Archive for the ‘News and Views’ Category

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A Tale Of Two Magazines: One & Tomorrow’s Man. From The Mr. Magazine™ Vault

August 8, 2022

A Tale of America’s First Two Gay Magazines

This is a story about what many consider the first two gay magazines in America.  It is a bicoastal story for one (no pun intended) was born on the west coast and the other in the Midwest only to move at the ripe age of two to the east coast. Both died before they reached the age of 20 but the impact they left on the publishing industry and on their audience is unforgettable. One was out, and Tomorrow’s Man was in the closet. Onelaunched in January 1953 in Los Angeles and TM launched in December 1952 in Chicago.  One sold out of the 500 copies that it printed and TM skyrocketed to the largest selling bodybuilding magazine on the nation’s newsstands selling 100,000 a month.  One  labeled itself  first as “The Homosexual Magazine,” and later as “The Homosexual Viewpoint,” and TM was labeled as “America’s first homosexual directed photo magazine.”  One was published from 1953 to 1967 and TM was published from 1952 to 1971.  

The genesis behind the idea for this blog (think of it as a preface to a possible book)  is an article written by the editor of  Drum magazine in 1965. What follows are excerpts of the aforementioned article: 

The Story Behind Physique Photography

From Drum, October 1965, Volume V, Number 8

By Clark P. Polak

“The first issue had a scant 32 pages and measured a tiny 3-3/4 inches by 5-3/4 inches, selling at the then high price of 20¢. Today it has 48 pages and sells at the now low price of 35¢. Then was almost 14 years ago, the magazine was Tomorrow’s Man.

Conceived by Irvin Johnson in his Chicago Health Studio gym as an additional medium for promotion of his already successful high protein tablets, vitamin supplements and other so-called body building products, the first book was mailed to a few hundred enthusiasts.

But Johnson had bigger ideas for his little book. He managed to convince the monolithic American News Co. (now disbanded) that TM was really a body builder’s handbook and within two years his dream came to fruition with TM selling an amazing 100,000 copies per month.

The current best sellers, Strength and Health, plus many more of the ilk, were no competition to America’s first homosexual directed photo magazine, though TM has now dropped from its hey-day top.  Others have now joined the bandwagon, but TM sales, always respectable, are again rising.”

So here are the facts about Tomorrow’s Man magazine (the older of the two by one month) and One magazine…

Tomorrow’s Man magazine:

Tomorrow’s Man magazine from the collection of Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni

Tomorrow’s Man

Dec. 1952

Vol. 1, No. 1

20 Cents

32 pages 

3-3/4 inches by 5-3/4 inches

A New Approach To Bodybuilding

Published in Chicago, IL

Tomorrow is yours… pages 2 and 3

“You are standing on the threshold of a new life… a happier healthier existence.  The men who cross this threshold will be stronger, more efficient men, ready to assume roles in the world of tomorrow. In a world torn by strife, the demand for greater strength of mind and body is not only pressing, it is vital.

Whether you take the challenge… whether you open the door or pass it by… depends on you.  Tomorrow can be yours, but the choice is up to you. 

This magazine is dedicated to that better tomorrow. It is dedicated to the young in spirit who will be tomorrow’s men. It is dedicated to men willing to accept something new and revolutionary…

Thus we dedicate this magazine to Tomorrow’s Man. In these pages you will find new ideas on building mental and physical strength.  They are “new” only because they are just now coming into use.  Actually, they are as old as common sense. But “old men” have refused to accept them since they do not conform to old teachings.

We think you will enjoy TOMORROW’S MAN. We hope it will help you find increased physical and mental strength. We know it can… if you’re young enough to accept a “young idea.”

AN OPEN LETTER

PAGE 5

THE Before and After pictures on pages 12 and 13 speak for themselves.  They prove that the Johnson System really works.

The training program you undertake now will determine what you will be two or three months from now.

If you are really sincere, you can start your training now. Just send me a note saying “Send me full information about Johnson’s Scientific Body Building and Nutrition Course.”

IRVIN JOHNSON

22 E. Van Buren

Chicago, 5, Ill.

Table of contents is on page 7 with Irvin Johnson listed as editor and publisher. The magazine is published monthly with a subscription price of $2.00. Cover price 20¢.

One magazine:

One magazine from the collection of Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni collection

One magazine

“… a mystic bond of  brotherhood makes all men one.” — Carlyle

Vol. 1, No. 1

January 1953

Published monthly.

20 Cents  per issue, two dollars a year.

6 inches by 7 inches

28 pages

Published in Los Angeles, CA

Editorial Board: Martin Block, Dale Jennings, Don Slater. Contributing Editor: Donald Webster Corey. Business Manager: William Lambert. Circulation Manager: Guy Rousseau.

Letter to you:

ONE is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the service of humanity. Its hopes are high. Its plans ae big, but the moral support and practical backing of ONE’s readers must be had, if it is to go forward and achieve great things. There must be many and substantial financial contributions for supplies, for printing, for legal counsel, for equipment needed. The subscription rate cannot cover the cost of production, and advertisers brave enough to support such a publication may be few for some time to come.

If you cannot personally with us working side by side, your check or money order will put you into the front line. Let us show the world what we can do. It is now up to you, ONE’s readers, for this magazine will continue to go forward as fast you permit. 

THE EDITORS  

Page 3

In the June 1953 issue of One the price became 25¢ by now and the total pages still at 28 and the subscription is $2 a year. 

 On the inside front cover this was written: 

“Everyday come orders for those two historic issues, One’s first and second, January and February 1953.

Everyday we regret we had only enough cash to print five hundred copies each.

Everyday we say, “The minute we get a little ahead, let’s reprint those two.” Then the printer, paper-supplier, binder and plate-maker all gleam with high-priced delight….”

On the last page of the June 1953 issue One identifies itself as such:

“ONE is a non-profit California corporation formed, “to publish and disseminate a magazine dealing primarily with homosexuality from the scientific, historical and critical point of view, and to aid in the social integration and rehabilitation of the sexual variant.” It is also “concerned with medical, social, pathological, psychological and therapeutic research of every kind and description pertaining to socio-sexual behavior,” and aims “to promote among the general public an interest, knowledge and understanding of the problems of such persons.”

One: The Homosexual Magazine tag line appeared for the first time on the cover of the  January 1954 issue and was later changed in 1957 to The Homosexual Viewpoint.

Tomorrow’s Man was heavily driven by photography, largely semi-nude man posing in different forms of bodybuilding. One, on the other hand, was text heavy with very little photography used.

To be continued…

Comments, ideas, responses, feel free to email me at samir.husni@gmail.com or comment in the space below.

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

Founder and Director

Magazine Media Center

Preserving the past, present, and future of magazine media.

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So What Is A Magazine? A True And Tested Definition… From The Mr. Magazine™ Vault.

June 1, 2022

Defining a magazine, to some, is a very mercuric issue. To others, it is a clear cut definition. During some recent readings, I came across this definition from the book Magazines In The United States published in 1956. However, the definition is from 1908.

An issue of The Independent from 1910 for illustration purposes only…

What is a magazine?  A definition from The Independent  October 1, 1908

Early in the twentieth century The Independent, at the time a powerful weekly, could say editorially: “Modern American magazines have to a large extent fallen heir to the power formerly exerted by pulpit, by crowds, parliamentary debates and daily newspapers in the molding of public opinion, the development of new issues, and dissemination of information bearing on current questions.”

The Independent editorial writer expanded his argument by specific illustrations: “The magazine represents intellectual activity in its terminal buds. Its function is to work over old plots into new stories; to rewrite biography and history in accordance with the taste of the time, to resurrect forgotten truths, to make sound information palatable, to convert abstract science into applied science, to throw a searchlight into dark corners of the earth and some spots of our civilization, to start new movements and to guide old ones, to wake up people who are asleep by sounding the burglar alarm, to twist around the heads of those who are looking backward over their shoulders; in short, to inspire, to instruct, to interest.”

Quoted from Magazines In The United States, Second Edition, by James Playsted Wood. Published by The Ronald Press Company, New York.  Page 197.

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The Resiliency Of Print… An Interview With Mr. Magazine™

May 24, 2022

I was interviewed by Ashley Norris for FIPP website as part of his series of interviews with the speakers at the FIPP Congress in Portugal, June 7 to 9.

Please click here to read the interview.

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Revealed: The Simple Secret For A Successful Magazine Launch. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Doug Bitto, Principal, Advantage Circulation Consulting.

May 17, 2022

I found my match.  Doug Bitto, the principal of Advantage Circulation Consulting, LLC. is as big of a magazine junkie as I am.  He also is a firm believer that if it is not ink on paper, it is not a magazine. He describes himself as a bit of a pop culture junkie. “Magazines have fascinated me ever since I was very young,” he told me, “so it’s no surprise that I gravitated towards the business.”

Doug’s formula for a successful magazine is relatively simple as he says: “The underlying formula for all successful print magazines is relatively simple: Passion combined with deep knowledge, framed within the greater cultural understanding (i.e. what people actually want to read and buy at this particular moment in time).”

So with that in mind, and after a chat with Doug, here is the Mr. Magazine™ interview: Enjoy.

Samir Husni:  During our chat, I felt I found my match in a person who believes in the power of print, can you please explain why? 

Doug Bitto: When a print magazine is produced and distributed, it is a permanent snapshot of a culture. It cannot be changed, to be reviewed and scrutinized for decades (or even centuries) after being produced. A digital “magazine” on the other hand can be altered and the original message lost forever, including the advertising which is an essential component of cultural understanding. In addition, print is much more effective than digital in conveying a message because more of our senses are used when interacting with print. When was the last time anyone smelled their iPad? 

S.H.:  You run a circulation consulting company, do you mind expanding some of what your company does and your role running it? 

D. B.: We have evolved into an end to end consulting firm over the last 20 years. In addition to the physical nuts and bolts aspects of newsstand distribution and management, we have expanded to include consulting on product development, working very closely with editors and designers. One of our strengths, I believe, is our ability to successfully recognize cultural trends and how they are applicable to our clients.

As far as my role is concerned, I wear many hats. At the end of the day, however, it’s about ensuring that I successfully guide my clients.

S. H.: Small, regional, and new niche magazines are your specialty. Why and do you think there is still room for new magazines in this digital age? 

D. B.: Culture is constantly changing but much like radio, print will always be around. One trend we are seeing post-pandemic is the return to traditional media, as discussed in a recent article by Harvard Business Review https://hbr.org/2022/04/why-marketers-are-returning-to-traditional-advertising. Personally, I have not “seen” a digital ad in years, much less clicked on it. And if I find myself on a website that has pop-up ads (or worse yet, autoplay ads) I immediately click out without even looking. Not only are they annoying, they can actually create physical stress. Multiple studies have shown this. As the article states, people are becoming “ad blind” digitally due to these factors. 

Print on the other hand is relaxing. And if ads are well curated, they fit seamlessly within a print magazine. I hate to break it to the digital ad folks out there but from a practical standpoint, print ads are far superior. When you turn the page of a print magazine, you HAVE to look on the next page. Ad blindness is almost impossible. 

Advertising aside, magazines are rapidly turning into higher quality, higher dollar items with very little or no advertising. Again, not a new trend, but it is accelerating. And people are willing to pay for this experience. Out of the six new title launches we have recently launched or are launching over the next few months, four fall into this category. All are high quality in content and physical presentation. All are between $12.99-$14.99US, $14.99-$19.99CAN. 

S. H.:   Define a magazine for me. 

D. B.: I take a traditional approach. Mirriam-Webster’s first entry is how I would define a magazine:

Definition of magazine

1a a print periodical containing miscellaneous pieces (such as articles, stories, poems) and often illustrated

A digital publication is not a magazine, even though our culture is now defining many forms of media as a “magazine”. A different term should be used to describe a digital only publication. 

www.advantagecirc.com

S.H.:   Can you share a success story of a new launch that you consulted on, and can you share one that failed? 

D. B.: I would like to speak in general terms first.

The underlying formula for all successful print magazines is relatively simple: Passion combined with deep knowledge, framed within the greater cultural understanding (i.e. what people actually want to read and buy at this particular moment in time). A product that not only informs and inspires, but entertains. Especially with niche and hyper-niche titles, readers are more than likely to be passionate experts in their own right. They are looking for knowledge above and beyond what they possess. The “formula” does not guarantee success but without its understanding, failure is guaranteed. The most successful publishers have an innate understanding of this. 

Regarding a successful launch, we have one title in the Sports Category that was basically a “gear” catalog when first presented to me. At launch it was approximately 40% catalog, not including additional advertising. But the content was excellent. The launch issue sold 51%. They have since expanded their content extensively but to this day their best selling issue of the year is always the “gear review” issue. Again, the publisher is one of the top experts in his field. And readers trust that the message being printed and products being presented are high quality. 

Now for the really bad failure. When I first started consulting over 20 years ago I signed a lifestyle magazine whose only concern was ad dollars, as I came to find out later. Content was secondary. Lowsingle digit sales on the launch issue. And when I say low, I mean LOW…3%. Naturally, they did not last for more than a couple of issues. 

S. H.:  Anything else you would like to add. 

D.B.: It may sound ridiculous in the digital age but nothing has really changed on the newsstand side of the business since its inception. Print magazines are produced and sent through distribution channels to retail. I believe that this industry has in many respects lost sight of the fundamentals. We cannot forget that this is an organic business and the most important people within the distribution channel are the merchandisers. Proper title placement and rotation are absolutely essential.  Without merchandisers who understand how to merchandise magazines as the unique products that they are, the industry suffers.

On the publishing side, I foresee almost all of the large publishers eventually going digital with print being reserved for special issues, and small independent publishers launching at an increasing rate. This movement started more than a decade ago but it will accelerate and become more prevalent in the future. Driven, ironically enough, by the digital age and the increasing ease of publishing in print.   

S. H.: What keeps Doug up at night these days? 

D. B.: Without question, the health of the newsstand distribution industry. With costs rising and large publishers continuing to go digital only, all levels are being squeezed. That being said, I am actually very positive about the future of newsstand. There will undoubtedly be more pain to come, but I believe that this industry will survive. 

S. H.: Thank you.

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Meet “Brainstorm Buddy”: Helping Put Your Ideas On Steroids. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Founder And Creator Linda Formichelli.

May 12, 2022

Remember those days when you were told ideas come by the dozen and they are worth a dime? Well, with today’s inflation, they may even be worth less than a dime.  Thus, when I heard about and tried Linda Formichelli’s Brainstorm Buddy, I was quick to reach out to her and request an interview.  Anyone and any tool that can help enhance an idea and help execute it better is worthy of a Mr. Magazine™ interview.  Using technology and AI to help enhance the quality of writing, reporting, and journalism is what pushed Ms. Formichelli to invest time, money, and effort to create Brainstorm Buddy.

An experienced writer, reporter, editor, and educator for over a quarter century, Ms. Formichelli came up with the idea while teaching a class called “Writing for Magazines.”  She did not stop with the idea, but rather decided to act upon it, and execute it in a way that others can benefit and enhance their writing and journalistic abilities.  And, as you and I know, we need that today more than ever.

The tool is very simple to use, but the work behind the scenes was not as simple as the end result.  So, without any further ado, join me in this conversation with Linda Formichelli, founder and creator of Brainstorm Buddy.

Linda Formichelli, founder and creator, Brainstorm Buddy

Samir Husni: In a nutshell what is Brainstorm Buddy and who is its audience?

Linda Formichelli: Brainstorm Buddy tool is tool based on journalism best-practices that tells you if your content ideas are solid…before you sink a lot of time and money into developing (or pitching) them. You answer six questions and get a score of 1 – 100, and if your topic could use some improvement, the tool offers customized advice. For example, it can tell you if your idea is too broad, not relevant enough, weak overall, etc.

On the surface it may look like your goal is “get all A’s or you lose,” but that’s actually not the case. Some elements depend on other elements, and sometimes there are ways to shore up an idea that’s weak in one area by improving a different area. Brainstorm Buddy also accounts for evergreen ideas, which are those ideas than aren’t especially unique or timely, but you almost have to publish them because people are always interested; for example, “walk off the weight” for a women’s magazine or “how to budget” for a bank brand.

The tool is meant for anyone whose job or business depends on them coming up with a fairly constant stream of content ideas. The very first iteration, which was just a list I created in 2005, was meant for freelance writers who were pitching article ideas to magazines. Over time I adjusted it to include content professionals, both on staff and freelance, and then I realized it applies to other creative professionals, like podcasters, as well. Most of the verbiage in Brainstorm Buddy is geared toward writers, but I tried to change it up a little bit to be inclusive, and you can also extrapolate the examples into any medium.

S.H.:  Why did you decide to create BB?

L.F.: In short, I needed a way to codify the “rules of good ideas,” which I had internalized through years of experience, in a way that anyone could use. 

S.H.: As a writer/author/journalist yourself, how do you think this tool helps?

L.F.: Brainstorm Buddy takes the knowledge that veteran writers have accumulated in their brains through many hard years of experience, and presents it in a format that anyone can take advantage of. With Brainstorm Buddy, you don’t need ten years of developing content and pitching publications and businesses under your belt to know how to develop a salable idea—you can just run it through Brainstorm Buddy, get a score, and see suggestions for improving the topic if needed.

For creatives like content writers, journalists, podcasters, and so on, ideas are the coin of the realm. I like to say, “No ideas = no money.” But it’s not just ideas they need—they need good ideas, and those are hard to come by. Brainstorm Buddy helps take away some of that stress of needing to be always coming up with engaging, interesting, useful, relevant content ideas.

It took a while, but over time the content industry collectively realized that to be authoritative and trustworthy, content needs to be based in journalism best practices. Because Brainstorm Buddy was born out of a journalism class, it helps not just magazine writers, but other types of content professionals as well.

S.H.:   Can you tell me the invention/creation process of BB?  It seems, as I mentioned, very simple to use, but what is behind the simplicity in use?

L.F.: Brainstorm Buddy originated from a class I started teaching around 2005 called Write for Magazines, where I taught writers how to generate salable article ideas and how to pitch them to magazines. At that time I had been earning a living writing mainly for magazines for eight years, and I had sent hundreds of pitches.

The idea generation part of the class was challenging because there was a lot of confusion around what went into a salable idea. Many people were very unclear on the concept, and when I critiqued their ideas they would often want to just throw them out and start all over again—even though my stance was always that you can take almost any idea and make it salable if you fine-tune it enough.

The first thing I did to make it easier for my students was to create a list of six criteria that every idea needed to have. I had internalized these criteria over my years of pitching and writing for magazines, but it was difficult to explain to students what a good idea was until I was able to codify these criteria on paper.

That did help, because I could then look at a student’s article idea, run it through the six criteria, explain where the idea was lacking, and offer suggestions for bolstering the areas of weakness. And a lot of my students had success! I had students with zero previous credits breaking into magazines like Woman’s Day and Reader’s Digest Canada. I still have writers emailing me to tell me that I helped them launch their career.

Then, a couple of years ago, after I had moved more into the content writing arena, I created a toolkit called the Content Calendar Playbook. This was meant for on-staff content professionals who needed be constantly creating ideas for blog posts, white papers, social media posts, guides, and so on. It included video walk-throughs where I brainstormed ideas almost in real time—I had some rough ideas ahead of time that I fine-tuned and fleshed out live on the video. I thought this would help show users that a content idea is not just a “one and done” thing, where you come up with something and it’s either 100% great or you throw it out and start over. 

I also wanted to include my list of the six criteria from the Write for Magazines class in the Content Calendar Playbook guide…but I realized it needed some tweaking. I realized that some things really were more important than others, so it wasn’t fair to say you need all six of them in equal amounts—or that you really need all six of them at all.

So I created an inverted pyramid-style “filter” where the most important criterion was at the top and the less important, nice-to-have criteria were toward the bottom.

That worked out better. But as I developed the toolkit and the filter, I knew it was even more complicated than that. However, it seemed that a formula that really hit on all the right criteria in all the right amounts and combinations would be too “fiddly” to explain and use…so I decided it would be useful to create a simple app that would help users figure out if their content idea was any good.

My husband has a math degree and is a former freelance writer, so I got him to help me hash out the different scoring weights and dependencies and turn it all into a numeric formula.

The Brainstorm Buddy landing page at http://www.brainstormbuddyapp.com

S.H.: How can folks access BB and is it available for anyone?

L.F.: Brainstorm Buddy is available to anyone at www.brainstormbuddyapp.com for a monthly or annual subscription. If you go for the annual subscription, you get two months free. I plan to raise the price little by little over time as I build in more features.

S.H.:  Any additional info you wish to add?

L.F.: If you plan to try out Brainstorm Buddy, I recommend first reading my article on how to ensure an accurate score. When I beta tested the tool, I saw an awful lot of very high scores, which didn’t really jibe with what I saw when I was teaching and coaching writers live. I realized that we’re all very enamored with things we create; in fact there’s a term for it: the IKEA Effect.

The article is meant to help combat the IKEA Effect; it walks users of Brainstorm Buddy through steps that will help them look at their ideas with a critical eye—just as an editor, client, or reader would. I’m also working on a video for that page in case some people would rather watch than read.

I have lots of plans for improving Brainstorm Buddy. I so appreciate the early adopters, and want to make sure they get their money’s worth and more! Right now I’m working on videos for each results page. The videos will include different examples from the written advice, so if you want you can both watch the video and read the copy, and not get the same examples twice.

As a long-time writer for service magazines, I know how useful it is to include lots of relevant examples, because you never know which one will really “land” with someone. I try to make the advice more actionable by using examples from different content areas, such as brand content, consumer magazines, trade magazines, and even podcasting.

I’m also looking into moving to a platform where Brainstorm Buddy users can get their scores and the advice emailed to them, and where they can share their scores on social media.

People’s ideas and scores will never be shared, but I plan to aggregate the data for research and education purposes. That way I can help writers and content pros even more by sharing information on, say, idea trends, average scores, the most common problems with ideas, etc.

I’d love to eventually incorporate Flip-Pay, which is a system where you can pay per use instead of having to get a subscription. A lot of publications use Flip-Pay to let people pay for access to a single article. Of course, it will be cheaper to get a Brainstorm Buddy subscription, but there will always be people who are certain they want to use it just once or twice, and who don’t want to commit. I have a proposal from Flip-Pay, but right now it’s above my pay grade. 

Finally, I also started a blog that’s all about great content ideas at http://www.brainstormbuddyapp.com/blog.

S.H.: And my typical last question: what keeps Linda up at night these days?

L.F.: I hope the answer doesn’t have to be current-events related; if I even get started on that I won’t sleep for a week.

I’m always trying to balance “just being” with my natural need to be constantly creating. I retired from writing over a year ago, and somehow I ended up as busy as ever: I’m not only working on Brainstorm Buddy, but I started a referral network of freelance writers, started teaching myself to oil paint, took on a ton of home improvement jobs, and started acting. I’m also always extra-invested in whatever my 13-year-old son is into, which right now is weight training and football. So I’m often up at night worrying about one of these things, or worrying because I’m worrying about these things when I should be retired. But I just love all these creative activities!

S.H.: Thank you.

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Protecting Your Brand. A Mr. Magazine™ Musing… From The Vault.

May 10, 2022

The following is a column I wrote for Content magazine back in 2008. Although it has been 14 years since I wrote it, I still stand by every word in it. Enjoy this journey through the Mr. Magazine™ Vault.

Protecting the Brand
Six (plus one) easy ways to know your customer’s customer

Content Magazine Issue 03 Spring 2008

The most essential objective on the mind of any marketing director or head of a company is protecting the brand. This is paramount because companies must ensure their brand is not tarnished. That challenge becomes a huge responsibility on the shoulders for any individuals launching custom publications. If you fail to understand and help promote your customer’s brand in the proper way, the only thing the future holds for you, your marketing director or your media company is disaster. 

There is no better way to protect and promote a brand than by understanding the customer’s customer. Knowing the people your custom publication targets is important to your success as a custom publisher, but success can only be guaranteed if you know the advertisers that are targeting your audience as well. 

One of the simple questions I always ask people is, “Who is your audience?” Without really knowing who it is you are trying to reach, it is impossible to be successful at custom publishing. When I hear clients telling me that “everybody” is their audience, I know they haven’t even begun to do their homework. Before you attempt to create a custom publication, here are six plus one easy steps to consider:

1. Know the brand. This may sound elementary, but if the brand becomes unclear or gets diluted, it will lead to failure of the brand across the board and media outlets. You must know the brand inside out, upside down, forward and backward. It’s not enough to just know the brand you are working with from a marketer’s standpoint. You have to know it from the customer’s standpoint as well. Become a user of the brand, and if you aren’t the target demographic, find someone in your company who is.

2. Humanize the brand. You know the brand front and back; the next step is to make it warmer and more approachable than a concept. Imagine that soft drink, that pair of shoes, whatever product it may be, as a human being. Is it young or old? Rich or poor? Male or female? If you have taken my advice and have worked to know your audience better, then you should be able to identify the exact demographic and psychographic information about the human being that your brand has transformed into. Who does this human being want to have a conversation with? Once you have humanized your brand, it is much easier to create a voice for it. 

3. Identify the voice. By combining the vision and the value of the brand, it becomes easier to create its voice. Is the voice preaching? Teaching? Conversational? Confrontational? Storytelling? You name it. Humanizing the brand isn’t enough. You have to take it further and come to a realization of how to protect the voice of the brand. 

4. Identify the prototype person (if there is such a thing). Now that you have identified the voice of the brand, you need to identify who will be carrying on a conversation with it. A good way to think about it is if the humanized pair of shoes or the humanized soft drink came knocking on the door, would you welcome it in? You have to identify who will respond to the product. It will be easier to pair advertisers with your customers if you know who is involved in this conversation and exactly what they are like.

5. Think of the conversation that will take place. Once you have the humanized brand and the prototype person that will be holding a conversation, you need to think about the conversation that will take place. What will they talk about? Custom publishing has multifaceted goals, from the creation and retention of customers to the engagement of customers. Which of these facets applies? Also, how long will the conversation take?

6. Find the addictive elements of the conversation. What makes the prototype customer ask the humanized brand more questions? What aspects of their conversation make the customer more engaged? Find out what will make that prototype customer come back for more. In this day of brand dilution, not providing your customers with an addictive, exclusive and timely yet timeless conversation will do nothing but make the engagement between the brand and the customer brief. And when that happens, customers have no other choice but to look other places for the conversation they need, want and desire. 

7. And above all, a dash of good luck. Why seven steps and not six? Because I believe seven is a much better number than six. Hope your next project will excel with these easy seven steps.

Until next time… all my best

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

Founder and Director

Magazine Media Center

Preserving the Past, Present, and Future of Magazine Media

samir.husni@gmail.com

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In Magazine Publishing, There’s Nothing More Exciting Than The “Launch.” An Excerpt From Our Wisconsin Magazine. From The Mr. Magazine™ Vault.

May 3, 2022

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Our Wisconsin magazine is approaching its tenth anniversary in 2023. In its second issue there was an editorial talking about the “joys of magazine publishing.” I found myself emailing my friend Roy Reiman, Publisher of the new magazine Our Wisconsin, and Mike Beno, the magazine editor, to ask their permission to reprint parts of the introduction to the second issue of the magazine. So without any further ado, here is an excerpt from the February/March issue of Our Wisconsin magazine:

In magazine publishing, there’s nothing more exciting than the “launch.” Not many other things in business come close to this kind of adrenalin rush.
You begin by coming up with an idea or concept for a magazine you feel is “entirely different”. You’re sure potential subscribers have never seen anything like this before.
So you spend months (in our case, we began last spring) planning the format, the design and mostly the content. And then you start gathering that content…which isn’t easy when you don’t have a publication to showanyone. You just have to wave your hands a lot and write lengthy descriptions of what you plan to do.
Then you pull all this together…sort through hundreds of pictures and ideas for articles (some terrific, some not even close)…write and design 68 pages…and finallyput the first issue on the press, printing enough to “test the market”….
And then you wait.
And it drives you crazy. You wait for more than a week for the first response…any response, to see what total strangers think of your “baby”.
“Inventing” a magazine is much more personal than inventing a lawn mower or a toothbrush. It’s more revealing of who you are; it’s an extension of your personality. There’s a lot of you between those pages. So the fear of rejection is greater.
After you put that sample issue in the mail, you’re like a field goal kicker with the game on the line, with its heel or hero element. So you wait as the ball sails…for a long week or more.
If, when the early responses begin trickling in, you learn readers don’t like the first issue, it hurts. To a degree, it’s as though you learned they don’t like you.
But when you learn they like it–and some people even say they love it–wow! That ball is sailing through the middle of the uprights, and every subscription is a pat on the back.

I love magazines, and I love magazine launches even more. That is no secret. So, when I acquire a new magazine or read a story about a magazine launch, the urge to share my love with the whole wide world is overwhelming.

A revised copy of the aforementioned blog was first published on March 30, 2013.

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

Founder and Director

Magazine Media Center

samir.husni@gmail.com

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Newborns And The Life Cycle Of Magazines. A Grandpa Perspective… A Mr. Magazine™ Musing.

May 1, 2022

Today, I am the proud grandpa of seven bundles of joy. The youngest, Sophia, just turned one and the oldest Elliott is now 14. When Michael, my second grandchild, was born I wrote a blog on April 26, 2011 that is as true today as it was 11 years ago… here is a repost of that blog. Enjoy.

I am sure you’ve heard this simile before: “Launching a new magazine is like giving a birth to a new baby.” 

Well, I had the opportunity to put this simile to the test this month, and I promise this will be one of the very few times I bring personal and family issues to the blog. But as long as it is relevant, I figured why not?

My second grandson was born April 8. Baby Michael had difficulty breathing on his own (which meant we all had difficulty breathing). So, for ten days or so, the joys of birth turned into the agony of survival; and that my friends, is what led to this particular topic — the life cycle of new magazines.

When I have heard people use the aforementioned simile, I used to take it for granted. 

However, I gave it a lot of thought during the past three weeks, and decided to compare human life with the life of a new magazine. After all, I have been preaching and teaching the importance to humanize media, particularly print, for years now. Without any further delay, here are the life cycles of a new magazine:

The Joys and Pleasures of Conception
Consider the A-HA! moment when you get the idea for a new magazine and the pleasure you feel, the joy that makes you rush and share the news about your idea with others. It is the same as the pleasures of making love hoping to conceive and have a baby. 

It is the act of conceiving that brings all the joy and pleasure to the couple, the same as the act of coming up with an idea you think is going to be worth a million bucks! Many folks call me or email me daily with ideas they just conceived and want to share the news, seek advice or start the planning process of the “birth” of this new baby. It is rare during this stage that any negative thoughts come to mind. It is all about new beginnings and the joy of the moment at hand.

The Pains of Labor
Giving birth is not as much fun as conceiving. It does not take a genius or even a man to understand that. Women know it and feel it. Giving birth is hard labor, but the pains of labor are an important part of the life cycle of that newborn, whether a human or a magazine. After months of nurturing and tender loving, the time comes to give birth. 

The pains of labor are well-documented and need no explanation. Getting that first issue out, meeting the deadlines and hoping all is A-OK are all part of the life cycle. It is the same with the mother and baby. You have to go through the pains of labor before you are able to enjoy and celebrate the birth, which leads us to the next stage of the life cycle of new magazines.

The Celebration of Birth
While the pleasures of conception may last a few moments, the celebration of birth is supposed to last a lifetime. With a new birth, you are only thinking positive thoughts, happy thoughts. Excitement is in the air and all around you. You are so proud of your new baby, new magazine. 

You check every part of the baby; you check every page of the magazine. In most cases, you are there at the printer waiting for that first signature to come out from the presses. You hold it in your hands exactly like a mother holds the baby for the first time. Birth means celebration. Your future freezes at the present moment and the world gets reduced to your surroundings and the new creature (baby or magazine) at hand. You do not want any interruptions of that moment of celebration. 

Then, as if lightning strikes, reality hits — and all of a sudden, you are not alone. You discover that the joy of celebration is just the beginning to the next step of the life cycle of the newborn — the fight for survival. 

The Fight for Survival
It is a jungle out there. There are so many magazines and there are so many babies in the world. You have to carve your own niche. If the baby can’t breathe on his or her own, your entire world stops. You change course and plans. Your new magazine is out, but now you have to put it in the hands of the distributors. The tender, loving care you’ve given your new creation is no longer in your hands. Someone else is in charge. 

You feel like you are losing control, and the doctors — the distributors — are in charge of that newborn. The baby must fight for survival. The new magazine must fight for survival. 

The big difference here is new babies, thank God, have a much higher survival rate that new magazines. Here is where the similarities end: Survival rate for new magazines is less than two in 10 after four years of publishing. 

Thank goodness for human life. We age much better than magazines, but in both cases we have to start the journey of life.

The Journey of Life

As in any creation, life does not stop at birth. Life continues, day after day, issue after issue. The journey of new magazine launches starts slow, very slow, and progresses as those new magazines try to develop customers who count, thus giving the magazine a long journey in life. 

Folks in our publishing industry now plan their new launches around the 11-to-13-year life span: Three years to establish the magazine and lose money in the process of building the magazine base; four years of solid growth and money making; three to five years of reaching a plateau and one final year to prepare the demise of the publication.

Thank God the journey of life for new babies is not the same as the journey of life for magazines. The simile ends with the beginning of life. The journey, my friends, is a completely different story. Let the never-ending story begins. 

For the record, this blog has been approved by Mr. Magazine Jr.™ and big brother to baby Michael, Mr. Elliott himself.

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

Founder and Director

Magazine Media Center

samir.husni@gmail.com
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March 8: It’s My Birthday… Reliving The Past

March 6, 2022

March 8 is my birthday. At age 10 I fell in love with magazines. The rest is history. A history that you will read about it soon in the book I am working on The Magazines And I. What follows is part of the book’s introduction. Hope you will enjoy…

The Beginning

Addictions can manifest in many shapes and forms. They take over your life. They can start at any age. Imagine being a 10-year-old junkie. Addicted to something with no control. If you can’t imagine it, allow me to step into your mind and help you envision it. 

In order to help you fully understand, I have to start at the very beginning. I was born and raised in Tripoli, Lebanon. I can vividly recall the two things that really impacted my young life: my dad’s storytelling from the Bible and my grandpa’s reading from it. It’s the only book I ever remember my father telling me stories from, and it made a definite impression on me and how I viewed my life. It was my first interaction with ink on paper and the power it possessed.

The Box of Wonders

In those times, it was safe to go out in the neighborhood and play with friends for hours. We would interact with all sorts of people in the city. One of those people was a peddler who used to ply his wares on the streets of Tripoli. He had a container that was referred to as the “viewer’s box.” It was this big, giant viewfinder, the kind you can still buy today in the toy department at Wal-Mart, only a much, much larger version. The peddler would go around the streets of the city with a monkey sitting on top of his shoulder, and when he came into our neighborhood he would call to my friends and me to “look” into the box. He would have around ten strips inside that would tell a story. The viewer was 3D and had three openings where you could place your eyes to watch, and as we watched the slides click by, the man would verbally unfold the riveting tale while we watched.

After the short show, we would laugh and clap with delight as the monkey would come out and collect the money the man charged for the afternoon diversion. 

These small glimpses, teases, into a world of visual and verbal stimulation, would be a slight spark in a very young boy’s life that would grow to an inferno when that boy became a man.

Remembering that long-ago afternoon with the peddler’s homemade viewfinder now, I realize that that was the moment in time when I learned that the visuals can make the story. The entire tale he shared with us was based upon the pictures. 

And I suppose that was the very beginning, the first pebble that would put me on the road to my destiny. 

The Man of Steel

In 1962, we had just gotten our first television set. It was a large brown box with an oval-shaped screen that only showed pictures in black and white. In the 1960s, television in Lebanon was not available 24 hours a day. The first programming started at 6:30 p.m.  The first hour was reserved for children’s programming and then the rest of the programming was for adults, and went until 10:30 or 11:00 pm. By no means did television rule or dictate your day.

What mainly attracted us (my friends and I) to the children’s programming, were these characters: Mighty Mouse, Popeye, and Casper. Then, when I was 10 years old, we started seeing advertising touting the phrase: “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…Superman.”

It was a new magazine. Back then, in Lebanon, we called all the comic books magazines. The combination of the ad and the storyline was so fascinating. It made all the kids where I lived – in a 10-apartment complex – say, “Wow, I need to see this!”

When the magazine hit the newsstands, I knew I had to have it. Back then, my allowance was 40 cents a week. The magazine cost 40 cents. It was fate.

When I held the magazine in my hands for the first time, ran the pads of my fingers across the shiny cover, I felt an indescribable sensation that felt similar to an adrenaline rush. At that moment, I truly believe I was ordained, my life’s path had been chosen before I was born and at the age of 10, I was at last privy to a glimpse of my future; that day, my heart stopped pumping blood and began to pump ink.

The most important facet of the “Superman” transformation to me was the fact that it was my magazine. Mine. It wasn’t borrowed. No one was going to read it to me and not finish it. I would be able to absorb it, cover to cover, at my leisure. That was what was mesmerizingly unbelievable to me.

Without even knowing where all this would lead, or even what it really meant at the age of 10, I began the journey. I think the transformation unwittingly molded me into the person I am now as an adult: one of those people who believe it’s not as important to see the end destination as it is to be on the right track. You have to be on the right track, even if the bright path before you narrows into a dark, small tunnel. If you are, then God will make sure your end destination is beyond your wildest dreams.

And I think that’s what put me on the right track – the fascination that suddenly I was in control of the show and tell, of the story, of the imagination, of everything. 

The Art of Show & Tell

Before too long, I was designing and creating content for my own little creations. Crayon and marker magazines that became my escape into a world foreign, yet so vivid and familiar, it was as though I had known it from the womb.

Little did I know that addiction starts out this way, it was such an extreme that I would get so immersed in reading that I could not even eat without a magazine at the table next to me. I could not drink without a magazine next to me. That is, until I got married and the magazine was banned from the breakfast table or the lunch table.

I was always reading. If I was on a bus, I was reading a magazine. If I was walking down the sidewalk, I was reading a magazine. It was as though I couldn’t function normally if a magazine wasn’t with me. Addiction at its best (or worst, however you might look at it).

A funny story – I don’t know if it was funny at the time – but my dad used to be a foreman in a refinery in Tripoli, Lebanon,  and there was a private beach on the Mediterranean for the employees’ children. Every summer, a bus would run hourly and collect the employees’ children and their friends, and then bring them back home in the evening. It was approximately a 15-minute ride to the beach. One time, on the way home from the beach, I was so engrossed in reading a magazine that I was paying no attention to my surroundings and assumed that the bus had reached our apartment. Unlike the U.S., buses operated with their doors open and without seatbelts of any kind, this was the 1960s after all. As I continued reading my magazine, I stepped off the bus at what I believed to be my apartment stop. The problem was it was not my apartment stop and the bus was still in motion when I stepped off. 

Addiction or Fascination

I remember the incident vividly, as if it were yesterday, it was like something was restraining me, pressing back against my body and then fast and hard, it pushed me all the way down against the asphalt. Boom, gone. I woke up in the hospital. I saw my mom and the first thing I asked for was my magazine. I don’t know if the accident messed up my brain that day, but it seemed a good sign that the obsession, the addiction, the gift, or whatever you want to call it, clearly was in full force by that age. 

I wish I could say that after I grew up I changed my habits, but I remember as an adult, driving from my office when I was working at a newspaper, reading and flipping through a magazine that was lying on the seat next to me, not paying any attention until the sounds of car horns alerted me to look up and I realized that I had almost driven into a utility pole. At that point, I promised myself I’d never again read a magazine when I was driving. I started putting the magazines on the back seat instead of the front, but like any promises an addict makes to himself, it only lasted a week or two.

After the first issue of Superman came out, everyone was fascinated with the “Man of Steel” and the flying cape. Still to this day, I remember hearing rumors of people trying to jump out of windows when Superman first appeared on the scene. There saving grace was that they lived on the first floors of their buildings. 

As Superman became more popular, it also increased in price. And something major happened 19 weeks later when issue 19 came out on June 11, 1964. It came with a gift – a Superman emblem that you could stitch to your shirt. But as with most magazines, when something like that happens, the price is increased. The price for that issue was 70 piasters, and of course, my allowance was 40 piasters. I could not buy the magazine immediately. I asked my dad for another 30 piasters. I told him it was to buy my Superman magazine and he said he wasn’t going to give me money to waste on paper, and that I didn’t need that “stuff”; little did he know that I needed that stuff very badly. Nothing can stand between an addict and his addiction, much less a little thing like money.

In Lebanon, there were grocery stores on the corner every few blocks, one of which was located directly across the street from my apartment. You could buy sugar, milk, coffee, magazines, newspapers, and other items on a daily basis – it wasn’t a time when you could do all your shopping for the week at once. The owner of the store kept a little notebook where he would compile a tab of your family’s groceries that you would settle with him at the end of every month. One afternoon as I entered the store, my pockets 30 cents shy of the amount I needed for the issue, I wondered how in the world I was going to get that special copy without the rest of the money. I walked up to the owner.

“I would like my Superman magazine, please,” I told him, my mind churning with ideas on how I was going to pull this one off.

“The price for this issue is almost double, 70 ,” the owner said.

“Just put it on my dad’s tab,” I told him.

The minute the words flew out of my mouth, I knew there was no taking them back. And I didn’t even want to. I had to have that issue.

Needless to say, my dad saw the cost of the copy on his bill at the end of the month and I got punished with a good spanking. But…I still got my magazine.

It is Physical

I soon realized that it was the actual, physical presence of the magazine itself that grabbed me more than the content of what I was reading. Even at that young age, I knew there was more to it than just Superman. I felt that no matter how much I loved the Man of Steel, I loved the idea of the magazine more, holding it, reading the story, flipping the pages incessantly. Because I was really not as fascinated by the superhero himself as all my friends were, it was very easy for me to move on from getting every issue of Superman to getting other new magazines. I began to buy first issues of others. At that stage, it was still all comics.

Once I had a little more allowance, if I saw a magazine that I liked, I would buy it. In junior high, I used to watch my friends buying a Pepsi and a piece of cake during recess, but I would hold my 50 cents because I wasn’t going to waste it on Pepsi. I could at least buy something lasting, a magazine. That fascination was always there. I became obsessed with buying first editions. It was like some higher power put me on this track, one issue at a time. And it’s funny, when I remember sitting down to compare and evaluate those magazines, I would compare all those first editions and daydream about cover stories and what they were going to be. At that time, I was completely convinced that what I had found was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Along with my magazine addiction, I also revered education. I remember my early childhood, crying at the door, wanting to go to school with my sister and brother. I still remember on my own first day, I ran out of my new class trying to find my sister’s class. I was fascinated by the idea of school, but even more fascinated with creating my own imaginary class. I would create exams and tests for imaginary students that I would grade. I would create grade books for those imaginary students. I would lecture about different topics, and I would hold discussions with students on how they could enhance their grade. 

Today, those childhood practices seem eerily familiar.

So it begins

When I finally came to the realization that I could not buy every magazine because I didn’t have the funds, I started trying to find little jobs. In high school, I even befriended the wholesaler in town, so I could see the magazines before they were distributed that morning.

One day the wholesaler said, “Kid, why don’t you go on to school and start coming here in the evenings? I will let you see what magazines we are going to distribute in the morning and I’ll let you buy them from here.”

I was like a kid in a candy store. To be able to get the magazines before anybody else in town, the night before, regardless of the magazine, was utopia to me. 

To be continued…

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

Founder and Director

Magazine Media Center: To preserve the past, present, and future of magazine media.

samir.husni@gmail.com

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Stranger’s Guide: A Travel Magazine To Hold & To Cherish. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Publisher Abby Rapoport And Editor-in-Chief Kira Brunner Don.

February 27, 2022

“Between the evergreen content and the printing quality, our publication is rarely sent to the recycling bin with more cheaply-produced weekly or monthly publications that can be read just as easily online.”

“Stranger’s Guide uniquely champions these stories that are rooted in place, seeking to tell authentic stories that reveal the interplay and nuance of cultures around the world.”

You will no longer be a stranger when Stranger’s Guide magazine lands on your coffee table or in your mailbox. The name of the magazine is based on the idea that “18th– and 19th-century authors wrote “stranger’s guides” which were personal, eccentric and intimate portrayals of places. Stranger’s Guide is a modern version of that idea—a publication that reveals the intricacies of locales across the globe, through both local and foreign eyes.”

Founded in 2018 by publisher Abby Rapoport and editor-in-chief Kira Brunner Don, the magazine practices what it calls “place-based journalism.” The founders told me that, for them, “place-based journalism means rooting stories in their location and culture.” Beautifully crafted, Stranger’s Guide, the 2021 National Magazine Awards winner for both General Excellence and Photography (and, if I may add, nominated again this year in both categories), is a timely yet timeless publication in which the readers, once they receive it, are “eager to both display it and dive in.”

Unlike the many travel magazines out there, Stanger’s Guide focuses on a single location in every issue and does not leave a stone unturned in that location. Using both local and international writers and photographers, the magazine captures the entire essence of that place and leaves its audience with the feeling that they just stepped off the plane from a memorable visit to that location.

The locations vary from one issue to the other. From California and Tehran (Iran) to Scandinavia and Colombia, readers feel that they have an open ticket to visit the world and return with an in-depth immersive knowledge of a place no internet connection or television program can provide. 

Worthy of every penny of its $20 cover price, Stranger’s Guide is a must have for those who want to see the world, whether you hop on a plane or not.

I reached out to the founders and asked them a few questions about the magazine and the role place-based journalism plays in today marketplace. The Mr. Magazine™ interview with publisher Abby Rapoport and editor-in-chief Kira Brunner Don follows.

Stranger’s Guide publisher Abby Rapoport
Stranger’s Guide editor-in-Chief Kira Brunner Don

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: Going back to the launch of Stranger’s Guide, would you please tell me the genesis of the idea?

In the early 2010s we had both gotten involved in trying to help a couple older publications get through some choppy waters. At some point we realized that rather than just focusing on older, existing places, we actually had the knowledge and skills to start our own publication.

The concept for Stranger’s Guide emerged as an answer to a set of problems we were both thinking about. In 2016, we were watching the rise of an “America First” mentality that dismissed other cultures and perspectives, separating countries into “good” and “bad” (or even famously “shithole”). Meanwhile the decline in foreign bureaus meant fewer and fewer writers outside the US had pathways to US audiences and US readers had fewer opportunities to encounter new voices from different parts of the world.


Finally we found that the internet had further fractured information about different places—when one reads about Cuba in The Economist it seems almost like a different place than the Cuba that’s portrayed in Conde Nast Traveler or Architecture Digest. Our goal was to create a publication centered on the work of writers and photographers from a single location, in which different subjects—sports, arts, human rights and colonialism—would live together to offer a more nuanced and idiosyncratic portrait of a place.

S. H.: With a hefty cover price ($20) and very high quality print job, what do you think print can do in this day and age that digital can’t?  Why do you believe in print?

We’re highly mission driven and our biggest goal is to breakdown stereotypes and promote cultural exchange. Digital publishing is notoriously good at reaffirming what you already know—we live in filter bubbles that make it difficult to encounter new perspectives.


Our hope is that when readers receive Stranger’s Guide, they’re delighted, eager to both display it and dive in. That means they both see funny and sweet stories but also confront more challenging topics without the mediation of a search engine. Our work is also self consciously evergreen; our readers can return to a favorite piece and it won’t feel dated. Between the evergreen content and the printing quality, our publication is rarely sent to the recycling bin with more cheaply-produced weekly or monthly publications that can be read just as easily online. 


Print remains the best way to offer a curated experience—although through newsletters and our website structure, we’re finding new ways to deliver that same curatorial voice.

S. H.: In addition to the print magazine you have a weekly newsletter Weekend Passport, tell me more about it and how digital and print interact (the quarterly magazine and weekly newsletter.)

We actually have two weekly newsletters. The first, Field Guide, was our first editorial product; we launched it a few months before our first issue came out. Field Guide is in some ways the inverse to the print guides—rather than focusing on a single location through a lot of different themes, it takes a single theme and traces it across numerous locations. Topics have included Chocolate, Corporate Culture, Reenactments, Whiskey and more. That newsletter is free and available to anyone. We frequently showcase print features in our Field Guide and encourage readers to consider subscribing or buying single guides.

Weekend Passport is our newer offering and it’s only available for subscribers. Each Friday, we send them a series of fun opportunities from around the world: recipes, videos, playlists and more. While we certainly love travel, our goal is always to help our community find ways to connect to new experiences from different places they might not otherwise encounter.

S. H.: What is place-based journalism?  How do you choose your locations and your editorial board for each issue?

For us place-based journalism means rooting stories in their location and culture. Stranger’s Guide uniquely champions these stories that are rooted in place, seeking to tell authentic stories that reveal the interplay and nuance of cultures around the world. Our stories portray unique facets of each place, from the complex and controversial to the intimate and beautiful, together building a contemporary awareness of a location and its community. 


We select locations based on making sure we’re in different parts of the world, both in terms of geography and in terms of places more and less associated with travel. For instance last year we did both Scandinavia, a top travel destination, and Tehran, a city that most US residents are not able to visit easily (alongside California and Colombia).


Once we’ve selected the location, we build our editorial board by reaching out to leaders in different areas—academics, artists, editors, writers, etc.—who help us identify key themes for the guide and connect us with their networks of authors and photographers. Our editorial boards play a crucial role in helping us ensure our stories represent a wide swath of perspectives and experiences.


For every issue we build an editorial board of advisors made up of writers, academics, and artists from the country we are covering. And, at least 80% of all of our contributors to every issue are from the country we are highlighting. Some of these contributors are internationally known (we have a piece by Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka in our Lagos issue) and others are up and coming voices. In other words, we don’t parachute in journalists to cover a place. Kira, our editor in chief, often flies to the country and sets up meetings with writers, journalists, artists and academics and commissions the pieces from them on the ground.

S. H.: What has been the most challenging moment since the launch and how did you overcome it?

Like most of the world, the pandemic challenged just about everything, for us as individuals and as a publication. Most of us are working mothers who were suddenly expected to spend our day as full-time teachers and child care workers in addition to doing our jobs. In February 2020, we were launching a supper club series, planning an event in Lagos, Nigeria and getting Kira ready to go abroad for our next issue. Suddenly all of that froze. For a couple days, we were all in a bit of a daze. But one of the best parts of Stranger’s Guide is that we are a community and we’re extremely rooted in our mission, and that mission proved clarifying in terms of how to move forward. We wrote a letter to our readers that became something of a call to arms for us:

As Coronavirus challenges many of our norms and expectations, as countries close borders and xenophobia raises its head, we are more committed than ever to bringing the world to you. Especially in this time of social distancing, it’s critical that we fight the divisions that arise with fear and distrust, and instead rededicate ourselves to the work of connecting.

S. H.: What has been the most pleasant moment since the launch?

Winning the National Magazine Awards for General Excellence and Photography was such an enormous honor for us—to be a small, independent publication not yet three years old and receive that kind of validation from journalists and editors we admire, we were elated.

S. H.: Any additional things you would like to add that I failed to ask?

In addition to our newsletters, website  and print publication, we’re also growing our SG community through events. 


Around the launch of our first issue in late 2018, we did an exhibition for the Apple flagship in San Francisco. We included a photo presentation by our photography editor Kike Arnal, a panel discussion moderated by Kira and readings by an acting group showcasing the “first person narratives” of deportees, all from the issue.  

Our Literary Bogotá event took place on Zoom in early 2021. We used our Colombia playlist to kick things off, followed by an extraordinary performance by Julián Delgado Lopera reading his piece, followed by José Vargas reading his translation of vignettes by Gabriel García Márquez (never-before available in English). We then had a conversation about changing Colombia with José, Julian and SG contributing editor Martín Perna, the founder of the band Antibalas who has helped curate our various playlists.

Lastly, we launched a supper club series in Austin in February 2020, an unlucky time to be sure. However our first one, at African Market, sold out and was a big success. We spoke a little about the Lagos guide and also featured the restaurant, which was Nigerian-owned. We are planning to re-launch the supper clubs later this year.

S. H.: My typical last question, what keeps you up at night these days?


In 2022, waking up from time to time in a cold sweat is just part of the human condition!

We started Stranger’s Guide in response to a set of global problems—the decline of journalism, increasing polarization and increasing lack of respect for other perspectives. All of those things have continued to get worse. There are no easy fixes or quick answers but we continue to chip away with the skills we have.

S. H.: Thank you and safe travels.

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