Archive for the ‘News and Views’ Category

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HempGrower Magazine: A New Title From GIE Media, A Company That Strongly Believes Print Is Still A Very Engaging Platform – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Jim Gilbride, Publisher & Noelle Skodzinski, Editorial Director, HempGrower Magazine…

January 20, 2020

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“When we launched our online products only, while it’s a nice introduction to the marketplace, your engagement online skyrockets when you launch your print magazine. It is one cohesive brand that touches all of these different areas of the marketplace. You can’t build a digital product without a print product. It’s a fully integrated approach of delivering content in as many ways that we can to our audience to grow our brand. I don’t believe the digital businesses will be as successful in the B to B space without a print magazine.” …Jim Gilbride

“If the content is good and it’s what people need, they will read it, regardless of the format. So, we’re providing in print, content that we know people need and will want. Whether it’s online or in print or at our conference, it’s all content that will help these people and their businesses. So, I agree with Jim, I don’t think print is dead. There are challenges with newsstand publications, but that’s a different model than we have. We are going to these people; we’re sending it directly to them and if the content resonates, they’re going to read it and be engaged with it.” …Noelle Skodzinski

A new title from GIE Media, HempGrower magazine’s mission is to support legal hemp cultivators by providing actionable intelligence in all aspects of the business—from regulatory news to analysis of industry trends and business strategy, as well as expert advice on cultivation, extraction, marketing, financial topics, legal issues and more. And while many companies are shying away from print, GIE is in the business of investing in quality content and new print titles, such as their latest, HempGrower.

Jim Gilbride is group publisher and Noelle Skodzinski is editorial director, and both have long-standing experience with the B to B marketplace and the world of cannabis, in general, having Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary magazines under their belts, as well as an annual conference that they’re both anticipating with a brimming excitement. I spoke with Jim and Noelle recently, and while the world of hemp growing has now become a legal enterprise, both realize the challenge of this type of product and the importance of accuracy and absolute adherence to federal regulations when it comes to publishing. But they also thrive on those challenges and the excitement of quality content with the magazine.

The  next huge conference is coming up in April and Jim and Noelle are doubly excited by the opportunities that are on the horizon. Offering their loyal readership another revenue source with HempGrower is definitely a check-yes box for them.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview about a new B to B magazine that is determined to bring correct and factual content to the world of hemp growers and all that are interested in this new, now legal, market.

But first the sound-bites:

On what he attributes the growth of his company to and the ability to add magazines, rather than losing them (Jim Gilbride): What separates us from the pack is, one, investment. We make sure that we spend a lot of money investing in quality content and editorial; quality graphic design; quality tools to build online and engage our readership. So, continuing to not cut any of those areas when a lot of publishing businesses cut back in graphics and editorial, things like that, we redoubled our efforts back in 2009 when the economy crashed to continue to invest in quality. Our number one job in any market that we serve is to educate our reader and help their businesses thrive. So, I would say that is one of the attributions.

On whether he believes it makes a difference in today’s world between being family-owned or owned by a group of investors or venture capitalists (Jim Gilbride): Yes. I believe that when we get into a marketplace, we embed ourselves and become part of that marketplace. And our family-owned business supports us and gives us good careers in being embedded in that marketplace. In the pest control marketplace, our group publisher has been there for 40 years. In the recycling marketplace, our group publisher has been there for 25 years. I’ve been here for 15 years. So, that longevity and being able to intimately be a part of a marketplace and to learn the ins and outs of that market; GIE Media over our 40-year history has never sold anything. When we decide to get into a marketplace, we’re in it for the long haul. And we’re going to make the long-term investments to make sure that we’re successful. We don’t want to be number two in any market that we’re in.

On whether moving from the cannabis business to the hemp business offers her a different high, pun intended (Noelle Skodzinski): (Laughs) There are a lot of similarities. Hemp has been experiencing prohibition for 82 years, so it’s the same kind of situation that all cannabis has been in. This market is newly legal in the United States. And there is an extreme mood right now for information, for all of the hemp farmers. And it doesn’t matter what they’re growing, whether it be CBD or seeds, grain or fiber, they need information now. They need to navigate the regulations; they need to navigate the marketplace; the supply and demand issues. We also kind of planned things in a timely fashion so that we’re reaching people when they need information the most. And then we evolve with the industry.

On the logic behind starting HempGrower online first and then getting into print (Jim Gilbride): The reason we did it is because, one, it’s pretty simple to get an online product up and running. So, we’re able to move a lot faster. And then once you have that up and running, you start to drive awareness and engagement for the print product that’s coming. I think they actually launched at the same time, you could say, but the reason that we launched online first is to market the product and create some demand before the print product hits the marketplace.

On many people saying that in the B to B category print is no longer needed (Jim Gilbride): I think it’s just not true because just look at the success we’ve had. When we launched our online products only, while it’s a nice introduction to the marketplace, your engagement online skyrockets when you launch your print magazine. It is one cohesive brand that touches all of these different areas of the marketplace. You can’t build a digital product without a print product. It’s a fully integrated approach of delivering content in as many ways that we can to our audience to grow our brand. I don’t believe the digital businesses will be as successful in the B to B space without a print magazine.

On why he thinks their business model is thriving, while magazines such as High Times are considering filing for bankruptcy (Jim Gilbride): I see High Times as more of a consumer magazine and I think it’s somewhere around $100 million in debt, so they’re trying to figure out their business model. We’re a vertical market, business to business publisher, and so that’s two very different businesses. We’re not going after the consumer market, we’re going after the legal businesses in those states that are operating legally, so we have a very engaged audience. We’ve had growers and dispensaries to say when they got their license, the first piece of mail they received was Cannabis Business Times and that they had been loyal readers since day one. So, we’re not trying to fight that consumer push, we’re all about B to B. I can’t speak to why they are thinking about folding or why they’re unsuccessful; all I can say is we’re two different things, consumer versus B to B media.

On what’s next for the company(Jim Gilbride): What’s next? Well, we have a large conference where we bring our engaged readership from all three brands together, which also brings all of our contributors and a lot of our board members and some really high quality speakers together at the Paris Las Vegas in April, which is another touchpoint for all of our brands. So our really engaged readership that likes to read the quality content in our magazine can meet all these folks and sit in a session for 45 minutes and learn about how to make their business more profitable. And learn about how to get into the business and when to license and how to invest in the business. So, gearing up for that will probably take up a lot of the first part of our year. And after that, we’ll see.

On whether dealing with cannabis and hemp as subject matter makes their jobs easier or harder (Noelle Skodzinski): I would say this is the most challenging position I’ve held, largely because of federal regulations. Editorially speaking, we have to make sure that every single thing that we publish is accurate. And I know that’s the goal of any editor, but with businesses that are in a regulatory gray area, where it may be legal in your state, but not legal federally, there are still towns that have moratoriums or bans on cannabis businesses, so we have to make sure that the information that we publish is up-to-date, that it’s accurate.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home (Jim Gilbride): I’m not a wind down kind of guy. I kind of love chaos. I have three little kids, so last night I fell asleep on my daughter’s floor (Laughs), because I was so burned out from the last two weeks. If I wind down I have to get away with my wife, otherwise it’s complete chaos and I’m always moving, but that’s how I prefer it, so you would probably catch me running around my house chasing my toddlers.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home (Noelle Skodzinski): I don’t wind down much either. Typically, I’m working even when I’m not working. I may be on my phone on the couch, checking emails, answering emails, looking things up. I’m constantly thinking of things that I have to do next, making lists of what I have to do. I’m working very hard on a better work/life balance, and Jim is helping me with that. But yes, I do enjoy a glass of wine in the evening, and I’m trying to get back into a fitness routine. I’m trying to scale back on the work, but launching three brands and a conference in five years has been a go-go-go environment, which I absolutely thrive in and love. But everyone needs to really try and balance their work and life so that you can continue to do more and be even stronger for next year.

On the biggest misconception she thinks people have about her (Noelle Skodzinski): I think that when I tell people what I do, people instantly will say things like, oh, you get to sit around and smoke pot all day. Many think it’s a very relaxed, cushy job, and while it is my absolute favorite job I’ve ever had, I love the company and the subject matter and I’m very passionate about the industry, it is not sitting back and smoking pot all day.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him (Jim Gilbride): I think just that this is easy. We’re in the fastest-growing marketplace in the country, so it must be easy to walk into it and launch a magazine and take advantage of that. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. It is a challenge every step of the way. From hiring employees to the editorial challenges that Noelle talked about, to the sales challenges I mentioned. And the hiring pains – I don’t think that we’ve ever had enough people, because once we are fully staffed, we grow again. And those are all challenges that weigh on your mind every day. It’s rewarding, but it isn’t easy.

On what keeps her up at night (Noelle Skodzinski): A lot of things. (Laughs) Mainly just working on our conference keeps me up. People are paying a lot of money, it’s reasonably affordable compared to other conferences, but they’re paying money to come to an event and I want to ensure that they are happy and get value out of what we’re providing. And that’s not an easy task. Running a conference is very similar in certain ways; it’s content in a different format. But it’s also people are there, you’re engaging in person with your audience and if they’re not getting value out of what you’re providing, they’re not happy. And that puts a lot of pressure, it’s self-imposed pressure, but I want to make sure that people are benefiting from what we’re providing them and that they’re paying for.

On what keeps him up at night (Jim Gilbride): Honestly, no matter how stressed I am, I don’t have trouble sleeping. I’m usually whipped at the end of the day. If there’s anything that stresses me out, it’s just a lot of business management responsibility. I manage the P & L, so driving our business to a place where we need it to be for the good of the industry, as well as the good of the employees that work for us so hard day in and day out is important and so is just making sure that we hit our growth projections. We plan a budget every year and in that budget we plan our employment growth, benefits growth rate, and all of that. And making sure that we hit those projections from a financial standpoint so that we can be so good to the people who work so hard for us. So, if it’s anything, it’s being focused on that.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jim Gilbride, Group Publisher and Noelle Skodzinski, Editorial Director, HempGrower magazine.

Samir Husni: Jim, reading your editorial in the first issue of HempGrower, this company started almost 40 years ago with one magazine and now you have all these magazines serving all kinds of “growing” industries; what do you attribute this kind of growth to in a digital age, where other people are leaving the business, you’re adding to the business?

Jim Gilbride: What separates us from the pack is, one, investment. We make sure that we spend a lot of money investing in quality content and editorial; quality graphic design; quality tools to build online and engage our readership. So, continuing to not cut any of those areas when a lot of publishing businesses cut back in graphics and editorial, things like that, we redoubled our efforts back in 2009 when the economy crashed to continue to invest in quality. Our number one job in any market that we serve is to educate our reader and help their businesses thrive. So, I would say that is one of the attributions.

And then continuing to look at each marketplace and see where they’re going to engage. Print is a very engaging platform still, so we continue to make that important investment in print, because we know that it’s a very engaging platform for readers. You also have to have digital, we know that. That is only an extension and a growth or redoubling our audience, so trying to engage with our audience as much as they will engage with us. And to deliver on all of those multiple platforms that has continued to make us successful.

And too, the other thing that I mentioned, quality editorial, quality graphics, as well as building the right vertical audience and spending the money in investment to make sure that you’re driving the right audience.

Samir Husni: Do you think there’s a difference in being family-owned as opposed to a group of venture capitalists or a group of investors owning the company? Does that make a difference in this day and age?

Jim Gilbride:  Yes. I believe that when we get into a marketplace, we embed ourselves and become part of that marketplace. And our family-owned business supports us and gives us good careers in being embedded in that marketplace. In the pest control marketplace, our group publisher has been there for 40 years. In the recycling marketplace, our group publisher has been there for 25 years. I’ve been here for 15 years. So, that longevity and being able to intimately be a part of a marketplace and to learn the ins and outs of that market; GIE Media over our 40-year history has never sold anything. When we decide to get into a marketplace, we’re in it for the long haul. And we’re going to make the long-term investments to make sure that we’re successful. We don’t want to be number two in any market that we’re in.

Samir Husni: Noelle, you started with the cannabis business and now you’ve moved to hemp. With this new HempGrower magazine, are you on a different high, pun intended?

Noelle Skodzinski: (Laughs) There are a lot of similarities. Hemp has been experiencing prohibition for 82 years, so it’s the same kind of situation that all cannabis has been in. This market is newly legal in the United States. And there is an extreme mood right now for information, for all of the hemp farmers. And it doesn’t matter what they’re growing, whether it be CBD or seeds, grain or fiber, they need information now. They need to navigate the regulations; they need to navigate the marketplace; the supply and demand issues. We also kind of planned things in a timely fashion so that we’re reaching people when they need information the most. And then we evolve with the industry.

Jim Gilbride: Noelle is not only over hemp, but she still oversees the cannabis business as well. I just wanted to make that clear.

Samir Husni: You launched the website for HempGrower first, last August. And then six months later, the print magazine came along. Is there a logic that you used? Start the online first and then go to print? Is this a new model for launching publications?

Jim Gilbride: The reason we did it is because, one, it’s pretty simple to get an online product up and running. So, we’re able to move a lot faster. And then once you have that up and running, you start to drive awareness and engagement for the print product that’s coming. I think they actually launched at the same time, you could say, but the reason that we launched online first is to market the product and create some demand before the print product hits the marketplace.

Noelle Skodzinski: It’s a similar model to what we did with Cannabis Business Times, in that the digital product came first. And then when GIE bought Cannabis Business Times we were able to launch the print publication. But like Jim said, the audience starts to engage with the brand online very quickly and frequently. We are then able to start learning more about the audience and start working with people who are in the industry to build that print publication. And we already have a brand out there that people have begun to trust and they understand our approach to the editorial and what we’re providing.  So, that has them looking forward to the print publication and they’re already engaged with that brand.

Samir Husni: There are some people who say in the B to B segment of magazines that print is no longer needed and there’s no place for it anymore. That everyone is moving to digital and social media. You’re proof that’s not true. Why is that?

Jim Gilbride: I couldn’t disagree with that at all. I think it’s just not true because just look at the success we’ve had. When we launched our online products only, while it’s a nice introduction to the marketplace, your engagement online skyrockets when you launch your print magazine. It is one cohesive brand that touches all of these different areas of the marketplace. You can’t build a digital product without a print product. It’s a fully integrated approach of delivering content in as many ways that we can to our audience to grow our brand. I don’t believe the digital businesses will be as successful in the B to B space without a print magazine.

Noelle Skodzinski: If I could add to that. Samir, I think you’ve been a kind of proponent of this concept. If the content is good and it’s what people need, they will read it, regardless of the format. So, we’re providing in print, content that we know people need and will want. Whether it’s online or in print or at our conference, it’s all content that will help these people and their businesses. So, I agree with Jim, I don’t think print is dead. There are challenges with newsstand publications, but that’s a different model than we have. We are going to these people; we’re sending it directly to them and if the content resonates, they’re going to read it and be engaged with it.

Jim Gilbride: I couldn’t agree more. It’s about quality content and it’s not about how you deliver it. If you don’t have quality content, of course print is going to die, because there’s not enough value there for people to buy into it to reach your audience. It’s all about quality content. If you have that you can build a print magazine. If you don’t, you can’t.

Samir Husni: As you reflect on 2019 and you look forward to 2020, what are your expectations for the future?

Noelle Skodzinski: I would love to have more time, more hours in the day.

Jim Gilbride: More cannabis legalization.

Samir Husni: What’s the trajectory, in terms of legalization? I know that CBD is now legal in all 50 states and hemp is legal in…?

Jim Gilbride: All but three.

Samir Husni: All but three. And cannabis is legal in what 23 states now, for one reason or another?

Noelle Skodzinski: I think it’s 33 medical and then 11 now for adult use.

Samir Husni: Why do you think the model that you’re using, between the Cannabis Business Times and HempGrower, is thriving now, while we hear about established magazines like High Times, for example, is thinking about filing for bankruptcy?

Noelle Skodzinski: We also publish Cannabis Dispensary, which we launched in 2017.

Jim Gilbride: I see High Times as more of a consumer magazine and I think it’s somewhere around $100 million in debt, so they’re trying to figure out their business model. We’re a vertical market, business to business publisher, and so that’s two very different businesses. We’re not going after the consumer market, we’re going after the legal businesses in those states that are operating legally, so we have a very engaged audience. We’ve had growers and dispensaries to say when they got their license, the first piece of mail they received was Cannabis Business Times and that they had been loyal readers since day one. So, we’re not trying to fight that consumer push, we’re all about B to B. I can’t speak to why they are thinking about folding or why they’re unsuccessful; all I can say is we’re two different things, consumer versus B to B media.

Samir Husni: You now have three titles, the two cannabis magazines and HempGrower. What’s next?

Jim Gilbride: What’s next? Well, we have a large conference where we bring our engaged readership from all three brands together, which also brings all of our contributors and a lot of our board members and some really high quality speakers together at the Paris Las Vegas in April, which is another touchpoint for all of our brands. So our really engaged readership that likes to read the quality content in our magazine can meet all these folks and sit in a session for 45 minutes and learn about how to make their business more profitable. And learn about how to get into the business and when to license and how to invest in the business. So, gearing up for that will probably take up a lot of the first part of our year. And after that, we’ll see.

Noelle Skodzinski: Our cannabis conference is now in its fourth year, but 2020 will be the first year that we are incorporating an educational tract for hemp. It will be largely focused on hemp for CBD, but in all of our publications we focus on the business, but in the grower publications, Cannabis Business Times and HempGrower, we also focus very heavily on the cultivation aspect; the farming. So, in 2020, the conference will have two professors and researchers from Purdue University who are giving sessions on hemp cultivation; results from research. And that’s something that we’re really looking forward to, bringing in the hemp component to the industry, because there’s a lot of crossover, a lot of marijuana growers who are looking into expanding into hemp now that it’s legal.

And a lot of companies that weren’t necessarily willing to get into marijuana growing because of the additional risk involved, because it’s still federally illegal, are interested in growing hemp. So, that’s really expanding our audience and as Jim said, bringing all of those people together so that they can learn from one another. So, that’s something we’re really excited about for 2020.

Samir Husni: Both of you had careers before the cannabis and the hemp publications, as publishers and as editors. Did cannabis and hemp make your career easier or harder when it comes to dealing with that particular subject matter?

Jim Gilbride: Both.

Noelle Skodzinski: I would say this is the most challenging position I’ve held, largely because of federal regulations. Editorially speaking, we have to make sure that every single thing that we publish is accurate. And I know that’s the goal of any editor, but with businesses that are in a regulatory gray area, where it may be legal in your state, but not legal federally, there are still towns that have moratoriums or bans on cannabis businesses, so we have to make sure that the information that we publish is up-to-date, that it’s accurate.

And we also have an obligation to our readers to feature businesses that are adhering to all the regulations that are out there. It’s very challenging for those businesses to do that, but they absolutely have to do it. So, part of our mission with these publications is to help advance the industry by advancing the businesses in them and the people involved in those businesses. And in order to do that, we have to make sure that we’re not featuring businesses that are not playing by the rules.

And that’s kind of a simple way to put it. There are many complications to that, but it’s extremely challenging editorially. We have a lot of vetting that we have to do for businesses that we never had to do before. When I was an editor in other positions, I didn’t have to dig around on publishing companies to make sure everything they did was legal. Typically, it was a very rare case that someone was doing something illegal. In the cannabis industry, I would say it’s also rare, but it can happen accidentally and it can happen intentionally. So, we just have to guarantee that what we’re publishing is accurate.

And the other challenging thing, especially with cannabis, is that cannabis did not have the luxury of all the other agricultural crops, in that they have had centuries of research behind them, University research that backed up all the science about cultivating this plant, so we’ve had to build very slowly a network of researchers, of experts that were cultivating underground for decades. And trying to get to the most accurate, the most proven methods of growing that are available, because that wasn’t available to cultivators.

 Samir Husni: And Jim, you said both?

Jim Gilbride: Now that I’ve had a couple of seconds to think about it, I wouldn’t say easier is the right word, exciting is certainly the right word. It’s really exciting to be a part of this industry and to see how things unfold. And how the industry continues to grow and states come online and as other folks get into the market, but it is certainly not easy. It is a challenge.

I remember, we were in New York City at a conference and we were going to get our first advertising client. After that meeting I found myself thinking that this was going to be a lot harder than I thought. There were just media companies and conference companies coming out of the woodwork. How do you differentiate yourself? How do you build a brand and quality when there has been a lot of mistrust and misguidance in the marketplace? We could get a big support advertising program in the next day, corporate over in Europe or somewhere else just says nope, we’re not doing this anymore and then it’s gone.

So, being federally illegal, there are people who kind of dip their toes in and then go away. It is certainly very challenging to be part of a federally illegal market and something that’s just so new. But it has certainly been probably the most exciting time I’ve had in my career.

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

Jim Gilbride: I’m not a wind down kind of guy. I kind of love chaos. I have three little kids, so last night I fell asleep on my daughter’s floor (Laughs), because I was so burned out from the last two weeks. If I wind down I have to get away with my wife, otherwise it’s complete chaos and I’m always moving, but that’s how I prefer it, so you would probably catch me running around my house chasing my toddlers.

Noelle Skodzinski: I don’t wind down much either. Typically, I’m working even when I’m not working. I may be on my phone on the couch, checking emails, answering emails, looking things up. I’m constantly thinking of things that I have to do next, making lists of what I have to do. I’m working very hard on a better work/life balance, and Jim is helping me with that. But yes, I do enjoy a glass of wine in the evening, and I’m trying to get back into a fitness routine. I’m trying to scale back on the work, but launching three brands and a conference in five years has been a go-go-go environment, which I absolutely thrive in and love. But everyone needs to really try and balance their work and life so that you can continue to do more and be even stronger for next year.

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

Noelle Skodzinski: I think that when I tell people what I do, people instantly will say things like, oh, you get to sit around and smoke pot all day. Many think it’s a very relaxed, cushy job, and while it is my absolute favorite job I’ve ever had, I love the company and the subject matter and I’m very passionate about the industry, it is not sitting back and smoking pot all day.

Jim Gilbride: I think just that this is easy. We’re in the fastest-growing marketplace in the country, so it must be easy to walk into it and launch a magazine and take advantage of that. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. It is a challenge every step of the way. From hiring employees to the editorial challenges that Noelle talked about, to the sales challenges I mentioned. And the hiring pains – I don’t think that we’ve ever had enough people, because once we are fully staffed, we grow again. And those are all challenges that weigh on your mind every day. It’s rewarding, but it isn’t easy.

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

 Noelle Skodzinski: A lot of things. (Laughs) Mainly just working on our conference keeps me up. People are paying a lot of money, it’s reasonably affordable compared to other conferences, but they’re paying money to come to an event and I want to ensure that they are happy and get value out of what we’re providing. And that’s not an easy task. Running a conference is very similar in certain ways; it’s content in a different format. But it’s also people are there, you’re engaging in person with your audience and if they’re not getting value out of what you’re providing, they’re not happy. And that puts a lot of pressure, it’s self-imposed pressure, but I want to make sure that people are benefiting from what we’re providing them and that they’re paying for.

And it’s the same thing with the content in the magazine. People’s businesses rely on this information that we’re providing and I don’t take that lightly. I may take to too seriously sometimes, so that I’m not sleeping as well as other people might, but I also think that it takes that type of person who worries about everything to make sure all of these moving parts, especially in this type of industry, are going to work.

Jim Gilbride: Honestly, no matter how stressed I am, I don’t have trouble sleeping. I’m usually whipped at the end of the day. If there’s anything that stresses me out, it’s just a lot of business management responsibility. I manage the P & L, so driving our business to a place where we need it to be for the good of the industry, as well as the good of the employees that work for us so hard day in and day out is important and so is just making sure that we hit our growth projections. We plan a budget every year and in that budget we plan our employment growth, benefits growth rate, and all of that. And making sure that we hit those projections from a financial standpoint so that we can be so good to the people who work so hard for us. So, if it’s anything, it’s being focused on that.

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

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Barnes & Noble’s Director Of Merchandise & Newsstand, Krifka Steffey, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “The Print Magazine Is Becoming A Luxury Item.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

January 15, 2020

Mr. Magazine™ Presents… Conversations With Magazine and Magazine Media Leaders…

Invigorating the newsstand and driving traffic, two things that Krifka Steffey is determined to do in 2020. Krifka is Director of Merchandising for the Newsstand at Barnes and Noble and believes that with continued evolution and the idea that print magazines in today’s digital world are still relevant and are quickly becoming a luxury item for readers, the technology of print will remain a viable one.

Krifka’s advice to industry leaders is let’s look forward instead of backward; let’s promote what’s good about the industry, such as what’s selling, what people are attracted to, instead of always preaching gloom and doom. And most important let’s use social media as a conduit to ignite a better relationship with the audience: “I think social media actually should be giving the publishing industry, certainly magazine publishers, a lot of intelligence on what customers are paying attention to and what they like. And doing that virtually for free.”

It’s great advice from someone who knows the newsstand and the business of magazines at retail. She also works in partnership with publishers to create new and exclusive products, while conducting global searches for new magazines to add to the roster. She’s a busy lady with a head-full of great ideas.

So, please enjoy this lively conversation with, Krifka Steffey, Director, Merchandise & Newsstand, Barnes & Noble, as Mr. Magazine™ brings you the next in his series with the magazine and magazine media executives that make the industry world go-round.

But first the sound-bites:

On her assessment of the future of magazine newsstand and retail: What I foresee is that the evolution that has already started to take place within publishing will continue. And that evolution is moving, certainly, toward higher quality and toward  magazines becoming more of a luxury item, especially those that you would buy at retail versus what you’d receive at home by subscription. We’ve also seen major brands come down in their frequency, while seeing new titles in the bookazine format, where they don’t necessarily have a “next issue,” they’re a very singularly-focused subject or something that’s hot at the time. A lot of what our industry has been doing is looking back instead of looking forward, and asking what does that mean in terms of newsstand and physical retail?

On any particular accomplishments Barnes & Noble achieved in 2019: We have decidedly been creating greater partnerships directly with our publishers, not only bookazine publishers, but also with everyday brands that anyone on the street could name, in terms of giving feedback on trends that we foresee coming. I don’t think anyone could have anticipated the Korean pop band BTS ending up selling a million dollars in products on our newsstand, but that came about through a partnership with various publishers and advising them. We’re seeing these things trending; CD sales increasing; what can we do to get on this trend? And I think that’s a key part of why Barnes & Noble has been doing well with magazines; we’ve really been partnering with those publishers to see what’s coming.

On whether her role today is more collaborative with publishers: With some publishers we’ve moved toward a more collaborative, back and forth relationship, and in some cases, the same with some consultants. But there’s still a pretty large contingent of the business where there is no collaboration between publisher and retailer. And I know there are a lot of other retailers that are involved, but there still feels like there’s a disconnect in sharing trends and looking at data to produce products that customers are looking for.

On whether this new role makes her job easier or harder: I’ve been doing this collaboration with publishers since I started in the business, so I would say it’s probably easier, because we’re aware of what product is coming and we believe in it. And that’s because we have either seen some data that supported it or we’ve seen customer trends, something like that. We’re better able to support that internally and that’s either in emails, displays, or social media. So when we don’t know what is coming and we get surprised by a cover and we sell out, I really feel that we’ve missed a great opportunity. So, I would say those collaborations actually make my job easier, instead of having to react on the backend, I have knowledge on the frontend.

On the variety of magazines Barnes & Noble carries, including international titles with higher cover prices: The U.K. and Australian imports and other areas that we receive from, we also get some things from The Netherlands, these products are very high quality; they’re very unique and they’re perfective in their writing style. If you were to compare a domestic version of some very well-known brands to a U.K. version, they would read very differently. So, our perspective here has been that assortment. Let’s let people and customers choose what they want by what they buy.

On the biggest challenge she faced in 2019: I think we have a supply chain problem. I often describe it as a giant onion with so many layers within it and so much complexity. And we certainly faced challenges in the actual delivery, logistics, data, flow and analysis determining the right number of copies to the right places. But I also think our industry is very restricted in allowing new entries to the market. We tend to have a very consistent and almost, I hate to say aging, workforce within our industry that doesn’t present new opportunities as quickly as we really need.

On whether she is working on changing that: I am. We’ve been looking at various ways that we can, obviously, take in magazines. We also have our own distribution center; should we be distributing our own magazines? Should we be making our own magazines? We have a publisher partner as well, so there are various things we’ve been thinking about. There are lots of opportunities out there, because we certainly see customer demand. So, I think that will probably be the biggest challenge for this year, but it was also a challenge in 2019 too.

On whether she feels magazines are still traffic-generators for the bookstores, bringing  customers in: That’s a great question. I’ve often thought about the different customer types that we have within newsstand. And we definitely have a customer base that’s very loyal to our category. And so we often see two magazines in a basket and we don’t necessarily see a book, so I do think the newsstand on its own has its own traffic. When people look at our mainlines they say: wow, you carry so many magazines, but we sell about 90 percent of our assortment in every store. So when you see those conceivably smaller audience titles, they really do generate traffic to our stores.

On whether the specialty titles are bringing in the most revenue for Barnes & Noble, rather than the regular frequency magazines: I think that kind of goes back to the question about subscriptions. I mean when you really look at what subscriptions and ABC rate-based have done, those titles are really no longer newsstand profit-generators. For a lot of reasons we have those titles in-store because we know customers expect us to carry them, but in terms of newness factor or titles that are not available by subscription, that’s where those bookazines come in.

On whether the shift from Ingram to ANC made her life easier, harder or the same: The supply chain in general out there for everyone has gotten more complicated. We’ve gone through the various changes with UPS rates, and we have trucking from one depot to another. The printers are also an interesting component of all of this as well, so I think this entire thing, from start to finish, has been in a state of flux. Nothing very consistent or reassuring.

On whether she considers social media platforms friend or foe to magazines and magazine media: I actually see social media, especially Instagram, as almost being representative of an online magazine. You’re looking for a great image to support very little text, and then some are obviously longer, but I think social media actually should be giving the publishing industry, certainly magazine publishers, a lot of intelligence on what customers are paying attention to and what they like. And doing that virtually for free. But if we continue to give away content online, then we can’t continue to expect people to pay for that same thing in print.

On anything she’d like to add: I would just suggest to our industry partners that we should speak more positively about what’s happening in our industry and what is working and what’s selling. I think too often we’re still stuck in looking back instead of looking forward and that doesn’t do anybody any favors.

On what keeps her up at night: The challenge that we face with getting the right product that’s on trend at the right time. That aspect, when we have the speed to market challenges, that piece. And also getting the right volume of product into the right stores to service the right customers to avoid sellout. And that’s something that’s very challenging for me, because a sellout to me could be at one copy, could be at 10 copies, and that’s a lost sale opportunity. So, I think that’s the piece that concerns me the most. Less about attracting the millennials, or figuring out the next hot thing; it’s getting the right copy in the right place at the right time, which has always been our industry’s biggest problem.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Krifka Steffey, Director, Merchandise & Newsstand, Barnes & Noble.

Samir Husni: From a magazine merchandising perspective, what’s your assessment of the future of magazines and magazine newsstand and retail?

Krifka Steffey: What I foresee is that the evolution that has already started to take place within publishing will continue. And that evolution is moving, certainly, toward higher quality and toward  magazines becoming more of a luxury item, especially those that you would buy at retail versus what you’d receive at home by subscription. We’ve also seen major brands come down in their frequency, while seeing new titles in the bookazine format, where they don’t necessarily have a “next issue,” they’re a very singularly-focused subject or something that’s hot at the time. A lot of what our industry has been doing is looking back instead of looking forward, and asking what does that mean in terms of newsstand and physical retail?

For us, one of the things that we’ve really focused on is looking at the financials and the metrics. We have a very special business in that it’s consignment; it’s very productive per square footage in the retail space, and our customers are very loyal to this product. So, when you add all those things together, not only the math, but if you also look at the frequency of shelf and the loyalty of the magazine reader, it works out.

The industry is certainly going through some troubling times as brick and mortar retail, but I do feel that the customers want to shop in a physical store, especially for physical items like books and paper. So, I’m optimistic. I think we’re just going through a prolonged transition into those different formats.

Samir Husni: Looking back on 2019, what are some accomplishments you feel Barnes & Noble achieved from your perspective as director of Merchandise and Newsstand?

Krifka Steffey: We have decidedly been creating greater partnerships directly with our publishers, not only bookazine publishers, but also with everyday brands that anyone on the street could name, in terms of giving feedback on trends that we foresee coming. I don’t think anyone could have anticipated the Korean pop band BTS ending up selling a million dollars in products on our newsstand, but that came about through a partnership with various publishers and advising them. We’re seeing these things trending; CD sales increasing; what can we do to get on this trend? And I think that’s a key part of why Barnes & Noble has been doing well with magazines; we’ve really been partnering with those publishers to see what’s coming.

The other thing that we’ve done is work very hard internally to maintain our space. So, the fact that we merchandise our own product and our booksellers are familiar with it is also a key component that has been successful for us. But internally as a buyer, it’s always something that we have to continually resell internally.

Samir Husni: Are you more involved with the publishers today and with giving them ideas? In other words, is it more of a two-way street now, as opposed to the publishers publish it, ship it, and then you sell it?

Krifka Steffey: With some publishers we’ve moved toward a more collaborative, back and forth relationship, and in some cases, the same with some consultants. But there’s still a pretty large contingent of the business where there is no collaboration between publisher and retailer. And I know there are a lot of other retailers that are involved, but there still feels like there’s a disconnect in sharing trends and looking at data to produce products that customers are looking for.

And I think that’s the real component we’re missing; we’re not getting a whole lot of big launches. We’re going to see “Reveal,” the Property Brothers’ new magazine from Meredith early in 2020, which is very exciting, but we haven’t had a major launch like that one since The Magnolia Journal. Part of that has to do with perhaps just paying attention to what is trending at retail and what things are trending online that can convert into the magazine format.

Samir Husni: Does this make your job easier or harder?

Krifka Steffey: I’ve been doing this collaboration with publishers since I started in the business, so I would say it’s probably easier, because we’re aware of what product is coming and we believe in it. And that’s because we have either seen some data that supported it or we’ve seen customer trends, something like that. We’re better able to support that internally and that’s either in emails, displays, or social media. So when we don’t know what is coming and we get surprised by a cover and we sell out, I really feel that we’ve missed a great opportunity. So, I would say those collaborations actually make my job easier, instead of having to react on the backend, I have knowledge on the frontend.

Samir Husni: You’re one of the few newsstands that carries a variety of magazines, including a lot of British and Australian titles. What’s the logic or reasoning behind that, especially since the cover prices are extremely high?

Krifka Steffey: The U.K. and Australian imports and other areas that we receive from, we also get some things from The Netherlands, these products are very high quality; they’re very unique and they’re perfective in their writing style. If you were to compare a domestic version of some very well-known brands to a U.K. version, they would read very differently. So, our perspective here has been that assortment. Let’s let people and customers choose what they want by what they buy.

I spend a lot of time looking for new products like that to import. And I think some of these cover prices lend back to that idea that the print magazine is becoming a luxury item. If we’re able to bridge all of these different price points, certainly for the retailer and for the publisher, higher price points can equal a better P&L for everybody.

Samir Husni: What was the biggest challenge you faced in 2019?

Krifka Steffey: I think we have a supply chain problem. I often describe it as a giant onion with so many layers within it and so much complexity. And we certainly faced challenges in the actual delivery, logistics, data, flow and analysis determining the right number of copies to the right places. But I also think our industry is very restricted in allowing new entries to the market. We tend to have a very consistent and almost, I hate to say aging, workforce within our industry that doesn’t present new opportunities as quickly as we really need.

Samir Husni: Are you working on changing that?

Krifka Steffey: I am. We’ve been looking at various ways that we can, obviously, take in magazines. We also have our own distribution center; should we be distributing our own magazines? Should we be making our own magazines? We have a publisher partner as well, so there are various things we’ve been thinking about. There are lots of opportunities out there, because we certainly see customer demand. So, I think that will probably be the biggest challenge for this year, but it was also a challenge in 2019 too.

Samir Husni: Do you still feel magazines are traffic-generators for the bookstores, bringing  customers in?

Krifka Steffey: That’s a great question. I’ve often thought about the different customer types that we have within newsstand. And we definitely have a customer base that’s very loyal to our category. And so we often see two magazines in a basket and we don’t necessarily see a book, so I do think the newsstand on its own has its own traffic. When people look at our mainlines they say: wow, you carry so many magazines, but we sell about 90 percent of our assortment in every store. So when you see those conceivably smaller audience titles, they really do generate traffic to our stores.

Additionally, as to being a complement to a book, we often see when we have major bestsellers like Michelle Obama’s “Becoming,” that a magazine is the number one attached. So, I think different people are coming to our stores for different reasons, they’re either loyalists or they’re coming in and also pairing up with a book.

Samir Husni: When I spoke to the people at ANC, they said that while the bookazines and the specialty titles aren’t selling the biggest units, they are making the biggest chunk of the money. Is it the same for Barnes & Noble? Are all of these specialty titles bringing in the most revenue, rather than the weeklies and the monthlies?

Krifka Steffey: I think that kind of goes back to the question about subscriptions. I mean when you really look at what subscriptions and ABC rate-based have done, those titles are really no longer newsstand profit-generators. For a lot of reasons we have those titles in-store because we know customers expect us to carry them, but in terms of newness factor or titles that are not available by subscription, that’s where those bookazines come in.

So, to me, when you can effectively balance what will be a subscription title and what you’ll have on mainlines, that’s really going to provide more of the stability that the publishers are interested in. But it really hasn’t done that so far, and also conversely managing what they give away online digitally. So, I think that’s probably their biggest challenge is to figure out bookazines versus subscription titles versus digital. For me, I think the newest and most interesting things we’re seeing are bookazines.

Samir Husni: Since the shift from Ingram to ANC, has it made your life easier, harder or the same?

Krifka Steffey: The supply chain in general out there for everyone has gotten more complicated. We’ve gone through the various changes with UPS rates, and we have trucking from one depot to another. The printers are also an interesting component of all of this as well, so I think this entire thing, from start to finish, has been in a state of flux. Nothing very consistent or reassuring.

But I do foresee there to be some opportunities in the future, because certainly, despite what everyone reads about print, customer demand is there, it’s truly amazing when you drill down. I really feel like The Magnolia Journal wasn’t celebrated quite enough for what it was. With one issue, Barnes & Noble sold 47,000 copies, that’s what we really need to be looking at. How do we generate more of that? Because certainly, if we can get the publishers to bring these types of titles out faster, then some of the woes with the supply chain and making money and not making money would be largely fixed.

Samir Husni: Do you think digital, with all its platforms, including social media, is a friend or a foe to magazine media?

Krifka Steffey: I actually see social media, especially Instagram, as almost being representative of an online magazine. You’re looking for a great image to support very little text, and then some are obviously longer, but I think social media actually should be giving the publishing industry, certainly magazine publishers, a lot of intelligence on what customers are paying attention to and what they like. And doing that virtually for free. But if we continue to give away content online, then we can’t continue to expect people to pay for that same thing in print.

And I think there’s a lot to be saved in terms of the upcoming centennial Z-generation, but the millennials themselves are a generation that it almost feels like we skipped. And so pulling them back into the format has been challenging. Why would they pay for something that they’ve been used to getting for free? My team and I have sat down, and they’re all millennials, and we’ve discussed what would they pay for. And it has to be something pretty exceptional and not something you can get online. So, that’s a big challenge.

But with some of the things that we’ve seen selling lately, I mentioned BTS with K Pop, or anything that has Harry Styles on it, practically selling out, we’re obviously making some strides in that direction.

I do think the trend that we’ve seen with mindfulness is representative of understanding that at some point digital is harmful for us. And I was thinking about this recently, at what point will we really disconnect? In Europe, it’s certainly much more trendy to put your phone away and to not carry it around with you, but in the U.S. we’re still very loyal to our phones and to digital. So, at some point though, I do think we’ll start to follow that trend.

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

Krifka Steffey: I would just suggest to our industry partners that we should speak more positively about what’s happening in our industry and what is working and what’s selling. I think too often we’re still stuck in looking back instead of looking forward and that doesn’t do anybody any favors.

Samir Husni: What keeps you up at night?

Krifka Steffey: The challenge that we face with getting the right product that’s on trend at the right time. That aspect, when we have the speed to market challenges, that piece. And also getting the right volume of product into the right stores to service the right customers to avoid sellout. And that’s something that’s very challenging for me, because a sellout to me could be at one copy, could be at 10 copies, and that’s a lost sale opportunity. So, I think that’s the piece that concerns me the most. Less about attracting the millennials, or figuring out the next hot thing; it’s getting the right copy in the right place at the right time, which has always been our industry’s biggest problem.

When you look at a map and truly understand the logistics, complexity is across the United States. It is amazing how quickly packages in general reach some of these areas, considering how long it takes to cross Texas, how many DC’s are located near Arizona, but at the same time I still feel like there are improvements to be made. And customers, they expect when they see a cover pop up on social media, such as Instagram, they expect it to be available at their local retailers.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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American News Company’s (ANC) President & CEO, David Parry, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “When We Look At It From A Practical Standpoint, We Recognize The Magazine Business Is Anything But Dead.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

January 13, 2020

Mr. Magazine™ Presents… Conversations With Magazine and Magazine Media Leaders…

Building on strong partnerships with retailers, publishers and consumers, the American News Company (ANC), is looking positively toward 2020 and the future of the distribution business and the magazine industry. David Parry is president and CEO of ANC and spoke with me recently about the mergers, acquisitions and overall health of the business.

David was excited about the amount of retail space and placement of magazines that ANC has been able to retrieve and the reformation of his organization. And in his words, while the retail changes might not be gargantuan: “Major changes, probably not, that’s maybe too strong a statement. But I would say a significant change. We have gotten a lot of positive traction at retail in regards to space.” So, that is good news.

With a new, more efficient program called “Drive,” which stands for Distribution Reinvented, about to be in place, David is ready to face 2020 head-on and with clarity.

So, please enjoy this informative conversation with David Parry, president and CEO, ANC, as Mr. Magazine™ brings you the next in his series with the magazine and magazine media executives that make the industry world go-round.

But first the sound-bites:

On his assessment of the future of magazine distribution: That’s a great question. Interestingly enough, the last 12 months have seen, obviously, a lot of change going on within American News Company (ANC) and the reformation of the organization.

On whether he thinks publishers will see a major change in retail space allocation and placement for 2020: Major changes, probably not, that’s maybe too strong a statement. But I would say a significant change. We have gotten a lot of positive traction at retail in regards to space.

On important accomplishments ANC had for 2019: There’s been a lot, however, successes to us may not be successes to the masses. We’ve had the integration of CMG, Genera, MagNet, RS2, and TNG all into one organization, including the Curtis integration, and now including Cowley Distributing.

On the biggest challenge the company faced in 2019: I think, yet again, like a broken record, it’s sales declines. We’re still facing pretty large sales declines and in a business that is a fixed cost business, which is what we have as it relates to warehousing, trucking and so on, it’s very difficult to cut your expenses at the rate of your margin decline associated with the decline of magazine sales.

On whether he thinks there is a need for both a magazine distributor and a wholesaler or are they now one and the same: That’s a great question, a sensitive question, but I’ll do my best to answer it in the proper way. I think we are evolving into a hybrid system. The national distributor’s functions are critical.

On whether he thinks the future of single copy sales will be the high cover-priced bookazines and other higher-end magazines: If we can use history as our guide, and we can see in current history, with this evolution and going back to these bookazines, to these single topic, non-subscription-based products and their success, I think there’s a real place for them.

On if the honeymoon period during all the mergers and acquisitions is over now and he has his own team fully in place: In my opinion it’s never over. It will continue to just transition.

On what keeps him up at night: As it relates to this discussion, what keeps me up at night is trying to figure out the way to mitigate the sales decline and right size the infrastructure to make our segment of the business more variable and less fixed so that we can drive a healthier P&L.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with David Parry, president & CEO, American News Company (ANC).

Samir Husni: What is your assessment of the future of magazine distribution in 2020?

David Parry: That’s a great question. Interestingly enough, the last 12 months have seen, obviously, a lot of change going on within American News Company (ANC) and the reformation of the organization. But one of the big initiatives that we’ve had as a company has been working with our retail customers to right-size the space that we have. To make sure that we have adequate space for magazines in a proper location.

Samir Husni: Do you think retailers will see a major change in retail space allocation and placement for 2020?

David Parry: Major changes, probably not, that’s maybe too strong a statement. But I would say a significant change. We have gotten a lot of positive traction at retail in regards to space. We welcomed our new publisher clients from Curtis at our publisher summit a month ago, and presented key departmental updates, including the significant traction that our sales team has gained in recapturing checkout space across several key chains.

ANC/CMG has gained traction with Walmart to add 7 ‘B’ sized magazine pockets at the self-checkout area of the store, in 1,500+ stores.  When approved, the self-checkout display will represent a significant enhancement for magazines in this high traffic area, which represents 60% of all Walmart transactions.

Samir Husni: What are some important accomplishments ANC had for 2019?

David Parry: There’s been a lot, however, successes to us may not be successes to the masses. We’ve had the integration of CMG, Genera, MagNet, RS2, and TNG all into one organization, including the Curtis integration, and now including Cowley Distributing. So, I think if you’re looking at a single accomplishment it would be to integrate all of those companies and drive out as much inefficiency as possible and build a stronger base in which to operate from through 2019 and then focusing and going forward into 2020. That was a Herculean effort by our team, to be able to pull that off.

Samir Husni: What was the biggest challenge the company faced in 2019?

David Parry: I think, yet again, like a broken record, it’s sales declines. We’re still facing pretty large sales declines and in a business that is a fixed cost business, which is what we have as it relates to warehousing, trucking and so on, it’s very difficult to cut your expenses at the rate of your margin decline associated with the decline of magazine sales. So, yet again, the biggest hurdle we had to overcome in 2019 was really mitigating those margin reductions from the sales loss and producing a positive result for the organization.

Samir Husni: Do you think there is a need for both a magazine distributor and a wholesaler or are they now one and the same?

David Parry: That’s a great question, a sensitive question, but I’ll do my best to answer it in the proper way. I think we are evolving into a hybrid system. The national distributor’s functions are critical. There are many things that they do and have expertise in that we have not done and don’t have expertise in, and quite candidly, we’re learning from each other as we go through this process.

 Samir Husni: Do you think the future of single copy sales will be the high cover-priced bookazines and other higher-end magazines?

David Parry: If we can use history as our guide, and we can see in current history, with this evolution and going back to these bookazines, to these single topic, non-subscription-based products and their success, I think there’s a real place for them. And I think you’re right, magazines may become more of a specialty product like they have somewhat done on the book side with the move from mass market to higher priced trade.

Samir Husni: Is the honeymoon period during all the mergers and acquisitions over and do you have your own team fully in place?

David Parry: In my opinion it’s never over. It will continue to just transition. It’s still a challenging business. Certainly, there’s a Darwinism effect in all of this from all sides: Distribution, Retail and Publishing. We’re just going to continue to see that.

Samir Husni: What keeps you up at night?

David Parry: As it relates to this discussion, what keeps me up at night is trying to figure out the way to mitigate the sales decline and right size the infrastructure to make our segment of the business more variable and less fixed so that we can drive a healthier P&L.  Our ultimate goal is and has been to build a sustainable distribution company for the industry. That’s what really keeps me awake at night, that’s the genesis of everything for us. It doesn’t matter about changing or diversifying our business model as it relates to this discussion and our overall business strategy. We want to get the primary business right, and that’s the magazine distribution business.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

Next up, Krifka Steffey, Director, Merchandise & Newsstand, Barnes & Noble.

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Bonnier Corporation’s CEO, Eric Zinczenko, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “Magazine Brands With Strong Equity And Connections To The Consumer Will Always Have Their Place.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

January 9, 2020

Mr. Magazine™ Presents… Conversations With Magazine and Magazine Media Leaders…

Bonnier Corporation is one legacy media company that may have been around for over 200 years, but is definitely not showing its age. In fact, it’s looking forward to 2020 and beyond with steadfast vim and vigor. The USA portion of this heritage company opened its doors in 2007 and under the guidance and leadership of its present CEO, Eric Zinczenko, has enjoyed immense success, creating better quality content with less workforce. And it’s a success that Eric is determined to see continue into the next year and beyond.

Strong magazine brands with consumer engagement and equity are key to Bonnier’s plans for 2020, along with event growth and their many other revenue streams. I spoke with Eric right before the holidays and he shared with me success stories and the many challenges he faced in 2019, the success stories far exceeding any obstacles he may have encountered. And while he admits these are challenging times for magazines and magazine media, they’re also hopeful times and a great season for new opportunities.

So, please enjoy this intriguing conversation with, Eric Zinczenko, CEO, Bonnier Corporation, as Mr. Magazine™ brings you the next in his series with the magazine and magazine media executives that make the industry world go-round.

But first the sound-bites:

On his assessment of magazines and magazine media in 2020: I believe the evidence is in front of us, that the future will be challenging for magazines and magazine media. Changes in media consumption behavior; accelerating technology disruption, giving consumers more control; the proliferation of content on all platforms; the fight for viewership and engagement; I think all of this points to times getting more complex and difficult before getting easier. With that said, I still believe there are magazine brands and smart companies that will be able to weather these challenges and market forces. Magazine brands with strong equity and connections to the consumer will always have their place.

On whether he thinks there are lessons American magazine media can learn from European business models: They’re heavy freelance in Europe, very heavy. And they look to have the smallest organization possible, they’re not reliant on a lot of corporate overhead and corporate allocations. And there is a level of efficiency there that we certainly have learned from having Swedish owners. And at Bonnier Corp. we have reduced our employee headcount over the years, over my tenure as CEO, by about one half in the last five years, of the entire workforce.

On any accomplishments or successes for Bonnier USA that he is proud of in 2019: My fiduciary responsibility as the company CEO is to deliver on expected results and 2019 will be another year where Bonnier Corp. will meet or exceed our financial objectives. We will exceed our targets for consolidated revenues for 2019, and reviewing our financials recently, we should be able to meet our 2019 EBIT budget target. Our current cash position is strong enough for me to make the call now that we will meet or exceed our 2019 cash flow budget as well. Considering the challenges around us, and what I know of our peers in the industry, I’m very proud of this result and our teams should be proud too of this exceptional performance.

On whether 2019 was a walk in a rose garden for him or he had some challenges along the way: No, it wasn’t a walk in a rose garden. (Laughs) It was a challenging year; it was one of my most difficult years, but yet we found a way as a company to still meet our financial obligations and I couldn’t be prouder of that. But the event in Saudi Arabia was extraordinary and the other points that I mentioned here, in terms of accomplishments, helped fill the gaps and the variances coming from media and other places where we had challenges.

On whether he thinks the magazine industry was slow to change when it comes to the traditional advertising business model: I do, but I think everybody now is following this diversified model. But I think the answer to your question is yes, a lot of companies were slow because it’s hard. When you have large organizations built on decades of success under one model and then you’re forced to explore a new future path for sustainability, that gets difficult for an organization; it gets difficult for cultures. And there is a resistance to change, orthodoxies are present and oftentimes people are scared or hesitant. And I think it’s a typical response.

On whether he considers social media platforms friend or foe to magazines and magazine media: I think social media is both a friend and foe. It’s such a powerful medium. The sheer scale and immediacy is so powerful, how can it not be both? Used correctly, magazine brands can reach new audiences, deliver content and news instantaneously. And then there are metrics, so thanks to those metrics we are closer to understanding the consumer more than ever before, and while doing so I think you have a chance to add brand awareness and equity overtime. But used incorrectly, we’ve all witnessed the damage that can be done with social media platforms. They’re so powerful that brand equity and reputations can erode in minutes or even be destroyed with the medium.

On anything he’d like to add: These are challenging times, but I always say that I’m grateful that these are our problems to solve. I think we’re lucky to have this opportunity. I know you have interviewed many of my peers who are doing fantastic work in tough times, and watching their companies and our industry evolve over the last few years has been inspiring. I think 2019 will go down as one of our more difficult years at Bonnier Corp. and yet again, we will have another year of exceeding expectations. So, I feel fortunate for how our company is going into the holiday break here and look forward to our work in 2020.

On what keeps him up at night: With five years in this role, the nights are getting easier. But still there are some nights where a fair amount of second-guessing happens overnight. Are we moving fast enough? Did I make the right call? What did the Board really think of this or that? And I think this is pretty common for the job. Where I do lose some sleep is when there are internal operational issues where I believe we are making the task in front of us harder than we should. That’s when nights get restless and anxious and I just want these issues resolved, which we seem to somehow find a way to do.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Eric Zinczenko, CEO, Bonnier Corporation.

Samir Husni: As we approach 2020, what’s your assessment of the future of magazines and magazine media?

Eric Zinczenko: I believe the evidence is in front of us, that the future will be challenging for magazines and magazine media. Changes in media consumption behavior; accelerating technology disruption, giving consumers more control; the proliferation of content on all platforms; the fight for viewership and engagement; I think all of this points to times getting more complex and difficult before getting easier.

With that said, I still believe there are magazine brands and smart companies that will be able to weather these challenges and market forces. Brands with strong equity and connections to the consumer will always have their place. For companies to be successful, I believe all business models and the organizational structures of the past built around exploiting advertising and media must be replaced by new models around content, commerce, affiliate membership and more. And I think this all has to be done with the smallest and most nimble organizational structures to be able to move more urgently to innovate and explore.

Samir Husni: You mention a smaller and more nimble organizational structure, this has been the case in Europe for years. Do you think there are lessons we can learn from the Europeans or lessons that we can apply to magazine media in the United States?

Eric Zinczenko: They’re heavy freelance in Europe, very heavy. And they look to have the smallest organization possible, they’re not reliant on a lot of corporate overhead and corporate allocations. And there is a level of efficiency there that we certainly have learned from having Swedish owners. And at Bonnier Corp. we have reduced our employee headcount over the years, over my tenure as CEO, by about one half in the last five years, of the entire workforce.

Samir Husni: Can you name three accomplishments or successes for Bonnier USA in 2019 that you’re proud of?

Eric Zinczenko: My fiduciary responsibility as the company CEO is to deliver on expected results and 2019 will be another year where Bonnier Corp. will meet or exceed our financial objectives. We will exceed our targets for consolidated revenues for 2019, and reviewing our financials recently, we should be able to meet our 2019 EBIT budget target. Our current cash position is strong enough for me to make the call now that we will meet or exceed our 2019 cash flow budget as well. Considering the challenges around us, and what I know of our peers in the industry, I’m very proud of this result and our teams should be proud too of this exceptional performance. So, that’s number one.

Number two and a big driver to our financial success is our Bonnier Events. In 2019, our Bonnier Events business unit was hired by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to produce and manage a five-day automotive festival in the capital city of Riyadh in November. And it was an ambitious initiative; it’s a first-year event, a new venue, a foreign country; you could call it an “away” game (Laughs), and we were still able to meet our deliverables. By most metrics the event was a success, but more importantly, the success we had in Saudi Arabia now proves to international venue organizers that Bonnier Corp. is clearly capable of producing and managing events globally.

And number three for 2019 is that our diversification strategy for the company is ahead of target. And this is where we have revenues from our other business units outside of media growing, and we are nearing an inflection point where our three business units, which are events, consumer products and working mother group, will combine for revenues that will be higher than that of media.

I just mentioned events and our international growth, our consumer products and brand licensing business unit now has three Bonnier brands under license: Outdoor Life, Saveur and Popular Science. Our working mother business unit also had a successful year launching Culture At Work, which is their new consulting arm, and that’s adding solid revenue and margin to the group. And then they have year-over-year growth coming from their Diversity Best Practices membership group. So, all of this is exciting and energizing to see, the diversification strategy coming together.

Samir Husni: So, was 2019 a walk in a rose garden for you, or you had some challenges along the way?

Eric Zinczenko: No, it wasn’t a walk in a rose garden. (Laughs) It was a challenging year; it was one of my most difficult years, but yet we found a way as a company to still meet our financial obligations and I couldn’t be prouder of that. But the event in Saudi Arabia was extraordinary and the other points that I mentioned here, in terms of accomplishments, helped fill the gaps and the variances coming from media and other places where we had challenges.

Samir Husni: With Bonnier, you have a sort of three-legged stool business model, with events and other revenue units, do you think that the magazine industry was slow to change when it comes to that traditional advertising business model?

Eric Zinczenko: I do, but I think everybody now is following this diversified model. But I think the answer to your question is yes, a lot of companies were slow because it’s hard. When you have large organizations built on decades of success under one model and then you’re forced to explore a new future path for sustainability, that gets difficult for an organization; it gets difficult for cultures. And there is a resistance to change, orthodoxies are present and oftentimes people are scared or hesitant. And I think it’s a typical response.

The harder response is to lean into disruption and I always say don’t adjust, but disrupt and go for bold, and you’re beginning to see companies do that. I know you’ve interviewed other peers who are beginning to make bold decisions and move as quickly as they can.

Samir Husni: Do you think digital, with all its platforms, including social media, is a friend or a foe to magazine media?

Eric Zinczenko: I think social media is both a friend and foe. It’s such a powerful medium. The sheer scale and immediacy is so powerful, how can it not be both? Used correctly, magazine brands can reach new audiences, deliver content and news instantaneously. And then there are metrics, so thanks to those metrics we are closer to understanding the consumer more than ever before, and while doing so I think you have a chance to add brand awareness and equity overtime. But used incorrectly, we’ve all witnessed the damage that can be done with social media platforms. They’re so powerful that brand equity and reputations can erode in minutes or even be destroyed with the medium.

But I know you asked this question because you understand that this relationship between publisher and platform is complex, which it is. Social media platforms have their own interests and they constantly change the rules, the algorithms; really anything that will tilt the field of play in their favor to protect their business interests, as they should. Obviously, it makes things more difficult for publishers and content producers, but these platforms with their sheer scales and social influence, their impact, they’re just too big to ignore.

Therefore I think it’s our responsibility as business leaders to be relentless in finding ways to explore the power of the platforms for our interest and business objectives.

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

Eric Zinczenko: These are challenging times, but I always say that I’m grateful that these are our problems to solve. I think we’re lucky to have this opportunity. I know you have interviewed many of my peers who are doing fantastic work in tough times, and watching their companies and our industry evolve over the last few years has been inspiring. I think 2019 will go down as one of our more difficult years at Bonnier Corp. and yet again, we will have another year of exceeding expectations. So, I feel fortunate for how our company is going into the holiday break here and look forward to our work in 2020.

Samir Husni: What keeps you up at night?

Eric Zinczenko: With five years in this role, the nights are getting easier. But still there are some nights where a fair amount of second-guessing happens overnight. Are we moving fast enough? Did I make the right call? What did the Board really think of this or that? And I think this is pretty common for the job. Where I do lose some sleep is when there are internal operational issues where I believe we are making the task in front of us harder than we should. That’s when nights get restless and anxious and I just want these issues resolved, which we seem to somehow find a way to do.

One thing that helps me sleep at night, if I’ve learned anything over my time at Bonnier Corp., is that we have strong brands, great people, and a supportive and understanding Board and ownership. And I think it’s an enviable position to work from. And I’m grateful for that.

Samir Husni: Thank you.  

Next Up, David Parry, president & CEO, American News Company (ANC).

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Meredith Magazines President & General Manager, Doug Olson, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “If You Give Consumers What They Want, They’ll Pay For It.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

January 5, 2020

Mr. Magazine™ Presents… Conversations With Magazine and Magazine Media Leaders…

Meredith, the largest magazine media publisher on the planet today, is facing 2020 with a full-steam ahead position. Doug Olson, president and GM of all of the iconic Meredith brands is positive that if publishers give the consumers what they want, they’ll pay for it. I spoke with Doug recently for this Mr. Magazine™ beginning of the New Year series, and to say I was impressed and inspired by the conversation would be an understatement.

From a traditional advertising business model, to a subscriber-based one, to consumer-driven, Meredith is giving the customer what they want and expect from each of the many brands, depending on the title. With Better Homes & Gardens power housing its way into 2020 with a firm 7.6 million circulation to the smaller brands that live in high-quality style, Doug and Meredith are focused on forging a successful path into the future with all of the brands.

So, please enjoy this delightful and most informative conversation with Doug Olson, president and GM, Meredith Magazines as Mr. Magazine™ brings you the next in his series with the magazine and magazine media executives that make the industry world go-round.

But first the sound bites:

On his assessment of magazines and magazine media in 2020: We feel good about our brands in general. Obviously, we’re multiplatform, we’re not just a magazine company. We also have one of the top 10 media roll ups in the country from a unique visitor standpoint. We think there’s still a lot of energy and enthusiasm for the printed product out there, evidenced by the fact that we have 43 million subscribers, which is a number that tends to blow people away. So, we’re not only really excited about our brand portfolio, but we have a lot of consumers that pay money for those products. Jill (Davison – vice president, Corporate Communications) and I talk about this all the time, that it’s really the analog paywall, if you will, and people continue to support it very heavily, from a consumer perspective.

On any success stories he can share from 2019: The biggest thing that we’ve done over the last year or so is that we have our brand sales and marketing operation hitting on all cylinders, if you will. We combined two, very large organizations over the last, almost two years now, and there’s been a lot of disruption. One of the big things that we did is set up sales and marketing teams for each brand and they’re working very well. We’re clearly outperforming the industry on the print advertising front and at the same time the level of collaboration, cooperation and chemistry between our sales and marketing teams across digital, corporate sales and the brands has never been better.

 On his biggest challenge for 2019: Clearly, the  toughest decision was the closing of an iconic brand like Family Circle that had been with us for over 80 years and had been very profitable throughout those years. It still produced really nice premium content for our consumers. But at the end of the day when we looked at that, we weren’t making any money and we couldn’t see a path forward. It didn’t have a large at-scale digital presence like most of the rest of our brands have.

On making money from SIPs on the newsstand: In the last 12 months, we have sold about 19 million copies of special interest publications, bookazines,  at a price point of $9.99 or higher. It is a very profitable business for us. We are the market leader from any measure on that particular business, and it’s one that we’re throwing a big shoulder behind because we think there’s a lot of opportunities still there. And as you’ve seen, some our newer offerings have been a quarterly cadence at those higher price points. It’s a consumer-driven product and isn’t so dependent upon advertising. So, we’re really excited about some of our new or recent launches and we think there is more to come.

On how Meredith is handling the question of the changing magazine media business model: Our mass-reach brands, what I call our Uber-brands, are doing quite well  as advertising-based models. Something like PEOPLE is very successful in print, digital, video and social. Any platform that you can think of, we have a major presence for our brand like that. So, we have brands that are very successful in the mass-reach area, but the things that advertisers have not supported at the levels they used to, those are the things that we’ve been looking at and if there’s a path forward with a different model, that’s what we’ve been implementing.

 On whether print and its frequency will be a major change for Meredith in the future: I wouldn’t say a major change. I think there are some brands that could to be less frequent than they are today within our industry. We have stepped up our portfolio, as part of our overall portfolio management and made those determinations of what makes sense to be a weekly, to be a monthly, and what makes sense to be less frequent. As you said, change is constant and it’s something that we’ll continue to look at, but we feel like we have things right now where they need to be.

On whether he feels like there’s a brain-drain in the industry, as far as new talent coming into the business: No, I don’t. I feel like we have a lot of people coming into our business and more would like to.  There isn’t the turnover in our core business that maybe there was at one point, five or ten years ago, for sure, but I think the people that are coming into the space are learning a lot from the veterans that are here. I think they’re very enthusiastic, they’re very proud of working on these great brands. They love when they’re part of the integrated approach, whether it’s sales and marketing or if you’re a content generation person, the ability to work on a magazine and also help out on the website and the social media and all the other different platforms.

 On whether he considers social media platforms friend or foe to magazines and magazine media: They’re clearly frenemies, they’re friends with some initiatives and then very stiff competitors in other situations. The consumer will ultimately decide what they want to consider to be premium content; what’s worth their hard-earned money when they’re paying for something. Our job is to really be on all platforms that our consumers are on, regardless of where they want to consume the content. And to make sure that we throw the same effort behind a social media post that we do for one of our magazine stories. We’re a premium content company, at the end of the day that’s what we are.

On anything he’d like to add: Hopefully, you can hear in my voice, that I love our products. I love our brands. The team of people that we have is second to none. We had a lot of choices between Time Inc. and Meredith, and then of course, new people who wanted to come and join the new Meredith. So, we’ve had a lot of opportunity to talk to people who are really good at what they do. And I feel from top to bottom, from our biggest brands to our smallest, that we have the right leadership on the sales and marketing side and also the right content leaders on the brands.

On Cooking Light and Coastal Living going to a subscription model: My view is if something can make it on newsstand in today’s world; if you can hit your key performance indicators, with some people it’s a certain level of profit, with others it’s a certain level of sell-through; whatever your metric is for success, ours happens to be, as a publicly-traded company, the things that we put out, we want to make money. If you can make it on newsstand and that’s a healthy environment and you’re making money there, then it probably has a really good chance of coming back as a subscription title. But it has to be a different consideration.

On whether he wears a different hat for each of Meredith’s brands, such as when dealing with Better Homes & Gardens versus another title with a smaller circulation: Yes, absolutely. Something like a Better Homes & Gardens, which is not only a powerhouse; it’s one of the largest magazines in the world, from a circulation standpoint, but also remember it has one of the largest licensing programs in the world at Walmart. It’s a big brand extension at Walmart, with all the products that we sell there. So, when you look at a Better Homes & Gardens, you have the media piece and then the brand extension piece, and they’re both very large. Then when you put it together, you absolutely have to look at that brand differently than you would look at, say, Happy Paws.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Doug Olson, president & General Manager, Meredith Magazines.

Samir Husni: As we approach 2020, what’s your assessment of the future of magazines and magazine media?

Doug Olson: We feel good about our brands in general. Obviously, we’re multiplatform, we’re not just a magazine company. We also have one of the top 10 media roll ups in the country from a unique visitor standpoint. We think there’s still a lot of energy and enthusiasm for the printed product out there, evidenced by the fact that we have 43 million subscribers, which is a number that tends to blow people away. So, we’re not only really excited about our brand portfolio, but we have a lot of consumers that pay money for those products. Jill (Davison – vice president, Corporate Communications) and I talk about this all the time, that it’s really the analog paywall, if you will, and people continue to support it very heavily, from a consumer perspective.

Clearly, the issues in our business have been more on the advertising front, but we feel like there’s a lot of advertisers that are coming back to print because they know it works and has a good ROI. So, I think there will still be adjustments to portfolios throughout the industry, but some of us feel pretty good about our mass-reach brands, both in print and in digital, and are looking for new opportunities to continue to give consumers what they want. And us, in particular, have demonstrated that if you give consumers what they want, they’ll pay for it. Things like The Magnolia Journal or Reveal by the Property Brothers, Drew and Jonathan Scott, and some of the other things that we’re bringing back for home delivery.

We’re continuing to do portfolio management and the things that are working well, we’re doing more and the things that aren’t working, we’re transitioning to a different model.

Samir Husni: Change seems to be the only constant in the magazine and magazine media industry, and I know a lot has happened in 2019 at Meredith, but can you name three accomplishments or successes for 2019 that you’re proud of?

Doug Olson: The biggest thing that we’ve done over the last year or so is that we have our brand sales and marketing operation hitting on all cylinders, if you will. We combined two, very large organizations over the last, almost two years now, and there’s been a lot of disruption. One of the big things that we did is set up sales and marketing teams for each brand and they’re working very well. We’re clearly outperforming the industry on the print advertising front and at the same time the level of collaboration, cooperation and chemistry between our sales and marketing teams across digital, corporate sales and the brands has never been better.

That’s number one. Number two, our portfolio management is something that we’re very proud of. Again, there has been some things that haven’t been fun, as far as stopped publishing some titles, but the things that we’re adding, there’s a lot of enthusiasm, especially from the consumers, that we’re very excited about. And again, if you give the consumer what they want, they’ll pay for it.

The third thing is we at Meredith take our industry-leading role very seriously and we’re trying to continue to advocate for both mediums, the digital world and the traditional business in the print world. We’re trying to lead the charge and get people to understand that this is a profitable business and there’s still a lot of money and a lot of premium audiences that we’re aggregating for advertisers. And we’re still at heart a content company that’s producing premium content that audiences want to consume.

Samir Husni: I know you had some challenges in 2019, including the hard decision to fold Family Circle, yet at the same time, you’re launching Reveal. What would you consider your biggest challenge for 2019? Was it the Family Circle closing?

Doug Olson: Clearly, the  toughest decision was the closing of an iconic brand like Family Circle that had been with us for over 80 years and had been very profitable throughout those years. It still produced relevant premium content for our consumers. But at the end of the day when we looked at that, we weren’t making any money and we couldn’t see a path forward. It didn’t have a large at-scale digital presence like most of the rest of our brands have.

It was a general information women’s service title, so not really a candidate for a special interest publication, which we are the market leader on as well. We just didn’t see a path forward that made any sense for us, our shareholders and quite honestly, the consumers, because we would have had to make that product in a lot less expensive way than what we were putting into it. I know some of the advertisers liked it because it was an efficient ad-buy, but at the end of the day we didn’t see a path forward and it didn’t make sense to continue.

So, we made that very tough decision, but I’m happy to report that several people who worked on sales and marketing and/or the content part of that organization have new homes with other brands at Meredith because of some of the growth that we’ve seen.

Samir Husni: I was speaking with the CEO of ANC, David Parry, and he was telling me that while the revenue stream from the newsstand is changing with the SIPs, where they’re not selling as many units as they do from the frequency magazines, they’re making more money from them.

Doug Olson: In the last 12 months, we have sold about 19 million copies of special interest publications, bookazines, at a price point of $9.99 or higher. It is a very profitable business for us. We are the market leader from any measure on that particular business, and it’s one that we’re throwing a big shoulder behind because we think there’s a lot of opportunities still there. And as you’ve seen, some our newer offerings have been a quarterly cadence at those higher price points. It’s a consumer-driven product and isn’t so dependent upon advertising. So, we’re really excited about some of our new or recent launches and we think there is more to come.

Samir Husni: When you look at the traditional, advertising-dependent magazine business model, how is Meredith handling the question of the changing magazine business model?

Doug Olson: Our mass-reach brands, what I call our Uber-brands, are doing quite well  as advertising-based models. Something like PEOPLE is very successful in print, digital, video and social. Any platform that you can think of, we have a major presence for our brand like that. So, we have brands that are very successful in the mass-reach area, but the things that advertisers have not supported at the levels they used to, those are the things that we’ve been looking at and if there’s a path forward with a different model, that’s what we’ve been implementing.

We have multiple business models that we’re deploying and where it makes sense, it’s advertising-based. And where it doesn’t make sense, it’s consumer-driven. And I think you’ll see others follow our lead on that. The days of trying to make these huge rate bases and to continually pound on the advertising model is really tough. Either you have a successful brand or you don’t, from an advertising perspective. And if you don’t have a successful advertising-based model, then you need to look at doing something else or maybe not doing it.

Samir Husni: Meredith has been doing the SIPs before anyone else even discovered that space existed. As far back as I can recall, Meredith had special interest publications.

Doug Olson: Yes, we invented that, for sure.

Samir Husni: I also spoke with Krifka Steffey who is director of merchandising with Barnes & Noble, and she said that magazines to them anymore are luxury items. And you can’t be luxury if you’re published weekly or monthly. Are we going to see more changes at Meredith? People is the only weekly you have left. Sports Illustrated just announced it will become a monthly as Entertainment Weekly did. Is print and its frequency going to be a major change in the future?

Doug Olson: I wouldn’t say a major change. I think there are some brands that could be less frequent than they are today within our industry. We have stepped up our portfolio, as part of our overall portfolio management and made those determinations of what makes sense to be a weekly, to be a monthly, and what makes sense to be less frequent. As you said, change is constant and it’s something that we’ll continue to look at, but we feel like we have things right now where they need to be.

I’m a big believer that the high-quality paper, the high-quality product is something that consumers are willing to pay for if you give them the subject matter or the topics that they’re looking for. And that’s really what we’ve tried to do on that part of our business.

Our fastest growing brand since legacy Meredith took over the Time Inc. business, and is part of the new Meredith now, has actually been PEOPLE. Digitally, on people.com, and some of the other digital extensions and the magazine itself has done quite well, especially from an advertising perspective in the last year.

And one of the things that we’ve been doing is investing in some of the titles that we didn’t feel were at the level of quality that they needed to be and they’re market-leading brands. So, about 14 or 15 months ago, we invested in new and better paper for both Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure. Both brands have done excellent from a performance standpoint on advertising since we took over those brands from Time Inc. And we’re going to do it again. With the March issue for Travel + Leisure, it’s going to get bigger trim size and higher quality paper. And the Food & Wine brand is going to get bigger trim size and better quality paper as of their April issue. Both of those are getting another investment, so two investments in the physical product in the last 14 or 15 months.

Then with Health, which is a brand that was pretty much ignored when it first got here. Everyone asked were we going to shut down Health. Health is something that we’ve since put a great team of people on and we have found some white space in the marketplace and it’s done very well. We’re really excited about it. We’re also increasing its trim size and paper quality as of the March issue.

Samir Husni:  Someone in the industry told me recently that his biggest fear was of a brain-drain. That magazines and journalism as a whole weren’t attracting a new generation of sellers and marketers. Do you feel that way? That there’s a brain-drain in the industry?

Doug Olson: No, I don’t. I feel like we have a lot of people coming into our business and more would like to.  There isn’t the turnover in our core business that maybe there was at one point, five or ten years ago, for sure, but I think the people that are coming into the space are learning a lot from the veterans that are here. I think they’re very enthusiastic, they’re very proud of working on these great brands. They love when they’re part of the integrated approach, whether it’s sales and marketing or if you’re a content generation person, the ability to work on a magazine and also help out on the website and the social media and all the other different platforms.

It has certainly slowed down, as far as the opportunities, but there’s still a fair amount of people coming into the business. We, as the leadership team, one of our biggest goals and something we have to get right is to continue to challenge them and give them new opportunities because it’s not like it used to be, where you came in at one level and in a couple of years you went to another level, and then suddenly you’re a supervisor, and then you’re at a manager level.

The opportunities are clearly not as abundant as they used to be when we were in growth mode, but we’ve done a pretty good job at Meredith of creating opportunities for people so they can make this their career and they can get exposed to other things that make them very marketable. At the end of the day, what we want is marketable people, hopefully working for us, but if they’re not here, we want them to be successful when they go to the next opportunity as well.

Samir Husni: Do you consider all of these social media platforms friend or foe to magazines and magazine media? 

Doug Olson: They’re clearly frenemies, they’re friends with some initiatives and then very stiff competitors in other situations. The consumer will ultimately decide what they want to consider to be premium content; what’s worth their hard-earned money when they’re paying for something. Our job is to really be on all platforms that are consumers are on, regardless of where they want to consume the content. And to make sure that we throw the same effort behind a social media post that we do for one of our magazine stories. We’re a premium content company, at the end of the day that’s what we are.

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

Doug Olson: Hopefully, you can hear in my voice, that I love our products. I love our brands. The team of people that we have is second to none. We had a lot of choices between Time Inc. and Meredith, and then of course, new people who wanted to come and join the new Meredith. So, we’ve had a lot of opportunity to talk to people who are really good at what they do. And I feel from top to bottom, from our biggest brands to our smallest, that we have the right leadership on the sales and marketing side and also the right content leaders on the brands.

We know it’s a tough business; we know there’s a pocket of naysayers out there. One of the things that keeps me up at night is coming up with enough creative ways to prove to people that print is alive and well. But at the same time we know that the digital future is out there too, and we’re ready for that as well.

One of the things that we’re really proud of is that we’re reaching almost all women, even younger demographics as well. We’re hitting 90 percent of the female millennial population, somehow, someway, through our trusted brands and our digital experiences, that’s eighty-five percent of Gen Z and 90 percent of all women in the U.S. in general. We feel like, yes, we do a lot of things targeted at women, but we’re not just talking about older women, we’re talking about all women. That’s something that really blows people away, the 43 million subscribers stat blows people away because it’s bigger than Spotify and all these other brands that people are gaga about. To me, one of the things that we’re very proud of is our reach, regardless of age, income, etc., etc.

Samir Husni: You just answered my typical last question about what keeps you up at night (Laughs). So, I read about Cooking Light going back to a subscription model and Coastal Living doing the same.

Doug Olson: My view is if something can make it on newsstand in today’s world; if you can hit your key performance indicators, with some people it’s a certain level of profit, with others it’s a certain level of sell-through; whatever your metric is for success, ours happens to be, as a publicly-traded company, the things that we put out, we want to make money.

If you can make it on newsstand and that’s a healthy environment and you’re making money there, then it probably has a really good chance of coming back as a subscription title. But it has to be a different consideration. A lot of the things that we’re doing now are really nice paper and we’re going to have smaller rate bases attached to them, but it’s also going to cost the consumer $20 for four issues. And there’s enough people willing to pay that to make a nice business out of some of these smaller brands.

Samir Husni: When you’re presiding over all of these different brands, do you have to wear a different hat for each of them? For example, when you’re dealing with Better Homes & Gardens, which has 7.6 million in circulation versus a title with only 100,000 or 200,000 copies?

Doug Olson: Yes, absolutely. Something like a Better Homes & Gardens, which is not only a powerhouse; it’s one of the largest magazines in the world, from a circulation standpoint, but also remember it has one of the largest licensing programs in the world at Walmart. It’s a big brand extension at Walmart, with all the products that we sell there. So, when you look at a Better Homes & Gardens, you have the media piece and then the brand extension piece, and they’re both very large. Then when you put it together, you absolutely have to look at that brand differently than you would look at, say, Happy Paws.

And at the same time the cost… when we’re printing eight million on a print run, just little things, a few dollars per thousand here and there, times it by eight million, it’s a big number. The flexibility on some of these smaller titles, with high-quality paper and some of the things that we’ve tried from a high impact unit for the advertisers, is very manageable on the smaller brands. It gets really hard when you’re printing eight million or something.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

Next up, Eric Zinczenko, CEO, Bonnier Corporation. 

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Active Interest Media’s President & CEO, Andy Clurman, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “We’re Going To Market With The Service Business, More Than The Product Business.” The Mr. Magazine Interview…

January 2, 2020

Mr. Magazine™ Presents… Conversations With Magazine and Magazine Media Leaders…

Diversifying and expanding their business and their audiences is something that Andy Clurman, president & CEO of Active Interest Media (AIM), sees as a New Year’s fact more than a New Year’s resolution when it comes to the company. I spoke with Andy recently for this Mr. Magazine™ series with the movers and shakers of the magazine world and Andy was adamant:

“For the most part anything that is competing in the broader universe for audience and ad dollars really should be well on their way to the strategy and reality of a diversified model or I think you’re going to see a continued attrition of brands and businesses that didn’t make that leap.”

Andy’s word for 2020 would have to be diversify. And in today’s media realms, that would seem to be good strategy for the goals AIM is trying to achieve in this New Year. So, Mr. Magazine™ now invites you to sit back and enjoy this latest conversation as we continue the series with the magazine and magazine media executives that make the industry world go-round.

But first the sound-bites:

On his assessment of the future of magazines and magazine media: I think we’ve officially answered the post-magazine era as a one-dimensional business. And anybody who hasn’t moved to really diversify and not just expand their audience to multiplatform, but figured out how to build other revenue streams off those multiplatform extensions… I mean, I’m sure there are some things on a regional or local level that are probably vibrant and healthy as standalone magazines. There are some niche categories, special interest categories that are still viable and sustainable as a single magazine, but for the most part anything that is competing in the broader universe for audience and ad dollars really should be well on their way to the strategy and reality of a diversified model or I think you’re going to see a continued attrition of brands and businesses that didn’t make that leap.

On three accomplishments Active Interest Media had for 2019: The three biggest were, and part of an overall mantra we’ve had, trying to convert our relationship with the audience, subscribers and marketers from one that’s more transactional to one that’s more of a membership model, which is not a radical idea, but we’ve actually had a lot of traction in building out membership programs. We’ve launched six of them and we have four more in the queue across different brand groups. And they have different combinations of benefits and services. And in these early days we’re seeing some good traction in turning a $15-$19 a year subscriber into a $50 to $200 a year member.

On his biggest challenge for 2019: I think the biggest challenge continues to be the downward pressure on all things advertising revenue. And sometimes that’s in the form of print, sometimes that’s sponsorships, but that world continues to get on the margin, not universally, but on the margin, it continues to disappoint and get tougher. The antidote for that is what I was talking about first, we’ve really accelerated our new product/new service development and launch. If I’m frustrated or disappointed about anything, it’s just the time it takes to ideate, innovate and execute on new products/new services and get them to scale up in the marketplace.

On why he thinks more people aren’t racing to imitate AIM’s success and way of doing things: One reason is we have a physical plant and a production machine, a factory that produces. The principle set of products that this factory produced overtime was magazines that had a very specific set of deadlines, production cycles and supply chains and organizations that were built around them. And the concept of product development or acquisitions or things that would be the components to transforming and diversifying the business, except for maybe the largest companies that have strategic planning departments.

On teaching a course on innovation in Virtual and Augmented Reality, Apps and Licensing, at the University of Colorado (Boulder) and whether he’s given up on teaching students how to innovate in print: No, in fact that is this semester’s assignment, because one of the reasons I agreed to do this is I thought I could learn from them, and while I have millennial children, I don’t have them captive in a classroom for a whole semester, so it’s a way for me to go to school on what these kids are thinking, where they’re heading; where they see media heading, and I think we can learn from them as much as they can learn from us.

On whether he believes social media is friend or foe to magazine media today: I would say that unless you are really some kind of Luddite and you don’t see any virtue at all in the benefits of digital media, it has been a friend to magazine media. It’s allowed us to radically expand our audiences and our reach across all kinds of borders and generations. It’s given us sales and marketing channels that we didn’t have in an analog world. I think the greatest competition and challenge has been mostly limited to the advertising line.

On anything up and coming that he can talk about: We’ve put a lot of time, energy and effort into these memberships, which, as I said, all have very different assets embedded in them, different marketing plans, different audiences. Now that we’ve spent the year designing them, testing them, researching them, 2020 is going to be the year to really launch and scale them. And we think that can be a game changer for us in terms of how we relate to and serve our audiences. We’re also going to be expanding on this theme of going to market with the service business, more than the product business.

On anything he’d like to add: I don’t think historically magazine media companies have been fixated on their “text stack.” But with all the emerging automated marketing and CRM, and different kinds of platforms that you need, we’re trying to figure out where to place our bets, both in time and financially, around what is the optimal text stack to accomplish all the things that we want to do. Because we now have a business that used to have… if you look at it as a product business, if we used to have 10 skus, we now have hundreds of skus.

On what keeps him up at night: I remain concerned about the brain drain, or prospective brain drain, in our industry in keeping the best and brightest motivated and excited about the work we’re all doing. And that people are coming to us and bringing their talents. And where they see this as something that’s not just gratifying and where they can live out part of their passion, but something that allows them to build a career here and really commit themselves. In Boulder, we have an abundance of things to gratify people from a lifestyle standpoint, as we do in other parts of the country, but we’re really looking for people who are both passionate and committed to the business as well.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Andy Clurman, president & CEO, Active Interest Media (AIM).

Samir Husni: As we approach 2020 what is your assessment of the future of magazines and magazine media?

Andy Clurman: I think we’ve officially answered the post-magazine era as a one-dimensional business. And anybody who hasn’t moved to really diversify and not just expand their audience to multiplatform, but figured out how to build other revenue streams off those multiplatform extensions… I mean, I’m sure there are some things on a regional or local level that are probably vibrant and healthy as standalone magazines. There are some niche categories, special interest categories that are still viable and sustainable as a single magazine, but for the most part anything that is competing in the broader universe for audience and ad dollars really should be well on their way to the strategy and reality of a diversified model or I think you’re going to see a continued attrition of brands and businesses that didn’t make that leap.

Samir Husni: What are three accomplishments or successes from 2019 at Active Interest Media (AIM)?

Andy Clurman: The three biggest were, and part of an overall mantra we’ve had, trying to convert our relationship with the audience, subscribers and marketers from one that’s more transactional to one that’s more of a membership model, which is not a radical idea, but we’ve actually had a lot of traction in building out membership programs. We’ve launched six of them and we have four more in the queue across different brand groups. And they have different combinations of benefits and services. And in these early days we’re seeing some good traction in turning a $15-$19 a year subscriber into a $50 to $200 a year member.

Then on the marketing front, in some groups we’ve changed how we go to market from selling media products, the impression-based products, to selling bundles of products and services. And having those be tiered programs that are structured as year-long, or in some cases, multi-year partnerships where we’re providing a whole package of strategic services and marketing services. And that might be anything from research to creative to custom content, to video, to having media packaged strategically around what they’re trying to accomplish month-by-month, quarter-by-quarter.

So, that was a concept we had with our marketing services group, and rather than going out and trying to sell those things à la carte, which we had done; after we had launched it, we regrouped and changed the way we were going to market with our core customers and that has had a really good effect in the group setter out there first doing it. Again, taking this one relationship with marketers and our audience from a transaction to one of an ongoing member.

Then the second thing is we have been studying how to get into the ecommerce business and we’ve had a couple of different permutations of that over the past few years, starting with the early days of building out a dropship business in yoga. And now we’ve gone to school on other companies that have successfully built out content-based affiliate models.

Then cutting various deals with the major ecommerce players. And we’re starting to see that revenue really scale up, which is gratifying, because it’s one of the most purist ways I’ve seen that you can monetize your good content. And the huge investment we make in product reviews and to be able to turn those into revenue from getting an affiliate piece of a transaction, without compromising your editorial integrity or putting an undue burden on people to create something that’s a totally new platform, it’s a natural extension.

In the new product development and new go-to-market strategy, those are things that we’re pretty happy about and all the progress we’ve seen there. We’ve also launched a new media brand and business model around CBD, which being in Boulder we couldn’t resist getting into the CBD business.  It’s our NatuRx brand, which is also in combination with the first CBD subscription box program that we just launched on Cyber Monday and we have high hopes for how that will work.

We also made a couple of meaningful acquisitions that were a huge undertaking. One was an asset that we bought from F+W out of the bankruptcy, which that consumed most of my spring and part of my summer. And we bought a small business, but it has been a strategic springboard for more stuff. We added the fly-fishing film tour to our Warren Miller ski film tour business. And we’re now in the process of launching a mountain bike film tour, so we have a lot a great new products and we’re bringing in more assets that are things that fit into the mix.

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

Andy Clurman: I think the biggest challenge continues to be the downward pressure on all things advertising revenue. And sometimes that’s in the form of print, sometimes that’s sponsorships, but that world continues to get on the margin, not universally, but on the margin, it continues to disappoint and get tougher. The antidote for that is what I was talking about first, we’ve really accelerated our new product/new service development and launch. If I’m frustrated or disappointed about anything, it’s just the time it takes to ideate, innovate and execute on new products/new services and get them to scale up in the marketplace.

You’d like to see all of your great ideas and all the great work that goes into those ideas have an outside effect on the business, but you’re still dealing with some declining revenue streams. Your two steps forward/one step back is kind of the monthly trend, so you just have to figure out how to keep the momentum, the pace and the commitment to building and transforming the business while you’re still subject to and aware of the negative trends that we all see in the market.

Samir Husni: It seems that everybody in the magazine media industry thinks change is in order, especially of the business model. And everyone has seen your success at AIM, why do you think more people aren’t racing to imitate you?

Andy Clurman: One reason is we have a physical plant and a production machine, a factory that produces. The principle set of products that this factory produced overtime was magazines that had a very specific set of deadlines, production cycles and supply chains and organizations that were built around them. And the concept of product development or acquisitions or things that would be the components to transforming and diversifying the business, except for maybe the largest companies that have strategic planning departments.

We have not been built and organized and there’s not a tradition of new products development as really at the forefront of our business. Where if you take tech businesses, whether it’s Apple or any other example, and they have built around the new product is going to surpass the old product and obsolesce the old product  and we need to obsolesce ourselves constantly before somebody else does. And they work at a pace and a level of urgency that I don’t think our industry has really ever embraced.

Where we could be Blackberry or Motorola when we have brands in some cases that have been around for 100 years. We feel, rightly or wrongly, and lately it might be wrongly, we feel a little more secure than people who are in businesses where they’re under a more imminent threat or they’re emerging categories with emerging technologies.

Samir Husni: Among the many hats that you wear, you’re also teaching a course on innovating media at the university there in Colorado. One of the categories that you’re helping students with is developing products in VRAR (Virtual and Augmented Reality), Voice, Events, Apps and Licensing. Have you given up on teaching them how to innovate in print?

Andy Clurman: No, in fact that is this semester’s assignment, because one of the reasons I agreed to do this is I thought I could learn from them, and while I have millennial children, I don’t have them captive in a classroom for a whole semester, so it’s a way for me to go to school on what these kids are thinking, where they’re heading; where they see media heading, and I think we can learn from them as much as they can learn from us.

Samir Husni: Do you think social media, in its many different platforms, is friend or foe to magazine media today?

Andy Clurman: I would say that unless you are really some kind of Luddite and you don’t see any virtue at all in the benefits of digital media, it has been a friend to magazine media. It’s allowed us to radically expand our audiences and our reach across all kinds of borders and generations. It’s given us sales and marketing channels that we didn’t have in an analog world. I think the greatest competition and challenge has been mostly limited to the advertising line.

You have digital natives who are running the ad business and who are, in some cases, turning into digital savages around how they view advertising and how they view performance marketing. And we’re held to the same standards, where they don’t have brand safety, brand-building, brand awareness; all the traditional advertising/marketing principles in mind. Then that’s where it becomes very difficult for us to compete on a scale where that kind of dollars moving into all things digital: performance, marketing, social media, just becomes a vacuum that is absorbing a lot of the available dollars, much less providing any kind of growth opportunity for traditional kinds of media.

Samir Husni: As we look toward 2020, a new decade, anything in store that you can talk about that AIM is planning to launch or do, in addition to the CBD box?

Andy Clurman: We’ve put a lot of time, energy and effort into these memberships, which, as I said, all have very different assets embedded in them, different marketing plans, different audiences. Now that we’ve spent the year designing them, testing them, researching them, 2020 is going to be the year to really launch and scale them. And we think that can be a game changer for us in terms of how we relate to and serve our audiences. We’re also going to be expanding on this theme of going to market with the service business, more than the product business.

One of the analogies that we talk about is IBM used to sell printers and mainframe computers, and now they’re a service company.  They’ve transformed their business. And it’s a lot more fun to be in partnership with a marketer than trying to badger them to buy something every month.

We may be reshaping, reconfiguring our portfolio in some ways. We’re looking at potentially changing up some of the mix of groups and assets we have and I’ll keep that vague for the moment, but I’ll let you know when we have a definitive plan around that. But we’ll pretty much continue to grow on the same strategy, which is to diversify around the audiences that we have with every way we can drive consumer revenue greater with services, memberships, events and ecommerce. And those are all growth opportunities in the platform.

In 2019 we, and again, it’s not radical based on other things that people are doing in the industry, but we went from the less-is-more approach to let’s-put-out-fewer, from a frequency standpoint, better magazines. So, in almost every case with our main brands, we reduced frequency and increased book size, production values, and maintained, in most cases, the subscription price, so people were paying more for less frequency, but better quality. We’ve gotten universally good feedback response from both the audience and marketers. And then taking some of that content capacity and investing it in building out more on the digital platforms, social, video, and mobile. So, we think we’re providing better content and making print more of a less frequent, but more meaningful event when someone gets their awesome magazine at their doorstep.

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

Andy Clurman: I don’t think historically magazine media companies have been fixated on their “text stack.” But with all the emerging automated marketing and CRM, and different kinds of platforms that you need, we’re trying to figure out where to place our bets, both in time and financially, around what is the optimal text stack to accomplish all the things that we want to do. Because we now have a business that used to have… if you look at it as a product business, if we used to have 10 skus, we now have hundreds of skus.

.Figuring how to deliver those and how to market those, particularly when you have things that are recurring revenue businesses like memberships, it gets very complicated. It’s a challenge and an opportunity, but it’s one that, and I know you’re going to ask this, it’s one that keeps me up at night. But we think we have the right technology, the right text stack, and the right people for what we are hoping to accomplish in the marketplace.

Samir Husni: I’ll ask you anyway (Laughs), what keeps you up at night?

Andy Clurman: I remain concerned about the brain drain, or prospective brain drain, in our industry in keeping the best and brightest motivated and excited about the work we’re all doing. And that people are coming to us and bringing their talents. And where they see this as something that’s not just gratifying and where they can live out part of their passion, but something that allows them to build a career here and really commit themselves. In Boulder, we have an abundance of things to gratify people from a lifestyle standpoint, as we do in other parts of the country, but we’re really looking for people who are both passionate and committed to the business as well.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

Next up, Doug Olson, president & general manager, Meredith Magazines.

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From The Roaring 1920s To The Storming 2020s… A Mr. Magazine™ New Year’s Musing…

December 31, 2019

Welcome to 2020… 

Whether it’s going to be the “Roaring ‘20s” again in the world of magazines and magazine media or the “Storming ’20s”, remains to be seen. But rest assured 2020 will go into the history books as the year of excellent vision, as you can see from my series of conversations with the movers and shakers of the magazine media industry (part 7 appearing Thursday Jan. 2)…

You know, Mr. Magazine™ had to bring this “vision thing” somewhere into the blog.  Now, that the  “2020 vision” pun is out of the way, and while we wait for this New Year to unfold, Mr. Magazine™ deduced that it would be apropos at the very beginning to look back 100 years to see where and what the world of print media was celebrating that first year of what would become the Roaring ‘20s.

Needless to say, Henry Luce, founder of Time Inc. and all of its many magazines, had proclaimed to his readers that the 20th century would be known as the “American Century,” and when he launched TIME Magazine in 1923, it was a manifestation of that 20th century and what was going on at the time.

I decided in this New Year’s musing to reflect back on two titles that were actually published in that first week of 1920, the leading weekly illustrated newspaper at that time, Leslie’s Weekly and from the trade side of the business, Campbell’s Courant, formerly The Optimist.

If we take a peek at these two magazines we will discover a couple of things: one, we will see how that really was the beginning of the “American Century,” by taking a look at what the (then) Secretary of the Interior, Franklin Lane, wrote in the editorial of that issue of Leslie’s Weekly, which you will find below verbatim, and we’ll also take a look at what the powers-that-be at Campbell’s Soup wrote in the introduction of their magazine.

However, everything wasn’t hunky-dory at the beginning of the Roaring ‘20s any more than they are today. But there was a hopefulness in the air after the end of WWI. And it was the end of the famed printer’s strike. And during that time, we must remember that print was the only mass media people had, so it was a very vital part when it came to receiving current information. So, anything that affected print, affected the mass population across the nation.

Leslie’s Weekly was happy to announce that after all the disruptions due to the printer’s strike in New York, that they were moving back to New York City from Chicago where they had been printing now that the strike was over, as you will read in an excerpt found below from the publishers.

And as we approach our own, hopefully, the 2020s will be more roaring than storming. Let us stride bravely into the New Year as our counterparts from yesteryear did, knowing that the industry we all love is strong and resilient. And as Mr. Magazine™ continues his conversations with the great magazine makers of today, we will see that their vision of the future is definitely 2020!

Leslie’s Weekly Jan. 10, 1920

Know America

By Secretary of the Interior Lane

As Edward Everett Hale used to pray, “Teach us to know that we are sons of the living God,” so I would pray also that we might know that we are sons of a living America. To know that is to know that we can solve our difficulties, answer our problems, and go on growing. For a living America is one that is not static, fixed, traditional, but one that is moving, living, growing, and therefore always ready for the day’s work. We have an American way of doing things, not a European way. Because we have an American conscience and an American sense of justice and an American common sense – these are our traditions and they are equal to any task.

Leslie’s Weekly, Jan. 10, 1920

To All Leslie’s Subscribers

The publishers of Leslie’s are pleased to announce that the strike of printers in New York and vicinity has ended in an amicable settlement and that the printing of Leslie’s has been resumed at the Charles Schweinler Press, from which we will receive the same prompt and efficient service that we have enjoyed for many years past

The strike made it necessary to place our work temporarily with a Chicago firm, and we were fortunate in not missing an issue during the strike, but the difficulties of manufacturing the paper more than one thousand miles from the office of publication were so enormous that our issues were unavoidably late in appearing. As it is a physical impossibility to gain the time lost, it has been found necessary to combine the issues of December 13th, 20th and 27th  into one large number; also to combine the issues of January 3rd and 10th, and the issues of January 17th and 24th. We will in this way resume delivery of papers to our subscribers on the regular schedule during the month of January.

To make up to the subscribers the issues missed by the combinations, all subscriptions will be automatically extended for four numbers beyond the normal expiration date. No correspondence on this subject will be necessary, and we would ask all of our subscribers to note carefully this announcement and to refrain from sending us unnecessary complaints at a time when the entire energies of our organization are being devoted to the restoration of the subscription service to its normal high standard.

Campbell’s Courant, Jan. 1920

To you, dear reader, our customer or business associate, in whose interest this publication was conceived and in whose service it has its being – to you, we earnestly and hopefully re-dedicate it. May “The Courant” prove a helpful and cheering friend during the New Year.

 

Until the next time…

See you at the newsstands…

Both today’s and the ones from yesteryear…

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