthem Publishing and they really jumped onboard; they loved the idea. They set the magazine up and we made it a great success, so Classic Pop has been running for three years as a bimonthly.

And once that was doing really well and it was in supermarkets in the U.K., I started to talk to the team at Anthem Publishing about my ideas; how you could do a really interesting magazine about vinyl records. And of course this happened at the exact same time that the vinyl revival began. So, they thought about it for about two years, and then eventually we decided to give it a go.

long-live-vinyl-2598We did a test issue for Long Live Vinyl in November, 2016. I wasn’t hugely involved in anything other than conception with that, because I was doing a long consultancy with a record label called BMG, so I was working in-house with them on lots of vinyl releases as it happens. Aside from kind of setting Anthem Publishing up with the idea for Long Live Vinyl, and some very strict notes initially about pitching and selling in stage around two or three years ago, I left them to go ahead and put the magazine together.

One of the most exciting things was seeing Issue One on the shelves in November and it being pretty much exactly what I’d hoped for and exactly what I had dreamt we could do. All that time ago during the pitching process, I’d written really detailed notes about the style, tone and how the pages should be laid out; the type of fonts that should be used and the writers that should be in the magazine, and they worked through all of those notes and it came out really well. So, it was a good team effort, albeit quite remotely for me during Issue One.

So, then we sat back and looked at how Issue One had sold in November, and it sold very well and advertisers had picked up on it, so it was enough for me to leave BMG, and as of this month, turn Long Live Vinyl into a monthly magazine. We go monthly in April, and at the same time, we’re going to expand the remit of Classic Pop magazine, which is really the forerunner of Long Live Vinyl, and that will switch from bimonthly into a monthly in May.

Samir Husni: What would you tell the naysayers who might come to you saying that you are taking two supposedly dying or vanishing industries and combining them to create a very well-crafted, beautiful, album-sized magazine?

Ian Peel: What would I say to them? Well, I’d say that these industries aren’t really dying, they’re changing. And with the changing times too, you have to be really, really bold, and try and strike out and do something new. When vinyl and magazines were both flourishing, it was probably harder to take risks, so it might have been harder to have done this 10 years ago, because there was far too much in the publishing world and the music world, so it was easy for people to just sit back and carry on with what they were doing and had always done. But when people’s backs are against the wall they have to be a bit more creative and daring. So, that’s what we did.

And it was quite daring to do the magazine in 12-inch form, which was one of the initial ideas that we came up with. I wanted to go one step further and that was put a hole through the middle. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Ian Peel: But I couldn’t get approval on that. We’re still going to drill some holes though, for promotional type things.

Samir Husni: If we consider magazine makers the most creative people around, why do you think it took the magazine industry so long, almost a decade, to recognize that print isn’t going anywhere; digital isn’t going anywhere, and we have to live in an environment where all forms of media exist?

CP23.Cover.FINAL.inddIan Peel: Sometimes it’s just easier, isn’t it; to keep doing the same thing all of the time. And this is why maybe it was quite an interesting role for me, because I’ve never launched a magazine before Classic Pop. What I had been doing was working in the music business creating CD compilations and album reissues, and then trying to sell them into the media to get press coverage. So, I was coming from a slightly removed standpoint, and I was finding it very difficult in the case of classic pop music to get the page space in the traditional music magazines and newspapers.

But I knew there was a market for it, because there were festivals and they were booming and the CD and music business was booming with classic pop music, and there were television stations launching. It became quite clear that it should be very straightforward for a magazine to work in tandem with all of those other areas of media. So, why do we find it difficult? I don’t know, maybe a lack of objectivity.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest challenge that you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?

Ian Peel: I don’t know if it was a challenge, but there was always a concern that I was just in a bubble and no one else would agree or see the value in it. That was a concern. There’s always this challenge that you have to create the magazine, or at least the structure and the style, before the publisher can start selling ad space, so there is a challenge, which is to get over that initial hump of going from concept to actually being able to gauge the revenue that the publication can generate.

With Classic Pop magazine, it was a challenge to get certain businesses onboard, in terms of seeing its value, but not so with Long Live Vinyl. Every record label is producing vinyl editions, and when I went out to them; it was like a one-word pitch. What’s the magazine? Vinyl. And then they were straight onboard. So, it wasn’t too much of a tough sell in that respect.

There is this other magazine that has existed in the U.K. for a long time called “Record Collector” that I’ve written for and that gave me my first job in journalism. And I love that magazine; I have a lot of respect for it. And long may it continue. But I set myself the challenge of looking and feeling completely different that the Record Collector, in terms of tone of voice, type of photography used, because I wanted them to carry on being successful in their world, and I wanted us to be successful in ours. And I also wanted to avoid any confusion between potential readers as to what to buy.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant moment? Was it when Anthem said yes?

Ian Peel: Well, when Anthem said yes, it was a surprise, because don’t forget, I had pitched Long Live Vinyl about two years ago to them, so they had sat very quietly and watched the vinyl revival grow for two years and remembered the proposal. So, it was a nice surprise when they phoned and said we will do this. We will make it happen.

I think the nicest part of it was as I described earlier when I saw the first issue. Once I’d gone off into the corporate world and seen that we’re all on the same page, it was great; all of my notes and ideas really gelled with theirs. That’s always a worry, especially if people work remotely, in different offices, emailing, rather than sitting at the same desk. To realize that everyone is thinking along the same lines is great. On which note I should mention Andy Jones, the editor of Issue One, who did a great job, and Jon Bickley, who is the CEO of Anthem Publishing and a big vinyl lover. And a big music fan. The two of them especially, and then Simon Lewis, who is our commercial and advertising man It didn’t take too much description on my part, we could see what it could be quite quickly.

Samir Husni: You combine your passion, music/journalism, and you’re in the music industry, you’ve worked with the labels; what value do you think print, as opposed to digital, brings to this genre? Could you have done what you’ve done with just a digital platform?

Ian Peel: We could have, but there are lots of vinyl blogs out there already, and I really like them. In fact, it’s interesting, because when I was devising Long Live Vinyl, there were some really great websites about vinyl, in terms of how they looked and what they said and their viewpoint. And I thought, none of that exists in print. There wasn’t a cool, contemporary vinyl print magazine. So, there was another reason, to replicate how far forward with vinyl journalism the Internet had moved.

How valuable is print? Well, it’s incredibly valuable within the context of coexisting with online, because if I think of all of those people at BMG Records working away, they all look at email newsfeeds every morning. Then when you walk into their reception area, there are print magazines everywhere. And both have to exist, they each have their role.

Samir Husni: Now that you’re at the magazine full-time, what role will you play at Long Live Vinyl? Are you going to be the editor in chief or the editorial director?

Ian Peel: On the masthead I’m founder plus editor at large. And in fact, that’s the title for both Classic Pop and Long Live Vinyl. So, that involves something that Anthem is quite keen on, and that is monitoring and developing what they call the DNA of the magazine. And I think they know from experience that it’s possible for the DNA to drift if it’s not sat up on a regular basis. And that could be anything from a font that someone has used temporarily for one issue that still accidentally in place 10 issues later, because no one has sat down and had a proper font discussion. Or it could be about the tone of voice that’s used.

So, really I will be monitoring and measuring the DNA of both publications, while at the same time I’m doing lots and lots of writing. For issue two of Long Live Vinyl, I will be news editor and reviews editor. With Classic Pop, I think I wrote 80 percent of the first issue, partly to build structures and templates for the different sections so everyone could just go off and replicate.

Samir Husni: After Long Live Vinyl, is there anything else in the hopper; something new that you’re working on now?

Ian Peel: Yes. (Laughs) The third one is going to be brilliant. (Laughs again)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Ian Peel: Classic Pop was great and exists in its own way; Long Live Vinyl is kind of broader and a slightly wider platform, then the third idea is broader and wider still, but with a quite unique sense of purpose.

Samir Husni: Are we seeing a return from the ultra-niche magazines, or what you refer to in the U.K. as the “Patchwork” magazines, to a broader topic type magazine with a very niche audience, rather than a niche magazine?

Ian Peel: That’s a very interesting question, actually, because I think that one of the reasons that Classic Pop magazine did very well is that the four or five music magazines in the U.K. are all general list. They’ll have a Rock front cover, then they’ll have an Electronic front cover, and that was fine in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when the only way that you could get music content was to buy a magazine. They were duty-bound to cover all of the genres. But now that I can’t avoid music content, it’s coming out of my phone, computer, TV and everywhere, I think the job of the magazine is to be specialists, to celebrate more specialist areas.

So, Pop is a specialist area; vinyl is a specialist area, because people are in love and they want to read about vinyl for one, number two, is what’s on it, the actual music that’s on it. But the number one reason is the love of vinyl.

With my third project, it’s broader, but you’re right, it has to have an absolute purpose and that purpose might actually be quite niche, and that audience might actually be quite niche. Even if it’s maybe covering, without giving too much away, various area of entertainment, there has to be a twist or a particular unifying factor.

Samir Husni: You’re a believer in print and bringing new ideas to the forefront, and you’re also, it would seem, more of a believer in protecting that DNA. So, if somebody comes to you and tells you that they have an idea for a new magazine, a new print entity; what do you tell them? You’re out of your mind, go start a blog, or you offer them different advice?

Ian Peel: If someone has a great idea for a print magazine, then I would encourage them to go and see a print publisher, because you’re taking them a revenue stream. And it would be great if that idea for a print magazine had really good unique content. And maybe you do start to blog, but I think if what we’re asking is, would it be best to do it online for a year and see how it goes, the answer is no, because you’re creating a totally different product than the one that you wanted to create in the first place. The best case scenario is they coexist together, straight on.

Even with Long Live Vinyl, two or three years ago when I first pitched it, Anthem did say why don’t you start it as a section within Classic Pop magazine, and as a section within Vintage Rock, which is another of their print music listing magazines. But from the start we created it asking the question: how would it look in print? As opposed to let’s start a Twitter page and see how many people we can amass.

So, I think if someone came up with a great print idea, they have to absolutely work hard to get it into print. And then bring everything else along with it. I would encourage someone, instead of starting a blog; I’d encourage them to mock up the first issue, to lay out the pages and think about the type of paper or the page size, and what other print magazines that it would sit alongside.

Samir Husni: If I show up at your house unexpectedly one evening, what do I find you doing; reading a magazine; playing your vinyl; watching television; having a glass of wine; or something else?

Ian Peel: There’s quite an easy answer to that, which is, as soon as the magazine goes to bed, I go straight on to the next one. And it’s because it’s like this weird zone that you get into, when you’re finishing an issue, you just can’t stop. You’re on a roll.

And that’s why I think that bimonthly magazines are quite hard, because there’s that dip for readers and potential purchasers, of two months, where they might forget about you in the middle of those two months. But there’s also this kind of dip in energy between the two months, which is why a monthly is great. It keeps the energy levels up all of the time. With Classic Pop, when it was bimonthly, I would literally finish one article and start making the next one, because I couldn’t get out of the zone.

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

Ian Peel: (Laughs) I think the easy answer to that is the idea for magazine number three. It does keep me up at night, because when I look at this proposal, I’m excited. I’m excited and happy to read the proposal through.

Also, whether these ideas work or not, it’s a lot of fun and very rewarding to put them together and to try them.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Magazines 2020: Launch, Distribute, And Make Money Again… 41 Experts Show You How At The Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT 7 Experience…

February 13, 2017

ACT_LogoThe reimagining of magazines and magazine making will be alive & well at the ACT 7 Experience, April 25-27, 2017 at the Magazine Innovation Center in Oxford, Miss. From publishing, editing, printing, advertising, marketing, distribution and designing, leaders and experts from each field of the magazine and magazine media business will cover every facet of the world of magazines. There will be no page left unturned and no topic untouched as we get into the minds of some of the world’s greatest magazine makers and distributors.

So, join us for a spring magazine revival as we look toward Magazines 2020 and learn what it takes to make magazines make money again; make magazines rise again; and most importantly, what it takes to MAKE MAGAZINES GREAT AGAIN!

Magazines Matter Print Matters is our theme this year and below is the tentative agenda with all the confirmed speakers for the ACT 7 Experience… So do not delay and come join us for three days of Magazines, Music, and Mississippi!

Remember space is limited to the first 100 registrants, so ACT NOW by clicking here to register…

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Magazines Matter, Print Matters: ACT 7 Experience Agenda

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

ACT 7 Experience Opening Gala:
The Inn at Ole Miss
120 Alumni Dr.
University, Miss. (on campus)

6:00 p.m.: Registration and Reception

7:00 p.m.: Welcoming remarks – Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni

8:00 p.m.: Opening Keynote Address – Phyllis Hoffman DePiano, CEO, Hoffman Media –
Brian Hart Hoffman, Chief Creative Officer, and Eric Hoffman, Chief Operating Officer

9:00 p.m.: “Oxford on Your Own,” with shuttles from the Inn at Ole Miss to the Oxford Square and back

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

7:30 a.m.: Breakfast (Overby Lobby in Farley Hall)

8:15 a.m.: “Setting the Stage for the ACT 7 Experience” – Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni

8:30 a.m.: Opening Keynote Address – Daniel Dejan, North American ETC, (Education, Consulting and Training), Print & Creative Manager for Sappi Fine Paper
“The Neuroscience of Touch: Haptic Brain/Haptic Brand”

9:00 a.m.: Reed Phillips – CEO & Managing Partner, DeSilva+Phillips
“How to Add Value to Your Brand Before You Sell It”

9:30 a.m.: John French – Former CEO of Cygnus Business, Former CEO of Penton and Former President of Business Magazines, Primedia
“Life Lessons in Adding Value”

10:00 a.m.: “Making Magazines Make Money Again”
Jim Elliott – President, James G. Elliott Company, leads a panel discussion on the topic with:
John French – Former CEO of Cygnus Business, Former CEO of Penton and Former President of Business Magazines, Primedia
Daniel Fuchs – VP, Publisher and Chief Revenue Officer, HGTV Magazine
Steven Mayer – Publisher, Plate Magazine

11:00 a.m.: Break

11:15 a.m.: Todd Krizelman – CEO, MEDIARadar

11:45 a.m.: Jerry Lynch – President, Magazine and Books, Retail Assoc. (MBR)

Trip to the Mississippi Delta – Hosted by Scott Coopwood, Publisher, Delta Magazine

12:30 p.m.: Boxed Lunch on the Bus & Trip to the Mississippi Delta

2:30 p.m.: B.B. King Museum, Indianola, Miss.

3:30 p.m.: Dockery Farms Historic District, Cleveland, Miss.

4:00 p.m.: Delta Blues Museum, Clarksdale, Miss.

5:00 p.m.: Downtown Clarksdale (Free to walk around and experience the Delta, Clarksdale-style)

6:00 p.m.: Ground Zero Blues Club, Clarksdale, Miss.

6:45 p.m.: Dinner at Ground Zero

9:30 p.m.: Depart Clarksdale heading back to Oxford

Thursday, April 27, 2017

7:30 a.m.: Breakfast (Overby Lobby in Farley Hall)

8:15 a.m.: “Continuing the ACT 7 Experience” – Samir “Mr. Magazine™ Husni

8:30 a.m.: Opening Keynote Address – Doug Kouma – Editorial Content Director, Meredith Core Media

9:00 a.m.:Distribution 2020 – Panel Consisting of:
Jay Annis – VP/Business Manager, Hello & Hola Media Inc.
Steve Crowe – VP/Consumer Marketing, Meredith
Eric Hoffman – COO, Hoffman Media
Curtis Packer – Director of Promotions, OTG
David Parry – President & CEO, TNG
Sebastian Raatz – Executive VP, Bauer Publishing, U.S.A.
Tony Romano – CEO, Co-founder, Topix Media Lab

10:30 a.m.: Break

10:45 a.m.: “Tales of a Magazine Launch” –Tony Silber, VP, Folio, leads a panel discussion on the topic with industry leaders from printing, publishing, production, and distribution:
Ron Adams — Publisher, Via Corsa magazine
Laura Bento – Founder and Editor, Good Grit magazine
Brian Hart Hoffman – Editor in Chief, Bake From Scratch magazine
Michael Kusek – Publisher, Take magazine
Gemma Peckham – Founder and Editor, ROVA magazine
Lukas Volger – Co-founder/Editorial Director, Jarry magazine

12:00 noon: Boxed Lunches

12:45 p.m.: “Launching a New Magazine? Here’s How You Do It”
Joe Berger – Publishers Marketing & Sales Consultant, Joseph Berger Assoc.
Nicole Bowman – Founder & Principal, Bowman Circulation Marketing
Ingrid Jakabcsin – Senior VP, Procurement & Distribution, TNG
Steven Knapp – Emmy Award winning Producer/Director, entertainment & advertising
Marshall McKinney – Design Director, Garden & Gun
Jennifer Reeder – VP, Sales, Democrat Printing
Steve Viksjo – Co-founder/Creative Director, Jarry magazine

2:15 p.m.: Franska Stuy – Founder and Editor, Franska.nl, The Netherlands
“Life in Digital”

2:45 p.m.: Break

3:00 p.m.: Bo Sacks – President/Publisher, Precision Media Group
“The Truth About Digital Advertising Lies…”

3:30 p.m.: John Harrington – Partner, Harrington Associates, Former Editor/Publisher, The New Single Copy
“Why I’ve Learned: A Personal Perspective.”

3:50 p.m.: “Life in Custom Publishing”
Christian Anderson – Associate Publisher, iostudio
Bobby Stark – President, Parthenon Publishing

4:30 p.m.: Alison Baverstock – President & Founder, Alison Baverstock and Associates, The United Kingdom
“How to Build a Community through Shared Reading of a Printed Book”

6:00 p.m.: Closing dinner and Closing Keynote address – Sylvia Banderas, Publisher/VP, Integrated Sales, Hola!

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Wild Hope Magazine: Sometimes It Takes A “Wild Hope” To Help Sustain Us & Save The Many Species That Live In Our World – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Kathryn Arnold, Story Curator, Wild Hope Magazine

February 13, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

wild-hope-issue485“As you know, print is a very different experience than online. And people consume media in different ways; they consume information in different ways. And it’s been amazing to me to see what has been happening in bookstores; people picking up the magazine and writing to me. Or they’ll pick up Volume II and order Volume I directly from me. The physical presence of the magazine creates its own type of awakening that’s different from what happens on the Internet. Plus there’s just the beauty of the design itself; it’s a very different experience than you get online. One of the things that I’m trying to do with the magazine is to present other species as individuals and as being as real as humans. And I don’t think that you get that when you’re looking at pictures on the Internet. When you see it in the beautiful way that Jane lays it out in the magazine, it has a different, more powerful impact.” Kathryn Arnold (on why she felt her mission needed a print magazine)

We humans have been put in charge of planet Earth. Its water, food supply and wildlife are all under our supervision and dominion. Unfortunately, sometimes we are not the best of caretakers. We tend to put other, more personal intentions ahead of what’s best for the biodiversity of our planet. That’s when checks and balances are called into play. And one of those indicators comes in the form of a new magazine: Wild Hope.

neladio1Wild Hope’s co-creator, or story curator, as she calls herself, is Kathryn Arnold, former editor in chief of Yoga Journal. Kathryn has over 30 years’ experience in the business of magazines, having worked at many titles throughout her career. But it was when she started volunteering at a marine mammal center that she began to realize she knew very little about the planet we all live on. So, she went back to school and got a degree in Natural History. And the rest, as they say, is…well, history.

Today, she is in the business of trying to help save planet Earth and all of its living creatures that are threatened or endangered in one way or another. Bringing awareness through a beautiful print magazine that is elegantly put together and quite a joy to read: Wild Hope.

I spoke with Kathryn recently and we talked about the birth of this beautiful new infant, and about how she plans on sustaining it and using it as a tool for awareness of many of our planet’s biodiversity issues. From a little porpoise in the Gulf of California called a Vaquita, to the individuality of each animal that exists, Kathryn’s passion to help is evident with every page of Wild Hope.

And as we all need, and must have hope to exist; sometimes it takes a braver, wilder hope to sustain something as uniquely complex and beautiful as Mother Earth and all of her inhabitants. So, enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who has that kind of hope, Kathryn Arnold, story curator, Wild Hope magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

kathrynphoto2On why she refers to her position at the magazine as story curator: I’m calling myself that, a “story curator,” because that’s really what I’m doing. I’ve spent my career as a magazine editor or a book editor, but in creating Wild Hope, what I’m doing is reaching out to my community of veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitators, conservationists and biologists who aren’t necessarily professional writers. I encourage them to tell us their personal stories about the work that they’re doing to help save Earth’s biodiversity.

On that moment of conception with Wild Hope: The story has a few points to it; one, back in 2002 I began volunteering at a place here in Marin County called The Marine Mammal Center, taking care of the animals that we rescued and admitted, then rehabilitated and released back into the wild. And that awakened me to the fact that I knew very little about the ecosystem that I lived in. So, that set me on the path to go back to school and get a degree in Natural History. So, the idea to create Wild Hope came out of that wanting to share the hope that I had and that I had gleaned from being in that community; I wanted to share that hope among the community to lift their spirits.

On the business model for the magazine: I spent 30 years in magazine publishing, so I’m very familiar with the traditional models, both in consumer and B to B publishing. I have years of working within that model. And when I started Wild Hope, my intentions were not to try and emulate that model. It began with becoming a 501(c)(3); I was adopted as a fiscal sponsor of Earth Island Institute, so I am a project of the Earth Island Institute, so that provide me with 501 (c)(3) status. My approach has been to be sort of a crowdsourced magazine, if you will. And to not necessarily think of it as something that’s going to be financially successful in the traditional sense of a magazine, but successful in terms of raising people’s awareness of our need to save our biodiversity. It’s really mission-driven; it’s not financial-driven.

On why she thinks it’s important that the magazine’s mission has a print component: As you know, print is a very different experience than online. And people consume media in different ways; they consume information in different ways. And it’s been amazing to me to see what has been happening in bookstores; people picking up the magazine and writing to me. Or they’ll pick up Volume II and order Volume I directly from me. The physical presence of the magazine creates its own type of awakening that’s different from what happens on the Internet.

On how she feels the role of editor in chief has changed over the years: I’ve certainly seen it change. I began my career at Working Woman magazine in the 1980s and from there went to Savvy magazine, and from there went to New Hope Natural Media in Boulder, Colorado. And then from there to Yoga Journal, and through my career I definitely saw the role of editor in chief changing from one of being an editor and creator of experiences to one of being a marketer. The content selection became all about what’s going to sell the magazine and what’s going to sell advertising.

On her feelings when she held that first issue of Wild Hope in her hand: It was definitely like holding a newborn for me. I’m a very self-critical individual (Laughs), so I can always see the flaws in the work that I do. And because this was something that became so central to my value system; it became a driving motivation for me to get the magazine done and to start this conversation in a bigger way than just talking to friends.

On the biggest challenge she thinks she will face: It’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out. In the first issue, every one of the stories came from either a direct experience I’d had, or from someone who knew someone who could contribute the stories or the photographs. But then after the first issue, I started receiving submissions from people I didn’t know. And that’s been true of the third issue as well. So, I think that’s going to be my greatest challenge going forward. Will that be sustainable, or am I going to have to start assigning stories at some point? Will this organic system of submissions continue?

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly at her home one evening: Actually, I work a full-time job that’s not Wild Hope. I am the marketing and communications manager for Spirit Rock Meditation Center here in Marin. So, if you were to come over to my house in the evenings, what you would find me doing is working on Wild Hope. (Laughs)

On what keeps her up at night: The challenges that accompany the work that I’m trying to do and the work of the people who are contributing to Wild Hope. The challenges to those efforts are what keep me up at night.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Kathryn Arnold, Story Curator, Wild Hope magazine.

wild-hope-1st-issue484Samir Husni: I’ve seen a lot of magazines and magazine mastheads throughout my career, but I have never seen one that refers to a “story curator” as you do for your own position at Wild Hope magazine. Tell me about that new title that you have created for yourself.

Kathryn Arnold: I’m calling myself that, a “story curator,” because that’s really what I’m doing. I’ve spent my career as a magazine editor or a book editor, but in creating Wild Hope, what I’m doing is reaching out to my community of veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitators, conservationists and biologists who aren’t necessarily professional writers. I encourage them to tell us their personal stories about the work that they’re doing to help save Earth’s biodiversity. So, really, I’m curating their stories as opposed to what you would conventionally think of a magazine editor doing, things like assigning stories. I’m not assigning stories; I’m collecting stories. And then I’m shaping them into a magazine that I hope will inspire others to engage in saving Earth’s biodiversity.

Samir Husni: Tell me about that moment of conception with Wild Hope. What clicked in your brain and made you think that you needed to do a print magazine about this topic?

Kathryn Arnold: The story has a few points to it; one, back in 2002 I began volunteering at a place here in Marin County called The Marine Mammal Center, taking care of the animals that we rescued and admitted, then rehabilitated and released back into the wild. And that awakened me to the fact that I knew very little about the ecosystem that I lived in. So, that set me on the path to go back to school and get a degree in Natural History.

And along the way, I met so many other people who were engaged in the work of saving other species. And I found it very inspiring, yet among that community I also felt that there was a great deal of despair.

So, the idea to create Wild Hope came out of that wanting to share the hope that I had and that I had gleaned from being in that community; I wanted to share that hope among the community to lift their spirits. I first thought of it as a website, because truthfully, it was less expensive to do.

But then I was inspired by two former staffers that worked with me at Yoga Journal. I used to be the editor in chief of Yoga Journal. They were two young people on my staff who launched their own print magazine. And honestly, my protégés inspired me to start a print publication, and then I just happened to meet up with Jane Palecek at a “Women in Publishing” conference and mentioned to her my concept. And Jane told me that she would be happy to partner with me on the magazine and help to create it. And of course, Jane was an award-winning designer at Afar magazine and she was also at Mother Jones.

So, it was those factors that compelled me to start Wild Hope. Me wanting to create a place where people in this community who were engaged in saving wildlife could talk to each other and lift each other’s spirits and know that we’re all not alone. There was this huge community of people out there who were endeavoring to save Earth’s biodiversity. I wanted to bring them together in a magazine and lift their spirits. And then when my own protégés inspired me to start a magazine, and meeting up with Jane during that mindset; those factors coming together inspired me to start Wild Hope.

Samir Husni: You’re following your passion, this is something that you’ve been involved with and something that you’ve volunteered for; this is the heart part of launching the magazine. Where does the brain part of launching Wild Hope come in? What is your business model for surviving in this day and age?

Kathryn Arnold: I spent 30 years in magazine publishing, so I’m very familiar with the traditional models, both in consumer and B to B publishing. I have years of working within that model. And when I started Wild Hope, my intentions were not to try and emulate that model. It began with becoming a 501(c)(3); I was adopted as a fiscal sponsor of Earth Island Institute, so I am a project of the Earth Island Institute, so that provide me with 501 (c)(3) status.

My approach has been to be sort of a crowdsourced magazine, if you will. And to not necessarily think of it as something that’s going to be financially successful in the traditional sense of a magazine, but successful in terms of raising people’s awareness of our need to save our biodiversity. It’s really mission-driven; it’s not financial-driven.

We found an amazing printer in Minnesota that can actually print a quality magazine for less than you can have it printed for in China. And I have priced the magazine at a point where we can make the print-run cost with each issue. And all of our contributors are contributing for free. So, that’s our business model. And it’s definitely mission-driven; everybody that’s contributing is doing so because this mission is so important to them, to help raise awareness and to help share the stories.

I am growing the magazine gradually. I started out with zero distribution, and it was picked up by Small Changes, a distributor out of Seattle. They were the first distributor to pick me up. And then most recently, I was picked up by Disticor Distribution. So, we’ve gone from zero distribution in bookstores to, with the printing of the third issue, which is now at the printer, a distribution of 3,400 copies in bookstores. So, I’m growing it very slowly, gradually and strategically. I intend for the magazine to be able to wash its face (Laughs); for it to break even with every issue.

So, the distribution is growing gradually as people discover the magazine, and bookstores have also been contacting the distributors. It’s a very careful strategy that appears to be working. But I’m not creating this magazine for the sake of creating one as a business. It’s all grounded in the mission.

Samir Husni: Why do you think it’s important for that mission to have a print component in this digital age?

Kathryn Arnold: As you know, print is a very different experience than online. And people consume media in different ways; they consume information in different ways. And it’s been amazing to me to see what has been happening in bookstores; people picking up the magazine
and writing to me. Or they’ll pick up Volume II and order Volume I directly from me. The physical presence of the magazine creates its own type of awakening that’s different from what happens on the Internet.

Plus there’s just the beauty of the design itself; it’s a very different experience than you get online. One of the things that I’m trying to do with the magazine is to present other species as individuals and as being as real as humans. And I don’t think that you get that when you’re looking at pictures on the Internet. When you see it in the beautiful way that Jane lays it out in the magazine, it has a different, more powerful impact.

Samir Husni: From your experience as editor in chief of Yoga Journal for many years, and now the story curator for Wild Hope; how has the role of a magazine editor evolved or changed over the years?

Kathryn Arnold: (Laughs) I’ve certainly seen it change. I began my career at Working Woman magazine in the 1980s and from there went to Savvy magazine, and from there went to New Hope Natural Media in Boulder, Colorado. And then from there I went to Yoga Journal, and through my career I definitely saw the role of editor in chief changing from one of being an editor and creator of experiences to one of being a marketer. The content selection became all about what’s going to sell the magazine and what’s going to sell advertising.

I think it moved away from delivering content that was of value first to the reader. I was always tried to balance that in my positions, but the editor in chief’s job has become mainly one of a marketer. And it does also depend on the magazine. Certainly, there are those where that isn’t true, but I think at the really big circulation magazines that is what’s happening. And even at smaller niche magazines like Yoga Journal, special interest magazines; it’s all about that market.

Samir Husni: Once that first issue of Wild Hope arrived and you held that magazine in your hand; what was the degree of satisfaction for you? Was it like holding a newborn baby; or more like, finally it’s done?

Kathryn Arnold: It was definitely like holding a newborn for me. I’m a very self-critical individual (Laughs), so I can always see the flaws in the work that I do. And because this was something that became so central to my value system; it became a driving motivation for me to get the magazine done and to start this conversation in a bigger way than just talking to friends.

It was this feeling of having actualized something from inside me that was of core importance to me and to the people I know. And then to get the really positive response to it, which let me know that I had done something worthwhile and would continue.

Samir Husni: What do you think will be the biggest challenge that you’re going to face raising this newborn?

Kathryn Arnold: It’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out. In the first issue, every one of the stories came from either a direct experience I’d had, or from someone who knew someone who could contribute the stories or the photographs. But then after the first issue, I started receiving submissions from people I didn’t know. And that’s been true of the third issue as well. So, I think that’s going to be my greatest challenge going forward. Will that be sustainable, or am I going to have to start assigning stories at some point? Will this organic system of submissions continue?

It’s been amazing to receive these stories from people I don’t know and who want to be a part of Wild Hope. That feeds my hope that I am on the right path here, but I think that will be my greatest challenge. I just don’t know if that can be sustained. And because I’m being so cautious about distribution and the printing and all of that, I’m not concerned that I can’t sustain the financial model, it’s whether I can sustain my story curation model.

Samir Husni: As I flipped through the pages of the first issue, I can’t remember the last time that I’ve seen a magazine that had the binding sewn; I can actually see the stitches in the binding. It’s not glued or saddle stitched, which gives it that feel of collectability. That sense of, this magazine isn’t going anywhere. You can actually lay the pages flat and they’re not going to break.

Kathryn Arnold: And I don’t want people throwing it away. Corporate Graphics is our printer and they do an amazing job. They are very inspired by the magazine and its editorial. And they’ve given us, what I think, is a very reasonable price, which includes the stitching. I highly recommend them to anyone interested in printing a magazine or something else. It’s great quality.

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

Kathryn Arnold: Actually, I work a full-time job that’s not Wild Hope. I am the marketing and communications manager for Spirit Rock Meditation Center here in Marin. So, if you were to come over to my house in the evenings, what you would find me doing is working on Wild Hope. (Laughs)

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

Kathryn Arnold: The challenges that accompany the work that I’m trying to do and the work of the people who are contributing to Wild Hope. The challenges to those efforts are what keep me up at night.

For instance, in the Gulf of California, there is a small porpoise that’s on the edge of extinction called the Vaquita. There are probably fewer than 30 left due to the illegal gillnet fishing for another endangered species, a fish called the Totoaba. And it’s all because the swim bladder of this particular fish is prized in China. So, the Vaquita porpoise gets caught in the gillnets and drowns. And although the areas in which they inhabit, the Gulf of California, is off-limits to fishing, the poaching continues. So, the future doesn’t look very bright for the Vaquita.

And that’s the sort of thing that keeps me up at night. There are a lot of people who are engaged in rescuing the Vaquita, and we’re working with the government of Mexico to try and save them. So, that keeps me up at night; will we be able to save the Vaquita, or is it too late?

And I have that story in the next issue of Wild Hope. The question is can we bring enough light to this situation that even if the Vaquita is extinguished, it can be a call to action for the next endangered species? It’s a heroic effort to go in and try and save this little porpoise. But the next time, can we start sooner?

With the magazine, I’m trying to help others see wild species as individuals, because in my wildlife rehabilitation work it has become very clear to me that animals are as individual as humans are. You can’t just talk about a California sea lion; every California sea lion is different and has its own personality and needs just like we humans do. And that’s one of the things that I’m trying to do with Wild Hope. Not just show pictures of gorillas, but show pictures of a specific gorilla that has its own personality, which I believe you can see in the first issue. We’re trying to help people see other species as real as they do human beings. And to show that every species contributes to the web of life, and educate people about what it is that different species do contribute.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Factual Facts In An Age Of Alternative Facts… Just The {Magazine Media} Facts Ma’am!

February 7, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

Samir Husni 2017In the land of leprechauns, the most prized possession that the magical creatures can offer a human being is the “pot ‘o gold” at the end of the rainbow. But what the little rascals always fail to point out is that there is no “end” of the rainbow. It’s as elusive as the gossamer veils you chase in the fog.

It was after having that imagery floating around in my brain for a while that I began to really muse about that mysterious “pot ‘o gold.” And about how it reminded me a lot of what the media world is up against when it comes to digital advertising and the ability to realize any revenue from the phantom microcosm we call the Internet.

 Pot Of Gold Dan Hilbert And of course, after that brainstorm, it stands to reason another would follow, right? I began to consider all of the “Alternative Facts” that we have to choose from in these days of what I like to call, “fish-tale journalism,” where sometimes the facts take on a magical life of their own and grow big enough to actually become stories and news sources. So, with the weight of importance these thoughts presented, Mr. Magazine™ decided to do a little research himself on the world of digital advertising and revenues. And here are a few factual facts that I discovered and that might make you see the world of Internet advertising in an entirely different light.

The Random Facts:

The average US online ad growth in the first half of 2016 was +19% from which Facebook saw a +68% growth, Google +23% growth and everyone else -2% decline
*Source: IAB, Google, Facebook, DCN

Year-over-Year Growth of Digital Spending: In the four-year period 2011 to 2015 the industry witnessed an average growth of 19%. In 2016 the growth of digital spending was a 6.8% with Dec. 2016 at a mere 0.7% growth.
*Standard Media Index, January 2017.

Online advertising spending growth has dropped almost in half from a 26.2% in 2015 to 13.3% in 2016.
*Standard Media Index, January 2017.

The number of mobile devices with ad blocking software installed jumped 38% from 275 million at the end of 2015 to 380 million at the end of 2016.
*Media Post.

The “trajectory of digital spend has recently hit a major speed bump as brands question the efficacy of the medium.”
*CEO of the Standard Media Index.

WPP’s CEO Sir Martin Sorrell expects growth in digital ad spend to slow over the next few years as concerns over view ability, ad fraud and measurement impact budgets.
*UK’s Marketing Week magazine

*Magazines show the highest return on advertising spend. In fact for everyone dollar spend in magazine advertising, the return on the investment is the highest of all media. Every dollar spent magazines has a $3.94 return on the investment compared with a $1.53 in digital video advertising.
*Nielsen Catalina Solutions.

“Agencies may be underestimating traditional media, while clients feel there’s not been enough seamless integration as we chased the shiny objects,” Mark Sneider, president of RSW/US, told AdWeek in an interview.
*Source: Venture Beat

But for most companies, digital advertising remains dauntingly massive, complex, and obscure. We found that mobile advertising can suck in up to 40 percent of your advertising budget on fees and commissions alone, if you’re not careful. It includes DMPs, DSPs, SSPs, no fewer than three different kinds of ad networks (of which there are about 1,000 currently), plus multiple kinds of ad exchanges.
*Source: Venture Beat

*The number of new magazines launched in 2016 was 225 compared with 236 in 2015. The total number of new book-a-zines launched in 2016 was 623 compared with 578 in 2015.
*Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni Launch Monitor.

Now, are you sure that the Leprechaun is really offering you a pot ‘o gold that exists?

So, I wonder, why are we still chasing that “pot ‘o gold” while we have one right under our noses? For the life of me I can’t answer this question. It makes no sense, but, remember, maybe and only maybe, it is just common sense, and therefore, it is too hard to see…

Until next time…

See you at the newsstands…

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For The Love Of Magazines: A Mr. Magazine™ Guest Blog For MNI Targeted Media Inc.*

February 6, 2017

screen-shot-2017-02-04-at-1-57-23-pm

I have been in love with the printed word since I was a mere boy of nine-years-old. Now, while that statement might not seem like a gargantuan expression of passion to some; you would have to first understand my ink on paper addiction completely. I have over 35,000 first edition magazines in my collection, some dating back to the late 1800s. In fact, recently I have been digging through the Mr. Magazine™ Classic Vault of vintage magazines and the experience has been unbelievable. The fact that magazines over 100 years old are still just as relevant and captivating as they were the day they were first published is a statement in and of itself.

Read what Harold T. P. Hayes, the legendary editor of Esquire in the 1960s, wrote in the April 1967 Backstage with Esquire: “With some gnashing of brows, it can scrutably be admitted now, Esquire’s Advertising and Promotion staffs have for the last few months been seeking just the right word to express this magazine’s personality. Involvement is the trait with the vote so far, and they may have a point.”

Esquire-cover April 1967By the way, that same issue of Esquire had the story of a less famous transsexual who changed from a man to a woman in 1958. The story, The Transsexual Operation was written by Tom Buckley, who was also a reporter for The New York Times, and was covered with much less fanfare than the one named Caitlyn Jenner… Printed magazines, well searched, show that there is nothing new under the sun.

Magazines have always been reflectors of the society we live in, mirror images of the people, places and times that nothing else can duplicate. Not even the digital realms, sacred though they are to some. And while I am a firm believer in all things digital; I am also an even firmer evangelist for all things print. It’s the 21st century, folks; we can have both. It stands to reason if you have a print magazine in your left hand and an iPad in your right; you’ve already solved the publishing dilemma that we entertain in this era. You already have BOTH – now let that sink in for a moment before we go any further.

Tick-tock – OK, let’s move along.

I’ve always strongly believed that life without print in the Magazine Media world would be as unbalanced and shaky as a disproportionate scale, causing everything to be a bit off kilter and just not right. It would be like Kojak without his sucker, a stuffy kid without Vicks VapoRub, or Mr. Magazine™ sans his mustache; some things are just destined to be under your nose, no matter what. And ink on paper is one of those when it comes to the schnoz of all magazine media.

Complications, dilemmas, obstacles and concerns, these are all adjectives used when describing the problems going on in magazine media today. In fact, problems that have materialized in our traditional magazine world since 2008 when the economy went bust and technology burst upon the scene. Since then we’ve heard the naysayers crying: “Print is dead! Long live digital!” And more recently the catchphrase: “Print isn’t dead; it’s just in decline,” as magazine media scrambles to adjust and rise like a phoenix from the ashes of problems that digital supposedly caused print and the entire industry when it fusilladed into prominence in 2008.

But the problem is not with ink on paper and the solution is not with just pixels on a screen. The problem is our tendency to fret or panic. And there is no need for that because there is a place for both, print and digital. Print is something that our audiences want; therefore we have to give it to them. When we forget the importance of the one and only reason we exist; we create, we design and we plan for our audience, that’s where we get into trouble.

And as we find our footing again in this digital age in which we live, we are discovering that there are attributes (we’ve always known this, but as with any new toy, digital made us forget for a while) that only print can offer to our audiences. And truthfully, the digital-only world has stumbled over this undeniable fact too; as many websites have decided that they cannot engage and connect with their audiences as completely without a print component: Porter, Allrecipes, SwimSwam; and the list goes on and on. Multichannel is the answer today, not print or digital.

Some of those attributes that are impossible to ignore and that are vital in today’s world are:

Collectability: Print is forever. It’s premium content that the customer is willing to pay for and can appreciate lying around on their coffee table, and that will be there if so desired through the next millennia. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for your favorite website.

Sense of touch: Print is tactile and feels good beneath the fingertips. It doesn’t matter how many times you caress your computer screen, I promise you the sensation will not be the same.

Me-time: Print offers that escape that so many of us seek in our busy hectic lives. When you curl up with your favorite magazine, it’s an experience, not a quick Google search. And we need that desperately today.

Addiction: Print has that addiction quality that you just can’t find online. Content that brings you to the edge of your seat; photographs that take you on an exotic journey; information that you didn’t even know you needed until you flipped open its pages.

And there are many more that for the sake of time I won’t mention. Suffice it to say, that in the 21st century, print is an even more important and viable option for the audience, the advertiser, and the magazine media world than ever before.

In short, print is here to stay. As long as we have human beings, we will have print. After all, everything began with print; you do remember those stone tablets, right?

More about Mr. Magazine™:
Dr. Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni is a world-renowned leader in the global publishing industry, advising publishers, media and news outlets, and more, about their magazine content and marketing strategies.

He’s the founder and director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media, and is the author of many influential publications, including Managing Today’s News Media: Audience First, Inside the Great Minds of Magazine Makers, and Magazine Publishing in the 21st Century.

Forbes ASAP magazine called him “the country’s leading magazine expert,” and The European Union’s Magazine Power magazine said, “Dr. Samir Husni is one of the world’s most influential voices in global publishing, advising major publishing houses across the globe on their editorial and advertising strategies. When he talks, the magazine industry listens…”

To keep up-to-date with the ever-evolving print industry, visit Mr. Magazine’s website, here.
————————————————————————————
*The blog above was written by me at the request of the folks at MNI Targeted Media Inc. a Time Inc. company. Needless to say I was more than happy to do it. Click here to see the original post.

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Plate Magazine: Taking Food Further & Celebrating Creative Culinary Innovation In The Most Delicious Of Ways – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Steven Mayer, Publisher, Plate Magazine

February 1, 2017

“The ideas and the photos that we publish really have an evergreen quality to them; they’re timeless. It’s not a matter of getting the news quickly or on a timely basis. It’s not a matter of instant response; it’s really designed to inspire people and get them thinking about their menus. A print magazine that you can actually hold and look at the pictures is inspiring.” Steven Mayer

screen-shot-2017-01-31-at-5-12-44-pmAn evergreen quality. That’s how Plate magazine Publisher, Steven Mayer describes this magazine. Plate is a food publication, B to B even, that takes the timeless quality of print and runs with it. The photographs are rich and the editorial is full and robust. From restaurateurs to chefs, this magazine caters to the sensual and the tangible quality that each of us experience when we taste or create that perfect dish. And it’s a trade publication; a very unique concept in this niche category, one that usually relies on ads and generalized information, which is the norm for a B to B publication.

I spoke with Steven recently and we talked about his 25+ years in this field of magazines and magazine publishing. For 20 of those he was with the highly successful Restaurants & Institutions magazine, serving as publisher for the last five or six years of his tenure. When that magazine folded, he was approached by some of his colleagues about Plate Magazine. And he was intrigued by the focus of the title, one that wasn’t on every aspect of running a restaurant, but more about the food and the menu, the creative culinary side of the business. Needless to say, he was hooked and he’s been there ever since.

The magazine has grown steadily over the past 15 years that it has been in existence, their audience doubling within that time. They have expanded to the web and have a dot com that successfully captures the beauty and passion of the B to B magazine. It’s definitely a unique and wondrous publication for the trade category, but one that has proven its commitment to its audience.

So, sit down, relax, and fill your “Plate,” you’re about to be sated to the brim with inspiration, great information and one man’s passionate dedication to his brand, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steven Mayer, publisher, Plate magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

sdm-photoOn the genesis of Plate: I spent 20 years with Restaurants & Institutions, and the last five or six years I was the publisher of that magazine. I left in 2001, and in 2002, some former colleagues of mine were starting this magazine called Plate, and they contacted me around the time of the first issue which was being developed and worked on. And I joined them about the time that first issue came out. I think what they (the audience) really responded to was the fact that Plate was designed from the get-go to focus on, not every aspect of running a restaurant, like Restaurants & Institutions had and other publications, but we really focused on food and the menu, and the culinary side of the business.

On whether he feels people in the magazine industry, especially B to B, gave up on print too soon: I’m not sure people in our field have entirely given up on print, there remains, even though I mentioned that Restaurants & Institutions no longer exists, and there have been a couple of other significant closures of publications, but there are still at least 15, if not 20 or 30 print magazines that serve this industry. You mentioned Food Fanatics before, and it’s relatively a new entry to the field; it’s sponsored by one of the major broad lined distributors, US Foods. So, you have even non-traditional publishers entering the print arena in this field.

screen-shot-2017-01-31-at-5-25-19-pmOn the DNA that differentiates Plate from all of the other magazines that are in the marketplace: That theme issue approach is definitely one of the differentiation factors of Plate. I mentioned how we started out as a hybrid of custom publishing; our first issue was from the National Pork Board and was naturally all about pork. But I think at the time, even when we decided to go quarterly, and then we decided to go six times per year, which remains our basic frequency to this day, we were competing against regular monthly, at the time, even weekly publications. It was almost a tactical, instead of a strategic decision at the time; if we were going to compete with much more frequent publications, we had to make every issue a special issue, or a keeper issue, in some respect.

On his major challenge today, in 2017, and how he plans to overcome it: The challenges remain in still getting people to understand the importance of our niche, and that the whole industry really is looking more at culinary innovations than ever before. That remains one of the keys to success of a restaurant today. Any consumer of restaurants would know this, but you could walk into an Applebee’s or a Chili’s and hardly tell the difference. Those kinds of restaurants are struggling, yet in every city you can find many new restaurants that are often trendy and cool and referred to in the industry as “chef-driven” restaurants. That’s where the industry remains creative and vibrant and exciting. And so we have to convince people that we’re really at the forefront of trends and where they want to be.

On his most pleasant moment: It’s been a very pleasant, gratifying and rewarding experience, because first of all, Plate really does stand for something. It really does have a true brand identity. I can be very proud of the product that we produce; the magazine itself is beautiful, strong and growing.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: Before I read a magazine, which might come later at night, I’m probably watching the news, having a drink with my wife, and getting dinner ready. I have a wonderful wife of 35 years who is a great cook and we’ve given our kids a love of food too, so Plate plays a big part in even our home life. We always enjoyed meals together as a family, and we still have meals together whenever we’re both home. When I get home, there are usually wonderful smells coming from the kitchen, and we enjoy a drink or a bottle of wine together with our meal.

On what keeps him up at night: Just keeping the magazine successful in the marketplace and to keep it growing stronger every day.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steven Mayer, publisher, Plate magazine.

Samir Husni: You have quite an extensive history in B to B publishing. You mentioned that after 25+ years, you added Plate 15 years ago. Tell me about the genesis of Plate.

screen-shot-2017-01-31-at-5-12-55-pmSteven Mayer: Most of those 25 years I spent with a single publication that was in its time clearly the leader in its field, the restaurant industry, and that was Restaurants & Institutions. It existed throughout the 1980s and much of the 1990s and probably in its heyday was one of the biggest B to B magazines in the country, generating north of $25 million per year in revenue.

Restaurants & Institutions actually has folded now; the company that published it, Reed Business Information, basically pulled up stakes here in the United States. They publish newspapers and other endeavors around the U.K. and elsewhere in the former British Commonwealth.

I spent 20 years with Restaurants & Institutions, and the last five or six years I was the publisher of that magazine. I left in 2001, and in 2002, some former colleagues of mine were starting this magazine called Plate, and they contacted me around the time of the first issue which was being developed and worked on. And I joined them about the time that first issue came out.

The first issue of Plate was half and half custom publishing, as well as a new magazine launch; it was kind of a hybrid between the two. They did publish it with a sponsorship of a single company, which was the National Pork Board, but really didn’t have a plan going forward, other than let’s try this with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association as well. When that didn’t pan out for a variety of reasons, we really had to look at coming up with what might be a sustainable business model.

The first issue that we put out was all about pork incidentally, and was put out for the National Pork Board. The kind of reaction that it generated in the marketplace was remarkable. The response was amazing. We got emails and phone calls from people saying they had never seen a magazine like Plate before and where had we been all of their lives. (Laughs) I think what they really responded to was the fact that Plate was designed from the get-go to focus on, not every aspect of running a restaurant, like Restaurants & Institutions had and other publications, but we really focused on food and the menu, and the culinary side of the business.

And from the very beginning that’s what has set it apart and continues to set it apart, and really is a niche for this magazine that doesn’t exist elsewhere in the restaurant or food service industry.

Samir Husni: You mentioned also that although you started out as print only, you’ve expanded to online and digital, yet last year 80 percent of your revenue was still coming from print.

Steven Mayer: Yes.

Samir Husni: Do you think that people in the print industry, especially B to B, gave up on print too soon?

Steven Mayer: I’m not sure people in our field have entirely given up on print, there remains, even though I mentioned that Restaurants & Institutions no longer exists, and there have been a couple of other significant closures of publications, but there are still at least 15, if not 20 or 30 print magazines that serve this industry. You mentioned Food Fanatics before, and it’s relatively a new entry to the field; it’s sponsored by one of the major broad lined distributors, US Foods. So, you have even non-traditional publishers entering the print arena in this field.

We might be unusual, in that respect, but our audience consists of restauranteurs, and chefs in our case, who are very, call it sensual for lack of another term, they’re very oriented towards eating and tasting, as well as reading. And all of the magazines in the field, even going back to the ‘80s and ‘90s, one of the things that distinguished Restaurants & Institutions was its gorgeous food photography and its graphic quality.

I think that we do have publications in our field, media brands in our field that have moved more toward digital than we have. For example, there is one, call it the newspaper of the industry, Nation’s Restaurant News, it’s like The Wall Street Journal or the Ad Age of the field, and it was naturally more vulnerable, I think, to the Internet, or more suitable to the Internet, than a publication like ours was. The ideas and the photos that we publish really have an evergreen quality to them; they’re timeless. It’s not a matter of getting the news quickly or on a timely basis. It’s not a matter of instant response; it’s really designed to inspire people and get them thinking about their menus. A print magazine that you can actually hold and look at the pictures is inspiring.

We’ve frankly struggled to come up with a website, and only recently have we redesigned our website so that it would capture the same ethos and aesthetic of the magazine. It’s hard to do in a digital format.

Samir Husni: I’ve noticed that with the magazine you’ve held to that original concept, the first issue being dedicated to pork; you still have every issue with one theme, such as casual eats, Vegan, chefs to watch, the French issue. Can you define that DNA that differentiates Plate from the host of other magazines that are in the marketplace?

Steven Mayer: That theme issue approach is definitely one of the differentiation factors of Plate. I mentioned how we started out as a hybrid of custom publishing; our first issue was from the National Pork Board and was naturally all about pork. But I think at the time, even when we decided to go quarterly, and then we decided to go six times per year, which remains our basic frequency to this day, we were competing against regular monthly, at the time, even weekly publications. It was almost a tactical, instead of a strategic decision at the time; if we were going to compete with much more frequent publications, we had to make every issue a special issue, or a keeper issue, in some respect.

So, from a tactical point, we wanted to give each issue the keeper value, the timelessness of the shelf life, if you will, and show that it was not just a regular issue of a magazine. There were a lot of implications of that, which were frankly costly and difficult to overcome. And imagine if you will a regular monthly magazine if advertising falls short and they have to cut some articles from the January issue or they could run them in the February issue.

In our case, if the January issue was about French and the next issue was about Vegan, you can’t necessarily hold it over until the next issue. We were kind of obligated to maintain a certain level of coverage from the very beginning, with at least 50 or 60 pages of editorial per issue to cover a subject completely, from appetizers to desserts. And that meant that there was little regard for ad/edit ratio; we’ve kind of grown into our shoes, but originally we were publishing 60 or 70 pages of editorial, when we might only have 20 pages of advertisement. And we’ve never exceeded a 50/50 ratio, which for trade publications is very generous and rich with editorial content.

The other implication of what we do is that with doing these theme issues literally there were advertisers who would look at our issues and ask, for example, if it’s all about pork, why should I be there if I sell fish or potatoes or cheese? And it’s taken a long time; it’s still an issue in some respects that we have to address today, to get people to not just buy into the editorial hook, if you will, of a particular issue, but to really understand the concept of whatever the subject matter is, it’s really designed to engage the reader and to get them to think about their menu beyond the obvious limitations of pork or fish or French or Italian.

And some of those issues, obviously, have to be French and still have pork and fish and cheese and everything in it. But there are people out there who still to this day resist the concept or they ask when are you going to do a soup issue because I sell soup, even though soups might be part of every issue.

So, we’ve kind of created a little bit of a monster; we’re a very unique publication. These theme issues; when you look back in time, we’ve certainly managed to diversify far beyond the product focus. For example, to do issues on burnt foods or fermentations; at the time we did those issues people really thought we were a little bit crazy, a whole issue about burning foods? And then last week in The New York Times in the food section identified that as a hot new trend.

In many respects, we’ve been ahead of the curve, in terms of identifying subjects that are kind of at the cusp of becoming trends. Our editors have been tremendous at doing that, and I think that their anticipation of market trends is borne out. For example, the National Restaurant Association identified the Top 20 Trends and probably 15 of those have been not only identified and named, but actually covered in depth by Plate magazine in the past five or six years, so we’re ahead of the curve. I think from a chef’s or restaurateur’s point of view we’re much more meaningful and in depth because we don’t just say French is coming back, we actually identify 50 or 60 chefs in restaurants around the country that are best-practice examples of chefs really doing whatever we’ve reported, and doing new and interesting things with French cooking to appeal to today’s consumers. And that’s something of real usefulness and value, and even an inspiration to chefs.

Samir Husni: What do you consider today, in 2017, your major challenge and how do you plan to overcome it?

Steven Mayer: That’s a very good question. We’re still a niche publication, and that means we’re not all things to all people in our industry. I’m not sure that any of the publications really, given some of the business challenges, can afford to be all things to all people. Restaurants & Institutions, for example, once claimed to be. And it used to be true that you could read Time magazine and consider yourself an informed citizen, but that’s not true today either.

So, we’re still a niche publication and we compete sometimes for business with publications that have much larger circulations than ours, or have a broader range of content. Yet we still want to grow. We’ve grown steadily over the last 15 years, and we want to continue to grow. In fact, our audience has doubled over the past 15 years.

The challenges remain in still getting people to understand the importance of our niche, and that the whole industry really is looking more at culinary innovations than ever before. That remains one of the keys to success of a restaurant today. Any consumer of restaurants would know this, but you could walk into an Applebee’s or a Chili’s and hardly tell the difference. Those kinds of restaurants are struggling, yet in every city you can find many new restaurants that are often trendy and cool and referred to in the industry as “chef-driven” restaurants. That’s where the industry remains creative and vibrant and exciting. And so we have to convince people that we’re really at the forefront of trends and where they want to be.

Aside from that, there are the challenges of developing other sources of revenue above and beyond the magazine. Digital is one; the events we do are another. We do a big event during the National Restaurant Association show that we call “Plate Night.” We continue to look at new opportunities to extend or expand the brand, and still remain true to our essence, if you will, and what you said before, our DNA. Our motto is “We Take Food Further” and if it doesn’t take food further, it’s probably not right for Plate magazine. It might be right for somebody else, but we have to stay true to our brand essence as well. And yet continue to grow.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant moment throughout your 15 years with Plate?

Steven Mayer: It’s been a very pleasant, gratifying and rewarding experience, because first of all, Plate really does stand for something. It really does have a true brand identity. I can be very proud of the product that we produce; the magazine itself is beautiful, strong and growing.

It’s kind of remarkable too that the team that we’ve assembled over the years, and it’s a small team of us really, there are literally little more than half a dozen who work full-time on the magazine. We’re part of a small publishing company or media company called MTG Media Group and we have three different brands here, but all total the company has barely 30 people and yet Plate, has had the same core group together for 15 years.

Our editor wrote in the very first issue of the magazine; our editorial director was my partner and brought me to the company 15 years ago. Another one of my colleagues from another magazine, I’ve known him three-plus years in the field and he’s been with me now seven or eight years on the magazine. The team we’ve assembled is very rewarding and the success we’ve enjoyed; we really do have a true mission and a purpose. We’re not just another magazine that has a little more circulation or a little more rate; we really do have an identity and that’s something I take great pride in.

It’s really taught me; even after all of the years that I’ve spent in publishing, a new language or a new vocabulary, talking about what makes a magazine successful with its audience; its readers, and then trying to convince advertisers that that’s important to them as well, the readers are important to them. And that level of engagement with readers is important to them too. The uniqueness of the platform that they can share with Plate magazine and our readers is also important to them; it’s truly given me a new language and vocabulary when talking about a media brand.

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

Steven Mayer: (Laughs) Probably a combination of all of the above. Before I read a magazine, which might come later at night, I’m probably watching the news, having a drink with my wife, and getting dinner ready. I have a wonderful wife of 35 years who is a great cook and we’ve given our kids a love of food too, so Plate plays a big part in even our home life. We always enjoyed meals together as a family, and we still have meals together whenever we’re both home. When I get home, there are usually wonderful smells coming from the kitchen, and we enjoy a drink or a bottle of wine together with our meal.

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

Steven Mayer: Just keeping the magazine successful in the marketplace and to keep it growing stronger every day.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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