Archive for the ‘New Launches’ Category

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Kitchen Toke: The First Magazine About Cooking With Cannabis & The Game Changing, Positive Effects It Can Have On Human Health – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Joline Rivera, Founder & President Kitchen Toke…

November 6, 2018

“People will often hear me say that I call my magazine a very expensive business card. I believe in the power of tangibility. When I talk to people, getting them to look at my Instagram page or my website in a world that’s overwhelmed by digital media; I just think that it’s a lot easier for me to communicate who we are and what we can do, and what we’re capable of with our brand, if you can hold it in your hand. So, I believe in the power of tangibility.” Joline Rivera…

Kitchen Toke is the first magazine about cooking with cannabis. It focuses on exploring and understanding cannabis for recreational and medicinal use, covering cooking and entertaining seasonally with cannabis along with the chefs and individuals who are advancing marijuana in food and health. Founder and President Joline Rivera said the magazine has recipes and stories that help people to understand all of the misinformation that’s out there about the plant, causing unnecessary and misplaced fear for many people when it comes to using it in food or at all.

I spoke with Jo recently and we talked about the brand, and the plant that is being legalized in many states as well as many countries around the world. Jo said the cannabis industry is moving forward and making progress when it comes to legalizing and promoting the medicinal benefits of the drug, and in also recognizing that the recreational use of marijuana is becoming more and more mainstream, replacing alcohol for some people as their drug of choice.

It’s a controversial topic that has become a hotbed for both politics and ethical and moral conversations surrounding its usage and accessibility. Joline Rivera is a firm believer in the medicinal and healthful usages of marijuana. From devastating illnesses such as cancer, to the health benefits of edibles for day-to-day living, Jo practices what she preaches by using cannabis herself.

As a creative designer for many years, Jo has designed cookbooks for Meredith Publishing and contributed to various magazines, such as Sweet Paul and Uncrate, so Kitchen Toke, a quarterly, is a very design-driven magazine.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with Joline Rivera, founder and president of Kitchen Toke, as we learn more about a plant that could be the answer to many health-problem questions that have existed for decades.

But first the sound-bites:

On the genesis of Kitchen Toke: I started paying attention to the cannabis industry in 2011 when they were talking about legalizing Colorado. And right around that time one of my designers’ father became ill with cancer and we tried some cannabis chocolates on him. And for the first time in years, he’s been battling the disease since about 2011 to 2015 before he tried these chocolates, and we got to watch them work; we watched him eat them and we watched the effect that they had within about 30 minutes. He started to feel less pain; he started to eat; he was able to enjoy his grandkids. Shortly after that, he passed away in 2016 and it affected all of us who I worked with. And when he passed away, it was clearly on my mind. I was watching a Vice show; have you heard of the rapper, Action Bronson? I was watching one of his shows and he was getting high, smoking a joint while he was cooking. And I called my editor and said he’s getting high and he’s cooking food. She said why doesn’t he just get high while he’s eating his food and I said exactly! (Laughs again) Then we had the idea of coming up with a magazine to teach people how to step away from smoking, it’s not healthy, but also being able to medicate yourself in a helpful way.

On why she decided on an upscale, expensive, elegant print magazine, rather than a more mass-type publication: I had been used to producing magazines like that; I had been designing a magazine called “Uncrate” for a while and a magazine called “Sweet Paul” for about nine years. I do another magazine called “Gluten Free Forever.” I have been doing those Indie pubs and those upscale-looking magazines for a while. And so when I looked at the cannabis space, and you look at magazines like “High Times” or “Cannabis Now” or “Dope,” they all have a great audience and those magazines are great for that purpose, but one thing I realized pretty quickly is that cannabis magazines weren’t coming out on that level. That kind of debunk-the-stoner mentality, I guess. Creating a magazine that was a little more friendly to everyone. One that I could give to my grandmother and OG Kush wouldn’t scare her. (Laughs)

On whether launching and creating the magazine was easy and a walk in a rose garden for her: (Laughs) I’ll be honest with you, it was a lot easier for me than it was for my content director, because they were dipping their toes in an industry full of misinformation and had to work really hard and turned a lot of money to find the correct information, to talk to the right people. We had writers spread out all over the country to contribute to our magazine and we pride ourselves on creating content that is sourced and fact-based, and credited to people who know what they’re talking about, scientists and people who have been here for a long time and have been working in the cannabis space for a while.

On why she chose print in this day and age: People will often hear me say that I call my magazine a very expensive business card. I believe in the power of tangibility. When I talk to people, getting them to look at my Instagram page or my website in a world that’s overwhelmed by digital media; I just think that it’s a lot easier for me to communicate who we are and what we can do, and what we’re capable of with our brand, if you can hold it in your hand. So, I believe in the power of tangibility.

On how she came up with the name for the magazine: My content director, Laura Yee, came up with the name. She’s a writer, of course, and she’s really great with words. We started talking about the word “toque,” obviously, I don’t know if people wear those anymore. To my knowledge, and all of the photo shoots that we do with chefs, they rarely wear a toque in the kitchen anymore, but the chef hat and the idea of “taking a toke” off of a joint and then also the definition of the word also means a bit of advice, so it was a play on words.

On the biggest challenge she’s had to face: The biggest challenge is getting people to know we’re here and getting people to pick up the magazine and to really look at what we’re doing. Yes, we’re talking about cooking with cannabis, and yes, we’re showing people how, but we’re also talking about the world of cannabis as a whole and how it affects this magazine, this idea, and this industry. We’re talking about the legalities as it moves through the United States and the world actually, and who’s doing what and medicinal stories. I think there are a lot of stories. If you ask someone, everyone has a cannabis story. Everyone. They just didn’t used to talk about it. And now we are.

On whether Kitchen Toke has a test kitchen: No, we don’t. We just have various places in this country where we have recipe-testers and they work out of their own kitchens. Right before we go into production, we have all of our recipe-testers run it by a professional recipe-tester.

On what she hopes to accomplish with Kitchen Toke within a year: I think that 2019 is going to be a big growth year. I think we’ve come leaps and bounds already from 2017. The awareness, the acceptance and the idea of cannabis being more mainstream – I just think we’ll be in a very different position than we are today. We’re going to have larger advertisers, you’ll see that in the magazine. We’re going to have people like – well, any product that has to do with your home and your kitchen, ads that are in a mainstream magazine, they’ll start coming into Kitchen Toke and they’ll start working with us. We’ll have partners with video to tell stories. I think that you’ll see more of that. I believe it will just start to be a normal thing and the more that it goes mainstream, the less of a bigger deal it will be.

On anything she’d like to add: I think the one reason to pay attention to Kitchen Toke and what we’re doing is that when you think about the cannabis landscape, we are what I call the most friendly cannabis magazine that’s around the world. Our magazine is sold in Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Whole Foods, Kroger, Lucky’s Market, Amazon brick and mortar in the United States. In Canada, we’re in Walmart, Chapters and Indigo, Nesters, and soon we’ll be in Shoppers Drug Mart, a return of 50 stores. And this winter we’ll be in Spain, the U.K., New Zealand, Australia and the Netherlands. And I think recently the United Kingdom just went legal medicinally.

On what she thinks is the biggest misconception people have about her: It’s the same thing when people ask me am I a user, because I don’t look like one, whatever they perceive that “look” to be. I think I would surprise them by saying yes, I am a user. I would be doing the industry a disservice by saying oh no, I don’t use that. (Laughs) I am a user and I believe the misconception is that people think that anyone who uses cannabis is not functioning or not in a high-functioning position. If you think about corporate America, how well accepted is it to be able to be a cannabis user and still have your job?

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: First, I’m not a drinker, I’d probably be sitting at the kitchen table with my laptop, talking creative with my significant other who’s also part of our Kitchen Toke team…I have a creative button that never seems to turn off, tidying up emails for the next day, always thinking ahead, and scrolling Instagram to make sure I keep up with new things and new followers. I’ve made a lot of Kitchen Toke friends on Instagram.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: That I was creative. That I was always looking for the opportunity to do something beyond creative. I’ve always said that I can make a pretty magazine anytime, but if I can make a magazine that’s pretty and can also help people…I would like to look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day and think that I did something better than just create something beautiful.

On what keeps her up at night: I think about how I can get more people to know about Kitchen Toke. In a world where the laws are such that we cannot advertise, we can’t have a Facebook account, they closed down our social media accounts on Instagram here and there. If you say the wrong hashtag – you just have to be really careful. In a world that doesn’t let you really advertise a cannabis product, I think the biggest challenge and the most creative people are going to come out on top. Right now, it’s going to be really interesting to see how people can advertise their product.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Joline Rivera, founder and president, Kitchen Toke magazine.

Samir Husni: You’re entering your second year with Kitchen Toke, can you tell me a little bit about the genesis of the magazine? The whole cannabis magazine feel has mushroomed (no pun intended) in the last few years, but no one took your niche, cooking with cannabis. The others are more aimed at consumers.

Joline Rivera: I started paying attention to the cannabis industry in 2011 when they were talking about legalizing Colorado. And right around that time one of my designers’ father became ill with cancer and we tried some cannabis chocolates on him. And for the first time in years, he’s been battling the disease since about 2011 to 2015 before he tried these chocolates, and we got to watch them work; we watched him eat them and we watched the effect that they had within about 30 minutes. He started to feel less pain; he started to eat; he was able to enjoy his grandkids. He hadn’t been eating at all because his lymph nodes were swelling up and literally blocking his airways. And he had been in a lot of pain. So, I got to see firsthand the positive effects of cannabis and what it can do for someone who medically might need that. And who didn’t have access to it.

Shortly after that, he passed away in 2016 and it affected all of us who I worked with. So, I had been doing magazines for 20 years, cooking magazines, cookbooks; I’d worked for the Food Network and McDonald’s Corp., so taking this ingredient and applying it to something that I was already familiar with, producing food products and being in the food industry, was simple for myself, rather than for someone who hadn’t been doing it, I guess.

And when he passed away, it was clearly on my mind. I was watching a Vice show; have you heard of the rapper, Action Bronson?

Samir Husni: Yes.

Joline Rivera: I was watching one of his shows and he was getting high, smoking a joint while he was cooking. And I kept thinking why is he smoking while he’s cooking? (Laughs) And I just kept thinking about it: he’s getting high while he’s cooking. And I called my editor and said he’s getting high and he’s cooking food. She said why doesn’t he just get high while he’s eating his food and I said exactly! (Laughs again)

Then we had the idea of coming up with a magazine to teach people how to step away from smoking, it’s not healthy, but also being able to medicate yourself in a helpful way. So, we decided to look into the legalities of launching a magazine that teaches people how to cook with cannabis for health and wellness. And that started in early 2016 and we launched in November 2017.

Samir Husni: Why did you decide on the format? An upscale, expensive, elegant print magazine? Even from the very first issue, the magazine called the attention of anybody who observes or looks after magazines or media in general. Why did you opt for the more upscale look, feel and price, rather than just a more mass, less elegant magazine?

Joline Rivera: I had been used to producing magazines like that; I had been designing a magazine called “Uncrate” for a while and a magazine called “Sweet Paul” for about nine years. I do another magazine called “Gluten Free Forever.” I have been doing those Indie pubs and those upscale-looking magazines for a while. And so when I looked at the cannabis space, and you look at magazines like “High Times” or “Cannabis Now” or “Dope,” they all have a great audience and those magazines are great for that purpose, but one thing I realized pretty quickly is that cannabis magazines weren’t coming out on that level. That kind of debunk-the-stoner mentality, I guess. Creating a magazine that was a little more friendly to everyone. One that I could give to my grandmother and OG Kush wouldn’t scare her. (Laughs)

I wanted to create a magazine that was cannabis-friendly, approachable, something that someone could learn from. And the cannabis magazines that were out were directed at the cannabis space already. I wanted to direct a magazine to people who were more curious about it, but might be intimidated by it. I also know that food magazines; if you go look at the shelves in the food space, every magazine has a food image on the cover. And while I don’t think cannabis magazines necessarily were striving to look beautiful, I don’t think that food magazines were striving to take risks, so I tried to flip that upside down for us and do exactly that.

Samir Husni: As the founder of the magazine and an art director/creative director, was your journey to create Kitchen Toke a walk in a rose garden? You brought your knowledge of food, cooking and design to the magazine, was it simply easy for you?

Joline Rivera: (Laughs) I’ll be honest with you, it was a lot easier for me than it was for my content director, because they were dipping their toes in an industry full of misinformation and had to work really hard and turned a lot of money to find the correct information, to talk to the right people. We had writers spread out all over the country to contribute to our magazine and we pride ourselves on creating content that is sourced and fact-based, and credited to people who know what they’re talking about, scientists and people who have been here for a long time and have been working in the cannabis space for a while.

We talk to growers and scientists, lab testers and we work with a lot of chefs, James Beard nominated and award-winning chefs, so cannabis is another ingredient, although there is a lot of information that is to be learned about the profiles of cannabis and how it can be used in food. So, it takes a lot of work to find those people, and we spend most of our time doing that. And that’s the hard part. For me to create a pretty magazine, that’s something that was a lot easier for me than it was for my editorial staff, I will say that.

Samir Husni: While you have an online presence and the website, why did you choose print for the magazine in this day and age?

Joline Rivera: People will often hear me say that I call my magazine a very expensive business card. I believe in the power of tangibility. When I talk to people, getting them to look at my Instagram page or my website in a world that’s overwhelmed by digital media; I just think that it’s a lot easier for me to communicate who we are and what we can do, and what we’re capable of with our brand, if you can hold it in your hand. So, I believe in the power of tangibility. Will I always have a print magazine? Maybe, maybe not.

We’re working on some other legs of our company now. We have the digital aspect; we’re working on our YouTube channel and we have some other things coming up that I’m not at liberty to discuss at the moment, but this is just one leg of our company. Kitchen Toke is a brand, it has a magazine, but it will also have other things.

Samir Husni: How did you come up with the name?

Joline Rivera: My content director, Laura Yee, came up with the name. She’s a writer, of course, and she’s really great with words. We started talking about the word “toque,” obviously, I don’t know if people wear those anymore. To my knowledge, and all of the photo shoots that we do with chefs, they rarely wear a toque in the kitchen anymore, but the chef hat and the idea of “taking a toke” off of a joint and then also the definition of the word also means a bit of advice, so it was a play on words.

Samir Husni: When my friend, Jeremy Leslie asked you to define Kitchen Toke magazine in three words, you told him cooking with cannabis. How simple of a tagline that really identifies the USP of the magazine.

Joline Rivera: Exactly. Cooking with cannabis; cannabis food and health, yes that’s it.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest stumbling block and challenge and how did you overcome it?

Joline Rivera: The biggest challenge is getting people to know we’re here and getting people to pick up the magazine and to really look at what we’re doing. Yes, we’re talking about cooking with cannabis, and yes, we’re showing people how, but we’re also talking about the world of cannabis as a whole and how it affects this magazine, this idea, and this industry. We’re talking about the legalities as it moves through the United States and the world actually, and who’s doing what and medicinal stories. I think there are a lot of stories. If you ask someone, everyone has a cannabis story. Everyone. They just didn’t used to talk about it. And now we are.

I think our biggest obstacle is really just getting people to look at us and not be afraid of what cannabis can do for them, especially the people who aren’t already cannabis users.

Samir Husni: Do you have a test kitchen?

Joline Rivera: No, we don’t. We just have various places in this country where we have recipe-testers and they work out of their own kitchens. Right before we go into production, we have all of our recipe-testers run it by a professional recipe-tester.

Samir Husni: If you and I are chatting a year from now, what would you hope to tell me that you had accomplished in 2019 with Kitchen Toke?

Joline Rivera: I think that 2019 is going to be a big growth year. I think we’ve come leaps and bounds already from 2017. The awareness, the acceptance and the idea of cannabis being more mainstream – I just think we’ll be in a very different position than we are today. We’re going to have larger advertisers, you’ll see that in the magazine. We’re going to have people like – well, any product that has to do with your home and your kitchen, ads that are in a mainstream magazine, they’ll start coming into Kitchen Toke and they’ll start working with us. We’ll have partners with video to tell stories. I think that you’ll see more of that. I believe it will just start to be a normal thing and the more that it goes mainstream, the less of a bigger deal it will be.

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

Joline Rivera: I think the one reason to pay attention to Kitchen Toke and what we’re doing is that when you think about the cannabis landscape, we are what I call the most friendly cannabis magazine that’s around the world. Our magazine is sold in Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Whole Foods, Kroger, Lucky’s Market, Amazon brick and mortar in the United States. In Canada, we’re in Walmart, Chapters and Indigo, Nesters, and soon we’ll be in Shoppers Drug Mart, a return of 50 stores. And this winter we’ll be in Spain, the U.K., New Zealand, Australia and the Netherlands. And I think recently the United Kingdom just went legal medicinally.

When you think about Kitchen Toke, you think about something that can really teach you what’s happening in the industry, that’s getting away from all of that misinformation. The idea that we’ve been lied to for so long about such an amazing plant. Kitchen Toke is the most friendly cannabis magazine around the world.

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

Joline Rivera: It’s the same thing when people ask me am I a user, because I don’t look like one, whatever they perceive that “look” to be. I think I would surprise them by saying yes, I am a user. I would be doing the industry a disservice by saying oh no, I don’t use that. (Laughs) I am a user and I believe the misconception is that people think that anyone who uses cannabis is not functioning or not in a high-functioning position. If you think about corporate America, how well accepted is it to be able to be a cannabis user and still have your job?

When I think about chatting with you in a year or two years from now, I believe moms are going to move away from wine and get into cannabis. There are a lot of wine moms, so to speak; they’re going to realize that there is a weight loss benefit and a healthful benefit to use cannabis to destress and decompress, rather than drinking wine every night. I can imagine people getting up and getting into their cupboards and taking an edible as a vitamin or in place of their vitamin every day.

We recently just sent the next issue to press and it will hit shelves in early December. The issue’s theme is the future is now. We believe that if you’re not here, you’re already late. It’s happening all around us and I think the future of cannabis is happening right now, this year in 2019.

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

Joline Rivera: First, I’m not a drinker, I’d probably be sitting at the kitchen table with my laptop, talking creative with my significant other who’s also part of our Kitchen Toke team…I have a creative button that never seems to turn off, tidying up emails for the next day, always thinking ahead, and scrolling Instagram to make sure I keep up with new things and new followers. I’ve made a lot of Kitchen Toke friends on Instagram.

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

Joline Rivera: That I was creative. That I was always looking for the opportunity to do something beyond creative. I’ve always said that I can make a pretty magazine anytime, but if I can make a magazine that’s pretty and can also help people…I would like to look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day and think that I did something better than just create something beautiful.

I also believe that as we legalize cannabis, we have a social responsibility to pay attention to the things that have happened because of this drug. I think as Illinois or any other state begins to legalize, we have a responsibility to pay attention to what has happened to people of color as a result of having cannabis that white people get to do with impunity. And if I don’t pay attention to that, I’m no better than any other corporate giant coming into the industry just to make money. The social awareness is very important to me, especially in Chicago, people on the Southside and west side of Chicago have suffered terribly and been punished for having a dime bag of cannabis. And they’re still in jail.

To be honest with you, I think that if there was more political courage in Chicago that would have happened by now. And throughout the entire country. There are many reasons to legalize marijuana, people need it medically, they do. I think we have a social responsibility that we cannot ignore. We have to stop putting people of color in jail for something that white people are doing with impunity.

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

Joline Rivera: I think about how I can get more people to know about Kitchen Toke. In a world where the laws are such that we cannot advertise, we can’t have a Facebook account, they closed down our social media accounts on Instagram here and there. If you say the wrong hashtag – you just have to be really careful. In a world that doesn’t let you really advertise a cannabis product, I think the biggest challenge and the most creative people are going to come out on top. Right now, it’s going to be really interesting to see how people can advertise their product.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Mr. Magazine™ Launch Monitor: 15 New Magazines Arrive In October…

November 1, 2018

From the burnished yellows and bronzes of Autumn to the beautiful varied covers of the new magazines this month, October was definitely a breathtaking 31 days of fantastic entertainment and information.

I was beyond excited to see two new titles that showcased their exclusive premier issues this month from the same publisher: Bed & Breakfast and Chateaux & Castles, two magazines that present humble, but fantastic, photography and great content in both. And isn’t it wonderful to see a publisher coming out of the gates with two new magazines in the race. Kudos to Colette Publications in Carson City, Nevada!

And along came a really intriguing new travel magazine themed around a single destination with each issue. The premier features Mexico City and is absolutely wonderful with riveting photos that are earthy and raw with the emotion of the region. According to the Kickstarter definition, where publisher Abby Rapoport began the first issue: Stranger’s Guide is a nonprofit magazine redefining travel writing by bringing in voices from across the globe and giving a holistic view of locales. And it’s a great addition to the newsstands.

And of course, our other 12 titles are just as amazing. So, enjoy October’s offerings and we’ll see you in November for another bountiful harvest of new titles.

Until then…

See you at the newsstands…

******And please remember, if Mr. Magazine™ can’t physically hold, touch and purchase the magazine, it does not enter the monthly counts. And counts now include only the titles with a regular frequency that are either new, first-seen on Mr. Magazine’s™ radar, or arriving to the national newsstands for the first time.

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Good Company Magazine: Where Creativity Meets Business & You’ll Always Find Yourself in “Good Company” – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Grace Bonney, Founder…

September 17, 2018

“I’ve really come to love the web for its immediacy and its flexibility, but it’s a place I find that people have a harder time guiding into more serious topics. As Design Sponge (Grace’s blog) evolved and I got more into print projects that were about the people behind the design, I found that people on the Internet weren’t coming to read longer form pieces or to talk about things that might be a bit more complicated. So, that’s where I find print really excels over other mediums because when you hold something in your hand and you have time to spend with it, you’re more likely to sink your teeth into something that’s a little longer and a little more serious.” Grace Bonney…

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

When you’re in “good company,” you know it. From the moment I spoke to Grace Bonney, author, blogger, and entrepreneur, I knew that the name of her brand new magazine, Good Company, was most fortuitous for both of us. Grace believes that everyone deserves a chance to follow their dreams, no matter what stratosphere of life they come from. And her dream was to create a magazine. And that she did.

Good Company magazine was inspired by a book she wrote called “In the Company of Women” and it focuses on marginalized communities of people who run their own creative practices and businesses and continues the conversations she started in the book. I spoke with Grace recently and we talked about her own challenges and triumphs and about how she wants to highlight other people’s dreams and challenges in the magazine. Grace believes there are many different paths to take to success and everyone’s story is worth telling and listening to, no matter who you are.

Published twice a year (so far), the magazine is another platform where she feels the conversations can be deeper and longer than the content she shares weekly on her blog “Design Sponge,” which she has been doing for 14 years. And soon she will add a Good Company podcast to the mix. To say Grace Bonney is focused would be true, but to say she is dedicated to offering quality content that is meant for more than just the mainstream would be more accurate. She is a woman determined to tell as many stories as she can that inspire, uplift, and showcase people from all walks of life.

And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who thinks everyone deserves the title “Good Company,” Grace Bonney, founder of Good Company magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On why she wanted to add a printed magazine to her other platforms: That’s such a good question and I think about that a lot; you know, what medium is best for what story? I’ve really come to love the web for its immediacy and its flexibility, but it’s a place I find that people have a harder time guiding into more serious topics. As Design Sponge (Grace’s blog) evolved and I got more into print projects that were about the people behind the design, I found that people on the Internet weren’t coming to read longer form pieces or to talk about things that might be a bit more complicated. So, that’s where I find print really excels over other mediums because when you hold something in your hand and you have time to spend with it, you’re more likely to sink your teeth into something that’s a little longer and a little more serious.

On the moment that she knew she needed to do a magazine: “In the Company of Women” was the last book that I did and Good Company magazine is essentially the next step in that path. I love “In the Company of Women,” but it’s more of a short form encyclopedia of the concept, and so I wanted to keep those conversations going in a more regular way so that I wouldn’t have to wait every two years to release an addition of that and I wanted a place to stretch them out. The book had a very singular format that we repeated with each person, so the magazine gives us more room to embrace different formats. We have miniature zines and group Q&A’s, just all kinds of different things that we can do in a regular magazine that we wouldn’t be able to do in the book format.

On the concept of the magazine, merging creativity and business: I came to this work, in general, from a design perspective and creativity. When I started out I didn’t think of creativity as anything other than all the fun parts of art and design, making things and being inspired, colors and patterns. About 10 years into running Design Sponge I realized that the pure artistic end of things wasn’t as fulfilling to me as it used to be. And I found that the more that I talked to people one on one and heard about their lives behind all of the pretty things, I actually ended up finding that more inspiring.

On whether 14 years ago, when she started her blog, she expected to be where she is today: Definitely not. I started my blog as a way to hopefully get another job, I thought if I started a blog it could maybe help me get a job at a magazine one day, because I didn’t have a journalism degree and it seemed like it would be impossible for me to ever get work at a magazine, which was all I ever wanted to do. So, I thought the blog would be a sort of online resume, in a way.

On who she is trying to reach with Good Company magazine: I’m trying to reach anybody who is interested in the worlds of art and commerce, because I think that so often the design world in particular has a very particular audience that tends to be wealthy, it tends to be white, it tends to be someone in their 30s and 40s. And when we’re talking about the business world and in particular finance publications, those tend to be geared toward men. And even though Good Company is primarily focused on people who identify as women, I’m hoping that it’s not as gendered as the works I’ve done before. And I’m just trying to talk to anybody that I think is interested in picking a little bit deeper into what it is that makes a creative life successful.

On whether the launch of Good Company has been a walk in a rose garden or she has had stumbling blocks along the way: (Laughs) It’s been a walk through a very thorny road. It’s been really hard; for sure the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my career. But that’s good in one way. It’s kind of fascinating to see how you can be a part of a community for so long and then discover this one aspect of it that you had no idea would be so challenging.

On the theory behind the $18 cover price: I think the cover price covers the depth of information. You can find a lot of books in the store that has fewer pages than our magazine that will have a higher price. And you’re definitely not going to find an independent magazine that pays people that’s charging less than that. Most indie magazines these days, whether it’s a fashion magazine or even just some of the other ones in the market like Cherry Bombe and Kinfolk and Monocle, and things like that, that’s a pretty common cover price.

On whether the decision for the magazine to be ad-free was intentional: Yes, it was. The first two issues are ad free; we’re kind of weighing the idea of ads for the third one right now. Capping them at like two or three per issue. But we haven’t made that decision yet. I think that it would make it a lot more profitable to have ads, but I really enjoy it being an ad free magazine whenever possible, but I think now that I’m deep into the business side of the magazine, it’s really hard to make a magazine ad free because it’s so expensive to produce.

On anything she’d like to add: I just want everybody to know that I think that this is a magazine that looks different and sounds different than what they’ll see in the market right now, especially in the creative sphere and in the business sphere. This is a publication where about 90 percent of the content is written by and about people from marginalized communities.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: You will find me sitting with one eye facing my wife who cooks dinner and then one eye watching one of the Real Housewives of something franchise on television. (Laughs) Usually there’s some sort of guilty pleasure on TV and then I’m trying to help out with dinner as it’s cooking.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: That’s a hard one. The first thing that comes to my mind is actually inspired by a tattoo that my wife has, which is just an “and” symbol, and it’s something that I think about a lot, the word “and,” because I think that so often bloggers and writers, and people in general, we want to put each other into these boxes where you’re either this or that, and you believe this or that, and this is something that my wife Julia really taught me, it’s never about “or,” it’s always about “and.”

On what keeps her up at night: (Laughs) Songs that are stuck in my head. My guilty pleasure is always ending the day with old reruns of RuPaul’s Drag Race, so usually I have some sort of cheesy dance song in my head that I can’t get out. So, let that be my biggest problem, that I have dance songs stuck in my head. (Laughs again)

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Grace Bonney, founder, Good Company magazine.

Samir Husni: Grace, you seem to be all over the place. You’re a daily blogger, you have books in the marketplace, and now you’ve entered the world of magazines. What do you think a magazine will add to all of your other platforms?

Grace Bonney: That’s such a good question and I think about that a lot; you know, what medium is best for what story? I’ve really come to love the web for its immediacy and its flexibility, but it’s a place I find that people have a harder time guiding into more serious topics. As Design Sponge (Grace’s blog) evolved and I got more into print projects that were about the people behind the design, I found that people on the Internet weren’t coming to read longer form pieces or to talk about things that might be a bit more complicated.

So, that’s where I find print really excels over other mediums because when you hold something in your hand and you have time to spend with it, you’re more likely to sink your teeth into something that’s a little longer and a little more serious. That’s why I wanted to move these particular stories into print. And my hope was that people would hold them in their hands, go back to them when they had time to read the full piece and really sink their teeth into it.

Samir Husni: You’ve published two books: “In the Company of Women” and “Design Sponge at Home.” Can you tell me more about the genesis of Good Company? When was that moment of conception when you knew that you needed to do this?

Grace Bonney: “In the Company of Women” was the last book that I did and Good Company magazine is essentially the next step in that path. I love “In the Company of Women,” but it’s more of a short form encyclopedia of the concept, and so I wanted to keep those conversations going in a more regular way so that I wouldn’t have to wait every two years to release an addition of that and I wanted a place to stretch them out. The book had a very singular format that we repeated with each person, so the magazine gives us more room to embrace different formats. We have miniature zines and group Q&A’s, just all kinds of different things that we can do in a regular magazine that we wouldn’t be able to do in the book format.

So, the magazine is really just an extension of what we started with the book, and for me it’s just always about how do we keep picking away at all of those layers of things that are part of being a creative, whether we’re talking about how to balance life and work or how to pay for things or how to support yourself; I just wanted a place to have deeper conversations, so that’s where the magazine came in.

Samir Husni: You merged creativity and business; you want Good Company to be the place where creativity and business intersect. Can you expand a little bit on that concept?

Grace Bonney: I came to this work, in general, from a design perspective and creativity. When I started out I didn’t think of creativity as anything other than all the fun parts of art and design, making things and being inspired, colors and patterns. About 10 years into running Design Sponge I realized that the pure artistic end of things wasn’t as fulfilling to me as it used to be. And I found that the more that I talked to people one on one and heard about their lives behind all of the pretty things, I actually ended up finding that more inspiring.

So, I started interviewing people. I started a podcast that I ran for a few years and those conversations became more interesting and I kept realizing there’s this one layer of art and design, and that’s great, but the deeper we dig and we talk about how business affects things, your race, your age, where you live in the country; all of these different factors that are intersectional, how those things affect your work, that was fascinating to me. And those weren’t conversations that were happening as much, especially not online.

For me this evolution has always been about how do we get deeper; how do we connect all of these things, because creativity isn’t creativity without business behind it. If you don’t put marketing and thought and plan and pricing into place, people can’t access that creativity. So, I think it’s important to keep pulling those two things back together.

Samir Husni: As a creative/businessperson, you started your career in your mid-twenties and with your blog in 2004. Did you expect that 14 years later you would be where you are today?

Grace Bonney: Definitely not. I started my blog as a way to hopefully get another job, I thought if I started a blog it could maybe help me get a job at a magazine one day, because I didn’t have a journalism degree and it seemed like it would be impossible for me to ever get work at a magazine, which was all I ever wanted to do. So, I thought the blog would be a sort of online resume, in a way.

And I had no idea that blogs were going to be what they were, kind of at their apex. I think the whole time the blog has been a way for me to explore creatively what I like to write about, the community that I find most inspiring, and it’s really allowed me to do so many different things. And because I’ve stayed small, we don’t have investment money or backers or anything like that. I think staying small has allowed us to stay nimble and that’s meant writing books, or having events, doing podcasts, and we’re now starting the magazine.

Staying small in some ways is actually what’s allowed us to stay sustainable, because it’s easier for us to pivot quickly and try something new without taking a huge financial risk. So, I’m definitely surprised that I’m still doing this Design Sponge project as an umbrella, and I’m grateful to have it every year, but it’s been really fun to try something new. It makes me stretch and challenge myself, which is ultimately what keeps me going every day.

Samir Husni: Tell me more about you. I flipped through the pages of the magazine and read your bio; you have a really diverse world of women featured in the magazine. Who is your audience? If someone asked you who you were trying to reach with Good Company, what would you say?

Grace Bonney: I’m trying to reach anybody who is interested in the worlds of art and commerce, because I think that so often the design world in particular has a very particular audience that tends to be wealthy, it tends to be white, it tends to be someone in their 30s and 40s. And when we’re talking about the business world and in particular finance publications, those tend to be geared toward men. And even though Good Company is primarily focused on people who identify as women, I’m hoping that it’s not as gendered as the works I’ve done before. And I’m just trying to talk to anybody that I think is interested in picking a little bit deeper into what it is that makes a creative life successful.

So, our first two issues are dedicated to those topics of fear and failure, and how you build community, because I think those are the things that keep a creative career going long-term. In terms of age-range, anybody who is interested in starting an artistic career of any type, whether you’re a writer, a painter, a designer, I think there’s something in there for you.

And in particular, with Good Company, we’re trying to make sure that we speak to an age-range that’s much more diverse than you see online, because the Internet is really kind of obsessed with millennials and folks under 30. But I think there’s so much more life and business in people who have lived longer lives, so the magazine in particular is talking to people who have more life experience, who are over 50 and 60. I think bringing in that larger range of ages is really important, because to me that’s what’s missing from the Internet when it comes to talking about creative business. We tend to hear from people who are in their 20s and they have great startups and exciting ideas, but I want to hear from people who have been around a little bit longer because they’ve been through more hurdles.

Samir Husni: Has your journey with the launch of Good Company been a walk in a rose garden or have you encountered some stumbling blocks along the way?

Grace Bonney: (Laughs) It’s been a walk through a very thorny road. It’s been really hard; for sure the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my career. But that’s good in one way. It’s kind of fascinating to see how you can be a part of a community for so long and then discover this one aspect of it that you had no idea would be so challenging.

The magazine business in general is incredibly difficult to make profitable and so I think it’s important that people talk about that openly because you don’t want to charge this kind of money for a magazine, but you also need to pay the people involved. Having been someone who has worked with magazines since the beginning of my career so far, I know how often creative talent gets devalued. I wanted to wait to do this project until I could find someone to work with that would help us fund this, because I think it’s important to pay the people who create content fairly.

And since this magazine primarily focuses on people from marginalized communities, whether they’re people of color, career people, or women, I think it’s really important that those people are paid. So for me, this project has been great to have a partner like Artisan, because they let me support people financially and they’ve also given us this kind of freedom to talk about things that most magazines don’t talk about.

It’s been a real challenge. I think it would be easier if we focused on celebrities or people with really huge names because that’s kind of how you make a splash, but I wanted to work really hard to make sure this magazine championed regular people who don’t have millions of followers, like the support of a television show or a movie. It’s kind of a balance and how you can textualize people who might be better known versus people who maybe should be better known.

So, it’s a daily challenge, but I think 14 years of working online has prepared me for what it’s like to have frequent ups and downs at work. I can handle it.

Samir Husni: With an $18 cover price per issue, some folks might tell you for that amount of money they could get an entire year’s subscription, if not two, of some of the magazines out there. What’s the theory behind the high cover price?

Grace Bonney: I think the cover price covers the depth of information. You can find a lot of books in the store that has fewer pages than our magazine that will have a higher price. And you’re definitely not going to find an independent magazine that pays people that’s charging less than that. Most indie magazines these days, whether it’s a fashion magazine or even just some of the other ones in the market like Cherry Bombe and Kinfolk and Monocle, and things like that, that’s a pretty common cover price.

That was something that I took into consideration, because I think that it’s always a balance between how do you respect the quality that’s inside this, and also still understand that people have to be able to afford what you’re putting out there. I think of Good Company as a part of a wide range of offerings that we have, from something free like Design Sponge, to something on the higher end like the books, which are like $30 plus. So, I think of this as kind of a mid-range option.

And to be honest, the magazine actually has more content than the book does, but a lower price-point. So, I always think of the magazine as a miniature book. It comes out twice a year and it’s something that I hope people will consider saving up for and investing in, and not consider it something that you would get that’s $3 as you check out at the grocery store and then you end up throwing it out after you’ve read it. This is something I hope the reader keeps and invests in and holds onto.

As independent magazines continue to have these communities that support them, I think the price tag is something that people will get a little bit more used to. It’s really not anything we’ve gotten any pushback on. I think that the amount of pages and the quality of the material is something that people understand. But I absolutely don’t expect everybody to go out and buy a million copies when I know it’s not a $4 magazine. But I feel really good about the content inside being worth way more than $18.

Samir Husni: I always say that the future’s business plan is about customers who count rather than counting customers.

Grace Bonney: Exactly. That’s a great way to put it. And I would feel differently if I didn’t have Design Sponge because a lot of Good Company’s content gets shared on Design Sponge, and Design Sponge is free, always will be and always has been for almost 15 years. So, I feel like if you’re not somebody who can afford the magazine, I still want to support you and provide content that I think is great and high quality, but is free. If the magazine isn’t in someone’s budget, they can access really similar content on a weekly basis at Design Sponge or listen to our podcast, which we’re about to launch for Good Company in the very near future. And that will be free.

So, I think it’s important to offer a range so that if people want that content but can’t afford the magazine, they can still get some of it. I feel okay offering a range as long as we keep listening to people and if we get feedback that it’s too much, we’ll readjust. Right now I think people understand how that price tag correlates to paying all of the contributors really fairly for their work.

Samir Husni: I’m going to assume the decision to go ad free in the magazine was intentional.

Grace Bonney: Yes, it was. The first two issues are ad free; we’re kind of weighing the idea of ads for the third one right now. Capping them at like two or three per issue. But we haven’t made that decision yet. I think that it would make it a lot more profitable to have ads, but I really enjoy it being an ad free magazine whenever possible, but I think now that I’m deep into the business side of the magazine, it’s really hard to make a magazine ad free because it’s so expensive to produce.

And something I didn’t know until we got into this was the return rate for magazines. I’m used to books, which have a lower return rate, and magazine return rates for big stores are like 60 percent. So, if you’re printing these independently, I don’t know how anybody weathers that return rate. And as a publisher I know it’s difficult for our publisher to handle that too. Ads are not something that I’m 100 percent against, but I like keeping them as minimal as possible because I just don’t want to have a magazine that’s flooded with things that don’t have any connection to what the content is. It’s really difficult to work with advertisers and have control over the creative and the messaging, so I think if that’s something we’ll do, we’ll do it very limited and very carefully.

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

Grace Bonney: I just want everybody to know that I think that this is a magazine that looks different and sounds different than what they’ll see in the market right now, especially in the creative sphere and in the business sphere. This is a publication where about 90 percent of the content is written by and about people from marginalized communities.

And mainstream magazines, even independent magazines, still primarily focus on this kind of expected mass look of white people, rich people; people who are young, people who are thin, people who are able-bodied, and I think that community has had so much coverage. And this is something completely different. For me, this project has nothing to do with me and all to do with the community that I think hasn’t been served well by the creative community. So, I hope people will open it up and really look and take in all of these stories and pictures and people that they haven’t really heard enough about so far.

And I think that the issues that are coming up in particular really celebrate all of these people who deserve to have the attention they haven’t gotten in the creative community yet. So, I hope people will dive into it and enjoy all of these talented and new, hopefully just new to us, faces.

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

Grace Bonney: You will find me sitting with one eye facing my wife who cooks dinner and then one eye watching one of the Real Housewives of something franchise on television. (Laughs) Usually there’s some sort of guilty pleasure on TV and then I’m trying to help out with dinner as it’s cooking.

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

Grace Bonney: That’s a hard one. The first thing that comes to my mind is actually inspired by a tattoo that my wife has, which is just an “and” symbol, and it’s something that I think about a lot, the word “and,” because I think that so often bloggers and writers, and people in general, we want to put each other into these boxes where you’re either this or that, and you believe this or that, and this is something that my wife Julia really taught me, it’s never about “or,” it’s always about “and.”

And I think all of the work that I do is to try and embrace things that are contradictory, things that are complicated, to try and embrace all of the pretty, superficial fun parts of design and all of the parts that are difficult and messy, that we have to talk about and kind of dig apart a little bit. So, I hope if anything people will just remember that I tried with all of the work that we’ve done as a community to talk about all the ends of the spectrum and not just the pretty, easy, fun ones.

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

Grace Bonney: (Laughs) Songs that are stuck in my head. My guilty pleasure is always ending the day with old reruns of RuPaul’s Drag Race, so usually I have some sort of cheesy dance song in my head that I can’t get out. So, let that be my biggest problem, that I have dance songs stuck in my head. (Laughs again)

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Launch Monitor: August Gave Us 19 New Titles For An Amazing Summer Wrap-Up

September 4, 2018

The hottest new online video game out there deserves two new magazines devoted to it in the month of August – Fortnite has an “Ultimate Guide” and an “Independent & Unofficial Guide.” Choices for the avid player, no doubt, and available at your newsstands.

Another hot topic in the forefront of the marketplace is cannabis and its many uses. From medical to recreational, as more states come to terms with the legalization of marijuana, magazines dealing with the culture and the growing industry abound. Ember is the latest offering from a collaboration from the teams over at Paper and MedMen. It’s an interesting look at incorporating cannabis into anyone’s lifestyle and making it as matter-of-fact as lighting a candle. And it has a feel of artsy-ness abouti it that can’t be ignored.

And other new titles such as Retro Fan, a new title that revisits the CRAZY, COOL CULTURE WE GREW UP WITH in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, or so the tagline insists. And since Mr. Magazine™ interviewed the editor of the new title, Michael Eury, I can tell you that’s exactly what it does. From The Hulk to The Andy Griffith Show, this new magazine hits the mark when it comes to our TV and cartoon memories of yesterday. Good Company also joins the ranks, a magazine inspired by Grace Bonney’s latest book, “In the Company of Women”provides motivation, inspiration, practical advice, and a vital sense of connection and community.

So, I hope that you enjoy our beautiful August covers and are awaiting a splendid September as anxiously as Mr. Magazine™ is. So, until next time…

See you at the newsstands…

******And please remember, if Mr. Magazine™ can’t physically hold, touch and purchase the magazine, it does not enter the monthly counts. And counts now include only the titles with a regular frequency that are either new, first-seen on Mr. Magazine’s™ radar, or arriving to the national newsstands for the first time.

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Farmhouse Style: A New Quarterly Title That Transports You Easily To The Downhome Comforts Of The Farm – From The Publishers Of Country Sampler Magazine – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Susan Wagner, Editor…

August 27, 2018

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“If you’re looking for quick information; if you’re looking for lists of things or some simple stuff or you just want to look up some quick things, online is great for that. Quick ideas there are wonderful. If you want to relax and take a moment to yourself and see these beautiful four-color pictures spread out in front of you, there is nothing like print for that. You can’t really curl up with your computer the same way that you can with a print magazine. You can’t sit on the porch drinking lemonade and page through there and envision yourself in that home and dog-ear the pages and just enjoy the feel of reading a beautiful magazine when you’re scrolling through webpages.” Susan Wagner…

Available on newsstands and by subscription, Farmhouse Style celebrates the casual, comfortable appeal of today’s popular farmhouse decorating and lifestyle movement. From the folks who bring you Country Sampler, Farmhouse Style is a new quarterly title that celebrates step-by-step DIY projects and fully illustrated decorating tips to create an authentic farmhouse-style look.

Susan Wagner is editor of the magazine and special projects director at Annie’s Publishing, the company that owns Country Sampler, Farmhouse Style, Good Old Days and a variety of titles in crochet, knitting, quilting and cross stitch. But when it comes to their latest offering, Farmhouse Style, they’re “crowing” loudly about its downhome and easy style.

I spoke with Susan recently and we talked about the new magazine and about its $9.99 cover price, something that Susan said reflected the quality content and overall aesthetic of the magazine. With around 50 DIY projects in each issue, complete with full instructions on how to do them, she believes the magazine is worth every penny paid for by their readers. And from the initial response of its audience, the people must agree.

Susan said the tangible product of print had to be the cornerstone of the new brand. While all of the digital components are in place: website and social media, the laid back experience the reader gets from the print foundation is irreplaceable. And the beautiful photographs could only be justified in ink on paper.

So, sit back, relax, and get ready to enjoy a moment in the “Farmhouse” as we take a walk around the place with our tour guide, Susan Wagner in the Mr. Magazine™ interview.

But first the sound-bites:

On why Farmhouse Style as a quarterly and why now: We have done Country Sampler for years, we started that in the eighties and that has always been our niche publication, country decorating, it’s our strongest suit and where our expertise lies. Through the years we have also done some other publications and SIPs that were more of a DIY kind of decorating and so we have a lot of staff members with a strong talent in that area as well. We were always keeping an eye on which SIPs might morph into a subscription and then once we started working on the autumn issue for the Farmhouse again, we had a great response and we knew that was what we wanted to do. And we started doing some surveys and some early marketing research to see what kind of response we would get, talked with our newsstand people and everything and it was all very positive and the early predicted numbers showed that it seemed like it would be a success. So, we decided to go ahead and put all of our effort into it and turn it into a subscription.

On a letter from a reader begging them not to change anything inside the magazine: And she is one of many. Recently, I was reading something that somebody had sent to us and it’s the same thing. There are so many of them that love that look and they just reach out to us and say that they love everything, don’t change anything about the magazine. And whenever we ask questions about what we can do to improve, they always tell us more issues, publish it more often, which we’d love to do, but finances have to be there.

On why print for the magazine: That’s always a thought with print magazines; people will ask, especially in the home décor and DIY end, can’t you just get that off of Pinterest or can’t you just find all of that information online? I truly feel that all the different media that we have all serves a different purpose.

On the $10 cover price and why people are willing to pay it: A $10 cover price for a certain age-range of people is accepted, especially with some magazines being $3.99 or $4.99, but it’s not untypical, we see that in a lot of publishers. What we do is to say to ourselves, for a $10.99 cover price are we giving them that strong value in content. It’s a curated thing.

On the future and if she expects to add a younger, more active audience to Farmhouse Style that will also add to Country Sampler’s readership: Some of our early analysis of the people subscribing and those we have email addresses for after they bought it online, those are tracking a bit younger than the Country Sampler audience and that was always one of our goals in trying to develop another subscription-based title, which was to reach that younger audience. And so definitely that’s a goal with Farmhouse Style, when we create the content that goes in there we’re doing so with the idea of it reaching out to somebody in their thirties or some range such as that.

On what other “style” might be in store for Country Sampler: We’re always looking at what might work. But what we also have discovered, and this is one area where our Farmhouse Style is a little different than some of the other farmhouse publications out there, our audience is very much a middle-America, common man kind of audience.

On anything she’d like to add: As I was talking about our look with Farmhouse, you had asked if there was another style we were looking into; what was in the future. What I wanted to wrap that around was that we’re always looking at styles like a prairie style or the farmhouse style that is this casual, relaxed comfortable kind of decorating. So, maybe sometime in the future, maybe a waterfront thing, where it’s lakes and streams and stuff like that, instead of coastal looks.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: (Laughs) I rarely am ever unwinding from a full day of work. I’ll find myself on my computer at 11:00 p.m. just browsing Pinterest or maybe I’m looking up something for myself and I come across farmhouse-related things or other things that I think might be a good idea for the magazine. And I’ll save them or something. But me personally, as far as unwinding from work, I like to be involved in crafting and things like that, so I myself do a lot of DIY home décor type things and I enjoy doing that. But I also like to be outdoors and I’ve been doing a lot of kayaking and hiking and things like that too.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: What I would like them to remember and what I would also like the people I work with and the people I play with to have in their minds is that Susan Wagner is always thinking of new and exciting things to do and will jump in with both feet.

On what keeps her up at night: (Laughs) Deadlines. I think honestly the one thing that keeps me up, especially in the magazine world or in the print world, is just the idea of always staying relevant, because home décor changes with the times, businesses change with the times, trends change with the times. We’re very much aware that Farmhouse is enjoying a great level of interest right now, but where will we be five years from now, 10 years from now, so, I think what keeps me up at night is just making sure that we are always moving in a direction where we’re looking for new things. I’d hate to be involved in a company where they just sat back and said this has always worked for us, we’re just going to keep it that way.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Susan Wagner, editor, Farmhouse Style.

Samir Husni: You decided after one test issue to go ahead with Farmhouse Style and publish it as a quarterly magazine, give me some background on this decision. I know you’ve done Country Sampler for years, but why now and why Farmhouse Style?

Susan Wagner: As you said, we have done Country Sampler for years, we started that in the eighties and that has always been our niche publication, country decorating, it’s our strongest suit and where our expertise lies.

Through the years we have also done some other publications and SIPs that were more of a DIY kind of decorating and so we have a lot of staff members with a strong talent in that area as well. We started a few years back, in 2014, doing some SIPs that were focusing a little bit more on DIY decorating, where Country Sampler really is more home tours and this unique kind of magalog area in the back, with these SIPs we did more of an individualized kind of decorating styles and more of these DIY angles.

We did some Christmas ones; we did prairie-style ones; we did different kinds of genres. Last year we decided we would do a farmhouse SIP that would come out in January 2018 and that particular SIP pretty much blew all of the other SIPs away, that one did really well when we compared it to our newsstand figures and our advertising revenue for the other SIPs. It was comparable to when we put out the first Christmas issue, which did really well.

So, we knew that it was a genre and a magazine that resonated very much with our current subscriber base, the people who enjoy Country Sampler, but were also looking to refresh and brighten their homes a little bit more, because the Farmhouse issue is a lighter kind of country and it’s more typical of the type of country decorating we’re seeing or showing up in Today’s Homeowner, a little bit more of the younger and more urban crowd, and a lot of what the shows on the DIY Network and things like that are airing.

That hit really well, so we combined it with our unique look that we’ve created for the SIPs, where we had some home tours of farmhouse decorating, but then we also had our designers work on DIY projects, so we were able to incorporate that. And I think that’s what makes our magazine definitely different than some of the other SIPs or other publications that touch on this look as well. We have that project DIY base in there so that people who love this style can not only see how others are decorating, but they can also create things for themselves to put in their own homes for this style.

So, that first SIP issue did really well for us. As I said, it came out in January 2018 and our sales team had a great success selling it and it had wonderful crossover with our existing subscriber database, plus we had also picked up a lot of new people from the newsstands.

With the success of that first we figured we would do another SIP. And once we started working on the second one for 2018, we just continued to get way above what our plan was as far as the newsstand sales and a lot more advertiser encouragement and we knew that this was an area where we wanted to expand. As a company, we had been looking to see if there was an SIP or title that we could turn into another subscription because we wanted to have an additional subscription besides Country Sampler that could also work within that country decorating realm.

We were always keeping an eye on which SIPs might morph into a subscription and then once we started working on the autumn issue for the Farmhouse again, we had a great response and we knew that was what we wanted to do.

And we started doing some surveys and some early marketing research to see what kind of response we would get, talked with our newsstand people and everything and it was all very positive and the early predicted numbers showed that it seemed like it would be a success. So, we decided to go ahead and put all of our effort into it and turn it into a subscription. And it seems that we were on target with what we did because we’ve been marketing it now, as far as some direct mail pieces and to our existing subscribers for Country Sampler, some ads in the other publications we do, and we have a big chunk of subscribers so far.

And then we have a big direct mail piece that we’ll be sending to outside lists at the end of September. Right now, the early results and the subscriptions that we’re happy with so far that we’ve gotten, have all come from internal outlets. So, we’re expecting of course, once we reach out even farther, to increase that even more.

Samir Husni: I was reading your editorial in the autumn issue and you singled out one reader from Arizona, Kay Connelly, where she is technically begging you to not change a thing in the magazine.

Susan Wagner: And she is one of many. Recently, I was reading something that somebody had sent to us and it’s the same thing. There are so many of them that love that look and they just reach out to us and say that they love everything, don’t change anything about the magazine. And whenever we ask questions about what we can do to improve, they always tell us more issues, publish it more often, which we’d love to do, but finances have to be there.

Samir Husni: Can you in reality hear the crunch of hay under your feet, feel the fresh breeze in your hair and smell those cinnamon buns rising on the stove in any other form than print? Can you do the same thing in digital? Why print?

Susan Wagner: That’s always a thought with print magazines; people will ask, especially in the home décor and DIY end, can’t you just get that off of Pinterest or can’t you just find all of that information online? I truly feel that all the different media that we have all serves a different purpose.

If you’re looking for quick information; if you’re looking for lists of things or some simple stuff or you just want to look up some quick things, online is great for that. Quick ideas there are wonderful. If you want to relax and take a moment to yourself and see these beautiful four-color pictures spread out in front of you, there is nothing like print for that. You can’t really curl up with your computer the same way that you can with a print magazine. You can’t sit on the porch drinking lemonade and page through there and envision yourself in that home and dog-ear the pages and just enjoy the feel of reading a beautiful magazine when you’re scrolling through webpages.

Samir Husni: How do you explain the audience who’s engaging with the magazine and willing to pay the $10 cover price?

Susan Wagner: A $10 cover price for a certain age-range of people is accepted, especially with some magazines being $3.99 or $4.99, but it’s not untypical, we see that in a lot of publishers. What we do is to say to ourselves, for a $10.99 cover price are we giving them that strong value in content. It’s a curated thing.

If you’re browsing on the web and trying to find items for decorating your home and you’re all over the place, but if you know and you trust the Country Sampler editor to give you what you’re looking for because you follow them along and you know they’re really hitting the target, you’ll get that all in that one magazine. And it saves you time, you’re not browsing and browsing online for hours or you’re not getting a magazine somewhere else for $5.99 or $6.99 and maybe one or two articles apply to you.

For a $9.99 price we have a whole section of DIY projects and we’re typically looking at 50 different projects with complete instructions and that’s a lot of content right there. Plus we have the traditional home tours and things that are great to look at. And then we have recipes; various articles, such as growing your own organic produce or raising backyard chickens, things like that.

So, all of that is combined into our Farmhouse Style magazine. And when you think of all of that pulled together, to me, that is definitely worth the $9.99 cover price. And I think nowadays people, if something really resonates with them and they feel like it’s something they can get right in their hands without having to run around all over the place for that, they will pay that higher price point. We definitely see where people are paying a bit of a higher price point for a convenience or something that is really targeted completely to them.

Samir Husni: As you look forward, if you and I are having this conversation a year from now, do you think would you tell me you were able to acquire a younger, more active millennial audience for Farmhouse Style that added to the Country Sampler or do you envision the same audience as Country Sampler?

Susan Wagner: Some of our early analysis of the people subscribing and those we have email addresses for after they bought it online, those are tracking a bit younger than the Country Sampler audience and that was always one of our goals in trying to develop another subscription-based title, which was to reach that younger audience. And so definitely that’s a goal with Farmhouse Style, when we create the content that goes in there we’re doing so with the idea of it reaching out to somebody in their thirties or some range such as that.

In the whole general trend of farmhouse decorating, like urban homesteading and things like that, it is a millennial thing. It is a younger audience. It’s people who want to grow their own fruits and vegetables and they want to have fresh eggs in their backyard. If you look at the blogger world and home decorating, it’s a lot of the younger people who are decorating and are out in the blogosphere and showing things.

In fact, in our spring issue we’re doing an article about these two men who used to live in Philadelphia, Penn., in more of an urban area, and they wanted to raise chickens and were getting pushback from the city, and finally that was kind of the impetus they needed to say, okay, we’re definitely moving to the farm, which was something they had always wanted to do. So, they ended up buying some land up in Vermont and now they run an organic flower farm. One of the guys does the organic flower farm and the other one does a bakery, foods and catering. And we’re seeing that a lot. People moving out of the cities or buying land in areas where they can have chickens in their backyards or raise goats or grow fruits and vegetables.

Samir Husni: You have Prairie Style that you still publish on a quarterly basis, so what other style is in store for Country Sampler?

Susan Wagner: We’re always looking at what might work. But what we also have discovered, and this is one area where our Farmhouse Style is a little different than some of the other farmhouse publications out there, our audience is very much a middle-America, common man kind of audience.

Having said that, there are definitely some people in the Chicago area, the urban areas, Indianapolis, places like that, who are more of the un-urban dweller, but we are a smaller town, we’re more middle America; we’re not an L.A., New York kind of audience.

And I think some of the other farmhouse SIPs or some of the other magazines that will touch on farmhouse style, and even some of the TV shows, it ends up being a little more of an upscale kind of farmhouse, where somebody maybe took an old barn and they brought in a designer and paid the designer $500,000 to revamp it for them. And ours is more of a casual, easygoing, relax, this is a place where you can decorate in that look and still have your four little children running around and not worry about them messing something up or breaking something. So, it’s a very approachable, very easy look and I think that’s what makes who our audience is and who we’re reaching with that little difference than some of the others.

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

Susan Wagner: As I was talking about our look with Farmhouse, you had asked if there was another style we were looking into; what was in the future. What I wanted to wrap that around was that we’re always looking at styles like a prairie style or the farmhouse style that is this casual, relaxed comfortable kind of decorating.

So, maybe sometime in the future, maybe a waterfront thing, where it’s lakes and streams and stuff like that, instead of coastal looks. Or maybe it could be more of a Southern look or we’ve talked around the idea of doing an SIP that would be American bungalows or something. It would all be very much the casual, common man with a DIY aspect to it. More so than the designer look of that style.

As far as anything else, we are very much putting everything behind this Farmhouse Style. We’ve created a website; we have the social media sites out there, we have Pinterest, Instagram and a Facebook page for it. We will be doing some additional work with it, because nowadays I feel like print media is not solely print only and I’m sure all the other publishing companies would agree. But what we’re providing to our readers is decorating ideas, decorating styles, inspiration, for this and they can get them in a variety of ways. They can be inspired by looking at the magazine; they can hit an emotional chord by looking at the magazine, they can love the beautiful pictures.

But we can also provide them quick tips and maybe some ideas and some links to other blogs through our website. We’re thinking of doing an editor’s blog where we talk about more of the day-to-day farmhouse related topics and bring in other people. Bring in people to share their memories. With the older crowd we see that people love that about the Farmhouse look, they like being able to share their memories about how they were doing blueberries in their grandmother’s kitchen or something like that.

So, we do have a lot of this in the works, as far as putting more on the website, doing more social media, where we’re really connecting with the readers in a lot more ways. We definitely want to incorporate events, we’ve talked about that, doing different contests and just really trying to connect with them on their level, so it’s not so much just us giving them info, but more of a feel that we’re all part of this Farmhouse family together.

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

Susan Wagner: (Laughs) I rarely am ever unwinding from a full day of work. I’ll find myself on my computer at 11:00 p.m. just browsing Pinterest or maybe I’m looking up something for myself and I come across farmhouse-related things or other things that I think might be a good idea for the magazine. And I’ll save them or something. But me personally, as far as unwinding from work, I like to be involved in crafting and things like that, so I myself do a lot of DIY home décor type things and I enjoy doing that. But I also like to be outdoors and I’ve been doing a lot of kayaking and hiking and things like that too.

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

Susan Wagner: What I would like them to remember and what I would also like the people I work with and the people I play with to have in their minds is that Susan Wagner is always thinking of new and exciting things to do and will jump in with both feet.

I want to have something interesting to create or work on or to do, whether it’s a new project we’re doing at work and I’m really excited about it, or whether it’s planning a get together for the afternoon with my friends, such as a scavenger hunt that’s really cool. So, she was always coming up with new ideas and very enthusiastically implementing them in a way that got everyone else excited about the project or event as well.

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

Susan Wagner: (Laughs) Deadlines. I think honestly the one thing that keeps me up, especially in the magazine world or in the print world, is just the idea of always staying relevant, because home décor changes with the times, businesses change with the times, trends change with the times. We’re very much aware that Farmhouse is enjoying a great level of interest right now, but where will we be five years from now, 10 years from now, so, I think what keeps me up at night is just making sure that we are always moving in a direction where we’re looking for new things. I’d hate to be involved in a company where they just sat back and said this has always worked for us, we’re just going to keep it that way.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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The Wonderful Wonderful World Of New Magazines… A Mr. Magazine™ Musing

August 24, 2018

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

Spin the globe of this wonderful planet we live on and at any point of stop – almost surely you’ll find a new magazine’s homeland. From China to Latvia, Lebanon to the U.S., new titles are being born and welcomed onto newsstands. Each and every one is a beautiful edition to the world of print and offers another voice into the magazine conversation. The following titles are ones that I discovered being published in English. I hope you enjoy their beautiful covers!

Speaking of Latvia, since leaving the Soviet Union in 1991, the country has grown and developed with a wealth of new energy in different art forms – and a new title called Jezga is showcasing many of those new talents. Welcome Jezga to the family!

And from the U.K comes A Profound Waste of Time, a new independent title inspired by videogames that are celebrated as an art form. It’s a richly designed title gamers and magazine lovers alike will enjoy! Welcome!

Another Gaze, a feminist film journal also from the U.K., was established to highlight the gender inequality of the film industry and amplify the voices of great, often overlooked, filmmakers who identify as women.

Journal du Thé is another U.K. title that invites the reader to explore contemporary tea culture while it wows you with great stories. The magazine wants us to learn about the universe that revolves around our favorite beverage. Welcome aboard!

More or Less is a new magazine from the U.K. that is a beautiful, oversized coffee table title that seeks to provoke thought about the decisions we make when we buy clothes – factoring in the realities of cost and consumption. Welcome!

And the United Kingdom is really blossoming with new titles as Drugstore Culture, a magazine that’s mission is to define and defend all that is best in our culture – particularly film, but also art, music, literature and politics. The almost pocket-sized magazine is an interesting concept.

For is a new magazine that highlights issues facing humanity with a positive, optimistic attitude. It focuses on people who are improving the lives of others and our common humanity. Using a theme each issue, the new title’s first is all about maturing. This magazine should age gracefully!

Plantain Papers comes to us from England and is an independent bi-annual magazine which expresses stories and cultural experiences involving people who love plaintains. From Ghana to Detroit each piece brings together lovers of the fruit from around the world. As you can see – niche is still the name of the game!

And then there’s Be Water Journal, which was founded in 2017, by a group of professional editors, photographers, designers etc. in Guangzhou City, China. The name “Be Water” comes from a famous quote by Bruce Lee and the publication is just as intriguing. The magazine describes its mission as narrowing the focus on “person,” capturing the “Cultural Creatives” from around the world, people that immerse themselves in creation and life. With a website and an annual bookazine, this Eastern offering seems to be in it for the long haul. Welcome to to the world of magazines!

From the people behind The Outpost comes a Dance Mag, a global dance magazine that transcends differences, distances, and disciplines to tell the stories of people from all over the world, who are dancing their lives and giving their bodies a voice. From Beirut, Lebanon this new title is as beautifully done as it is captivating.

Desired Landscapes is a title from Greece and explores the sense of a place and the problem of the representation of the urban experience through graphic design, mapping, poetic observations, the vernacular and ephemera.

The Adventure Handbook is an independent collective of creators, brought together by redefining travel writing and the meaning of ‘adventure.’ A photography magazine about modern exploration, The Adventure Handbook is one of Australia’s latest offerings and a beautiful edition to newsstands.

PTSD Journal is dedicated to improving the quality of life for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder sufferers and their loved ones. It shines a light on the awareness, diagnosis and treatment of a disorder affecting more than 30 million Americans, their families, and loved ones. A great new title from the good old U.S.A.

And for good measure, a new comic book called It Came Out On A Wednesday, a new title from New England’s Alterna Comics and the first of their bi-monthly anthology series. It is chock full of snippets, interviews, contests, and much more.

As Mr. Magazine™ continues to travel the globe (albeit most times from the newsstands) looking for these amazing new delicacies, keep an eye out for my next installation of The Wonderful World of Magazines, it’s sure to be worthy of the cover of a magazine!

Until next time…

See you at the newsstands…

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Kalmbach Media’s Strange Science (Magazine): Reverse Engineering Creates And Curates A Digital-To-Print Platform – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Steve George, Vice President – Content, Kalmbach Media…

August 23, 2018

“Coming back to some fundamentals that we who love magazines have been talking about for years. I think there’s a physical, tangible reality to magazines that you don’t get online. There’s a durability there in a print product and to a certain extent, there’s a promise that the time and effort that would go into creating and editing and vetting that content in a more durable form, whereas I think online, and we’re seeing this, it’s a voracious beast, where you have to constantly be cranking out new content.” Steve George…

Kalmbach Media (formerly Kalmbach Publishing) has been around for more than 80 years, offering niche titles such as Model Railroader, Discover, Bead & Button, Classic Toy Trains, and Astronomy, plus many more. The science group of magazines expanded its family recently with a digital-to-print, digest-sized special issue publication called Strange Science, featuring more than 50 strange-but-true stories from every field of scientific inquiry.

I spoke with Steve George, vice president of content at Kalmbach, recently and we talked about this digital-to-print publication that curates popular digital content in a convenient digest print format. Steve is a firm believer in print magazines permanently joining the definition of the word multiplatform. After all, how can you be across all platforms without print. And that’s Kalmbach’s mission, to meet their reader and customer everywhere they want to consume content. And with the digest-sized format of Strange Science, Kalmbach is hoping that science enthusiasts and those of us out there who might not consider ourselves science readers will enjoy the convenience and just outright fun of the magazine.

So, come along with Mr. Magazine™ as we discover the strange world of science together from the man who guides those unusual stories onto the printed page and onto the screen, the Mr. Magazine ™ interview with Steve George, vice president – content, Kalmbach Media.

But first the sound-bites:

On whether the industry is suddenly moving from digital back to print: You’ve said it yourself, it’s not about print versus digital anymore, it’s about delivering what your audience wants on the platform where they want to engage with it. And like so many other publishers, we’re striving to serve up more and more digital content, but we know there is a place for print and we’re still very committed to print and we’re seeing a desire across all demographics to engage with print magazines.

On what has been the early reaction from the audience to the digital-to-print concept: It was pretty strong. In fact, recently we sat down to put together the framework for the second of those SIPs. We know there was a strong response and we definitely saw people who we normally hadn’t seen coming to the site and taking a look, so I think the response has been very favorable for us.

On the changes at Kalmbach, including a new CEO: We’ve certainly seen a lot of changes in the past year with Dan (Hickey) aboard as our CEO, and obviously one thing that he has always emphasized is magazines are going to continue to be a critical part of our business, it’s a strong and profitable area for us, particularly in our hobby magazines, which still contribute hugely to our profits, but we are phase of dramatic digital growth. We have to be, like a lot of publishers. And this is especially true in our science group. I’m sure you’ve seen the magazine media fact book, the MPA numbers; science and technology is the number one growth area by content category. And we’re well-positioned to serve that category, it’s a growth area for us and Dan has identified that as such and we’re pushing hard to grow that category.

On why he thinks the category of science is growing: I think there are several reasons. One overarching factor is that people are looking for great, vetted, factual information, and I think there are a lot of questions about different kinds of science. We’ve seen this at all levels, at the national level. There is a lot of information out there that people aren’t sure about, in terms of the environment or honorary matters of science, so I think that there always has been an interest in science content, but I would say that folks have become keener to find reliable, vetted, well-sourced information and get it in a format in which they want to consume it.

On what role he thinks magazines play in the art of creation and curation of trusted information: Coming back to some fundamentals that we who love magazines have been talking about for years. I think there’s a physical, tangible reality to magazines that you don’t get online. There’s a durability there in a print product and to a certain extent, there’s a promise that the time and effort that would go into creating and editing and vetting that content in a more durable form, whereas I think online, and we’re seeing this, it’s a voracious beast, where you have to constantly be cranking out new content.

On which he enjoys more, the art of creation or the art of curation: I have a role now where I do a little less creation, and for that matter a little less curation, working with all of the content team who do that. I would say that it’s both. In my younger days when I was mostly a writer, I would said creating, but it’s equally challenging, in some cases, more challenging to edit and curate, find the right mix of content to strengthen your relationship with your readers. And so they both have their joys and their frustrations, but mostly joy. I find both equally rewarding.

On one reason someone should go to the newsstand and buy a copy of Strange Science: One reason? Because it’s fun. It’s a great way to get great science content and if you don’t think of yourself as a reader of science content, this might change your mind. It’s engaging; it’s not highbrow, like a medical journal; it’s very much written for the layperson, but it’s not dumb downed. It’s pure entertainment as well as information and that’s what we want, we want to both inform and delight. So, why wouldn’t you? (Laughs)

On whether there will be more digest-sized titles coming from Kalmbach: I would say that anything is possible, this is really the first digest format that we’ve done. I used to work in digest titles; I was at Prevention for several years and it was one of the great technical challenges, to make a small magazine feel big. I certainly think we managed to do that and we thought it would be a great format to try. As they say, it’s convenient, you can throw it in a bag or practically stick it in your pocket. We just wanted to make it easy and convenient. I can see us doing more in the future. It’s really going to depend on what the content is and what we think the audience will enjoy.

On anything he’d like to add: From the digital-to-print side, we’re just looking for ways to deliver great content to the audience in whatever platform they want. I would say for us, for science, it’s particularly important, as I mentioned, because that’s a big growth area for us, especially for our science group, which is really Discover and Astronomy and we have an ecommerce store that’s My Science Shop. It’s a big growth area for us and we intend to offer marketing institutions a large science media platform, coupled with new and exciting ways to engage with science enthusiasts and thought-leaders.

On what keeps him up at night: What doesn’t keep me up at night? (Laughs) I’m a champion worrywart. I always worry about doing enough for readers and our customers. I think a lot about my content team, trying to give them the resources and support they need. Content is the lifeblood of what we do and so my teams and our readers are eminently worth worrying about.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steve George, vice president – content, Kalmbach Media.

Samir Husni: Are we suddenly seeing this move from digital to print? Is the industry getting smarter, utilizing all of that free content that was once on digital, and now selling it between the pages of print?

Steve George: (Laughs) Well, I’d like to think so. You’ve said it yourself, it’s not about print versus digital anymore, it’s about delivering what your audience wants on the platform where they want to engage with it. And like so many other publishers, we’re striving to serve up more and more digital content, but we know there is a place for print and we’re still very committed to print and we’re seeing a desire across all demographics to engage with print magazines. Especially one you can just toss into your beach bag and not worry about dropping it into the sand or trying to read it in direct sunlight. As a lean-back experience it’s still a great form of entertainment and information for lots of people.

So, for us, we have content that we have online and some of it is part of a paid subscription, some of it, as you say, is out there in the wild for free, but we wanted to curate some of that and put it into a print format that folks would engage with. Strange Science is our first for science brands, for Discover, but this is something that we’ve also done in our hobby titles. Back in May we had another digital-to-print product with a model railroading SIP, Model Railroading – The Ultimate Guide and that was content that was originally video content curated from our subscription site, Model Railroader Video Plus.

From there, the opportunity was again to engage with our readers in a format that they would enjoy, but also to create a relationship with them, where we could entice them to see what else we have to offer online. And in that particular case with Model Railroading, we had strong links from that print content back to videos on the site, and our goal there was to hopefully get them to see what else we had to offer and become subscribers to that video service.

Samir Husni: What has been the early reception from the audience to that whole digital-to-print concept?

Steve George: It was pretty strong. In fact, recently we sat down to put together the framework for the second of those SIPs. We know there was a strong response and we definitely saw people who we normally hadn’t seen coming to the site and taking a look, so I think the response has been very favorable for us.

Obviously, with Strange Science it’s very early days. We have the digital edition and that’s pretty inception level stuff, digital-to-print-to-digital edition. The newsstand copy just came out and so we’re expecting that people are going to respond to it. Not just our core readers, but with Strange Science we wanted to satisfy all of our readers, insatiable curiosity. And go beyond our base to create relationships with new readers, including younger readers who might not self-identify as science readers, but who’d be into the wild mix of topics that we present. And with something like Strange Science being engaging enough to start a relationship with them so they might come and see what else we have to offer both online and on our other platforms throughout the brands that we have in our science category.

Samir Husni: Since the last time you and I chatted, a lot has happened at your company, including a new CEO.

Steve George: We’ve certainly seen a lot of changes in the past year with Dan (Hickey) aboard as our CEO, and obviously one thing that he has always emphasized is magazines are going to continue to be a critical part of our business, it’s a strong and profitable area for us, particularly in our hobby magazines, which still contribute hugely to our profits, but we are phase of dramatic digital growth. We have to be, like a lot of publishers.

And this is especially true in our science group. I’m sure you’ve seen the magazine media fact book, the MPA numbers; science and technology is the number one growth area by content category. And we’re well-positioned to serve that category, it’s a growth area for us and Dan has identified that as such and we’re pushing hard to grow that category.

Samir Husni: As someone who has worked in that category for the last six-plus years, can you identify one or two areas in that specific category that would point out why it is growing so much?

Steve George: I think there are several reasons. One overarching factor is that people are looking for great, vetted, factual information, and I think there are a lot of questions about different kinds of science. We’ve seen this at all levels, at the national level. There is a lot of information out there that people aren’t sure about, in terms of the environment or honorary matters of science, so I think that there always has been an interest in science content, but I would say that folks have become keener to find reliable, vetted, well-sourced information and get it in a format in which they want to consume it.

And from my own experience, and I’ve done science writing, especially on the medical side, for the better part of two decades, in many ways as a reader you see that interest continue to grow. People want to know more about the latest advancements not only in terms of just medicine overall, but in regards to their own personal health and wellbeing. We see that interest growing year over year.

Beyond that, I think people are naturally curious and I don’t think that diminishes over time, so we want to find ways that we can satisfy that curiosity across a variety of platforms, including this new SIP we’re just putting out.

Samir Husni: I was looking at some of the statistics that were released recently that show magazines are the most trusted news media out there, with 80 percent of the people trusting magazines more than any other outlet, including television and radio. And it drops all the way to 38 percent for social media. What role do you think magazines play in that art of creation and curation of that trusted information?

Steve George: Coming back to some fundamentals that we who love magazines have been talking about for years. I think there’s a physical, tangible reality to magazines that you don’t get online. There’s a durability there in a print product and to a certain extent, there’s a promise that the time and effort that would go into creating and editing and vetting that content in a more durable form, whereas I think online, and we’re seeing this, it’s a voracious beast, where you have to constantly be cranking out new content.

Then you end up having a lot of content that just flies through people’s feeds very quickly and some of it is not accurate. You don’t know who the source is necessarily, you don’t know what their agenda is, if they have one, and I think folks are more cognitive of that. And once again, I think with magazines there is a durability and an implied commitment to quality, which we certainly strive to fulfill. And not just in the science content. Across our hobby titles we have the leading experts in those different areas of passion. And we don’t skimp on finding and creating the best possible information to help people satisfy their passions. There is an authenticity that, certainly for Kalmbach, we have more than 80 years of commitment to. That’s an important part of who we are and we’re not going to diminish it or lose that.

Samir Husni: Which of the two do you enjoy more, the art of creation or the art of curation?

Steve George: I have a role now where I do a little less creation, and for that matter a little less curation, working with all of the content team who do that. I would say that it’s both. In my younger days when I was mostly a writer, I would said creating, but it’s equally challenging, in some cases, more challenging to edit and curate, find the right mix of content to strengthen your relationship with your readers. And so they both have their joys and their frustrations, but mostly joy. I find both equally rewarding.

Samir Husni: Give me one reason why I should go to the newsstands and buy a copy of Strange Science.

Steve George: One reason? Because it’s fun. It’s a great way to get great science content and if you don’t think of yourself as a reader of science content, this might change your mind. It’s engaging; it’s not highbrow, like a medical journal; it’s very much written for the layperson, but it’s not dumb downed. It’s pure entertainment as well as information and that’s what we want, we want to both inform and delight. So, why wouldn’t you? (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Are we going to see more of those digest-sized titles coming from Kalmbach?

Steve George: I would say that anything is possible, this is really the first digest format that we’ve done. I used to work in digest titles; I was at Prevention for several years and it was one of the great technical challenges, to make a small magazine feel big. I certainly think we managed to do that and we thought it would be a great format to try. As they say, it’s convenient, you can throw it in a bag or practically stick it in your pocket. We just wanted to make it easy and convenient. I can see us doing more in the future. It’s really going to depend on what the content is and what we think the audience will enjoy.

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

Steve George: From the digital-to-print side, we’re just looking for ways to deliver great content to the audience in whatever platform they want. I would say for us, for science, it’s particularly important, as I mentioned, because that’s a big growth area for us, especially for our science group, which is really Discover and Astronomy and we have an ecommerce store that’s My Science Shop. It’s a big growth area for us and we intend to offer marketing institutions a large science media platform, coupled with new and exciting ways to engage with science enthusiasts and thought-leaders.

From a content perspective we have a lot of stuff that’s digital-first, but our overarching goal is going to be to create multiplatform content that’s engaging to readers and attractive to advertisers. And that is something that we’re committed to on the science side, we’re committed to bringing back national advertisers to Discover and the key to that is a multiplatform approach that includes print as well as native and sponsored content. We’re already seeing some real successes there, but we’re going to continue to grow. We’re going to look at everything from acquisitions to new product launches in order to reach and grow those audiences, both in the science and the hobby space.

For us that means we’re creating a customer journey. We’re going to build and strengthen relationships. Someone will start on the newsstand with a product like Strange Science or Model Railroading, and then they could purchase a paid video product or maybe it’s a subscription box. It’s an exciting time for us and for our current and future customers. That’s where a lot of us are spending our energies right now, making that journey a successful and satisfying one, and strengthening those relationships, which we as a company have had a very long and distinguished career at building and maintaining.

Samir Husni: Last time we spoke I asked you what kept you up at night and you said that you were wondering if you were doing enough for readers and your customers. Is that still keeping you up at night?

Steve George: What doesn’t keep me up at night? (Laughs) I’m a champion worrywart. I always worry about doing enough for readers and our customers. I think a lot about my content team, trying to give them the resources and support they need. Content is the lifeblood of what we do and so my teams and our readers are eminently worth worrying about.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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