Archive for the ‘My website: mrmagazine’ Category

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Marvin Shanken, Editor & Publisher, Wine Spectator, Cigar Aficionado & Whisky Advocate In A Rare & Exclusive Mr. Magazine™ Interview: “I Consider Myself More Of An Editor Than Anything Else. It’s No Accident That Our Magazines Are Great.”

January 27, 2020

“The experience is an extension of the magazine to feed and reward people that have a passion for wine, whisky and cigars.” Marvin Shanken on being an experience maker in addition to a content provider

People think of me as a businessman or an entrepreneur, I’m really an editor. I spend more time thinking about, planning and working with my editors to execute each issue, in terms of everything from selecting the cover topic to the content, shaping the stories, to getting the photography, to making sure it’s right. That’s where my fingerprint is, but nobody necessarily knows that. I consider myself more of an editor than anything else. It’s no accident that our magazines are great.”… Marvin Shanken

One of the mavericks of publishing, that rare breed of individual who hasn’t sold out to the larger companies and has kept his own vision and business strategies in place for over 40 years, Marvin Shanken has three admitted passions: wine, cigars and whisky. And that trio has carried him successfully throughout his professional career. From print to digital to events, Wine Spectator, Cigar Aficionado, & Whisky Advocate have become the manifestations of Marvin’s passions.

I spoke with Marvin recently and we talked about his humble beginnings back in 1972 all the way until his present successes, opportunities and honors today. The MPA: Association of Magazine Media named Marvin the 2019 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, an honor that was well-deserved. And he has also taken his brands into a new direction, the WS New York, a private dinner club in Hudson Yards, where his passions can have full rein. Along with two other partners, Marvin is tackling this new endeavor like he does with everything: positively and determinedly.

And while many people think of Marvin as a very astute businessman and bold entrepreneur, that’s not how he sees himself, “ I’m really an editor. I spend more time thinking about, planning and working with my editors to execute each issue…” he told me.

And now for this very special exclusive Mr. Magazine™ interview with the man who rarely gives interviews, Marvin Shanken, editor and publisher, Wine Spectator, Cigar Aficionado, & Whisky Advocate.

But first the sound-bites:

On being among that rare breed of independent publisher who started their own magazine media company and why there aren’t more entrepreneurs such as him today: When I started publishing, it was around 1972. I didn’t know what I was doing; I didn’t have any experience, but I was passionate about wine. All the rest came many years later. I would say that the first five years I starved to death and the next five years I began to make a living, but not a very good living, and then things kept progressing. The reason there are so few individual publishing entrepreneurs left is pretty obvious, the lifespan of individuals, the temptation to cash out and sell, the efficiencies of being part of a bigger company to bring down your costs, the pressure in the last decade to be very profitable, family issues; it’s endless and the industry, for the most part, has been struggling.

On his daughter assuming more responsibilities in the company: She is a vice president and involved in business development. She’s also involved in the digital and social areas. When I’m gone, it’s really my wife and my daughter, it’s going to be theirs. And they know my wishes, but it’s really going to be how they feel about it. I don’t necessarily know if my daughter is the heir apparent, she just had her first son and she’s going to raise a family. She’s a great daughter, very smart and very hardworking, but it’s an awful lot of pressure to have the kind of responsibility I have. I’m not sure that she wants it; I’m not sure that I want it for her, but we have a great team in the company. I’m not around all the time, the winters I’m in Florida and the summers I’m in The Hamptons, so we have a great team of people, what you’d call professional management, who can certainly carry on.

On publishing in both the B to B world and the consumer world: I started B to B. Before Wine Spectator, my first publication was a trade newsletter called “Impact,” which is research and analysis for executives in the wine/spirits industry and I still have that and it’s read all over the world. And that’s the one the sponsors the Impact seminar, which we’ve been doing for 44 years. One thing you can say about the company is it’s a little unique in the publishing world in that it’s so diversified. And it has been for most of its history. I started with a trade newsletter, then did a trade seminar; eventually moved into consumer with the Wine Spectator and that grew and then other things after that. So, I have a portfolio of trade newsletters and magazines in the trade division, and then I have the consumer division, which is Wine Spectator, Cigar Aficionado, Whisky Advocate, and that provides a nucleus. And then we do a lot of events and a lot of digital and new products.

On the event business, which is fairly new to most publishers, yet his company has been doing it for over 40 years: This year we celebrated our 40th anniversary of the New York Wine Experience, which is a weekend where we have 6,000 people come to taste hundreds and hundreds of wines and have sit-down seminars for a thousand, and so forth. The Impact Marketing seminar is in its 44th year. We do these Big Smokes, this year we did our annual one in Vegas, we had 4,000 in attendance who love cigars. We do Whisky Fests all over America, where we get 1,500 to 2,000 in each city.

On being more than just a content provider, on being an experience maker: It wasn’t by design. The categories that I chose to go into are areas in which I have  a passion for, so it’s very easy for me to want to do wine-tasting events for readers who share their love and interest in discovering wine like I do. Events became a natural extension. The experience is an extension of the magazine to feed and reward people that have a passion for wine, whisky and cigars.

On his assessment of the future of print magazines and magazine media: The future of magazines… this is a hard topic because most magazines depend on newsstand for their circulation, but we don’t. A dominant portion of our circulation has always been subscribers, so while you enjoy newsstand, it’s expensive, because a lot of them demand a fee to go in and then what you don’t sell you have to eat from a production standpoint. But it’s very clean when you have a subscriber, he pays you up front, you deliver the product and everybody is happy. I don’t want to say the percentage, but a very large percentage of what we do is subscribers. That makes the pressure on us from a circulation standpoint to be fairly negligible.

On whether or not he’s thinking of launching a cannabis newsletter: We did. I have a product called Shanken News Daily for the wine and spirits industry, which I started about five years ago. It’s a very successful trade newsletter that goes out daily. So, wanting to gain experience in cannabis, but not wanting to make a full commitment, we started a cannabis edition, which comes out once a week and is free to our subscribers. So, we’re gaining a lot of knowledge; we’re covering the industry and we’re waiting to see what happens with the federal government, in terms of whether or not they legalize it. If and when the industry becomes legalized on a national basis, we will then consider the next step in covering cannabis.

On anything he’d like to add: There are a number of new efforts in various stages of development. One thing that is fairly significant to us, but not something we’ve broadcast, is after three or four years of development we launched, in a partnership, a private club in New York in conjunction with a restaurant open to the public. It’s really two separate enterprises. This is a new direction for us that is very unique. For those that may be curious, there’s a development in New York City called Hudson Yard, which is the largest private development in the world, $26 billion. And it’s millions and millions of sq. ft. of office space for major companies; all the great luxury retailers; a lot of condominiums; it’s the first Neiman Marcus in the city; 25 or so restaurants of different levels.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him: People think of me as a businessman or an entrepreneur, I’m really an editor. I spend more time thinking about, planning and working with my editors to execute each issue, in terms of everything from selecting the cover topic to the content, shaping the stories, to getting the photography to making sure it’s right. That’s where my fingerprint is, but nobody necessarily knows that. I consider myself more of an editor than anything else. It’s no accident that our magazines are great.

On what keeps him up at night: You hit a sore point because I haven’t slept through a night in probably 30 years. I think it’s part of the Shanken biology. But what keeps me up at night is I can’t turn off my brain. I’m constantly thinking about what I need to do tomorrow; what I didn’t do today; what I should have done today to keep the peanut rolling forward, keeping my brain calendar up to date.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Marvin Shanken, editor & publisher, Wine Spectator, Cigar Aficionado and Whisky Advocate.

Samir Husni: Jann Wenner from Rolling Stone, Larry Burke from Outside, Hugh Hefner, and yourself were and are a rare breed of independent publisher who started magazine media companies on their own and continued on their own throughout the years. Why do you think that kind of publishing entrepreneur is hard to find these days?

Marvin Shanken: When I started publishing, it was around 1972. I didn’t know what I was doing; I didn’t have any experience, but I was passionate about wine. All the rest came many years later. I would say that the first five years I starved to death and the next five years I began to make a living, but not a very good living, and then things kept progressing. The reason there are so few individual publishing entrepreneurs left is pretty obvious, the lifespan of individuals, the temptation to cash out and sell, the efficiencies of being part of a bigger company to bring down your costs, the pressure in the last decade to be very profitable, family issues; it’s endless and the industry, for the most part, has been struggling.

And you have to really love what you’re doing to resist the temptation to sell out when offers come along. Personally, I have never sat down with a buyer and I get calls and letters all the time. That doesn’t mean forever, but one of the things I realized is whoever buys my company, if I were to sell it, one of the first things they would do is look at my overhead, look at what I pay my people, and probably make some decisions to cut a significant part of the organization’s staff, because I have a lot of people that have been with me their whole life. I view the company as a family and the family may be ruined with a new owner who’s looking at it strictly as a business.

I also know that I’m not going to live forever and I will probably leave that decision up to my family when I leave.

Samir Husni: Your daughter, Jessica, has been assuming a lot of responsibilities in the company, correct?

Marvin Shanken: She is a vice president and involved in business development. She’s also involved in the digital and social areas. When I’m gone, it’s really my wife and my daughter, it’s going to be theirs. And they know my wishes, but it’s really going to be how they feel about it. I don’t necessarily know if my daughter is the heir apparent, she just had her first son and she’s going to raise a family. She’s a great daughter, very smart and very hardworking, but it’s an awful lot of pressure to have the kind of responsibility I have. I’m not sure that she wants it; I’m not sure that I want it for her, but we have a great team in the company. I’m not around all the time, the winters I’m in Florida and the summers I’m in The Hamptons, so we have a great team of people, what you’d call professional management, who can certainly carry on.

Samir Husni: You manage to publish both for consumers and for the business side. In fact, it seems you wear several hats, publishing between B to B and the consumers. How are you able to juggle between the two spaces?

Marvin Shanken: I started B to B. Before Wine Spectator, my first publication was a trade newsletter called “Impact,” which is research and analysis for executives in the wine/spirits industry and I still have that and it’s read all over the world. And that’s the one the sponsors the Impact seminar, which we’ve been doing for 44 years. One thing you can say about the company is it’s a little unique in the publishing world in that it’s so diversified. And it has been for most of its history. I started with a trade newsletter, then did a trade seminar; eventually moved into consumer with the Wine Spectator and that grew and then other things after that. So, I have a portfolio of trade newsletters and magazines in the trade division, and then I have the consumer division, which is Wine Spectator, Cigar Aficionado, Whisky Advocate, and that provides a nucleus. And then we do a lot of events and a lot of digital and new products.

We have faced the challenges of the new economy, which everyone predicted would happen and has happened, but we still operate fairly successfully because of the diversity of our portfolio, in terms of products and services. There are a lot of things that we do that people don’t even know about because there are layers and layers that are niche products for different groups, without going into great detail, which would be much too much. Our event business has been going on now for 44 years.

Samir Husni: Almost all the CEO’s, everyone that I have been interviewing lately are discovering the event business, they are saying that magazine media has to be in the event business, they have to do events. And you’ve been doing them for 44 years. What’s your secret sauce?

Marvin Shanken: This year we celebrated our 40th anniversary of the New York Wine Experience, which is a weekend where we have 6,000 people come to taste hundreds and hundreds of wines and have sit-down seminars for a thousand, and so forth. The Impact Marketing seminar is in its 44th year. We do these Big Smokes, this year we did our annual one in Vegas, we had 4,000 in attendance who love cigars. We do Whisky Fests all over America, where we get 1,500 to 2,000 in each city.

We’re trying something new in Florida in April; we’re doing our first Whisky Fest meets Big Smoke, where we’re combining two events to see if one + one equals three. Everybody who smokes cigars loves whisky and a lot of people who love whisky smoke cigars, not everybody, but a lot. So, we’re putting then all together at Hard Rock Casino & Hotel in the Ft. Lauderdale area in early April.

We innovate a lot; we do a lot of trade events. For the most part, everything we do is profitable. We have a strong events team. Some of the things that we do, I would describe as small and uninteresting to a big company, but very interesting to us, because we’re not a big company. We have around 150 full-time people, with two main offices in New York and in Napa Valley. We continue to operate very profitably and we continue to face challenges, particularly in the area of advertising.

It just so happens that this year our consumer advertising is down a little bit, but our trade advertising was up. Sometimes consumer is up and trade is down. And it may hang on one or two companies. If one of your major advertisers cuts back, that has an impact. And vice versa. Someone that wasn’t a major advertiser becomes one, then that changes things too. We operate very long-term. And we don’t make decisions based on budgets for next year and things like that. And I take enormous pride in having such a great group of people, especially young people who have made our company their career, as opposed to people who come here for a job.

Samir Husni: From your humble beginnings in 1972 to today, until you were inducted into the MPA: The Association of Magazine Media’s Hall of Fame, you’ve provided much more than content. You’ve been more of the experience maker, engaging your audiences with experiences, rather than just content. Why do you think that’s also a rare occurrence today, being more than just a content provider?

Marvin Shanken: It wasn’t by design. The categories that I chose to go into are areas in which I have  a passion for, so it’s very easy for me to want to do wine-tasting events for readers who share their love and interest in discovering wine like I do. Events became a natural extension.

Same thing happened with cigars. And although it was very unpopular at the time when I did this cigar magazine; it has been a huge success. There was a time when we were doing 10 cities a year with the events. But the economics didn’t work, we would get a thousand people in Denver or in Boston or wherever, that sounds like a lot of people, but when it comes to making money, I realized that you can only do fewer events that are larger so that once you cover your costs, you really start to make serious money.

Now we do this one event in Vegas where we get 4,000 that is a huge success. It’s basically our readers coming out every year and we’ve been doing one in Florida. We used to do it in New York and a lot of other places, but in New York we used to do it at the Marriott, but they eliminated smoking. Then we did it at one of the piers over the Hudson River, but I didn’t like the accommodations, they weren’t upscale enough.

And of course, these whisky events, which are enormously successful because since I developed Whisky Advocate, the market for whisky has just skyrocketed. And every year, the industry is introducing many new blends, reserves, and vintages of whisky similar to the wine market, and consumers are dying to try it. So, we’ll do Whisky Fests and we’ll have 300 or 400 whiskies that consumers can try, they’re not going to be able to try them all, but they’re there if you want them.

The event experience is an extension of the magazine to feed and reward people that have a passion for wine, whisky and cigars. Most magazines don’t review consumable products, so to speak. It’s design or art or sports, this, that or the other thing. So, I’m in a very special area and if you were to go to any of my events and walk around and look at people’s faces, they think that they’re at Disneyland for adults when they go to a cigar dinner or whisky dinner or wine event. It’s like a fantasy. It’s making people happy. It’s very rewarding to us as well, seeing the people’s satisfaction of producing what we do.

Samir Husni: Recently, I interviewed the director of merchandising from Barnes & Noble, Krifka Steffey, and she said that printed magazines are becoming a luxury item and that’s how she’s treating them in her stores. And you have the luxury items. What is your assessment of the future of print magazines and magazine media as we move farther into this new decade?

Marvin Shanken: That’s very interesting. Barnes & Noble is a perfect example. When you go to a Barnes & Noble, I don’t believe there’s any location anywhere that offers the breadth of magazines for sale that they do, however, I don’t think they take advantage of it. They sell everything. I never knew there was so many magazines until you look at what they sell. Yet, they don’t promote that. They promote their books, but they could carve out a greater niche for themselves if they were to promote the fact that virtually any magazine you could ever want is at Barnes & Noble.

The future of magazines… this is a hard topic because most magazines depend on newsstand for their circulation, but we don’t. A dominant portion of our circulation has always been subscribers, so while you enjoy newsstand, it’s expensive, because a lot of them demand a fee to go in and then what you don’t sell you have to eat from a production standpoint. But it’s very clean when you have a subscriber, he pays you up front, you deliver the product and everybody is happy. I don’t want to say the percentage, but a very large percentage of what we do is subscribers. That makes the pressure on us from a circulation standpoint to be fairly negligible.

In the last 10 years, I don’t have to tell you what’s happening with magazines, but basically we charge a lot of money for a subscription and our ABC audited circulation numbers, in Wine Spectator they have been fairly flat, which is an achievement, Cigar Aficionado has been pretty flat, which is also an achievement, and Whisky Advocate has probably tripled in the last 10 years. And we’ve raised our prices, which hasn’t seemed to hurt. Wine Spectator is around 400,000 in circulation, not total audience. I think Cigar is around 250,000, and I know Whisky Advocate is over 100,000 and growing rapidly. And they all have extensions, both digitally and events and other things.

Samir Husni: During the Hall of Fame event, there was talk of you launching a cannabis newsletter; is that in the works?

Marvin Shanken: We did. I have a product called Shanken News Daily for the wine and spirits industry, which I started about five years ago. It’s a very successful trade newsletter that goes out daily. So, wanting to gain experience in cannabis, but not wanting to make a full commitment, we started a cannabis edition, which comes out once a week and is free to our subscribers. So, we’re gaining a lot of knowledge; we’re covering the industry and we’re waiting to see what happens with the federal government, in terms of whether or not they legalize it. If and when the industry becomes legalized on a national basis, we will then consider the next step in covering cannabis.

But right now we’re just in a holding pattern while my editors are gaining knowledge and experience and providing very specific news on cannabis to the wine and spirits industry, a number of which have invested in cannabis companies. And read by constellation the wine and spirits company, which made a four billion dollar investment in Canopy Growth Company, which is the largest cannabis company, and many others. So, we are dipping our toe and are on the sidelines ready to pounce when the time is right.

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

Marvin Shanken: There are a number of new efforts in various stages of development. One thing that is fairly significant to us, but not something we’ve broadcast, is after three or four years of development we launched, in a partnership, a private club in New York in conjunction with a restaurant open to the public. It’s really two separate enterprises. This is a new direction for us that is very unique. For those that may be curious, there’s a development in New York City called Hudson Yard, which is the largest private development in the world, $26 billion. And it’s millions and millions of sq. ft. of office space for major companies; all the great luxury retailers; a lot of condominiums; it’s the first Neiman Marcus in the city; 25 or so restaurants of different levels.

And the developer is a company called Related, which is Steve Ross, who also owns the Miami Dolphins, Equinox, SoulCycle and many other companies. He and I have been very close friends for years. He asked me to be involved with him with restaurants when he did the Time Warner Center 15 years ago. And I said no and he said why not. I said because I don’t want to do it. And he came back to me four years ago and asked me about Hudson Yards, which I had never heard of. And after he explained to me kind of what it was, I said no and he said why not. And I said the same reason as 15 years ago. And then he said something, which probably tells you a little bit about my personality, he said you’re 73 and I’m 76, let’s have fun before we die. And I thought about it and I said okay.

So, we have created this extraordinary private club that is above and beyond anything that most people have ever seen in their lives, designed by David Rockwell. Spectacular space, unbelievable food from a great chef who was the number two to Thomas Keller for more than a decade, incredible wine list, unbelievable whisky list. Every week there are events for the members with great chefs, great winemakers, great whisky makers, and cultural people. The club is called WS New York, which is short for Wine Spectator. It’s a collaboration between Steve, Ken Himmel, his partner, and myself.

And it’s very significant. There are over 150 people who work there, there are five sommeliers, it has a great art collection on the wall; it has fireplaces and bars. It’s an incredible space. It was set up as a place for friends of ours, the three of us, to go and friends of our friends. It has only been opened for two months and we have already gotten over 400 members and we think before the end of the year, we’ll be completely sold out.

The people who have joined are the Who’s Who of New York from all different walks of life, as well as people from around the country. And they have one thing in common: they all love food, wine, whisky and events. So, it’s really a culmination of all the things I’ve been doing  these past 45 years. My art collection is on the wall; you sit there and you pinch yourself because you can’t believe how breathtaking it is. There are private dining rooms where they do a lot of private events. And it’s just starting to live its life, because it opened November 6. It’s something that’s very exciting and I think this will complement and expand everything we’re doing in the publishing and event business because once again, I’m making my community bigger and offering more options to people who are interested in food and wine, whisky and cigars.

And it’s not as expensive as people might think. I won’t say what it is, but when one of the CEO’s of a major corporation saw the club and became a corporate member, he said, WS New York is the cherry on top of Hudson Yards. So, a lot of the companies that are there have joined; a lot of the luxury retailers, their CEOs have joined. Right now there’s a building under construction, three million square feet, it won’t be ready for about another year or so, a million and a half square feet was taken by BlackRock, the largest money managing firm in the world. And the other million and a half was taken by Facebook.

So, all the office space is all sold out. The only thing really left are the condominiums. The building I’m in, which is in the center, next to the Vessel, is a 100-story building where the first-ever Equinox Hotel is located. Then there are 150 condominiums.

This is a new direction for us. It’s been a Black Hole, in terms of sucking up a lot of my time, but it’s something that rewards me because all my passions are integrated into what we’re creating and this club will live a lot longer than I will. And it will be something where people can come and really enjoy themselves immensely.

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

Marvin Shanken: I’m not really out there. Really, it’s all about my brands; my magazines and my events. So, I don’t think people really know that much about me, because I don’t show my hand very much. But those that see me probably, hopefully, think of me as a dedicated and successful businessman, entrepreneur. And I know that a lot of people respect the quality of my content and that’s really how I breathe. It’s all about making each issue better than the last.

People think of me as a businessman or an entrepreneur, I’m really an editor. I spend more time thinking about, planning and working with my editors to execute each issue, in terms of everything from selecting the cover topic to the content, shaping the stories, to getting the photography, to making sure it’s right. That’s where my fingerprint is, but nobody necessarily knows that. I consider myself more of an editor than anything else. It’s no accident that our magazines are great.

And we talk about it all the time. And we also talk about how we can guarantee that we never mislead our readers. That we maintain the objectivity and the truthfulness that has escaped from journalism to a very large degree in the world. And I’m constantly asking questions of my editors to make sure that our readers know that what they read is the truth.

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

Marvin Shanken: You hit a sore point because I haven’t slept through a night in probably 30 years. I think it’s part of the Shanken biology. But what keeps me up at night is I can’t turn off my brain. I’m constantly thinking about what I need to do tomorrow; what I didn’t do today; what I should have done today to keep the peanut rolling forward, keeping my brain calendar up to date.

In the early years, I’m sure I was worried about whether or not I could pay the rent or pay my people, but over the last 20 years that has been less of an issue. I’ve realized that I’m not going to live forever. That sounds a little poetic maybe, but I’ve had two serious health issues over the last five years, both of which I’ve successfully gotten through. I’m playing a lot of golf and I would never know I was sick, I feel great. But I realize that every life has a term. I still have a lot to do and I’m hoping that God allows me the time to finish my work.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Outside Magazine’s, Larry Burke, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “I’m Bullish, And It May Sound Crazy To Some, But Personally, I Love Print.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

January 23, 2020

“We’ve actually had a very good print year. Our audience grew by an astounding 41 percent in print alone, not even including our digital growth, which across the board has been very strong. I’m speaking from a very narrow perspective, our own view of our brand and its opportunities and the opportunities that the brand has presented us year in and year out, both with advertisers and the reader and consumer side as well. I’m bullish. I’m bullish, and it may sound crazy to some, but personally, I love print and I think that we’ve had absolutely strong consumer retention on the print side, and a strong growth story on the print audience side, as evidenced by MRI’s recent results in the last study they did.” …Larry Burke

Outside is the world’s leading active lifestyle media brand. For 43 years, the Outside brand has covered travel, sports, adventure, health and fitness, as well as the personalities, environment and lifestyle of the world Outside. The magazine is the only publication to win three consecutive National Magazine Awards for General Excellence.

Larry Burke is chairman and editor in chief of Outside and it was his vision of health, robust fitness and just overall fun and physical wellness that brought Outside to life. Larry is the founder and has been with the magazine since its inception, making him one of the longest-serving magazine editors of a single brand and in a club of peers that includes the likes of Hugh Hefner, Jann Wenner, and Marvin Shanken.

I spoke with Larry recently and we talked about his affinity toward print, (actually, he used the word bullish) and we talked about the fact that he is a one-brand man and he is convinced that has made Outside, in all its formats and platforms, a very successful business.

Outside reported a 41 percent growth in its total print audience, which is the third highest increase, according to MRI’s Fall 2019 study. You certainly can’t argue with that particular success. And Outside reaches over 3.4 million active readers with every issue. Another confirmed success story.

So, please enjoy reading about many more of the brand’s successes in the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Larry Burke, chairman and editor in chief, Outside magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On his assessment of the future of print magazines and magazine media: It’s no secret that with the proliferation of other media channels that print is viewed as traditional media and therefore is subject to all the pressures and competition from other platforms. In our particular case, and the industry in general, I think that the strongest brands that dominate their specific space, their specific lifestyle or market as the case may be, are in a great position to grow from their heritage. That’s certainly the case with us; we happen to dominate in a very active lifestyle marketplace as a media brand. And it has given us a lot of opportunities . Of course, there are a lot of challenges that go along with that, but personally, I’m very bullish on our ability to keep pounding away with our print platform, as well as all of our other platforms.

On his secret sauce of success: Let me just say this; when the two teams are going to play in the Super Bowl, and if a sports journalist calls them up and asks them what’s your game plan? They’re not going to tell you. And our secret sauce is a “secret sauce.” But I can tell you this much; Outside has been in the making for forty three years now and it has an incredible legacy of journalism. And we basically view ourselves as a content creator and a content distributor. And with that in mind, we position ourselves to provide that content to our consumers in any way they want to consume it. And in as many ways that they could possibly consume it. So, we want to be in all the channels of distribution with what has been a tremendous legacy of great journalism and storytelling.

On how he is breaking the stigma of if the magazine is an outdoors publication, it’s for a male audience: I never started in this business with a market research study. I had an idea about the way I thought people should live their lives as often as possible, giving consideration to their jobs. But on their personal time it was always about how we felt people should spend as much time as possible. And that was in an active lifestyle outside. There was no demographic; there was no male or female target. It was all about an attitude toward life. It just so happened that originally it was predominantly a male audience and it was always historically somewhere in the 70 percent male and somewhere in the 30 percent female.

On the biggest challenge he faced in 2019: There are challenges every year and we certainly have a lot of them. One of our biggest challenges is converting more online readers into habitual users. It’s a huge challenge, but it has a lot of opportunity associated with it. It’s difficult to get readers to come back habitually for a host of reasons. The biggest one might be that the majority of online readers consume media in 2020 through various umbrella platforms, from social media to news aggregators, than they do through a single source or a brand. As a result, it’s much harder to get readers to come directly to a singular website than it is to draw them in through Facebook or Flipboard or something like that, because that’s where all their eclectic interests are covered.

On the Outside Experience event: We love the event side because we get to be up close and personal with our readers, our users, our television viewers, our listeners, our podcast listeners. We get to meet these people at an actual live event. So, we’re very high on that side of our business and it’s a really fun kind of exhibition. Of course, we partner with Reed Exhibitions, which is the largest event organizer in the world, and they do a lot of the activations and stuff for us. It’s a terrific way to connect with the actual consumer as opposed to just looking at them through other marketing efforts that are in the traditional sense.

On being an independent company and whether he’s becoming a rare breed in the magazine industry: We are an independent company. One of the few that is recognized as a national and international brand. I really haven’t given myself much time to look behind me; look at the past and see what happened to all of those magazine titles that started at the same time as Outside. I really try to focus on what’s ahead of us, I don’t like to look in the rearview mirror often, unless it’s helpful in seeing the future. I do have to pinch myself now and then. Malcolm Forbes told me one time when I asked him a question about expanding the Outside brand and expanding the business, and this was back when it was still a juggernaut, I was real high on all these other ways to grow the business. And he looked up at me from his newspaper and said, “Just stick to your knitting.” (Laughs)

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him: (Laughs) I’m not sure I know what the perception of me is that people have. Frankly, I haven’t actually sought a lot of publicity. Whenever it comes by, I try to accommodate journalists or media, if they want to talk about Outside or myself personally, but really over 43 years, I haven’t had a lot of media exposure personally. So, I don’t know what the perception out there is, I honestly don’t. I’ve never even looked myself up on Google. (Laughs) I just don’t do that.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: You would find me taking my dogs out on my ranch, then I will go down and check on the horses, making sure they’re all well taken care of. You may also find me down at my tennis court, practicing my tennis game. I might be taking a hike with my wife, having a good husband and wife catch-up conversation on the day’s activities. You might also find me unloading my car with all my ski gear in it, because hopefully I’ve spent a day on the mountain.

On what keeps him up at night: I actually wake up almost to the minute at 3:00 a.m. every morning. And at that time, I go to bed no later than 10:00 p.m., I wake up at 3:00 a.m. and I’m immediately thinking about anything and everything in the world. No matter how small; no matter how large; it can enter my consciousness and that always includes something about Outside. Some opportunity that I want to remember to follow up on, some conversation I had with one of the staff people that I need to finalize. Some strategy that I think we need to employ in a certain area of the business. That goes on for approximately two hours and then I sleep for another hour before I get up at 6 or 6:30 a.m. religiously, every morning, no alarm clock necessary. (Laughs) And that’s how that goes.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Larry Burke, founder, chairman and editor-in-chief, Outside magazine.

Samir Husni: What is your assessment of the future of print magazines and magazine media?

Larry Burke: It’s no secret that with the proliferation of other media channels that print is viewed as traditional media and therefore is subject to all the pressures and competition from other platforms. In our particular case, and the industry in general, I think that the strongest brands that dominate their specific space, their specific lifestyle or market as the case may be, are in a great position to grow from their heritage. That’s certainly the case with us; we happen to dominate in a very active lifestyle marketplace as a media brand. And it has given us a lot of opportunities . Of course, there are a lot of challenges that go along with that, but personally, I’m very bullish on our ability to keep pounding away with our print platform, as well as all of our other platforms.

We’ve actually had a very good print year. Our audience grew by an astounding 41 percent in print alone, not even including our digital growth, which across the board has been very strong. I’m speaking from a very narrow perspective, our own view of our brand and its opportunities and the opportunities that the brand has presented us year in and year out, both with advertisers and the reader and consumer side as well. I’m bullish. I’m bullish, and it may sound crazy to some, but personally, I love print and I think that we’ve had absolutely strong consumer retention on the print side, and a strong growth story on the print audience side, as evidenced by MRI’s recent results in the last study they did.

And we’re going to take that forward into this year. It’s based on a lot of things, of course. Our overall market is growing, for one thing, people participating in an active, outside lifestyle and that just keeps growing. The outdoor industry is now an $877 billion goliath. So, from the broader market perspective in the space that we exist in, it looks very positive. And across the board, on all of our platforms, we’re talking about television, online, digital, newsletters, podcasts, events; all of those platforms are doing very well.

Samir Husni: What’s your secret sauce; your magic formula? Is it the blue stones in New Mexico? (Laughs) What differentiates you?

Larry Burke: Let me just say this; when the two teams are going to play in the Super Bowl, and if a sports journalist calls them up and asks them what’s your game plan? They’re not going to tell you. And our secret sauce is a “secret sauce.” But I can tell you this much; Outside has been in the making for forty three years now and it has an incredible legacy of journalism. And we basically view ourselves as a content creator and a content distributor. And with that in mind, we position ourselves to provide that content to our consumers in any way they want to consume it. And in as many ways that they could possibly consume it. So, we want to be in all the channels of distribution with what has been a tremendous legacy of great journalism and storytelling.

Recently, we started a company called Outside Studios, which was created to take our storytelling to an additional level and that’s into film, into docuseries or one-off documentaries, and theatrical releases, scripted or unscripted. So we have these opportunities, again, based on the legacy of the Outside brand and based on our legacy of incredibly-executed journalism and great storytelling. That’s really the essence of it.

Again, in terms of being a content creator and a content distributor, to a very specific, yet very broad market, a global market, that’s basically what we do. And it’s what has allowed us to have so many opportunities beyond what originally was simply one magazine. We are very highly focused on one thing, as Jack Palance said in “City Slicker.” (Laughs) We focus on one thing; we focus on the Outside brand. We don’t have a lot of brands to consider; we try not to have too many distractions that are out of our wheelhouse. Some things come across our transom that represent opportunities that we feel we can connect our consumers with. That could be, as was published not too long ago, an opportunity in the cruise ship business. It could be an opportunity in the hospitality business; it could be an opportunity in a lot of things. Again, going back to the brand, the brand has just developed a reputation over the last 43 years in solid journalism and content creation.

Samir Husni: With the Outside brand, you’ve been reaching the upper-aged millennials. And you’re getting as many females as males in that group. How are you reaching that audience, and breaking the stigma of if it’s an outdoors magazine, it’s for a male audience?

Larry Burke: I never started in this business with a market research study. I had an idea about the way I thought people should live their lives as often as possible, giving consideration to their jobs. But on their personal time it was always about how we felt people should spend as much time as possible. And that was in an active lifestyle outside. There was no demographic; there was no male or female target. It was all about an attitude toward life. It just so happened that originally it was predominantly a male audience and it was always historically somewhere in the 70 percent male and somewhere in the 30 percent female.

But as the decades wore on, we realized it and the market itself gravitated naturally toward the female gender. We’ve always spent a lot of time covering women, they have been on the covers going all the way back to the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Women are a huge force in our world, but it wasn’t really recognized as much as it is today. They represent at least 50 percent of the population that is employed in our market and more and more people are flooding in to this market all the time. It just so happens that there’s an equal representation of women across other cultural disciplines as well.

It was quite natural when a couple of years ago we decided to have one issue totally edited, written, photographed, designed and the subjects, all women. All women on both sides of the equation, executing the issue and as subjects in the issue. I think that was a big eye-opener to a lot of women who individually weren’t subscribing. A lot of them might have been reading their husband’s copy or their boyfriend’s copy, but generally speaking overtime it just evolved into a pretty strong representation in both genres, women and men.

The floodgates have been opened, as evidenced by MRI’s recent study showing our 41 percent growth that came mainly from women, but also in regional areas like the Midwest. We also cover the whole LGBTQ community. We believe everyone should live an outside lifestyle.

That’s at the bottom of it, and that was what the idea of Outside was based on. We think it’s just good for people, good for the planet, good for relationships, business or personal, and that’s our mantra. We don’t exclude anybody; we’re very inclusive. And we’ve learned a lot along the way, over the last 43 years, about our audience and what it’s made up of and what the advertisers need to. Our marketing partners have evolved as well. There never used to be a strong, in our market anyway, there never used to be any strong attention given toward the female market or the children’s market, for that matter. Our world was pretty much, as you said, dominated by a male perception of what an active lifestyle was all about, but that has changed over the decades and it has really come to fruition now.

Samir Husni: What was the biggest challenge you faced in 2019 and how did you overcome it?

Larry Burke: There are challenges every year and we certainly have a lot of them. One of our biggest challenges is converting more online readers into habitual users. It’s a huge challenge, but it has a lot of opportunity associated with it. It’s difficult to get readers to come back habitually for a host of reasons. The biggest one might be that the majority of online readers consume media in 2020 through various umbrella platforms, from social media to news aggregators, than they do through a single source or a brand. As a result, it’s much harder to get readers to come directly to a singular website than it is to draw them in through Facebook or Flipboard or something like that, because that’s where all their eclectic interests are covered.

It’s important that we focus on things that will generate habitual use of our site for our readers in any given month. We have a lot of formulas that are on point to do that, which is a close to the vest subject, but we’re very intent on increasing the percentage of online visitors that return more often in a given month. So, that’s a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity because it leads to a lot of affiliate sales, print subs, reader revenue opportunities, advertising revenue opportunities; it leads to a lot of things. So, that’s one challenge.

Another challenge that comes to mind is bandwidth. I was mentioning all the opportunities that come to a brand like Outside; we have so many companies from a variety of fields that want to associate themselves with the Outside brand. And there are a lot of really strong opportunities there, that the bandwidth of our teams gets stretched. And with the huge changes in sales and marketing brought on by the emergence of digital and native, video and event platforms, and a lot of other platforms that we employ; all of that has created an environment where we really need to spend so much time in client service. But the challenge is really to, not only provide our existing clients with very healthy service, but to also prospect for new business and strategize on new markets, and new accounts to approach.

You have to balance the maintenance of existing business, which is critical for renewing that business, with breaking new business and growing our client base. So, there’s always that bandwidth challenge, where how much can we shove through the pipeline and still be effective at what we’re doing. So, it comes down to the economics; how much can you reinvest in growth and do you have more opportunities than you have funds to invest in those opportunities? It gets down to a lot of business modeling and a lot of strategic thinking. And a lot of editing of the opportunities, really.

 Samir Husni: And one of those edited opportunities is the Outside Experience that you started last year and that you’re doing again this year.

Larry Burke: Exactly. We love the event side because we get to be up close and personal with our readers, our users, our television viewers, our listeners, our podcast listeners. We get to meet these people at an actual live event. So, we’re very high on that side of our business and it’s a really fun kind of exhibition. Of course, we partner with Reed Exhibitions, which is the largest event organizer in the world, and they do a lot of the activations and stuff for us. It’s a terrific way to connect with the actual consumer as opposed to just looking at them through other marketing efforts that are in the traditional sense.

Samir Husni: Larry, do you feel that you’re a voice in the wilderness? When you look at all the magazines that were started when Outside began, and with what’s happening today in the industry, you’re one of very few that still owns the magazine and edits the magazine. You may or may not report to a board of some kind, but you’re not continuously looking at the stock market to see how you’re doing. Are you becoming a rare breed in the industry?

Larry Burke: We are an independent company. One of the few that is recognized as a national and international brand. I really haven’t given myself much time to look behind me; look at the past and see what happened to all of those magazine titles that started at the same time as Outside. I really try to focus on what’s ahead of us, I don’t like to look in the rearview mirror often, unless it’s helpful in seeing the future. I do have to pinch myself now and then. Malcolm Forbes told me one time when I asked him a question about expanding the Outside brand and expanding the business, and this was back when it was still a juggernaut, I was real high on all these other ways to grow the business. And he looked up at me from his newspaper and said, “Just stick to your knitting.” (Laughs)

I took that as, okay, if I believe in this idea of Outside; if I believe as I do, and I did then and I do to this day just as much, I believe that the idea of Outside is much more powerful than any particular platform or any vehicle for delivery of our content. It’s the idea behind Outside, that it is, in fact, just a great way to live your life. It’s good for the planet, it’s good for your family and it’s good for people in general. Our consumers, our audiences across all of our platforms, I think they believe that as well. They know that, in fact. They know that is true and all we have to do is create award-winning content and distribute that content through our channels in order to maintain a healthy business and be viable and loyal to our mission. And that’s basically our secret sauce.

I believe in focusing on just the Outside brand. There have been plenty of opportunities to acquire other titles, but I said no, I have my hands full with Outside. If I just stick with this brand, it can take us anywhere that we want to go.

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

Larry Burke: (Laughs) I’m not sure I know what the perception of me is that people have. Frankly, I haven’t actually sought a lot of publicity. Whenever it comes by, I try to accommodate journalists or media, if they want to talk about Outside or myself personally, but really over 43 years, I haven’t had a lot of media exposure personally. So, I don’t know what the perception out there is, I honestly don’t. I’ve never even looked myself up on Google. (Laughs) I just don’t do that.

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

Larry Burke: You would find me taking my dogs out on my ranch, then I will go down and check on the horses, making sure they’re all well taken care of. You may also find me down at my tennis court, practicing my tennis game. I might be taking a hike with my wife, having a good husband and wife catch-up conversation on the day’s activities. You might also find me unloading my car with all my ski gear in it, because hopefully I’ve spent a day on the mountain.

In the summer, especially in the evening, you would probably find me swimming some laps in the pool because I try to stay in shape for surfing, which we’re going to Australia and New Zealand soon to do just that, we’re going down there to surf and dive from the Great Barrier Reef, then we’re going to do some sailing and we’re visiting New Zealand to do some bike touring and some rafting on the rivers there. This whole Outside thing came out of my own personal lifestyle.

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

Larry Burke: I actually wake up almost to the minute at 3:00 a.m. every morning. And at that time, I go to bed no later than 10:00 p.m., I wake up at 3:00 a.m. and I’m immediately thinking about anything and everything in the world. No matter how small; no matter how large; it can enter my consciousness and that always includes something about Outside. Some opportunity that I want to remember to follow up on, some conversation I had with one of the staff people that I need to finalize. Some strategy that I think we need to employ in a certain area of the business. That goes on for approximately two hours and then I sleep for another hour before I get up at 6 or 6:30 a.m. religiously, every morning, no alarm clock necessary. (Laughs) And that’s how that goes.

If there’s one thing I think about it’s how can I make sure that Outside is positioned as best as it possibly can be going forward? And what might those opportunities be that Outside can take advantage of? Basically, in a nutshell, that’s it.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

 

 

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Introducing the All New Mr. Magazine™ Website, Blogs & Consulting Services…

January 16, 2012

The new year brings complete renewal for the Mr. Magazine™ website, blogs and consulting and research services. The website www.mrmagazine.com has a new look with links to all of Mr. Magazine™ blogs. The Mr. Magazine™ blogs are now divided into the different areas of interest to readers and users of Mr. Magazine™ websites and services. The sites were completely redesigned and a new logo has been introduced. The new logo, designed by Mr. Magazine™ webmaster and managing editor Allen Thigpen, reflects Mr. Magazine™’s love of magazines and his side-kick love of neckties. Click on the image below to see the full logo “experience.”

The new website is now linked directly to nine sites that are organized as such:

The Mr. Magazine™ Blog

Mr. Magazine™ Interviews

Mr. Magazine™ Consulting and Research Services

Mr. Magazine™ Press

Mr. Magazine™ Launch Monitor

Mr. Magazine™ Books and Links

About Mr. Magazine™

Magazine Innovation Center


ACT Experience: The Magazine Innovation Center’s Amplify, Clarify and Testify Annual Experience

I hope that you will find the new website and blogs useful and helpful. As I always tell folks, we are no longer just content providers, we have to be experience makers. I hope you will enjoy this new experience.

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