Archive for the ‘News and Views’ Category

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ChopChop Magazine: Inspiring & Educating Children And Families On Cooking Real Food Together For A Healthier Future – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Sally Sampson, Founder And President, ChopChop Magazine

December 5, 2016

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“We don’t hear from the people that are using the magazine that they’re dying for it to be digital. In fact, I will tell you that we had a digital edition that we stopped doing. It cost us more to produce it, because no one ordered it; no one wanted it.” Sally Sampson

“I honestly could not begin to understand why people feel that way. I still read paper books and I love magazines. I just think that there is something really special about print. I have an iPad and I read The New York Times on it; I read little things on it. But I think there is no sensuality to digital. Touching and feeling the paper is amazing. And I think for a child, for the magazine to be theirs, is pretty incredible.” Sally Sampson (on the myth that digital natives have an aversion to print)

The mission of ChopChop is clear and precise: To inspire and teach children and families to cook real food together. The non-profit brand believes strongly that cooking and eating together as a family is a vital step in resolving the obesity and hunger epidemics that are in the world. It’s an absolutely brilliant idea and one that has grown the magazine and its brand into many different areas of need. The magazine is a useful tool for doctors, teachers and anyone who wants to see a change in the eating habits of children and their families.

The founder and president of ChopChop is Sally Sampson, a seasoned writer of cookbooks and many, many articles. Sally had a reason very close to her heart for starting ChopChop and trying to make a difference in the eating habits of children, one of her own children had a chronic illness growing up and Sally felt the need to help and give back in some way by using her considerable talents to further this wonderful and needed mission.

I spoke with Sally recently and we talked about that mission and about the past, present and future of the ChopChop brand, or maybe movement would be a better description. Thanks to Sally’s efforts, doctors are including cooking and the values of good eating habits into their well visits for children, and teachers have a curriculum that they can utilize to further this education of food in the classrooms. It’s a movement that shows no signs of slowing down, as soon there will be another magazine geared toward older adults who also need help in the kitchen when it comes to eating healthier. And the grandest thing about all of these wonderful titles? They’re all in print. Mr. Magazine™ is definitely smiling.

So, without further ado, here is the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who knows her way around a healthy kitchen, Sally Sampson, founder and president, ChopChop magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

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On her motivation behind ChopChop magazine: My career experience has been as a cookbook writer and a magazine contributor. I wrote different cookbooks and I contributed to a lot of different food magazines and other magazines. And I also had a child with a chronic illness. She needed to be on a very, very low-fat diet, so as a result I learned a lot about obesity. I began to feel that writing cookbooks wasn’t what I wanted to keep doing. I wanted to give back in some way. And I thought that I could use my skills as a cookbook writer to help address obesity by getting doctors to prescribe cooking during well-child visits. So, I don’t know if you have children, but it’s now mandated that you take your kids at certain times and that doctor’s talk about healthy eating and physical activity during these appointments.

On expanding the mission: We’ve expanded the mission to obesity, poor nutrition and hunger. Unfortunately, that covers a huge portion of the population. Poor nutrition is an obesity effect, rich and poor, and hunger affects the poor and we’re focused in our brains on those most at risk, but ChopChop is written to appeal to any children. We hope that the Whole Foods moms pay for it and the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) food moms get it for free through their SNAP program.

On whether she sees the niche market of children’s food magazines as growing: Well, it’s definitely grown. We’ve quadrupled in volume since our first year. And we have a bit of a strange business model. We’re a non-profit and we don’t take any ads. So, it really is 39 pages of content. There is one page where we have sponsors.

On any stumbling blocks that she’s had to overcome: If you asked my staff if we had stumbling blocks, they would say yes more than I would. I’m just the sort of person who puts one foot in front of the other and I don’t worry too much. Having had a chronically ill child, I don’t worry too much about anything other than my children being sick.

On the most pleasant moment she’s had throughout this magazine journey: We went to the White House and we interviewed Mrs. Obama; we did sort of a shared 5th anniversary of “Let’s Move” and ChopChop. We both launched within a month of each other and that was really incredible. We brought two kids to the White House and they interviewed her and she was amazing; she gave us way more time than she said she would. She was beyond charming with the kids. That was an amazing experience. We also won the James Beard Award, which was also incredible. So, those things are not insignificant, but I would say that the letters that we get from kids are just really moving and very real.

chop-chop-5On whether anyone has ever told her she was out of her mind for launching a print magazine in a digital age: Oh yes, all of the time. Of course, the people who ask us if we’re out of our minds are not our readers. I think for a child to get this beautiful four-color thing that they can hold and touch, where they see a child who looks like them is important. We show kids of every color, adorable, braces, in wheelchairs; we just featured a child with Down Syndrome. We show real kids, and we don’t put makeup on them; we don’t tell them to smile. So, your grandchildren, and I don’t have grandchildren yet, but my grandchildren someday; the idea is that any child should be able to open the magazine and feel like they can relate.

On the myth that digital natives do not want anything to do with print: I honestly could not begin to understand why people feel that way. I still read paper books and I love magazines. I just think that there is something really special about print. I have an iPad and I read The New York Times on it; I read little things on it. But I think there is no sensuality to digital. Touching and feeling the paper is amazing. And I think for a child, for the magazine to be theirs, is pretty incredible.

On why she thinks it took the magazine industry so long to discover that print is not dead: I think it’s human nature and that people just have a tendency to go to extremes. First it was: no, you can’t eat any fat. Now you can eat fat. It must be the nature of human beings. I don’t know. I never felt like paper was dead and as you said in the beginning, we launched when people thought we were nuts. We launched within a very short time of Gourmet closing. Everybody asked why we were doing paper? But it just seemed like the right thing to do.

On whether she feels now that ChopChop is a movement rather than just a magazine: I do. If you think about it, we’ve got the cooking club; we have the curriculum; we’re not just a magazine. And also, when I started, not only did people ask was I crazy for doing print, but they also asked are you crazy; kid’s cooking? Like, who cares? But you look at it now and everybody sees kid’s cooking as a pipeline to many different things, whether it’s teaching kids about math or teaching them manners or teaching them to be responsible for themselves; really cooking is everything. There’s nothing that you can’t learn in a kitchen.

chop-chop-6On what she would say if this interview were conducted one year from now: I would tell you that we launched a third magazine called “Seasoned.” And that magazine is for older adults. And you would say to me, but you’re focused on kids, and I would say to you, we’re focused on people who need help in the kitchen. “Seasoned” is launching in February, 2017. The AARP Foundation gave us a grant and I believe we’re actually launching in Mississippi as one of four southern states. It’s a smaller magazine and it’s for adults who need to cook from scratch instead of buying junk, and who are downsizing.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: I cook a ton. This sounds crazy, but whenever I’m emptying my dishwasher, I’m sort of amazed at how much I cook. I cook all of the time. I don’t eat anything prepared; I make every single thing from scratch.

On what keeps her up at night: Not ChopChop. The direction of the country keeps me up at night, or if my children are having a problem, that concerns me, even though they’re in their 20s. That’s the sort of thing that keeps me up at night.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Sally Sampson, founder and president, ChopChop magazine.

Samir Husni: Six years ago you founded ChopChop as a bit of an experiment, but since then it has turned into somewhat of a movement. I see that you’re now worldwide and in two languages; you have different editions, one for the woman, infant and child, and one for the schools. If you can, go back six years and tell me what motivated you to begin this ChopChop journey, and then briefly bring me up to date.

chop-chop-7Sally Sampson: My career experience has been as a cookbook writer and a magazine contributor. I wrote different cookbooks and I contributed to a lot of different food magazines and other magazines. And I also had a child with a chronic illness. She needed to be on a very, very low-fat diet, so as a result I learned a lot about obesity. I began to feel that writing cookbooks wasn’t what I wanted to keep doing. I wanted to give back in some way. And I thought that I could use my skills as a cookbook writer to help address obesity by getting doctors to prescribe cooking during well-child visits. So, I don’t know if you have children, but it’s now mandated that you take your kids at certain times and that doctor’s talk about healthy eating and physical activity during these appointments.

And what doctors were telling me was that they were talking about healthy eating all of the time, but they actually had no tools. So, I conceived ChopChop as a tool for doctors, but right after we launched, suddenly other kinds of organizations were coming to me and saying that they wanted it too. After school programs, Indian reservations, food banks; just wherever you could find kids. So, we expanded it from doctors “prescribing” it to anyone that worked with kids.

Samir Husni: So, you started it for a specific reason and now you’re all over the map with it.

Sally Sampson: Well, I wouldn’t say that we’re all over the map. We’ve expanded the mission to obesity, poor nutrition and hunger. Unfortunately, that covers a huge portion of the population. Poor nutrition is an obesity effect, rich and poor, and hunger affects the poor and we’re focused in our brains on those most at risk, but ChopChop is written to appeal to any children. We hope that the Whole Foods moms pay for it and the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) food moms get it for free through their SNAP program.

Samir Husni: There are a lot of children’s magazines out there, but you were one of the forerunners when it comes to a food magazine for kids. But there are some imitators; even the Food Network publishes a special one once a year.

Sally Sampson: Yes, and that’s all ads. We have no ads.

Samir Husni: Do you see this niche market as growing?

Sally Sampson: Well, it’s definitely grown. We’ve quadrupled in volume since our first year. And we have a bit of a strange business model. We’re a non-profit and we don’t take any ads. So, it really is 39 pages of content. There is one page where we have sponsors.

The way we operate is you can get a subscription; so let’s say it’s you; you get a subscription for one of your grandchildren at $14.95 per year; done. Then the next step up is you could decide that you want every child in your granddaughter’s class to have a copy of ChopChop, so then you could order a teacher pack. And anyone can order that teacher pack. You pay for that and it’s very heavily discounted. It also comes with curriculum, so the teacher can use ChopChop in the classroom for math, science, social studies; now we’re doing some Spanish language skills, and that’s the next level of sponsorship. And the reason we did teacher packs is because teachers said to us that they were using ChopChop and wanted to continue to do so in the classroom, but that they were really busy, could we create curriculum? So, we’ve been doing that.

Then the next step up is you could be a doctor’s office or anything really, and you could order a case, which could be either 50 copies or 100 copies. Then the next level is a bulk order; we have people who buy 10,000 copies and they distribute them. Above that, we have people that the magazine is customized for, so we do about 12 customized versions. For instance, there are land grant universities that work with the U.S.D.A. and they use their SNAP education funds to pay for ChopChop as educational material. So, the University of Kentucky buys, and it varies from quarter to quarter, so plus or minus 150,000 copies. So, the bulk of our business is bulk. We’re not on newsstands; we do subscriptions, but that’s not the main part of our business. And, unlike other magazines, we don’t give away subscriptions because we’re not trying to get our numbers up to get advertisers.

Samir Husni: The way you operate allows you to stay truly honest to your mission.

chop-chop-4Sally Sampson: Exactly. And I’m very, very strict about that. Everything goes through the mission for us. Does this fulfill our mission? Now, that’s not to say that sometimes we don’t say this or that might be an interesting thing to experiment with, but it would never be against our mission in the first place, if that makes sense.

Samir Husni: Throughout these six years, has it been a stroll through a rose garden for you, or have you had some stumbling blocks that you’ve had to overcome?

Sally Sampson: If you asked my staff if we had stumbling blocks, they would say yes more than I would. I’m just the sort of person who puts one foot in front of the other and I don’t worry too much. Having had a chronically ill child, I don’t worry too much about anything other than my children being sick.

But there are things that have happened, such as we lost a major sponsor about a year ago. I know this may sound Pollyannaish, but it really does seem like when one door closes another door opens. There was a time when money was tight, obviously, but it doesn’t seem to stay that way. I’ve never had to lay anyone off or to make compromises that I didn’t want to make.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant moment for you throughout this magazine journey?

Sally Sampson: We went to the White House and we interviewed Mrs. Obama; we did sort of a shared 5th anniversary of “Let’s Move” and ChopChop. We both launched within a month of each other and that was really incredible. We brought two kids to the White House and they interviewed her and she was amazing; she gave us way more time than she said she would. She was beyond charming with the kids. That was an amazing experience.

We also won the James Beard Award, which was also incredible. So, those things are not insignificant, but I would say that the letters that we get from kids are just really moving and very real. For instance, we got a letter recently from a nine-year-old, and they’re always drawn, there are always pictures on them. And the child wrote: I told my mother that I would give her one million dollars if we could just test one recipe. And that’s incredible.

It’s just incredible. We get these very sincere letters from kids and it feels like we’re changing their lives.

Samir Husni: We live in a digital world and yet you launched the magazine in print, and in really, the height of that digital age. And you continue in print six years later. Has anyone approached you and told you that you were out of your mind for launching a print magazine in a digital age?

Sally Sampson: Oh yes, all of the time. Of course, the people who ask us if we’re out of our minds are not our readers. I think for a child to get this beautiful four-color thing that they can hold and touch, where they see a child who looks like them is important. We show kids of every color, adorable, braces, in wheelchairs; we just featured a child with Down Syndrome. We show real kids, and we don’t put makeup on them; we don’t tell them to smile. So, your grandchildren, and I don’t have grandchildren yet, but my grandchildren someday; the idea is that any child should be able to open the magazine and feel like they can relate.

And I think that’s really important. We’ve been very diligent about that. And particularly with low-income kids and all of the Xeroxed copies of things that they receive, they don’t get that glossy and beautiful magazine. And we don’t hear from the people that are using the magazine that they’re dying for it to be digital. In fact, I will tell you that we had a digital edition that we stopped doing. It cost us more to produce it, because no one ordered it; no one wanted it.

That said we have an online cooking club, which you should get all of your grandchildren to join. It’s free. And it’s really more about skills. So, it’s not as if we have no digital presence. This year we’re also going to do an app.

Samir Husni: You’re not the first to tell me that the younger generations crave print and want to have something in their hands. I see it with my own grandchildren. They get their magazines, whether it’s Highlights or Hello for my one-year-old, and they love them. So, why do you think that there’s this myth that because we live in a digital age, the digital natives don’t want anything to do with print? Do you think we’re lumping all of print together in the same pile; the newspapers, magazines and specialty things?

chop-chop-1Sally Sampson: I honestly could not begin to understand why people feel that way. I still read paper books and I love magazines. I just think that there is something really special about print. I have an iPad and I read The New York Times on it; I read little things on it. But I think there is no sensuality to digital. Touching and feeling the paper is amazing. And I think for a child, for the magazine to be theirs, is pretty incredible. That’s the feedback that we get. So, I don’t really know.

Samir Husni: I’m starting to hear more editors in chief and more CEOs say that they’re starting to think print first again. Why do you think it took the magazine industry so long to discover that print is not dead?

Sally Sampson: I think it’s human nature and that people just have a tendency to go to extremes. First it was: no, you can’t eat any fat. Now you can eat fat. It must be the nature of human beings. I don’t know. I never felt like paper was dead and as you said in the beginning, we launched when people thought we were nuts. We launched within a very short time of Gourmet closing. Everybody asked why we were doing paper? But it just seemed like the right thing to do.

Samir Husni: Do you feel now that ChopChop is a movement rather than just a print magazine?

Sally Sampson: I do. If you think about it, we’ve got the cooking club; we have the curriculum; we’re not just a magazine. And also, when I started, not only did people ask was I crazy for doing print, but they also asked are you crazy; kid’s cooking? Like, who cares? But you look at it now and everybody sees kid’s cooking as a pipeline to many different things, whether it’s teaching kids about math or teaching them manners or teaching them to be responsible for themselves; really cooking is everything. There’s nothing that you can’t learn in a kitchen.

You learn cooperation; a respect for other cultures; it’s science. We teach kids about fermentation and we teach them about emulsification, and we teach them how to multiply. We teach them, oh, here’s this dish and it’s eaten in 10 different countries, except in this country they put cumin in it and in that country they put dill in it, and it has a slightly different name, but it shows how people are the same all over the world.

I think about when my children were small, they’re in their early 20s now and we live in Watertown, Mass., which is very Armenian. My kids would bring hummus to school. And Watertown is so diverse, and they were teased for bringing hummus, but now hummus is like ketchup. (Laughs) So, the world changes around food.

Samir Husni: If you and I are having this conversation one year from now, what will you tell me? What are your future expectations for ChopChop?

chop-chop-3Sally Sampson: I would tell you that we launched a third magazine called “Seasoned.” And that magazine is for older adults. And you would say to me, but you’re focused on kids, and I would say to you, we’re focused on people who need help in the kitchen. “Seasoned” is launching in February, 2017. The AARP Foundation gave us a grant and I believe we’re actually launching in Mississippi as one of four southern states. It’s a smaller magazine and it’s for adults who need to cook from scratch instead of buying junk, and who are downsizing. It’s like a cousin to ChopChop. It’s not going to look just like ChopChop, but you will look at it and get it.

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

Sally Sampson: All of the above except for the wine. I cook a ton. This sounds crazy, but whenever I’m emptying my dishwasher, I’m sort of amazed at how much I cook. I cook all of the time. I don’t eat anything prepared; I make every single thing from scratch.

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

Sally Sampson: Not ChopChop. The direction of the country keeps me up at night, or if my children are having a problem, that concerns me, even though they’re in their 20s. That’s the sort of thing that keeps me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Geraldine Magazine: A Unique Experience In Wedding Inspirations – Curating Original Concepts With Every Beautifully Done Page – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Daniel Tran, Editor In Chief and Creative Director, Geraldine Magazine.

November 30, 2016

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story

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“I’ve always believed in print and I don’t think it will ever go away. About eight or nine years ago when I was still in design school, they were saying that since the industry was moving toward digital, if you’re a designer you need to make sure you know how to make a website, but I always believed in print and that was my passion. There’s nothing like picking up a book and feeling and smelling that beautiful paper, and the beauty of the cover. You don’t get all of that on a Kindle; you don’t get that experience. So, I created this magazine for print and not for digital. We never offer a digital version of the magazine, because the experience would not be the same. For me, I feel like print will never go away.” Daniel Tran

The story behind the wedding is vital to the powers-that-be at Geraldine magazine, namely Daniel Tran, editor in chief and creative director. According to Daniel, Geraldine is a wedding publication that serves as an inspiration for couples who want to create a refined and intimate event. The content between its covers is both thought-provoking and uplifting, and the photographs are nothing short of brilliant. The magazine is a breathtaking venture that proves talent and dreams certainly go hand-in-hand. The passionate entrepreneur is certainly alive and well inside of Daniel Tran.

I spoke with Daniel recently and we talked about Geraldine. It was as edifying a conversation as the magazine itself is. Daniel’s love for the world of visual design is definitely apparent as you flip through the pages of Geraldine. Having attended the Academy of Art of San Francisco, he was torn between heading for New York after graduation or staying in San Francisco and creating something uniquely different on his own. And with the artful Geraldine, we see his choice and appreciate it. Daniel calls it an inspirational force and Mr. Magazine™ would have to agree with him.

The magazine is a visual masterpiece and the young man behind it a true entrepreneur. So, I invite you to relax and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Daniel Tran, as you come inside the world of dreams, talent, and wedded bliss.

But first the sound-bites:

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On the genesis of the magazine: I graduated from design school about six years ago, the Academy of Art of San Francisco, and it was my intention to do something related to page layout and design in print. So, I was deciding if I should go to New York and work for the Martha Stewart brand, because they do amazing work and I’ve always appreciated the beautiful typography in the layouts coming out of Martha Stewart, but instead of going to New York I decided to stay here in San Francisco. That was when I started to think about whether I wanted to do branding, design, or if I wanted to start something on my own. I had been following Kinfolk magazine and Darling; these independent magazines that focused more on storytelling in an artful way. So, when I looked at what I could do that was sort of in a similar vein, but that I could tap into, I looked at the wedding industry and realized that people were spending so much money in their own weddings, but it wasn’t being displayed or communicated in an artful way. So I felt like that I could somehow take that subject and turn it into an art form. And that’s how I started the magazine.

On the name Geraldine: When we came up with the brand, my team and I, we tossed around a bunch of key words and we looked at the audience that we wanted to reach out to. There were common words and key words; meaningful words that resonated with us. So, it was this big process to come up with a name that was memorable and also strong. And we wanted a name instead of a word, so Geraldine was somehow part of the list. For me, when it comes to a brand, it can sound beautiful, but for me it also has to look beautiful written out. Or look beautiful as a logo. It has to make sense, so Geraldine was where we ended up. And there wasn’t any personal relation to the name. It wasn’t my grandmother’s name or anything like that.

On the most pleasant unexpected surprise that happened during the journey of launching the magazine: The most unexpected surprise was that the industry people were very interested in the creation, and when we shipped over a sample copy to some of the industry leaders, I didn’t expect them to respond to me in one day. They were so interested and loved the creation and the execution of the magazine. That was one pleasant, unexpected surprise.

On the biggest stumbling block that he had to face and how he overcame it: One thing was to figure out the execution part. We were working with a printer in Canada because we wanted the magazine to be printed in an artful way and executed in the same vein that the publication was offered, so we put up a huge investment in getting the light printer to print it, but after two issues we realized that the cost was way too high. So, we had to figure out another way to lower the cost of the printing and the production of the magazine.

On how he is trying to make the magazine more of an experience for his readers:
It’s not about the most expensive wedding out there; it could be a farm-to-table type of wedding that someone put together for $15,000. So, it’s not so much about money as it is about the story behind the wedding. This couple has an interesting background and the way they put together the wedding is interesting. The way they hired the team that produced the wedding for them is unique; just things like that. So, we want to communicate that to new brides who are putting together their own weddings and we want to educate them in all aspects of the wedding, from working on their stationery to working with their wedding planners and florists in these capacities.

On how he feels about the future of print: I’ve always believed in print and I don’t think it will ever go away. About eight or nine years ago when I was still in design school, they were saying that since the industry was moving toward digital, if you’re a designer you need to make sure you know how to make a website, but I always believed in print and that was my passion. There’s nothing like picking up a book and feeling and smelling that beautiful paper, and the beauty of the cover. You don’t get all of that on a Kindle; you don’t get that experience.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly to his home one evening: You would find me on Pinterest. Before even the social media came out, I was always looking through magazines and other things for ideas. But in this day and age, I come home and after dinner I go on Pinterest. That’s my sort of downtime. I want to be inspired and so I go on Pinterest. I also collect books, so many books. I love books. I love typography books. The one element in design that I truly love and am passionate about is typography.

On what keeps him up at night: How the magazine could be evolved. In the beginning, I had a lot of angst and sleepless nights because when we first released the preorder of the magazine there were only like 50 orders coming in and I was nervous. It might look easy to sell 500 copies of a book, but believe me, it’s hard. (Laughs)

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Daniel Tran, editor in chief and creative director, Geraldine magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the genesis of Geraldine.

geraldine-issue-1Daniel Tran: I graduated from design school about six years ago, the Academy of Art of San Francisco, and it was my intention to do something related to page layout and design in print. So, I was deciding if I should go to New York and work for the Martha Stewart brand, because they do amazing work and I’ve always appreciated the beautiful typography in the layouts coming out of Martha Stewart, but instead of going to New York I decided to stay here in San Francisco.

That was when I started to think about whether I wanted to do branding, design, or if I wanted to start something on my own. I had been following Kinfolk magazine and Darling; these independent magazines that focused more on storytelling in an artful way. So, when I looked at what I could do that was sort of in a similar vein, but that I could tap into, I looked at the wedding industry and realized that people were spending so much money in their own weddings, but it wasn’t being displayed or communicated in an artful way. So I felt like that I could somehow take that subject and turn it into an art form. And that’s how I started the magazine.

I began by reaching out to a group of industry leaders in the wedding business. What I did was reached out to laser photographers that shoot more film, but also work on brands like Martha Stewart, and I really hand-selected some of the people to share the vision I had for the magazine and asked them would they like to work with us.

It’s a very candid magazine; I didn’t want to be sneaky or creep up on people with the concept. It’s pretty direct. So I just reached out to them and explained what the magazine was about. And I did reach out to a lot of the major leaders in this industry, and I received a lot of closed doors in my face, to be honest. Then some people didn’t respond at all.

We also did a test project first because I wasn’t sure if people would even be willing to spend $30 on a magazine. But while Geraldine is a magazine, it’s more like a softcover book, where there was no advertisement. Basically we highlighted the industry, hand-selected people who were doing beautiful work and has that organic and classic aesthetic.

We were also thinking about where we could sell the magazine. The first place that came to mind was Anthropologie because they sell a hand-selected number of publications, Kinfolk is being sold there. So, I thought there is a space for us there, because they don’t have a wedding publication yet.

Initially, after finishing crafting the magazine, I sent it over there and they loved it. We only sent a sample copy with 20 or 30 pages; at that time we hadn’t gone to print yet. So, we sent it over to the buyers and they loved the magazine. And they were really interested in stocking it. So really, everything just came from there.

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

Daniel Tran: When we came up with the brand, my team and I, we tossed around a bunch of key words and we looked at the audience that we wanted to reach out to. There were common words and key words; meaningful words that resonated with us. So, it was this big process to come up with a name that was memorable and also strong. And we wanted a name instead of a word, so Geraldine was somehow part of the list. For me, when it comes to a brand, it can sound beautiful, but for me it also has to look beautiful written out. Or look beautiful as a logo. It has to make sense, so Geraldine was where we ended up. And there wasn’t any personal relation to the name. It wasn’t my grandmother’s name or anything like that.

We got a lot of people curious about why we chose that name. In fact, the first thing people ask me is why I picked the name Geraldine.

Samir Husni: You have managed to create a beautiful, coffee table book/magazine. Tell me what was the most pleasant and unexpected surprise that happened during the journey of launching this magazine?

Daniel Tran: The most unexpected surprise was that the industry people were very interested in the creation, and when we shipped over a sample copy to some of the industry leaders, I didn’t expect them to respond to me in one day. They were so interested and loved the creation and the execution of the magazine. That was one pleasant, unexpected surprise.

And there were others. You’re creating this masterpiece and it’s your baby, and then you spend so much time and you get so many people involved and you keep asking yourself whether people are going to pay $30 for it. That’s a lot because we’ve almost doubled the price of Geraldine compared to some other magazines. And that was a scary part.

One other surprise was when we went to the U.K. because the shipping costs were so expensive, the magazine sold for $40 and the fact that people were willing to pay $40 for it was awesome. That was another surprise for me.

Samir Husni: What was the biggest stumbling block that you had to face and how did you overcome it?

Daniel Tran: One thing was to figure out the execution part. We were working with a printer in Canada because we wanted the magazine to be printed in an artful way and executed in the same vein that the publication was offered, so we put up a huge investment in getting the light printer to print it, but after two issues we realized that the cost was way too high. So, we had to figure out another way to lower the cost of the printing and the production of the magazine.

But once the brand was out there, people loved so much about the magazine that they would send us content without asking for payment or without us having to produce it, because when we produce an editorial it’s very costly. But of course, that doesn’t mean that we take just anything for the magazine.

We’re now working with different collaborators and partners in the industry, which is another way for their work to be featured, but we do it as a collaborative process, and not selling anything. And then the other struggle that we have is with advertisement. In this day and age, and in the digital world with Instagram and Facebook, a lot of brands do not want to advertise because the wedding industry is a little different than fashion. The wedding industry really doesn’t understand the value of advertising and with the advertisement model; it doesn’t really work for us because our magazine is more about storytelling.

In Issue #3, we tried some ad things, but it’s more like we collaborated with the brands and we produced editorial for them and then we advertised their advertorial. But we got pushbacks from our readers saying that they loved the magazine for what it stood for, and it was distracting for the magazine to feature wedding dresses and other things, so that was another roadblock for us. It wasn’t an easy task to break through.

And now we’re working on Issue #5, number four was released a couple of months ago. And we’re continually keeping the magazine without advertisements, because we’ve decided that’s the best route for us. We went from $30 to $25, because we want to reach a wider audience, where people can afford the magazine. So, we lowered the cover price by $5. And if it makes sense to do so, we’ll lower it a little more, but with no advertisements inside the magazine, I think we’re now at the right price. As I said, it’s a coffee table book more than a magazine.

Samir Husni: As you’re creating, and to quote from your mission statement, “this refined and intimate event,” how are you trying to make the magazine more of an experience for the audience, rather than just ink on paper?

Daniel Tran: When we get submissions, editorial content or real weddings, basically our magazine is to inspire new brides, and not just brides, but also industry people because they’re the ones who are working with us. So, throughout the entire process we don’t do this alone, we can’t. We have to rely on industry folks who give us the right type of content that we like to feature.

It’s not about the most expensive wedding out there; it could be a farm-to-table type of wedding that someone put together for $15,000. So, it’s not so much about money as it is about the story behind the wedding. This couple has an interesting background and the way they put together the wedding is interesting. The way they hired the team that produced the wedding for them is unique; just things like that. So, we want to communicate that to new brides who are putting together their own weddings and we want to educate them in all aspects of the wedding, from working on their stationery to working with their wedding planners and florists in these capacities.

But it’s different than how Martha Stewart weddings would guide someone during the whole planning process. We’re not trying to guide anyone in the process, because everybody has their own way; it’s a very personal thing. It’s whatever that particular couple wants for their own wedding. We always focus on intimate events and events that are unique and relatable.

We also stay away from over-the-top weddings, the ones with extravagant chandeliers and things. That’s not really our thing. We really strongly believe in our curation process. I have a managing editor that helps to filter through the content. And now that we’re working on Issue #5, I think the industry understands what this brand is about. And if there’s a certain wedding that they know doesn’t make sense for the brand, they don’t send it our way.

Samir Husni: With your background as a creative designer and art school, and now that you’re more of a storyteller and magazine maker; do you think that the future of print is going to be this combination of art, photography and beautiful things, or there’s still room for anything in print?

Daniel Tran: I’ve always believed in print and I don’t think it will ever go away. About eight or nine years ago when I was still in design school, they were saying that since the industry was moving toward digital, if you’re a designer you need to make sure you know how to make a website, but I always believed in print and that was my passion. There’s nothing like picking up a book and feeling and smelling that beautiful paper, and the beauty of the cover. You don’t get all of that on a Kindle; you don’t get that experience. So, I created this magazine for print and not for digital, so we never offer a digital version of the magazine, because the experience would not be the same. For me, I feel like print will never go away.

And yes, right now, with the social media impact, we are very conscious about what we put on our social media and it has to be in brand with the print publication. We’re actually working on our blog and our new website that will have content from our magazine. It’s another way we’re using digital to grow our print publication. It’s not going to replace our publication. But we are adapting to the digital age as well. Print is my passion though, and if people stop buying print, that is when I want to stop.

There are a few independent wedding publications out there, but for us I want it to be educational without dictating that things have to be any certain way. It’s an inspirational force. If something doesn’t inspire me, then I won’t put it in the magazine. Every issue we produce a vital fashion editorial because we want to educate the bride. We’re not telling her what to wear; we’re telling her that there are other unique gowns to choose from as a bride. And we show that through the way we style our models; the way we have the photographer that we hire shoot the story; we’re always challenging ourselves to make our bridal fashion editorial as unique as possible.

In Issue #4 we went to Aspen, Colorado, which is another wedding destination, so we used Aspen as a backdrop. We shot the two models in the snow with beautiful dresses; it was a lot of work, but we were all really inspired by it. And that’s what makes us different. We push the boundaries; we don’t follow in anyone’s footsteps.

A lot of people ask me how I started the magazine, because my background isn’t in weddings. I came into this as a designer; as a person with very little knowledge about the industry, but because of that I bring something new to the industry. I’m not following the Martha Stewart grid or I’m not following any bride’s magazine format. I’m just doing what I feel this industry needs and wants, which is this beautiful book that comes out twice a year.

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

Daniel Tran: You would find me on Pinterest. Before even the social media came out, I was always looking through magazines and other things for ideas. But in this day and age, I come home and after dinner I go on Pinterest. That’s my sort of downtime. I want to be inspired and so I go on Pinterest. I also collect books, so many books. I love books. I love typography books. The one element in design that I truly love and am passionate about is typography. It’s doesn’t make a magazine without beautiful type or typography. A book that has only photos and no type in it, then it’s a photography book; it’s not really a design. So, I love Pinterest and design blogs and that’s what you would find me doing at night.

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

Daniel Tran: How the magazine could be evolved. In the beginning, I had a lot of angst and sleepless nights because when we first released the preorder of the magazine there were only like 50 orders coming in and I was nervous. It might look easy to sell 500 copies of a book, but believe me, it’s hard. (Laughs)

So knowing that you’ve created something really beautiful and you want to share it with the world, and people can’t afford it or don’t appreciate it and aren’t willing to pay for it makes you nervous. But there has been a lot of good feedback so far. We have photographers who buy boxes and boxes of the magazine and they give them to their clients as a gift because they want their clients to be inspired by the beautiful work these shoots create.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Howler Magazine: After Four Years The Distinctive Magazine About Soccer Is Still Kicking & Scoring With Its Audience – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Founder/Editor George Quraishi…

November 29, 2016

“The thought of starting just a website and the monetary factors of that felt very uncertain to me. From day one, I didn’t see a way to do what we wanted to do with that model. What I’m trying to say is that it was half a business hunch and half a nostalgia play that led us to do it in print. And I think that it’s worked out from what I’ve seen since we launched. I was in London recently at Jeremy Leslie’s magCulture, and I saw all of these wonderful-looking magazines. And none of them, including Howler, should probably even exist. They’re all really heartfelt attempts by people who want to do and say something that’s important to them, but there is no spreadsheet that’s going to say that this is a great business. You have to be a bit of a crazy dreamer to try and do it.” George Quraishi

howlerSince 2012 there has been a voice on newsstands “howling” the joys and passions of soccer, and one that is inimitable in its style and stance on creativity and storytelling. That magazine is Howler. And the powers-that-be behind the brand are dedicated professionals that know a thing or two about magazines and magazine design.

Mark Kirby and George Quraishi, two of the original founders of the magazine, are former editors at GQ, Condé Nast Portfolio, National Geographic Adventure, and HarperCollins Publishers. Both are soccer fans, but more importantly they’re all fans of great magazines that are prone to providing audiences with great artwork, great content and even greater connections with the people the magazines serve.

I spoke with George recently and we talked about Howler, where it has been, where it’s at, and also where it’s headed. The magazine was first funded by one of the earlier Kickstarter campaigns and is proving that passion, fortitude and a little bit of crazy can go a long way when you’re finding your footing on the path to launching a great magazine.

So, pull out your favorite chair, grab your soccer gear and join Mr. Magazine™ as he picks the brain of a man who loves the art of storytelling and a good game of soccer, George Quraishi, Founder & Editor, Howler magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

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On the genesis of Howler: There are four founders, and it was a group that in a sense I guess, I brought together. Mark Kirby was my coeditor, and he and I; we never worked together, but he offered me an internship at National Geographic Adventure when I was still in college. And then the art directors for Howler were the art directors that I had worked with at Condé Nast’s Portfolio after I finished up at National Geographic, and so the four of us came together to make Howler. And then we launched it on Kickstarter as a project in June, 2012. And we funded it, and it was very exciting. Then we had a few months to actually finalize the issue and it came out in October, 2012. So, that was the timeline.

On funding Howler through the crowdsourcing platform of Kickstarter: I have to say that my inspiration for the magazine was because I saw a friend of mine do a very similar thing. My friend Jamin Warren was an arts and entertainment reporter at the Wall Street Journal who loved videogames and he quit his job at the Journal and he did a Kickstarter project to fund a print magazine about videogames called Kill Screen that still exists, which was redesigned and relaunched. And he came to Kickstarter even earlier than we did, when it was a much smaller ecosystem.

On why he thinks there is an audience for a soccer magazine in the States when the sport isn’t as popular here as it is in places like Europe: You’re right; soccer in the U.S. isn’t as mature as an industry as it is overseas. It’s not as mature as other American sports, but it’s not as mature globally either as it is in countries like South America and Europe. But rather than putting us off, that was the opportunity that we saw. There are plenty of people here who love and follow the game, but we weren’t seeing the type of coverage that we as readers and fans wanted to see.

On any stumbling blocks that he’s had to face and how he overcame them: It has been a constant learning experience. I can only speak for myself, but I left college and I went abroad to teach English for a year in South Korea and I came back and worked as a writer and an editor at magazines and at HarperCollins Publishers in New York City. But nothing that I did prepared me for entrepreneurship or managing a “staff” of people. And those have been things that I’ve had to try and learn how to do.

On how he moved from the idea maker to the idea executioner: You go from having an idea for a magazine and then the questions become how do you found it; how do you build an audience for it; and then how do you sustain it? And those are all related questions. A lot of it was intuition and step-by-step decision-making, as opposed to a grand master plan, such as in four years we’d like to be where we are.

On the most pleasant moment he’s had throughout this experience: That’s a good question. We’ve been lucky; there are several to choose from. I would probably say one of the most gratifying moments happened two years ago when Longform Podcast had a contest. And I vaguely knew the guys who did it, but I wasn’t aware of the contest. They asked their readers what was their favorite all-time soccer story and a Howler story beat out several others. One I believe from The New York Times and one from ESPN, and a couple of others. And a Howler story actually won.

On whether he feels the Howler brand could have accomplished as much as it has without the print component: That’s another good question and something that we considered from the very beginning. Like I said before, when we went public and launched with Kickstarter, we really thought about this. We asked a lot of people that we knew for their advice and people in the soccer business. And a pretty common question that we heard from people was why were we making a print magazine? It needed to be online. This was in 2012. Our thinking and my hunch was that while this might be kind of crazy, for this to be viable and for us to deliver the kind of journalism and artwork; to make the kind of magazine that I wanted to make, there had to be a model where the reader was supporting what we’re doing.

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-7-34-08-pmOn what his future expectations are for Howler: I would say that right now my goals are to diversify the ways to make money. The ways now are reader, advertising, which is a small, but healthy chunk of how we make money, and the marketing work that we do for third parties. They come to us; brands like Gatorade and Nike, especially in the early days when I quit my job, that was a big help so that I didn’t go homeless.

On anything else he’d like to add: Our website has been getting a lot of attention lately. We just relaunched our website and we changed the name from howlermagazine.com to whatahowler.com. Whatahowler is our official handle for Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Our attempt there was to realign the website as its own digital property and shift it a little bit away from being just a place where people go because we’ve been talking about the print magazine. And we’ve partnered with a really fantastic blog that predates Howler by a few years; it’s called Dirty Tackle. It was acquired by Yahoo in, I believe, 2009, and it had a good five year run with Yahoo before regaining its independence, so now whatahowler.com and Dirty Tackle cohabitate.

On having no advertising on Howler’s website: The types of advertising that we could get, with the page views and the readers and the metrics that we have for this small website, we would be making pennies really. The digital advertising game is really for websites that can scale or have scale and that have extremely large numbers.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up at his house unexpectedly one evening: My wife comes home, she’s doing her Ph.D. in education right now; she’s exhausted, so she’s sitting on the couch working and I’m next to her with our dog. And I’m reading or working myself, or doing something that needs doing, because there is always something.

On what keeps him up at night: Like anyone who does what I do, I think, just thinking about where media is going and can we, in some small way, latch onto some of these trends? That’s why we’ve placed some of our bets on podcasting as a low cost, but highly personal way to reach our audience. The media landscape is so exciting and I think that’s where a lot of the big players present a real challenge to us. For a company our size, it also presents real opportunity. Not only is it harder and harder to reach the mass audience, but you don’t necessarily have to in order to be a viable business.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with George Quraishi, Founder/Editor, Howler Magazine.

Samir Husni: You’re getting ready to celebrate four years of Howler; can you recreate the launch of Howler? I know that you had other founders, but your name was the name associated with the magazine from the very beginning. Tell me about the genesis of Howler.

3566138George Quraishi: There are four founders, and it was a group that in a sense I guess, I brought together. Mark Kirby was my coeditor, and he and I; we never worked together, but he offered me an internship at National Geographic Adventure when I was still in college. By the time I took it, he had moved on to GQ. So, he and I just stayed in touch and started playing soccer together.

And then the art directors for Howler were the art directors that I had worked with at Condé Nast’s Portfolio after I finished up at National Geographic, and so the four of us came together to make Howler. We did a lot of work in the beginning before we ever took it to the public, to figure out what the magazine would look like, sound like, who would be writing for it, and structurally just putting together that first issue.

And then we launched it on Kickstarter as a project in June, 2012. And we funded it, and it was very exciting. Then we had a few months to actually finalize the issue and it came out in October, 2012. So, that was the timeline.

Samir Husni: And I think you may have been one of the earlier crowdsourcing entities, because now it is becoming the norm rather than the exception. If someone has an idea for a magazine, they simply go to Kickstarter.

George Quraishi: I have to say that my inspiration for the magazine was because I saw a friend of mine do a very similar thing. My friend Jamin Warren was an arts and entertainment reporter at the Wall Street Journal who loved videogames and he quit his job at the Journal and he did a Kickstarter project to fund a print magazine about videogames called Kill Screen that still exists, which was redesigned and relaunched. And he came to Kickstarter even earlier than we did, when it was a much smaller ecosystem.

I think we had a much easier time fundraising Howler, because there was just more people familiar with the platform and I’m sure that today the audience for Kickstarter has grown and the familiarity with it has become so much more prevalent that people who are funding through Kickstarter now would probably look back at our campaign and be able to tell it was quite a while ago. (Laughs) But it’s such a wonderful platform.

Samir Husni: Soccer is getting bigger and bigger in the United States, but it’s still not as popular as it is overseas. When you hear the word football there, you know that people are referring to soccer. Why did you think there was an audience in the States for an international soccer magazine when you launched Howler? And why did you decide to publish it in its oversized format and with all of the stunning illustrations?

George Quraishi: You’re right; soccer in the U.S. isn’t as mature as an industry as it is overseas. It’s not as mature as other American sports, but it’s not as mature globally either as it is in countries like South America and Europe. But rather than putting us off, that was the opportunity that we saw. There are plenty of people here who love and follow the game, but we weren’t seeing the type of coverage that we as readers and fans wanted to see.

And I would say there are so many things you can look at to measure soccer’s growth and the maturity of the game just in the last couple of years, but one that I would point to and that I feel a bit of pride, in terms of helping in some small way to push along, is the fact that by the 4th or 5th issue of Howler I began to see more coverage of the game the way we aspire to do it in the major and more established publications.

You’re seeing more illustrations such as Howler uses; you’re seeing people realize that there’s an audience for long soccer stories. Just recently ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight site posted a new podcast on their Hot Takedown about a guy named Charles Reep, who was sort of the father of soccer analytics. And when I heard about it I knew that it sounded like an episode of Howler Radio, which is a podcast that we started a few years ago. Now, I would never take credit for any of these things (Laughs), but it’s been very encouraging to see the type of stories that I wanted to see created and that gave us the impotence to start Howler in the first place, become more prevalent in the culture at large. I don’t know if it’s our influence or just a correlation, but I just think that it’s fantastic to see.

Samir Husni: Have you had any stumbling blocks along your journey and if so, how did you overcome them?

George Quraishi: It has been a constant learning experience. I can only speak for myself, but I left college and I went abroad to teach English for a year in South Korea and I came back and worked as a writer and an editor at magazines and at HarperCollins Publishers in New York City. But nothing that I did prepared me for entrepreneurship or managing a “staff” of people. And those have been things that I’ve had to try and learn how to do. And we do have a large team now of what we call semi-professionals, most people do have other jobs, but they work on Howler as well; our editors and our copy editors; our creative director and our editorial assistants, and our podcast producers. So, it’s quite a large team.

Along the way there have certainly been challenges, in terms of just the basic tasks of running a business that I think anyone who starts a small organization has to learn how to do. Cash flow and reconciling the books; all of these foreign processes that are totally unfamiliar to someone who enjoys sitting down and editing and working with good stories. I have had to learn how to do all of that. So, yes, there have been quite a few challenges along the way.

Samir Husni: You were a journalist before you became a businessperson. As someone who is passionate about creative ideas and the subject matter of Howler, how did you move from the idea maker to the idea executioner?

George Quraishi: You go from having an idea for a magazine and then the questions become how do you found it; how do you build an audience for it; and then how do you sustain it? And those are all related questions. A lot of it was intuition and step-by-step decision-making, as opposed to a grand master plan, such as in four years we’d like to be where we are.

We started with the Kickstarter fund, which was around $70,001; something like that. And that was our capital. We’ve never taken on investors and we’ve never been in the red for longer than maybe a day. Overall, we’ve been very fortunate to have had a print magazine startup that has been at most times at least a break even proposition. And the magazine business is all about scale, and for us it’s about trying to grow the audience, which we’ve done by, up to this point, basically social media and by earned media. We were fortunate in the early days to get great reviews from some other much larger publications. We’ve built our audience via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and just by really focusing on reaching our small audience. We have a small, but very passionate audience. And I think that what we’ve done and what was smart on our part was really focusing on what we knew that audience wanted, instead of trying to be all things to all soccer fans.

Samir Husni: Are you doing this full-time now?

George Quraishi: Yes, I quit my job as soon as we funded the Kickstarter actually. So, for the past four years I’ve done this full-time.

Samir Husni: What would you consider the most pleasant moment throughout this experience?

George Quraishi: That’s a good question. We’ve been lucky; there are several to choose from. I would probably say one of the most gratifying moments happened two years ago when Longform Podcast had a contest. And I vaguely knew the guys who did it, but I wasn’t aware of the contest. They asked their readers what was their favorite all-time soccer story and a Howler story beat out several others. One I believe from The New York Times and one from ESPN, and a couple of others. And a Howler story actually won.

And it was a story from readers and I wasn’t surprised that that was a popular story, but the fact that a Howler story had penetrated the consciousness of this other audience, the Longform audience, was kind of amazing to me. And it was a wonderful feeling. It felt good just to be in the same conversation with these other venerable publications and to actually beat them out in some small way. I just wanted to pump my fist in the air and shout, “Yeah!”

Samir Husni: Do you think that you could have accomplished what you have with Howler without the print component?

George Quraishi: That’s another good question and something that we considered from the very beginning. Like I said before, when we went public and launched with Kickstarter, we really thought about this. We asked a lot of people that we knew for their advice and people in the soccer business. And a pretty common question that we heard from people was why were we making a print magazine? It needed to be online. This was in 2012.

Our thinking and my hunch was that while this might be kind of crazy, for this to be viable and for us to deliver the kind of journalism and artwork; to make the kind of magazine that I wanted to make, there had to be a model where the reader was supporting what we’re doing.

The thought of starting just a website and the monetary factors of that felt very uncertain to me. From day one, I didn’t see a way to do what we wanted to do with that model. What I’m trying to say is that it was half a business hunch and half a nostalgia play that led us to do it in print. And I think that it’s worked out from what I’ve seen since we launched.

I was in London recently at Jeremy Leslie’s magCulture, and I saw all of these wonderful-looking magazines. And none of them, including Howler, should probably even exist. They’re all really heartfelt attempts by people who want to do and say something that’s important to them, but there is no spreadsheet that’s going to say that this is a great business. You have to be a bit of a crazy dreamer to try and do it.

But I think that what we’ve learned is that people who recognize that and who love these magazines are willing to support them. It’s not easy, but finding that audience and seeing that support makes it totally doable and necessary.

Samir Husni: I’ve always said that there is a sense of community when you’re holding a print magazine, it’s like your membership card and if you’re not willing to pay for that membership, you can’t be in the club. I was in New York recently and picked up some new magazine and the cover prices were anywhere from $25 to $34.

George Quraishi: Yes, and you know, Samir, when I was in New York and looking around at new magazines, I noticed that most of the covers were Issue #1, Issue #2, Issue #3; there were definitely a few that were more mature, but a lot of them were very young and to me that just validated the fact that while this business is tough and not easy to sustain on the financial side for a new magazine; I really admire the people who try. I know how difficult it is and seeing that people still believe in print and are willing to pay for quality work is really heartening.

Samir Husni: If we talk again in two years, what would you hope to tell me that Howler has accomplished? What are your expectations?

George Quraishi: I would say that right now my goals are to diversify the ways to make money. The ways now are reader, advertising, which is a small, but healthy chunk of how we make money, and the marketing work that we do for third parties. They come to us; brands like Gatorade and Nike, especially in the early days when I quit my job, that was a big help so that I didn’t go homeless.

Right now we’re looking at other ways. We’ve launched our Podcast and we’re in the process of trying to make them user-supported; we’re exploring a few other things that refocus our efforts and attention on the audience we already have, while trying to grow that audience, but not at the expense of the people who are already paying attention to us.

For instance, could we go on any more trips, which might be something that we could do; it’s a great way to connect with readers, but also explore interesting things with soccer and also gain experience, rather than a product. Could that become a part of our business? I’m exploring things like that and hopefully in a couple of years I’ll have good news to report. We’ve tried to make the business a little more stable by not relying on one thing.

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

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-7-34-22-pmGeorge Quraishi: Our website has been getting a lot of attention lately. We just relaunched our website and we changed the name from howlermagazine.com to whatahowler.com. Whatahowler is our official handle for Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Our attempt there was to realign the website as its own digital property and shift it a little bit away from being just a place where people go because we’ve been talking about the print magazine. And we’ve partnered with a really fantastic blog that predates Howler by a few years; it’s called Dirty Tackle. It was acquired by Yahoo in, I believe, 2009, and it had a good five year run with Yahoo before regaining its independence, so now whatahowler.com and Dirty Tackle cohabitate.

This is our first move in trying to bring in other voices, those other soccer blogs that I love, but like Howler online, find it difficult to reach a big enough audience to make a living off of it. My thoughts were to put our readers together, Howler’s and Dirty Tackle’s, and maybe have a more meaningful share of the soccer world’s attention.

We moved the website from Word Press.com to Medium.com, which is a very exciting platform because it’s half CMS and half social network. We’ve already seen a really cool uptick in the enthusiasm of our readers to come and participate on our website in a way that we haven’t seen before. They’re leaving comments and highlighting things they like and part of that is due to just the tools that Medium gives them. And certainly the marriage of Dirty Tackle and Howler has helped. Bringing those readers together in one voice has been great.

Samir Husni: I see that there is no advertising on the website. Is that intentional?

George Quraishi: This is sort of a strategy question for us. The types of advertising that we could get, with the page views and the readers and the metrics that we have for this small website, we would be making pennies really. The digital advertising game is really for websites that can scale or have scale and that have extremely large numbers.

My theory is that any monetary benefit that we would get from serving up those ads would be very, very small compared to the inconvenience and the bad experience that we would be providing to readers when we had those ads. It’s actually not even a choice on the Medium site now to serve up those ads, but it was our choice to move to a platform that didn’t. It is such a vastly better experience for our users that I don’t miss seeing those little ads being served on our website. They weren’t doing much for us anyway and I think that it really aligns with our strategy to really double down on the idea that our users and our readers and our listeners are going to support Howler in more ways than just buying the magazine.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly one evening at your home after work, what would I find you doing: reading a magazine; reading your iPad; watching a little soccer on television; or something else?

George Quraishi: My wife comes home, she’s doing her Ph.D. in education right now; she’s exhausted, so she’s sitting on the couch working and I’m next to her with our dog. And I’m reading or working myself, or doing something that needs doing, because there is always something.

But I’ve been really involved with TV shows like “Mr. Robot” and I’ve reached the point where I feel like watching one of these TV shows is as satisfying as reading a great book. So, that’s become part of my evenings too.

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

George Quraishi: Like anyone who does what I do, I think, just thinking about where media is going and can we, in some small way, latch onto some of these trends? That’s why we’ve placed some of our bets on podcasting as a low cost, but highly personal way to reach our audience. The media landscape is so exciting and I think that’s where a lot of the big players present a real challenge to us. For a company our size, it also presents real opportunity. Not only is it harder and harder to reach the mass audience, but you don’t necessarily have to in order to be a viable business. And when I say viable, I’m leaning more towards doing what we do, rather than making the money that we make. As long as we can pay for the work that we do and keep writers and editors in print and keep them doing what they love; I’m extremely satisfied with that.

When I think about running Howler and what that gets for us as a part of the soccer culture, it’s stories. Ultimately, we’re trying to maintain that positive balance until the next issue.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Anniversaries Show That The Power Of Magazines Is Like No Other Medium…

November 22, 2016

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

Join me to celebrate the power of print and the power of magazines as we proclaim a loud congratulations this week for several magazine anniversaries ranging from 15 to 150 years.

For someone who treats magazines like friends, I am privileged to have both younger and older comrades. I never get tired of celebrating with both the new, the young and the old.

So regardless of the fact that we live in a digital age, these ink on paper (which, by the way, is a great technology yet to be replicated successfully) magazines have survived the test of time and the test of all the innovations that came after the invention of paper.

I invite you to celebrate the following magazine anniversaries and to witness the power of print and the power of magazines. Other inventions may come and go, but magazines are here to stay.

Celebrating 150 years Harper’s Bazaar:
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Celebrating 125 years Scholastic Teacher:
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Celebrating 50 years Ranger Rick:
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Celebrating 40 years Horse Illustrated:
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Celebrating 30 years Lancaster County:
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Celebrating 25 years Heavy Duty:
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Celebrating 20 years Latina:
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And celebrating 15 years Donna Hay:
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Until the next round of celebrations, relax and get ready for there is more to come. The power of print, the power of magazines.

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Scholastic Teacher Magazine: From The Very First Tagline 125 Years Ago: “Devoted To The American Schoolteacher” – To That Same Mission That Still Holds True Today – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Tara Welty, Editor In Chief, Scholastic Teacher Magazine…

November 21, 2016

“My focus is really the print magazine first and then I think about the ways that I will get the content from the print magazine out into the world in other ways. So, we start with the print magazine and we start with the timing of when that’s going to arrive in mailboxes, and what content will be the most useful at that time. And then we sort of repackage it for the web and then we use the web content to push it out to the social media platforms.” Tara Welty

tefa16coverIn the case of Scholastic Teacher magazine, a milestone anniversary might be somewhat of an understatement. This year marks the 125th year that the publication, devoted to American teachers and their students and classrooms, has been in publishing existence. And what a wonderful anniversary issue the magazine has put together to earmark this auspicious occasion.

Scholastic Teacher is America’s longest-running magazine for teachers, and since its first print issue in 1891 to its impressive presence today online and in print with 525,000 monthly readers, the magazine has remained an innovative source of ideas and inspiration for teachers. The anniversary issue of Scholastic Teacher gives readers an opportunity to witness the history of education and the evolution of the teacher in America as seen through its pages. This special issue explores facts found in the magazine’s archives, and according to Editor in Chief, Tara Welty, gathering and researching those facts was no small feat for her and her team. But it was a labor of love and an experience that they will never forget.

I spoke with Tara recently and we talked about how proud she was of all of the hard work and creativity her team had put into this anniversary issue. And about the teachers across the country who they did this for; servicing and supporting those teachers, according to Tara, is the most important job the magazine has and does with its very existence.

So, welcome to the celebration of an informational and inspirational magazine for teachers that has been around for 125 years. Here’s to the next 125 – the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Tara Welty, editor in chief, Scholastic Teacher magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

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On the fact that in this digital age Scholastic Teacher is still going strong in print after 125 years: It’s quite a remarkable thing and we certainly look around at the industry and see what a challenging time it is for magazines. I think that what we’ve really tried to do is to make sure that if we’re going to be in print we have a reason to be. So, let’s make it very visual and very fun to read and let’s make it something that you really can’t accomplish digitally. Hopefully, when you hold this issue in your hands it feels like it couldn’t exist in any other format to have this rich experience.

On whether she discovered a common thread that connects the issues from yesteryear to those of today as she researched for the 125th anniversary issue: Absolutely. The magazine was founded in 1891 by a man named Frederick A. Owen and he was a former school administrator in South Dansville, New York and he really noticed that across the country not all teachers had the opportunity to go to teaching colleges, which were called “normal” schools at the time. And what the magazine really became was an area where teachers would share their best ideas with one another. One might be the only teacher in their community and it might be a very rural community with no other teacher to really confer with. And so teachers would send letters to the magazine with their best ideas, things that really worked for them, and I think that’s the heart of what Scholastic Teacher is today. It’s teachers sharing their best ideas with one another.

On any major stumbling blocks that she and her team had to overcome during the making of the 125th anniversary issue: The process was very time-consuming and it was extremely dusty. (Laughs) You’re buying old magazines on eBay; you’re getting a lot of dust. Digging into that research, going through 125 years of issues of frequencies that have been at different points; it was a lot of research. It was really all-hands-on-deck for our team.

On the most pleasant moment throughout the process: Just uncovering little gems of information. I’ll read you one that was published in the magazine: “You are a lady before you are a teacher. In your pocket should be a pure Irish-linen, handstitched handkerchief.” That’s from 1903. And one of us would find one of these little gems in the magazine and in order to keep it organized we had kept a Google doc that we were putting in bits and pieces that we were all contributing to, broken down by decade. Once somebody found one they’d just go running around to different offices to share what they had found.

On whether it makes a difference that her audience is teachers when it comes to the thinking behind the creativity of the magazine: When I became the editor four years ago, the most important thing to me was that we celebrate and support teachers. It feels as though teachers are under attack a lot of the time from every which way and this magazine is for them and about them and to help them with their teaching practices. So, one of the things that I really focused on was making sure that, one: the articles are very scanable, because teachers do not have a ton of time to try and figure out what the main point of an article is, so I wanted them to get a key takeaway and decide if they wanted to read it right away by putting in subheads and making the images very clear. Then I wanted to make sure that every article came away with a practical application. How can the teachers use this article in their classrooms?

On whether she feels the need for a publication like Scholastic Teacher is needed more today than ever before with the bombardment of information out there: A teacher always needs a creative idea for how to come at a topic that they teach on all of the time and they’re looking for a new twist on it, something that’s going to really engage their students, especially right now with the technology boom happening. Classrooms and teachers want to use that technology in a way that’s thoughtful and not just tech for the sake of tech.

On as an editor how she decides what content goes into print and what goes online or another platform: Scholastic as a company publishes a lot of things that are online only, but my focus is really the print magazine first and then I think about the ways that I will get the content from the print magazine out into the world in other ways. So, we start with the print magazine and we start with the timing of when that’s going to arrive in mailboxes, and what content will be the most useful at that time. And then we sort of repackage it for the web and then we use the web content to push it out to the social media platforms.

On how she felt when she first saw the 125th anniversary issue: Up until just recently, I only had the unbound copy. And when the mail delivered the box of magazines, my entire staff began jumping up and down and shouting, “It’s here; it’s here.” (Laughs) Everybody grabbed a copy to see which facts they had pulled out and who had written what and it was great. I’m just so proud of this issue. It really took a lot of collaboration and teamwork from not just our internal team here, but from our freelancers and contributors. I just couldn’t be more proud of the way it turned out.

On the secret to longevity with a magazine like Scholastic Teacher: That’s a great question. I think it comes back to just always servicing your reader and always thinking about whether or not you’re providing something that your reader really needs and is useful to them. For us, Scholastic has a real focus company-wide on education and on celebrating teachers and on getting students to develop a lifelong love of reading and learning. We just always circle back to that mission and we try to make sure that every article that we publish is supporting the mission of our company and supporting the teachers that we service.

On the future of print in a digital age and the impact it will have on next generations: That’s a great question and it’s something that I think anybody who is working in print media right now is really grappling with. We don’t know what the future is going to bring in terms of where our readers are going to go and if they will still want print in five years. But what I do know for certain is that great content is always needed and the way that we deliver it is not necessarily the most important thing. I happen to love holding a magazine in my hands and I have far too many magazines stacked up on my dresser at home, but if people decide that they don’t need print anymore, I still think that they’re going to need information; our readers, teachers, will need information about how to support the kids that are right in front of them.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up one evening unexpectedly at her home: The first thing that I do when I get home is walk the dog. I have a fabulous rescue dog named Phoebe and she brings a lot of joy to the house. Then I usually cook dinner; I love to cook. And sitting down with my husband and enjoying dinner with him. After dinner, I’m looking at that stack of magazines that I was telling you about, and thinking about how I should tackle some of those before they really get out of control.

On what keeps her up at night: Usually all of the deadlines and all of the things that I have to do. Also, just thinking about what’s going on in teachers’ minds and how can I help alleviate some of their stress, because teachers really do feel under the gun all of the time. And as stressful and challenging as my job can get, theirs is ten times more stressful than that. So, I’m constantly thinking about what I can do to help them to make their jobs a bit easier in my own small way.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Tara Welty, editor in chief, Scholastic Teacher magazine.

Scholastic Teacher through the years...

Scholastic Teacher through the years…

Samir Husni: Congratulations on 125 years strong in print.

Tara Welty: Thank you very much. It’s a pretty exciting time for us. We started planning this issue about a year ago, so it’s been very thrilling to have it out in the world now.

Samir Husni: I have seen a lot of anniversary issues, but what you’ve done through that historical perspective from “back then” in 1891 is amazing. I was so fascinated reading all of the information. For example, where teachers started the day with prayer and all of the other trivia items that you included in the anniversary issue; as you were developing this edition, and you said that you had been planning this for almost a year, did you ever stop and think: wow, in this digital age, we’re still doing print? And doing it for 125 years, which is amazing.

Tara Welty: It hits me constantly. It’s quite a remarkable thing and we certainly look around at the industry and see what a challenging time it is for magazines. I think that what we’ve really tried to do is to make sure that if we’re going to be in print we have a reason to be. So, let’s make it very visual and very fun to read and let’s make it something that you really can’t accomplish digitally. Hopefully, when you hold this issue in your hands it feels like it couldn’t exist in any other format to have this rich experience.

We have a full archive in our library at Scholastic of our magazines; some are on microfilm and some are in print. But then we really wanted to dig into the issues and some of the older issues are quite delicate so we started buying the old issues on eBay and we were delighted to find that they really are out there and available. So, we got in hundreds and hundreds of magazines from the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. They’re just sort of lining our offices here. (Laughs) Once we started digging into those old magazines and uncovering these fun facts, we just knew that our readers would love learning them to. And that’s when we really started to focus on all of the history and some of the really outlandish things that we published in the magazine and they’re really fun to read. I think anybody who is a teacher or interested in education would love to see how their profession has evolved.

Samir Husni: As you were digging into these old issues and researching; did you find a common thread that weaved through and connected the soul of Scholastic Teacher from those historic issues to the ones of today?

Tara Welty: Absolutely. The magazine was founded in 1891 by a man named Frederick A. Owen and he was a former school administrator in South Dansville, New York and he really noticed that across the country not all teachers had the opportunity to go to teaching colleges, which were called “normal” schools at the time. And so he wanted to establish the magazine to spread teaching “norms.” As I said, there were teachers across America who may not have had the opportunity to attend a teaching college.

And what the magazine really became was an area where teachers would share their best ideas with one another. One might be the only teacher in their community and it might be a very rural community with no other teacher to really confer with. And so teachers would send letters to the magazine with their best ideas, things that really worked for them, and I think that’s the heart of what Scholastic Teacher is today. It’s teachers sharing their best ideas with one another.

The very first tagline in the very first issue from 1891 was, “Devoted to the interests of the American schoolteacher.” And that is really so true today. And it’s been true throughout the history of our 125 years. I really think of the magazine as being a conduit for teachers to share their ideas with one another and there are a lot of other ways that teachers do that today, but seeing it in print in a collection with other teachers is really the heart of our magazine.

Samir Husni: Was there any major stumbling blocks that you and your team had to overcome during the making of this 125th anniversary issue?

Tara Welty: The process was very time-consuming and it was extremely dusty. (Laughs) You’re buying old magazines on eBay; you’re getting a lot of dust. Digging into that research, going through 125 years of issues of frequencies that have been at different points; it was a lot of research. It was really all-hands-on-deck for our team.

What we tried to do was go decade by decade and identify trends that were happening in education at that time. So, we were comparing certain things that we knew had happened in the history of education, like the progressive movement in education in the 1920s, education reform in the 2000s, and then we were sort of going back to our pages of the magazine to see how we had covered it and what kind of advice we had given. So, it was a really in depth research project. The stumbling blocks were just the enormity of it, but our team worked so seamlessly together I could not be more proud of the work that they did.

Samir Husni: And what was the most pleasant moment throughout this process?

Tara Welty: Just uncovering little gems of information. I’ll read you one that was published in the magazine: “You are a lady before you are a teacher. In your pocket should be a pure Irish-linen, handstitched handkerchief.” That’s from 1903. And one of us would find one of these little gems in the magazine and in order to keep it organized we had kept a Google doc that we were putting in bits and pieces that we were all contributing to, broken down by decade. Once somebody found one they’d just go running around to different offices to share what they had found. It was really fun.

Samir Husni: As someone who is in charge of editing a magazine aimed at teachers; what goes through your mind? Do you feel that you’re dealing with a group of colleagues, or people who are watching everything you write to see where they can criticize you? Does it make a difference that your audience is teachers when it comes to the thinking behind the creativity of the magazine?

Tara Welty: When I became the editor four years ago, the most important thing to me was that we celebrate and support teachers. It feels as though teachers are under attack a lot of the time from every which way and this magazine is for them and about them and to help them with their teaching practices. So, one of the things that I really focused on was making sure that, one: the articles are very scan able, because teachers do not have a ton of time to try and figure out what the main point of an article is, so I wanted them to get a key takeaway and decide if they wanted to read it right away by putting in subheads and making the images very clear. Then I wanted to make sure that every article came away with a practical application. How can the teachers use this article in their classrooms?

And I wanted it to be filled with great ideas that didn’t come from our offices in New York City, because we’re not in the classroom everyday; I wanted the advice and the ideas to come from real teachers. We do a lot of really reaching out to teachers, getting their advice, seeking their counsel and asking them what’s really working in their classrooms right now and would they share that with our readers?

And I also wanted to make sure that there was no jargon; it’s just a very straightforward and practical magazine. The feedback that we get in every issue is that the magazine is something that the teacher can take away and use in his or her classroom. I feel like the purpose of the magazine is not to wade into some of the controversial aspects of teaching, because there are other places where they can get that information. It’s kind of coming at teachers all of the time. The magazine should really be a place where they can get great ideas for their classrooms. And I think that we do that very well.

Samir Husni: Do you feel there is a greater need today for Scholastic Teacher and other publications like it than ever before with the bombardment of information out there?

Tara Welty: A teacher always needs a creative idea for how to come at a topic that they teach on all of the time and they’re looking for a new twist on it, something that’s going to really engage their students, especially right now with the technology boom happening. Classrooms and teachers want to use that technology in a way that’s thoughtful and not just tech for the sake of tech.

And there are a lot of different places teachers can go for great ideas, so when the magazine comes in their mailboxes and they pull it out and it’s just the lesson that they need for that time; that’s a very valuable thing.

And we also know that teachers are engaging with our content not just through the print magazine, but through our social media and our online. And so we want to make content that’s accessible, no matter which platform they’re consuming from. If they’re finding it on Pinterest or our Facebook page or on our website; the print magazine or from a colleague who has it from one of those platforms and they’re telling them about it because they used it in their classroom and found it amazing. Great ideas and creative ideas are always needed, but we have to think about the different ways that teachers are finding them.

Samir Husni: And as you’re thinking about that as an editor; how do you make the decision about what content should be in print and what should go online? Do you anguish when you’re making those decisions or it just comes easily and naturally to you now?

Tara Welty: Scholastic as a company publishes a lot of things that are online only, but my focus is really the print magazine first and then I think about the ways that I will get the content from the print magazine out into the world in other ways. So, we start with the print magazine and we start with the timing of when that’s going to arrive in mailboxes, and what content will be the most useful at that time. And then we sort of repackage it for the web and then we use the web content to push it out to the social media platforms.

Our Facebook pages are particularly lively places; it’s where we have a lot of teachers engaging with our content and I think that’s been such a wonderful addition to our publishing, because it allows us to have a conversation with our readers right away and get feedback on our articles.

Samir Husni: When you received that first copy of the 125th anniversary issue of the magazine; can you describe the feeling you had when you saw it?

Tara Welty: Up until just recently, I only had the unbound copy. And when the mail delivered the box of magazines, my entire staff began jumping up and down and shouting, “It’s here; it’s here.” (Laughs) Everybody grabbed a copy to see which facts they had pulled out and who had written what and it was great. I’m just so proud of this issue. It really took a lot of collaboration and teamwork from not just our internal team here, but from our freelancers and contributors. I just couldn’t be more proud of the way it turned out.

Samir Husni: Over the last year there have been a lot of milestone anniversaries celebrated in the magazine industry; something that is unheard of these days in radio, television and certainly when it comes to the ever-changing web. How many other mediums can boast of a 125-year-old product? What do you think is the secret to longevity with magazines like Scholastic Teacher?

Tara Welty: That’s a great question. I think it comes back to just always servicing your reader and always thinking about whether or not you’re providing something that your reader really needs and is useful to them. For us, Scholastic has a real focus company-wide on education and on celebrating teachers and on getting students to develop a lifelong love of reading and learning. We just always circle back to that mission and we try to make sure that every article that we publish is supporting the mission of our company and supporting the teachers that we service. And I think that’s the secret to longevity; just making sure that your publication is really working to support the people that it services.

Samir Husni: For the teachers, how do you balance ink on paper with pixels on a screen; what tips are you getting about the future of print in a digital age and how it will impact future generations?

Tara Welty: That’s a great question and it’s something that I think anybody who is working in print media right now is really grappling with. We don’t know what the future is going to bring in terms of where our readers are going to go and if they will still want print in five years.

But what I do know for certain is that great content is always needed and the way that we deliver it is not necessarily the most important thing. I happen to love holding a magazine in my hands and I have far too many magazines stacked up on my dresser at home, but if people decide that they don’t need print anymore, I still think that they’re going to need information; our readers, teachers, will need information about how to support the kids that are right in front of them. And those kids are always changing and their needs are always changing. And hopefully, we will always be there to help them with the challenges that they face in the classroom.

Samir Husni: If I showed up at your home one evening unexpectedly what would I find you doing; reading a magazine; reading your iPad; watching television; having a glass of wine; cooking; or something else?

Tara Welty: The first thing that I do when I get home is walk the dog. I have a fabulous rescue dog named Phoebe and she brings a lot of joy to the house. Then I usually cook dinner; I love to cook. And sitting down with my husband and enjoying dinner with him. After dinner, I’m looking at that stack of magazines that I was telling you about, and thinking about how I should tackle some of those before they really get out of control.

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

Tara Welty: Usually all of the deadlines and all of the things that I have to do. Also, just thinking about what’s going on in teachers’ minds and how can I help alleviate some of their stress, because teachers really do feel under the gun all of the time. And as stressful and challenging as my job can get, theirs is ten times more stressful than that. So, I’m constantly thinking about what I can do to help them to make their jobs a bit easier in my own small way.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Runner’s World Magazine: 50 Years Of Running The Publishing Marathon With No Signs Of Slowing Down Now – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With David Willey, Editor In Chief, & Jessica Murphy, Managing Director, Runner’s World Magazine…

November 18, 2016

“And I do think that there is a lot more disruption coming, 2017 is going to be just as disruptive as the past two years have been, especially for television, in particular. I don’t think the disruption will ever stop, but once things start to normalize, quality journalism is going to be a key differentiator. We’ve seen that in the election, with all of the fake news and some of the other controversies around how news stories are elevated on social media, like Facebook. And maybe I’m idealistic, but I really do think that people will demand and choose high quality information, entertainment, storytelling and journalism. And that’s going to be the key to our success going forward.” David Willey…

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“I feel like Runner’s World.com serves a much more utilitarian purpose. A lot of times people come to search and they’re looking for very specific information, such as on an injury or training or they’re coming through social because they’ve seen a very specific piece that they’re interested in. There is still joy in magazines where it’s very purposefully put together by an edit team and that magazine may serve you a piece of content that you weren’t expecting. So, even though print publishing is challenged, we still believe in the value of the medium; we just may be using it in different ways so it balances with all of our other digital channels.” Jessica Murphy…

Recently, I have been celebrating the milestone anniversaries that many, many magazines are seeing these days. Print has a way of outlasting most any other medium of information that I know of. And Runner’s World magazine is no exception to that rule as the magazine is observing and extolling its 50th year of publishing nationally and globally its highly runner-engaging journalism. And I use the word “journalism” instead of content because I happen to agree with Runner’s World’s Editor in Chief, David Willey, when he said, “I’m optimistic actually that the business models will emerge and that quality journalism, and I’m using that word instead of the buzzword “content,” which I’m so sick of; it’s so commoditized and I think it doesn’t actually do us any favors to talk about what we do in a commoditized way. What we do is make great journalism and that takes many forms. That can be service journalism; it can be storytelling; it can be investigative reporting; and I think that’s what we as an industry do and do very, very well.”

Mr. Magazine™ couldn’t have said it better himself. And while David said that in no way was he saying that people who use the word content are in opposition to journalism, he does feel as though it’s a catch-all term. But in a world of newsfeeds, notifications and any number of other disruptive distractions; Mr. Magazine™ would agree that at the end of the day magazine makers are journalists and they produce journalism. And the journalism that Runner’s World creates is unparalleled in the world of running.

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I spoke recently with David and the newest member of the staff, Managing Director, Jessica Murphy, and we talked about this milestone 50th anniversary the magazine is celebrating. In addition to the quality journalism the magazine produces, the Runner’s World brand also has many tracks that lead to its compelling information and storytelling, including great events, one being the very recent International Shoe Summit which was held in the magazine’s New York office. The event hosts teams from all 20 global editions and industry executives from companies such as Nike, Brooks Running and New Balance. Following this event, the brand celebrated its 50th Anniversary at the Robert at the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC and announced this year’s International Shoe Awards.

The Runner’s World brand has evolved many times over the 50 years it has been publishing, but as David and Jessica both agree, while in today’s world, evolvement is necessary, the root quality and mission of this brand’s journalism needs no evolution. Storytelling, reporting and great design and photography bring the magazine’s readers the addictiveness they require to keep coming back for another 50 years.

So, I hope that you enjoy this very “sole-ful” (sorry, but Mr. Magazine’s™ sense of humor, you’ll have to admit, does have “traction”) interview with two people who know a thing or two about running and the world of marathons, David Willey, editor in chief, & Jessica Murphy, managing director, Runner’s World magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the magazine turning 50 years old (David Willey): It’s never been lost on me that Runner’s World has been around for five decades and has been such an important part of our readers’ lives. It’s done certain things very well and it’s really reflected the times that we’ve lived in. And running has changed so much. It’s been really interesting with this anniversary to look back and see how the magazine over the years has reflected the eras in which it was living.

On Jessica Murphy’s (the new managing director) plans for the next 50 years (Jessica Murphy): I’m extremely honored and excited to be a part of the brand. I’ve been a fan of the magazine for as long as I’ve been a runner myself. My first training program, I obsessed over the magazines’ and the websites’ content as I trained for my first marathon. I think what gets me excited is the strength of the brand and knowing that as we evolve into new channels that also stay true to who we’ve been for the past 50 years, and even though there are a lot of new plans in the space as the running industry has grown and also as the number of runners that are running around the world has increased, no one can duplicate the authenticity and the heritage of the brand.

On her prime focus for the future (Jessica Murphy):
There are a couple of pieces; one is taking a look at our print and digital business and seeing how we can innovate there. And then there’s also a big focus for us to really understand what Runner’s World means when it comes to events. We obviously have our own Runner’s World Half & Festival, which we launched five years ago, but the number of events has increased across the country and across the globe, as running participation has increased. And we’ve really not has as solid or robust of a strategy when it comes to thinking about what Runner’s World means at these events.

On why he thinks it took the magazine industry as a whole many years to realize that magazine media can exist on all platforms and it’s not print versus digital or this versus that (David Willey): That’s a good question that probably has a complicated answer, but I’m sure part of it has to do with the fact that for decades we had this perfect business model of distributing this product, a print magazine, and people loved print and the primacy of print was certainly much higher over those decades and there were these two beautiful revenue streams; you had advertisers that wanted to reach the audience, and the audience was actually also paying to have this very high quality product delivered to them every week or every month, or they were buying it on the newsstand. I think as an industry we got very comfortable and maybe even a little bit spoiled by that amazing business model.

David Willey

David Willey



On whether he thinks his job as editor in chief is easier or harder today than it was before he had infinite space (David Willey):
I think it’s become harder. I think all editors in chief have harder jobs than they had a decade ago. It’s been so interesting to be in this field and to have this career for the past 20 years or so, because it really has coincided with the digital revolution and the evolution of the Smartphone and the tablet; all of these things. I’ve been fortunate enough to live through, and actually work through these things.

On whether she feels she could do her job if the print component did not exist (Jessica Murphy):
I don’t see a time for Runner’s World where the magazine does not exist, because it is such a vital storytelling channel. We are spending time making sure the magazine does what it does best, which is bring to life stories in immersive ways that make the reading experience fundamentally different if you were to read the content online. We’re probably spending even more time thinking that through because yes, you can read a lot of the magazine pieces online, but how do we create this feeling with our readers where they cannot wait to get the magazine every month? And when they read it the magazine feels like it’s a reflection of them and David’s thing is that he wants people to read Runner’s World and feel inspired to go for a run immediately after.

On the concrete difference between being in the journalism business and the content business (David Willey): I would say that we’re in both. I think a lot of people just use content as an umbrella term and I don’t necessarily mean to suggest that people who use the word content are in opposition to journalism. I think it’s just sort of a catch-all term. But I do think there are differences, at least in my mind. And I think content includes things like training plans and it includes different mediums like video and audio. And it includes tips about topics that we know our audience comes to us for, such as training and nutrition; injury prevention and running shoe reviews. All of that stuff is content for sure. And we used to make the best stuff and put it out there and wait for people to go get it. And that model is gone, or nearly gone. So, what that means is today as journalists we still need to think every day about making the best stuff, but we need to be just as good at getting that stuff directly under people’s noses or the first part doesn’t matter nearly as much, the first part being making it in the first place.

On the recently named “Best Shoe in the World” by Runner’s World and whether they’re the only qualified brand in the world to name that honor (David Willey): The answer is yes, no question that Runner’s World really is the only brand, media property, magazine; whatever word you want to use; no one else can do that. And that’s for a few reasons. Number one: and Jessica just touched on this, one of the first things I did when I started this job was set up what we call the “Shoe Lab.” And it’s a big investment every year, and we conduct mechanical tests on hundreds of shoes every year that, to be honest, most shoe companies don’t even do. It’s very rigorous; we’re tearing shoes apart; we’re pounding and prodding them; we’re getting amazing amounts of objective, scientific data. And then we’re combining that with the human runner feedback; the subjective data that we get from the 300 or 400 wear-testers that we have around the country.

On anything either of them would like to add (Jessica Murphy): I think overall I’ve been here just under three months and I’ve had a really great experience learning the team and getting an understanding of how we operate, and I feel like everyone is inspired and excited to do some new and exciting things, and so my job will be identifying where it makes sense for Runner’s World to play and finding the right place for us to intersect our brand with helping runners get better and better, whether that’s losing weight or staying fit; running to destress; just whatever their needs are.

Jessica Murphy

Jessica Murphy



On anything either of them would like to add (David Willey):
I’ll add a couple of thoughts. Back to your question about what goes on in my brain; one thing that’s interesting about this brand and something that I want everyone to be aware of is we are a dual gender audience. We’re pretty much straight up, 50/50, male/female and that shifts a little bit with every MRI study; maybe we’re a little bit more female in one reporting period, a little less, but basically we’re 50/50. That’s pretty rare these days.

On what someone would find them doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at either of their homes (Jessica Murphy): In my downtime I do a lot of running, no surprise there, but that normally happens in the mornings. So, at night I’m relaxing pretty well, because I wake up early to run. I love to cook, so when I have time I’ll be at home cooking and I do spend time binge-watching something on Netflix. I’m a big fan of House of Cards, but I actually have recently read a book about trying to get better sleep to improve your health, which involves turning off the screens before bedtime, so I am trying to get more into listening to Podcasts at night and also reading books.

On what someone would find them doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at either of their homes (David Willey):
My wife and I have three kids and our life is quite an adventure. We have a teenaged daughter and two boys, 12 and 7-years-old. So, I spend as much time as I possibly can with them in the evenings. And I’m very conscious about not having screens around when I’m with them. I put the phone away; I put the iPad away; and on a good night we eat dinner together. That happens a couple times per week. Often we’re outside, especially the boys. They’re still at the age where they want to throw the football in the backyard with their dad. And do stuff like that.

On what keeps them up at night (Jessica Murphy):
I’m still fairly new at my job, so we’re obviously in our 2017 planning season, and I think I’m in information overload. I have had back-to-back meetings with so many people and I see the potential and the opportunities here and I just want everything to happen right away. So, what keeps me up at night is I want to develop the right plan to make sure that we can have the right process in place to implement change and making sure that we can move fast enough for the industry.

On what keeps them up at night (David Willey):
One of the great things about being a runner and training for things like triathlons and marathons is that I’m pretty damned tired at night. Every now and then I’ll wake up in the middle of the night because of something stressful going on at work or just uncertainty about our business and our industry. This field that I got into a couple of decades ago because I loved it so much; there’s a small part of me that’s definitely sad. I don’t think it’s dying, but it’s certainly changing.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with David Willey, editor in chief, & Jessica Murphy, managing director, Runner’s World magazine.

Samir Husni: Congratulations on turning 50 years young in 2016. That’s quite a milestone.

David Willey: Thank you. I can accept those well wishes as the editor of Runner’s World and I can also accept them personally because I turn 50-years-old next year, so I’m roughly the same age as the magazine. (Laughs) I actually wrote something in my editor’s letter in the anniversary issue about this. I am simultaneously amused and humbled in a very cool way by the knowledge that this magazine was born a year or so before I was. And I’ve been here about 13½ years now and I’ve always thought of my job as being a sort of caretaker of this institution that’s been around for a long time and really one that hasn’t had that many editors in chief. Amby Burfoot preceded me here and he’s been associated with the magazine for almost 30 years.

So, it’s never been lost on me that Runner’s World has been around for five decades and has been such an important part of our readers’ lives. It’s done certain things very well and it’s really reflected the times that we’ve lived in. And running has changed so much. It’s been really interesting with this anniversary to look back and see how the magazine over the years has reflected the eras in which it was living.

But it’s also not lost on me that we’re in a different place now. The media space is very different and we need to change; we need to evolve. And it’s been a secondary reminder when we were looking back at five decades of issues, that’s what Runner’s World has always done. It started with a completely different name; it started with the name Distance Running News, and then evolved into The Runner’s World. The word “the” was dropped and then the magazine was sold to Rodale and it was combined with another magazine called The Runner, so it has always evolved. It has never been the same thing for five decades.

And that’s been very encouraging because we know that we need to continually reach new audiences and make sure that the brand Runner’s World is expressing itself in the best possible way today. And the brand is a print magazine, and of course, it’s a website, but it’s lots of other things as well, including video, audio, social media, products and events. And I feel like we’re really well-positioned to continue to serve this amazing audience that we have in all of these new ways. We can be wherever they need us and want us to be.

It can be hard for a brand that’s 50-years-old to be in that position, but I think we’re pretty unique in that way. I’m actually more encouraged that we have this heritage than I am worried that we’re wedded to the past.

Samir Husni: Jessica, let me ask you as the new managing director, you have a major brand that’s been thrown into your lap, one that’s globally known; what’s the plan for the next 50 years?
Jessica Murphy: I’m extremely honored and excited to be a part of the brand. I’ve been a fan of the magazine for as long as I’ve been a runner myself. My first training program, I obsessed over the magazines’ and the websites’ content as I trained for my first marathon. I think what gets me excited is the strength of the brand and knowing that as we evolve into new channels that also stay true to who we’ve been for the past 50 years, and even though there are a lot of new plans in the space as the running industry has grown and also as the number of runners that are running around the world has increased, no one can duplicate the authenticity and the heritage of the brand. And we have to lean into that while also evolving where we stand.

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Samir Husni: If we’re sitting down and having this interview again in one year; what would you hope to tell me? From your 50th anniversary, which we’re discussing now, what are your future expectations for the magazine now that you’re onboard?

Jessica Murphy: There are a couple of pieces; one is taking a look at our print and digital business and seeing how we can innovate there. And then there’s also a big focus for us to really understand what Runner’s World means when it comes to events. We obviously have our own Runner’s World Half & Festival, which we launched five years ago, but the number of events has increased across the country and across the globe, as running participation has increased. And we’ve really not has as solid or robust of a strategy when it comes to thinking about what Runner’s World means at these events.

And we know races are so important to runners; it’s where they see the culmination of all of their hard work and dedication, so it’s a very important interaction for us to understand. And then we need to think about how events can scale into those places.

And the other piece is training. As I mentioned, my first marathon training program was a Runner’s World training plan, but obviously there are a lot more players in the space, and the way people approach training is a lot different than they used to.

For us, I think it will be evolving training beyond just what it is right now, which is kind of like your basic training program telling you what miles to run and how fast to run them, without thinking through the whole approach. So, that’s my other big project. And again, all of these I think are at the core of what Runner’s World needs as a brand and will come to life in ways that go beyond what you see now, which is the magazine and the website.

Samir Husni: And David, the brand is on every platform that has so far been invented. You can find Runner’s World in print, digital, events; you name it. Why do you think it took the magazine industry as a whole five to six years before they recognized that we can exist on all platforms; it’s not print versus digital or this versus that?

David Willey: That’s a good question that probably has a complicated answer, but I’m sure part of it has to do with the fact that for decades we had this perfect business model of distributing this product, a print magazine, and people loved print and the primacy of print was certainly much higher over those decades and there were these two beautiful revenue streams; you had advertisers that wanted to reach the audience, and the audience was actually also paying to have this very high quality product delivered to them every week or every month, or they were buying it on the newsstand. I think as an industry we got very comfortable and maybe even a little bit spoiled by that amazing business model.

And I don’t mean that to sound overly critical; I think this industry is full of incredibly creative and innovative people. And a lot of it was just because that became kind of our core business; the creation and distribution of this certain kind of product in a certain kind of way that became very efficient and was really a very successful model for a long, long time.

It can be really hard to evolve away from something like that, especially in an environment where it’s not so clear that the audience is willing to pay for content in these new ways. And if they are willing to pay, they’re probably not willing to pay the kinds of prices that they’re used to paying for print. And it’s not entirely clear that advertisers necessarily want to pay the same kinds of CPMs (cost per thousand); they don’t have to in the digital realm, where it’s much more driven by programmatic buying and lower CPMs and all the rest. So, suddenly, these two unassailable revenue streams, at least they were unassailable for decades, have become quite vulnerable.

So, suddenly as an industry I don’t think we were operating from a position of strength from a business model standpoint. And we’re still probably reckoning with the decision we all made individually a decade or so ago, but sort of as an industry too, that we would give away a lot of content on the web for free, and it’s harder to move from that toward charging for quality content now digitally.

And of course, there has been the evolution of the Smartphone, which is really becoming THE number one way that people consume all kinds of content, whether it’s print, or video, and increasingly audio. It’s a small screen and it’s a platform that’s really dominated by the big tech companies like Apple, and it’s not entirely clear where the publisher’s place is in that ecosystem. So, I think it’s taken us a long time because it’s been very hard and there has been so much disruption, both in people’s habits and also in the new players that are kind of dominating the media sphere, some of whom didn’t even exist a decade ago.

Again, I think there are a lot of very innovative and creative people in our business and I’m optimistic actually that the business models will emerge and that quality journalism, and I’m using that word instead of the buzzword “content,” which I’m so sick of; it’s so commoditized and I think it doesn’t actually do us any favors to talk about what we do in a commoditized way. What we do is make great journalism and that takes many forms. That can be service journalism; it can be storytelling; it can be investigative reporting; and I think that’s what we as an industry do and do very, very well.

And I do think that there is a lot more disruption coming, 2017 is going to be just as disruptive as the past two years have been, especially for television, in particular. I don’t think the disruption will ever stop, but once things start to normalize, quality journalism is going to be a key differentiator. We’ve seen that in the election, with all of the fake news and some of the other controversies around how news stories are elevated on social media, like Facebook. And maybe I’m idealistic, but I really do think that people will demand and choose high quality information, entertainment, storytelling and journalism. And that’s going to be the key to our success going forward.

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Samir Husni: This is the first time that I’ve heard someone differentiate between content and journalism. I was reading a lecture from one of my professors from Missouri recently that was written in 1970, and he was talking about the demise and decline of journalism. And in one of his quotes he said, “The minute a journalist starts commenting on the news, he or she is no longer a journalist.” So, I love that differentiation between content and journalism, and you being the ex-president of ASME (American Society of Magazine Editors) and very involved with the industry as a whole, besides just Runner’s World; if I go inside your mind, how do you decide what’s great for the magazine or mobile or the web? Has your job become harder or easier because of the infinite space now available?

David Willey: (Laughs) I think it’s become harder. I think all editors in chief have harder jobs than they had a decade ago. It’s been so interesting to be in this field and to have this career for the past 20 years or so, because it really has coincided with the digital revolution and the evolution of the Smartphone and the tablet; all of these things. I’ve been fortunate enough to live through, and actually work through these things.

When I started here, really my only job was to make the best magazine that we could make every 30 days. If we had a national partner we communicated with them a bit, and we had a website, but it was sort of managed by a couple of other people who sat – well, I’m not even sure where they sat. I had nothing to do with the early website; it really was just make a magazine, the best magazine you can; that is our business. And now that’s just a sliver of what my job is and what my team’s job is.

Let me give you an example that I hope will answer your question and it’s a very good question. Over the summer, and I’m sure you remember that there were those three murders of female runners within nine days of each other. They were unrelated, and the stories were national news. Of course, they brought a lot of commentary from the mainstream media about how running can be dangerous and what female runners in particular need to do or not do to stay safe. And we had an editorial meeting to talk about all of these things and to discuss what, if anything, we felt like we should publish about these murders and the commentary that surrounded them.

In that meeting I learned from some of my female staffers that being abducted or attacked or God forbid, murdered, was fortunately incredibly rare, something like that rarely, rarely happens to runners. But what is incredibly common for female runners is to be harassed while they’re running. And I was totally unaware of that and I even asked, “What do you mean harassed? What kind of harassment?”

And several members of my staff started talking about how pretty much every time they went out running by themselves or with other women, they would get catcalls and propositioned and even followed sometimes. And it was clear that this wasn’t just annoying to them, although it is annoying, I’m sure. It can also be really frightening. So, this was clearly a story that wasn’t being talked about and it hadn’t been reported anywhere before, so we immediately started a print story, but it was also immediately a web story because we put a survey up on our website to ask our own readers about this topic and we received over 4,500 responses. It was really overwhelming. And we produced a very strong print piece that because of timelines and lineups and all of the rest, we weren’t able to publish until our December issue.

But I pretty much knew going in that we were going to lead with this story online. And we were actually going to publish our work on our website before anyone saw it in print. And I also pretty much knew that we were going to create some audio content on this for one of our podcasts So, 10 years ago this story would have taken much longer to do because we wouldn’t have been able to get so much response from our readers as quickly as we did. It would have gone into a print issue that would have been shipped on a certain date and read by the audience two to three months later. And now we’re at a time where the print schedule still happens, but we have the opportunity to publish it in real time; we have the opportunity to publish multimedia around this and make it a much more immersive and impactful and emotional kind of story.

So, that’s harder on one hand, because there’s more work to do and it’s more complex; the planning is more complex. You need to have the talent on your staff that can do all of that, but it’s also great to feel that you have that kind of versatility as a journalist and a storyteller to be as relevant as quickly as you can and to be as impactful as you can possibly be using all of these different tools.

Samir Husni: Jessica, can you do what you’re doing, in terms of your role at the magazine, if you do not have that print component?

Jessica Murphy: I don’t see a time for Runner’s World where the magazine does not exist, because it is such a vital storytelling channel. We are spending time making sure the magazine does what it does best, which is bring to life stories in immersive ways that make the reading experience fundamentally different if you were to read the content online. We’re probably spending even more time thinking that through because yes, you can read a lot of the magazine pieces online, but how do we create this feeling with our readers where they cannot wait to get the magazine every month? And when they read it the magazine feels like it’s a reflection of them and David’s thing is that he wants people to read Runner’s World and feel inspired to go for a run immediately after.

I feel like Runner’s World.com serves a much more utilitarian purpose. A lot of times people come to search and they’re looking for very specific information, such as on an injury or training or they’re coming through social because they’ve seen a very specific piece that they’re interested in. There is still joy in magazines where it’s very purposefully put together by an edit team and that magazine may serve you a piece of content that you weren’t expecting. So, even though print publishing is challenged, we still believe in the value of the medium; we just may be using it in different ways so it balances with all of our other digital channels.

And I actually think as we accelerate our innovation on our digital channels, the website and social; it will invite even more people to the magazine, because there are still millions of runners out there who aren’t subscribing to the magazine and I think as we increase our exposure to them on digital and social, that will invite them into the brand.

Samir Husni: David, I want to expand a little on that differentiation between doing journalism and doing content, because I’ve heard from a few folks in the industry, including some CEOs, who have said that we’re in the content business, but you’re telling me that you’re in the journalism business. Can you give me a little more concrete difference between the two?

David Willey: Yes, although I would say that we’re in both. I think a lot of people just use content as an umbrella term and I don’t necessarily mean to suggest that people who use the word content are in opposition to journalism. I think it’s just sort of a catch-all term.

But I do think there are differences, at least in my mind. And I think content includes things like training plans and it includes different mediums like video and audio. And it includes tips about topics that we know our audience comes to us for, such as training and nutrition; injury prevention and running shoe reviews. All of that stuff is content for sure. And we need to be great at producing it and we need to be just as good, and this is another key difference in my job and really any editor’s job; we still focus everyday on making the best stuff.

And we used to make the best stuff and put it out there and wait for people to go get it. And that model is gone, or nearly gone. So, what that means is today as journalists we still need to think every day about making the best stuff, but we need to be just as good at getting that stuff directly under people’s noses or the first part doesn’t matter nearly as much, the first part being making it in the first place. We have to make it and we need to get it under people’s noses. And that’s part of our job as journalists.

So, I’m not opposed to the term content, but when I think the difference between content and journalism really matters is when it comes to things like long form storytelling; and investigative reporting; and great graphic design; and memorable, high-impact photography; those elements that take time, skill and take investment in the form of money and talent, often get lost or go by the wayside when people are building and sort of thinking of themselves as content factories.

I guess what I’m talking about is quality and a commitment to quality and a commitment to not necessarily knowing that what it is you’re working on is already guaranteed to be clicked on by your audience.

Jessica Murphy: I would also add that our shoe guides are a great example of the quality journalism produced by Runner’s World, because there are a lot of newer outlets that will review shoes, but not in the same rigor or process that we do at Runner’s World. The number of different types of runners who will test the shoe, or own shoe lab; so to me that’s a perfect example of what we’re known for, one of our most important facets of the brand. And why we’re so different from other outlets that do it, that may be producing content and writing about the shoe, but the process in which they go about it is much different.

David Willey: I think one of the things that I object to with the term content, and again, I don’t mean to impugn people across the board, but sometimes in the digital sphere particularly, content just means words and pictures. And words and pictures are pretty much anywhere. We can get words and pictures from our audience. Entire companies have been founded and gone bankrupt on the model of user-generated content.

And as a journalist what I have been heartened to see is that I think there is a realization now that content is not easy. Content is actually hard. It’s not just words and pictures and an article template and a social media post. It’s actually judgement and reporting skill; the talent that goes into finding stories that aren’t right there on the surface; and it’s surprising and delighting people in ways that they don’t expect. And that doesn’t show up in their algorithms and the cookies that everybody has attached to them as they move around the Internet.

So, I think it’s important to do both; I really do. I don’t want to sound overly high-minded about this. It’s an important job at Runner’s World to deliver the quick hits of advice and training plans, and a lot of people would consider that content, but I think that if that’s all we do, then we’re going to be in trouble. It goes back to creating a feeling and hitting on our audience’s emotions and their practical needs, but also their heart and soul. I think Runner’s World as a brand needs to be tools and tips, but it also has to have heart and soul.

Samir Husni: Recently you announced the “Best Shoe in the World” and it involved all 20 of your editors in the global editions of Runner’s World. Do you see that as something only Runner’s World can do, not only the best shoe in the United States, but the best shoe in the world?

David Willey: (Laughs) The answer is yes, no question that Runner’s World really is the only brand, media property, magazine; whatever word you want to use; no one else can do that. And that’s for a few reasons. Number one: and Jessica just touched on this, one of the first things I did when I started this job was set up what we call the “Shoe Lab.” And it’s a big investment every year, and we conduct mechanical tests on hundreds of shoes every year that, to be honest, most shoe companies don’t even do. It’s very rigorous; we’re tearing shoes apart; we’re pounding and prodding them; we’re getting amazing amounts of objective, scientific data. And then we’re combining that with the human runner feedback; the subjective data that we get from the 300 or 400 wear-testers that we have around the country.

We put these shoes on their feet and they give us regular feedback and it’s those two channels that really inform our shoe reviews. And nobody else does that; there is no other magazine or brand that does that.

And then the second piece is as you said earlier in the conversation, we have editions in 20 countries now. So, for the “Best Shoe in the World” it’s sort of like the crème de la crème; it’s a subset of the best shoes we can test throughout the year here in the Shoe Lab and then we get together with the experts in our international editions, and they’re factoring in their opinions of the shoe and what they’re hearing from their audience, and sort of narrowing it down into one overall winner. It’s pretty good branding. The “Best Shoe in the World,” it’s pretty clear and unassailable and it’s cool to be able to do it that way.

And again, I just want to emphasize this isn’t opinion or we’re not going from press releases; we feel like we’re able to kind of stand up and say something so declarative because of what we put into our testing process.

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

Jessica Murphy: I think overall I’ve been here just under three months and I’ve had a really great experience learning the team and getting an understanding of how we operate, and I feel like everyone is inspired and excited to do some new and exciting things, and so my job will be identifying where it makes sense for Runner’s World to play and finding the right place for us to intersect our brand with helping runners get better and better, whether that’s losing weight or staying fit; running to destress; just whatever their needs are.

I think on top of the publishing industry and the media industry becoming so complex, runners have also gotten more complex. Ten years ago most people running, there was a smaller universe of runners who were a lot more likeminded and tended to be a more competitive runner. And now the running industry has boomed so much, you have a lot of people who are running for fun or running for charity; it’s amazing. So, we’ve had to kind of think about how we serve all of these new people, which is great, but also challenging on top of the channel mix that we’ve already discussed.

Overall, for the future of Runner’s World, I think we have a lot of opportunity and hopefully in another year we’ll be talking about all of these exciting new things we’re doing.

David Willey: I’ll add a couple of thoughts. Back to your question about what goes on in my brain; one thing that’s interesting about this brand and something that I want everyone to be aware of is we are a dual gender audience. We’re pretty much straight up, 50/50, male/female and that shifts a little bit with every MRI study; maybe we’re a little bit more female in one reporting period, a little less, but basically we’re 50/50. That’s pretty rare these days.

And we think about that every time we’re making the magazine; we think about it in terms of the visual; we make sure that we feel like every issue of the magazine speaks to all runners. But of course, you can’t do that on every, single page. But whether you’re a man or a woman or a new runner who isn’t even sure how to get started or someone who has been running marathons for 20 years, Runner’s World is for all runners. And that can be complicated when you’re thinking about dual gender and different stages of running experience. But it’s also a lot of fun.

And the other thing that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is others. Again, going back to this model that we’ve had for so long; the newsstand appears to be kind of going the way of the telephone booth, quite literally. I was in New York for a week for the marathon recently and I lived in New York for 13 years; and just walking around the City, I literally, several times, would stop and think to myself that there used to be a newsstand where I had stopped. And it was gone.

Just in the way when I lived in New York City in the early ‘90s, I used to walk around and there were pay phones there. There are fewer newsstands than there has been, and there will probably be even fewer a year from now. And the newsstands that are still around are carrying fewer magazines. They’re carrying more iPhone chargers and neck pillows and other high-margin knickknacks.

As an editor I think the question is what is the job of a magazine cover in 2016 and going forward? I’m not saying that I don’t want to sell copies on newsstands, of course I do, but I think a magazine cover’s job is more diverse and complicated than it used to be. It’s equally about share-ability on social media; it’s equally about saying something about your brand and reaching new audiences, while trying to speak to your core audience as well.

We had a really, really fun month right around our November, 50th anniversary issue, with the covers that we did, with Kevin Hart and Alexi Pappas, and the throwback covers. It was certainly a departure for us to do them in that way, but appropriate for a 50th anniversary. And the way that we went about it was we wanted to produce something that delighted people, both new runners and also our current readers. And that flew around the Internet with energy and enthusiasm and maybe got Runner’s World noticed by people who weren’t really paying attention to it to begin with.

Is that going to be our bestseller on newsstand? No, I can tell you that with utter certainty. But was it a successful cover? I think yes, it was. Again, because of the way that we editors need to think in a more complex way about what our covers are supposed to do in this media age.

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

Jessica Murphy: In my downtime I do a lot of running, no surprise there, but that normally happens in the mornings. So, at night I’m relaxing pretty well, because I wake up early to run. I love to cook, so when I have time I’ll be at home cooking and I do spend time binge-watching something on Netflix. I’m a big fan of House of Cards, but I actually have recently read a book about trying to get better sleep to improve your health, which involves turning off the screens before bedtime, so I am trying to get more into listening to Podcasts at night and also reading books.

David Willey: My wife and I have three kids and our life is quite an adventure. We have a teenaged daughter and two boys, 12 and 7-years-old. So, I spend as much time as I possibly can with them in the evenings. And I’m very conscious about not having screens around when I’m with them. I put the phone away; I put the iPad away; and on a good night we eat dinner together. That happens a couple times per week. Often we’re outside, especially the boys. They’re still at the age where they want to throw the football in the backyard with their dad. And do stuff like that.

And then once everybody is fed and in bed and that usually doesn’t all get accomplished until 9:00 p.m. or so, you’ll see a lot of books in my house. I love to read and I try to read as much fiction as I can, because my days are so consumed with journalism. Fiction really is a great way to unwind and sort of get lost in stories. And I love print books; I don’t like reading books onscreen. In my house, you would see some overstuffed bookshelves. I think I must have over 1,000 books in my house.

And believe it or not, I try to get to bed at a decent hour. On a good night I’m actually asleep before 11:00 p.m. I’ve been known to binge-watch some shows, certainly. But the problem with binge-watching is, I’ve also been known to start watching one show at 9:30 p.m. and it’s so easy to just say, “OK, I’ll just watch that next episode.” And Netflix and Amazon have gotten so good at making it so seamless and frictionless to just keep going. I’ve been downstairs at 1:30 a.m. on a Tuesday night having just watched my third episode of House of Cards and I think how ridiculous that is. (Laughs) So, I actually binge-watch less now during the week than I used to and I’m up by 6:00 a.m. And I try to find the time to get a run or a bike ride or a workout in, either in the morning or during the day sometime. Kind of boring, but again, I’m a nearing-50-year-old dad who has a fun and crazy job. At the end of each day and at the end of each week, what I’m kind of going for is balance.

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

Jessica Murphy: I’m still fairly new at my job, so we’re obviously in our 2017 planning season, and I think I’m in information overload. I have had back-to-back meetings with so many people and I see the potential and the opportunities here and I just want everything to happen right away. So, what keeps me up at night is I want to develop the right plan to make sure that we can have the right process in place to implement change and making sure that we can move fast enough for the industry. That is something I have tried to push out of my brain for the last couple of weeks because I see the things that need to happen and I want them to happen right away, but I know these things take time. Really good quality takes time.

David Willey: One of the great things about being a runner and training for things like triathlons and marathons is that I’m pretty damned tired at night. Every now and then I’ll wake up in the middle of the night because of something stressful going on at work or just uncertainty about our business and our industry. This field that I got into a couple of decades ago because I loved it so much; there’s a small part of me that’s definitely sad. I don’t think it’s dying, but it’s certainly changing. And I think that there are some of the things that I value about t that aren’t as valued as they used to be by our readers. And stuff like that bothers me and occasionally it wakes me up at night, but a combination of being tired from running hard that day and grabbing one of those books off of the top of my stack next to my bed; in 10 or 15 minutes I’m good. I can sleep again.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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The Chronicle of Higher Education Celebrates Its Milestone 50 – While Still Keeping An Eye On Washington & An Eye On Academia – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Liz McMillen, Editor, The Chronicle Of Higher Education.

November 15, 2016

che-anthology-cover

“I think we really had to have some soul-searching and grappling in the past year about whether or not it’s possible to produce a news publication in a weekly format. And we decided that it was not. That news, as conventionally understood, can’t be done in a weekly format anymore. So, what we’re trying to do with the print edition is make it something that’s not news, but that is still enormously valuable to our readers. For 50 years we’ve had to continually define what news means; what does the key news and information mean for our audience?” Liz McMillen

For 50 years, in the world of Washington D.C. and the realms of academia, there has been a “watchdog” standing on every corner when it comes to issues that pertain to higher education and policies of government that are relevant to that sphere – that keeper of checks and balances is The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Chronicle of Higher Education was officially founded in 1966 by Corbin Gwaltney and its first issue was launched on November 23, 1966. And although it was originally founded for those who were professionally connected to higher education, it was also then a prevalent point that many in the general populace knew very little about what was going on in the world of academia or the issues that were involved there.

Today, the Chronicle is celebrating 50 years of publishing excellence and is still keeping a close watch on the powers-that-be in Washington, namely our new presidential team, and on the diverse and often complex world of universities and colleges all over the nation. With the uncertainty of a new presidency and the current issues that campuses are experiencing, the Chronicle continues to maintain its journalistic principles of quality, while also never drawing a long breath, as its reason for existence is even more important today than it was 50 years ago in the mid-‘60s.

First issue of The Chronicle

First issue of The Chronicle

Liz McMillen is the editor  of The Chronicle of Higher Education, and for the last five years since assuming that role, Liz has been guiding the helm of the milestone publication, keeping it on track and on its 50-year mission of producing great journalism about every facet of American colleges and universities.

I spoke with Liz recently and we talked about the Chronicle’s past, present and future in this unprecedented era of ever-changing media and political upheaval. From the ‘60s to today, the publication has seen many presidencies and many academic changes that have made it reach and grow, both in print – with a recent redesign – and digitally, as it keeps up with the fast-paced world of real time.

I hope that you enjoy this look into the world of higher education and the political domains that tend to affect those hallowed halls as you read the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Liz McMillen, editor, The Chronicle of Higher Education.

But first the sound-bites:

Liz McMillen photo by Jay Premack

Liz McMillen photo by Jay Premack

On whether she feels the The Chronicle of Higher Education has kept up with the times over its 50-year publishing history: There has been a remarkable amount of change and transformation in higher education over the last 50 years and we have tried to be there every step of the way monitoring what’s happening and trying to explain this complicated transformation, as well as a complicated sector of institutions to this audience, so it has kept us busy.On how they are preparing for the new presidential administration and the changes in education that may come along with it: We’ve seen a lot of presidential administrations; we’ve seen previous Republican administrations with the same kind of vow to do away with the Department of Education and other sorts of things. Like everybody else in the world, we’re trying to figure out exactly what shape this is all going to take. But we have very experienced journalists here who have covered policy and presidential changes for years. We have many, many years of experience. We once tried to put together the collective number of years that all of our reporters represented, and it’s well into the hundreds, so they know what they’re doing. And they have a plan for trying to have a very policy-based focused group of reporters for the foreseeable future, until things become clearer.

On whether she feels the role of “watchdog” that the Chronicle has always played is more important than ever in this digital age: Yes, absolutely. I keep coming back to this point about how diverse the institutions are that make up the higher education sector. And we have a lot of ground to cover. You’ve probably heard a lot in the last year or two about the problems with the “for-profit” sector. That just came up in the last couple of decades, the growth of those institutions. That’s something that we’ve had to pay a lot of attention to. And I mentioned the sexual assault problems that have come up. You’ve got so many different kinds of people; it’s our responsibility to try and find the common themes and the issues that are going to be relevant to them. So, I think that there’s so much information coming at people right now and they need a very trusted and reliable, authoritative source to really decipher a very changing sector. As this world has gotten so much more complex, our mission has become more important than ever.

The newly redesigned Chronicle...

The newly redesigned Chronicle…

On how she decides as an editor, what’s a print story and what’s a digital story: A very good question, and one that we’ve been working on for the last two or three years, in terms of what’s the right staff configuration for that. We have a newsroom of about 65 people: editors, designers, journalists; you can ask them all to do everything, and that’s not going to really work. Two years ago we actually went through a pretty serious staff reorganization, where we carved out a group of editors and reporters who are going to be very digital-first. And that was their marching orders, what they needed to do.On the differences in benefits between the sites licensed reader and the digital subscriber reader on the Chronicle’s online presence: In addition to creating a different sort of feel for print, we’re also trying to differentiate the individual subscriber and what that person gets, and there are a new set of benefits that that person gets, versus the thousands of people who read us on site licenses. And don’t get me wrong, site licenses are a fabulous development for us; it brings our content and the complete contents of the web to your entire university, so anybody on a university computer can be viewing the Chronicle. But we do think it’s important to put a certain kind of reader who counts first. And the readers who really count for us are the individual subscribers. There are a number of publications that have been pursuing this path and we’ve had loyal readers subscribing to us for 30, 40 and 50 years and they’re incredibly loyal, so we have steadily moved our business model to where we are focusing as much as possible on those subscribers.

On the biggest stumbling block that she’s had to overcome since becoming editor five years ago: I don’t know that it’s so much of a stumbling block per se, but I would say that it’s a continued challenge and sometimes we deal with it better than others. I have been referring to how diverse our audience is; you have faculty members at an Ivy League institution that have tenure and have full research budgets, complete with research assistants. Then down the road there is a community college with faculty who teach in a very, very different setting.

On her most pleasant moment since becoming editor: I would say that I experience a bit of it every day working with the people that I work with who are incredibly talented and very, very devoted. But I will say that just in the last week, just like every newsroom, on a Tuesday night at about 9:00 p.m. our breaking news staff had to turn on a dime and come up with a completely different cover plan about what a Trump presidency was going to mean for higher education. With the little knowledge that we have about what his platform actually entails.

On anything else she’d like to add: One of the things that we came to realize as we were doing our print redesign this year was the continuing evolving nature of what a news publication is. I think I mentioned at the beginning that there was no publication whatsoever, and we came out every other week at the beginning. We were an eight page tabloid newspaper, and over time we evolved into a weekly newspaper, and all through the ‘80s and ‘90s we were the only source of information and explanation for what was happening in the world. Of course, in the ‘90s the Internet came along and the whole notion of news became completely upended.

On how being within the pages of The Chronicle of Higher Education offers a type of legitimacy to those people and topics featured: It’s a big responsibility as we edit our pages, but when we write about something, whether it’s a problem or whether it’s a solution or just an insight, we are giving legitimacy on our pages. That is something that we’ve heard over and over again. Colleges want to be in our pages; there is almost a kind of display prestige to it, so we’re actually trying to think more thoughtfully about that, and we’re adding more data to the print issue that shows, for example, how colleges compare on different measures.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: I can tell you that I have a very large stack of magazines in my living room; they’re always there and they cover the gamut with all kinds of interests. I’m a huge fan of magazines; I don’t think they’re ever going to go away, and I love reading them. I love the tactile sensation of them. But I’m also on the iPad, because at night you get the chance to kind of read around and see what other innovative outlets are doing. So, the iPad is a great thing for that.

On what keeps her up at night: Stepping back, when I was in college in the ‘80s, could I have predicted that we would be at this particular moment for media, or for that matter, for higher education? Who would have imagined when we were working on a college paper that so many publications would be struggling and gutting and transforming? So, I think we’re in a moment of continual change, continual evolution, and you just have to get comfortable with that and stay comfortable with it, because I don’t think that’s going away.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Liz McMillen, editor, The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Samir Husni: Congratulations on the 50th anniversary of The Chronicle of Higher Education. It’s one of the best-kept secrets in journalism today. As you reach this milestone, a lot of changes have taken place, both in academia and in the magazine business. As you were developing that 50th anniversary anthology; how did the Chronicle keep up with the times; or do you think that you did, indeed, keep up with the times over the years?

che-anthology-coverLiz McMillen: That’s a really great question. The Chronicle started in 1966 and you think about what the world of journalism was like and what the world of higher education was like then. There was no such vehicle; no publication that actually told people on campuses what was happening in Washington and what new policies were coming along, and there were a lot in the 1960s. And then of course, all the student protests and campus unrest started very soon after, so the Chronicle arrived at a very auspicious moment for a publication that was poised to cover this sector. That was very much our reason for existence for probably that first decade.

But at the same time through all of that unrest, the colleges and universities in this country were starting to expand exponentially, not only the number of institutions, but the number of students enrolling in college, and most importantly the kinds of students coming in to college. And we have really seen that trend accelerate over time, so that today when you think of the traditional college-aged, 18 to 22-year-old student living in a dorm at a private college, that is no longer the norm; that is actually the exception of what a college student looks like today.

There has been a remarkable amount of change and transformation in higher education over the last 50 years and we have tried to be there every step of the way monitoring what’s happening and trying to explain this complicated transformation, as well as a complicated sector of institutions to this audience, so it has kept us busy.

Samir Husni: And now you’re probably getting ready to be even busier with the upcoming changes that are coming to education based on our new presidential elections. How are you preparing for the future, based on your 50-year history; where do we go from here?

Liz McMillen: We’ve seen a lot of presidential administrations; we’ve seen previous Republican administrations with the same kind of vow to do away with the Department of Education and other sorts of things. Like everybody else in the world, we’re trying to figure out exactly what shape this is all going to take.

I think Mr. Trump was rather vague (Laughs) during the campaign about what he wants to do exactly with higher education. It never seemed like it was a very big priority, but he has made noises about really ramping back and simplifying the Department of Education. There has been a big push for all of these regulations that are coming out of Washington affecting colleges, some of the big ones that I’m sure a lot of people know about, including Title 9 about sexual assault. That is very much up in the air, whether that level of enforcement will continue in a Trump administration, at least from the federal point of view. I think colleges, and we were just reporting last week; colleges have a responsibility to deal with sexual assault and to take steps to mitigate against that, even if the OCR (Office for Civil Rights) and the Department of Education does not. So, I think that there are suggestions on where he might go, but no clear answers yet.

But we have very experienced journalists here who have covered policy and presidential changes for years. We have many, many years of experience. We once tried to put together the collective number of years that all of our reporters represented, and it’s well into the hundreds, so they know what they’re doing. And they have a plan for trying to have a very policy-based focused group of reporters for the foreseeable future, until things become clearer.

Samir Husni: Do you see yourself, especially now in this digital age, and your role at the Chronicle as more important than ever since the Chronicle has always been a sort of “watchdog” of academia and education?

The Chronicle before the redesign...

The Chronicle before the redesign…

Liz McMillen: Yes, absolutely. I keep coming back to this point about how diverse the institutions are that make up the higher education sector. And we have a lot of ground to cover. You’ve probably heard a lot in the last year or two about the problems with the “for-profit” sector. That just came up in the last couple of decades, the growth of those institutions. That’s something that we’ve had to pay a lot of attention to. And I mentioned the sexual assault problems that have come up.

We have so many different kinds of institutions and we have so many different kinds of readers. You’ve got everything from people who teach at community colleges, a very different kind of field, teaching 4/4 schedules and teaching under-prepared students, all the way through the big flagship institutions like your own, to the Ivy League. You’ve got so many different kinds of people; it’s our responsibility to try and find the common themes and the issues that are going to be relevant to them. So, I think that there’s so much information coming at people right now and they need a very trusted and reliable, authoritative source to really decipher a very changing sector. As this world has gotten so much more complex, our mission has become more important than ever.

Samir Husni: How are you balancing between the print side and the digital side of the Chronicle? As an editor, how do you make the decision of what is a print story and what is a digital story?

Liz McMillen: A very good question, and one that we’ve been working on for the last two or three years, in terms of what’s the right staff configuration for that. We have a newsroom of about 65 people: editors, designers, journalists; you can ask them all to do everything, and that’s not going to really work. Two years ago we actually went through a pretty serious staff reorganization, where we carved out a group of editors and reporters who are going to be very digital-first. And that was their marching orders, what they needed to do.

In the past, digital had been a bit of an afterthought, in the sense that we would just put what was in the print paper online. In 2014, we really kind of broke that attachment and said we are going to treat this platform, the digital-mobile platform, as an important platform in its own right. And we have staffed appropriately for it and we are going to emphasize breaking news and we’re going to tell our audience what they need to know in that moment. We’re going to explain things that are happening right then and there and we’re going to have the metabolism of a very fast newsroom.

On the other side we created a group of people that we call the weekly team that are really working at a longer pace, which gives them the opportunity to do pieces that have a lot more depth; a lot more context; they take some of the same issues that the breaking team has done and sort of spins them out forward. What does that decision over at that institution really mean for other colleges like it? I think we have two really strong tracks of reporters pursuing different angles on similar issues. So, that’s the first thing we did.

In the last year or so we’ve created a digital products team, which works as a group of people from editorial and tech, marketing and business to come together and figure out how we’re going to keep our website evolving continuously and making it better for readers every single day. We never had anything like that before. Technological improvements used to take what felt like years to accomplish. And it probably was years. (Laughs) But now we have a dedicated group that can just say if they want to have a better data presentation or want a certain page to have a different header, or different calls to action on another page, we have the people in place to really make that happen.

And the final evolution, I would say, was that we’ve gone from taking the print publication 20 years ago, and just putting it onto the web, and there wasn’t a whole lot of thought put to that, to thinking that we would do a lot of digital-first stuff and put it into print, but that wasn’t a good solution. So, right now, at this moment, we’re launching, since it’s our 50th anniversary, we are trying very hard to think about both print and digital very intentionally, and to plan and cater to the strengths that each has to offer.

The newly redesigned Chronicle...

The newly redesigned Chronicle…

So, we’ve launched this redesigned print edition recently that’s really attempting to emphasize problem-solving journalism. This is something that we heard loud and clear from a number of subscribers – that they’re dealing with so many different things and that they are looking for insights and ways to deal with student retention issues or how to educate first generation students. They’re looking to find out what other institutions are doing; what works and what doesn’t. So, we’ve developed a whole new stream of content that attempts to answer those questions. And that’s something that print can do and do very well. Print can do context and depth and deep, explanatory reporting. And that’s what people are getting now; they’re getting a revamped print edition that we’re really happy with.

Samir Husni: I understand there is a difference between your individual subscribers and the site licenses that also exist, in terms of coverage. Can you talk a bit about that?

Liz McMillen: In addition to creating a different sort of feel for print, we’re also trying to differentiate the individual subscriber and what that person gets, and there are a new set of benefits that that person gets, versus the thousands of people who read us on site licenses. And don’t get me wrong, site licenses are a fabulous development for us; it brings our content and the complete contents of the web to your entire university, so anybody on a university computer can be viewing the Chronicle.

But we do think it’s important to put a certain kind of reader who counts first. And the readers who really count for us are the individual subscribers. There are a number of publications that have been pursuing this path and we’ve had loyal readers subscribing to us for 30, 40 and 50 years and they’re incredibly loyal, so we have steadily moved our business model to where we are focusing as much as possible on those subscribers. We’re not forgetting the site licenses, but the subscribers are really the people who are most loyal and those are who we want to serve as best as we can.

And there may be some changes coming to the site licenses as well down the road; there may be new features that we can offer those readers, but our first step was to figure out what we could do to bring more value to the individuals who subscribe to the Chronicle.

Samir Husni: Since you became editor five years ago, what has been the major stumbling block that you’ve had to overcome?

Liz McMillen: I don’t know that it’s so much of a stumbling block per se, but I would say that it’s a continued challenge and sometimes we deal with it better than others. I have been referring to how diverse our audience is; you have faculty members at an Ivy League institution that have tenure and have full research budgets, complete with research assistants. Then down the road there is a community college with faculty who teach in a very, very different setting.

And at each institution you have administrators who are often seen as being at odds with faculty, so how do you write about and cover the major issues of the institution and not feel like you’re alienating one audience over another? If we write about an issue like the plight of adjunct faculty, which there are now millions in this country, that’s an issue that administrators have to deal with and if we take any kind of an advocacy type role in reporting about the adjunct faculty members, it doesn’t always sit quite the same way with administrators who have to manage a faculty workforce. These are complex issues and the academy is often a much politicized environment, as you probably know. You can write about a simple thing and find that you’ve fallen into a landmine.

And there are some issues like that. We just did a survey as part of the anniversary for our subscribers, asking should we being doing away with tenure, that kind of bedrock piece of academic freedom we have in this country that protects the academic and intellectual rights of faculty? Well, as you might imagine, 62 percent of the presidents that we talked to said that we should do away with tenure. I think it was 20-something percent of faculty. So, right there you have people at odds; you’ve got a very tight financial situation and there’s not a lot of new money coming into the system, so it’s strange. And I think that various constituent groups can be at odds, so navigating that as an editor and trying to find out what’s fair and useful; what’s going to serve readers of all sorts and over the course of a year can we feel like, yes, we have provided coverage that speaks to the issues of the executives at a campus, and yes, we’ve spoken to the issues of graduate students as well. So, there are a lot of different types of people to help.

Samir Husni: And what has been the most pleasant moment since you became editor?

Liz McMillen: I would say that I experience a bit of it every day working with the people that I work with who are incredibly talented and very, very devoted. But I will say that just in the last week, just like every newsroom, on a Tuesday night at about 9:00 p.m. our breaking news staff had to turn on a dime and come up with a completely different cover plan about what a Trump presidency was going to mean for higher education. With the little knowledge that we have about what his platform actually entails.

And they worked pretty much the entire night; they spun out a series of good stories, sketching these issues out, and then we followed in the next few days with some really good interpretive, explanatory journalism. Colleges and universities are now seen as part of the elite, and this election is kind of a repudiation of elite, so where does that leave us? What does that mean for core academic values and how are institutional leaders going to deal with that?

So, we keep looking for new angles to report that story and that all comes down to the smarts of my staff and the incredible expertise they have. They know this world; they don’t cover it the way a daily newspaper covers it. We dig in deep and we’re authoritative and we use data in the best way. My staff continues to impress and astonish me.

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

Liz McMillen: One of the things that we came to realize as we were doing our print redesign this year was the continuing evolving nature of what a news publication is. I think I mentioned at the beginning that there was no publication whatsoever, and we came out every other week at the beginning. We were an eight page tabloid newspaper, and over time we evolved into a weekly newspaper, and all through the ‘80s and ‘90s we were the only source of information and explanation for what was happening in the world. Of course, in the ‘90s the Internet came along and the whole notion of news became completely upended.

So, I think we really had to have some soul-searching and grappling in the past year about whether or not it’s possible to produce a news publication in a weekly format. And we decided that it was not. That news, as conventionally understood, can’t be done in a weekly format anymore. So, what we’re trying to do with the print edition is make it something that’s not news, but that is still enormously valuable to our readers. For 50 years we’ve had to continually define what news means; what does the key news and information mean for our audience?

And the Anthology that we’ve done for our 50th anniversary represents some of our finest reporting and writing, but also we were looking for issues that had a lasting meaning for the audience who picks this up, so I hope that it achieves that. I think that we covered a lot of bases with it and it was almost impossible to do. How many bound volumes that we went through over the summer.

Samir Husni: You know the thing about the Chronicle to me is that I’ve been featured and profiled many, many times, whether it has been the media-related reporting or the mass newspapers, but your piece (Liz McMillen was a reporter at the Chronicle in 1992) about me appeared in the March 4, 1992 Chronicle, it gave legitimacy to what I do, among my colleagues and my administration. Suddenly, it legitimized my niche in the profession of teaching in higher education as true academic work and research, although, it’s dealing with popular culture in magazines. The impact that you had on my career, from that headline to the front page quote, about my hobby becoming my education and my education becoming my profession; you captured it very, very well. For that, I thank you.

Liz McMillen: You speak to something that we know very well. It’s a big responsibility as we edit our pages, but when we write about something, whether it’s a problem or whether it’s a solution or just an insight, we are giving legitimacy on our pages. That is something that we’ve heard over and over again. Colleges want to be in our pages; there is almost a kind of display prestige to it, so we’re actually trying to think more thoughtfully about that, and we’re adding more data to the print issue that shows, for example, how colleges compare on different measures. We’re not talking about the rankings; we’re talking about which campuses have the most sustainable practices or which campuses have the most diverse faculty?

And we’re also introducing for the first time ever a weekly index, so that you can see if a campus has been written about in the issue. So, we’re very aware of what you just talked about. And we’re grateful for it, of course.

Samir Husni: If I showed up at your home unexpectedly one evening, what would I find you doing; reading a magazine; reading your iPad; having a glass of wine; watching television; or something else?

Liz McMillen: I can tell you that I have a very large stack of magazines in my living room; they’re always there and they cover the gamut with all kinds of interests. I’m a huge fan of magazines; I don’t think they’re ever going to go away, and I love reading them. I love the tactile sensation of them. But I’m also on the iPad, because at night you get the chance to kind of read around and see what other innovative outlets are doing. So, the iPad is a great thing for that.

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

Liz McMillen: Literally, I have two dogs that are convinced that they are hunters in the night. And they often wake me up thinking there’s a critter in my yard. (Laughs) And that’s not fun. But really, not too much keeps me up at night. I’m a pretty good sleeper.

Stepping back, when I was in college in the ‘80s, could I have predicted that we would be at this particular moment for media, or for that matter, for higher education? Who would have imagined when we were working on a college paper that so many publications would be struggling and gutting and transforming? So, I think we’re in a moment of continual change, continual evolution, and you just have to get comfortable with that and stay comfortable with it, because I don’t think that’s going away.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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