Archive for the ‘Redesigns’ Category

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

June 1, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

But first the sound-bites:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Getting In Shape (The Magazine): An Evolution That Began By Asking The Question Of The 37-Year-Old Brand: If Shape Was Launching Today, What Would It Look Like? The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Elizabeth Goodman-Artis, Editor In Chief, Shape Magazine…

April 12, 2018

“I felt like we could add more real women and their experiences. I really wanted to make it a more well-rounded experience. And the tagline we’re using is “Living the well-lived life,” something that’s a little more holistic and well-rounded, because we know that our audience is really engaged in this healthy, active lifestyle. And that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. And so, we wanted to give a more well-rounded mix and really get a sense of the experiences that women are having living this lifestyle. We wanted to kind of bubble that up in the magazine some more.” Elizabeth Goodman-Artis…

“I think the print magazine is the place where you can sit back, lean-in, and get excited about the content. And in the digital iterations, whether you’re desktop or mobile, however you’re interacting, that becomes more transactional, and I mean that in a good way. It’s very specific information, like guidance. And I think it appeals to different parts of your brain and different needs in the moment.” Elizabeth Goodman-Artis…

Shape Magazine has been a staple in the health and fitness magazine realm for 37 years. It has been the go-to source for women who lead an active lifestyle, focusing on the magazine’s five pillars of coverage, which according to Elizabeth Goodman-Artis, editor in chief of the brand is: beauty, fitness, health, style and nutrition.

With the May issue, the legacy brand has undergone what Elizabeth calls an evolution, rather than a reimagining. She said there has been a massive cultural shift that is redefining
what healthy living means to women today. And in her May editor’s letter, she shares with her readers the mission of this evolution. Here’s an excerpt:

“My mission for Shape is to reflect this shift—really reflect it. What you’ll see in the pages of this issue is the result of a pivotal moment in our evolution, one that started when I asked myself this question: If Shape was launching today, what would it look like? To start, it would have more voices and viewpoints from inspiring people who are living this well-lived life—distinctive women from diverse backgrounds, all with unique stories to tell and a dedication to living with authentic, health-focused style. The innovations don’t stop there.”

The legacy brand has expanded and evolved with a mix of content, as well as an elevated design aesthetic. Elizabeth adds that the redesign also offers a shift in tonality and features more diverse voices, including influencer and real women. Overall, the new Shape focuses on content for the holistic, healthy lifestyle of today’s woman: beauty and style advice that adapts to her busy life; ways to discover the joys of healthy and delicious eating; relatable tips for health and relationships; and innovative ways to keep her body strong and fit.

And Mr. Magazine is very happy with the evolution. Shape is as “shapely” as ever, with a few new curves added. So, join Mr. Magazine™ as we get into Shape with Elizabeth Goodman-Artis, editor in chief.

But first the sound-bites:

On Shape magazine’s redesign/reinvention after 37 years: I wouldn’t say that we reinvented it at all. I would say that we’ve evolved it. Honestly, what really precipitated this was I got a new, amazing creative director, he started in August, and he wanted to put his stamp on it and we felt like it was time for a design upgrade. So, it started with that. And I also felt that there were things that we were missing. We could add more voices; I felt like we could add more real women and their experiences. I really wanted to make it a more well-rounded experience. And the tagline we’re using is “Living the well-lived life,” something that’s a little more holistic and well-rounded, because we know that our audience is really engaged in this healthy, active lifestyle.

On whether the more holistic and healthy focus of the new redesign puts Shape in a different competitive set: It’s the same, absolutely the same. Again, it’s an evolution, I wouldn’t say that we’ve really changed the DNA of the brand at all. One of the things that I wanted to do was change the voice and the tonality a little bit, just to make it feel more modern. I think a good example is the way the magazine was packaged, like the actual names of the sections before, things like, Eat Right, Get Fit. They’re clear, they say it, they make sense, they’re direct, but I feel like they’re a little bit of a command to perform. And I wanted to change that tonality a little bit, and when you go through the May issue you’ll see that the sections all start with the verb “to be.” And that was very deliberate, because I wanted to invite the readers “to be” in the moment, to experience the content, and really make it their own.

On whether she thinks the audience has changed or evolved in that the way they interact with a print magazine is different today than maybe 10 years ago: Sure, absolutely. I think a print magazine is more of a lean-back and engaged experience, rather than a servicey, transactional experience. A good example is the way we’re doing fitness content now. One of the things that we’ve seen, in terms of digital, is that over one million readers have joined our video challenges in the last year. Our visitors to shape.com workout content has risen exponentially. And that’s your very functional fitness, your very transactional fitness, here’s exactly how you do this workout. And I think that’s the way audiences are engaging with that kind of content. They’re doing it on their phones. So, I felt like with the fitness content in the magazine, it was really important to create content that was more about experience and the science of exercise and the storytelling. You can lean back into it and get inspired and get excited about this kind of content.

On how her job as editor in chief has changed over the years: In terms of actual day-to-day workflow, I think we’re more efficient than we used to be. We have to be. Obviously, the industry is changing, the media world is changing; we all know what’s going on and I think there’s a level of focus that’s required today. Thinking back to 25 years ago, or whenever I started at Glamour magazine, it was 1993, there were a lot more people and we just don’t have those kinds of staff anymore, because it’s not efficient nor cost-effective. So, I think we have to be just really focused.

On what content means to her today: (Laughs) What a good question. I could go into a lot of different rabbit-holes. I think content is changing all of the time. It’s impossible to immediately summarize that. I think it depends on who you are, what you want and what you’re looking for. An audience who’s interested in healthy, active living wants information, but they also want connectivity and motivation. And they’ll get that with all of the new voices and points of view that we’re adding. I think that’s really important. Whatever your goals are, and those are personal to you, it takes a lot of mental strength and courage to live this lifestyle. So, I think that’s one of the biggest changes I’ve seen and one I wanted to bring to the magazine, more of that emotion, into everything that we do.

On if that’s the reason for the more holistic approach Shape is now taking: Sure, that’s one. There were many reasons. Honestly, what was great about what we did with Shape, the magazine before was great, and this is just an evolution. And there wasn’t pressure to do it. It was just that we felt and I felt it was time for it, for many different reasons. And as I said, I really wanted to equalize the content distribution.

On how she can make the content of the magazine more of an emotional experience: I’ll give you an example. Our new fitness section is called “Be Strong and Fit,” and we’re actually debuting a new column that we just didn’t have room for in the May issue because it was so packed with amazing new content, and also not for nothing, it was content that we thought was really working well, so we morphed some columns. The DNA is still Shape Magazine, it’s really about an evolution. It’s not a reimagining at all. But we’re adding a new column that I’m excited about called “Everyday Athletes.” What I wanted to do with this was really showcase real women who have gone out and they’ve accomplished something physical across the spectrum.

On how she sees the future mix of print and digital for Shape: Well, it’s what I’ve said already, that I think the print magazine is the place where you can sit back, lean-in, and get excited about the content. And in the digital iterations, whether you’re desktop or mobile, however you’re interacting, that becomes more transactional, and I mean that in a good way. It’s very specific information, like guidance. And I think it appeals to different parts of your brain and different needs in the moment.

On whether she expects editors to practice what they preach: I can’t speak for other editors. This is how I run the magazine and it’s my point of view. I am very practical. (Laughs) I think about the brand as a whole and work closely with our amazing digital director, Amanda Wolfe. And it’s really collaborative and I’m brainstorming with my really talented staff about what all of this means today. Getting into the media is the message kind of thing, which shows my journalism school experience studying Marshall McLuhan. (Laughs) I think it’s just being clear and focused about it. Like, how do magazines make sense in people’s lives today? And how are they using the print magazine iteration as opposed to the digital arms? It’s kind of being logical.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: She just wants to help.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: Right now you’d find me very unhappy because I’m living in a rental apartment while my house is being renovated. And it’s dragging on and I’m really sick of the apartment, but once I’m back in my house and happier, you’d probably find me cooking. I love to cook. I find it really relaxing and I’m really into trying new recipes. And I’m very excited about the new kitchen I will hopefully have in the next few months. So, chopping, and focusing on cooking gets me out of the day and it focuses my attention. So, you’d find me doing that and hanging out with my husband and my cats. I don’t have kids, I have cats. That’s how I unwind.

On what keeps her up at night: Honestly, I’m not somebody who wakes up a lot and tosses and turns and worries too much, because there is nothing you can do about anything in life in the middle of the night. I do have some pretty good techniques. Usually breathing techniques or meditative techniques to help me go back to sleep. But what keeps me up at night is what keeps anybody up, the unknown. It’s very general; I wouldn’t say there is anything specific. And nothing specific about media and state of things, because I feel like we’re all just kind of watching the evolution and I want to be along for the ride. I’m somebody who is very flexible and I try to pivot and go with the flow.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Elizabeth Goodman-Artis, editor in chief, Shape magazine.

Samir Husni: Shape is going to be bold, I hear.

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: Yes, we’re going to be bold.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the timing of this redesign. After 37 years, why now and why did you decide to reinvent Shape magazine?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: I wouldn’t say that we reinvented it at all. I would say that we’ve evolved it. Honestly, what really precipitated this was I got a new, amazing creative director, he started in August, and he wanted to put his stamp on it and we felt like it was time for a design upgrade. So, it started with that.

But honestly, I felt like it was time to redistribute our content in the sense that we weren’t giving the main five pillars of the things that we always cover, which is beauty, fitness, health, style and nutrition, we weren’t giving them all equal weight. There was too much emphasis in some places and not enough in the others. And I really wanted to just try and equalize the content in the magazine.

And I also felt that there were things that we were missing. We could add more voices; I felt like we could add more real women and their experiences. I really wanted to make it a more well-rounded experience. And the tagline we’re using is “Living the well-lived life,” something that’s a little more holistic and well-rounded, because we know that our audience is really engaged in this healthy, active lifestyle. And that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. And so, we wanted to give a more well-rounded mix and really get a sense of the experiences that women are having living this lifestyle. We wanted to kind of bubble that up in the magazine some more.

Samir Husni: That combination of the holistic and healthy lifestyle, does it put you in a different competitive set or it’s the same?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: It’s the same, absolutely the same. Again, it’s an evolution, I wouldn’t say that we’ve really changed the DNA of the brand at all. One of the things that I wanted to do was change the voice and the tonality a little bit, just to make it feel more modern. I think a good example is the way the magazine was packaged, like the actual names of the sections before, things like, Eat Right, Get Fit. They’re clear, they say it, they make sense, they’re direct, but I feel like they’re a little bit of a command to perform.

And I wanted to change that tonality a little bit, and when you go through the May issue you’ll see that the sections all start with the verb “to be.” And that was very deliberate, because I wanted to invite the readers “to be” in the moment, to experience the content, and really make it their own. I don’t want to dictate to our audience, but I want to give them the tools and ideas and information they need to craft their own well-lived life.

Samir Husni: You’ve started all the sections with “to be,” to be healthy, to be food-curious, to be fit, etc. Do you think the audience has changed or evolved in that the way they interact with a print magazine is different today than maybe 10 years ago?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: Sure, absolutely. I think a print magazine is more of a lean-back and engaged experience, rather than a servicey, transactional experience. A good example is the way we’re doing fitness content now. One of the things that we’ve seen, in terms of digital, is that over one million readers have joined our video challenges in the last year. Our visitors to shape.com workout content has risen exponentially. And that’s your very functional fitness, your very transactional fitness, here’s exactly how you do this workout. And I think that’s the way audiences are engaging with that kind of content. They’re doing it on their phones.

So, I felt like with the fitness content in the magazine, it was really important to create content that was more about experience and the science of exercise and the storytelling. You can lean back into it and get inspired and get excited about this kind of content. And then you can go to shape.com and get your nuts and bolts. I think it’s really about engaging with this content that’s all about healthy living, and getting excited about it. And really leaning into it, and then you can go to shape.com and get more specific, functional workouts and content.

Samir Husni: You’ve been in the magazine media business for 20 years, give or take. How do you feel things have changed over the years? Is life easier for you now as an editor in chief or is it more complicated? Tell me about the changes based on your experience.

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: In terms of actual day-to-day workflow, I think we’re more efficient than we used to be. We have to be. Obviously, the industry is changing, the media world is changing; we all know what’s going on and I think there’s a level of focus that’s required today. Thinking back to 25 years ago, or whenever I started at Glamour magazine, it was 1993, there were a lot more people and we just don’t have those kinds of staff anymore, because it’s not efficient nor cost-effective. So, I think we have to be just really focused.

There isn’t quite the time to spend days and weeks on one story, you have to move at a faster pace. Everybody is doing that, so I think that’s the biggest change. As an editor in chief, I would say that I owe it to my staff to make quick decisions and to have a clear vision for what I want, because we don’t have the time and the luxury to throw a lot of things at the wall and see what sticks.

I think with this evolution, I had a very clear vision, along with my creative director and my executive editor, of what we wanted this to look like. And then we gave the staff the blueprint and they were really excited about it. So, it was a very efficient, very focused process.

This summer we decided, when Noah (Dreier) came on, my creative director, we talked a lot about what we wanted to do with the brand and what we wanted it to look like. He came with so many great ideas. And speaking of my staff, I think you’ll see that we sort of beefed up our style content and that’s because we added a new fashion director, Brooke Ely Danielson, and she also came with so many great ideas and just a fresh approach to what style means today. And I was excited to get their ideas in the brand, so that was a big part of it.

Samir Husni: You’ve added the section “What Style Means Today.” My question to you is what does content mean today?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: (Laughs) What a good question. I could go into a lot of different rabbit-holes. I think content is changing all of the time. It’s impossible to immediately summarize that. I think it depends on who you are, what you want and what you’re looking for. An audience who’s interested in healthy, active living wants information, but they also want connectivity and motivation. And they’ll get that with all of the new voices and points of view that we’re adding. I think that’s really important.

Honestly, a good way to talk about the change, in terms of active, healthy living content, is I think it has gone from, in the last 10 or so years, just transactional and informative to more emotional. That’s the biggest sort of change that I’ve seen and wanted to incorporate into Shape now was the sense of emotion of this lifestyle, because it’s a very emotional experience. Whatever your goals are, and those are personal to you, it takes a lot of mental strength and courage to live this lifestyle. So, I think that’s one of the biggest changes I’ve seen and one I wanted to bring to the magazine, more of that emotion, into everything that we do.

Samir Husni: Is that the reason for the holistic approach?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: Sure, that’s one. There were many reasons. Honestly, what was great about what we did with Shape, the magazine before was great, and this is just an evolution. And there wasn’t pressure to do it. It was just that we felt and I felt it was time for it, for many different reasons. And as I said, I really wanted to equalize the content distribution.

A good example is our health section. I felt it was a little marginalized and that we could do more with it. Our audience is really interested in health beyond the numbers they get at their yearly doctor’s visit. This audience is really engaged with making sure of their health and I wanted to give that section a little more love. So, it was really about distributing our efforts equally among our five content pillars.

Samir Husni: As you move forward into the new evolution, and of course, you created the video series and the Shape Challenge that really brought a lot of audience experiences, I’m very intrigued by what you said about focusing on the more emotional link with the content. How can you make the content of the magazine more of an emotional experience, rather than the functional experience?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: I’ll give you an example. Our new fitness section is called “Be Strong and Fit,” and we’re actually debuting a new column that we just didn’t have room for in the May issue because it was so packed with amazing new content, and also not for nothing, it was content that we thought was really working well, so we morphed some columns. The DNA is still Shape Magazine, it’s really about an evolution. It’s not a reimagining at all.

But we’re adding a new column that I’m excited about called “Everyday Athletes.” What I wanted to do with this was really showcase real women who have gone out and they’ve accomplished something physical across the spectrum. So, the example I use is, I go to a gym called CrossFit South Brooklyn, I do CrossFit. And CrossFit is very, very hard. (Laughs) But what I love about it, the terminology that they use is, you can scale it. So, if you can’t do 50 pushups, do two. If you can’t do two, hold a plank for thirty seconds. At any skill level, you can do this kind of exercise.

One of the most inspiring things I’ve seen is, one of the trainers that I work with frequently, her name is Jess Fox, and one of her goals was to do a muscle-up, and that’s a very, very hard move. It’s like gymnastics, it requires hanging onto some rings, pulling yourself up and pushing upward until your arms are straight, so it requires a lot of strength. This was a goal she had for a long time and she worked at it in a myriad of ways. And now she can do it. I want to hear her story. So, in 200 words, what that felt like and kind of get inside her journey.

Likewise, I’d like to hear from a woman who tried her very first hot yoga class. Or her very first Pilates class, or her very first walking marathon, or triathlon. Athletic feats across the spectrum, but I want to get inside what that felt like. What the motivation, what they did, and how it felt on the other side. That’s what I mean by “Everyday Athletes.” Women across the spectrum of skill levels, abilities, and what motivated them and what it felt like. So, I think that’s a really good example of how, instead of telling you how to do a muscle-up, certainly it’s a very hard move and I wouldn’t recommend it to many people (Laughs), but if that’s your goal, that’s great. There are certainly a series of steps that you can take to learn how to do this move. You can break it down into the technical components of it, fine, that’s one way to approach it. But I also want to know what it feels like inside to have accomplished that. So, that’s a column that I’m really excited about. And it’s coming out in the June issue. I think that nicely encompasses what I mean by emotion and motivation, and the difference between that and the transactional experience.

Samir Husni: As you look into the future, and at the fact that publishers are making their print components “printier” and their brands “brandier,” and everyone is becoming Print Proud and Digital Smart, how do you see that combination of print and digital? People don’t talk anymore about Shape magazine, they talk about Shape the brand.

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: Yes, and it is a brand.

Samir Husni: So, how do you see that future mix?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: Well, it’s what I’ve said already, that I think the print magazine is the place where you can sit back, lean-in, and get excited about the content. And in the digital iterations, whether you’re desktop or mobile, however you’re interacting, that becomes more transactional, and I mean that in a good way. It’s very specific information, like guidance. And I think it appeals to different parts of your brain and different needs in the moment.

In terms of fitness content, and I don’t think anybody would argue with me, that I just don’t think looking at a magazine and getting directions on how to do a specific move, nobody is taking magazines to the gym to do that anymore. They’re using their phones. If they want to know exactly how to a 10-minute AMRAP workout, which means as many rounds as possible, or an ab challenge, it doesn’t make sense to waste pages in a magazine detailing line by line exactly how to do that. You’re going to get that online. So, that’s the big difference I see, especially with this brand.

Samir Husni: You’re practicing what you preach and you’re speaking from experience. Do you expect editors nowadays to practice what they preach or just sometimes?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: I can’t speak for other editors. This is how I run the magazine and it’s my point of view. I am very practical. (Laughs) I think about the brand as a whole and work closely with our amazing digital director, Amanda Wolfe. And it’s really collaborative and I’m brainstorming with my really talented staff about what all of this means today. Getting into the media is the message kind of thing, which shows my journalism school experience studying Marshall McLuhan. (Laughs) I think it’s just being clear and focused about it. Like, how do magazines make sense in people’s lives today? And how are they using the print magazine iteration as opposed to the digital arms? It’s kind of being logical.

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

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: She just wants to help.

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

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: Right now you’d find me very unhappy because I’m living in a rental apartment while my house is being renovated. And it’s dragging on and I’m really sick of the apartment, but once I’m back in my house and happier, you’d probably find me cooking. I love to cook. I find it really relaxing and I’m really into trying new recipes. And I’m very excited about the new kitchen I will hopefully have in the next few months. So, chopping, and focusing on cooking gets me out of the day and it focuses my attention. So, you’d find me doing that and hanging out with my husband and my cats. I don’t have kids, I have cats. That’s how I unwind.

Usually we pick one Netflix show to watch a night. I don’t like watching endless hours of TV, and flipping around. I like to have a plan for the night and I try to get to bed at a reasonable hour. It’s not that exciting. (Laughs)

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

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: Honestly, I’m not somebody who wakes up a lot and tosses and turns and worries too much, because there is nothing you can do about anything in life in the middle of the night. I do have some pretty good techniques. Usually breathing techniques or meditative techniques to help me go back to sleep. But what keeps me up at night is what keeps anybody up, the unknown. It’s very general; I wouldn’t say there is anything specific. And nothing specific about media and state of things, because I feel like we’re all just kind of watching the evolution and I want to be along for the ride. I’m somebody who is very flexible and I try to pivot and go with the flow.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

W Magazine: Putting The Magic Back In Magazines – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Stefano Tonchi, Editor In Chief, W Magazine…

March 26, 2018

“I think for the generation before our parents, receiving magazines was a joy. People could not wait to get it, to have it, to read it; to own it.” Stefano Tonchi…

“There was joy because it was their way of knowing what was going on. And it was this fantastic, magic object. So, let’s put back the magic in magazines.” Stefano Tonchi…

“Digital is not everything. Digital is not going to kill or be a substitute for magazines. But magazines have to find a different way to be perceived and distributed.” Stefano Tonchi…

There is no denying that W magazine is a magical thing. The photography is brilliant and the typography and oversized format draws it into that world of collectibles as easily as a Fabergé egg would entice a collector of Romanov family history. But with the latest redesign and new presentation efforts propelled forward by the magazine’s editor in chief, Stefano Tonchi, the publication has become fine art, with each issue its own unique thematic piece.

I spoke with Stefano recently for a charming conversation about all of the changes that have been implemented at W to give the magazine an even more “keep it forever” flavor. Stefano is a man as passionate about his brand as anyone I have ever talked to. From the collector’s box that was designed to hold all of 2018’s issues, to the iconic broadsheet print format that he resurrected for special moments throughout the year, such as the “Best Performances” edition that was distributed during Golden Globes week, W magazine is on the cutting edge of what print today needs to be to stay innovative, relevant and addictive in this digital age we live in.

And as Stefano said himself, “Digital is not everything. Digital is not going to kill or be a substitute for magazines. But magazines have to find a different way to be perceived and distributed.”

Mr. Magazine™ couldn’t have said it better himself.

And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Stefano Tonchi, editor in chief, W magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On how W is making print printier: For print, we said let’s slow down and really go deeply into the idea of collectible. Making print collectible. So, we got a better paper stock, we went to 150 grams, which is quite an investment. And we changed the cover stock, I added this glossy finishing for the logo and part of the covers. And we redesigned the magazine completely, so you saw the two issues; they’re really like thematic. We call them volumes because we don’t want to be tied to the article calendar, because there is no reason anymore for that. I felt that when you do print, you don’t need any more to be monthly or bimonthly, or whatever is the frequency, you have to be out when you have an interesting point of view. And also you need an interesting size, because you don’t want to see this magazine as like a little pamphlet. (Laughs) It’s kind of like motivating the audience. You want something that is substantial. So, we went to this new schedule of eight volumes, so we’re trying, as I said, to act instead of react, so I didn’t look at it as a reduction in the frequency, but really as a change of strategy.

On commissioning a collector’s box for the volumes: The idea was finding out how we could make people understand that they should keep the magazine and collect it. So, we decided we should create a box, and every year we would create a different box with a different artist.

On the collector’s box being sold out: We only created so many in quantity and they went very fast. You know, I think print has not changed in so long that we really need to rethink print. What is a print product? What should it look like? And how do we deliver it to people? If we declare that we’re a premium, luxury product; it has to look like a luxury product. It has to be on nice paper, wrapped and presented in a certain way.

On W’s three D philosophy: discovery, diversity and disruption: Discovery is part of the DNA of the brand. We keep discovering new talent; we put the best and most talented people on our covers and give them their first exposure. Greta Gerwig was one of our first covers and she was so thankful that she collaborated with us doing the kind of movie-stills project we did. And diversity, again, that is something that we have pursued. Something W was doing even before my time here. I think I added maybe some layers to it. And also diversity has become such an important part of today’s conversation.

On a luxury product such as W magazine having diversity as one of its cornerstones: I think it’s a responsibility. You said luxury; I think luxury products more and more need to have an added value. You buy something because it means something, it’s not just an object. You’re buying also what that company stands for. And because your customers are educated, they do understand that. They like, say buying from a company that is behind a museum or a political statement or will spend that kind of money in promoting causes. It becomes part of really the idea of luxury, that sense of responsibility.

On the third D – disruption: Disruption is doing things like the collector’s box, the print; changing the frequency completely or the ideal frequency, I would call that disruption. (Laughs) And to kind of surprise and be very unconventional. Look at the way we’ve been treating the movie industry in our Golden Globe coverage. Last year, we had two women kissing, two guys embracing; we created all of these ideas of couples and it was all about embracing diversity, and they were more than just pretty pictures. There was always a bit of an agenda or some kind of disruption in celebrity photography or celebrity coverage, in a certain way I think.

On bringing back the broadsheet to W magazine: That was another idea, to go against the current, to take something that is so old and kind of forgotten and say the broadsheet, that’s how the magazine was how W actually started. Between 1971 and 1992, it was just a broadsheet, a supplement to WWD, the lifestyle premium of WWD. So, we felt like again, let’s do something that’s totally different and goes against the current. People are doing so much digital that we said let’s take this content and print it on a broadsheet, the oldest thing possible.

On whether all of the changes have been a walk in a rose garden for W: I think we are living in a very difficult time of transition. All publishing companies are suffering so much. And for some, change has come very fast and late. But I think everybody is going through what people used to call “growing pains,” but are now “changing pains,” because we know we need to change, but nobody knows exactly how.

On whether this is the best of times for him: This has been an interesting New Year, because I’m very proud of what W is now. When I arrived six years ago, maybe there were too many people and too much waste, but today we are really small, and it’s nice to work with a small group of people who really feel and love the product. I think we all feel like we love doing the W that we’re putting out. We’re proud of it and we feel like it is what we want it to be. We feel very lucky that we can put out a magazine that still represents our vision.

On anything he’d like to add: What I wish is that we will be able to really find a new way to distribute print magazines. I think we need to, altogether as an industry, understand that the world has changed, there are no more newsstands; a lot of the things cannot be measured the way that they used to be. At the same time, digital is not everything. Digital is not going to kill or be a substitute for magazines. But magazines have to find a different way to be perceived and distributed.

On what keeps him up at night: I sleep very good. I have had some difficult moments, because business is not easy, but I’m not worried about how to do the magazine; I’m more concerned with what to put in the magazine. How to find this new way to present the idea of magazines? I think it’s more of what is a magazine today; that’s the question we have to answer.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Stefano Tonchi, editor in chief, W magazine.

Samir Husni: First of all, congratulations on winning an Ellie award.

Stefano Tonchi: Thank you, that was a nice surprise.

Samir Husni: You and I have talked in the past about how W magazine is making print “printier.”

Stefano Tonchi: Yes, and what we talked about one year ago is what we are delivering. Last summer, I really thought a lot about how to make things happen, and the company really wanted a specific plan. And the plan became to act and not just react. So, with digital, we have to be faster, and we went with social first, and we’re doing so much with our Instagram. Instagram is really the language that W uses the most, because out of all the social media it is the one that’s most visual. And we’re a visual magazine and I think about Instagram as sort of our daily magazine.

We just put out something that’s very fun that I would love for you to look at; it’s like a horoscope. There are 12 of them, but very sophisticated. It’s a way to show fashion and beauty in a different way for a generation who gets their magazines basically straight from the phone.

We’re also launching something new called “Instazine” that is almost like an extension of Instagram stories, so it’s more about storytelling; more like creating content from the images, because what I find very shortcoming and frustrating, coming from print and making magazines, is that on digital you use and you leave images without the content around them. There is very little storytelling in a certain way. And that’s what we do with magazines, we tell stories and we put a story next to another story and that’s how you build your identity as a publication. A lot of what is on digital gets used as a single item and sometimes you don’t even know where it comes from or who paid for it.

So, with digital, it’s fast, fast, fast. And for print, we said let’s slow down and really go deeply into the idea of collectible. Making print collectible. So, we got a better paper stock, we went to 150 grams, which is quite an investment. And we changed the cover stock, I added this glossy finishing for the logo and part of the covers.

And we redesigned the magazine completely, so you saw the two issues; they’re really like thematic. We call them volumes because we don’t want to be tied to the article calendar, because there is no reason anymore for that. We are all kind of daily magazines, through Instagram, through the social media and the website. You are producing news every day. That’s what I think every magazine brand is today, a daily.

So, I felt that when you do print, you don’t need any more to be monthly or bimonthly, or whatever is the frequency, you have to be out when you have an interesting point of view. And also you need an interesting size, because you don’t want to see this magazine as like a little pamphlet. (Laughs) It’s kind of like motivating the audience. You want something that is substantial. So, we went to this new schedule of eight volumes, so we’re trying, as I said, to act instead of react, so I didn’t look at it as a reduction in the frequency, but really as a change of strategy.

Samir Husni: And you believe in this strategy so much that you’ve commissioned a collector’s box.

Stefano Tonchi: Yes, because the idea was finding out how we could make people understand that they should keep the magazine and collect it. So, we decided we should create a box, and every year we would create a different box with a different artist. The first person who came to mind was Barbara Kruger and she didn’t have time then, but she will do it later, because I love Barbara. She did my first cover here at W, one of the first covers, the one with Kim Kardashian; the all about “me” cover, before the selfie. She was ahead of the times.

So, when Barbara couldn’t do it, we asked Ugo Rondinone and he did this beautiful box, and we’re trying to make the same eight stripes of his target painting.

Samir Husni: But the box is sold out, I understand.

Stefano Tonchi: Yes, because we only created so many in quantity and they went very fast. You know, I think print has not changed in so long that we really need to rethink print. What is a print product? What should it look like? And how do we deliver it to people? If we declare that we’re a premium, luxury product; it has to look like a luxury product. It has to be on nice paper, wrapped and presented in a certain way.

What would you think if you got home and on your doorstep there was this skinny, cheap-papered, in a plastic bag magazine? How could you call that a luxury product? I think magazines should become more expensive when you want them and also be delivered the way they do with the Net-A-Porter product. I think for the generation before our parents, receiving magazines was a joy. People could not wait to get it, to have it, to read it; to own it.

Samir Husni: You’ve built your entire W philosophy now around the three D’s: discovery, diversity and disruption.

Stefano Tonchi: Exactly.

Samir Husni: Can we talk about those three D’s?

Stefano Tonchi: Sure. Discovery is part of the DNA of the brand. We keep discovering new talent; we put the best and most talented people on our covers and give them their first exposure. Greta Gerwig was one of our first covers and she was so thankful that she collaborated with us doing the kind of movie-stills project we did.

We also discover talented photographers. We have an issue, Volume Three, that is, basically, cover to cover, all about discovery. A lot of new photographers; Ethan James Green, we were the first time that he shot covers, he did a man and a woman for the cover, just a lot of new people. And really discovering stories, that’s part of what we do.

And I’m lucky enough that the magazine can take many more risks than other publications, because it is our audience who expects to be surprised somehow. And they can deal with surprises; they come to W for discoveries. I think if you’re more of a mainstream publication, it’s more difficult.

And diversity, again, that is something that we have pursued. Something W was doing even before my time here. I think I added maybe some layers to it. And also diversity has become such an important part of today’s conversation. And the next issue, Volume Three, it’s all about it, because it’s our dual-gender issue. This year in particular, it’s all about life gender fluidity and bringing this new idea of gender without stereotypes to the forefront, that’s what it is. It’s not even about sexual orientation; it’s really about taking down stereotypes.

Samir Husni: When people hear the word luxury, it’s rare that the word diversity comes next. It’s intriguing enough that a luxury magazine such as W has diversity as one of its cornerstones.

Stefano Tonchi: I think it’s a responsibility. You said luxury; I think luxury products more and more need to have an added value. You buy something because it means something, it’s not just an object. You’re buying also what that company stands for. And because your customers are educated, they do understand that. They like, say buying from a company that is behind a museum or a political statement or will spend that kind of money in promoting causes. It becomes part of really the idea of luxury, that sense of responsibility.

And the customers look for that and they notice it. When you’re there and you’re trying to decide whether to buy this bag or that bag and both are luxury products, I think people take into consideration whether the company is actively responsible or not, or goes along with their principals about a subject, such as sustainability. Or their principals on gender equality or the company has been investing so much in women’s rights. Or the company is behind great artistic commitments, in terms of what they’re associated with. So, then what you buy is associated with those causes. With a magazine, you kind of have to take a position, because your readers want to associate with the causes that you’re behind.

Samir Husni: And you’re third D, disruption?

Stefano Tonchi: Disruption is doing things like the collector’s box, the print; changing the frequency completely or the ideal frequency, I would call that disruption. (Laughs) And to kind of surprise and be very unconventional. Look at the way we’ve been treating the movie industry in our Golden Globe coverage. Last year, we had two women kissing, two guys embracing; we created all of these ideas of couples and it was all about embracing diversity, and they were more than just pretty pictures. There was always a bit of an agenda or some kind of disruption in celebrity photography or celebrity coverage, in a certain way I think.

When you call in some film director to work with, to create some fashion portfolios, it’s innovation; it is rapture, I think. When you ask an artist to do a cover or to collaborate with a celebrity to make something special. To me, that’s disruption, because it breaks the way things have been done so far.

Samir Husni: Also, part of that disruption, this year at the Golden Globes, you brought back the broadsheet W.

Stefano Tonchi: That was another idea, to go against the current, to take something that is so old and kind of forgotten and say the broadsheet, that’s how the magazine was how W actually started. Between 1971 and 1992, it was just a broadsheet, a supplement to WWD, the lifestyle premium of WWD. So, we felt like again, let’s do something that’s totally different and goes against the current. People are doing so much digital that we said let’s take this content and print it on a broadsheet, the oldest thing possible.

Samir Husni: Has all of this been a walk in a rose garden for you? Everything you’re telling me, I can tell you are very passionate about.

Stefano Tonchi: I think we are living in a very difficult time of transition. All publishing companies are suffering so much. And for some, change has come very fast and late. But I think everybody is going through what people used to call “growing pains,” but are now “changing pains,” because we know we need to change, but nobody knows exactly how.

I have gotten a lot of support from the executives here at Condé Nast, like Bob (Sauerberg), and Anna (Wintour) have been very supportive. I think they were very impressed because we try and deliver what we talk about. We deliver it financially, that’s important, but we also deliver it as a product. Each issue should have some reason to be collected, every issue so far has its own specific graphic and photography identity, and there’s a common idea that runs through the issue. So, they’re unique products in that sense. And that’s what makes them collectible.

The first issue was about the movie industry in a certain way and about fashion. And there was also this idea of handcraft, all of the typography in the well was handwritten. So, there was this real touchy and feely aspect. Like the touch of a human hand, it was really a message that I wanted to put in that issue.

The second issue had this idea of collaboration, where we were inspired by movie posters and the three covers became like three movie posters. Every single story had an opening that was a movie poster.

Volume Three is about identity and we were inspired very much by ID cards, but the design and the graphic design of the issue is about the idea of ID tags. Almost like stickers that you wear to say who you are, because it is about gender identity.

We think about the issues almost like books, in a certain way. And we try to tell stories that have a little bit more of a reason to be preserved and told. They don’t have an expiration date.

Samir Husni: Between the Instazine and W, Instagram and all of your travels, is this the best of times for Stefano?

Stefano Tonchi: This has been an interesting New Year, because I’m very proud of what W is now. When I arrived six years ago, maybe there were too many people and too much waste, but today we are really small, and it’s nice to work with a small group of people who really feel and love the product. I think we all feel like we love doing the W that we’re putting out. We’re proud of it and we feel like it is what we want it to be. We feel very lucky that we can put out a magazine that still represents our vision.

Samir Husni: And it’s well-executed and gorgeous.

Stefano Tonchi: Thank you. I know you see a lot of them. And you read a lot of them. We don’t pretend to be The New Yorker or anything else, but I think we do well with our own mission.

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

Stefano Tonchi: What I wish is that we will be able to really find a new way to distribute print magazines. I think we need to, altogether as an industry, understand that the world has changed, there are no more newsstands; a lot of the things cannot be measured the way that they used to be. At the same time, digital is not everything. Digital is not going to kill or be a substitute for magazines. But magazines have to find a different way to be perceived and distributed. And we have to help. The box is kind of a way to say, let’s produce things that can go into the box. Let’s produce things that you want to keep. That’s the idea.

Samir Husni: And as you said earlier, when our parents would receive magazines in the mail, it was a joy and there was value.

Stefano Tonchi: Yes, there was joy because it was their way of knowing what was going on. And it was this fantastic, magic object. So, let’s put back the magic in magazines.

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

Stefano Tonchi: I sleep very good. I have had some difficult moments, because business is not easy, but I’m not worried about how to do the magazine; I’m more concerned with what to put in the magazine. How to find this new way to present the idea of magazines? I think it’s more of what is a magazine today; that’s the question we have to answer.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Food & Wine Magazine: Celebrating 40 Years With A Fresh New Approach To The Deliciously Appetizing Content – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Hunter Lewis, Editor In Chief…

March 1, 2018

“I think you create for audience first and platform first, so the intention for this issue was to celebrate print for print’s sake, and to celebrate how print as a medium can frame photography. So, absolutely, this is a celebration of print and we’ll continue to embrace and celebrate print as this year evolves. In this age of multiplatform brands, you have to honor print and you have to celebrate print, because it is very much the opposite of Google. When people are typing in a recipe or an ingredient they’re looking for, they’re trying to solve a problem. When people are coming to print, sure, they’re looking for dinner tonight, but they’re also looking for points of discovery. And they’re looking for an escape and to lose themselves and to learn. And that’s what a magazine in the print format can do best.” Hunter Lewis…

Food & Wine has been tantalizing us with delicious recipes, decadently robust wines, cooking tips, restaurant reviews, and some of the best chefs around and those that are up and coming, for 40 years now. And with its 40th anniversary this year, Editor in Chief, Hunter Lewis, has a few delicacies up his sleeve when it comes to a fresh new approach for the legacy brand and for all of us eaters and drinkers out here who love the magazine and the brand.

I spoke with Hunter recently and we talked about the March issue, which is dedicated to honoring and celebrating food photography and its creators, and is dubbed “The Photography Issue.” According to Hunter, it’s also a testament to print and how the medium can frame photography beautifully. So, while the March issue celebrates food in all its framed glory, it’s also a celebration of the ink on paper that complements those glorious frames so wonderfully.

Hunter is leading two of the country’s top food magazines, Food & Wine and Cooking Light. And while the two are both epicurean delights, Hunter said they’re also totally different when it comes to focus, which makes his job as editor in chief of both of them a tremendous amount of fun. So, as Hunter gives credit where credit is due, his teams in both New York and in Food & Wine’s newest home, Birmingham, the brand continues to flourish and spread its culinary and wine-wonderful wings. It’s a tale of two cities, maybe, but mostly it’s a tale of one great brand, celebrating 40 years of excellence.

And now, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Hunter Lewis, editor in chief, Food & Wine magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On being the editor in chief of both Cooking Light and now Food & Wine and how he shuffles the two titles: Frankly, I’m still learning how to shuffle the two. Certainly, Cooking Light is now a well-oiled machine and so I’ve been spending a lot more time behind the scenes with Food & Wine over the past few months as we staff up and as we have created the base of our operations here in Birmingham. We have an awesome team here and in New York, so it’s really about learning how to communicate in two cities and how to create and collaborate with the team.

On creating in two different cities and whether that makes for the best of times or the worst of times: No, it’s to our advantage. In regards to our New York City-based talent, I want to iterate strong the team is. When we moved some of our editors and staff and the base of operations to Birmingham, we were strategic about keeping a core group of editors in New York City to maintain our presence there and proximity to the digital edit team, the Food & Wine test kitchen, and the sales, marketing, and events teams. The power of the new Food & Wine is that we’re in two cities. We’ve got our finger on the pulse of the new and the next via New York, and in Birmingham, we shop, cook, and entertain more like our readers. Tapping into both will create a product that better serves sophisticated food and drink consumers everywhere.

On the 40th anniversary of Food & Wine, the March photography issue, and his vision for the title moving forward: We are very fortunate in that this is the 40th anniversary year and we’re going to take advantage of that and celebrate that. And so we’ve keyed this year and this March issue with the 40 photos that changed the way we eat. You’ll see a story in the April/Spring wine issue, which is 40 wines that changed the way we drink, and you’ll see this in the way that we cover recipes in the future. So, we’re playing with the number 40 to create big, impactful lists that can run across both print and Food & Wine dotcom and generate evergreen traffic. So, it’s really about maximizing the moment four decades into this awesome brand.

On whether he can imagine a Food & Wine issue like March’s without a print component: I think you create for audience first and platform first, so the intention for this issue was to celebrate print for print’s sake, and to celebrate how print as a medium can frame photography. So, absolutely, this is a celebration of print and we’ll continue to embrace and celebrate print as this year evolves. In this age of multiplatform brands, you have to honor print and you have to celebrate print, because it is very much the opposite of Google. When people are typing in a recipe or an ingredient they’re looking for, they’re trying to solve a problem. When people are coming to print, sure, they’re looking for dinner tonight, but they’re also looking for points of discovery.

On why he decided to start the 40th celebration with the March photo issue: I think it starts with wanting to do something different and wanting to make a statement to our readers that we’re heading in a different direction, And if you think about the covers in particular, using a cover to make a visual statement in a way that expands beyond your print readership, something that is a branding of the magazine, but also something that is highly social and shareable and that looks really good on Instagram and can be shared to more and more people.

On whether the March issue was a walk in a rose garden to create or there were some challenges along the way: This issue was a total blast, because we threw out a lot of conventions and departments for just this one special issue, and made it more about the process of creation and more about the process of shooting and cooking in the moment. And that’s why Eric Wolfinger was our guest editor for this edition, because he does that very well. And I write about that in the editor’s letter. Eric came down for a week and we all collaborated together and we kicked it off with a meal at my house, where we cooked together and shot some photos.

On whether he thinks food is the new sex when it comes to the fact that food magazines are the largest category in the marketplace today, compared to the 1980s when sex magazines were the largest: Food is certainly very sensual, but I think what it really speaks to is the rise of interest in the American food culture. And how many people out there love food and how many people out there are finding different entry points into cooking dinner or eating out. I think it speaks to the rise of our drink culture. So, it’s absolutely about a national hunger for more information about food.

On the food culture in America today: Look at the ingredients on the American supermarket shelf. Look at the quality of our restaurants. Look at the quality of our chefs, and look at what’s happening on television. Look at Instagram as a medium and how we consume food through social media. There’s been this explosion in the past four years, so it makes sense that there would be more publications, be they digital, social, video-first or print, than ever before.

On the wine culture in America today: I think we’re in a new era. And that’s going to be part of the new Food & Wine, of building on the expertise and the DNA of Food & Wine, of expanding Executive Editor Ray Isle’s role at Food & Wine. And to really capture and to cover and hold a mirror up to this new modern wine culture. We’re moving past the snobbery around wine and realizing that it’s not about how much you know, it’s not about being exclusive; it’s more about bringing wine to the center of the table and building experiences and stories around it.

On a litmus test for either magazine when it comes to content: If you look at it, about 85 percent of Cooking Light is recipes and our mission at Cooking Light is to empower people to cook more at home for good health. So we’re absolutely looking at potential content, and looking at Cooking Light on every platform, through the lens of what healthy means now. When it comes to Food & Wine, we can go as broad or as narrow as we want. The brand name gives us an amazing license to go deep on any topic. And that’s a lot of fun.

On when he has time to edit with everything that’s going on around him with the brand and all its platforms: Well, the editing is the most fun part. You make time for that. That used to be one of the central duties and now it’s gravy. So, you enjoy the gravy when it comes.

On what he enjoys the most as an editor: What I enjoy the most as an editor is recruiting a team, helping to shape the team, finding out what makes people tick, working with them to get the best work out of them, and then shifting into second and third gears with that team and really finding out what we can do together. And I think the words creativity and collaboration, as we figure out what we can do together, is the most important thing. We’re just now shifting into second gear as a team with the new Food & Wine, and I’m really thrilled about what we can do together down the road.

On whether he still hears any negative comments about Food & Wine moving to Birmingham: Not lately. It’s still bubbles up here and there on social media. I spent eight years in New York and some of that was working in restaurants and some of that was working food media. I know what it’s like to create food media in New York. I’ve spent about five and half years here in Birmingham, and I can tell you that it’s an advantage doing this in Birmingham. And I think the naysayers are thinking too provincially about the media bubble that is New York. We have the best of New York at 225 Liberty Street and we have the best in Birmingham.

On his favorite food: My favorite food is whatever is at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning. And thankfully, spring in Alabama is coming and what I’m looking forward to most is strawberries, asparagus, and rhubarb. I just got a call from my fish guy up the road and he said that the shad roe is starting to come in. So, that means spring is coming and that’s what I’m most excited about right now.

On his favorite wine: My favorite wine is probably the one I most recently had for dinner. And that’s one of the things I’m most excited about with Food & Wine; I get a daily education from Ray Isle. My favorite wine this week, because it changes every week, is an Etna Rosso from Valenti Winery, Norma Opera V. Bellini.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Hunter Lewis, editor in chief, Food & Wine magazine.

Samir Husni: You’re now the editor in chief of Food & Wine and the editor in chief of Cooking Light, does that cause any conflict for your brain, deciding what goes where? How do you shuffle the two? Or is it easy because they’re two separate entities?

Hunter Lewis: Frankly, I’m still learning how to shuffle the two. Certainly, Cooking Light is now a well-oiled machine and so I’ve been spending a lot more time behind the scenes with Food & Wine over the past few months as we staff up and as we have created the base of our operations here in Birmingham. We have an awesome team here and in New York, so it’s really about learning how to communicate in two cities and how to create and collaborate with the team.

Samir Husni: Since you mentioned collaborating in two cities, is it like a “Tale of Two Cities” a “Tale of Two Magazines?” Is it the best of times or is it the worst of times?

Hunter Lewis: No, it’s to our advantage. In regards to our New York City-based talent, I want to iterate strong the team is. When we moved some of our editors and staff and the base of operations to Birmingham, we were strategic about keeping a core group of editors in New York City to maintain our presence there and proximity to the digital edit team, the Food & Wine test kitchen, and the sales, marketing, and events teams. These talented editors include Melanie Hansche, our new deputy editor, executive wine editor Ray Isle, restaurant editor Jordana Rothman, associate restaurant editor Elyse Inamine, and culinary director Justin Chapple, along with digital director Danica Lo, senior engagement director Meg Clark, and deputy digital editor Alison Speigel and their team.

The power of the new Food & Wine is that we’re in two cities. We’ve got our finger on the pulse of the new and the next via New York, and in Birmingham, we shop, cook, and entertain more like our readers. Tapping into both will create a product that better serves sophisticated food and drink consumers everywhere.

Samir Husni: As you look at Food & Wine specifically, as we are now in March, which is the 40th anniversary of when the magazine was born as an insert in Playboy magazine back in 1978, what can we expect for this 40th anniversary year? Is the photo issue, the March photography issue, is that a hint of things to come; is it a change in direction? What’s your vision for Food & Wine moving forward?

Hunter Lewis: We are very fortunate in that this is the 40th anniversary year and we’re going to take advantage of that and celebrate that. And so we’ve keyed this year and this March issue with the 40 photos that changed the way we eat. You’ll see a story in the April/Spring wine issue, which is 40 wines that changed the way we drink, and you’ll see this in the way that we cover recipes in the future. So, we’re playing with the number 40 to create big, impactful lists that can run across both print and Food & Wine dotcom and generate evergreen traffic. So, it’s really about maximizing the moment four decades into this awesome brand.

So, this is not the anniversary issue per se, that will come with the September issue, where we’ll celebrate the 40th anniversary in a big and bold way, but more than anything this issue is a celebration of photography and food photography. And absolutely it marks a change in the visual direction of the brand.

Samir Husni: Can you imagine or do you think it’s possible to do what you’ve done with the March photography issue without a print component, if the magazine was digital-only? Can you bring that same food-for-the-eye impact with pixels on a screen or is this where you think print still plays a crucial role?

Hunter Lewis: I think you create for audience first and platform first, so the intention for this issue was to celebrate print for print’s sake, and to celebrate how print as a medium can frame photography. So, absolutely, this is a celebration of print and we’ll continue to embrace and celebrate print as this year evolves. In this age of multiplatform brands, you have to honor print and you have to celebrate print, because it is very much the opposite of Google. When people are typing in a recipe or an ingredient they’re looking for, they’re trying to solve a problem. When people are coming to print, sure, they’re looking for dinner tonight, but they’re also looking for points of discovery. And they’re looking for an escape and to lose themselves and to learn. And that’s what a magazine in the print format can do best.

Samir Husni: Why did you decide to start this 40th celebration with the photo issue?

Hunter Lewis: I think it starts with wanting to do something different and wanting to make a statement to our readers that we’re heading in a different direction, And if you think about the covers in particular, using a cover to make a visual statement in a way that expands beyond your print readership, something that is a branding of the magazine, but also something that is highly social and shareable and that looks really good on Instagram and can be shared to more and more people.

And also, when it comes to the photography, I’ve been in this business for about 10 years now and I got into the business through the kitchen door, when I ran the test kitchen at Saveur. And in those 10 years, I’ve had the great opportunity to work with dozens of incredible photographers and food stylists, prop stylists recipe testers and developers. The aim for this issue was to honor them and to celebrate the work that they do, as we celebrated the best of food photography. So, this issue is very much a tribute to those makers, to those creators.

Samir Husni: Was creating this issue a walk in a rose garden or there were some challenges or opportunities along the way?

Hunter Lewis: This issue was a total blast, because we threw out a lot of conventions and departments for just this one special issue, and made it more about the process of creation and more about the process of shooting and cooking in the moment. And that’s why Eric Wolfinger was our guest editor for this edition, because he does that very well. And I write about that in the editor’s letter. Eric came down for a week and we all collaborated together and we kicked it off with a meal at my house, where we cooked together and shot some photos.

And I think that helped set the tone to say, look, this is not all about shot counts and creative briefs and emails, and making 100 different plans ahead, let’s also build in some moments here and some time and flexibility to catch some magic. When it comes to shooting food, you can say you’re going to shoot these six shots and you can say that you’re going to do them at these different angles and you’re going to use these different props and backgrounds, but until you get that food on set and that food is alive, you don’t quite know how it’s going to act. You don’t quite know what the best angle is going to be.

So, part of the point of this issue was to say that while of course we have deadlines and of course we have to plan ahead, let’s just relax for a week, let’s chill out, and let’s tell a story through the lens in a fun way.

Samir Husni: And needless to say, I’m not telling you anything that you don’t know, but food magazines have become the largest category of magazines on the marketplace. If we look back at the ’80s, sex magazines were the largest category of magazines on the marketplace. Now it’s food. Do you feel that food is the sex of the 21st century?

Hunter Lewis: Food is certainly very sensual, but I think what it really speaks to is the rise of interest in the American food culture. And how many people out there love food and how many people out there are finding different entry points into cooking dinner or eating out. I think it speaks to the rise of our drink culture. So, it’s absolutely about a national hunger for more information about food.

Samir Husni: Can you expand a little on the food and drink culture in America today? And since you have a magazine that covers both food and wine, how are you striking that balance and making sure that the DNA of the magazine is different than what’s out there?

Hunter Lewis: If you look at 40 years ago, it took the Batterberrys, the founders of the magazine, about three years to create Food & Wine, and the final push was to convince Hugh Hefner to publish it as an insert in 1978. Hefner himself was by no means a gourmand, but he understood the rise of this epicurean set, this audience, and smartly decided to help the Batterberrys publish. So, you’ve got 40 years, four decades.

And look at the ingredients on the American supermarket shelf. Look at the quality of our restaurants. Look at the quality of our chefs, and look at what’s happening on television. Look at Instagram as a medium and how we consume food through social media. There’s been this explosion in the past four years, so it makes sense that there would be more publications, be they digital, social, video-first or print, than ever before.

Samir Husni: What about the wine part; the wine culture?

Hunter Lewis: I think we’re in a new era. And that’s going to be part of the new Food & Wine, of building on the expertise and the DNA of Food & Wine, of expanding Executive Editor Ray Isle’s role at Food & Wine. And to really capture and to cover and hold a mirror up to this new modern wine culture. We’re moving past the snobbery around wine and realizing that it’s not about how much you know, it’s not about being exclusive; it’s more about bringing wine to the center of the table and building experiences and stories around it.

A good example of this is we sent Ray Isle to four different bottle shops around the country and he sold hundreds of bottles as an undercover wine salesperson. He got to know what these consumers were looking for in a better way and he got to teach them along the way. I think he learned as much as he taught. And that’s something different, that’s something different that we did, that we hadn’t done before. It’s listening more for what the consumer is asking or looking for and delivering them that information in a premium way. And that will be in an upcoming issue.

Samir Husni: Getting inside the head of Hunter Lewis; do you have any kind of litmus test for content when it comes to either magazine, Food & Wine or Cooking Light? How do you deal with that?

Hunter Lewis: If you look at it, about 85 percent of Cooking Light is recipes and our mission at Cooking Light is to empower people to cook more at home for good health. So we’re absolutely looking at potential content, and looking at Cooking Light on every platform, through the lens of what healthy means now. When it comes to Food & Wine, we can go as broad or as narrow as we want. The brand name gives us an amazing license to go deep on any topic. And that’s a lot of fun.

What’s great about Food & Wine right now is that the brand DNA is strong. We’ve got a ton of opportunity. We’ve got the 40th anniversary to celebrate; we’ve got a redesign coming up that will refresh the look of the brand. We have Restaurants of the Year, which is a major franchise for us and that’s coming out in the May issue. We have the 30 year anniversary of Best New Chefs, which is coming out this summer. And we also have the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen coming up, and our first-ever festival in Venice, Italy. So, what this is all about this year is really capitalizing on every opportunity and maximizing the potential of every franchise in every anniversary moment to build the brand.

And then as we go, make the print product more fun and more easy to use. Bring food and drink a bit more to the center of the brand. And celebrate the joy of cooking and the joy of being at the table.

Samir Husni: With everything that’s going on, the move from being a magazine to being a brand that exists everywhere, on all of the platforms, when do you have time to edit?

Hunter Lewis: Well, the editing is the most fun part. You make time for that. That used to be one of the central duties and now it’s gravy. So, you enjoy the gravy when it comes.

Samir Husni: Is the “gravy” still your favorite part? Or are you enjoying the events, the digital, the print, as much as everything else?

Hunter Lewis: What I enjoy the most as an editor is recruiting a team, helping to shape the team, finding out what makes people tick, working with them to get the best work out of them, and then shifting into second and third gears with that team and really finding out what we can do together. And I think the words creativity and collaboration, as we figure out what we can do together, is the most important thing. We’re just now shifting into second gear as a team with the new Food & Wine, and I’m really thrilled about what we can do together down the road.

Whereas the Cooking Light team; I’ve been with that team for three and a half years, I know what they can do. I know when we need to apply more pressure or put our foot on the gas, and I know when we might need to take our foot off the gas a little bit. And so I think that team sync and that group sync is such a major part of the job, because what makes a really good product is a really good team. And it sounds obvious, but if that team is emanating a sense of joy; if that team is emanating a sense of passion for the subject matter, then you’re going to see that and you’re going to feel that on the page. You’re going to see and feel that on the screen. You’re going to see that through the videos. And that’s important and that’s what we’re working on and what we’ve been working on for the past few months.

Getting back to where the brand is going, where Food & Wine is going, as much as we’re focusing on creativity and collaboration, we’re also focusing on the words service and hospitality. As somebody who has worked in restaurants and as the editor of a brand, it complements restaurants to have unique relationships with chefs, unlike any other food brand. I understand that we’re not a restaurant, but how can we deliver better service to our customers, meaning how can every page have some kind of takeaway or some kind of tip that will make our audience become a better cook or pour a better wine or be a better host at a dinner party or be a better guest at a dinner party?

And when it comes to the hospitality, how do we make our customers feel in that interchange? As we’re delivering service, is there a sense of warmth? And that sense of warmth and that hospitality, combined with better service, is what will broaden our audience and keep them coming back for more. With Food & Wine, I very much look at it like serving your customers with warmth and hospitality.

Samir Husni: When the magazine moved to Birmingham, there was a tornado of media coverage, many of which wondered what the powers-that-be were doing to Food & Wine. Do you hear anymore comments like that about Food & Wine being based in Birmingham, Ala. or that’s history?

Hunter Lewis: Not lately. It’s still bubbles up here and there on social media. I spent eight years in New York and some of that was working in restaurants and some of that was working food media. I know what it’s like to create food media in New York. I’ve spent about five and half years here in Birmingham, and I can tell you that it’s an advantage doing this in Birmingham. And I think the naysayers are thinking too provincially about the media bubble that is New York. We have the best of New York at 225 Liberty Street and we have the best in Birmingham.

What I am thrilled about right now is tapping into both studios and that one larger staff. And I think it’s to our advantage. We are now much closer to the sophisticated food and drink consumer than we ever have been as a brand.

Samir Husni: What’s Hunter’s favorite food?

Hunter Lewis: My favorite food is whatever is at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning. And thankfully, spring in Alabama is coming and what I’m looking forward to most is strawberries, asparagus, and rhubarb. I just got a call from my fish guy up the road and he said that the shad roe is starting to come in. So, that means spring is coming and that’s what I’m most excited about right now.

Samir Husni: What’s your favorite wine?

Hunter Lewis: My favorite wine is probably the one I most recently had for dinner. And that’s one of the things I’m most excited about with Food & Wine; I get a daily education from Ray Isle. My favorite wine this week, because it changes every week, is an Etna Rosso from Valenti Winery, Norma Opera V. Bellini.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Brides Magazine: Making The “I Do’s” More Real & The Magazine More Human With Its Recent Re-Imagination – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Lisa Gooder, Executive Director, Editorial, Brides Magazine…

February 22, 2018

“This is such a moment for brides and they’re spending a lot of money and really kind of obsessed with this project. So, I think print for Brides is incredibly important. Digital for us is also very strong. They’re checking our website all of the time and reading our newsletters, engaging with us on social media, but I still think that the big, beautiful, aspirational photos and the fantasy of a wedding is something that print can deliver.” Lisa Gooder…

“I think content is whatever audiences respond to. We’re creating content all over the place. We’re creating video content; we’re creating content especially for Instagram stories; we’re creating content in the magazine that is in the form of well stories, as well as a back page that’s become a very different thing than it has been in the past.” Lisa Gooder…

In a move toward a more contemporary, realistic and authentic approach to showcasing weddings and all that the event can entail, Brides magazine has undergone a re-imagination of the brand. Instead of models and choreographed weddings, the Condé Nast title is featuring real weddings with real photos of actual brides and grooms, be they celebrity, such as the magazine’s first revamped issue with Serena Williams on the cover, or people less in the public eye. It’s a bold move, but one that Executive Director of Editorial, Lisa Gooder, feels sure will make a major difference with brides-to-be.

I spoke with Lisa on a recent trip to New York and we talked about the new direction the brand is taking, in both the print and digital platforms. Lisa’s background is in digital, as she was Digital Content Director for the Brides brand for many years, but print has always been something that she also believes in, especially when it comes to a brand surrounded by the imagery of beautiful dresses and weddings. Being Print Proud Digital Smart is second-nature to Lisa. Something Mr. Magazine™ can certainly say “I Do” too as well.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ look into the world of modern weddings, with more destinations, more diverse couples, and many more beautiful joining’s of love and affection, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Lisa Gooder, executive director, editorial, Brides magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On why she thinks there is still a need for a printed Brides magazine in this day and age: This is such a moment for brides and they’re spending a lot of money and really kind of obsessed with this project. So, I think print for Brides is incredibly important. Digital for us is also very strong. They’re checking our website all of the time and reading our newsletters, engaging with us on social media, but I still think that the big, beautiful, aspirational photos and the fantasy of a wedding is something that print can deliver.

On what drove her to reengineer the magazine: I have been the digital director here for the last five years and I’ve worked in weddings for some time; I spent 10 years at another wedding publication. I really feel like our audience, this millennial audience, is so interested in the authenticity and the emotional side of getting married. It felt like to do fashion shoots with models was pretending with a wedding, when in fact there are so many beautiful wedding images out there that show so much emotion. We can’t fabricate the look on a woman’s face as she walks back down the aisle after having said “I do.” So, we just decided that we would turn to photos that were taken in the moment, in a very spontaneous and authentic way. And then create service around those, which is, here’s how you can get the look and here are dresses inspired by this wedding or cakes and flowers, things like that.

On the changes that seem to humanize the magazine more and how she thinks that will work: You know, I think it was very inspired. Our social media channels are very successful and have really high engagement, and a lot of it has been inspired by what we’re seeing the audience respond to. Some of those photos, particularly the last page, which we call “The Moment” is very inspired by Instagram and the moments that are real and being inside them.

On coming from a digital background and suddenly having both print and digital to direct and whether there were any adjustments she had to make: One of the lucky things for me at a place like Condé Nast is that there are people here who are so experienced in print, who have so much knowledge and years behind them, who’ve been able to help me. So, this is really a partnership with our creative director, Yolanda Edwards, she is also the creative director for Condé Nast Traveler. The creative team and many of our editors are very skilled, in terms of creating print.

On whether she has an “a-ha” moment when she sees or hears an idea that helps her decide what content goes print and what content goes digital: As I said, there have been some stories that have been inspired by what we’ve seen in digital. We have a ring story that’s coming out in our next issue that is about rings that are inspired by the Royal Wedding. It was such a big thing for us, so all of the rings were inspired by the members of the Royal Family, and that’s not something that we would do online, but something that we loved to do and that we knew our readers would like. So, it’s been fun to have another platform for that.

On having to reinvent her audience after every wedding that takes place: This is an audience that’s turning all of the time and I think it’s a mindset that we’re used to. I’ve worked in weddings for a long time, so I think of that every year. We have the new crop of brides who come to us; many of them get engaged around the holidays and through Valentine’s Day. And that’s our time when we are refilling the coffers and focusing on the planning of the events and all of that. We hope that we do a wonderful job with them and that they refer us to their friends. The one nice thing, the one easier thing, about the churn is that most people who are getting married have friends who are also getting married next. So, those people turn to their sisters or cousins or whomever and ask, okay, what do I do? And if they’re engaged with your brand, they’re very likely to pass it on.

On how they decide on a cover that will jump from the newsstands: In this past issue we chose to feature Serena Williams’ wedding and we really felt like Serena was for our audience. For this new redesign, we felt that she was a statement of being a strong, powerful, independent woman, and I think that’s important to our audience. That this girl hasn’t pined to be a bride her whole life, she’s joining in an equal partnership and is strong and empowered.

On how she defines content today: I think content is whatever audiences respond to. We’re creating content all over the place. We’re creating video content; we’re creating content especially for Instagram stories; we’re creating content in the magazine that is in the form of well stories, as well as a back page that’s become a very different thing than it has been in the past. In fact, the photo on the back page of our next issue is one of our most engaged-with Instagram photos.

On whether she ever envisions the print edition of Brides going away: I don’t know; we’ll have to see what the future brings. As I said, I think our audience, this specific audience, is a very motivated audience. It’s not “should I pick up a magazine this month or not.” She has a task to do and she’s pretty focused. Just like she’s going to book a honeymoon and she’s going to buy a dress, she needs the research and the information. And she’s spending a tremendous amount of money. So, I think for a while, we currently have her audience. And our advertisers continue to be pretty committed, because a lot of them have dollars that are earmarked toward this specific market.

On whether she feels her job now is more of a curator than a creator: I think we are curators, and with weddings, probably always have been. This is to bring our bride the best of the best of inspiration, images and ideas that are out there. And I think that’s what she wants to see. She maybe sees herself reflected in many of these weddings. My biggest gauge of success with a piece of content is if someone wants to rip a page out or take a picture with their cellphone and say this is an element that I want; I’d like to do that too. So, we’re trying to bring the audience a lot of ideas and a lot of inspiration. But for sure, we are curating.

On whether, as an editor, she likes it or hates it when she hears some readers say they only buy Brides magazine for the ads: (Laughs) I actually love it. I’m not a traditional editor, I love it. And I understand the business of what we do, but I also think that this woman is looking for as much information as possible. As you said, some of those issues can be quite thick because they have 100 pages of wedding dress ads in them, and for me, I think that’s great. We’re giving her resources, both editorially while we’re telling the story, and providing our trend report for the fashion. And there’s also tons of information for her to use for her own shopping and planning.

On whether she thinks the Brides brand offers credibility through its advertising pages: I do; I do. And I think that our new positioning, our new strategic outlook, is very much based in credibility. I mean, these are real people. These weddings happened this way and they’re being reported the way they happened, which is a bit different that our sort of staging weddings, as we may have done in the past. I’m looking forward to doing some more interesting things with integrating some of our advertisers in certain ways, but we’re pretty careful in how we disclose that and let people know.

On any stumbling blocks she faced during the reengineering of the magazine or was it a walk in a rose garden for everyone: No, not a walk in a rose garden. (Laughs) Our biggest stumbling block was, we shipped the first issue of the magazine on a Friday in November. And Serena was married on Thursday night, the night before we shipped. So, we had about 12 hours; the photos were being taken at 6:00 p.m. that night, during the wedding, and being edited overnight. We had editor on the ground; they were being edited overnight and sent to us while we were quickly laying out those last few pages.

On why they had two covers with the tight deadline of that first re-imagined issue: We had two covers because we felt like her fashion choices were pretty important, and Serena wore two dresses. One she wore during the ceremony and one she wore during the party. And so we wanted to highlight both of them.

On whether there will ever be a cover line that refers to a bride at any age: Possibly. That’s interesting. We’ve been talking, certainly recently, about some celebrities who are a bit older. Because we only have one issue out in the magazine, we haven’t done that yet, but on digital we have shown a lot of weddings of various couples with grown children and different ages. But sure, absolutely.

On why she thinks magazines about the “second” wedding didn’t last: I think these days if people are going to actually have a wedding, as opposed to just going and getting married, I think they’re excited and view the wedding like they did the first one. I don’t think that people distinguish anymore. We’re seeing as many brides wearing long-way dresses and having large weddings and things like that, for the second time. So, to speak to them in a way that says this is a wedding again, that’s probably not what they’re looking for. They are celebrating this relationship and this beginning.

On anything she’d like to add: Just that our redesign isn’t only about the magazine. It’s about the brand at large. The way we position ourselves to be a more modern spot for somebody who is planning weddings is pretty important. These days, and we talk about this a lot, the first thing that I did, in terms of taking over this role, was to think about why people get married in 2018. All of the reasons that people used to get married for, you don’t need to be married to do any of those things anymore, whether it’s to live together, have children, have financial support, or even societal expectations. So, we really wanted to get to the bottom of what drives somebody to get married.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: Probably helping someone with homework. (Laughs) I have an eight and twelve-year-old and a husband. Yes, having a glass of wine, but probably simultaneously making sure someone has finished their homework. I do get sucked into social media on my phone sometimes, which is great. We live in Manhattan, so some nights we’re out. But I usually try to go home in between and see my children before that.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: This is what I remember: remember why you started, every day. To be as excited about it as I was once, when I first began. And that I love what I do.

On what keeps her up at night: Juggling it all.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Lisa Gooder, executive director, editorial, Brides.

Samir Husni: Why is there still a need for a printed Brides magazine in this day and age?

Lisa Gooder: This is such a moment for brides and they’re spending a lot of money and really kind of obsessed with this project. So, I think print for Brides is incredibly important. Digital for us is also very strong. They’re checking our website all of the time and reading our newsletters, engaging with us on social media, but I still think that the big, beautiful, aspirational photos and the fantasy of a wedding is something that print can deliver.

Samir Husni: Since you became editor in chief of Brides, what drove you to reengineer the magazine?

Lisa Gooder: I have been the digital director here for the last five years and I’ve worked in weddings for some time; I spent 10 years at another wedding publication. I really feel like our audience, this millennial audience, is so interested in the authenticity and the emotional side of getting married. It felt like to do fashion shoots with models was pretending with a wedding, when in fact there are so many beautiful wedding images out there that show so much emotion. We can’t fabricate the look on a woman’s face as she walks back down the aisle after having said “I do.” So, we just decided that we would turn to photos that were taken in the moment, in a very spontaneous and authentic way. And then create service around those, which is, here’s how you can get the look and here are dresses inspired by this wedding or cakes and flowers, things like that.

And as well, I think it was important to me to bring the brand into a modern sensibility that really depicts the way women are getting married today. We’re showing all different types if weddings. In the February/March issue, there is a wedding in Marfa, Texas with teepees and a trailer, like an Airbnb and really fun and different. And also a wedding in a chateau. Couples are getting married in many different types of ways and we’re showing them all. As well as different cultures and different ethnicities. We’re showing more same sex in some future issues and many other type weddings.

Samir Husni: When I flipped through the pages of the Feb./March issue, it felt like you had humanized the magazine.

Lisa Gooder: Thank you.

Samir Husni: How do you think humanizing print in this day and age will work? I remember the old Brides from years ago. I have one issue that came with a heavy lifting belt because the magazine was so very thick. The role of print has changed, so when you have this human touch, how does that work?

Lisa Gooder: You know, I think it was very inspired. Our social media channels are very successful and have really high engagement, and a lot of it has been inspired by what we’re seeing the audience respond to. Some of those photos, particularly the last page, which we call “The Moment” is very inspired by Instagram and the moments that are real and being inside them.

And then also some of our stories, for instance, our honeymoon story, we’re looking at what’s performing well online and creating a print version of that. That was a story about where to honeymoon for each month, because that’s how people should plan, right? Is there a hurricane here; is there snow there? Where should I go in June versus October? And that is one of our top performing stories that we decided to expand the research on and design it for print.

Samir Husni: I’m having our ACT 8 Experience here at the University of Mississippi in April and the theme this year is Print Proud Digital Smart. You came from a digital background; were there any adjustments that you had to make when you suddenly had both print and digital to direct? Was it like you should wear your print hat here and your digital hat there?

Lisa Gooder: (Laughs) One of the lucky things for me at a place like Condé Nast is that there are people here who are so experienced in print, who have so much knowledge and years behind them, who’ve been able to help me. So, this is really a partnership with our creative director, Yolanda Edwards, she is also the creative director for Condé Nast Traveler. The creative team and many of our editors are very skilled, in terms of creating print.

One of the things that we’ve done on the editorial side is make many of our editors be across platforms. So, they’re helping on social media and they’re creating blog posts online, and they’re editing a section in the magazine, just so that it feels very cohesive. So, for me, there’s the catching up with that, but there’s also many people here who, obviously, are experts in that area as well. I’ve spent five years here in this office running the website and so I’ve been very much around the pages routing and things like that.

Samir Husni: Is there an “a-ha” moment for you when you see or hear a story idea that helps you decide what content goes where, such as this story would be good for the print edition, this one for digital?

Lisa Gooder: As I said, there have been some stories that have been inspired by what we’ve seen in digital. We have a ring story that’s coming out in our next issue that is about rings that are inspired by the Royal Wedding. It was such a big thing for us, so all of the rings were inspired by the members of the Royal Family, and that’s not something that we would do online, but something that we loved to do and that we knew our readers would like. So, it’s been fun to have another platform for that.

Samir Husni: Many people pick up every bridal magazine out there when they’re planning a wedding, yet once they get married you have to reinvent that audience. How do you do that?

Lisa Gooder: This is an audience that’s turning all of the time and I think it’s a mindset that we’re used to. I’ve worked in weddings for a long time, so I think of that every year. We have the new crop of brides who come to us; many of them get engaged around the holidays and through Valentine’s Day. And that’s our time when we are refilling the coffers and focusing on the planning of the events and all of that.

We hope that we do a wonderful job with them and that they refer us to their friends. The one nice thing, the one easier thing, about the churn is that most people who are getting married have friends who are also getting married next. So, those people turn to their sisters or cousins or whomever and ask, okay, what do I do? And if they’re engaged with your brand, they’re very likely to pass it on. So, it’s just the nature of the beast and we’re used to it.

And also we’ve been incorporating into the new issue a lot more lifestyle content. Some content about entertaining; we have a new feature that you’ll see in the rest of the issues that we’re introducing this month called “Marry Your Style,” which is about how to blend your lives in décor, entertaining and things like that. So, I think there’s going to be more for people post-wedding, and digitally for sure, there will be a lot of that type of content.

Samir Husni: But the bread and butter of the magazine is still single-copy sales?

Lisa Gooder: Absolutely.

Samir Husni: But as we know the newsstands have not been the best of the best of late. When you meet with your creative director and say let’s create a cover that will jump from the newsstands, that the bride will see from a distance, how do you do that?

Lisa Gooder: In this past issue we chose to feature Serena Williams’ wedding and we really felt like Serena was for our audience. For this new redesign, we felt that she was a statement of being a strong, powerful, independent woman, and I think that’s important to our audience. That this girl hasn’t pined to be a bride her whole life, she’s joining in an equal partnership and is strong and empowered. And I think there are interesting stories behind the weddings that people respond to.

Samir Husni: How do you define content today?

Lisa Gooder: I think content is whatever audiences respond to. We’re creating content all over the place. We’re creating video content; we’re creating content especially for Instagram stories; we’re creating content in the magazine that is in the form of well stories, as well as a back page that’s become a very different thing than it has been in the past.

In fact, the photo on the back page of our next issue is one of our most engaged-with Instagram photos. And we thought, let’s put this in the magazine, because this is something in the dress issue and it’s very heavily engaged with, and we’re going to dig deeper and interview the woman who took the photo and tell her story, which is something that we didn’t do on another platform. So, I think content takes many forms.

Samir Husni: Magazines have a life cycle, as we all know, just like everything else in life. There’s a time to be born and a time to die. Condé Nast launched Goop last year, and yet they folded the print edition of Teen Vogue and Self. Do you ever see the print edition of Brides going away?

Lisa Gooder: I don’t know; we’ll have to see what the future brings. As I said, I think our audience, this specific audience, is a very motivated audience. It’s not “should I pick up a magazine this month or not.” She has a task to do and she’s pretty focused. Just like she’s going to book a honeymoon and she’s going to buy a dress, she needs the research and the information. And she’s spending a tremendous amount of money. So, I think for a while, we currently have her audience. And our advertisers continue to be pretty committed, because a lot of them have dollars that are earmarked toward this specific market.

Samir Husni: Do you feel as though your job now is more of a curator than a creator?

Lisa Gooder: I think we are curators, and with weddings, probably always have been. This is to bring our bride the best of the best of inspiration, images and ideas that are out there. And I think that’s what she wants to see. She maybe sees herself reflected in many of these weddings. My biggest gauge of success with a piece of content is if someone wants to rip a page out or take a picture with their cellphone and say this is an element that I want; I’d like to do that too. So, we’re trying to bring the audience a lot of ideas and a lot of inspiration. But for sure, we are curating.

Samir Husni: As an editor, do you like it or hate it when some of the readers say they buy the magazine for the ads? Or they buy Brides simply to look at the wedding dresses?

Lisa Gooder: (Laughs) I actually love it. I’m not a traditional editor, I love it. And I understand the business of what we do, but I also think that this woman is looking for as much information as possible. As you said, some of those issues can be quite thick because they have 100 pages of wedding dress ads in them, and for me, I think that’s great. We’re giving her resources, both editorially while we’re telling the story, and providing our trend report for the fashion. And there’s also tons of information for her to use for her own shopping and planning.

Samir Husni: With the Brides brand, it offers credibility within its editorial pages, but do you think it also offers that through the advertising pages?

Lisa Gooder: I do; I do. And I think that our new positioning, our new strategic outlook, is very much based in credibility. I mean, these are real people. These weddings happened this way and they’re being reported the way they happened, which is a bit different that our sort of staging weddings, as we may have done in the past. I’m looking forward to doing some more interesting things with integrating some of our advertisers in certain ways, but we’re pretty careful in how we disclose that and let people know.

Samir Husni: As you were reengineering the magazine, were there any stumbling blocks that you had to overcome, or was it just a walk in a rose garden for everyone?

Lisa Gooder: No, not a walk in a rose garden. (Laughs) Our biggest stumbling block was, we shipped the first issue of the magazine on a Friday in November. And Serena was married on Thursday night, the night before we shipped. So, we had about 12 hours; the photos were being taken at 6:00 p.m. that night, during the wedding, and being edited overnight. We had editor on the ground; they were being edited overnight and sent to us while we were quickly laying out those last few pages.

And then Anna Wintour, who’s been very involved in the re-imagination of the brand, was also on hand to take a look at them. So, we shipped the issue at 9:00 p.m. on Friday night, hoping that everything would work out. And it did. It was definitely not the easiest first issue we could have done. (Laughs) But it was worth it in the end.

Samir Husni: But even in that rush to meet the deadline, you had two covers. Why?

Lisa Gooder: We had two covers because we felt like her fashion choices were pretty important, and Serena wore two dresses. One she wore during the ceremony and one she wore during the party. And so we wanted to highlight both of them.

Samir Husni: Will we ever see a cover line that reads: A Bride At 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, like a cover line on Vogue?

Lisa Gooder: In terms of ages?

Samir Husni: Yes.

Lisa Gooder: Possibly. That’s interesting. We’ve been talking, certainly recently, about some celebrities who are a bit older. Because we only have one issue out in the magazine, we haven’t done that yet, but on digital we have shown a lot of weddings of various couples with grown children and different ages. But sure, absolutely.

Samir Husni: Sometimes we forget that there are just as many baby boomers as there are millennials.

Lisa Gooder: That’s true. And it’s not always a one-time thing for people. (Laughs) There are certainly people who do it later in life, but there are also people who do it more than once. And I think we’re here to talk to them all.

Samir Husni: Why do you think all of the Brides-again magazines that have come and gone never lasted? The ones about the second wedding or the divorced couple; why do you think those magazines didn’t last?

Lisa Gooder: I think these days if people are going to actually have a wedding, as opposed to just going and getting married, I think they’re excited and view the wedding like they did the first one. I don’t think that people distinguish anymore. We’re seeing as many brides wearing long-way dresses and having large weddings and things like that, for the second time. So, to speak to them in a way that says this is a wedding again, that’s probably not what they’re looking for. They are celebrating this relationship and this beginning.

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

Lisa Gooder: Just that our redesign isn’t only about the magazine. It’s about the brand at large. The way we position ourselves to be a more modern spot for somebody who is planning weddings is pretty important. These days, and we talk about this a lot, the first thing that I did, in terms of taking over this role, was to think about why people get married in 2018. All of the reasons that people used to get married for, you don’t need to be married to do any of those things anymore, whether it’s to live together, have children, have financial support, or even societal expectations. So, we really wanted to get to the bottom of what drives somebody to get married.

I think in many ways to this millennial audience that a wedding is even a bigger deal and more important than it was years ago. And they really want to use this to express who they are and their love for each other. So, that was the driving force on much of this and made us go back to a more authentic and emotional thing. It’s really important to me that this brand feel very celebratory and joyous. It’s a happy, exciting time and I want to make sure that comes through in all of the imagery and the copy that we’re using.

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

Lisa Gooder: Probably helping someone with homework. (Laughs) I have an eight and twelve-year-old and a husband. Yes, having a glass of wine, but probably simultaneously making sure someone has finished their homework. I do get sucked into social media on my phone sometimes, which is great. We live in Manhattan, so some nights we’re out. But I usually try to go home in between and see my children before that.

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

Lisa Gooder: This is what I remember: remember why you started, every day. To be as excited about it as I was once, when I first began. And that I love what I do.

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

Lisa Gooder: Juggling it all.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Rachael Ray Every Day: A New Logo That Puts Rachael Up Front & More Changes To Come That Give The Magazine A Fresh Outlook On The Future – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Lauren Iannotti, Editor In Chief/Content Director…

February 15, 2018

“We’re off newsstand as of the March issue. It’s going to be at Barnes & Noble, but nowhere else. And we’ll be a subscriber-based model, which is something we’re all kind of ready for, for the most part. The newsstand business was no longer financially viable for us, but our readership is steady.” Lauren Iannotti…

“Our print is doing great and we’re getting a lot of positive feedback on the changes that we’ve made. Actually, we’ve instituted more changes. For the March issue our logo has been redesigned. We have played up the Rachael Ray because she’s the recognizable part of our brand, really, more than the “Every Day.” What we wanted to do was make sure that we were really trumpeting that Rachael is what this magazine is.” Lauren Iannotti…

Rachael Ray Every Day has been giving its readers great real-life recipes since its launch in 2005, along with home décor, travel tips and the latest beauty and fashion trends. The magazine has a strong existing brand behind its print and digital entities, that being Rachael Ray herself. I spoke with Lauren Iannotti in October 2017, when she had just come onboard as editor in chief/content director of the brand. Her goal at that time was to get the numbers up across all platforms, digital and print.

I spoke with Lauren recently and she told me that while the magazine had a steady readership, the decision to pull it from newsstand was one that most everyone at Rachael Ray was ready for. The magazine will now have a subscription-based model and will be available at Barnes & Noble only. And while this might cast a pall over some people, the only thing I heard in Lauren’s voice was excitement and optimism about the new logo and other changes that are taking place with the Rachael Ray brand. It seemed as though a fresh outlook on the brand’s future and on its print and digital platforms had borne a new excitement and vision for the Meredith title.

Lauren was adamant that the beloved Rachael Ray would always have an audience, and judging from the upcoming March issue that she talks about, Mr. Magazine™ would be inclined to agree with her. The cover showcases some of the best women chefs in the country and the story inside tackles the many problems women face in the food industry. And while Lauren assured me that Rachael Ray Every Day wasn’t becoming an advocacy journalism title, she was proud the magazine was celebrating women in food and covering the issues that many face.

So, enjoy reading the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Lauren Iannotti and rest assured, Rachael Ray Every Day may not be on newsstand anymore, but the brand will be around to tantalize us with deliciousness for a long, long time.

But first the sound-bites:

On whether all of the numbers are up as she had hoped for when she first took over the role as editor in chief/content director in October 2017: That’s a good question. I actually don’t have data back yet from then until now, but we’re no longer on newsstand. And this is news. We’re off newsstand as of the March issue. It’s going to be at Barnes & Noble, but nowhere else. And we’ll be a subscriber-based model, which is something we’re all kind of ready for, for the most part. The newsstand business was no longer financially viable for us, but our readership is steady. We redesigned our logo, with full support from Rachael, she loves it. Part of the new direction for the magazine is to have more lifestyle, so we have a group of chefs on our cover this issue. We decided that we wanted to celebrate women in food, it was over one year ago when we started planning it. None of the “me-too” movement had happened yet, none of the sexual harassment in kitchens: I mean, it was already there, but none of it had started coming out yet. It just so happened that we timed our celebration of women and food at a pretty auspicious moment.

On whether Rachael Ray Every Day is moving toward a more advocacy type of journalism rather than its core service journalism: Never. Our primary goal will always be to be a resource to our readers. We’re a lifestyle book with food at the core. We wanted to make sure that we were hitting the ethos. We should be ambitious in trying things. I think people want from these legacy brands, they want and expect great big ambitious ideas. And so we wanted to compete in that realm in ways that we haven’t done in a while.

On the biggest surprise to her as a reader about the female food chefs’ issue: I come from a lifestyle background; I worked at Glamour, Marie Claire and O The Oprah Magazine, so I’m always amazed at the lack of representation for women in the top, top echelons, in any industry. Women of color, in particular. As we were starting to do the research, we wanted to do this anyway because we wanted to celebrate women in food, but seeing the numbers line up and realizing that there’s a real argument to do stuff like this, because it needs to be focused on and highlighted. And the more light we shine on it, hopefully the unfortunate ratio will fade and we can try to achieve parity.

On recapping whether the only way to get Rachael Ray Every Day is at Barnes & Noble or subscribing: Right. But we’re also redesigning our website. We’re kind of playing with that. I hired my executive editor, Geraldine Campbell, and she comes from The Kitchn, which is a digital food site, and she has all kinds of ideas for how to make our site feel better and more dynamic. So, we’re putting some attention there. And obviously, social. They can seek us out. I’m trying to improve on all fronts. So, I hope people will seek us out, digitally as well, in ways that maybe they haven’t in the past.

On whether the magazine is Print Proud Digital Smart: Yes, but I think we’re no longer trying to be everything to everybody, which is nice. We’re trying to be what our audience needs, where they need it. But print is still the driver; it’s still the thing that we love very much. It’s the cornerstone, but it’s not the only thing. We have all of these different cool arms of the brand that are happening.

On anything she’d like to add: We’re also doing a Facebook Live panel. It’s going to be on our Rachael Ray Magazine Facebook account on March 1 at 4:00 p.m. We’ll have Rachael and a bunch of her awesome chef friends talking to us about the particular challenges of women in the industry. And career advice and sexual harassment and all of the issues that surround women in the food industry.

And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Lauren Iannotti, editor in chief/content director, Rachael Ray Every Day.

Samir Husni: Last time we chatted in October 2017, you were hoping for all of the numbers to be up with everything, print and digital; just everything. Are you moving in that direction?

Lauren Iannotti: That’s a good question. I actually don’t have data back yet from then until now, but we’re no longer on newsstand. And this is news. We’re off newsstand as of the March issue. It’s going to be at Barnes & Noble, but nowhere else. And we’ll be a subscriber-based model, which is something we’re all kind of ready for, for the most part. The newsstand business was no longer financially viable for us, but our readership is steady.

Our print is doing great and we’re getting a lot of positive feedback on the changes that we’ve made. Actually, we’ve instituted more changes. For the March issue our logo has been redesigned. We have played up the Rachael Ray because she’s the recognizable part of our brand, really, more than the “Every Day.” What we wanted to do was make sure that we were really trumpeting that Rachael is what this magazine is.

We redesigned our logo, with full support from Rachael, she loves it. Part of the new direction for the magazine is to have more lifestyle, so we have a group of chefs on our cover this issue. We decided that we wanted to celebrate women in food, it was over one year ago when we started planning it.

None of the “me-too” movement had happened yet, none of the sexual harassment in kitchens: I mean, it was already there, but none of it had started coming out yet. It just so happened that we timed our celebration of women and food at a pretty auspicious moment, and what we wound up with and what I’m psyched to be going out with is, what I think of, as this great celebration of women who have excelled and scaled the heights in this still quite bro’-ey food industry, whether it’s by launching an extremely successful restaurant or opening their own company, the founder of Simple Mills is a 26-year-old woman. It’s women who have scaled the heights at Campbell’s and are now running multi-national food interests.

It’s just a big mishmash of all of these women who are doing great things all over the food industry, because that’s what Rachael is. She’s one of the original female entrepreneurs and totally self-made. She just went out and did it, surrounded by “dude chefs” or “chef gods” as they are referred to, so I think we’re the perfect place to be doing this. We really wanted to own it, so we kind of blew it out and did a great big package.

We did a contributor’s page that was all women. We’ve got career advice from women; we have a timeline of women in food; we’ve got this awesome thing called “Women-Wide Web,” I think, that shows how women mentor each other and it kind of scales out because then those women mentor other women, so it’s this cool, tangled web of awesome female chefs. And we’re particularly proud of that. And we had contributions from everybody, from Alice Waters to Angie Mar from The Beatrice Inn, to Angela Dimayuga. You have your super-cool New York City folk; you’ve got Vivian Howard and Nancy Silverton; all of the biggest names in fine dining and in food companies. They’re all there. They were all enthusiastic participants. It was pretty amazing to see the response we got.

Samir Husni: There has always been a fine line between service journalism and advocacy journalism. Are we going to see more of Rachael Ray Every Day in an advocacy journalism position, rather than service journalism?

Lauren Iannotti: Never. Our primary goal will always be to be a resource to our readers. We’re a lifestyle book with food at the core. We wanted to make sure that we were hitting the ethos. We should be ambitious in trying things. I think people want from these legacy brands, they want and expect great big ambitious ideas. And so we wanted to compete in that realm in ways that we haven’t done in a while.

I don’t know if it’s advocacy. I don’t think it’s a particularly controversial stand to celebrate women. Our readers are women. We admire so many women in our industry. I think it’s more just some great, cool stories. We are learning our readers that yes, the industry is still slanted; we do not have parity, there is still a pay-gap. But it’s more of just a celebration of women worth admiring and worth hearing from.

In my mind, it’s really an entertainment for our readers as much as it’s informing them and making them think about this issue. In Rachael’s editor’s letter she said, “This issue has food for thought and food for your belly.” And I think that sums up what we’re trying to do.

Samir Husni: As you were looking at the history of female food pioneers, female food CEO’s; what was the biggest surprise to you as a reader?

Lauren Iannotti: I come from a lifestyle background; I worked at Glamour, Marie Claire and O The Oprah Magazine, so I’m always amazed at the lack of representation for women in the top, top echelons, in any industry. Women of color, in particular. As we were starting to do the research, we wanted to do this anyway because we wanted to celebrate women in food, but seeing the numbers line up and realizing that there’s a real argument to do stuff like this, because it needs to be focused on and highlighted. And the more light we shine on it, hopefully the unfortunate ratio will fade and we can try to achieve parity.

I’m always surprised anew anytime I take a look at pictures of Congress, for example, and I see the lack of representation. I never get inured to that, which is probably a good thing. But that surprised me.

And also just that I do feel like I was humbled and amazed at the participation. People we reached out to wanted to be a part of it and they were psyched about it. The chefs on our cover include Missy Robbins, who has Lilia in Williamsburg, which is one of the hot places in town, and Rita Sodi and Jody Williams, who have Via Carota, which is another hot place. These are hardcore, awesome legit people who love Rachael and were so psyched to appear on this cover.

And the cover shoot was the best cover shoot I’ve ever been on. It was such an awesome vibe, such great energy. Peggy Sirota, a superstar photographer, shot it here in the City and the energy on the set was so lovely. It was so warm and supportive. They’re all kind of competitive, but there were incredibly collegial with each other and welcoming to each other. Some different aspects, like Anne Burrell, who is a Food Network person, then we had these elevated, high-cuisine chefs, and they were all immediately goofing off and laughing with each other and to me that was really lovely to see.

There really is a bond among women who make it in food. It’s a very tough industry; it’s hard on your body and it’s hard on your soul. It’s a wonderful industry to work in, but it’s tough. A lot of it is night work. And just to see these women, they all seem to be in it together. And that’s what the whole package is about. It’s about how you see other women who could use your advice or your mentoring and you reach out and you do it for them. And they’re going to do it for others. So, that was a pretty neat aspect of it.

Samir Husni: And to recap; the only way you can get Rachael Ray Every Day is at Barnes & Noble or you have to subscribe, right?

Lauren Iannotti: Right. But we’re also redesigning our website. We’re kind of playing with that. I hired my executive editor, Geraldine Campbell, and she comes from The Kitchn, which is a digital food site, and she has all kinds of ideas for how to make our site feel better and more dynamic. So, we’re putting some attention there. And obviously, social. They can seek us out. I’m trying to improve on all fronts. So, I hope people will seek us out, digitally as well, in ways that maybe they haven’t in the past.

Rachael Ray will have an audience, she is a beloved TV personality, but I would love to give them something they really hunger for, if you will. And really seek out on all platforms and make it worth their time and worth their discretionary dollars of they’re buying print. And worth their attention. We have great recipes and great content surrounding those recipes that is very Rachael and very real-life and very fun and entertaining, and at a place that you want to be.

Samir Husni: Do you continue to be Print Proud Digital Smart?

Lauren Iannotti: Yes, but I think we’re no longer trying to be everything to everybody, which is nice. We’re trying to be what our audience needs, where they need it. But print is still the driver; it’s still the thing that we love very much. It’s the cornerstone, but it’s not the only thing. We have all of these different cool arms of the brand that are happening.

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

Lauren Iannotti: We’re also doing a Facebook Live panel. It’s going to be on our Rachael Ray Magazine Facebook account on March 1 at 4:00 p.m. We’ll have Rachael and a bunch of her awesome chef friends talking to us about the particular challenges of women in the industry. And career advice and sexual harassment and all of the issues that surround women in the food industry. We have done Facebook Live before with Rachael, but this will be a little more of a production, so we’re excited about it.

And I would be remiss not to say a lot of this happened thanks in part to help from our sponsors, the South Carolina Tourism Board, who are actually doing a parallel program. They did a chef and a master program and this year all of their chefs and masters were women. They were really trying to highlight women in the food industry in South Carolina, while we were trying to highlight women in the food industry across the country. So, we kind of joined forces and they have been a great partner and supportive throughout producing this program.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Garden & Gun Magazine’s Three Secrets Of Success: Continued Commitment To Content Excellence, Refreshing New Design, & Always Putting The Reader First – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With David DiBenedetto, Senior Vice President/Editor In Chief, & Marshall McKinney, Design Director…

January 8, 2018

“What we do doesn’t necessarily translate into an easy search. We deliver an experience; we want every issue to be a reading experience and a surprising experience. I like to think of it as almost like an album. Every issue has to have the perfect mix and it works really well when it does; when you’ve got a surprising story up front or an amazing photo and a hard-hitting journalistic piece, and then a light story on a good dog. I just think readers aren’t going away, and even more so than ever they appreciate good work.” David DiBenedetto…

“I think there’s a litmus test for what makes the grade as Garden & Gun’s content. There’s a matrix that we run everything through and if it hits a certain standard then we key in on it. Also, like Dave was saying earlier, there’s a lot of crap out there and I think when people read content that rings with truth, that has this sort of voice that rings with truth, they recognize it as something reaching a higher standard. If it feels like there was some effort involved and some degree of discipline brought to bear on the content, I think people recognize it as something valuable.” Marshall McKinney…

When a magazine is working brilliantly and has a unique character and style that resonates with people, why would you ever consider shaking that up, even a little? Why? Well, for your readers of course. For that indelible right they have to continued growth and evolvement with even one of their very favorite titles: Garden & Gun. Because as Editor in Chief David DiBenedetto said, they don’t sit back and enjoy the success, they keep pressing forward, striving to be even better than they were yesterday, while always keeping an eye on the future. And, as Dave said throughout the interview, always putting the reader first.

Along with Dave, Marshall McKinney, design director, have both been with the magazine for almost its entire 11 years of existence. G&G is the recipient of their life’s blood and the magazine’s excellence of character and grace reflect that. It’s a magazine that southerners and Yankees alike love and cherish and bring into their homes with no intention of ever letting leave. It’s the pull-up-a-veranda-have-a-refreshing-mint-julep friend that they never show the front door to. But after 10 years at the magazine that is getting ready to increase its rate base to 400,000 as of the Feb./March issue, Dave and Marshall felt that it was time for a change with their beloved magazine, so they set about to refresh and reinvigorate it with a more modern feel while remaining true to its journalistic style and panache that readers have come to love.

I spoke with Dave and Marshall recently and we talked about the redesign and all of its many facets, both the good ones and the improvable ones. It was a true Garden & Gun conversation, easy, informative and effortless when it came to the passion and love these two have for the brand. As always, Mr. Magazine™ was enthralled and entertained. I hope you are too. And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with David DiBenedetto and Marshall McKinney (who I am proud to say, and for truth in reporting mention, that Marshall was a student and a graduate teaching assistant of mine during his graduate studies at the University of Mississippi)… enjoy the interview and pick up a copy of the recent issue of Garden & Gun at a newsstand near you!

But first the sound-bites:

David DiBenedetto, Senior Vice President/Editor In Chief

On where they think the industry is heading in 2018 and beyond (David DiBenedetto): Well, that’s certainly the million dollar question, right? (Laughs) I for one don’t think magazines are going to disappear. I do think some magazines will be weeded out. Obviously, these days you can find a lot of information online; you can find recipes; you can find sickness tips; you can find so much, and I think the magazines that will survive are the ones that are doing real original stuff that can’t necessarily be found through a Google search.

On the secret sauce that allows Garden & Gun to increase its circulation rate base to 400,000 when many other publications are seeing decreases (David DiBenedetto): I think that’s part of it. For one, and it’s been the sort of magical thing about this magazine from the beginning, there’s nothing really like it out there. I always have a hard time finding the direct competitor. We always say they found the white space when they thought about what’s missing from the magazine rack. This was something new; there wasn’t anything there yet. And I think that’s really part of the calculus.

On how his role as editor in chief has changed over the last 10 years (David DiBenedetto): How has it changed in the last 10 years? I started as the number two here and even only eight or nine years ago, social media wasn’t something that we thought about every day. Like every editor, your job responsibilities have increased because you have more ways to reach the reader. Now it’s digital, podcasts, Twitter, Instagram, and these are great. These outlets are amazing because we used to only have one way to reach the reader and that was through our pages. And now we have so many ways, so many touchpoints that when you’re doing it right all of these outlets are tremendous for you.

On whether he thinks all of these social media outlets can be a double-edged sword when it comes to good content (David DiBenedetto): Right; absolutely. That’s the challenge, fighting through the clutter, so that your work can be seen. That’s the biggest challenge with these social media outlets, but I do think and I do believe that good content rises to the top and will rise to the top even more. I think folks are getting tired of shallow pieces, shallow journalism; lists of funny cat photos. We’re going to reach a point where it tips a little bit back toward appreciating good stories, good storytelling, and good journalism. People appreciate good work.

On how he would define content today (David DiBenedetto): It’s everything. Content is anything that we touch. And it can be in a digital form; it can be video or audio; it’s good storytelling; obviously, it’s prose in the magazine. And in my mind too, photography and design and illustration is content and that helps drive the narrative art too. It’s all content Everything that we touch; everything that comes out of the Garden & Gun voice is content.

On whether they believe there is some sort of litmus test for readers so they can differentiate between good content and crappy content (David DiBenedetto): I don’t know that there’s an answer to that. Hopefully, it’s pretty transparent real quickly when they look at it. Like I said, it’s about paying attention to that detail that we do in a way that a lot of these other outlets don’t.

Marshall McKinney, Design Director, Garden & Gun magazine

On whether they believe there is some sort of litmus test for readers so they can differentiate between good content and crappy content (Marshall McKinney): I think there’s a litmus test for what makes the grade as Garden & Gun’s content. There’s a matrix that we run everything through and if it hits a certain standard then we key in on it. Also, like Dave was saying earlier, there’s a lot of crap out there and I think when people read content that rings with truth, that has this sort of voice that rings with truth, they recognize it as something reaching a higher standard.

On the process of reenergizing the Garden & Gun design (David DiBenedetto): Marshall and I both have been here almost 10 years now and we’ve lived with the design of Garden & Gun for those 10 years, and it really hasn’t changed much. There wasn’t any reason to change it for the longest time, because it was really successful, people loved it and we enjoyed it, and readers responded to it. But I think Marshall and I both, as we approached this anniversary year, we said it’s time for a refresh. We both felt the magazine needed a little bit more of a modern feel. Nothing was wrong with it, but you just can’t stay that way forever; you have to keep evolving. We think a magazine should evolve, and it shouldn’t just evolve for evolving’s sake, but it should evolve when the time is right. And we felt that hitting that 10th year stride; now was the time to shake it up a bit.

On the process of reenergizing the Garden & Gun design (Marshall McKinney): A decade is a long run and we have a lot of paint on the walls after a decade. We’ve introduced a few fonts, so aesthetically it was just nice to kind of strip it down to the studs, and thinking about what came before can be very disciplined, but also the South is professionally reinventing itself. There are new trends and artists, things happening in literature, and things are happening all over the South that are progressive and that are pushing the envelope.

On whether having relatively no direct competition makes his job as design director easier or harder (Marshall McKinney): I can’t necessarily speak for the brand when I say this, but I think of my competition as Vanity Fair, New York Magazine, Dwell, GQ; I think of those brands as competition. I want to be taken seriously. I want to be competitive with them, and what I love about those brands and why I have so much respect for them is that they always reach a certain level of originality; they ring with originality and that’s what I want Garden & Gun to do.

On whether having relatively no direct competition makes his job as design director easier or harder (David DiBenedetto): It’s true; what Marshall is saying is that we strive to be the best in the business. We don’t think of ourselves as a Southern magazine; we are a national magazine. And while I don’t think we have a direct competitor, in terms of how we view our work, in our own minds we put it up against the best out there and hope that it holds right there with them.

On the magazine’s new food section called Jubilee (David DiBenedetto): I will say this, one thing that we do to celebrate Southern food is we’re not trying to write about food that’s necessarily highly nutritious and “good for you,” like healthy food. We’re writing about food that is just tasty, that makes you drool and is steeped in heritage and tradition. And maybe it’s being reinvented and maybe it is more healthful than when your grandmother made it, but we’re just trying to make food that’s super-tasty and that can become new classics in your life.

On the magazine’s new food section called Jubilee (Marshall McKinney): We like to joke around here sometimes that we’re a food magazine about the South. (Laughs)

On whether we may be seeing a new bookazine called “Jubilee” with all of the food content in the magazine (David DiBenedetto): Absolutely. I think that anytime you’re creating a magazine and you’re seeing a trend and you’re understanding what your readers are, no pun intended, “salivating” for; if it’s a success then you think about how you can take that farther along. There aren’t memos here about a new food magazine, but it’s certainly been in my head. If “Jubilee” is a raging success, then why not keep moving forward with it, and either have an SIP Jubilee or maybe a spinoff? I just think that we’re going to see how it evolves and grows, and get the readers reaction to it.

On what has been the biggest challenge from an editorial viewpoint with the redesign (David DiBenedetto): My biggest challenge was that people absolutely loved what we were delivering, and I’d lay awake at night wondering if I really wanted to make any changes. These readers are so passionate; they read every page, some of them know the magazine better than I do. That was a challenge to me, getting over that hump. It was time for a change; it’ll be okay. (Laughs) You have something that works and you don’t want to screw it up. That was certainly something that I thought about a lot.

On what has been the biggest challenge from a design viewpoint with the redesign (Marshall McKinney): I have to second what Dave said; I’ve never experienced this before, an audience that is as rabid for the brand as this. We get fierce letters, real emotional and passionate letters, about everything we do and every story we write, down to the Facebook page. We get unbelievable comments if we just post something small; the smallest thing, maybe about BBQ sauces.

On whether they’re now on top of the mountain or there are more cliffs to scale (David DiBenedetto): I’ll first say, I will never think of it as being on top of the mountain, you just keep raising the bar and keep striving to be better. And there’s always room to be better, in terms of print, your website; in terms of the way you use social media. We just have to continue to evolve and be smart. We’ve had great success, but none of us sit back and enjoy it, because we know as soon as you do that, there goes your success. In this environment, you have to work harder than ever to keep your readers.

On whether they’re now on top of the mountain or there are more cliffs to scale (Marshall McKinney): I worry a lot about newsstands and what’s happening in the bog box sector, they’re shrinking and getting smaller as a result. There’s not as much real estate inside the big box for the large newsstands. I worry a little bit about that. Here in Charleston I can only think of two places where you can even find magazines outside grocery stores. Those logistical things worry me a little bit.

On whether they’re having to work with less these days, as far as staff (David DiBenedetto): We haven’t faced the cuts that other companies have; we’ve been very lucky financially, that we haven’t had to do that. But we haven’t really grown that much either. Every year there are more things that we need to accomplish, like we talked about, social media, digital, books; we’re asking to up video; books are getting asked to do a lot more than they were eight years ago. So, the landscape is just different, and we’re all doing more.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home (David DiBenedetto): For me that’s going to depend on the season, because in the winter it’s dark when I get home, so whenever I have the chance I go outside, whether I’m taking the dog to the dog park or taking the boat out for a quick fishing mission, or taking advantage of Charleston. But when winter hits I’m often having a glass of wine and lately I’ve been addicted to Godless on Netflix. I have to say that when I get home at night, personally, I don’t often pick up another magazine only because I spend my entire day thinking about them. And I know if I pick up a magazine at home, I’m going to start thinking about work immediately and I’m trying to do a better job of not doing that all of the time.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home (Marshall McKinney): I’m ashamed to say this, but after you get home and you walk the dog, you take the trash out, just whatever, things start to settle down; I hate to say this, but I have a Netflix program going. I’m checking out Facebook, Instagram, The New York Times. I’m looking at a few blogs that I like to peruse, and I’m doing it all at the same time. And then I pick up a magazine, I have it in my lap; I’m flipping through the magazine, and then I go to bed and I read an article or two from The New Yorker or catch up on WSJ or The New York Times Magazine. That’s kind of how I put myself to bed.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him (David DiBenedetto): From a professional point of view, I would love for someone to say he always thought about the reader first.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him (Marshall McKinney): I would just want it to read that he cared about quality, and he cared. Maybe a little bit too much, but I always want to be associated with quality. A craftsman who cared about quality.

On what keeps them up at night (Marshall McKinney): What I worry about and what keeps me up is that we’ve created something that so many people cherish and adore, and I don’t want them to turn on us. I want to continue to meet and exceed their expectation level. And to suddenly find myself in a position where we can’t do that, that bothers me. We have a pretty smooth ride right now; we’ve crafted a very smooth ride, and when I feel drag on it I get really concerned. I don’t like that feeling of anything dragging it or holding it back.

On what keeps them up at night (David DiBenedetto): Every issue keeps me up. It does. Not to sound like a workaholic, but every time in that cycle where we get close to having it all dialed in and figured out, I will wake up at 3:00 a.m. and ask, is the mix perfect; is the cover going to resonate with readers on the newsstand; should I have done something better or should I have switched this article for that. Each one of them is like having a child.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with David DiBenedetto, SVP/editor in chief and Marshall McKinney, design director, Garden & Gun.

Samir Husni: As you look toward 2018 and beyond, you’ve been with the magazine now for 10 years and you’ve seen all of these changes taking place, not only at Garden & Gun, but throughout the entire industry. Where do you think the industry is heading in terms of journalism, print, and magazine media in general?

David DiBenedetto, Senior Vice President/Editor In Chief

David DiBenedetto: Well, that’s certainly the million dollar question, right? (Laughs) I for one don’t think magazines are going to disappear. I do think some magazines will be weeded out. Obviously, these days you can find a lot of information online; you can find recipes; you can find sickness tips; you can find so much, and I think the magazines that will survive are the ones that are doing real original stuff that can’t necessarily be found through a Google search.

And I think that’s been a part of Garden & Gun’s success. What we do doesn’t necessarily translate into an easy search. We deliver an experience; we want every issue to be a reading experience and a surprising experience. I like to think of it as almost like an album. Every issue has to have the perfect mix and it works really well when it does; when you’ve got a surprising story up front or an amazing photo and a hard-hitting journalistic piece, and then a light story on a good dog. I just think readers aren’t going away, and even more so than ever they appreciate good work.

Samir Husni: And if I look at your numbers, your subscriptions have increased more than eight percent; your newsstand sales have increased more than eight percent during a time when we’re seeing a lot of decreases. If someone were to ask you the secret recipe you’re using to technically go against the trends, where you’re increasing your circulation rate base to 400,000 starting with the February issue, what would that be? Why do you think Garden & Gun is able to do this, is it because of what you told me, that experience you provide, or there’s more to it?

David DiBenedetto: I think that’s part of it. For one, and it’s been the sort of magical thing about this magazine from the beginning, there’s nothing really like it out there. I always have a hard time finding the direct competitor. We always say they found the white space when they thought about what’s missing from the magazine rack. This was something new; there wasn’t anything there yet. And I think that’s really part of the calculus.

And then again, it does go back to that experience. I think when you pick up this magazine, you may not know what to expect, but our goal is that when you pick this magazine up, no matter what page you turn to, we want to draw you in. And that means that we’re paying attention to every detail on the page. That means we’re thinking about the head and the deck until we’re blue in the face. That means we’re thinking about the caption. Obviously, we’re thinking about the story itself; is the lead graph going to grab somebody and is it going to pay off what we promised?

And then the design and the photos; it’s really a visual experience. And I think the redesign reflects this. We’re not jamming a million things onto a page; it’s not always about more beans in the pot for us. It’s just one great piece of meat. And when you can do that, and other magazines do that, I’m not saying that we’re the only one, but when you’re doing that, when you can grab somebody, you’ve got one shot and it could be any page of this magazine, you’ve got to grab them. And you’ve got to think that way. You always have to think about the reader first. It’s all about grabbing the reader. And that’s how we’ve trained ourselves here and I believe it’s working.

Samir Husni: And through the last decade of training yourselves that way, how has your job as editor in chief, as senior vice president, changed? Or has it changed? Has it been a walk in a rose garden for you or you’ve always felt as though there was a “gun” aimed at your head, no pun intended?

David DiBenedetto: (Laughs) I think I follow that question.

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

David DiBenedetto: How has it changed in the last 10 years? I started as the number two here and even only eight or nine years ago, social media wasn’t something that we thought about every day. Like every editor, your job responsibilities have increased because you have more ways to reach the reader. Now it’s digital, podcasts, Twitter, Instagram, and these are great. These outlets are amazing because we used to only have one way to reach the reader and that was through our pages. And now we have so many ways, so many touchpoints that when you’re doing it right all of these outlets are tremendous for you.

And we’ve seen that growth in our Instagram followers; our Facebook followers, and they help our brand tremendously. So, my job has changed in the way that it used to be a lot about words and photos on the page, and now it’s a lot more than that.

Samir Husni: But do you think this is sort of like a double-edged sword? On the one hand, it’s great for those who use it well, but it’s not so great for others? When I spoke with the editorial director at Hearst, she said content today can be great, but there’s also a lot of junk out there.

David DiBenedetto: Right; absolutely. That’s the challenge, fighting through the clutter, so that your work can be seen. That’s the biggest challenge with these social media outlets, but I do think and I do believe that good content rises to the top and will rise to the top even more. I think folks are getting tired of shallow pieces, shallow journalism; lists of funny cat photos. We’re going to reach a point where it tips a little bit back toward appreciating good stories, good storytelling, and good journalism. People appreciate good work.

Samir Husni: What is your definition of content today?

David DiBenedetto: It’s everything. Content is anything that we touch. And it can be in a digital form; it can be video or audio; it’s good storytelling; obviously, it’s prose in the magazine. And in my mind too, photography and design and illustration is content and that helps drive the narrative art too. It’s all content Everything that we touch; everything that comes out of the Garden & Gun voice is content.

Samir Husni: And is there a litmus test; is there some way that readers should and can differentiate between good content and crappy content?

David DiBenedetto: I don’t know that there’s an answer to that. Hopefully, it’s pretty transparent real quickly when they look at it. Like I said, it’s about paying attention to that detail that we do in a way that a lot of these other outlets don’t.

Marshall McKinney: I think there’s a litmus test for what makes the grade as Garden & Gun’s content. There’s a matrix that we run everything through and if it hits a certain standard then we key in on it. Also, like Dave was saying earlier, there’s a lot of crap out there and I think when people read content that rings with truth, that has this sort of voice that rings with truth, they recognize it as something reaching a higher standard. If it feels like there was some effort involved and some degree of discipline brought to bear on the content, I think people recognize it as something valuable.

Samir Husni: As I look at the December/January issue of G&G, and the efforts that have been put forth to, not necessarily reinvent the magazine, but more like to reenergize the magazine. Can you go through that process; how the two of you worked together to do this?

David DiBenedetto: Marshall and I both have been here almost 10 years now and we’ve lived with the design of Garden & Gun for those 10 years, and it really hasn’t changed much. There wasn’t any reason to change it for the longest time, because it was really successful, people loved it and we enjoyed it, and readers responded to it. But I think Marshall and I both, as we approached this anniversary year, we said it’s time for a refresh. We both felt the magazine needed a little bit more of a modern feel. Nothing was wrong with it, but you just can’t stay that way forever; you have to keep evolving. We think a magazine should evolve, and it shouldn’t just evolve for evolving’s sake, but it should evolve when the time is right. And we felt that hitting that 10th year stride; now was the time to shake it up a bit.

And we always said that we weren’t going to gut this magazine, it was working, but we wanted it to be fresh. And we wanted to do it in a way that kept the DNA of the magazine, but still gave it, like I said, a more modern feel.

Marshall McKinney: A decade is a long run and we have a lot of paint on the walls after a decade. We’ve introduced a few fonts, so aesthetically it was just nice to kind of strip it down to the studs, and thinking about what came before can be very disciplined, but also the South is professionally reinventing itself. There are new trends and artists, things happening in literature, and things are happening all over the South that are progressive and that are pushing the envelope.

We just totally redid our website and energized it, and I think we did an incredible job with it. It was just time to strip everything down to the studs and start anew with the spirit of reinvention and lay down a groundwork that we can build on for another decade. And that will cross multiple platforms and is very synergistic in a clean way.

Samir Husni: Dave was talking earlier about how he cannot find a competitor for Garden & Gun, that you’re covering that white space and covering it well. Does that make your job as design director easier or harder, having no competition?

Marshall McKinney: I can’t necessarily speak for the brand when I say this, but I think of my competition as Vanity Fair, New York Magazine, Dwell, GQ; I think of those brands as competition. I want to be taken seriously. I want to be competitive with them, and what I love about those brands and why I have so much respect for them is that they always reach a certain level of originality; they ring with originality and that’s what I want Garden & Gun to do.

I feel like everyone on the newsstands is my competition, but I’m not sure that we have a competitor right next to us, but I do see everyone as my competitor and I want to perform at a high level that I hope reaches the standards set by those magazines I mentioned.

David DiBenedetto: It’s true; what Marshall is saying is that we strive to be the best in the business. We don’t think of ourselves as a Southern magazine; we are a national magazine. And while I don’t think we have a direct competitor, in terms of how we view our work, in our own minds we put it up against the best out there and hope that it holds right there with them.

Samir Husni: Let’s talk about one new section that you’ve added to the magazine. You’ve always had food in the magazine, but now you’ve created the section that you call “Jubilee.” Food is the number one magazine category in the country now. We have more food magazines than ever before. And to quote from the magazine, how are you “Celebrating Southern food and drink” differently than other publications, in terms of content and design?

David DiBenedetto: I will say this, one thing that we do to celebrate Southern food is we’re not trying to write about food that’s necessarily highly nutritious and “good for you,” like healthy food. We’re writing about food that is just tasty, that makes you drool and is steeped in heritage and tradition. And maybe it’s being reinvented and maybe it is more healthful than when your grandmother made it, but we’re just trying to make food that’s super-tasty and that can become new classics in your life. And maybe they’re some classics that you grew up with, but have evolved and changed.

What I thought about when we introduced that section, and obviously that’s the biggest change in this redesign; when I first got here, along with Sid Evans and Marshall, we knew food was going to be important, but back then, almost 10 years ago, we had no idea how important food would be to this audience. We just didn’t know. And the more we did it, the more folks loved it.

We have an unbelievable photography director in Maggie Kennedy, and I think our food photography is as good as anybody’s out there, by far. It’s just stunning. And I thought, okay, we know the readers love this and we had food kind of scattered throughout the magazine. It was making sense, but I thought let’s just bring it all together and give them what they want. Again, this is about delivering to the reader.

We’ve got this great John T. Edge column, Fork in the Road, that’s run for a number of years, and it’s always been in the very back of the book and honestly I felt like sometimes it got lost back there. Some of the best writing in the magazine, issue to issue, and this allowed me to bring it up front and really give it a place where I think it belongs, because it’s not always about food. It’s about how food and social issues interact and it’s a very powerful column. And that’s one reason why I was delighted to introduce “Jubilee.”

Marshall McKinney: We like to joke around here sometimes that we’re a food magazine about the South. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too). Is that a hint of something to come? That we may soon see an SIP or a bookazine called “Jubilee” from Garden & Gun with all that food content?

David DiBenedetto: Absolutely. I think that anytime you’re creating a magazine and you’re seeing a trend and you’re understanding what your readers are, no pun intended, “salivating” for; if it’s a success then you think about how you can take that farther along. There aren’t memos here about a new food magazine, but it’s certainly been in my head. If “Jubilee” is a raging success, then why not keep moving forward with it, and either have an SIP Jubilee or maybe a spinoff? I just think that we’re going to see how it evolves and grows, and get the readers reaction to it.

Samir Husni: As you began the refreshing of Garden & Gun, what has been the biggest challenge from an editorial point of view and from a design point of view?

David DiBenedetto: My biggest challenge was that people absolutely loved what we were delivering, and I’d lay awake at night wondering if I really wanted to make any changes. These readers are so passionate; they read every page, some of them know the magazine better than I do. That was a challenge to me, getting over that hump. It was time for a change; it’ll be okay. (Laughs) You have something that works and you don’t want to screw it up. That was certainly something that I thought about a lot.

Marshall McKinney: I have to second what Dave said; I’ve never experienced this before, an audience that is as rabid for the brand as this. We get fierce letters, real emotional and passionate letters, about everything we do and every story we write, down to the Facebook page. We get unbelievable comments if we just post something small; the smallest thing, maybe about BBQ sauces.

So, it was trying to honor what we’ve done before, take the same aesthetic values, but sort of retool them for what’s to come. When you launch a magazine, you put your best foot forward, but you have all of these unforeseen situations that sort of arise over time and you have to patch it up as you go. But this was an opportunity to really address some of those things and start afresh, but hopefully honor what came before.

The magazine is dense; it’s a thick book. And just by virtue of its thickness, sometimes when you fold it open the ads can kind of come over onto your content, so we wanted to create a larger margin to create more spaciousness around the page for that reason. So there were some mutual agreement reasons to do it, but anytime you affect change it comes with a lot of good and a little bad. But so far, the good has outweighed the bad, but time will tell, we’re still pretty new into this thing.

David DiBenedetto: And I’ll add, Marshall and I both believe that a redesign is not one issue. A redesign evolves. You get that first issue back and you look at it and you’re proud and delighted, but you also see some things that you could do better. And you improve those in the next issue. In my mind a redesign isn’t really strong until it’s two, maybe three issues down the road. Again, just making those minor tweaks and evolving. And just thinking about the reader.

Marshall McKinney: I keep using this home metaphor maybe because we’ve done so much work to ours lately, but once you’ve taken down the studs, you put the drywall back up; you paint it, and now it’s a matter of getting the furniture the way you like it and everything hung the way you want it.

For example, when you take all of that good, and some of our best-looking content, out of the front of the book and you put all of that food content into Jubilee, that leaves you a little thin in the front of the book. You have to figure out, and time and the market will tell you, what it wants and how it wants to evolve that front of the book section. And so we tucked that into the back of our minds as we approach this second issue of the redesign. And I think you’ll see a huge leap in the presentation of the “Talk of the South.” So, I think it takes a minute to hit your stride and we’re getting there.

Samir Husni: Are you now on top of the mountain? Or are there more cliffs to scale? What’s next for you two?

David DiBenedetto: I’ll first say, I will never think of it as being on top of the mountain, you just keep raising the bar and keep striving to be better. And there’s always room to be better, in terms of print, your website; in terms of the way you use social media. We just have to continue to evolve and be smart. We’ve had great success, but none of us sit back and enjoy it, because we know as soon as you do that, there goes your success. In this environment, you have to work harder than ever to keep your readers.

Marshall McKinney: I worry a lot about newsstands and what’s happening in the bog box sector, they’re shrinking and getting smaller as a result. There’s not as much real estate inside the big box for the large newsstands. I worry a little bit about that. Here in Charleston I can only think of two places where you can even find magazines outside grocery stores. Those logistical things worry me a little bit. Staying fresh and artful, creating that see-me-flip-me-buy-me reaction. I love that. Making covers to have subtext and impact that sell, that’s always the day-to-day struggle.

But looking forward, I’m really excited about the creative opportunities and breadth of the brand and how we can diversify going forward. I can see us having a channel of Garden & Gun content. I can see us having radio. I’m really excited about future creative endeavors.

David DiBenedetto: Video, you know. Storytelling, the word, certainly gets a bad rap these days, but it’s about the different ways that we can unpack these stories. It’s not only print these days; video for us is going to be really strong. I just think our narratives really lend themselves to that. Like I said earlier, the potential is there in just so many different outlets.

Samir Husni: So are you doing more these days with less, as far as staff?

David DiBenedetto: We haven’t faced the cuts that other companies have; we’ve been very lucky financially, that we haven’t had to do that. But we haven’t really grown that much either. Every year there are more things that we need to accomplish, like we talked about, social media, digital, books; we’re asking to up video; books are getting asked to do a lot more than they were eight years ago. So, the landscape is just different, and we’re all doing more.

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

David DiBenedetto: For me that’s going to depend on the season, because in the winter it’s dark when I get home, so whenever I have the chance I go outside, whether I’m taking the dog to the dog park or taking the boat out for a quick fishing mission, or taking advantage of Charleston. But when winter hits I’m often having a glass of wine and lately I’ve been addicted to Godless on Netflix. I have to say that when I get home at night, personally, I don’t often pick up another magazine only because I spend my entire day thinking about them. And I know if I pick up a magazine at home, I’m going to start thinking about work immediately and I’m trying to do a better job of not doing that all of the time.

Marshall McKinney: I’m ashamed to say this, but after you get home and you walk the dog, you take the trash out, just whatever, things start to settle down; I hate to say this, but I have a Netflix program going. I’m checking out Facebook, Instagram, The New York Times. I’m looking at a few blogs that I like to peruse, and I’m doing it all at the same time. And then I pick up a magazine, I have it in my lap; I’m flipping through the magazine, and then I go to bed and I read an article or two from The New Yorker or catch up on WSJ or The New York Times Magazine. That’s kind of how I put myself to bed.

David DiBenedetto: That’s like an overachiever. (Laughs)

Marshall McKinney: I am totally immersed in media; it’s like a huge wave that’s trying to gobble me up.

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

David DiBenedetto: From a professional point of view, I would love for someone to say he always thought about the reader first.

Marshall McKinney: I would just want it to read that he cared about quality, and he cared. Maybe a little bit too much, but I always want to be associated with quality. A craftsman who cared about quality.

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

Marshall McKinney: Lately it’s been the house; it feels like it’s trying to eat me. But what I worry about and what keeps me up is that we’ve created something that so many people cherish and adore, and I don’t want them to turn on us. I want to continue to meet and exceed their expectation level. And to suddenly find myself in a position where we can’t do that, that bothers me. We have a pretty smooth ride right now; we’ve crafted a very smooth ride, and when I feel drag on it I get really concerned. I don’t like that feeling of anything dragging it or holding it back.

David DiBenedetto: It’s different; when you’re launching the magazine you’re this precious new thing, and you’re the new kid on the block. It’s a different experience when you’re trying to sustain the momentum; when you’re trying to keep it going. It’s definitely a different challenge.

Every issue keeps me up. It does. Not to sound like a workaholic, but every time in that cycle where we get close to having it all dialed in and figured out, I will wake up at 3:00 a.m. and ask, is the mix perfect; is the cover going to resonate with readers on the newsstand; should I have done something better or should I have switched this article for that. Each one of them is like having a child.

To me that’s the immediate thing that keeps me up, because as Marshall said there’s an expectation from the readers that they’re going to be blown away by every issue. That they’re going to want to collect it and put it on their coffee table. And that’s a lot of pressure; that’s a wonderful pressure and a wonderful position to be in. But you don’t want to let them down and that certainly keeps me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

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