Archive for the ‘News and Views’ Category

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Topix Media Lab’s CEO & Co-Founder, Tony Romando, On Reimagining The Bookazine: Innovation Is Key As Targeted Cover Mounts Present Positive Potential & New Hope For The Single Topic Magazine – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview

December 14, 2017

“While we’re gearing up for 2018, the truth is the glory days of just putting out a bookazine with the same old topic that everyone else has done, those days are over. There was a time when people would put out any bookazine and it did well, because it was a bookazine, and it was single-topic, and it was a novelty. But these days the market is so flooded and the consumer has gotten so used to the bookazine that if you’re not changing the face of what the bookazine is; if you’re not recreating the entire bookazine itself and the bookazine category, it’s just going to start to drop and plummet and it’s going to be catastrophic for anyone in the bookazine business.” Tony Romndo…

“I can’t stress enough that if cover mounts work for kids, then it should work for adults. Whatever your single topic is, you have to find the cover mount that seems to be the right thing that appeals to the person who likes that topic.” Tony Romando…

Bookazines have been a very successful part of print publishing over the last few years, but as with anything media-related in this digital age, innovation and creative targeting are things that have to always be a part of the equation. No longer is there time to rest on the heels of success, not as rapidly as things change today.

No one knows bookazines as well as Tony Romando. No one. Single copy, no subscriptions, no ads and no digital, has been the story of his life for five years, since he began Topix Media Lab and started on this bookazine journey. And as well as he knows the bookazine business, he also knows when it’s time for change. In his words: “The truth is the glory days of just putting out a bookazine with the same old topic that everyone else has done, those days are over.” In other words, repetition is good in some instances, but not necessarily in the single topic magazine instance.

Enter cover mounts. Something that Tony has gotten heavily involved in (right down to manufacturing his own toys) to prove that sometimes you have to let that entrepreneur spirit rear its head and go a little out on that limb to find the next level of success.

I spoke with Tony recently and we talked about the “new concept” of cover mounts, something that publishing in Europe has been doing for years, and some here in the States have dabbled in. But as Tony put it, Topix is in it full-scale and nationally; a no holds-barred attempt at trying something different and making it work. And as Mr. Magazine™ believes that magazines and magazine makers provide experiences, the infinite possibilities of what lies ahead for bookazines is exciting.

So, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with the man who is infinitely capable of providing those experiences and creating those possibilities, Tony Romando, CEO & co-founder, Topix Media Lab.

But first the sound-bites:

On the status of bookazines today: After five years of being a bookazine-only company, we also do books and other projects, but the epic rise of bookazines sales and high prices and bigger retail dollars has flattened, and there’s no way around that. The rise is not what it once was and we all know that, so between having conversations with Ingrid Jakabcsin at The News Group and Christy Jenkins at Wal-Mart, and as I talk to all of these people, we all realize that the real need here now is really innovation. What is the bookazine 2.0 or 3.0? More importantly, where are we going to be in 2019 or 2020 and beyond? And while we’re gearing up for 2018, the truth is the glory days of just putting out a bookazine with the same old topic that everyone else has done, those days are over.

On the solution to the bookazine challenge in today’s market: I think the bigger companies and the other bookazine companies are going to try and figure out how to reduce all of their costs, and that’s going to try and keep them up and running. But for us the only way you can really move the needle going forward, and I do see a long-term, substantial future in bookazines, is to change what a bookazine is. For us, we’re looking at hardcover bookazines; we’re looking at cover mounts on bookazines, things that might have been appealing decades ago that would have been put inside a magazine, such as a DVD or a CD, mounting those to the cover.

On why he thinks it took the U.S. so long to climb onboard with innovations such as cover mounts when Europe has been doing for years: There’s two parts to that. One is their sell-through’s are averaging 30 to 50 percent, there’s no way around it; they’re double what it is here. As to what took us so long to get onboard with this, after a year of putting this together; our first two cover-mount kid’s magazines come out around the last week of November. It took me a year to get there.

On whether he thinks he’s going down in history as the man who reinvented the American newsstands: I am going to go down in history as the guy who bankrupted a company on toys from China. (Laughs) I am never going down in any sort of publishing history, I hope. I’d like to continue to be a behind-the-scenes guy and sneak under the radar when at all possible. But the thing I do know is this, it’s been tried and tinkered with a little bit, people have thrown stickers and magnets and even little ski hats and stuff in their magazines, but when you’re going to do it and do it nationally at a 150 to a 180,000 print run; when you go full-scale and you’re manufacturing your own toys, there’s really no turning back for us.

On how he is going to market this “new concept” for bookazines: We are not going to market it, Samir. That goes against everything that a bookazine is, because 99 percent of the bookazines, whether they’re Hearst, Time Inc., Condé Nast, or Topix; nobody markets their bookazines. Nobody takes the mothership magazine for that. Time magazine is not marketing Time Inc. bookazines. They don’t do that; it’s a separation of church and state. No one markets them.

On anything else he’d like to add: I can’t stress enough that if cover mounts work for kids, then it should work for adults. Whatever your single topic is, you have to find the cover mount that seems to be the right thing that appeals to the person who likes that topic.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: My goal is to be wise, not right. That’s the philosophy that I live by.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: This is going to sound very cliché, but I live an hour and a half away from New York City. I leave my house at 4:12 in the morning and I get back at 8:40 at night. And at 8:40 p.m., I have one hour before I go to bed and it’s spent reading Wild Kratts animal stories to my kids. And that’s what I do when I get home.

On what keeps him up at night: Honestly, what keeps me up at night is, and this is going to sound morbid, but it’s figuring out what day of the week it is and if anyone famous has died, because tribute bookazines, specifically tombstones or death issues, can change a bookazine company’s entire year with one or even two deaths. And I know that sounds really morbid and creepy and horrible, but what keeps me up at night is what day of the week is it right now, and if someone were to die today, would we beat Time Inc. to market.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Tony Romando, CEO, Co-Founder, Topix Media Lab.

Samir Husni: Topix Media Lab has been in business now for a little over five years; as we move forward into 2018, what do you think the status of bookazines is today?

Tony Romando: After five years of being a bookazine-only company, we also do books and other projects, but the epic rise of bookazines sales and high prices and bigger retail dollars has flattened, and there’s no way around that. The rise is not what it once was and we all know that, so between having conversations with Ingrid Jakabcsin at The News Group and Christy Jenkins at Wal-Mart, and as I talk to all of these people, we all realize that the real need here now is really innovation. What is the bookazine 2.0 or 3.0? More importantly, where are we going to be in 2019 or 2020 and beyond?

And while we’re gearing up for 2018, the truth is the glory days of just putting out a bookazine with the same old topic that everyone else has done, those days are over. There was a time when people would put out any bookazine and it did well, because it was a bookazine, and it was single-topic, and it was a novelty. But these days the market is so flooded and the consumer has gotten so used to the bookazine that if you’re not changing the face of what the bookazine is; if you’re not recreating the entire bookazine itself and the bookazine category, it’s just going to start to drop and plummet and it’s going to be catastrophic for anyone in the bookazine business.

Samir Husni: What do you think the solution to this challenge is? What are you planning to counteract this situation and stay on top of things?

Tony Romando: I don’t know what the solution is for other publishers, but I think the immediate solution for a lot of them is how they can reduce their cost and make it more efficient; the whole process, and figure out how to create the product in a cheaper way. And at Topix, we have been very good at starting that way, and doing it the cheapest way possible, so there’s no more blood for us to squeeze out of that rock because we started off being very efficient.

I think the bigger companies and the other bookazine companies are going to try and figure out how to reduce all of their costs, and that’s going to try and keep them up and running. But for us the only way you can really move the needle going forward, and I do see a long-term, substantial future in bookazines, is to change what a bookazine is. For us, we’re looking at hardcover bookazines; we’re looking at cover mounts on bookazines, things that might have been appealing decades ago that would have been put inside a magazine, such as a DVD or a CD, mounting those to the cover.

Though we’re not trying to get out of the bookazine business; we want to sell bookazines, but what we’re really trying to do as well is hide the peas and carrots underneath the ice cream, under the dessert. If for kids you have a toy cover-mounted, the child is going to typically look at the toy as the big prize and the magazine as a ride along. Whereas the parents are going to look at the magazine as the good part, it’s not an iPad or an iPhone; it’s not a TV; I’m getting my kid to read. Yes, he or she gets a toy along with it; he or she gets a toy with the process, but at least they get a magazine with activities and content to read.

So, for the kids’ magazine group, it makes a lot of sense. Big backlash on digital; big backlash on iPads, but this is the time to strike in that department. So, that’s the big focus, cover mounts with kid’s toys. And in the U.K. it’s been happening for decades.

Samir Husni: Yes, in fact, all over Europe. Why do you think it took us so long to get onboard with this?

Tony Romando: There’s two parts to that. One is their sell-through’s are averaging 30 to 50 percent, there’s no way around it; they’re double what it is here. As to what took us so long to get onboard with this, after a year of putting this together; our first two cover-mount kid’s magazines come out around the last week of November. It took me a year to get there.

And now I understand why no one has ever done it, because it’s hard enough to figure out how to create, produce, distribute and sell a normal magazine or a bookazine, if you add a toy to it, it becomes this impenetrable web of learning an entirely new business. So, for 22 years I was working on magazines. For the last year I’ve been working on becoming a toy manufacturer.

And that means getting up at four in the morning and talking to China and talking to someone else in Germany, then getting to work at 7:00 a.m. Talking to someone at DreamWorks in the licensing department about Troll toy packaging, and then going back to the printing plant in Wisconsin to find out if they have a special kind of glue that can pass a safety test. And as we learn the manufacturing and the legal sides, and the logistical side, whether it be customs or passing tests, because we just distribute magazines in America and Canada, if it goes to certain parts of Canada you have to put a French warning label on it. There’s real minutiae like that.

But on the backend, you’re putting toys on magazine covers that typically have a 25 percent sell-through rate. That means 75 percent or 100,000 copies are going to get pulped, wasted, thrown away, which we’re all very used to when it comes to magazines. We know that they leave Wal-Mart, they go into a tote; they go to some far off shredding facility and we never see or care about them again; that’s publishing.

But now we have 100,000 toys; can I shred them? Is it going to be a problem for the shredder? Could it cause a spark in the shredder surrounded by paper? Is the metal made of iron or is it an aluminum alloy which might not spark as much? Will the plastic stuff gum up the works? Is there a way to take those toys and pull them out of the shred line so that we can resell them at a discount?

So, I honestly think the reason why no one has ever gotten this far in the process is that there are so many steps along the way that are utterly discouraging and can bring a grown man or woman to tears at four in the morning, that you realize it’s almost not worth the hassle. There were moments in the last year where I just said it’s not worth the hassle; I can’t do this, it’s impossible. You feel like everyone is working against you; the U.S. government; the manufacturing facilities; just everybody.

We have two coming out at the end of November for the holidays and then we have five more on the runway for January, February and March, and those months are typically one of the best kid’s selling seasons; well, February, March and April. So, we have a bunch lined up.

What was really amazing about this process, while some other people may have not been able to do it, but we were able to do it now, is between the biggest retailers; between The News Group; between Jimmy Cohen at Hudson, having conversations with them, everybody; we all realized there has to be a change and innovation in bookazines if we want this to succeed.

So, maybe where someone would have said in the past, no, we’re not taking it, the price is too high, or it’s too hard to deal with, or the packing and the bundling of the issues is too hard for my people to do, or even the printers saying, we’re not going to hand-glue these; we’re not going to take them out of boxes from China; there was a time where people had the cushion where they could say no, it’s not worth the investment.

But I think it’s very important that now everyone is willing to test the market, go out of their way; all of the wholesalers and retailers, everyone has gone out of their way to really try and make this work. It’s been this group initiative. Ingrid Jakabcsin, Jimmy Cohen; all of these people have stepped up and are really trying to make this work for the first time in American history. So, we’re pretty excited about it.

Samir Husni: Are you going into the history books as the guy who reinvented the American newsstands?

Tony Romando: I am going to go down in history as the guy who bankrupted a company on toys from China. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too)

Tony Romando: I am never going down in any sort of publishing history, I hope. I’d like to continue to be a behind-the-scenes guy and sneak under the radar when at all possible.

But the thing I do know is this, it’s been tried and tinkered with a little bit, people have thrown stickers and magnets and even little ski hats and stuff in their magazines, but when you’re going to do it and do it nationally at a 150 to a 180,000 print run; when you go full-scale and you’re manufacturing your own toys, there’s really no turning back for us.

So, when I think about this whole process, much like any bookazine, it’s a true gamble, because let’s just say the average sell-through of a kid’s bookazine is 22 percent. If you double your costs and hemorrhage money, and the sell-through comes back after the first two tests and it didn’t move the needle at all, then we have problems.

We’ve increased the value of the toy, the cost of the toy; we’ve given the consumer something that we know works in other parts of the world. If it doesn’t move the needle, we’ve got problems. If it moves it two or three points; you kind of have a head-scratcher, what we do next? If it moves it 10 points, then you know you’ve got something, how fast can you do it; how many can you do and how soon can you do them?

And just so we’re crystal-clear, there’s absolutely zero percent chance of making a single dollar on our end. Everyone; there’s nobody who’s touching this, from The News Group on down; I don’t think there’s anyone who isn’t going to lose money on these first two tests. And the truth is, everyone gets it, because everyone wants to try it. We all want to see if it works. I’m fully prepared, and I can’t speak for anyone else, to take it on the chin for the first two test issues to see the data and see how we can then back up, re-approach this in February, March and April, and really dial it in. I think there’s a misconception that with bookazines you just throw them out there, scattershot, cross your fingers and hope it works for the best. And I think people have been doing it that way for decades.

Samir Husni: How are you going to bring this “new concept” to the marketplace?

Tony Romando: We are not going to market it, Samir. That goes against everything that a bookazine is, because 99 percent of the bookazines, whether they’re Hearst, Time Inc., Condé Nast, or Topix; nobody markets their bookazines. Nobody takes the mothership magazine for that. Time magazine is not marketing Time Inc. bookazines. They don’t do that; it’s a separation of church and state. No one markets them.

My point is, we’re not going to market it because we don’t market our kid’s bookazines now. And we don’t want to skew the data with any kind of marketing that would maybe give these magazines with the cover mounts a bump. We don’t want that. We want our control group to stay exactly the way it is now, which is, we don’t get any marketing now, so we don’t want any marketing for the toy, because bookazines are rare things. No ads; no subscriptions.

You have the truest form of success or failure with a bookazine, because if it dies on the newsstand, you lose a lot of money. If it succeeds, people wanted your product. And you can’t prop up a bad issue with ad sales or subscriptions; it is what it is. And that’s the only way. The retailers don’t care about subscriptions or advertisers; I am fully aligned with every retailer. They make money on a sale; we make money on a sale. We don’t care about subs and neither do they.

Topix is the only true publisher that is fully aligned with every wholesaler and every retailer, and what we want to do is put it out; put it in our checkup pockets; see where it works, and we want the retailers to understand when the needle gets moved, and it moves up a lot of points because of the cover mount, that this is the new premium product. And this product deserves the best placement and the most love. And the only way that we can do that is if we put it out organically and people buy it. If they don’t buy it, we’ll rethink it. And if they do buy it, line the runway up with as many as you can.

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

Tony Romando: I can’t stress enough that if cover mounts work for kids, then it should work for adults. Whatever your single topic is, you have to find the cover mount that seems to be the right thing that appeals to the person who likes that topic.

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

Tony Romando: My goal is to be wise, not right. That’s the philosophy that I live by.

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?

Tony Romando: This is going to sound very cliché, but I live an hour and a half away from New York City. I leave my house at 4:12 in the morning and I get back at 8:40 at night. And at 8:40 p.m., I have one hour before I go to bed and it’s spent reading Wild Kratts animal stories to my kids. And that’s what I do when I get home.

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

Tony Romando: Honestly, what keeps me up at night is, and this is going to sound morbid, but it’s figuring out what day of the week it is and if anyone famous has died, because tribute bookazines, specifically tombstones or death issues, can change a bookazine company’s entire year with one or even two deaths. And I know that sounds really morbid and creepy and horrible, but what keeps me up at night is what day of the week is it right now, and if someone were to die today, would we beat Time Inc. to market.

We have a schedule for at what hour and what day of the week someone dies and how fast we can get to print, and whether or not we can beat Time Inc. to market by 10 days or 17 days. That is the last thing I think about before I go to bed, and the one thing that keeps me up until I fall asleep.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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

December 11, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

But first the sound-bites:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visiting with Mike Marchesano in NYC.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samir Husni: Where do you find those people?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Marchesano: Committed to exceeding expectations.

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

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

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

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

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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

December 6, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But first the sound-bites:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samir Husni: (Laughs).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samir Husni: So, that’s A+ or an A?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joanna Coles: Probably saying yes to opportunity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joanna Coles: You would find me walking the dog.

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

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

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Hearst Magazines: Strong & Steady Leadership From Two Men Who Know How To Sail Through The Disruptive Waters Of Constant Change – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With David Carey, President & Michael Clinton, President, Marketing, Publishing Director, Hearst Magazines…

December 4, 2017

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

“The only thing that’s a given is constant change. I think that when you visit us five years from now, I believe we’ll look back on 2017 as a period of calm, by comparison to what comes next. I absolutely believe that. The rate of change only picks up from here. I think we’re pretty good at managing, but we can be even better at it. And that’s not just the magazine business, that’s everything. What’s the job? Are we in the magazine business or the media business, or are we in the managing change in a confident manner business? I think I’ll take the latter, in terms of our team at the top of the enterprise, but even the people who show up, who come in everyday, and contribute so much.” David Carey…

“I think that when you have a natural curiosity of the marketplace and you’ve always got your antenna up as to where is the zeitgeist or where is the consumer, such as the discovery of The Pioneer Woman. That really came out of a conversation that we had with a woman who is a major retailer and she surfaced that The Pioneer Woman was a phenomena and that it was a phenomena within the center of the country, and so we were very curious. We asked if we could meet Ree Drummond and she came to New York. We heard her story and told her how unbelievably incredible we thought it was and that we wanted to test a magazine. And as you know, it’s been a wildly successful experiment thus far. We’ve had an over 70 percent sell-through; we’ve gone back to press; there has been an enormous take rate on the subscriptions.” Michael Clinton…

“I would add too that this was the year that many people said would come at some point, meaning there would be some natural consolidation in the industry. And the Time Inc. stuff has been going on for several years, but I think that the anticipation of consolidation was always in the air. We acquired Rodale; Meredith, Time Inc.; Wenner sells off two properties. The consolidation has begun, in terms of the industry, which is a natural thing.” Michael Clinton…

David Carey, president, Hearst Magazines.

Michael Clinton, president, marketing, publishing director, Hearst Magazines.

When the future history books are written about magazines and magazine media, two names will be prominently listed between those covers: David Carey, president and Michael Clinton, president, marketing, publishing director, Hearst Magazines. The top leadership are so in sync, so coordinated when it comes to their thinking processes, the two can finish each other’s sentences and answer each other’s questions readily and correctly. But this comes as no surprise to Mr. Magazine™ as the entire team at Hearst is a natural and harmonious balance of skill and talent, from the tiptop, all the way down the chain, with no one at the organization more eagerly willing to bestow credit on everyone than David and Michael.

Hearst has been synonymous with risk-taking for generations. According to David, this is the nature of Hearst, part of its DNA. From the day Helen Gurley Brown walked through the doors of the then small company and announced that she had a fantastic idea of basing a magazine on her bestselling book “Sex and the Single Girl,” which became the catalyst for what we know today as Cosmopolitan, to present-day partnerships with brands like The Pioneer Woman and cable TV; and the more recent acquisition of Rodale; Hearst is a force to be reckoned with in the world of magazines and business media. And the continued success of those insightful past contributions and the new affiliations of today can be attributed to the stalwart and innovative leadership of the company’s current captains of the ship, David and Michael.

I spoke with both of them on a recent trip to New York, and the conversation was both lively and informative. Our conversation took place in David’s office on the 43rd floor of the Hearst Tower. Strength in leadership today has never been more vital with the constant changes taking place in the marketplace and in magazine media. And according to David, constant change is the only given going on today. And Mr. Magazine™ would have to agree. From the disruptions of the day to the consolidations that are sometimes surprising, yet apt to happen, the landscape is rapidly becoming a more cocooned environment, with the three top publishing companies coming to the forefront to lead the way into the future: Hearst, Meredith, and Condé Nast.

David, Michael and I spent a moment in time talking about these changes, and about the past and future of magazine media, Hearst in particular. About their mantra of Print Proud, Digital Smart that Mr. Magazine™ “borrowed” as the theme for the next ACT Experience, with their knowledge, of course. And when it comes to reflecting upon 2017 as it draws to a close, as David put it, if we chat again in five years, it may actually be determined that 2017 was known as a period of calm, at least by comparison to what might be coming next. The “calm before the storm,” as it were.

But if you’re about to sail dangerously choppy waters, there aren’t two captains with any steadier hands or more determined and integrated thought processes than David and Michael, so you’re in good shape. And now the Mr. Magazine™ in depth interview with David Carey and Michael Clinton.

But first the sound-bites:

David Carey, president, Hearst Magazines.

On whether they think stability and constants in leadership make media businesses and cultures within organizations stronger (David Carey): The businesses that focused on either the wrong things, or had cultures that couldn’t adapt for the future; of course, people always misinterpret Charles Darwin when it comes to that, and Darwin didn’t say it was the strongest that could survive, it was those who could adapt. And I think you’re seeing this play out. Time Inc. used to be the mightiest and largest company, but they’ve had several leadership teams in several years, against a backdrop of change. And the outcome was not so favorable. And we’ve had very stable leadership now for some time, both at the corporate level and the division level, as has Meredith. And I think we’re both flexing our muscles.

On how Hearst has managed not to have a problem with culture change within its organization (David Carey): This is the nature of Hearst, when Hearst was a small company, Helen Gurley Brown walked through our doors with this crazy notion of a magazine roughly based on her bestselling book” Sex and the Single Girl.” She had never edited a magazine in her life. They give her Cosmopolitan, so talk about taking risks. Here’s an existing business and she changes it into something that had no resemblance to what it looked like before she came along. And of course, that took off.

On how Hearst has managed not to have a problem with culture change within its organization (Michael Clinton): Also, we as a company have always been first-movers in things. I remember on the ground floor of this small building, our new media lab, and no one before had done that. And so, whether it’s putting your toe into the new media lab or into cable television at the time, or into today’s world, such as Snapchat or other venues, I think we’ve just always been and our culture has always been curious about how we can play into new, emerging businesses.

Michael Clinton, president, marketing, publishing director, Hearst Magazines.

On how Hearst uncovers the not-so-obvious when it comes to its “magic formula” for ideas (Michael Clinton): I think that when you have a natural curiosity of the marketplace and you’ve always got your antenna up as to where is the zeitgeist or where is the consumer, such as the discovery of The Pioneer Woman. That really came out of a conversation that we had with a woman who is a major retailer and she surfaced that The Pioneer Woman was a phenomena and that it was a phenomena within the center of the country, and so we were very curious. We asked if we could meet Ree Drummond and she came to New York. We heard her story and told her how unbelievably incredible we thought it was and that we wanted to test a magazine. And as you know, it’s been a wildly successful experiment thus far.

On how Hearst uncovers the not-so-obvious when it comes to its “magic formula” for ideas (David Carey): We’re proud to talk about our successes, and we don’t boast about our failures, but we do think about trying new things; if you don’t strike out sometimes, you’re not at bat enough. So, we do all sorts of things and most of them have worked, and the things that haven’t worked we’ve learned from. We can’t be afraid to do that.

On the purchase of Rodale and what’s next for those titles with Hearst (David Carey): We hope to close in January, 2018, and we’ll take ownership and start to connect the very best practices in both directions. They’ve done a number of remarkable things and we learn from that, and we’ve done things that we can use, and we’ll start to merge the enterprises in January, February and March. We have great integration teams as we lift the business and shift it to Hearst and integrate it into our operation.

On the purchase of Rodale and what’s next for those titles with Hearst (Michael Clinton): It’s a great tuck-in to our existing portfolio, plus it, as David said, dimensionalizes it in another way in the health and fitness space. We sort of do health and fitness sporadically throughout the different magazines, but this gives us a real foothold in the space. And so it was a beautifully strategic acquisition for us, in terms of not just the consumer base, but the advertising base.

On whether Hearst and Rodale will be a perfect marriage (Michael Clinton): Why not? We had perfect marriages with Hachette when we acquired it. I think what is important is that we’re a publishing company. So, a publishing company acquiring a publishing company has a really good understanding of the idiosyncrasies of our business. So, we’re strategic. I think a different conversation might be had if we were not a publishing company.

On whether Hearst and Rodale will be a perfect marriage (David Carey): And we’ve published these magazines (titles) in international markets for many years; we’ve had the joint venture in the U.K. now for more than a decade, with Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Runner’s World. We’ve published Men’s Health and Women’s Health in the Netherlands and in China and Japan. So, we’ve known these brands and their potential, and in that particular way we had, not an inside track, but we had an intimate understanding of what these titles can do. So, that gave us a great appreciation.

On how they would feel if when the future history books are written, much of it is about Hearst (David Carey): We love the business and it’s good to be good at something, right?

On how they would feel if when the future history books are written, much of it is about Hearst (Michael Clinton): This is my fortieth year in the business, so I think that for those of us who have spent our careers in this business, we’ve chosen to be in this business. We just had psychologist, Angela Duckworth speak and she’s written a great book called “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” and it’s about how that passion and perseverance wins the day. And I think that we can say that we both have passion for this business and I believe that says a lot.

On how they turned passion into monetary skills (David Carey): Well, it’s not just us. We have a very efficient leadership team and we have a team where everyone has really unique skills. And that’s always nice. I think the other thing about this company is that the leadership team is small and we have this big global business. And so, the politics at Hearst are the lowest of any big organization, because there’s a certain culture here where people roll up their sleeves and they get it done; we pass things back and forth and that’s a very important piece.

On how they turned passion into monetary skills (Michael Clinton): When you have a lot of layers and levels, there’s a lot of maneuvering and turf wars and protectionism, but I think we’re so efficient in our organization and we go right into the operators, so it’s just a very different model.

On how they would characterize magazine media in 2017 (David Carey): Well, I think you have to go backward. I recently watched a Ken Burns’ Vietnam PBS series; one of the episodes from 1968, which I think was called “Things Fall Apart,” and for the sixties, sometimes things were so great, and then you’re watching this episode and you had political unrest, the Democratic Convention in Chicago. You had all of the anti-war movements and the media questioning what we were doing in Vietnam. You had the sexual revolution coming in right on top of all of this and you felt every day was unpredictable. And that’s kind of 2017.

On how they would characterize magazine media in 2017 (Michael Clinton): I would add too that this was the year that many people said would come at some point, meaning there would be some natural consolidation in the industry. And the Time Inc. stuff has been going on for several years, but I think that the anticipation of consolidation was always in the air. We acquired Rodale; Meredith, Time Inc.; Wenner sells off two properties. The consolidation has begun, in terms of the industry, which is a natural thing.

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

On what’s next for Hearst in 2018 (David Carey): Hopefully, a new product and continuing that tradition. But you know, we’re heads down right now on the road to a Rodale integration. This is a company that likes to plan its work and work its plans. We know that for the first four or five months, we have to get a smooth integration of this business, and more partnerships. The more things change out there, the more that people seek us out to create new businesses. Some we’re discussing; some, that news will come more.

On any landmines they see that need to be avoided (Michael Clinton): I think there’s a lot of confusion, and I’m speaking from the ad-revenue side now. There is a lot of confusion in the marketplace about where people should be spending their money. There was a huge digital hangover and this was a very apparent theme at the ANA meeting in October. There seems to have been a very big retrenchment. Overall, there are a lot of landmines in what is the digital ecosystem going to look like. And that plays well for us, because of all the things that we’ve said; trusted brands, safe environment, first-party data.

On any landmines they see that need to be avoided (David Carey): I think there is a growing number of people that are so upended by all the political noise that it drives them back to comfortable lifestyle media. There is a lot of crazy stuff, and if you read every single word, every single day, it can terrify you. A number of people in the last month or so have told me that putting their phones down and getting out of the maelstrom of the news cycle to enjoy our products, such as Food Network magazine, HGTV, and Harper’s Bazaar, is great.

On what each would have tattooed upon their brains that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about them (David Carey): I’ll answer for Michael: endless creativity eternal optimism, and boundless energy.

On what each would have tattooed upon their brains that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about them (Michael Clinton): David would be: steady hand. What an organization wants in a leader is someone who is unflappable and has a steady hand; who has a rational point of view and doesn’t get wrapped up in the noise. And keeps the ship steering well, and I think David has enormous talent in that space, because there is a lot of chaos in our industry and our world.

On what keeps them up at night (Michael Clinton): (Laughs) My five-month-old puppy.

On what keeps them up at night (David Carey): The silence in our home while all the kids are gone.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with David Carey, president & Michael Clinton, president, marketing, publishing director, Hearst Magazines.

Surrounded by two magazine media industry giants, David Carey (r) and Michael Clinton.

Samir Husni: Let us start with the easy question, how do you describe the magazine and magazine media business today?

David Carey: The businesses that focused on either the wrong things, or had cultures that couldn’t adapt for the future; of course, people always misinterpret Charles Darwin when it comes to that, and Darwin didn’t say it was the strongest that could survive, it was those who could adapt. And I think you’re seeing this play out. Time Inc. used to be the mightiest and largest company, but they’ve had several leadership teams in several years, against a backdrop of change. And the outcome was not so favorable.

And we’ve had very stable leadership now for some time, both at the corporate level and the division level, as has Meredith. And I think we’re both flexing our muscles. We feel so fortunate that we work for a large private enterprise that likes to invest in its core businesses; that is open to taking risks; and has a team of people, not just on this corporate floor, but throughout the whole organization that naturally grow, change and evolve at the fastest rate in the business. And that’s what gives us a strong and confident position as a media business. Not just the magazine business; the TV business; the cable business; the digital business; and everything is going through such change. And I think we have the best seat in the house.

Samir Husni: It seems many blame the lack of change on the culture, that it was the culture in the organization that was the toughest thing to change. How has Hearst managed not to have that problem?

David Carey: This is the nature of Hearst, when Hearst was a small company, Helen Gurley Brown walked through our doors with this crazy notion of a magazine roughly based on her bestselling book” Sex and the Single Girl.” She had never edited a magazine in her life. They give her Cosmopolitan, so talk about taking risks. Here’s an existing business and she changes it into something that had no resemblance to what it looked like before she came along. And of course, that took off.

And then Frank Bennack had the great wisdom and vision to invest in the cable business, forming a partnership with Capital Cities initially to launch A&E. Then we got the chance to buy 20 percent of ESPN, and those were small businesses that became big businesses. And those helped fund our entry into business media and buying 80 percent of Fitch Ratings and medical and transportation data businesses and those became more successful. And that got reinvested back into the magazine company through the acquisition of Lagardère; the creation of our ventures with Food Network, as well as our two tests from last year.

So, the overall corporation is one that just feels comfortable with that. I think the media businesses that have stuck to a couple of verticals now regret that. And Michael and I are the beneficiaries of it and it’s our job to advance it, but the corporation long before we arrived had this remarkable dexterity to look at a lot of different businesses and see that a tapestry of both information and media businesses was the best possible position for success. So, it’s kind of embedded in what we do.

We talk about our partnerships all of the time, such as Airbnb and The Pioneer Woman, but these partnership strategies have been in place for decades and we’re just the latest advocates of it. But this has been honed by generations of executives with our company.

Michael Clinton: Also, we as a company have always been first-movers in things. I remember on the ground floor of this small building, our new media lab, and no one before had done that. And so, whether it’s putting your toe into the new media lab or into cable television at the time, or into today’s world, such as Snapchat or other venues, I think we’ve just always been and our culture has always been curious about how we can play into new, emerging businesses. Some are successful; some aren’t. Some we retrench from and some we move forward on, but I think that’s part of the fluidity of the cultural mentality.

Samir Husni: As far as a “magic formula,” someone told me once that if it’s obvious; it’s too late. How do you see the not-so-obvious and how do you follow up with that?

Michael Clinton: I think that when you have a natural curiosity of the marketplace and you’ve always got your antenna up as to where is the zeitgeist or where is the consumer, such as the discovery of The Pioneer Woman. That really came out of a conversation that we had with a woman who is a major retailer and she surfaced that The Pioneer Woman was a phenomena and that it was a phenomena within the center of the country, and so we were very curious. We asked if we could meet Ree Drummond and she came to New York. We heard her story and told her how unbelievably incredible we thought it was and that we wanted to test a magazine. And as you know, it’s been a wildly successful experiment thus far. We’ve had an over 70 percent sell-through; we’ve gone back to press; there has been an enormous take rate on the subscriptions.

So, I think having a natural curiosity about what’s new, what’s next, but not just in the trendy stuff, in all parts of the cultures. We live on an island and we live in the bubble, so being curious about what’s going on across that river; we’re very relentless about that. And The Pioneer Woman is a great example of that.

David Carey: We’re proud to talk about our successes, and we don’t boast about our failures, but we do think about trying new things; if you don’t strike out sometimes, you’re not at bat enough. So, we do all sorts of things and most of them have worked, and the things that haven’t worked we’ve learned from. We can’t be afraid to do that.

Some companies are afraid to fail; now, the way we approach this is we publish two issues or four issues, so we kind of moderate the investment. We don’t go out and say this is going to be the biggest thing the world has ever seen; we let the marketplace test it and to pace what we do.

And the importance of things like Airbnb is we now have other big digital organizations, big technology companies, engage with us. They see the wisdom of creating physical media to reinforce their brands. So, every door opens a new door.

I wasn’t here during the dark days of 2008, when Food Network was launched, Michael, Cathie (Black) and Ellen (Levine) were, and it turned out to be, as you know, a remarkable success; number one in the category, dominant in every way. And that led to HGTV; that led to The Pioneer Woman; now Discovery acquires Scripps, so if you just stay at it and you’re open-minded, you never know what path you can take as these businesses evolve from one step to the next step and beyond. And we love that process.

Samir Husni: Last time we chatted, you told me that Hearst Magazines had doubled in size since you came onboard, and now you’ve acquired Rodale.

David Carey: Rodale is about 20 to 25 percent of our U.S. business, and is the equivalent of adding a little less than 10 percent of our global business, in terms of the overall international company.

Samir Husni: What’s next for Rodale titles with Hearst?

David Carey: We hope to close in January, 2018, and we’ll take ownership and start to connect the very best practices in both directions. They’ve done a number of remarkable things and we learn from that, and we’ve done things that we can use, and we’ll start to merge the enterprises in January, February and March. We have great integration teams as we lift the business and shift it to Hearst and integrate it into our operation.

The work streams are intense, because there’s everything from how do you pay people to benefits’ plans to keeping the lights on to billing advertisers to the technology systems. We recently had a long meeting and we feel so fortunate that our folks are just really good at this, because there are a hundred different work streams underway.

We have great admiration for the Rodale brands and for the categories they serve. This kind of “Wellthy” movement, which is their word, as you spell it out WELL-THY, is one that we very much believe in, not only in the U.S., but around the world.

And I think for Rodale, throughout the whole media business, as you’re seeing evidenced with AT&T and Time Warner, and so on, scale matters more than ever. So, it’s our hope that those brands connected to a larger scale enterprise will become more successful than they have been most recently.

Michael Clinton: It’s a great tuck-in to our existing portfolio, plus it, as David said, dimensionalizes it in another way in the health and fitness space. We sort of do health and fitness sporadically throughout the different magazines, but this gives us a real foothold in the space. And so it was a beautifully strategic acquisition for us, in terms of not just the consumer base, but the advertising base.

Samir Husni: It feels like the perfect wedding. Is it going to be the perfect marriage?

Michael Clinton: Why not? We had a great marriage with Hachette when we acquired it. I think what is important is that we’re a publishing company. So, a publishing company acquiring a publishing company has a really good understanding of the idiosyncrasies of our business. So, we’re strategic. I think a different conversation might be had if we were not a publishing company.

If you go and talk to people who came to us from Hachette, you would find that they would say they found a beautiful home; a home that understood them and understood their business, and that it was a very smooth and successful transition. So, I don’t see why this should be any different.

David Carey: And we’ve published these magazines (titles) in international markets for many years; we’ve had the joint venture in the U.K. now for more than a decade, with Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Runner’s World. We’ve published Men’s Health and Women’s Health in the Netherlands and in China and Japan. So, we’ve known these brands and their potential, and in that particular way we had, not an inside track, but we had an intimate understanding of what these titles can do. So, that gave us a great appreciation.

Rodale is important to us, because we couldn’t imagine another acquisition that had the type of natural fit with Hearst, which you identified as well. So, that’s why to us right when the announcement went out in June that it was for sale, we felt this was important. We’ll of course hope to expand our company through acquisitions into the future, but this one really felt as hand-in-glove as we could have imagined.

Samir Husni: When the future magazine history books about the 21st century are written, somehow there are a lot of similarities between now and what happened in the 1920s with Henry Luce and DeWitt Wallace, but this time it took place at Hearst, with David Carey and Michael Clinton. Do you feel that’s a huge responsibility or does it feel natural and like something that just happened?

David Carey: We love the business and it’s good to be good at something, right?

Michael Clinton: We’ve both been in it a long time. I’ve been in it for 40 years.

David Carey: And I’ve been in it for 33 years.

Michael Clinton: This is my fortieth year in the business, so I think that for those of us who have spent our careers in this business, we’ve chosen to be in this business. We just had psychologist, Angela Duckworth speak and she’s written a great book called “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” and it’s about how that passion and perseverance wins the day. And I think that we can say that we both have passion for this business and I believe that says a lot. And we’ve obviously had many options and opportunities to do other things.

Samir Husni: But the difference is a lot of people have passion, but they don’t have the business skills to monetize that passion. How did you do that?

David Carey: Well, it’s not just us. We have a very efficient leadership team and we have a team where everyone has really unique skills. And that’s always nice. I think the other thing about this company is that the leadership team is small; it’s Michael, Joanna (Coles), Troy (Young), Debi (Chirichella), and myself, and we have this big global business. And so, the politics at Hearst are the lowest of any big organization, because there’s a certain culture here where people roll up their sleeves and they get it done; we pass things back and forth and that’s a very important piece.

And I think with some of the other companies you’ve seen, the politics are really kind of eating the companies from within a bit, not the publication; but you’ve seen Jack Griffin, a really able manager get thrown out, just all those sorts of crazy things that got in the way. And those were worrisome signs. We haven’t had any of that.

Michael Clinton: When you have a lot of layers and levels, layers and levels, there’s a lot of maneuvering and turf wars and protectionism, but I think we’re so efficient in our organization and we go right into the operators, so it’s just a very different model.

David Carey: If you think of the structures of other companies, there’s no other company that is global and private and has the access to capital that we do and likes to experiment. Those are unique Hearst DNA elements and it’s our job to leverage that.

We’re doing acquisitions in other markets around the world; we’re testing things all over and learning from everything that we do, that we don’t think our competition has it. No one else has their international business integrated in with the domestic business.

So, we get to do things relative to investments and strategies and acquisitions that we get to play for the long term. We’re grateful that Mr. Hearst created a trust that opens the company and that has enabled our division and other divisions to be entrepreneurial, even within the confines of a very large corporation.

Samir Husni: If you were to characterize 2017 in magazine media, what would you say?

David Carey: Well, I think you have to go backward. I recently watched a Ken Burns’ Vietnam PBS series; one of the episodes from 1968, which I think was called “Things Fall Apart,” and for the sixties, sometimes things were so great, and then you’re watching this episode and you had political unrest, the Democratic Convention in Chicago. You had all of the anti-war movements and the media questioning what we were doing in Vietnam. You had the sexual revolution coming in right on top of all of this and you felt every day was unpredictable. And that’s kind of 2017.

We have political unrest, that news plays out every day. Then you have media sector changes, not just magazines, everything about media. Then you have the magazine industry. And so, it’s change upon change upon change. And I think that what it teaches executives and corporations is the need to be strong and confident through this. We have employees and others who may ask does the world feel a little bouncy, even at the national level, let alone the industry level. It’s our job to lead them through this process.

There’s always opportunities, even when crazy, crazy disruption is happening. There are always companies that are winners. And companies are allowed to win, but they can also commit suicide. It’s all allowed. And we’re always thinking about how we can make our company a winner. I kind of joke, that chaos is going to be our friend and it is going to propel us forward not hold us back.

Michael Clinton: I would add too that this was the year that many people said would come at some point, meaning there would be some natural consolidation in the industry. And the Time Inc. stuff has been going on for several years, but I think that the anticipation of consolidation was always in the air. We acquired Rodale; Meredith, Time Inc.; Wenner sells off two properties. The consolidation has begun, in terms of the industry, which is a natural thing.

I was making the analogy recently; you may not remember Burdine’s and Kaufmann’s and Rich’s, and all of these regional department stores that existed. They all sort of consolidated. Then you had Macy’s, National, etc.

Pick an industry; airline industry; retail industry; just pick one and consolidation is ultimately something that happens in the business cycle. And I think in the media cycle with magazines, that was a natural thing that was going to happen. It started this year and I think it will make the companies that are committed as we are, stronger and have better products – stronger products, better marketplace dynamics. And it will help the industry be stronger, as opposed to fragmented.

David Carey: And we’ve seen the digital business go through different cycles for 20-plus years, and so the tone of the last few months, which had some of the shiniest objects, some of these companies potentially having futures that seemed a little less certain, are also a net benefit for companies like Hearst or Condé Nast or Meredith, in that, from a talent standpoint, that’s not so easy. Not everything is going to turn into Instagram; 12 employees, a billion dollars.

And these companies, which have for many years been bad businesses, but put a lot of spin on the ball; I sometimes reference my favorite movie “Toy Story.” Buzz and Woody, and you have the skeptical Woody who says, “Buzz, that’s not flying, that’s falling with style.” One of those great lines from Pixar.

Some of these pure play digital businesses, and some will succeed and have fantastic futures, but some have simply been “falling with style.” And I think the news that will be flowing in for the next six to 12 months are going to be those companies that never really had much of a real business, but put a lot of spin on the ball. And at the same time, it will be companies like ours, who have become far more skilled at digital, growing audiences, monetizing, producing video; those skills have matured here and elsewhere, and that’ll be good for us.

The pendulum is going to swing a bit in companies of trust and credibility. There’s been a lot of discussion on ad fraud and digital. Companies like ours would never do that. We replay 50 years into the future for reputation, not 50 hours. And so, there are a lot of elements, in terms of what will surely be the downfall of many ad-supported, independent, venture-backed, digital businesses, but that’s going to be a very important silver lining for the big publishers next year.

Michael Clinton: I just had this discussion recently with the CEO of a media agency. It was the number one issue, ad fraud, in terms of where the monies are going and making sure that it’s real people and all of the above.

Samir Husni: One of the things that I learned from the two of you and actually stole for the theme of my next ACT Experience in April, 2018 is the phrase: Print Proud, Digital Smart, based on an interview I did with Michael. I gave you credit, Michael. (Laughs)

Michael Clinton: (Laughs).

Samir Husni: Hearst has never ignored print, but you also invested in digital. In fact, you invested in print when others were ignoring print…

Michael Clinton: Or running away from print.

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

Samir Husni: What’s next? What can we expect from Hearst in 2018?

David Carey: Hopefully, a new product and continuing that tradition. But you know, we’re heads down right now on the road to a Rodale integration. This is a company that likes to plan its work and work its plans. We know that for the first four or five months, we have to get a smooth integration of this business, and more partnerships. The more things change out there, the more that people seek us out to create new businesses. Some we’re discussing; some, that news will come more.

And hopefully, there will be more opportunities for, not just the leadership teams, but for the rank and file. The people here who really make it happen.

Samir Husni: Any landmines you see that you need to avoid?

Michael Clinton: I think there’s a lot of confusion, and I’m speaking from the ad-revenue side now. There is a lot of confusion in the marketplace about where people should be spending their money. There was a huge digital hangover and this was a very apparent theme at the ANA meeting in October. There seems to have been a very big retrenchment.

Overall, there are a lot of landmines in what is the digital ecosystem going to look like. And that plays well for us, because of all the things that we’ve said; trusted brands, safe environment, first-party data. I’m sure you saw the magazine industry ad campaign that was out there and it leans into that discussion.

So, we view that we have a moment in time to really flex our muscles in this confusion, because I think marketers are really beginning to say, we need to really think hard about where we’re placing our money, and maybe we should step back before we step forward. And we’re well-placed there, so the landmine is the overall ecosystem, but the opportunity is that we have the stuff to lean forward into it.

David Carey: I think there is a growing number of people that are so upended by all the political noise that it drives them back to comfortable lifestyle media. There is a lot of crazy stuff, and if you read every single word, every single day, it can terrify you. A number of people in the last month or so have told me that putting their phones down and getting out of the maelstrom of the news cycle to enjoy our products, such as Food Network magazine, HGTV, and Harper’s Bazaar, is great.

I do think that we’re a year into great political change. And it seems everyone may be feeling a little seasick, but that should be good for all types of media.

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

David Carey: I’ll answer for Michael: endless creativity, eternal optimism, and boundless energy.

Samir Husni: (Laughs) Would you like to answer for David?

Michael Clinton: Yes, I think David would be: steady hand. What an organization wants in a leader is someone who is unflappable and has a steady hand; who has a rational point of view and doesn’t get wrapped up in the noise. And keeps the ship steering well, and I think David has enormous talent in that space, because there is a lot of chaos in our industry and our world.

David Carey: (Laughs) See, we can finish each other’s answers. This is going to be a great moment for us, and that doesn’t mean that every day is super-easy, because that would be naive to say that.

Sometimes when we speak to young people, college students will come in or we’ll speak to groups of them, and they’ll remark that the media business seems kind of crazy and I’ll usually say, you just have to pick a business, because I’m not sure where the calm waters are. The automotive business, where they’re worried about autonomous driving, which would upend everything. Retail or the hotel business, where you now have people who own apartments and homes all around you, that are your competitors. If you want to be a teacher potentially, but education has its own shifts as well.

So, the only thing that’s a given is constant change. I think that when you visit us five years from now, I believe we’ll look back on 2017 as a period of calm, by comparison to what comes next. I absolutely believe that. The rate of change only picks up from here. I think we’re pretty good at managing, but we can be even better at it. And that’s not just the magazine business, that’s everything. What’s the job? Are we in the magazine business or the media business, or are we in the managing change in a confident manner business? I think I’ll take the latter, in terms of our team at the top of the enterprise, but even the people who show up, who come in everyday, and contribute so much.

We just have to constantly evolve every single day. And when you get it right, it’s so satisfying. Sometimes you don’t get it right, of course, those days are more frustrating, but we get it right a lot. And it’s our job to continue that streak.

We see a zillion opportunities, in terms of what we do, how we do it, and where we do it. We work long days, so we’re limited by 10 or 11 hours a day. Part of our style is do something right, execute it well, and move on to the next one. We’re capacity-constrained in that way, but we have all sorts of ideas about what comes next for us.

Apple already has the iPhone 11 designed in their minds, and it’s our job to do the same thing. Kick around things internally, tweak things; it’s our job to keep that fresh pipeline of new products and new ideas, new ways of doing business, flowing. We opened a video studio next door, we own the commercial space, and the building next to us is 26,000 sq. ft.. We have six or seven video bays producing content every hour of every day, with more and more to come.

Samir Husni: Okay, Michael, what keeps you up at night?

Michael Clinton: (Laughs) My five-month-old puppy.

Samir Husni: (Laughs) David, what keeps you up?

David Carey: The silence in our home while all the kids are gone.

Samir Husni: (Laughs) Thank you both.

h1

The National Wildlife Federation’s Commitment To Children With Ranger Rick, Ranger Rick Jr. & Ranger Rick Cub Magazines – Still Going Strong In Print After 50 Years – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Bob Harper, Executive Publisher, Mary Dalheim, Editorial Director & Lori Collins, Editor In Chief…

November 28, 2017

“Of course, from a publishing perspective there has been the struggle that people thought everything digital was free. But now, I think you’re seeing that change in the web business, in general. You see a lot more people charging for content. Over time that will change more, and will allow us opportunity to invest more in digital and get the return on it. But I think print will always be at the core. And that’s not such a foreign concept. Even when you listen to TV people or movie people, they’ll tell you it starts with a script. The written word is still very important. And in our case too, the photos that we have are terrific. And those are things that live in a magazine format that’s really something unique.” Bob Harper…

“I think there is something to be said for that tactile experience. It allows them to enter a little magazine world of their own. Also with children, the magazine is the first thing that they get in the mail and it makes them feel grownup. It’s very exciting to rush to the mailbox and get that and hold it in your hand. And I do think that it helps them focus.” Mary Dalheim…

“I will tell you an anecdote that I heard recently that made me happy and really resonates now in terms of this question. My son has a friend who has a one-year-old child and he sent him a subscription to Cub and it came in the mail recently. He got a call from his friend, who told him that Cub magazine was the one thing that could get the child to be quiet. He carries it around; he sits on the floor and pages through it. He’s a one year old, so he can’t read it obviously, he can only have it read to him, but there’s something about that tactile experience and being able to look at those pictures and have some comprehension. So, the magazine has taken this one year old and captivated him. And when we can do that, it’s why we do this work.” Lori Collins…

Published by the United States National Wildlife Federation, Ranger Rick, Ranger Rick Jr. and Ranger Rick Cub magazines have always been on the mission of getting kids more actively involved in the environment and to instill a passionate interest in everything nature, from wildlife to surroundings the different animals live in. In 2018, the brand will celebrate 51 years of publishing excellence in conjoining entertainment with education to give children of all ages the best experience possible.

Bob Harper, executive publisher, Mary Dalheim, editorial director, and Lori Collins, editor in chief, are the three major keepers of the mission’s flame and have a burning desire to bring their message of conservation to more children by marrying (as Bob himself put it) their core product, the print magazine, with the many brand extensions that digital offers. It’s a noble idea for a very benevolent mission that has continued to succeed despite the disruption of the digital age.

I spoke with Bob, Mary and Lori recently and we talked about the magazines and their niche messages for each age group. With all three publications focusing on different animals and their environments, children are drawn to the spectacular imagery of the photos, the fascinating storytelling, and the interactive and fun activities that are offered in each issue. Maybe the reason this 51-year-old brand is still alive and kicking, with no intention of slowing down.

So, grab your lantern for frog-investigating and your binoculars for a little birdwatching and come along with Mr. Magazine™ for an adventure into nature with Bob, Mary and Lori from Ranger Rick.

But first the sound-bites:

Publisher NWF

On having three children’s print publications that are still going strong after 50 years in this digital age (Bob Harper): There have been lots of changes in the whole printing industry that makes it easier to do shorter-run titles, which are less expensive. It used to be that you had to have huge numbers to be able to get the make-ready costs down, but that’s changed a fair amount. So, you can start to break things out. I generally think now, in conjunction with the digital age, there’s a lot of talk about how digital business has splintered print even more, but I think they actually work very complementary together.

On how the decision is made about what content goes on which platform (Mary Dalheim): Let me break that down a little. Interestingly enough, we really think of the print magazine as our core content. And we started with the magazine, and now we’re doing a book club in which every eight weeks kids get two books, and really the content from those books comes from the magazine. We’re repurposing content that was used years ago and updating it and it’s great stuff that these kids have never seen before, so it’s another opportunity to use that content.

On whether video is becoming more important to the core product (Lori Collins): We don’t do a lot of video, but when we do video, it’s to take those still photos on the page and bring them to life. I can talk about the way a penguin moves, but if I can enhance that by showing it as well, and if I can do that with QR codes, and I know they’re outdated, but if I can do it with a QR for a child and they can have the magazine in their lap and see it all at the same time, that works for us.

On whether video is becoming more important to the core product (Mary Dalheim): Even though QR codes may be outdated for a lot of people, they’re not in our magazine, because the kids really love them. Most of the children have phones, and so if we talk about the speed of a cheetah, we’ll put a QR code and they can see the speed of a cheetah, but they’re also reading about it and looking at the most exciting and beautiful photos in the world. We use the very best photos. So, they’re getting a little bit of both in the magazine, and they’re really getting both online and in our apps too, because we started with the print content to begin with.

On whether the role of a publishing executive has changed over the last decade (Bob Harper): (Laughs) Yes, it’s changed a lot. And that’s one of the things that keeps you young and keeps it exciting. All the new channels; all the new ways to deliver content and also reach potential new customers. And being able to, as Lori and Mary said, complement the print with the additional resources that enhances the experience for the child is terrific. It really starts to roll out as an endless opportunity, if you look at all of these digital things. I think they’re very complementary and the key is how to make them work together.

On whether they are aware of any research or studies being done on comprehension or retention between print and digital (Lori Collins): To be honest, I am not aware of any of those regarding comprehension, but I will tell you an anecdote that I heard recently that made me happy and really resonates now in terms of this question. My son has a friend who has a one-year-old child and he sent him a subscription to Cub and it came in the mail recently. He got a call from his friend, who told him that Cub magazine was the one thing that could get the child to be quiet. He carries it around; he sits on the floor and pages through it. He’s a one year old, so he can’t read it obviously, he can only have it read to him, but there’s something about that tactile experience and being able to look at those pictures and have some comprehension. So, the magazine has taken this one year old and captivated him. And when we can do that, it’s why we do this work.

On whether they are aware of any research or studies being done on comprehension or retention between print and digital (Mary Dalheim): I think there is something to be said for that tactile experience. It allows them to enter a little magazine world of their own. Also with children, the magazine is the first thing that they get in the mail and it makes them feel grownup. It’s very exciting to rush to the mailbox and get that and hold it in your hand. And I do think that it helps them focus.

On how things have changed editorially since 2007 (Mary Dalheim): In 2007, we didn’t think print was dying, but we did wonder if it would take a backseat to other things. We weren’t sure how everything was going to pan out. And I think what we found is that print is the core. It’s where the content comes from; it’s where the ideas come from; and it’s something kids continually want. But they want the other things too. They’re not willing to make a choice between one or the other types of media. It’s the brand that they’re buying and the content. The core is print, but they want the other things too; the apps and the websites, etc.

On what they attribute the longevity of the Ranger Rick brand to (Mary Dalheim): It’s the animals. Animals appeal to kids and it’s one of the things that they love the most as they’re growing up. So, first of all, you can win with animals, that just never grows old.

On what they attribute the longevity of the Ranger Rick brand to (Lori Collins): Secondly, there’s a real nostalgia factor. A lot of the parents of the kids who are reading our magazines today, got Ranger Rick as a kid. And I’m sure Highlights has the same thing going on with their products. The parents remember reading it and have fond memories, and they want their children to have that experience.

On whether the current political climate has helped Ranger Rick’s conservation mission by bolstering subscriptions (Mary Dalheim): It certainly has ours, I think. Again, because I think some parents do want their children to be sensitive to conservation and do want to help raise young conservationists. And that’s part of Ranger Rick’s mission.

On how they view the magazine as an experience maker, besides storytelling (Mary Dalheim): We believe in empowerment. We want to tell kids about wildlife, and as they get older and are capable of understanding some conservation issues, we want to talk about those developments when appropriate. But at the same time, we want to empower kids so that they feel hopeful. We don’t want to tell them about an issue and then make them feel bad and worry about it. We always empower them, such as we talk about how you can make a butterfly garden which helps Monarchs. We also have a photo contest. We want to get kids outdoors, because that’s healthier for them, and it also makes them appreciate wildlife more. So, we have a lot of activities that really takes the child outside.

On how they view the magazine as an experience maker, besides storytelling (Bob Harper): If you look at the most recent Ranger Rick, there’s an article about backyard birdfeeders and the kinds of birds you can attract. And then it hooks them up to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where they do the birdfeeder survey. And so kids can become citizen scientists. There’s a lot of talk about citizen scientists these days and getting common folk to help contribute to science. And that’s an example. We try to model that kind of role for kids.

On the biggest challenge they face today (Bob Harper): On the business side, it really is marrying the print and the digital together going forward, and trying to come up with a model, as the rest of the publishing industry is trying to do, that allows us to invest in both of those successfully. And get people to see the value and be willing to pay a little bit extra, or at least what it’s worth, for the digital content.

On the biggest challenge they face today (Mary Dalheim): As editors, we see ourselves in the business of edutainment; we want it to be educational and entertaining at the same time, and that’s a continual challenge, to be entertaining as well as educating at the same time.

On anything they’d like to add (Bob Harper): I think the books are just wonderful examples of how the Ranger Rick characters and magic can be extended and I think we’re just going to do more of that in the future, so keep watching us as we try and do more things for kids. And that’s a big part of the National Wildlife Federation mission, reaching the next generation of conservationists. And we’re a big part of that; it’s our outreach. We’ve been doing it for 50 years and our plan is to do it for another 50. So, we’re going to reach even more.

On anything they’d like to add (Mary Dalheim): One thing I’d like to add about Ranger Rick is that we have an advisory board of over 200 kids. And I talked about edutainment being a challenge; they help us with that, because we are constantly asking them what they think of things. They pick our covers. We’ll send them three or four and ask them which one they like the best, and we always go with them it seems, because they really know best. And they give us reasons why they like something or don’t.

On what motivates each of them to get out of bed every morning (Lori Collins): You mean other than my dog’s nose pushing me in my face? (Laughs) I really love hearing the stories about people being engaged by the work that we produce. It’s great to hear those kinds of stories; the kid won’t go to soccer because he’s reading about chameleons.

On what motivates each of them to get out of bed every morning (Mary Dalheim): We get over 200 letters a month from kids who are really engaged with wildlife and I think that’s really rewarding. It’s also rewarding that we’re on social media with adults and almost daily we’re told how they read the magazine regularly when they were young and how it changed their lives and have seen a lot of people become scientists and wildlife naturalists because of us. It’s all very rewarding.

On what motivates each of them to get out of bed every morning (Bob Harper): For me, back to that whole idea of animals; animals are the rock stars of childhood and I think it’s great to be a roadie, behind the scenes, working with these spectacular people who make the show so great for kids.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her (Mary Dalheim): I’ll tell you what comes to mind; Ranger Rick’s mother is what they call me, and at first I was horrified by that, but now I’ve become very proud of that.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him (Bob Harper): From a career perspective, my whole career has been spent in the youth market, so I hope people will remember me as someone who helped contribute to good things for kids, particularly educational and edutainment, where they both enjoyed and learned from.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her (Lori Collins): I come from a family of schoolteachers, and I knew that I didn’t want to do that, but in some ways I feel like a lot of what I do is guided by that background and I’m proud of that.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home (Lori Collins): There’s probably a beer or a glass of wine involved. Also, maybe going to a sporting event, or hanging out with friends. And maybe TV. (Laughs)

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home (Mary Dalheim): I’m a reader, so I’m probably reading.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home (Bob Harper): It’s not quite that time of year, but my idea of unwinding is being outside in the yard, or hiking or biking. And soon hopefully, cross-country skiing. Certainly, that’s not every day, but when it’s nice out that’s what I’ll be doing.

On what keeps each of them up at night (Mary Dalheim): Money for one thing; it’s expensive to make these products. I want to make the very best we can and we’re trying to stretch that dollar in every way we can.

On what keeps each of them up at night (Lori Collins): I share the money concerns, but otherwise I sleep pretty well.

On what keeps each of them up at night (Bob Harper): As a publisher, it’s great to hear the editorial people put the money up there as one of the issues (Laughs), but for me it’s can we be out there enough and on top of it to ride the wave between print and digital. Just to stay on top of that in a way that keeps us going, but I’m very optimistic about it. Generally speaking, it’s not so much worrying about it; it’s more trying to think of all of the options and trying to pick the ones that work for us.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Bob Harper, executive publisher, Mary Dalheim, editorial director & Lori Collins, editor in chief, Ranger Rick, Ranger Rick Jr. and Ranger Rick Cub magazines.

Samir Husni: As executive publisher, can you talk about the fact that you have three children’s magazines in print, among other things, that are still going strong in this digital age 50 years after they were started?

Bob Harper: I’ve been in the children’s business for so long that I’ve seen the trends, which is to be able to serve narrower niches, and this is also all a part of the current child development movement too. There was a time when people just looked at kids as one big group; kids are kids are kids, and then a lot of research came out about education, etc., and kids’ abilities to comprehend things, and people realized you can’t offer a zero to three-year-old the same thing you offer a four to seven-year-old or a seven to twelve-year-old. You have to tailor your presentation to those groups.

And clearly, there have been lots of changes in the whole printing industry that makes it easier to do shorter-run titles, which are less expensive. It used to be that you had to have huge numbers to be able to get the make-ready costs down, but that’s changed a fair amount. So, you can start to break things out.

I generally think now, in conjunction with the digital age, there’s a lot of talk about how digital business has splintered print even more, but I think they actually work very complementary together. And there’s an opportunity in the future to be even more specialized, by interest and maybe even more finely, by age.

Samir Husni: Mary, as editorial director, how do you decide what content goes on which platform? Would this be better for print, or digital, or video? What is the differentiating factors for you?

Mary Dalheim: Let me break that down a little. Interestingly enough, we really think of the print magazine as our core content. And we started with the magazine, and now we’re doing a book club in which every eight weeks kids get two books, and really the content from those books comes from the magazine. We’re repurposing content that was used years ago and updating it and it’s great stuff that these kids have never seen before, so it’s another opportunity to use that content.

Actually, we’re doing a lot of new games and apps on the website; we’re working on that right now, they’re not quite up yet. And that also really came from the core, the magazine, and we took that content, it’s scientific content that we’ve had experts check about animals, wildlife and conservation, and we’re just taking that same content and using it as an app and asking how can we make it even more exciting?

Lori Collins: Mary’s right; everything starts with print for us; it’s where we spend most of our energy and resources. It’s more a question of how can we take that print and enhance it?

Mary Dalheim: And one way would be in making it more interactive. If we can look at that print and make it more interactive with the child, whether it’s with video or voice or something else.

Samir Husni: Lori, as editor in chief, is video becoming more important to the core product?

Lori Collins: We don’t do a lot of video, but when we do video, it’s to take those still photos on the page and bring them to life. I can talk about the way a penguin moves, but if I can enhance that by showing it as well, and if I can do that with QR codes, and I know they may seem outdated, but if I can do it with a QR for a child and they can have the magazine in their lap and see it all at the same time, that works for us.

Mary Dalheim: Even though QR codes may be outdated for a lot of people, they’re not in our magazine, because the kids really love them. Most of the children have phones, and so if we talk about the speed of a cheetah, we’ll put a QR code and they can see the speed of a cheetah, but they’re also reading about it and looking at the most exciting and beautiful photos in the world. We use the very best photos. So, they’re getting a little bit of both in the magazine, and they’re really getting both online and in our apps too, because we started with the print content to begin with.

Samir Husni: Bob, if you look back over the last decade, has your job as a publishing executive changed in those years?

Bob Harper: (Laughs) Yes, it’s changed a lot. And that’s one of the things that keeps you young and keeps it exciting. All the new channels; all the new ways to deliver content and also reach potential new customers. And being able to, as Lori and Mary said, complement the print with the additional resources that enhances the experience for the child is terrific. It really starts to roll out as an endless opportunity, if you look at all of these digital things. I think they’re very complementary and the key is how to make them work together.

Of course, from a publishing perspective there has been the struggle that people thought everything digital was free. But now, I think you’re seeing that change in the web business, in general. You see a lot more people charging for content. Over time that will change more, and will allow us opportunity to invest more in digital and get the return on it. But I think print will always be at the core. And that’s not such a foreign concept. Even when you listen to TV people or movie people, they’ll tell you it starts with a script. The written word is still very important. And in our case too, the photos that we have are terrific. And those are things that live in a magazine format that’s really something unique.

Samir Husni: Lori, from a scientific approach and working with the childhood studies that are out there; are you seeing any research being done in the comprehension or retention between print and other forms of media?

Lori Collins: To be honest, I am not aware of any of those regarding comprehension, but I will tell you an anecdote that I heard recently that made me happy and really resonates now in terms of this question. My son has a friend who has a one-year-old child and he sent him a subscription to Cub and it came in the mail recently. He got a call from his friend, who told him that Cub magazine was the one thing that could get the child to be quiet. He carries it around; he sits on the floor and pages through it. He’s a one year old, so he can’t read it obviously, he can only have it read to him, but there’s something about that tactile experience and being able to look at those pictures and have some comprehension. So, the magazine has taken this one year old and captivated him. And when we can do that, it’s why we do this work.

Mary Dalheim: I think there is something to be said for that tactile experience. It allows them to enter a little magazine world of their own. Also with children, the magazine is the first thing that they get in the mail and it makes them feel grownup. It’s very exciting to rush to the mailbox and get that and hold it in your hand. And I do think that it helps them focus.

Another interesting story that I told Lori about and it made her day was that a mother recently told me that she couldn’t get her child to go to soccer practice because he was reading Ranger Rick Jr., and he wanted to finish the story on chameleons. So, there again is that focus that we’re talking about.

Samir Husni: Mary, I think the last time you and I spoke was in 2007; how have things changed since then?

Mary Dalheim: In 2007, we didn’t think print was dying, but we did wonder if it would take a backseat to other things. We weren’t sure how everything was going to pan out. And I think what we found is that print is the core. It’s where the content comes from; it’s where the ideas come from; and it’s something kids continually want. But they want the other things too. They’re not willing to make a choice between one or the other types of media. It’s the brand that they’re buying and the content. The core is print, but they want the other things too; the apps and the websites, etc.

We received a picture that’s really cute that we ran in the most recent issue of Ranger Rick, and it’s of a girl that saves all of her Ranger Rick magazines. In the picture she has them on the floor and she’s looking at them. And she’s not the only reader that does that. We have a lot of readers that just save all of them and they go back and review them over and over again. So, there is that tactile print adoration again.

Lori Collins: I also think the key to what we do, whether it’s in print, which is what we do mostly, or if it’s another medium; we’re storytellers. And people like a good story. We happen to tell non-fiction stories primarily, but that’s what’s captivating the kids.

Samir Husni: We’ve seen a lot of new children’s magazines come into the marketplace, but what do you attribute the longevity of Ranger Rick to, especially now as you enter your 51st year?

Mary Dalheim: It’s the animals. Animals appeal to kids and it’s one of the things that they love the most as they’re growing up. So, first of all, you can win with animals, that just never grows old.

Lori Collins: Secondly, there’s a real nostalgia factor. A lot of the parents of the kids who are reading our magazines today, got Ranger Rick as a kid. And I’m sure Highlights has the same thing going on with their products. The parents remember reading it and have fond memories, and they want their children to have that experience.

Recently, I was recruiting people to evaluate some new things that we’re doing and several of the people who responded very proudly told me about how much they had enjoyed reading the magazine as a kid and they wanted to pass that on to their children. So, I think that’s a lot of what’s going on with us.

Mary Dalheim: We really are raising young conservationists and that’s what we hear from the parents who write in. We find out that the parents are naturalists or scientists, and they started with Ranger Rick.

Samir Husni: I hear from many of the adult conversation magazines that the current political climate has helped their causes a lot and they’re seeing more people subscribing and requesting their magazines.

Mary Dalheim: It certainly has ours, I think. Again, because I think some parents do want their children to be sensitive to conservation and do want to help raise young conservationists. And that’s part of Ranger Rick’s mission.

Samir Husni: How do you view the magazine as an experience maker, besides the storytelling?

Mary Dalheim: We believe in empowerment. We want to tell kids about wildlife, and as they get older and are capable of understanding some conservation issues, we want to talk about those developments when appropriate. But at the same time, we want to empower kids so that they feel hopeful. We don’t want to tell them about an issue and then make them feel bad and worry about it. We always empower them, such as we talk about how you can make a butterfly garden which helps Monarchs. We also have a photo contest. We want to get kids outdoors, because that’s healthier for them, and it also makes them appreciate wildlife more. So, we have a lot of activities that really takes the child outside.

Bob Harper: If you look at the most recent Ranger Rick, there’s an article about backyard birdfeeders and the kinds of birds you can attract. And then it hooks them up to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where they do the birdfeeder survey. And so kids can become citizen scientists. There’s a lot of talk about citizen scientists these days and getting common folk to help contribute to science. And that’s an example. We try to model that kind of role for kids.

Mary Dalheim: We also have another article about frogs and they can join FrogWatch USA and help conservationists monitor frogs and keep an eye on how they’re doing. So, we’re always trying to engage kids with wildlife and the outdoors.

Bob Harper: And on the conservation side, the Ranger Rick adventures, we have the comic strip with Ranger Rick and the Deep Woods Gang every issue, and they always cover a kind of conservation issue with a fun way of doing it. And for the December/January, some of the kids worry about what happens to the Christmas trees; well, there are stories about using the Christmas trees to stop erosion in the marshlands of Louisiana by bundling them together.

Samir Husni: What would you consider your biggest challenge today?

Bob Harper: On the business side, it really is marrying the print and the digital together going forward, and trying to come up with a model, as the rest of the publishing industry is trying to do, that allows us to invest in both of those successfully. And get people to see the value and be willing to pay a little bit extra, or at least what it’s worth, for the digital content.

Mary Dalheim: As editors, we see ourselves in the business of edutainment; we want it to be educational and entertaining at the same time, and that’s a continual challenge, to be entertaining as well as educating at the same time.

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

Bob Harper: I think the books are just wonderful examples of how the Ranger Rick characters and magic can be extended and I think we’re just going to do more of that in the future, so keep watching us as we try and do more things for kids. And that’s a big part of the National Wildlife Federation mission, reaching the next generation of conservationists. And we’re a big part of that; it’s our outreach. We’ve been doing it for 50 years and our plan is to do it for another 50. So, we’re going to reach even more.

Mary Dalheim: One thing I’d like to add about Ranger Rick is that we have an advisory board of over 200 kids. And I talked about edutainment being a challenge; they help us with that, because we are constantly asking them what they think of things. They pick our covers. We’ll send them three or four and ask them which one they like the best, and we always go with them it seems, because they really know best. And they give us reasons why they like something or don’t. But they give us ideas; they tell us what they’re interested in and what they care about. We’re in constant contact with them, weekly contact.

Samir Husni: What motivates you to get out of bed every morning?

Lori Collins: You mean other than my dog’s nose pushing me in my face? (Laughs) I really love hearing the stories about people being engaged by the work that we produce. It’s great to hear those kinds of stories; the kid won’t go to soccer because he’s reading about chameleons.

I’ve been doing this for a long time, and Mary has been doing it for a long time as well, and there are only so many animals in this world. So you write these stories that you’ve already written before and you think that you did the best job you could 10 years ago, how are you going to make it better? And you realize that you don’t have to do it completely differently, because it’s a different child that’s reencountering it, but you do. You want to make it better; you want to make it right for today’s kid as opposed to 10 years ago. And we seem to be doing a good job with that.

Mary Dalheim: We get over 200 letters a month from kids who are really engaged with wildlife and I think that’s really rewarding. It’s also rewarding that we’re on social media with adults and almost daily we’re told how they read the magazine regularly when they were young and how it changed their lives and have seen a lot of people become scientists and wildlife naturalists because of us. It’s all very rewarding. And we get to work with the most beautiful photography in the world and fascinating topics.

Lori Collins: We’re also lucky because having worked in materials that were designed for schools, where you had to follow curriculum and things like that, that can really feel like your hands are tied behind your back. Our only constraints are accuracy and being respectful of our readers. We don’t have to worry about some of these other imposed restrictions, so it’s rewarding to work in that environment.

Bob Harper: For me, back to that whole idea of animals; animals are the rock stars of childhood and I think it’s great to be a roadie, behind the scenes, working with these spectacular people who make the show so great for kids. It’s really spectacular and the people are just great. And the cause is great; the edutainment is great.

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

Mary Dalheim: I’ll tell you what comes to mind; Ranger Rick’s mother is what they call me, and at first I was horrified by that, but now I’ve become very proud of that.

Bob Harper: From a career perspective, my whole career has been spent in the youth market, so I hope people will remember me as someone who helped contribute to good things for kids, particularly educational and edutainment, where they both enjoyed and learned from.

Lori Collins: I come from a family of schoolteachers, and I knew that I didn’t want to do that, but in some ways I feel like a lot of what I do is guided by that background and I’m proud of that.

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

Lori Collins: There’s probably a beer or a glass of wine involved. Also, maybe going to a sporting event, or hanging out with friends. And maybe TV. (Laughs)

Mary Dalheim: I’m a reader, so I’m probably reading. But I would like to say what you would catch Lori doing if she was at a party, or even at her own party, she hands out Ranger Rick magazines.

Lori Collins: I actually take them where my son works at because there’s always kids there looking a little lost. (Laughs) I keep them in my car so I can pass them out whenever.

Bob Harper: It’s not quite that time of year, but my idea of unwinding is being outside in the yard, or hiking or biking. And soon hopefully, cross-country skiing. Certainly, that’s not every day, but when it’s nice out that’s what I’ll be doing.

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

Mary Dalheim: Money for one thing; it’s expensive to make these products. I want to make the very best we can and we’re trying to stretch that dollar in every way we can.

Lori Collins: I share the money concerns, but otherwise I sleep pretty well.

Bob Harper: As a publisher, it’s great to hear the editorial people put the money up there as one of the issues (Laughs), but for me it’s can we be out there enough and on top of it to ride the wave between print and digital. Just to stay on top of that in a way that keeps us going, but I’m very optimistic about it. Generally speaking, it’s not so much worrying about it; it’s more trying to think of all of the options and trying to pick the ones that work for us.

Samir Husni: Thank you all.

h1

Condé Nast’s President & CEO, Bob Sauerberg, to Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “I Think That Print Is Really Here To Stay; Consumers Just Love It. And I Think That They Love Our Magazines And They Love Other Companies’ Magazines.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

November 17, 2017

“We’re building a big experiences business. It’s not just that everything is going digital, consumers also want to have real experiences. And we see that as a big business. My plan isn’t just the plan to pivot to digital; it’s a plan to build great brands and different forms of content in a variety of platforms. And that’s what really makes our future so exciting and so dynamic.” Bob Sauerberg…

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

In January 2016, Condé Nast, one of the world’s most highly regarded and watched magazine media companies, with revered titles such as The New Yorker, Vogue, GQ, Vanity Fair, Wired, W, and Glamour, elevated Bob Sauerberg to the position of President and CEO, and the company has been moving forward with forceful and news-generating changes ever since. In less than two years under his CEO tenure, Condé Nast has seen more changes than the entire decade before. Following a strategy that is permeating the industry with premium content across all platforms, Condé Nast also has seen its digital revenues increase; has created different brand collections at the company, such as the Women’s Collection under the leadership of Alison Moore, and the Culture Collection under the leadership of Chris Mitchell; and has launched a digital-only platform, Them, that has seen phenomenal success, all without putting its traditional print content on the backburner. In short, Condé Nast is gearing up for a very exciting future and Bob Sauerberg is steady and strong at the helm.

I spoke with Bob recently and we talked about the changes and shifts throughout Condé Nast’s hallowed halls. From the departure of Graydon Carter as Vanity Fair’s editor in chief, to Radhika Jones being named as his successor, Bob expressed confidence and excitement about the company’s future. His supreme belief in the talented people who create Condé Nast’s high quality products is palpable, and his vision is on mark and focused when it comes to what he sees for the company’s future: sealing its position as a premium media company, diverse and varied, but with one sacred cow; the company’s valued position as a high-quality content-maker with 100 + years of expertise.

So, without further ado, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Bob Sauerberg, president & CEO, Condé Nast.

But first the sound-bites:

On his upcoming second anniversary as CEO of Condé Nast and how he would evaluate those first two years: My first two years have been very focused on putting the people, the employees, in place to do that. It’s not just words, there has to be a lot of action; reprioritizing which platforms we’re going to be publishing our content on over time, and really getting us properly set up so that we can scale those new growth initiatives.

On what percent of the strategic goals he set forth for Condé Nast he feels he’s at right now: We’re probably about 75 percent there. I think the foundation is all set, but it’s been disruptive. Going through massive change like this is incredibly disruptive. It’s very easy to put it down on paper and set up the vision, but it’s really harder to get people to understand it and execute it.

On the biggest challenge he’s had to face since putting those strategic goals in place: I’m going to say that the biggest challenges are culture. Every industry that’s going through massive transformation, by definition, if you’ve been a traditional business that’s been around for 100+ years like we have; we’ve created real expertise in content making, particularly in magazines. And as you go through these transformations, you’re doing different things, so getting the organization to change at a pace that’s at or greater than the marketplace is really difficult.

On whether anything has surprised him during the almost 18 years total that he’s been at Condé Nast: I’ll tell you what surprises me now, and I’ve been saying this forever, but the rate of change; I’ve been telling people that it’s going to keep changing faster than it has in the past, but it’s really mind-blowing to see how the marketplace is changing, particularly the advertising marketplace. It’s astonishing to see how there is always constant shift and change. So, that’s one change that’s been frustrating and perhaps difficult.

On whether he thinks he’ll see the day at Condé Nast where revenue is coming from both print and digital: Yes, I do. Our strategy for the next three years; the digital aspects of our business will be at least 50 percent. And I’m hoping within that composition that a big piece of that is coming from the consumer and not just from the advertiser.

On what the reader can expect from a Bob Sauerberg tenure with all of the changes that are taking place at Condé Nast: The latest announcement is the replacement of Graydon Carter, and that’s with Radhika Jones, who is an absolutely fabulous editor, and one with really endless potential. She’s brilliant; she’s innovative; she’s experienced on all platforms; and she has relationships with people everywhere, and she’s a very cool person. So, that’s the latest. And you’ve seen over the last couple of years a lot of changes; senior management here, and yes, these are my people and I’m really proud of them.

On whether there are any of the Condé Nast brands that would be considered sacred cows: What’s sacred here is quality content. That’s our expertise and it has been for 100 years. We may monetize that content differently over time; we may prioritize different brands at different points in time, because the marketplace changes. Those are all shifts that will happen naturally, but the DNA of our company, the expertise of it, is our quality content and that’s sacred.

On whether he can envision a day there isn’t a printed Vogue or Vanity Fair: I actually really don’t. I think that print is really here to stay; consumers just love it. And I think that they love our magazines and they love other companies’ magazines. All you have to do is hop on an airplane, or you’re sitting at a resort or something, by a pool, and everyone is reading a magazine.

On the thinking process behind folding a magazine such as Teen Vogue, and launching a digital-only entity such as Them: The print advertising business for the teen categories has just been struggling for some period of time. So, we just determined that when we looked out over the three-year plan, that we were fighting that platform; the cost versus the return; we were just finding a marketplace that was not going to return an outcome that we really liked. And most of our revenue was coming from our digital business; it had already transitioned to a digital brand. And we’re just getting started with Them. How many platforms we’re publishing; how things play out; that will change over time, but it could very well be a great magazine opportunity. But we’re just out of the gate and it’s wildly successful so far.

On whether he ever dreamed when he was a student at the University of Arkansas that he would one day become the leader of one the major publishing companies in the world: No, I really didn’t. I’ll tell you something; I’ve never interviewed for a job. I haven’t, I just sort of always tried to redefine every job I was in, and evidently people liked what they saw. I’ve always thought about the future and developing whatever I was doing. I’m obviously motivated, but I never really had a specific outcome that I had planned for my career. These things just sort of played out through just trying to do good work.

On being quoted as saying that he does not motivate people, he hires motivated people: I think that’s true. I would also say that my leadership approach is very much focused on mentoring and developing great people, so I’m not trying to put myself on the pedestal; I’m trying to keep the company on the pedestal. And then having all of the boats that we have rowing toward the vision that we all believe in. And I think motivated people like that.

On whether there are any surprises in store between now and the end of the year: It’s been reported that we’re gearing up to announce a Glamour editor, and I think that will probably be the last bit of noise that you’ll hear from us until 2018.

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

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: I’m a SoulCycler. I’m the oldest guy SoulCycling in the back row. (Laughs) But I’m exercising hard. I’m not sure you have that in Mississippi, but it’s a cycling class that is an incredible workout for 45 minutes. It’s a real fun thing to do.

On what keeps him up at night: It really goes back to molding the culture, because I think that we’re working on the right things; we know what we need to do, and getting individuals there and really working on the right things, getting that culture right is really the thing that keeps me up.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Bob Sauerberg, president and CEO, Condé Nast.

Samir Husni: In January 2018, you’ll complete your second year as CEO of Condé Nast, and probably in that last two years there have been more changes at Condé Nast than in the previous decade. How would you evaluate those first two years?

Bob Sauerberg: I would say that our transformation plan is very focused on maintaining our leadership position of putting out the best magazines in the world. And trying to turn the magazine business into a better business by using that foundation to develop a very significant digital, video, branded content, and data business. And these experiences could really fuel our growth long-term, because the magazine business is obviously not a growing business.

My first two years have been very focused on putting the people, the employees, in place to do that. It’s not just words, there has to be a lot of action; reprioritizing which platforms we’re going to be publishing our content on over time, and really getting us properly set up so that we can scale those new growth initiatives. And everything we’ve done over the last two years has been really in concert with that plan.

Samir Husni: And if you were going to give yourself a grade, and I know it’s very tough to be your own professor and student at the same time, but do you feel that you’ve accomplished 90. 95, or 100 percent of that new strategic goal you put forth for Condé Nast?

Bob Sauerberg: We’re probably about 75 percent there. I think the foundation is all set, but it’s been disruptive. Going through massive change like this is incredibly disruptive. It’s very easy to put it down on paper and set up the vision, but it’s really harder to get people to understand it and execute it.

This year we reorganized our sales organization from 22 different siloed brands – 22 different sales organizations into one, which was a massive undertaking. Recently, we had our first national sales and marketing leadership meeting that the company has ever had, and it was the most satisfying day of my career at Condé Nast. We came together and it was incredibly clear the things that we could do differently to provide scaled programs for the marketplace, as well as amazing, individually branded things. So, I would say that when you go through transformation, the scorecard continually changes. And I’m feeling really good about the foundation we’ve put in place.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest challenge that you’ve had to face since you began these changes?

Bob Sauerberg: I’m going to say that the biggest challenges are culture. Every industry that’s going through massive transformation, by definition, if you’ve been a traditional business that’s been around for 100+ years like we have; we’ve created real expertise in content making, particularly in magazines.

And as you go through these transformations, you’re doing different things, so getting the organization to change at a pace that’s at or greater than the marketplace is really difficult. You’ve got digital organization that’s coming in, that can do things quicker, and they have to work with the traditional content-makers who are so important to us. So, getting them to really find a way to work together, not frustrate each other, but really work together is the biggest challenge. When it happens and it works, it’s the greatest thing you’ve ever seen, when you’ve got talented people coming together toward a really great outcome.

Samir Husni: You’ve been at Condé Nast since 2000, so you’ve been there since the beginning of the 21st century, has anything surprised you in those 18 years?

Bob Sauerberg: I’ll tell you what surprises me now, and I’ve been saying this forever, but the rate of change; I’ve been telling people that it’s going to keep changing faster than it has in the past, but it’s really mind-blowing to see how the marketplace is changing, particularly the advertising marketplace. It’s astonishing to see how there is always constant shift and change. So, that’s one change that’s been frustrating and perhaps difficult.

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

Samir Husni: I spoke with Chris Mitchell recently and he was telling me that The New Yorker is now almost at a 50-50 revenue break between print and digital. Do you think you’ll see the day at Condé Nast where almost all of the content is generating revenue both from print and digital?

Bob Sauerberg: Yes, I do. Our strategy for the next three years; the digital aspects of our business will be at least 50 percent. And I’m hoping within that composition that a big piece of that is coming from the consumer and not just from the advertiser.

The New Yorker very quietly has had one of the most successful consumer paywalls in existence. It’s a huge business and growing fast. And that’s a very prideful thing for a company, because we’ve got hundreds of thousands of people paying us for content in a variety of formats, in both digital and print. We’re feeling really good about that, and separately, we’re building a big experiences business. It’s not just that everything is going digital, consumers also want to have real experiences. And we see that as a big business.

My plan isn’t just the plan to pivot to digital; it’s a plan to build great brands and different forms of content in a variety of platforms. And that’s what really makes our future so exciting and so dynamic.

Samir Husni: With all of the changes that are taking place, and the fact that you’re also the first CEO without S.I. Newhouse in the house; will we be seeing more of Bob Sauerberg’s fingerprints upon the magazine? From the choices of new editors to the choices for new chief business officers; what can we, the readers, expect from a Bob Sauerberg tenure at Condé Nast?

Bob Sauerberg: The latest announcement is the replacement of Graydon Carter, and that’s with Radhika Jones, who is an absolutely fabulous editor, and one with really endless potential. She’s brilliant; she’s innovative; she’s experienced on all platforms; and she has relationships with people everywhere, and she’s a very cool person. So, that’s the latest.

And you’ve seen over the last couple of years a lot of changes; senior management here, and yes, these are my people and I’m really proud of them. They’re coming to the table with a couple of simple common traits, and one is that they want to do something really special and they want to do something that really creates a level of influence over the world that doesn’t exist elsewhere.

They come with skills that are expansive and not set on just one platform. And they not only want to do it, they know how to do it, whether it’s a chief business officer or an editor, or quite frankly, our digital team, who are really quite fabulous here. And our video team. The entertainment group we have here is second to none.

We started Condé Nast Entertainment five years ago. We had no video views; we were not doing video at all. And this year we’ll have 11 billion views of short-form video; five or six TV shows in production; a movie that’s out in the theaters now, with more to come; and this didn’t exist five years ago. It was an idea that I basically had on my whiteboard and we hired Dawn Ostroff and we made that happen.

What I’m proud about is that we have seen the trends; we know what they are and we’re trying to really balance out where we put our time, attention and investment, between the things that got us here, these great magazines that we produce, and these great brands that were created under S.I.’s leadership. So now, we’re finding ways to spin them into other platforms and to build other businesses around them and change the business model. All these things take time and determination, but it’s really happening and it’s not like a business plan; it’s real action and real revenue and real profit.

Samir Husni: As you move forward, are there any sacred cows with any of the brands, be it print or digital, or you’re going to do whatever it takes to stick to that strategy?

Bob Sauerberg: What’s sacred here is quality content. That’s our expertise and it has been for 100 years. We may monetize that content differently over time; we may prioritize different brands at different points in time, because the marketplace changes. Those are all shifts that will happen naturally, but the DNA of our company, the expertise of it, is our quality content and that’s sacred.

Now, will we figure out how to create that content with different cross-structures or different approaches, of course, everyone will do that, but I want our content to lead our company and I want it to be influential, different, and market-making. To me that’s our sacred cow.

Samir Husni: Do you envision a day when we won’t have a printed Vogue, Vanity Fair, or GQ?

Bob Sauerberg: I actually really don’t. I think that print is really here to stay; consumers just love it. And I think that they love our magazines and they love other companies’ magazines. All you have to do is hop on an airplane, or you’re sitting at a resort or something, by a pool, and everyone is reading a magazine.

The issue right now is the advertising marketplace is a bit fickle with it, because they’re shifting gears in terms of ow they’re spending their monies. What that’s really going to make us do is to think about how to monetize the magazines differently, get the consumers to pay more, find different ways to leverage those brands. And we will do that. But it’s a cultural moment when Vanity Fair’s cover hits the newsstands. And that’s an important part of our business. Just like it is with Vogue and with GQ.

Samir Husni: We’ve never seen anything digital create the same buzz as the covers of Vanity Fair have or the cover of GQ this month. When you fold a print magazine, such as when you folded the print edition of Teen Vogue, how is that different from say, Vogue? Or when you launched Them as a digital-only entity; what’s the thinking behind those types of decisions in the hierarchy at Condé Nast?

Bob Sauerberg: The print advertising business for the teen categories has just been struggling for some period of time. So, we just determined that when we looked out over the three-year plan, that we were fighting that platform; the cost versus the return; we were just finding a marketplace that was not going to return an outcome that we really liked. And most of our revenue was coming from our digital business; it had already transitioned to a digital brand. I wasn’t excited that we were going through that, but it was a good business decision.

And we’re just getting started with Them. How many platforms we’re publishing; how things play out; that will change over time, but it could very well be a great magazine opportunity. But we’re just out of the gate and it’s wildly successful so far. I think we had our first video that in its first day had 1.5 million views. It’s crazy. Our instinct was if we did this right we were going to catch a cultural wave and I think we have. One that makes that level of innovation very exciting.

Samir Husni: From a personal point of view, since your days in Arkansas, when you were a student at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, did you ever expect that one day you’d be the leader of one of the major magazine companies in the world?

Bob Sauerberg: No, I really didn’t. I’ll tell you something; I’ve never interviewed for a job. I haven’t, I just sort of always tried to redefine every job I was in, and evidently people liked what they saw. I’ve always thought about the future and developing whatever I was doing. I’m obviously motivated, but I never really had a specific outcome that I had planned for my career. These things just sort of played out through just trying to do good work.

So, I can’t say that it was calculated or anything; I just spent time doing whatever I was doing and tried to it as well as anyone could. And then you show up, and here’s where you end up.

Samir Husni: One of your famous quotes is “You do not motivate people, you hire motivated people.”

Bob Sauerberg: I think that’s true. I would also say that my leadership approach is very much focused on mentoring and developing great people, so I’m not trying to put myself on the pedestal; I’m trying to keep the company on the pedestal. And then having all of the boats that we have rowing toward the vision that we all believe in. And I think motivated people like that.

They like having a big runway where they can develop their skills, and I think that’s why I’m here at Condé Nast, because we have such talented people and I’m not trying to get in the way of their development or growth; I’m just trying to channel it toward the outcomes that we need to grow the company.

Samir Husni: Are there any surprises in store between now and the end of the year?

Bob Sauerberg: It’s been reported that we’re gearing up to announce a Glamour editor, and I think that will probably be the last bit of noise that you’ll hear from us until 2018.

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

Bob Sauerberg: Bold.

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?

Bob Sauerberg: I’m a SoulCycler. I’m the oldest guy SoulCycling in the back row. (Laughs) But I’m exercising hard. I’m not sure you have that in Mississippi, but it’s a cycling class that is an incredible workout for 45 minutes. It’s a real fun thing to do.

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

Bob Sauerberg: It really goes back to molding the culture, because I think that we’re working on the right things; we know what we need to do, and getting individuals there and really working on the right things, getting that culture right is really the thing that keeps me up.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Elle Décor’s Editor In Chief, Whitney Robinson To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “It Isn’t About Showcasing Just The Pretty Or The Chic, But Showcasing Also The Cutting Edge And The Sublime.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

November 16, 2017

“I want to thank you for reading the magazine. It means a lot, because what I say to people is this, especially in a world of 15-second sound-bites; a world where everything refreshes literally in seconds, on your phones, on your screens, in front of you; for people to actually know what’s happening in the magazine, they have to read it cover to cover. And they have to go on the journey with us and with me to see how we are iterating this magazine and how we’re changing it for the 21st century.” Whitney Robinson…

“I’m doing this out of the deep passion and love and commitment that I have for this industry, but it’s also because I really do believe passionately that design is all around us; everywhere we are.” Whitney Robinson…

For nearly 30 years Elle Décor has been on the cutting edge of design, of where fashion and the home meet. The magazine has showcased international trends, with its 30 worldwide editions, and has also kept the American Dream of a sanctuary at home alive and well, while opening its pages to a unique mix of culture, cuisine, art and travel, at the same time.

This past summer Whitney Robinson was named editor in chief after his most recent position as style director at Town & Country, where he wrote, assigned and collaborated on a wide variety of stories and topics. Whitney comes to Elle Décor with a diverse blend of knowledge and vision for the brand.

I spoke with Whitney recently and we talked about that knowledgeable vision he has. His thought processes are very straightforward: audience first, readers first. Put the beautiful out there alongside the unusual and the unique, and then let the readers decide. But always show them everything, respecting their ability to discern what they prefer. Audience first; Mr. Magazine™ definitely agrees with that course of action.

So, before you begin reading this most intriguing interview with a man who definitely has a panache and style of his own, let us all take a moment to wish Whitney a very Happy Birthday, as he celebrates on November 16. Happy Birthday, Whitney! And here’s wishing you many, many more! And now the interview with Elle Décor’s editor in chief.

But first the sound-bites:

On what a print magazine should look like in 2017: That’s a very good question; I call it a 3-D Venn Diagram, because I don’t think it can look like one thing and I don’t think it’s the same thing day-to-day and I don’t think it’s the same thing from medium to medium. What that means is, especially for a magazine like Elle Décor; we have many different facets of the magazine.

On whether the reengineering of the magazine, beginning with the October issue, presents a more intentionally humanized element within the pages: We’re iterating in real time. And this is something that I think few magazine editors have done before, probably for good reason (laughs), because we’re a little crazy here, which I think you have to be. And that means, rather than showcase a magazine the way it was, and then just spend six months figuring it out, or eight months, or a year, whatever it is for a typical redesign, and then introduce that to your audience…which by the way, historically has always failed. There are very few instances of a full redesign of any magazine in the last 30 years that has worked, both for subscribers – the loyalists, and also on the newsstand. So, what we decided to do was take a much more contemporary approach to that by experimenting.

On whether he feels the American edition of Elle Décor sets the precedent for the international editions: Historically, you’re talking about a numbers game here. We had the most subscribers and newsstand sales and therefore as a de facto, we became the global leader in showcasing what the magazine could be. And I think taking a more holistic view of this brand; it’s a very American concept, as opposed to dividing it into total, and so, sure; I love for our European counterparts; our Asian counterparts; and our South American counterparts to take a look at what we’re doing here and dovetail into it.

On whether he’s on top of the mountain now or he feels there’s more climbing for him and the magazine: Oh, we haven’t even started. We’re just beginning, and I say that to our readers as well. They’re along on this journey with us, and I thank them for that, because it is a journey. And again, rather than dumb it down or placate them or showcase this monolithic vision of something, I’ve really invited everybody to the party.

On the human feel of the magazine: And there’s a lot of reasons for that. And I’ve said this before, it’s about bringing in the whole world of design and that includes our sections on interiors, fashion and food. And it’s really not the specific topics, because I didn’t invent that coverage in this magazine. I didn’t invent celebrity coverage in this magazine, they’ve been covering it for 30 years. I didn’t invent food in this magazine, Daniel Boulud has been our resident chef for 25 years. What we’ve done is made the topics that we’re covering with those people more relevant, so they don’t feel evergreen or out of time. But actually, and this is where fashion comes in, similar to fashion or pop culture magazines, and more plugged into what’s actually happening in the world around us.

On the back page of the magazine, which has been dubbed the “Not for Sale” page: The genesis of that came from a studio visit with Lindsey Adelman, who is a very well-respected designer in Manhattan. She’s been working in the business for about 25 years, but when she created this brass chandelier, she became super-well-known and super-lauded, and now has a robust global practice. I was in Lindsey’s studio and she showed me ceramic vessels that her son had made for her and I told her they were fantastic. I said that we have to put them in the magazine, and she told me that they weren’t for sale. And I thought that was a sentiment for our time, and because there is so much product in the magazine and so many things for sale, I felt that we needed something that was a bit different.

On his biggest challenge: My biggest challenge is to convince everybody, that’s everyone’s biggest challenge. I’m doing this out of the deep passion and love and commitment that I have for this industry, but it’s also because I really do believe passionately that design is all around us; everywhere we are. From the look of our coffee cups to the cars that we drive to the design of our iPhones it’s absolutely everywhere. And so, talking about it in such a way where it’s more than just pretty; although “just pretty” sometimes matters just as much. But we’re talking about it in a deeper way.

On what’s coming up in 2018 for the brand: It’s a journey. So, we’re ever-evolving; I’m also a Scorpio so it’s my nature. You should do the zodiac signs of editor in chiefs, because I think there’s quite a few of us in this building who have birthdays this week. It’s ever-evolving, but it isn’t that we break news, just to get down to brass tacks and practicality, but it’s that we look like that moment in time that we’re making this magazine.

On anything else he’d like to add: I’m very glad that Elle Décor is a part of the conversation. Again, historically, design magazines have been put to the side, where people say they love design and décor magazines, and they’re so easy to read. But actually, design magazines are functioning in the space that everyone else is too, and we’re asking challenging questions; we’re showcasing magnificent homes around the world, but we’re also relevant.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: That I thought differently and we were able to change people’s perceptions. I think that’s the ultimate goal. It’s the hardest one. Someone once told me that if you think you’re going to a “clap, clap” emoji for changing people’s opinions, think again. (Laughs)

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: What day is it? Some days you’ll find me at CVS on a Sunday morning, reading all of the papers. Or I’ll be reading articles, ripping things out, getting mad at my editors because we didn’t get something first, calling our contributors to do it, and then watching 60 Minutes. That’s my Sunday. Yesterday, I was playing with a Nintendo Switch all day, and it’s a fantastic piece of technology, by the way. It changes day-to-day, I guess.

On what keeps him up at night: Zero. I sleep like a baby. I’m a deep sleeper. People ask me this question, and it’s so funny; we do this for passion. It’s a passion project. People have a lot of different goals; if your goal is cash, go work for Goldman Sachs. If your goal is politics, go work in the White House or you can work for the Peace Corps. The passion for what we do in magazines is such a specific thing; it’s a band of outsiders, a gangly group, who really believe passionately in this industry.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Whitney Robinson, editor in chief, Elle Décor.

Samir Husni: In your editor’s letter for the October issue, you write – Apologies to those who have heard this spiel before, but here it goes: What should a print magazine look like in 2017? So, what should it look like?

Whitney Robinson: That’s a very good question; I call it a 3-D Venn Diagram, because I don’t think it can look like one thing and I don’t think it’s the same thing day-to-day and I don’t think it’s the same thing from medium to medium. What that means is, especially for a magazine like Elle Décor; we have many different facets of the magazine.

So, we have our print magazine, which is the core of what we do; it’s what brings in the majority of our revenue, and it’s where most people familiarize themselves with the brand historically. At the same time, we have 2.2 million Instagram followers, a huge social following for any brand at Hearst, but also the most socially-engaged brand at Hearst, which means we get the most comments per post than any other brand here, and that’s extraordinary.

We have a robust online platform, elledecor.com. And we have 31 editions total of Elle Décor around the globe. And on top of that, we have the halo of Elle too. And if you were sitting in front of me now, you’d see me drawing circles with a coffee cup and a candlestick to demonstrate the fact that this is a moving Venn Diagram. And depending on where we are in a cycle, and what stories we’re trying to tell, the importance of each medium changes and ebbs and flows.

But what a magazine should look like in 2017, a print magazine specifically, is something that you want to have pride-of-place on your coffee table or your bookshelves, but it should also be reflective of the time and place that it’s being made. That is to say, if you’re working on a December issue, and our December issue recently hit newsstands; that issue should look like December 2017. It should be reflective of both the topics and the subjects that are inside of it, and also what’s on the cover, and of any given moment of that particular time. Not six months before; not six months after.

Samir Husni: Since you began the reengineering of Elle Décor, from the October, November and December issues; are you trying to humanize the brand? As I read those three issues, I felt there was a strong element of humanization within the brand; is that intentional, or am I now seeing more of Whitney on the pages of Elle Décor?

Whitney Robinson: I want to answer your question, but first I want to thank you for reading the magazine. It means a lot, because what I say to people is this, especially in a world of 15-second sound-bites; a world where everything refreshes literally in seconds, on your phones, on your screens, in front of you; for people to actually know what’s happening in the magazine, they have to read it cover to cover. And they have to go on the journey with us and with me to see how we are iterating this magazine and how we’re changing it for the 21st century.

And what I would say is that we’re doing just that; we’re iterating in real time. And this is something that I think few magazine editors have done before, probably for good reason (laughs), because we’re a little crazy here, which I think you have to be. And that means, rather than showcase a magazine the way it was, and then just spend six months figuring it out, or eight months, or a year, whatever it is for a typical redesign, and then introduce that to your audience…which by the way, historically has always failed. There are very few instances of a full redesign of any magazine in the last 30 years that has worked, both for subscribers – the loyalists, and also on the newsstand.

So, what we decided to do was take a much more contemporary approach to that by experimenting. We’re saying, here’s what the world of Elle Décor looks like, which simply is wherever design happens, and that’s everywhere design happens. So, we’re taking a look at global design, and as a journalist of global design, if you read my editor’s letter, it isn’t about showcasing just the pretty or the chic, but showcasing also the cutting edge and the sublime. And making sure that we show you everything that’s out there, and then letting the reader decide what they like or don’t like.

And I think, perhaps controversially, it’s not about someone saying that they love everything in the magazine or they even like it, it’s about them seeing what’s out there and then letting them choose their own adventure. Iterating in real time means that you show the breadth of what the magazine could be. It does not mean that every section we do or that we have in the magazine that you see in any given issue will continue. And the idea that a magazine can be a living thing doesn’t mean we don’t want a consistency or a thread of a vision that runs through all of it, but that’s a more subtle concept or conceit, than the fact that we can change columns as we see fit. We can reflect, again, the time and the place that it’s being made, to make sure that we’re staying as current as possible.

It doesn’t mean breaking news, by the way. If you want to break news, then you should work on the digital platform. If you want to reflect the news and if you want to create a specific point of view…which is, by the way, what these magazines were able to do and why they were so popular in the beginning, because they provided a specific point of view. You knew what you were going to get when you picked up the magazine. And I hope people pick up this magazine and realize that they’re going to get the best global design. And they’re going to get the most informed, smartest, the most beautiful visceral vision of that global design.

Samir Husni: In your editor’s letter, you’re engaging your readers with all of the evolution that’s taking place at Elle Décor, and as an editor of a brand that exists in over 30 markets worldwide, do you feel an intense responsibility to the other markets? As though whatever you do here is going to be reflected worldwide? How do you interact with the responsibility of the American edition of Elle Décor? Is it setting the stage for everybody else?

Whitney Robinson: Historically, you’re talking about a numbers game here. We had the most subscribers and newsstand sales and therefore as a de facto, we became the global leader in showcasing what the magazine could be. And I think taking a more holistic view of this brand; it’s a very American concept, as opposed to dividing it into total, and so, sure; I love for our European counterparts; our Asian counterparts; and our South American counterparts to take a look at what we’re doing here and dovetail into it.

And I tell you, we’ve already gotten great feedback from our counterparts in Europe, particularly from the U.K. and Ben Spriggs, an editor who just took over the helm of that magazine, and he’s thrilled with what we’re doing and we’re talking about how we can collaborate better together already. And that’s unprecedented.

Samir Husni: Are you now on top of the mountain or is there still more climbing you and Elle Décor need to do?

Whitney Robinson: Oh, we haven’t even started. We’re just beginning, and I say that to our readers as well. They’re along on this journey with us, and I thank them for that, because it is a journey. And again, rather than dumb it down or placate them or showcase this monolithic vision of something, I’ve really invited everybody to the party.

Are there more people in this magazine; sure; lifestyle has been a dirty word, but not for me. If people want to call it lifestyle, then so be it. It is about the best of design, but it really shows how people live today. And if anyone thinks that’s radical, then they’re not actually living in the world here. It’s about how people interact with everything; the ME generation, so we’re talking about how we can reflect out, but imitate in a beautiful way. And it’s not about selfies and writing LOL in my copy, which I’ve been quoted as saying before. But it is about taking a more conversational approach to our text; it’s about taking a looser look at our photography, so it doesn’t feel so tight.

Samir Husni: And I felt that humanization; it was very evident to me.

Whitney Robinson: And there’s a lot of reasons for that. And I’ve said this before, it’s about bringing in the whole world of design and that includes our sections on interiors, fashion and food. And it’s really not the specific topics, because I didn’t invent that coverage in this magazine. I didn’t invent celebrity coverage in this magazine, they’ve been covering it for 30 years. I didn’t invent food in this magazine, Daniel Boulud has been our resident chef for 25 years. What we’ve done is made the topics that we’re covering with those people more relevant, so they don’t feel evergreen or out of time. But actually, and this is where fashion comes in, similar to fashion or pop culture magazines, and more plugged into what’s actually happening in the world around us.

Samir Husni: One of the things that really stands out to me is your back page; the “Not for Sale” page. Would you tell me a little more about the idea of showcasing and having something in the magazine that’s not for sale?

Whitney Robinson: The genesis of that came from a studio visit with Lindsey Adelman, who is a very well-respected designer in Manhattan. She’s been working in the business for about 25 years, but when she created this brass chandelier, she became super-well-known and super-lauded, and now has a robust global practice.

I was in Lindsey’s studio and she showed me ceramic vessels that her son had made for her and I told her they were fantastic. I said that we have to put them in the magazine, and she told me that they weren’t for sale. And I asked, what do you mean they’re not for sale? And she explained how meaningful they were to her, because they were made by her son. And she didn’t feel that everything had to have a commercial value placed on it in order to be valuable.

And I thought that was a sentiment for our time, and because there is so much product in the magazine and so many things for sale, I felt that we needed something that was a bit different. And back pages are often; I won’t say they’re a throwaway, but they’re often the last thing that you get to. Often, they’re easy to produce and don’t require a ton of thought, and again that goes across the board from fashion to home. And this is really an antidote to the rest of the commerciality of the magazine. The idea that it has a social conscience as well was built into the fact that we wanted people to be able to donate to charities of their choice by showcasing these items. So, it’s something that does well for the magazine, but also does good. And that’s a model that I’m always using in the creation of Elle Décor.

Samir Husni: What’s your biggest challenge now?

Whitney Robinson: My biggest challenge is to convince everybody, that’s everyone’s biggest challenge. I’m doing this out of the deep passion and love and commitment that I have for this industry, but it’s also because I really do believe passionately that design is all around us; everywhere we are. From the look of our coffee cups to the cars that we drive to the design of our iPhones it’s absolutely everywhere. And so, talking about it in such a way where it’s more than just pretty; although “just pretty” sometimes matters just as much. But we’re talking about it in a deeper way.

Samir Husni: What is coming up for Whitney and Elle Décor in 2018?

Whitney Robinson: It’s a journey. So, we’re ever-evolving; I’m also a Scorpio so it’s my nature. You should do the zodiac signs of editor in chiefs, because I think there’s quite a few of us in this building who have birthdays this week. It’s ever-evolving, but it isn’t that we break news, just to get down to brass tacks and practicality, but it’s that we look like that moment in time that we’re making this magazine.

And our schedule is really just about four weeks out now, which has made everyone on the staff get on their toes, and that’s exciting. And rather than know what’s going to happen a year from now, which is historically how a lot of shelter magazines are produced, they produce about a year in advance and that’s how they photograph; ours is produced to the cuff. So, we produce as a news magazine would, like a New York Times Magazine. We produce really close up until we ship.

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

Whitney Robinson: I’m very glad that Elle Décor is a part of the conversation. Again, historically, design magazines have been put to the side, where people say they love design and décor magazines, and they’re so easy to read. But actually, design magazines are functioning in the space that everyone else is too, and we’re asking challenging questions; we’re showcasing magnificent homes around the world, but we’re also relevant.

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

Whitney Robinson: That I thought differently and we were able to change people’s perceptions. I think that’s the ultimate goal. It’s the hardest one. Someone once told me that if you think you’re going to a “clap, clap” emoji for changing people’s opinions, think again. (Laughs)

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

Whitney Robinson: What day is it? Some days you’ll find me at CVS on a Sunday morning, reading all of the papers. Or I’ll be reading articles, ripping things out, getting mad at my editors because we didn’t get something first, calling our contributors to do it, and then watching 60 Minutes. That’s my Sunday. Yesterday, I was playing with a Nintendo Switch all day, and it’s a fantastic piece of technology, by the way. It changes day-to-day, I guess.

What day are we at? For example, today, I’m off on the Red-Eye; I have to ship the magazine today. We’re shipping a cover, and I do not have a dinner tonight, so I will be home with my partner, and we’ll probably cook a Persian meal, because Mark is half Persian, half German, so we’ll cook a Persian stew up, and I’ll put on a rerun of Charlie Rose or Masterpiece. We’re real housewives; we flip through it all. We like a little bit of everything. You know, you can say that you watch Real Housewives or you can lie about watching Real Housewives, but the truth is, you know what we’re talking about. So, we watch a little bit of everything.

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

Whitney Robinson: Zero. I sleep like a baby. I’m a deep sleeper. People ask me this question, and it’s so funny; we do this for passion. It’s a passion project. People have a lot of different goals; if your goal is cash, go work for Goldman Sachs. If your goal is politics, go work in the White House or you can work for the Peace Corps. The passion for what we do in magazines is such a specific thing; it’s a band of outsiders, a gangly group, who really believe passionately in this industry. So, I wake up excited to do this every day. I get to talk about and write about and tell stories about incredible people, places and things. What more could you ask for?

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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