Archive for the ‘New Launches’ Category

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Chill Magazine: A New Title From Pride Media That Removes The Label “Gay” & Just Resonates Around The Person – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Joe Landry, Executive Vice President, Pride Media…

June 18, 2018

“We specialize in print. Our core history is in print. We have The Advocate, Out, Plus; and The Advocate turned 50 last year. Out turned 25 and Plus is turning 20 this year; we’re having the 20th anniversary of Plus. So, we have a long history in print publications. And there’s also more credibility in print. If we just launched a website, I don’t know how we make an impact within that space the way we can in print.” Joe Landry…

Recently, I attended the IMAG Conference in Boston, hosted by MPA: The Association of Magazine Media. It was an absolutely eye-opening experience and wonderfully informative. While there, I had the pleasure of speaking one on one with Joe Landry, a 25-year veteran in the magazine media business and who is now executive vice president of Pride Media. With magazines as notable as The Advocate, Out and Plus under his belt, I can’t tell you how excited I was to learn about a new print title, Chill, that Pride Media is publishing.

According to Joe, Chill is geared toward that LGBT person who dislikes labels such as “gay” attached to their persona. The magazine is really aimed at African American and Hispanic millennial men who are more about the person than the stereotype. It’s an exciting concept that opens up an entire new spectrum of possibilities for the LGBTQ individual.

Joe also touched on the relaunch of Out Traveler and a new content studio coming up in November called “Black Cat” in honor of The Advocates’ beginning after the Black Cat Riots in the 1960s. It was a great interview and one that I think you will thoroughly enjoy.

And now without further ado, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Joe Landry, executive vice president, Pride Media.

But first the sound-bites:

On the new print magazine from Pride Media, Chill: There’s a movement underfoot in the millennial audience where some folks do not want to subscribe to the label “gay.” And the archetype for gay, for the younger generation, is kind of this white, buffed, affluent male. And we were losing out on attracting this younger audience, so we came up with the title “Chill,” which is geared toward African Americans and Hispanics, mostly millennial men, who don’t subscribe to labels.

On whether he sees Chill as a line extension of the other titles beneath Pride Media’s umbrella or he feels as though they’re carving a new niche: It’s definitely a new niche. I mean, 80 percent of the staff that creates Chill is African American or Latino. So, it’s a different point of view that we are working with, both on the editorial side from a content perspective, and also on the advertising and marketing side. We are now going after African American and Latino dollars that we didn’t have access to before, typically from some of the same people that we’ve been talking to who had diversity at various companies.

On whether he feels they are now doubling the diversity and making the gay community even more of a minority: No, I don’t see it that way at all. I see it as creating content that’s relevant to a consumer segment that we didn’t have access to before. So, how Procter & Gamble would view it, I don’t know. I haven’t had a conversation with Procter & Gamble about double minorities, but there are diversity agencies that specialize in Black and Latinos. They might have a subset of LGBT, and it’s still viewed as LGBT, even though it’s not screaming out on the cover, while also hitting the Latino and African American audiences as well.

In front of the Boston, MA Public Library. This is the first of three interviews I conducted in Boston while attending the MPA: The Association of Magazine Media’s IMAG 2018 conference.

On why he decided Chill should be a print magazine: We specialize in print. Our core history is in print. We have The Advocate, Out, Plus; and The Advocate turned 50 last year. Out turned 25 and Plus is turning 20 this year; we’re having the 20th anniversary of Plus. So, we have a long history in print publications. And there’s also more credibility in print. If we just launched a website, I don’t know how we make an impact within that space the way we can in print.

On the differentiation between Chill and Condé Nast’s website, Them: I think that having Condé Nast launch an LGBT product is a validation of the work that I’ve been doing for the last 25 years. I also know how difficult it is to sustain LGBT products and the market limitations to LGBT products, that’s why we have Out; why we have The Advocate; why we have Chill; why we have pride.com; and why we have Out Traveler. You sort of need to speak to each segment of the community in the voice in which they’re going to respond to. And I’m not sure that one site will have the scale that would be of interest to carry a Condé Nast title.

On relaunching Out Traveler: We are relaunching Out Traveler. In 2008, when the company was sold, the owners were very nervous about what was happening in 2008 and they folded the print publication. And Out Traveler has been an online destination. Under our new ownership we are relaunching Out Traveler in print in November. And I have been a big proponent for bringing Out Traveler back to print, so we’re very excited about that.

On the biggest challenge he thinks he’ll face in 2019 and beyond: It’s interesting that we’re having this conversation right now in the middle of June, because June is Pride month and it is our most successful month from an advertising revenue perspective in the history of the company, which is crazy. And we’re diversifying our offerings into creating assets for marketers.

On how he would define content today: Creating assets, whether it’s in print, in video, in social, or experiential, that are relevant to our audience. So, that’s the broad definition of content. And editorial is, of course, the most important area of creating content, but we’re also doing it on the marketing side with our partners. And a lot of our content is amplified through social influencers, so that’s another component to a lot of the programs that we do now. Not only do we create custom content, but we have the talent that we hire to create the custom content share the content on their own social platforms.

On whether he feels more at ease about the future of print today than he did five years ago: No. I am never at ease. (Laughs) I am confident in the company. I am confident in our assets and I am confident that we will continue to deliver relevant messaging for our audiences, both from an editorial perspective and from an advertising perspective across platforms. But I’m sort of platform agnostic, I mean, I love magazines because that’s where I come from, but it’s really about where does the consumer want the content and the information. And that’s where I’m going to deliver it. So, I’m not beholden to any one platform.

On where he is making his money: The most growth is coming from experiential’s. So, from a percentage perspective and revenue year over year, it’s crazy how much more we are making in experiential. Branded content, again, year over year, explosive growth. Digital banner ads are flat and print is down.

On anything he’d like to add: We are launching a brand new content studio called “Black Cat,” so, if you recall in 1967 the Black Cat riots preceded the Stonewall Riots and the folks from those riots who were arrested during those riots started a newsletter called “Pride,” Personal Rights In Defense and Education, which eventually became The Advocate. So, in homage to the history of The Advocate, we’re naming our brand new content studio Black Cat.

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

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: Watching Netflix and eating popcorn.

On what keeps him up at night: Work. Email – too many emails. It’s crazy; it’s unsustainable the amount of emails that we have to process on a daily basis.


And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Joe Landry, executive vice president, Pride Media.

Samir Husni: Pride Media just launched another new print magazine, Chill. Tell me about it.

Joe Landry: There’s a movement underfoot in the millennial audience where some folks do not want to subscribe to the label “gay.” And the archetype for gay, for the younger generation, is kind of this white, buffed, affluent male. And we were losing out on attracting this younger audience, so we came up with the title “Chill,” which is geared toward African Americans and Hispanics, mostly millennial men, who don’t subscribe to labels.

I have an interesting story where I was meeting with the head of Diversity at Wells Fargo when we were launching the publication. I was explaining Chill and this smile came across her face. And I said, “What?” And she said, “I’ll tell you after.” So, I did the whole spiel. I told her about the publication, who we were looking to appeal to, and she told me a story about her stepson, who had moved back in with her and her husband, and was going away on weekends. And they didn’t know where he was going. She found out that he was actually married to a man, living in her house. She’s the head of Diversity at Wells Fargo and her stepson was scooting away to go and see his husband, whom he had married, and she didn’t know he was gay.

So, when she addressed this, she said, “I’m the head of Diversity at Wells Fargo and you’re gay, and that’s okay. And he said, “No, I’m not gay. I just happened to be married to a man.” So, there’s this rejection of the label. And we don’t want the label to keep people from being attracted to our titles.

Samir Husni: Do you feel like Chill is a line extension for the rest of the magazines, or you’re carving a new niche?

Joe Landry: It’s definitely a new niche. I mean, 80 percent of the staff that creates Chill is African American or Latino. So, it’s a different point of view that we are working with, both on the editorial side from a content perspective, and also on the advertising and marketing side. We are now going after African American and Latino dollars that we didn’t have access to before, typically from some of the same people that we’ve been talking to who had diversity at various companies.

Samir Husni: Is this now double-diversity? Or how do you view it? I mean, the gay community is already a minority, now are you doubling on the minority?

Joe Landry: No, I don’t see it that way at all. I see it as creating content that’s relevant to a consumer segment that we didn’t have access to before. So, how Procter & Gamble would view it, I don’t know. I haven’t had a conversation with Procter & Gamble about double minorities, but there are diversity agencies that specialize in Black and Latinos. They might have a subset of LGBT, and it’s still viewed as LGBT, even though it’s not screaming out on the cover, while also hitting the Latino and African American audiences as well.

Samir Husni: And why did you decide to go with print?

Joe Landry: We specialize in print. Our core history is in print. We have The Advocate, Out, Plus; and The Advocate turned 50 last year. Out turned 25 and Plus is turning 20 this year; we’re having the 20th anniversary of Plus. So, we have a long history in print publications.

And there’s also more credibility in print. If we just launched a website, I don’t know how we make an impact within that space the way we can in print.

Samir Husni: Condé Nast has launched a website, Them, aimed at the LGBTQ community. Do you view that now as competition or because there is no print component it’s a different entity entirely? What’s the differentiation between Chill and Them?

Joe Landry: There is no relationship to Chill. I think that having Condé Nast launch an LGBT product is a validation of the work that I’ve been doing for the last 25 years. I also know how difficult it is to sustain LGBT products and the market limitations to LGBT products, that’s why we have Out; why we have The Advocate; why we have Chill; why we have pride.com; and why we have Out Traveler. You sort of need to speak to each segment of the community in the voice in which they’re going to respond to. And I’m not sure that one site will have the scale that would be of interest to carry a Condé Nast title.

Samir Husni: You are relaunching Out Traveler?

Joe Landry: Yes, we are relaunching Out Traveler. In 2008, when the company was sold, the owners were very nervous about what was happening in 2008 and they folded the print publication. And Out Traveler has been an online destination. Under our new ownership we are relaunching Out Traveler in print in November. And I have been a big proponent for bringing Out Traveler back to print, so we’re very excited about that.

Samir Husni: Through the 25 years that you’ve worked with those titles, you’ve seen your share of ups and downs. Now it seems you’ve reached a level of stabilization of the marketplace with your titles. What do you view as your biggest challenge as you look at 2019 and beyond?

Joe Landry: It’s interesting that we’re having this conversation right now in the middle of June, because June is Pride month and it is our most successful month from an advertising revenue perspective in the history of the company, which is crazy. And we’re diversifying our offerings into creating assets for marketers.

For example, H&M came to us and they wanted to launch a campaign for this segment in-store. So, they weren’t coming to us to buy media, they were coming to us for our expertise in the market, they were coming to us for our brand authenticity. And we actually created an entire campaign for them that’s in stores now. You can go to the H&M down the street; it’s called “Pride Out Loud” and it is a point of sale campaign, as well as a social campaign. We created custom video content for them .

So, that’s sort of the area in which we’re expanding; we are taking our expertise to the marketplace and we are elevating the conversation with marketing partners to show them that if they are looking for authenticity, we know how to deliver that to them. So, not only are we delivering the media message, but we’re creating the message to deliver to our audience.

Samir Husni: One of the things that I always say is that you can’t just be content providers, you have to be experience makers. With that in mind, how do you define content today?

Joe Landry: Wow. Creating assets, whether it’s in print, in video, in social, or experiential, that are relevant to our audience. So, that’s the broad definition of content. And editorial is, of course, the most important area of creating content, but we’re also doing it on the marketing side with our partners. And a lot of our content is amplified through social influencers, so that’s another component to a lot of the programs that we do now. Not only do we create custom content, but we have the talent that we hire to create the custom content share the content on their own social platforms.

Samir Husni: Do you feel more at ease today about the future of print than you felt, let’s say, five years ago?

Joe Landry: No. I am never at ease. (Laughs) I am confident in the company. I am confident in our assets and I am confident that we will continue to deliver relevant messaging for our audiences, both from an editorial perspective and from an advertising perspective across platforms. But I’m sort of platform agnostic, I mean, I love magazines because that’s where I come from, but it’s really about where does the consumer want the content and the information. And that’s where I’m going to deliver it. So, I’m not beholden to any one platform.

Samir Husni: Where are you making your money?

Joe Landry: The most growth is coming from experiential’s. So, from a percentage perspective and revenue year over year, it’s crazy how much more we are making in experiential. Branded content, again, year over year, explosive growth. Digital banner ads are flat and print is down.

Samir Husni: Anything you’d like to add?

Joe Landry: We are launching a brand new content studio called “Black Cat,” so, if you recall in 1967 the Black Cat riots preceded the Stonewall Riots and the folks from those riots who were arrested during those riots started a newsletter called “Pride,” Personal Rights In Defense and Education, which eventually became The Advocate. So, in homage to the history of The Advocate, we’re naming our brand new content studio Black Cat.

Samir Husni: When will it launch?

Joe Landry: We are working on the press release currently. Our first project was with H&M, I talked about the H&M campaign. That was our first project.

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

Joe Landry: Advocate.

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?

Joe Landry: Watching Netflix and eating popcorn.

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

Joe Landry: Work. Email – too many emails. It’s crazy; it’s unsustainable the amount of emails that we have to process on a daily basis.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Print: When You Say & See BIG…

June 8, 2018

Last week I tweeted a quote from WWD: “Melissa Jones has launched Masthead magazine, a large format, online product heavily focused on photography.” My question is, “What is a large format online?”

Well, the reaction from that tweet was hilarious. Some equated it to a “jumbo shrimp.”

So, online, the size of your media depends on the size of your screen. You can call it anything you want: large format online, jumbo format online, small format online…you get my drift, but in reality the only size online media comes in is the size of your screen, be that PC desktop or mobile phone on the go. Enough said.

In print, on the other hand, size does matter. And today I received my first issue of the extra large format Civilization newspaper that is published in a limited edition of 1000. Richard Turley, the founder, answers Linda Leven’s question, “What is the purpose of this newspaper?” His answer on page 2 of the newspaper/magazine:

Civilization – The long answer is…I was in a magazine store at the beginning of the year and looking at the few magazines and newspapers that remain. All the magazines look the same, and are more like coffee table picture books now, and as for the actual printed newspapers, well…people only read those when they get them free in hotels. So I wondered whether I could make a new one and what I missed most was a publication about New York. What New York feels like to walk around and be a part of — which isn’t just Trump, Trump, Trump, Ramen spots and lifestyle tips — that’s not what New York is to me…”

The result, an oversized publication in print that you can actually measure and regardless where you read it, it will continue to have the same size, from the physical dimensions to the size of the type. Just check the size compared to a standard sized magazine and judge for yourself…

You ask me, what can print do that digital can’t? Well, now you have one of too many answers… continue measuring and counting.

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The Mr. Magazine™ Launch Monitor: 25 + New Titles Arrive At The Nation’s Newsstands In May.

June 3, 2018

May arrived with the warm tones of an impending hot summer for us here in the steamy south, but newsstands all across the country were also blazing hot with an abundance of new magazine titles. Some brand new, some arriving on the national newsstands for the first time, some are changing their names, and some are just testing the waters…

As Gossamer strands of pungent smoke swirl above the heads of the many marijuana users in the country, they now have a new magazine that is made by and for those  who enjoy living the “high” life. It’s another offering into the print world of cannabis, and Mr. Magazine™ must say, it is definitely a well-done publication.

Also on tap for May is a new title that honors women, past, present and future, who have made or are making a mark politically on our world. Rosa is named after the amazing Rosa Parks and brings awareness to our foremothers and to all women who are willing to fight for their beliefs. This is a must-have quarterly magazine that Mr. Magazine™ will definitely be watching for at the newsstand.

And when you’re chasing the sweet things in life, there’s nobody better to do it with than Sweet Paul. For the first time, the print-on-demand magazine made its way to the newsstands, and Mr. Magazine™ says it’s long overdue. Founder & editor in chief, Paul Lowe, Sweet Paul himself, said he has adopted his grandmother’s motto of “perfection is boring,” and you can rest assured that’s one thing that Sweet Paul magazine is not, boring, that is. However, the fantastic recipes inside come pretty close to perfection as far as Mr. Magazine™ can tell.

So, I hope that you enjoy our magnificent May covers. The magazines mentioned above are but three out of the 25 that the month gave us. The other 22 titles are just as grand.

So, until we meet again for a jubilant June…

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™ newsstands, or arriving to the national newsstands for the first time.

****** Three magazines I read that they were launched last month but with all my newsstands searches I have not yielded or located a copy of their premier issue yet. The magazines are: Robb Report Muse, Tonal, and WSJ Far & Away.  Please send me a copy of the premier issue to: Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, P.O. Box 1062, Oxford, MS 38655 to be included in the Mr. Magazine™ Launch Monitor… Thank you.

 

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Jo Packham: A Self-Proclaimed Woman Of Ideas With One Goal In Mind: Help and Create – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Jo Packham, Creator/Editor In Chief, Where Women Create, Where Women Cook, Where Women Create Work, & What Women Create Magazines…

June 1, 2018

“I’m a traditional print girl. I was in book publishing for 30 years. When that ended and I got the opportunity to do the magazines; I don’t even go on Instagram. I don’t answer my phone; I hate anything technological. I really love paper and print. I wouldn’t have even considered anything else.” Jo Packham (On why she chose print over digital for her brand)…

Jo Packham believes we all have a story to tell and she also believes it is her job to give a venue to those ideas; hence, the four titles that she created and formerly published (three of them anyway) with Stampington & Company by her side. But today is a new day, and a new title. No longer is she affiliated with the giant crafting publisher. Today, she is following through with her own vision, through her partnership with Disticor, and she has decided there is more to tell than just “where,” we also need to know “what.”

I spoke with Jo recently and I must say, it was one of the most delightful conversations I have ever had. Jo is as passionate about her magazines as she is her readers and contributors. We talked about that passion, which was something that ignited and brought forth her latest title “What Women Create.”

Jo believes that the stories within the pages of her magazines should all express individuality and the rawness that makes them unique. That’s the main reason there is no heavy editing with contributors’ offerings, just mainly spelling. And she likes it that way.

Since parting company with Stampington & Company, where she had had a long-running relationship, Jo is now feeling unencumbered by guidelines and predisposed aesthetics, and is enjoying spreading her wings a bit. And while she is grateful for everything she shared with Stampington, she is also excited by the future’s possibilities. Even though she says (her words, not mine) who knows what’s going to happen with a 70-year-old, self-proclaimed idea woman. If Mr. Magazine™ could offer his opinion here (and why not, it is my blog after all), I’d say 70 is the new 50 and that is just the right age for Jo Packham and her latest endeavors.

So, I hope that you enjoy this very lively conversation with a woman whose youth is apparently eternal, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jo Packham, creator and editor in chief of all the “Where Women Create,” “Where Women Cook,” “Where Women Create Work,” and her latest, “What Women Create.”

But first the sound-bites:

On how she got her start in magazines: I worked really, really hard and I have been very, very blessed. I think it happened because my entire career has been about surrounding myself with really creative, successful women. I always wanted to be an artist; I grew up wanting to be an artist, and I’m a horrible artist. My 7th grade art teacher told me I should do something else.

On combining food and crafts with her magazines: In the early days what I had to do was go to the crafters and the creative people, because they have fabulous kitchens and they like to cook, they don’t consider themselves foodies, but because they’re so creative they like to cook. So, we would feature five of them with really beautiful kitchens and then we would feature five of the top food bloggers and foodies in the country and focus on their food. And it kind of became more of a cooking magazine than a “where” magazine, it just morphed into that. But we still try to include some kitchens and other kinds of things, but that’s the way it started.

On how she would describe herself today: I think I’m creative in my own way in that I can bring people together, because there are a lot of publishers and a lot of agents who I think are driven by money, so I believe I am a creator and a gatherer; I think I inspire people. I don’t know, I work hard. (Laughs) I don’t know what I am. I’m just the person behind the scenes who wants you to have the opportunity that maybe I can help you get.

On how she says that she wants to be behind the scenes, yet her name is on the cover of all of her magazines: It’s on the covers of the old ones too. And the reason I did that is for the first time in my 40-year career when I went to work for Stampington, and when we launched Where Women Create at Stampington, it was an atmosphere of distrust for large corporations. And even I didn’t know in those days that Stampington was a big company; I had no idea how big they were. So, I felt if I put my name on the cover that the people who we featured and the people who were our readers would understand that it was a single woman doing the job and making it happen instead of a big corporation, so that they would trust me more and look at us through a different perspective.

On whether she’s had any stumbling blocks to face or it’s all been a walk in a rose garden: Oh, a million stumbling blocks. It’s so not easy. It’s always what you don’t expect. You’re sailing along and something happens that’s totally out of your control, and it’s that telephone call in the middle of the night that you dread your whole life. And I’ve gotten mine. I’ve lost everything. I completely lost everything and had to start from scratch, that was 10 years ago. I lost everything.

On whether she feels like she’s now in a safe end with her new deal with Disticor: I don’t believe in a safe end. I think the world is so fragile and everything we do is so fragile that I’ve got the best gig of all time. When people talk about living the dream, this is it. It’s not easy; I’m working myself to death, but it’s living the dream. But I also know that I could wake up in the morning and Barnes & Noble could go bankrupt and there could be no more distributor for the magazines and we would be done.

On whether anyone ever questions her sanity because she is publishing four print magazines with high cover prices in this digital age: Oh, yes. We just started the Disticor partnership last November and I had never met them and they flew out here to meet me. We had dinner in my studio and I had a chef here. We cooked a private dinner for them and they told me that they had just decided to do this. I told them that I didn’t believe in contracts, but my ex-husband said I had to have one and they said that was great. And I asked them how long the contract should be for, and Mike, who is the president of Disticor, said 10 years. And I just started laughing and he said, what the hell? And I said I am 70-years-old, you’ll have an 80-year-old editor in chief. No one wants an 80-year-old editor in chief. (Laughs) So, I told him that we’d start with three years.

On why she chose print and not a digital-only entity: I’m a traditional print girl. I was in book publishing for 30 years. When that ended and I got the opportunity to do the magazines; I don’t even go on Instagram. I don’t answer my phone; I hate anything technological. I really love paper and print. I wouldn’t have even considered anything else.

On her new publication What Women Create: When I got the opportunity to work with Disticor, they told me that I could do whatever I wanted. And I said, really? And they said, sure. So, we started with the three that we knew, but then we were preparing the first issue of “Create” and “What” came up at the table and it’s brilliant. And it’s not a how-to magazine; it’s just a beautiful pictorial anthology of the passion and the inspiration. It’s meant to be the story of the women who create; it’s behind-the-scenes on how they do what they do. It’s not a step-by-step. And it’s such a great partner with “Create.”

On whether the magazines, in human form, are her: I hope so. I would hope so. I would hope that I embody the passion and inspiration of all of us, that I’m a good representative and I will be cognizant of who they are and what they do and never take advantage of them. And always represent them in the best way. So, I would hope so.

On anything that scares her with this new venture: (Laughs) Everything scares me. I have these constant panic attacks, because I feel responsible. People have trusted me with their stories. Once, somebody said to me, all we do is produce junk mail because they buy our magazines and then they throw them away. And I said that’s not what I do. I give these people the opportunity to tell their stories in their own words, the way they want, without edits. We don’t change it; we don’t give any guidelines. It is their opportunity to have a magazine for just a minute to tell the world what they want the world to know.

On whether she feels she’s publishing inexpensive books, but expensive magazines: They are, and it’s because we don’t sell advertising. We’re a newsstand model, so we have to make our money somewhere and printing is more expensive, photographers are more expensive, and shipping them is crazy. When I ship one magazine to Europe it’s $27 and some cents. So, it’s not that we’re making more money on the backend on this end, it’s just that we’re producing a really beautiful, collectible piece. Because when they’re not done in seasons and they don’t do holidays, it’s not that you ever throw them away, unless you’re cleaning out your closet. You can save them as an inspiring piece of literature to go to just like a book.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: You would find me going through magazines. (Laughs) Right now on my dining room table I probably have 50 of the latest magazines from all over the world, trying to see who is doing what and what I love. So, you would definitely find me reading magazines.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: That I gave people the opportunity to do something that they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do otherwise.

On what keeps her up at night: (Laughs) Being 70. I have all of these thoughts: what if I can’t remember anymore, or what if I can’t go up the stairs anymore. That scares me to death.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jo Packham, creator/editor in chief, Where Women Create, Where Women Cook, Where Women Create Work, & What Women Create magazines.

Samir Husni: You’re the publisher and creator of not one, not two, not even three, but four magazines, all at the same time. Tell me how you got started.

Jo Packham: I worked really, really hard and I have been very, very blessed. I think it happened because my entire career has been about surrounding myself with really creative, successful women. I always wanted to be an artist; I grew up wanting to be an artist, and I’m a horrible artist. My 7th grade art teacher told me I should do something else.

And so I thought, you know what, I love it so much that early on, 40 years ago, I decided to publish cross-stitch books and I owned a small yarn and thread store. When cross-stitch was getting really popular, I decided to publish cross-stitch books, and I couldn’t do it myself, so I would just work with other women and surround myself with them and be the person who published them.

I would do the part of their creative life that they didn’t want to do, because they want to be creative, right? They didn’t want to deal with the publishing and write the stories, they didn’t want to get all the backend done, and things like that. I don’t really have very much of an ego and I was really happy to promote them and just be the person behind the scenes. I feel like a bus driver sometimes. I just get everybody on the bus and I get everybody where they need to go and then I get everybody off the bus and then I fill the bus up again.

It just led from one thing to another. It hasn’t been easy, and I’ve had some really dramatic failures in my career, but when you surround yourself with women who are so inspiring, they always have a new idea. And they always pick you back up and they always need someone like me behind the scenes. So, that’s the role that I love and that I took on, and that’s how I got where I am. It’s because of them, it really is.

Samir Husni: You combine both crafts and food; tell me about that mix. You have the food magazine, the craft magazine, and then you have the “What” magazine. (Laughs)

Jo Packham: (Laughs too). That’s really a funny story. When we started we had “Where Women Create” and it was all about the studios and everybody loved it and it’s really popular. I was not a foodie, but what happened was I was in the Texas Hill Country photographing Robin Brown and John Gray’s home, they own a company called Magnolia Pearl.

We were on a photo shoot and we got there one morning at around 6:00 a.m. and Robin’s guilty pleasure, and she lives way out in the country, her guilty pleasure was every morning a woman would come from Fredericksburg, Texas and bring in all fresh fruits and vegetables, and she was her cook for the day, her sous chef, if you will, and she would prepare all of these fresh fruits and vegetables. So Robin, because she’s a creative, had the most beautiful kitchen I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

So, when we walked in that morning and there was that entire array of fresh fruits and vegetables on the cabinet, I said we needed to publish where women cut. And when I first started it, I really thought it would be about the kitchen, just like it was about the studios. But I stayed an extra four days, photographed the kitchen, did all of the cooking, and I thought, I don’t know any foodies, so I should contact the top 10 food bloggers in the country.

I found out who they were, wrote them all a letter, said I would love to feature each of them in the magazine, they all said great, and I told them that we’d come and do a photo shoot in their kitchen, and they said yeah, no, that’s not going to happen because they were all about the food and not about the kitchen.

So, in the early days what I had to do was go to the crafters and the creative people, because they have fabulous kitchens and they like to cook, they don’t consider themselves foodies, but because they’re so creative they like to cook. So, we would feature five of them with really beautiful kitchens and then we would feature five of the top food bloggers and foodies in the country and focus on their food. And it kind of became more of a cooking magazine than a “where” magazine, it just morphed into that. But we still try to include some kitchens and other kinds of things, but that’s the way it started.

I had to go buy my first set of pots and pans. Since I was starting the magazine, I went into my kitchen, took all of my paintbrushes and all of my tools out of my silverware drawers, and all of my paintbrushes out of my cabinets and went and bought a complete set of silverware and a whole new set of pots and pans so that I would feel a little more like I could walk the walk and talk the talk.

Samir Husni: What do you consider yourself; a creator? I see “created by Jo” on each one of the four magazines. Or a curator? Someone who reaches out to all of these bloggers and creative people. If you had to describe Jo today, what would be some of the adjectives that come to mind?

Jo Packham: I think I’m creative in my own way in that I can bring people together, because there are a lot of publishers and a lot of agents who I think are driven by money, so I believe I am a creator and a gatherer; I think I inspire people. I don’t know, I work hard. (Laughs) I don’t know what I am. I’m just the person behind the scenes who wants you to have the opportunity that maybe I can help you get.

I’m a philanthropist, because I really want to sell a million magazines; I really do. But if I sell a million magazines; we always feature two really famous people in the magazine because they sell magazines, but then we feature 10 that no one has ever heard of, because if we can give them an opportunity to make their dreams come true sincerely, then that’s what sells more magazines that pays my bills and it’s a win/win situation for everyone.

Samir Husni: You say that you want to be behind the scenes, yet your name is on the cover of all four of the new magazines.

Jo Packham: It’s on the covers of the old ones too. And the reason I did that is for the first time in my 40-year career when I went to work for Stampington, and when we launched Where Women Create at Stampington, it was an atmosphere of distrust for large corporations. And even I didn’t know in those days that Stampington was a big company; I had no idea how big they were. So, I felt if I put my name on the cover that the people who we featured and the people who were our readers would understand that it was a single woman doing the job and making it happen instead of a big corporation, so that they would trust me more and look at us through a different perspective.

And the only reason I put my name on the second ones, with this new publisher, is because he absolutely insisted. And Barnes & Noble and Costco said Jo’s name has to be on the cover and I said that’s ridiculous. People don’t buy these magazines because of me, they buy these magazines because of the stories inside, but they felt like with my name on the cover that people would be assured that there was no advertising and that the stories would be sincere. And that it’s the same model. The first 30 years of my career, no one knew who I was; my name was never anywhere. Ever.

Samir Husni: Now your name is everywhere. Did it feel like a walk in a rose garden or were there some stumbling blocks you had to overcome?

Jo Packham: Oh, a million stumbling blocks. It’s so not easy. It’s always what you don’t expect. You’re sailing along and something happens that’s totally out of your control, and it’s that telephone call in the middle of the night that you dread your whole life. And I’ve gotten mine. I’ve lost everything. I completely lost everything and had to start from scratch, that was 10 years ago. I lost everything.

The story between Stampington and I is crazy and then the one between Disticor and I is even crazier. So, I’ve been at the top and I’ve been at the bottom. I’m great at cocktail parties; I have a lot of stories. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: So, today, do feel like you’re sailing smoothly, leaving what happened behind you? Does the new deal with Disticor make you feel as though you’re finally in a safe end?

Jo Packham: I don’t believe in a safe end. I think the world is so fragile and everything we do is so fragile that I’ve got the best gig of all time. When people talk about living the dream, this is it. It’s not easy; I’m working myself to death, but it’s living the dream. But I also know that I could wake up in the morning and Barnes & Noble could go bankrupt and there could be no more distributor for the magazines and we would be done.

So, I never plan on that kind of thing. I enjoy what I have. I used to plan on it in my younger days, but now I’m just very grateful and very thankful for what I have today and I work very hard for it. And if I wake up in the morning and it’s still there, I’m grateful tomorrow too. But I’m 70 years old, so who knows, right? Geez, I could fall down the stairs. (Laughs) It is what it is.

Samir Husni: At those cocktail parties, when you’re sharing your ups and downs, does anyone ever question your sanity because you’re publishing four print magazines with very high cover prices in this digital age?

Jo Packham: Oh, yes. We just started the Disticor partnership last November and I had never met them and they flew out here to meet me. We had dinner in my studio and I had a chef here. We cooked a private dinner for them and they told me that they had just decided to do this. I told them that I didn’t believe in contracts, but my ex-husband said I had to have one and they said that was great. And I asked them how long the contract should be for, and John Lafranier, who is the president of Disticor, said 10 years. And I just started laughing and he said, what the hell? And I said I am 70-years-old, you’ll have an 80-year-old editor in chief. No one wants an 80-year-old editor in chief. (Laughs) So, I told him that we’d start with three years.

But when I tell those stories and I’m at cocktail parties, people do look at me, because all of their lifetime friends in their communities are retired and traveling, doing all of those kinds of things, and I’m working 18 hours per day. And I ask myself whether I could retire and if that would be a good idea, but then I think, no, I’ll do this as long as I can. Just enjoy it. I love my job.

Samir Husni: Why did you decide to publish print? Why not just a blog or a digital magazine?

Jo Packham: I’m a traditional print girl. I was in book publishing for 30 years. When that ended and I got the opportunity to do the magazines; I don’t even go on Instagram. I don’t answer my phone; I hate anything technological. I really love paper and print. I wouldn’t have even considered anything else.

When things got really bad and I lost the first company, I lost my house and everything, I got a job at Starbucks. I was going to work at Starbucks. (Laughs) I thought that was a good alternative; they had really good benefits. And they would send you to school. (Laughs again) But it never even occurred to me to do anything but print.

Samir Husni: You’ve redesigned all of the magazines, you gave them a new fresh look. And you’ve added one new title that you didn’t publish with Stampington before. Tell me about What Women Create.

Jo Packham: When I went to work with Stampington, Kellene (Giloff, founder and president) was extremely generous with me, but even though What Women Create was my brand and my concept, I was still part of the Stampington Group. So, I had to adhere to their guidelines and their aesthetics and what Kellene wanted. And she’s very secure in that and likes that. She would never let me branch out on my own. And I certainly appreciate that. It’s hard to have two brands under one umbrella.

But I’m an idea girl, right? I have a million ideas. And I would present them and Kellene is really conservative and she has 36 of her own magazines, so she didn’t need any more of mine. (Laughs) So, the reason the whole thing happened was because Where Women Cook was just out of her wheelhouse. She’s a craft person, and so she was going to cancel Cook. And even though I am not a foodie, Cook is one of my favorites.

When I got the opportunity to work with Disticor, they told me that I could do whatever I wanted. And I said, really? And they said, sure. So, we started with the three that we knew, but then we were preparing the first issue of “Create” and “What” came up at the table and it’s brilliant. And it’s not a how-to magazine; it’s just a beautiful pictorial anthology of the passion and the inspiration. It’s meant to be the story of the women who create; it’s behind-the-scenes on how they do what they do. It’s not a step-by-step. And it’s such a great partner with “Create.”

“Create” has been on the market for 10 years and I believe that everything has a shelf life. I’m not sure if we haven’t started the shelf life over with the new, reimagined “Create,” so maybe we can start counting again. But I felt like for security, for retirement, if I ever do (Laughs), that I needed something new and fresh, and a different take on it. And I thought “What” was the perfect partner. And I called Disticor on the phone and asked them what they thought about “What.” And they said that I should absolutely do it. So, I did.

Samir Husni: When I flip through the pages of the four titles, the relaunched and the new one, I can see you in the pages of the magazines. Your passion, your craft, your touch, is there. If I give you a magic wand that could make the pages come to life and you strike the magazines with it, and suddenly a human being appears. Will that be you?

Jo Packham: I hope so. I would hope so. I would hope that I embody the passion and inspiration of all of us, that I’m a good representative and I will be cognizant of who they are and what they do and never take advantage of them. And always represent them in the best way. So, I would hope so.

Samir Husni: Is there anything that scares you with this new venture?

Jo Packham: (Laughs) Everything scares me. I have these constant panic attacks, because I feel responsible. People have trusted me with their stories. Once, somebody said to me, all we do is produce junk mail because they buy our magazines and then they throw them away. And I said that’s not what I do. I give these people the opportunity to tell their stories in their own words, the way they want, without edits. We don’t change it; we don’t give any guidelines. It is their opportunity to have a magazine for just a minute to tell the world what they want the world to know.

So, I feel responsible for that. And that scares me because they’re trusting me with their dreams and their heartaches and their pasts. I think that’s why the magazines are so personal, because they write their own stories, I don’t have editors. We do correct spelling, because I think that’s important. People write the way they speak. I speak in long runoff sentences and that’s the way I write. And I don’t want some editor making it sound like copy that you can find in any issue of the magazine that’s edited. I want everyone to be totally different. It’s like you’re sitting at the kitchen table learning about somebody new. And if they speak in broken English, they should write in broken English. That way we really know who they are and they really have the opportunity to tell their story.

Samir Husni: Do you feel that you’re publishing inexpensive books, but expensive magazines? Your magazines look and feel like a book, but inexpensive compared to hardbacks, but expensive compared to magazines.

Jo Packham: They are, and it’s because we don’t sell advertising. We’re a newsstand model, so we have to make our money somewhere and printing is more expensive, photographers are more expensive, and shipping them is crazy. When I ship one magazine to Europe it’s $27 and some cents. So, it’s not that we’re making more money on the backend on this end, it’s just that we’re producing a really beautiful, collectible piece. Because when they’re not done in seasons and they don’t do holidays, it’s not that you ever throw them away, unless you’re cleaning out your closet. You can save them as an inspiring piece of literature to go to just like a book.

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?

Jo Packham: You would find me going through magazines. (Laughs) Right now on my dining room table I probably have 50 of the latest magazines from all over the world, trying to see who is doing what and what I love. So, you would definitely find me reading magazines.

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

Jo Packham: That I gave people the opportunity to do something that they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do otherwise.

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

Jo Packham: (Laughs) Being 70. I have all of these thoughts: what if I can’t remember anymore, or what if I can’t go up the stairs anymore. That scares me to death.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Bella Grace New Generation Magazine: Inspiring A “New Generation” Of Print With A Different Kind Of Teen Magazine – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Christen Hammons, Director of Publishing/Editor In Chief, Bella Grace New Generation…

April 5, 2018

“Based off of sales reports and things that we’ve been looking at in general about what teenagers are doing, they’re buying books at the bookstores. The Young Adult section has just exploded in the past few years. So, we think there are a large quantity of teenagers who do like print and do like having a physical copy of something.” Christen Hammons…

“I think there’s room for both. I’m an avid reader and I go back and forth between my Kindle and my paper books constantly. I have a huge paper book collection and love the feel of those. There are people who want to unplug from time to time and I think it’s nice to be able to have the feel of paper. But they can work alongside each other. I do believe some people get tired of technology occasionally and it’s a good break to be able to pick up a paper magazine. There are just certain things you can’t do digitally that you can with paper and that’s what we have really enjoyed. The act of going to the bookstore and picking up your magazine and flipping through it.” Christen Hammons (on print’s role in a digital age)…

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

Stampington & Company have been producing niche, enthusiast magazines for almost a quarter of a century. When it comes to arts and crafts, no one knows the space better than Stampington. But almost four years ago, the company stepped out of its comfort zone and launched a beautiful lifestyle magazine for women called Bella Grace. The first issue was filled with photographs and beautifully-penned stories that touched the heart and soul of the reader.

And now Bella Grace has given birth to a daughter, New Generation, a new teen magazine from Stampington geared toward 12-19 year old girls. Christen Hammons is director of publishing and editor in chief at Stampington & Company and is excited to send out birth announcements for the latest infant of the Bella Grace brand, a teen magazine that is proud to be different and offers girls places within its pages to journal, doodle, or just be themselves. A unique magazine for the individual teen with a need to find and share her voice, something New Generation encourages as over half of the magazine’s content is teen-contributed, with an ultimate goal of much more to come.

I spoke with Christen recently and we talked about the firm print foothold that the company still believes in so strongly, something that is obvious with every new title launched. But she and the company also believe in the digital presence of a brand too and definitely feel there is room for both, as she mentions in our conversation. Print Proud is an obvious fact with Stampington, but Digital Smart is also a part of its DNA, however, never a follower, Stampington & Company does digital its own way.

So, I hope that you enjoy this fascinating conversation with a woman who isn’t afraid to step out of the box and explore new frontiers, just as the company she works for isn’t, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Christen Hammons, director of publishing/editor in chief, Bella Grace New Generation.

But first the sound-bites:

On whether Stampington and Company is out of its mind for starting a print publication for teenagers in this digital age: I really don’t think so. Based off of sales reports and things that we’ve been looking at in general about what teenagers are doing, they’re buying books at the bookstores. The Young Adult section has just exploded in the past few years. So, we think there are a large quantity of teenagers who do like print and do like having a physical copy of something. It sounds a little scary, but we thought it was worth a shot. There’s really nothing out there for that age group, especially the type of magazine that we’ve put out, where it is not focused on beauty or celebrities or anything like that.

On New Generation being a spinoff of Bella Grace, only for the younger Bella’s: Exactly. That’s exactly what the hope was. We call it, not even a sister publication, we’re almost calling it the mother publication because we had quite a bit of teenagers, although they were in the upper age range of what we’re featuring in New Generation, but we were having 18 and 19 year olds writing in to Bella Grace, submitting some really amazing stories. And we realized that we had a market already there, so it just seemed logical to do this.

On the non-political tone of the magazine: We’re trying to keep it a little bit on the lighter side. We are trying to keep it to where it will appeal to a variety of people. For example, I know Teen Vogue has taken a very strong political stance, but we want to make sure that there’s a place where they can take a break from all that’s going on in the world, because every day it’s something new for them to deal with, so it’s nice to have something that is all about them.

On the smaller size of New Generation: We’re trying to keep Bella Grace as the mother publication and the gold standard, where it has the book jacket cover, a very heavy cover and it’s a large magazine. This one is a little fun and whimsical and we made it a little bit smaller so you can throw it into your purse or in your bag or your backpack. We just think it’s fun to do things a little bit different and that not a lot of people do.

On what role she thinks print plays in a digital age: I think there’s room for both. I’m an avid reader and I go back and forth between my Kindle and my paper books constantly. I have a huge paper book collection and love the feel of those. There are people who want to unplug from time to time and I think it’s nice to be able to have the feel of paper. But they can work alongside each other. I do believe some people get tired of technology occasionally and it’s a good break to be able to pick up a paper magazine. There are just certain things you can’t do digitally that you can with paper and that’s what we have really enjoyed. The act of going to the bookstore and picking up your magazine and flipping through it.

On the high cover price: What we’re doing is creating an experience. We’ve always been known for having higher-end magazines. We use the best paper we can find; we use really thick paper. And on all of our magazines, we keep a limit on outside advertising that we include. We’re really committed to making sure our magazines across the board, even some of our art magazines, are more of an experience, not just stories and articles, but we’re trying to make them more interactive and things that you can’t find online or digitally.

On Facebook’s CEO buying ads in print newspapers to make his public apology about the recent data breach: We’ve been seeing an uptick in some of our advertising sales. I mean, we do limit that, we have a set number of pages that we allow, but we’re starting to see a little bit of a revitalization of some print advertising, which is hard to do because so much of advertising has changed now to product placement online or sponsorships and affiliate programs. But it’s been nice seeing a little bit of a revival of print advertising, because making magazines is very expensive, so it does help support the cost of producing them.

On how she plans on ensuring that the Stampington & Company brand grows and becomes even “brandier”: What we’re trying to do with our brand is stay true to just putting out what’s fresh and really trying to make sure that we aren’t holding onto titles that are maybe a little boring or dated, so we’re trying to stay with what we’ve become known for, which is putting out new stuff all of the time. And that’s hard to find at times too, because sometimes you think you can’t come up with a new idea, but we’ve managed to. We have some more titles coming out in the next year that will really show how we’re always trying to push the envelope when it comes to what a magazine can be.

On the lifecycle of a magazine and how nothing is supposed to live forever: That’s been hard for us. We just looked at some of the titles that we’ve had for a long time and realized they’re not selling as well anymore. What could we put out there that people will want to buy? It’s hard, but because we have worked on these magazines for a long time, they can get a little tedious, they’re fun, but over time, anything can get a little boring to work on, so it’s been fun to revitalize the company and everyone is excited about new stuff when we put it out. Then the readers also get excited, and you have to keep your readers interested in what you’re doing. And keep it fresh for the readers, because obviously, that’s who we make these for.

On the Bella Grace brand being such a shift in focus for the company and how that journey has been: It was very nerve-wracking. We’ve been known so long for just primarily being arts and crafts magazines, so to put something out there that’s more of a lifestyle was very scary, but it’s been so well-received. We’ve had so many people to thank us for launching it, because there’s nothing like it out there. So many women’s magazines seem to all focus on the same thing that we thought, we have amazing writers that we work with, we’re all about supporting women, so it’s just been so well-received.

On whether there might be a “son” of Bella Grace in the future instead of just being a women’s magazine: We’ve thought about that. We’re definitely always open to the idea of that. It’s just for now we feel like it’s such a good time to empower and support women. We have had occasional male contributors, but we haven’t really dove in to see if there’s an interest on the male side of things.

On the major stumbling block facing New Generation: I think it’s the matter of getting it into their hands. Whether it be a parent; our hope is that the original Bella Grace reader will see that we have something for the younger crowd and they get excited and pick it up. That’s going to be the biggest challenge, but we have ideas for reaching out to schools and English teachers to see if we can get them copies, maybe even wholesale copies, just to get it into their hands. That’s the first thing.

On the Audrey Hepburn quote in the first issue of New Generation and whether she thinks teens will relate: I think it’s just the message that it conveys and we know how popular beautifully-designed quotes are. If you spend any time on Pinterest, that’s what the majority of people are sharing on there, these types of quotes. And I think the one we used of Audrey Hepburn’s is a timeless quote.

On how she is integrating the print New Generation magazine with a digital presence: Our model has been, for the most part, to wait on producing anything digitally from our titles until the print version has sold out. So, once it has sold out we make it available digitally, so we do not have to do a reprint and a rerun of the magazines. What we’re trying to do is create a nice community online for the readers. With our Bella Grace Instagram, we really try to make an effort. We use Instagram quite a bit, as well as Facebook, of course, but it seems a lot of people are spending large amounts of time on Instagram now, and it’s really great to see the community that’s emerging from our readers. They’ll have conversations back and forth.

On what she would hope to tell someone about the magazine and its journey one year from now: I hope if we talk a year from now to tell you that the demand has been so great that we were able to increase the magazine’s frequency to as frequent as Bella Grace’s, which is quarterly. And we’re hoping by that time, I would love to have 90 percent of the contributors be within the age range that we’re reaching out to for New Generation. Right now, we have a little over half of the girls are within that age range. I would love to have almost the entire magazine made up of that, because we say on the back of the magazine that we believe everyone has a voice and a story to tell, and we really want to help them tell their stories.

On whether she feels they are more experience makers or journalists at Stampington & Company: I would say that we’re more makers than anything. We don’t report on news; I feel like we’re makers in this company and we’re trying to showcase the work of our peers at the end of the day, whether they’re writers, photographers. I think we’re makers because we’re putting out a product that we’re truly proud of, with a lot of content and a lot of just emotion.

On whether the last issue produced is always her favorite magazine: I’d like to think that each one is better and it’s my favorite, but it’s hard because I’m already looking at the next one. I finish one and my mind is already on the next one. It’s a good reminder to step back and look at what you’ve accomplished, because by the time we get our print copies back, I’m already knee-deep in the next issue and I have maybe a few minutes to flip through it and appreciate what we’ve done.

On anything she’d like to add: This is one of those magazines that we’re so passionate about and that’s not to say that we don’t connect with the artwork that we publish in our other magazines, but there’s really an emotional tie from myself, from our publisher, from our designers, when we work on Bella Grace, that it’s just something we’re so passionate about doing and we’re so proud of it. It’s a different kind of fulfillment that we get from working on these titles over our art magazines.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: I would hope that they would think of authenticity and honesty.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: At the end of the day you’ll likely find me watching hockey; I’m a huge hockey fan; I have season tickets, so my husband and I are huge hockey fans. We’re a little obsessive and it’s just a great way to unwind. If you’re watching a game, you have no choice but to focus on the game, your mind doesn’t wander whatsoever. But I am also a veracious reader, I think last year I read 55 books. I’m a little more than a book a week, so those are my two passions. Watching hockey, but also reading. I love reading and I like stepping away from the computer at the end of the day.

On what keeps her up at night: (Laughs) Just having so many ideas and not having the time to execute things. Sometimes I have these ideas that I’d love to do and I just look at my daily schedule and it’s sometimes not feasible.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Christen Hammons, director of publishing & editor in chief, Bella Grace’s New Generation magazine.

Samir Husni: Are you out of your mind starting a print publication for ages 12-19 in this digital age?

Christen Hammons: I really don’t think so. Based off of sales reports and things that we’ve been looking at in general about what teenagers are doing, they’re buying books at the bookstores. The Young Adult section has just exploded in the past few years. So, we think there are a large quantity of teenagers who do like print and do like having a physical copy of something. It sounds a little scary, but we thought it was worth a shot. There’s really nothing out there for that age group, especially the type of magazine that we’ve put out, where it is not focused on beauty or celebrities or anything like that.

It’s hard for teenagers sometimes, going through life, and we wanted to put something out there that really helped reaffirm who they are. And we think by combining it with the worksheet style, it provides something that was definitely worth picking up in print, because no other magazine has the worksheets and prompts for the kids to write in their book. So, we thought that was a key component for making sure that the print edition was worthwhile.

Samir Husni: Stampington, as a company, has been grounded in publishing all kinds of journals, from crafts to your latest, Bella Grace. And New Generation is a spinoff of Bella Grace, for the younger Bella’s.

Christen Hammons: Exactly. That’s exactly what the hope was. We call it, not even a sister publication, we’re almost calling it the mother publication because we had quite a bit of teenagers, although they were in the upper age range of what we’re featuring in New Generation, but we were having 18 and 19 year olds writing in to Bella Grace, submitting some really amazing stories. And we realized that we had a market already there, so it just seemed logical to do this.

Our hope is that the mothers will pick up this book for their daughters. Or grandmothers or aunts will pick this up for the younger girls in their lives and show them that there is something completely different out there for them. And hopefully it will reaffirm who they are during this really tough transition in their lives.

Growing up is not the same as it used to be. (Laughs) At least, when I did it. I just can’t imagine being a teenager these days. I think back to when I was a teenager and at the core, I think everyone struggles with the same issues and is looking for the same sort of validation in their lives. I would have loved something like this when I was growing up.

I was the girl who stayed home and wanted to read Jane Austen, instead of going out with friends. I was a homebody; I was a reader. I was a little bookish, so we’ve tried to open this up to all types of teenagers who have a wide variety of interests. I think sometimes that generation is underestimated, they get a lot of unfair criticism at times. They are a generation of substance and they’re smart. And we’re just hoping that by having their moms pick it up and putting it in their hands, that they’ll fall in love with it the way we have as we worked on it.

What’s really interesting too is that we’ve seen a couple of teen magazines launch recently, but this is one where at least half of the content is written by girls that are ages 12-19, which is really unique. There are some really incredible, talented children out there, teenagers out there, and I think that really sets it apart. They’re writing these stories for their classmates and their friends, and their own generation, so that’s what’s been fun, getting these incredible stories from these girls. I think our youngest contributor is 12 in this issue and it just gives them a voice. I think all anyone really wants is to be heard. So, we’ve been really proud to be able to provide them with their own voice.

Samir Husni: I’ve noticed that you have avoided any political aspects in the magazine?

Christen Hammons: We’re trying to keep it a little bit on the lighter side. We are trying to keep it to where it will appeal to a variety of people. For example, I know Teen Vogue has taken a very strong political stance, but we want to make sure that there’s a place where they can take a break from all that’s going on in the world, because every day it’s something new for them to deal with, so it’s nice to have something that is all about them. And something that just supports who they are and hopefully helps to give them a little more confidence, or lets them know that there’s other girls out there just like them that are committed to the same things in life.

Samir Husni: You’ve also managed to create a new size for the magazine, different than the rest of your titles. Tell me more about the idea of having a compact size print magazine.

Christen Hammons: In August 2017, we actually launched the first spinoff of Bella Grace, and that was our Field Guide, which is a whole workbook, full of prompts to write in and all of that. And we thought it would be fun to set it apart by making it a smaller size. So, it’s even smaller than New Generation, but we just thought it was a good size to tuck into your bag. It’s a nice distinction from Bella Grace.

We’re trying to keep Bella Grace as the mother publication and the gold standard, where it has the book jacket cover, a very heavy cover and it’s a large magazine. This one is a little fun and whimsical and we made it a little bit smaller so you can throw it into your purse or in your bag or your backpack. We just think it’s fun to do things a little bit different and that not a lot of people do.

Samir Husni: In your opinion, what role does print play in a digital age?

Christen Hammons: I think there’s room for both. I’m an avid reader and I go back and forth between my Kindle and my paper books constantly. I have a huge paper book collection and love the feel of those. There are people who want to unplug from time to time and I think it’s nice to be able to have the feel of paper. But they can work alongside each other. I do believe some people get tired of technology occasionally and it’s a good break to be able to pick up a paper magazine. There are just certain things you can’t do digitally that you can with paper and that’s what we have really enjoyed. The act of going to the bookstore and picking up your magazine and flipping through it.

We have a couple of coloring pages in New Generation. We’ve got over 16 worksheets that give girls a little fun prompt to write, and it encourages them to either write or doodle, things like that. And you can’t do that with digital. And we think that’s what’s really fun about it. But I do think there’s a place for both.

Samir Husni: For the price of one issue of New Generation, you can subscribe to an entire year of some other magazines.

Christen Hammons: What we’re doing is creating an experience. We’ve always been known for having higher-end magazines. We use the best paper we can find; we use really thick paper. And on all of our magazines, we keep a limit on outside advertising that we include. We’re really committed to making sure our magazines across the board, even some of our art magazines, are more of an experience, not just stories and articles, but we’re trying to make them more interactive and things that you can’t find online or digitally.

Samir Husni: Recently, a friend of mine reminded me that when Facebook’s CEO apologized for the data breach, he didn’t use Facebook or any digital device, he actually bought ads in print newspapers.

Christen Hammons: We’ve been seeing an uptick in some of our advertising sales. I mean, we do limit that, we have a set number of pages that we allow, but we’re starting to see a little bit of a revitalization of some print advertising, which is hard to do because so much of advertising has changed now to product placement online or sponsorships and affiliate programs. But it’s been nice seeing a little bit of a revival of print advertising, because making magazines is very expensive, so it does help support the cost of producing them.

Samir Husni: You’ve been making magazines for some time now and you’ve created your own niche in the marketplace, where even if your name is not on the magazine as Stampington & Company, people directly know that it’s a Stampington & Company magazine. How are you ensuring that your brand will continue to grow and that it becomes actually “brandier” as print has become “printier?”

Christen Hammons: What we’re trying to do with our brand is stay true to just putting out what’s fresh and really trying to make sure that we aren’t holding onto titles that are maybe a little boring or dated, so we’re trying to stay with what we’ve become known for, which is putting out new stuff all of the time. And that’s hard to find at times too, because sometimes you think you can’t come up with a new idea, but we’ve managed to. We have some more titles coming out in the next year that will really show how we’re always trying to push the envelope when it comes to what a magazine can be.

And what’s been fun with Bella Grace is that we’ve really embraced that as a brand. We’ve embraced it as a lifestyle, by having Bella Grace and then having the sister publications coming off of that and the daughter publications, it’s really strengthening our brand and becoming really well known. We’re hoping to maybe look into maybe product lines that support it, that really fit within the Bella Grace feel.

We’ve really just become committed to keeping our brand fresh and exciting and launching things off of that to really enforce what our brand is, because we have a couple of other special publications that will be coming from the Bella Grace name. So, we’ll keep playing with ways to keep that brand exciting, but at the same time we still have our Stampington brand as well, which we have another handful of stuff coming out in the next year in place of titles that aren’t working so well anymore. Sometimes people have seen enough copies of something and it’s time to maybe either reduce the frequency or just to shift focus onto something else that maybe people haven’t seen so much of.

Samir Husni: You’re actually living the lifecycle of magazines. This is one of the things that I tell people; when a magazine dies or a magazine is born, that’s the natural lifecycle. Nobody is supposed to live forever.

Christen Hammons: Right, and that’s been hard for us. We just looked at some of the titles that we’ve had for a long time and realized they’re not selling as well anymore. What could we put out there that people will want to buy? It’s hard, but because we have worked on these magazines for a long time, they can get a little tedious, they’re fun, but over time, anything can get a little boring to work on, so it’s been fun to revitalize the company and everyone is excited about new stuff when we put it out. Then the readers also get excited, and you have to keep your readers interested in what you’re doing. And keep it fresh for the readers, because obviously, that’s who we make these for. But it has been hard to say goodbye to a few titles though.

Samir Husni: The last time we spoke, it was when you launched Bella Grace and it was a major shift from the titles that you had. When we spoke then, you were testing the waters with something very different. How has that journey been for the company?

Christen Hammons: It was very nerve-wracking. We’ve been known so long for just primarily being arts and crafts magazines, so to put something out there that’s more of a lifestyle was very scary, but it’s been so well-received. We’ve had so many people to thank us for launching it, because there’s nothing like it out there. So many women’s magazines seem to all focus on the same thing that we thought, we have amazing writers that we work with, we’re all about supporting women, so it’s just been so well-received. I’m glad we were nervous, because it made it exciting. Being that excited should make you nervous, but it really has been well-received.

Samir Husni: Any thoughts about having any “sons” of Bella Grace instead of daughters, or you’re going to just be a women’s lifestyle magazine?

Christen Hammons: We’ve thought about that. We’re definitely always open to the idea of that. It’s just for now we feel like it’s such a good time to empower and support women. We have had occasional male contributors, but we haven’t really dove in to see if there’s an interest on the male side of things.

Samir Husni: What do you think will be the major stumbling block facing New Generation?

Christen Hammons: I think it’s the matter of getting it into their hands. Whether it be a parent; our hope is that the original Bella Grace reader will see that we have something for the younger crowd and they get excited and pick it up. That’s going to be the biggest challenge, but we have ideas for reaching out to schools and English teachers to see if we can get them copies, maybe even wholesale copies, just to get it into their hands. That’s the first thing.

Samir Husni: On the last page of the magazine, there’s a quote from Audrey Hepburn. One of my students, who is a senior and graduating this May, her magazine idea is a magazine called Hepburn, after Audrey Hepburn. And she is a reader of Bella Grace. And she knew that New Generation was coming out before I did, I guess. Do you think this generation will relate or why Audrey Hepburn for these 12-19 year olds?

Christen Hammons: I think it’s just the message that it conveys and we know how popular beautifully-designed quotes are. If you spend any time on Pinterest, that’s what the majority of people are sharing on there, these types of quotes. And I think the one we used of Audrey Hepburn’s is a timeless quote. I thought it would be a challenge coming up with quotes.

A large part of Bella Grace and New Generation are these quotes that are laid out on photography. And I thought it would be challenging to find quotes that would relate to the age group for New Generation. But it was actually really easy, because the themes are universal, I think, for the most part. And so we really tried to keep in mind that having these quotes in there; maybe the girls would rip them out of the magazine and put them on their walls.

We were just looking for something that would appeal to the wide range of girls that are in this. And that’s a very well-known quote from Audrey Hepburn. And at the end of the day, these girls may not know who Audrey Hepburn is, but they’ll like the message she’s sharing.

Samir Husni: As we look at this “New Generation” of print, and recently my new book came out, Print Proud Digital Smart, you said earlier that we have to have both today, print and digital. How are you integrating this proud print product with the digital presence?

Christen Hammons: Our model has been, for the most part, to wait on producing anything digitally from our titles until the print version has sold out. So, once it has sold out we make it available digitally, so we do not have to do a reprint and a rerun of the magazines. What we’re trying to do is create a nice community online for the readers. With our Bella Grace Instagram, we really try to make an effort. We use Instagram quite a bit, as well as Facebook, of course, but it seems a lot of people are spending large amounts of time on Instagram now, and it’s really great to see the community that’s emerging from our readers. They’ll have conversations back and forth.

And we’ve heard from people that they’ve made friends with the people that they have interacted with on Instagram, just through our account. So, we’re just trying to build an online community that’s apart from the magazine, but is still a digital presence online.

Samir Husni: As you look toward the future, if you and I are chatting a year from now, what would you hope to tell me about New Generation?

Christen Hammons: I hope if we talk a year from now to tell you that the demand has been so great that we were able to increase the magazine’s frequency to as frequent as Bella Grace’s, which is quarterly. And we’re hoping by that time, I would love to have 90 percent of the contributors be within the age range that we’re reaching out to for New Generation. Right now, we have a little over half of the girls are within that age range. I would love to have almost the entire magazine made up of that, because we say on the back of the magazine that we believe everyone has a voice and a story to tell, and we really want to help them tell their stories.

Samir Husni: Do you consider yourself more of an experience maker or a journalist?

Christen Hammons: I would say that we’re more makers than anything. We don’t report on news; I feel like we’re makers in this company and we’re trying to showcase the work of our peers at the end of the day, whether they’re writers, photographers. I think we’re makers because we’re putting out a product that we’re truly proud of, with a lot of content and a lot of just emotion.

Samir Husni: And is the last issue always your favorite magazine you produce from any magazine?

Christen Hammons: I have favorites. That’s funny because when you work on a magazine, each one has its backstory, and maybe this one was more difficult for whatever reason. We’ve had some things just happen within the company that has almost been laughable, where we’re right on track and then something happens and we’re totally thrown off and then we’re behind. So, sometimes you have those personal ties to the magazines that you’ll associate with that particular magazine.

I’d like to think that each one is better and it’s my favorite, but it’s hard because I’m already looking at the next one. I finish one and my mind is already on the next one. It’s a good reminder to step back and look at what you’ve accomplished, because by the time we get our print copies back, I’m already knee-deep in the next issue and I have maybe a few minutes to flip through it and appreciate what we’ve done.

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

Christen Hammons: This is one of those magazines that we’re so passionate about and that’s not to say that we don’t connect with the artwork that we publish in our other magazines, but there’s really an emotional tie from myself, from our publisher, from our designers, when we work on Bella Grace, that it’s just something we’re so passionate about doing and we’re so proud of it. It’s a different kind of fulfillment that we get from working on these titles over our art magazines.

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

Christen Hammons: I would hope that they would think of authenticity and honesty.

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?

Christen Hammons: At the end of the day you’ll likely find me watching hockey; I’m a huge hockey fan; I have season tickets, so my husband and I are huge hockey fans. We’re a little obsessive and it’s just a great way to unwind. If you’re watching a game, you have no choice but to focus on the game, your mind doesn’t wander whatsoever. But I am also a veracious reader, I think last year I read 55 books. I’m a little more than a book a week, so those are my two passions. Watching hockey, but also reading. I love reading and I like stepping away from the computer at the end of the day.

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

Christen Hammons: (Laughs) Just having so many ideas and not having the time to execute things. Sometimes I have these ideas that I’d love to do and I just look at my daily schedule and it’s sometimes not feasible.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Your Brain On Print/Your Brain On Digital – Day Two Of The Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT 8 Experience Promises To Be Extraordinary!

March 21, 2018

ACT 8 Experience Day Two
Wednesday, April 18, 2018 beginning at 8:15 a.m.

The Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT 8 Experience’s theme this year is Print Proud Digital Smart, and we invite you to register today and discover how appropriate that theme is to both our ACT 8 Experience and in our media world today. Contemporary success in magazines and magazine media and in communications in general is dependent upon both the printed word and the online pixel. In the 21st century, there is no excuse for any member of any audience having to choose. And our guests on Day Two will exemplify that fact.

Daniel Dejan

Liz Vaccariello


From Liz Vaccariello, Editorial Director, Parents Network, Meredith, to Daniel Dejan, ETC Print Creative Manager, Sappi, North America, you will hear how the two technologies go together like simpatico in motion.

Joe Hyrkin

Joe Hyrkin, CEO of the digital publishing platform, issuu, a medium that enables anyone — from independent creators to global brands — to distribute, measure and monetize their digital content, will also share his expertise.

Mona Hidayet, Executive Director, Clients & Products, Advantage CS, invites you to “Be Scholarly, Think Like a Shoemaker” with her presentation; Deborah Corn, Principal, Chief Blogger, and Intergalactic Ambassador to The PrinterverseTM – Print Media Centr, will give a lively discussion; and Erik van Erp, Founder and Editor, Print Media News, The Netherlands, follows with an internaitonal perspective on media.

On a Print Proud Digital Smart discussion panel happening right before lunch, Joseph Ballarini, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Tail Fly Fishing magazine; Tony Frost, Senior Vice President, TVGM LLC, TV Guide; Mark Potts, Managing Editor, Alta The Journal of Alta California; Jen Ripple, Founder and Editor in Chief, DUN magazine; and John Thames, Founder & Publisher, Covey Rise Magazine, will come together to showcase how each brand’s print component is enriched and enhanced by its digital counterpart. The panel will be moderated by Joe Berger, Publishers Marketing & Sales Consultant, Joseph Berger Associates. You don’t want to miss this dynamic discussion.

And later that day Tony Silber, magazine-media expert, founder of M10 Magazine and president of Long Hill Media, will lead a panel discussion on Magazines at Retail with industry leaders: Jerry Lynch, President, Magazine And Books, Retail Association; William Michalopoulos, Vice President, Retail, Sales & Marketing, PubWorX; Sebastian Raatz, Publisher/Co-founder, Centennial Media: Ray Shaw, Executive Vice President/Managing Director, MagNet; Dave Forsman, EVP of Sales, TNG. The discussion should be provocative and informative, so Day Two will certainly be memorable.

Then we’ll have a “View from Abroad” with panelists: Zenebe Likyeleh Beyene, Instructional Assistant Professor of Journalism Instruction and Director of International Programs, Meek School of Journalism & New Media; Natashia Gregoire, Reputation Manager, Editor, Access magazine, Fed Ex; Abdulsalam Haykal, Founder and Publisher, Harvard Business Review Arabic, United Arab Emirates; Monique de Ruiter, Former Editor Diversity magazine and VTWonen, The Netherlands; and Franska Stuy, Founder & Editor, Franska.NL, The Netherlands. This internationally flavored conversation will be followed by an informative presentation entitled “Millennials and Media Today: Research Findings” by Marisa Davis, Associate Director, Product Marketing – MNI Targeted Media.

Newell Turner

Then the University of Mississippi will present its Silver Em Award to the very deserving Newell Turner, Editorial Director, Hearst Design Group. So, it’s a day and an evening that you do not want to miss!

See you at the ACT 8 Experience! Space is very limited, so click here to register and ensure your place at those two and half days of magazine and magazine media bliss and click here to view the agenda.

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Mr. Magazine™ Launch Monitor: February Arrived And So Did 20 New Titles To The Marketplace…

March 3, 2018

The month of love brought us 20 new titles to keep close to our heart. From the French fashion magazine, L’Officiel, which delivered two magazines (albeit, with the same content) to American shores, to the once online-only Scandinavian fashion, art, and design title, Nordic Style, that now, according to the magazine’s editor in chief who writes in the premier issue’s editor’s letter, exists in the real world, the month of February was a chocolate heart wrapped in shiny red foil for magazine lovers. Seeing another example of Print Proud Digital Smart brought to life does a heart good, namely Mr. Magazine’s™. What a Valentine’s gift!

And Mr. Magazine™ would be remiss if he didn’t call to attention Food Network’s own, Valerie Bertinelli, who joins the ranks of other celebrities to bring her culinary talents to the pages of a new magazine. Valerie’s Home Cooking takes the wonderfully successful television show by the same name to ink on paper and allows fans to have Valerie with them 24/7. Print has that amazing quality of permanence that just doesn’t happen with any other medium. While the magazine is labeled a “Special Edition,” Mr. Magazine™ has little doubt that we will see more of these popular verticals in the marketplace. Could Mr. Magazine™ have coined a new phrase – a “special frequency” title? Hmm, we shall see.

Then there’s the new title, Jez, by photographer and entrepreneur, Ezequiel De La Rosa, proving yet again, that dreams do come true in the world of magazines. And these are just a few of the very special treats the month of February has for us.

Now, we look forward to a magnificent March! But first enjoy our beautiful February covers. See you next month…or 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 or arriving to the national newsstands for the first time.

For previous months’ launches click here.

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