Archive for the ‘’ Category

h1

Making Digital Permanent OffScreen: The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Founder/Editor Kai Barch. A Launch Story

February 26, 2015

“There were a number of reasons (he chose print) and one of the first was really quite selfish. I was doing web designs for clients and I got really tired of producing something that didn’t last very long; whenever you create a website or some other digital design, it lives as long as the next release cycle or the next version number.” Kai Brach

Issue 10 of Offscreen magazine.

Issue 10 of Offscreen magazine.

There is absolutely no doubt that we live in a digital age. From our laptops to our smartphones; being onscreen is a way of life for humans these days. But who are the people out there molding the web and building these virtual worlds that we all so embrace? Where are their stories; their tales of success and failure? Finally there’s a magazine that points to that place on the map; that continent called Cyber.

Offscreen is a print magazine all about people who use the internet and technology to be creative, solve problems, and build successful businesses. It’s an ink on paper that embraces digital – some might say integration at its best.

Kai Brach is a one man operation of Offscreen; he is the publisher, editor and art director for the publication. For ten years he was a web designer before he decided that he needed something more tangible than the virtual worlds of the internet to fulfill him. He needed to feel his work would last beyond mere pixels; he needed the collectability of print. He needed more than a software update; he needed the final version.

I spoke with Kai recently through Skype from his home in Melbourne, Australia. We talked about the life of a web-designer-turned-print-publisher; the fact that he taught himself InDesign and the basics of Magazines 101. Kai is an extremely ingenious and talented young man who knew what it would take to lift him to the next level of his creativity – from pixels to print – he found fulfillment in the printed word.

So sit back and enjoy this unique conversation with a man who learned for the first time what the phrase ‘final version’ truly means – a printed magazine – the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Kai Brach, Publisher & Editor, Offscreen…

But first the sound-bites:


On why a web designer would choose a printed product:
There were a number of reasons and one of the first was really quite selfish. I was doing web designs for clients and I got really tired of producing something that didn’t last very long; whenever you create a website or some other digital design, it lives as long as the next release cycle or the next version number.

On the launch of Offscreen:
It was a weird feeling because you send it off and a few weeks later this product, this magazine, comes back; especially for someone who hasn’t ever done anything in print before; it was a pretty amazing experience.

On his major stumbling block with the launch:
On the editorial side, and I still find this really challenging, working with 40 or 50 different contributors and getting them to give you what you want when you need it. That was and still is the biggest challenge of making any magazine; it’s working with the contributors.

On his most pleasant surprise:
The good thing was when I got the first issue in the mail, that was great, but what was even better was seeing other people get it in the mail and talk about it on Twitter and put the photos on Instagram, letting me know that opening the mail smelled amazing and that they had completely forgotten that print had these other multi-sensory experiences that they don’t get when they sit in front of a screen all day.

On whether he would ever work in the digital realms again:
Sure. I think everything has an expiration date and every project we do comes to an end at some point and I would never say I would not go back to digital.

On what keeps him up at night:
I think most of my worries that give me sleepless nights relate to contributors who are not getting back to me or are being late or telling me that they can’t do something at the last minute. Contributor worries definitely keep me up at night.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Kai Brach, Publisher & Editor, Offscreen…


Samir Husni: I was fascinated with your own personal digital background and the content of your magazine is all about the web and digital. Why did you choose print for your magazine?

Kai Brach, founder, editor and publisher Offscreen magazine.

Kai Brach, founder, editor and publisher Offscreen magazine.

Kai Brach: There were a number of reasons and one of the first was really quite selfish. I was doing web designs for clients and I got really tired of producing something that didn’t last very long; whenever you create a website or some other digital design, it lives as long as the next release cycle or the next version number. So you produce something and it’s online now and two weeks later it’s already changed or it’s gone and disappeared into the ether that is the internet.

This process was not fulfilling at all and I really wanted to produce something that lasted longer than the average website. I wanted to create something that I could put on my shelf and say, look, this is what I made, and it will last as long as I have it on my shelf.

That was one of the reasons that I decided I was going to stop doing client work and try my hand at something completely different. If it turned out OK – I knew that I would be proud of it.

The other reason was there’s so much stuff being produced online. I personally find myself either reading something on my Kindle, iPad or my iPhone, which I don’t have an iPad any longer, but when I read something on any of my mobile devices, I get probably 10 minutes of read time before I’m interrupted by an email or some other notification. Or I’ll try to scan over articles or longer reads, but I find myself never engaging with them properly. And I noticed that whenever I read a book or a magazine on my travels, when I’m on the train or on the plane, that’s when I actually enjoy reading. So, I thought that it would be nice to have the things that I care about, reading about the web and how people build companies and how people are creative with technology, to read about that in a format that I actually absorb properly and not just scan through or quickly run over because I have another 15 messages to answer.

And so print was becoming almost like this island where I could go and relax and discover the actual process of reading again. It was really nice and calming. And that was the other reason; I just wanted to create something that people would not find distracting and that they wouldn’t feel pressured to read on the go.

So those were the main reasons, I guess. And then, of course, it’s hard to charge money for digital content, where you can put it in a magazine and provide a nice product experience; you make it something people want to keep, a collectable item, it’s then easier to charge people for it. Which doesn’t necessarily mean that you make a lot of money with it, because in publishing, and I’m sure you can attest to this fact, it’s really hard to actually make a lot of money, especially when it comes to independent publishing.

Samir Husni: Tell me the story of the launch; were you in Germany or had you already moved to Australia when you came up with the idea? Briefly, recount for me the launch of Offscreen.

Kai Brach: I was already in Australia and working as a web designer, but then I decided to stop doing that and gave myself six months to figure out what I wanted to do. I started traveling for those six months. I went to Europe and the U.S. and a few other places and I actually met up with quite a few people that I knew from the web industry.

It was during that time that I actually started to enjoy the stories that happened behind the scenes. We talked to a start-up guy who was very successful, but when you talk to him personally, you realize he went through a lot of failed attempts before he became successful and those stories that I was hearing from different people while I was traveling, encouraged me to somehow put them in a book or e-book or podcast, somewhere I could publish them.

So, I came back from my travels six months later and I decided at that point that I wanted to make a print magazine. I didn’t really know where to start, but I contacted some other magazines that I had sitting on my desk and asked them very simple questions about how to get started; what tools do you use; what production companies do you use; what printer do you use; just lots of questions.

Then I emailed a lot of printers in Germany and Australia, because I know German and the Germans know a thing or two about the printing press. (Laughs) I contacted various printers and asked them quotes based on very random numbers that I thought would make sense. I asked for a quote for 3,000 copies in the beginning and then I compared quotes and pretty much decided; OK, Germany is the only place where it makes financial sense to produce a magazine because in Australia it was extremely expensive. The cost of living is really high here.

From there, I decided to make a magazine based on the quote that I had. I had a quote based on 96 pages and I knew that was my limit. I put together a spreadsheet of people that I wanted to have in the first issue. Some of the people that I met during my travels were in the first issue, but also people that I knew through Twitter and Facebook were in there too.

Basically, I emailed a lot of people just asking them questions such as whether they would be interested in doing an interview with me and have that conversation printed in a magazine.

Of course, if you ask a web designer or some other digital person if they want to do an interview for an exclusive print magazine, you usually get some frowns and some weird looks, but once they saw the first issue, they really appreciated the magazine as well.

So, I pretty much taught myself just like when I did web design. Then, I jumped online and I actually did a course on a website called linda.com, which is an online tutorial where you pay $25 and you can watch videos of people using InDesign and preparing things for print and using color management; all those sorts of things. I taught myself how to use InDesign in a couple of weeks and of course, I used a lot of magazines that were sitting on my desk as a source of inspiration. I copied a bit here and there, but tried to be creative in other ways and after three months or so I did the PDF version of the first magazine and sent that to the printer in Germany and then I waited for four weeks or so and pretty much camped in front of my mailbox for the first issue to arrive.

It was a weird feeling because you send it off and a few weeks later this product, this magazine, comes back; especially for someone who hasn’t ever done anything in print before; it was a pretty amazing experience.

Samir Husni: What was the major stumbling block with this launch and how did you overcome it?

Kai  Brach, bringing virtual to reality.

Kai Brach, bringing virtual to reality.

Kai Brach: There’s the production side and then there’s the editorial side. The production side is, of course, figuring out how to avoid typographic issues, making the writing good, issues such as that. And that was a big challenge for me, because as a web designer I’m not used to creating something that has a final version. As a web designer, you produce something; you put it online and then you iterate and iterate and iterate until it’s as good as it can be. Coming to that final version was a big challenge for me on the production side.

On the editorial side, and I still find this really challenging, working with 40 or 50 different contributors and getting them to give you what you want when you need it. That was and still is the biggest challenge of making any magazine; it’s working with the contributors, especially if you’re trying to interview really busy people and get them to sit down and do a lengthy interview with you.

On top of that, keep in mind that I’m the only person behind Offscreen, so there’s no team. I do all the editorial, design, publishing and distribution myself. Every day I put on all these different hats and sometimes you get stuck in a certain area and it just doesn’t move forward.

So production was difficult because I was a web designer before I was a print magazine publisher and it was really hard to come to that final version and send it to the printer and be happy with it.

And the biggest challenge on creating the editorial side of it was dealing with so many different people at the same time and you have all these deadlines lined up.

Samir Husni: What was the most pleasant surprise?

Kai Brach: I think getting the magazine in the mail; the first issue, especially, was amazing. Unfortunately, other issues you get after that; you always see the things you can improve upon, instead of the things that you’ve done right. If you ask any publisher, he’ll always tell you that most of the time they always see things that are wrong with it, instead of the great things about it.

The good thing was when I got the first issue in the mail, that was great, but what was even better was seeing other people get it in the mail and talk about it on Twitter and put the photos on Instagram, letting me know that opening the mail smelled amazing and that they had completely forgotten that print had these other multi-sensory experiences that they don’t get when they sit in front of a screen all day.

Hearing the feedback from people with every single issue is what I live on and what I look forward to.

Samir Husni: Do you ever see yourself going back to web design and working within the digital sphere again?

Kai Brach: Sure. I think everything has an expiration date and every project we do comes to an end at some point and I would never say I would not go back to digital. At the same time, I’m still part of digital. I’m interviewing all these people and I also design and run my own website and I do a lot of social media activity. So, I’m still a part of digital and working within the digital industry as much as I am working in print.

But who knows what the future holds? Print is a great project and I really enjoy it, but I think every publication has a point in time where it either completely reinvents itself or it just stops. The makers or the publishers try their luck with something else.

Samir Husni: I hope you have a long life with Offscreen because the concept itself and the stories you’re telling, the people you’re profiling, is our world today. We live in a digital age, nobody can deny that. But very few people actually know those stories and I think you’re not only doing a great favor for the printed magazine industry, but also the digital world. You’re taking the fantasy out of digital and the virtual out of digital and bringing it to reality.

Kai Brach: I think there’s a lot of content that’s similar to what I do in the magazine that exists online. But for a lot of people when you put it into a magazine; first of all, it reaches a different category of readers. With magazines there is a category of readers that like to discover new things. When they go to shops or they see a magazine on a coffee table somewhere else, it’s a different type of reader that gets excited; you can’t really compare them with someone who subscribes to a certain blog or follows someone on Twitter.

But at the same time the content online is similar, there are a lot of interviews on podcasts and in e-books that everyone can listen to. Of course, my housemate who’s an architect probably wouldn’t listen to a two hour podcast about a digital product. So, for those people, they will discover that world through a magazine that they stumble upon. Would they stumble upon a podcast? Not really. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Tell me a bit about your background. Are you originally from Germany, or did you grow up in Germany? And what’s the link between Germany and Australia?

Kai Brach: I’m German. I grew up there and lived there until 2002. I moved to Australia and settled here about six years ago. I was working as a web designer and I also did a lot of traveling and spent a few months in New York and went to other places around the world. I worked while I was on the go. I think that was one of the things that I was worried about when I started the magazine: would I be able to maintain that nomadic work pattern that I had, because I love being flexible and being able to go anywhere and work from my laptop. Luckily, I can still do that, but there are a few reasons I need to establish an address and be at home for, in terms of publishing. But 90% of it I can still do on the road, so I still travel.

Samir Husni: And you’re based in Melbourne now, right?

Kai Brach: Yes, in Melbourne. I spend a bit of time every year in Berlin, maybe one or two months. There is a lot of activity, in terms of independent publishing in Europe at the moment. I attend a lot of conferences and it seems for independent publishing; Europe is the place to be at the moment.

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

Kai Brach: (Laughs) What doesn’t keep me up at night? Today I actually woke up at 4:00 a.m. Not because I was worried, but because I woke up for something and then I started thinking about my emails and how I had confirmed most of the interviewees for the next issue.

I think most of my worries that give me sleepless nights relate to contributors who are not getting back to me or are being late or telling me that they can’t do something at the last minute. Contributor worries definitely keep me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

A “Collective Quarterly” Show And Tell Travel + Design Magazine. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Editorial Director Seth Putnam. A Launch Story.

February 24, 2015

“When I deal with the internet, I don’t feel there’s a sense of accomplishment necessarily or permanence with it; it’s so fleeting. And I wonder if that’s something that my generation is responding to, in terms of something tangible. When I finish reading a book or a magazine; I can look at it and say, I finished that, rather than just moving on to the next click or page.” Seth Putnam

Issue Zero of The Collective Quarterly

Issue Zero of The Collective Quarterly

Bohemian destinations and creative accomplices who revel in the art of the uncommon, if that description seems unique and intriguing, then the magazine Collective Quarterly is calling to you.

Each issue of the magazine follows select craftspeople to an offbeat location, where they design uncommon objects while the cameras and writers capture their creative processes. It’s a journey deeply rooted in the heritages of the destinations that they visit. And they are the ‘Collective.’

Seth Putnam is the editorial director of Collective Quarterly and Jesse Lenz, an accomplished illustrator, is his business partner and creative director for the magazine. The two together have spawned an absolutely brilliant and well-done printed magazine that is both aesthetically pleasing and reader-satisfying with its rich and original content.

I recently spoke with Seth about the magazine. We touched on everything from the concept to the cover price, $25, and the fact that both he and his partner are digital natives who felt the need for a printed product to bring their audience a deeper and more meaningful engagement. The conversation was fascinatingly diverse and interesting.

I hope you enjoy this trip into a world where creativity in design and travel is the focal point for everything and the motivation behind two young men’s dream – the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Seth Putnam, Editorial Director for Collective Quarterly.

But first the sound-bites:

Seth Putnam, co-founder and editorial director, The Collective Quarterly magazine.

Seth Putnam, co-founder and editorial director, The Collective Quarterly magazine.

On the background of Collective Quarterly: It basically became a travel and design magazine where the travel portion is covered by each issue focusing on one location; one region. And then the design portion is covered by the fact that we bring with us a group of artists or craftspeople and we put together an experiential, inspiration trip for them, almost like an artist’s residency.

On why as digital natives, he and his partner decided they needed a printed magazine to connect with their audience:
Some parts of our business we approach with great research and thought, and then some we do simply out of a passion for something or a gut feeling. We decided to do print because, while yes, magazine subscriptions are falling and certain titles are closing, more titles are opening, particularly in independent, boutique niche genres’.

On the hefty cover price of the magazine – $25:
We landed on that price based on the cost to print a thousand copies of the issue 0 – we looked at it as an experiment. And it was very expensive.

On his opinion of why the digital natives of today are finding an endurable quality in the printed product:
When I deal with the internet, I don’t feel there’s a sense of accomplishment necessarily or permanence with it; it’s so fleeting. And I wonder if that’s something that my generation is responding to, in terms of something tangible.

On knowing who his target audience is:
Demographically, we haven’t run a lot of surveys or specific numbers, but I would say our audience skews younger, probably that 21 to 35 age-range, with a fairly even split of men and women, from the orders that I see coming in.

On how they came up with the name Collective Quarterly:
We were thinking of it as a place where, not only we could bring together really talented artists and craftspeople to go on these trips because each time the cast of characters is rotating, but also use our platform and voice as a medium for our readers to get involved as well. So, we had a sort of inclusive mindset and that’s why we ended up calling it the Collective Quarterly.

On how they decide on the destinations of each issue:
Usually it’s a collaborative decision between me and Jesse, the creative director, but we try and do a pretty good job of soliciting ideas at least from the other five or six people on our team or people that we’ve met on the ground in locations that we’ve visited.

On the biggest stumbling block he had to overcome:
Everything we have done so far has paid for itself and that’s been really exciting for us, but the challenge has been cash flow, for sure. Trying to make sure that when you’re working on two or three issues at a time, there’s enough money in the bank to pay your bills.

On his most pleasant moment:
The reason I got into journalism is because I have a very strong attachment to hearing other people’s stories. Oddly enough; that’s what we’ve been doing. It’s been really gratifying to see that we’re sort of living in a brave new world where if you’ve got a good idea and an internet connection, you can create your own platform for doing that kind of storytelling.

On advice he would give to students who are about to graduate and start their publishing careers:
If you have a story to tell, or if you want to tell someone else’s story, but there’s no obvious path to be able to do that through traditional media, then just do it; do it yourself.

On what keeps him up at night:
Just making sure that we’re doing good work and we’re treating people well, our sources and our team members, and that we’re doing a better job this time than last time.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Seth Putnam, Editorial Director, Collective Quarterly…

Samir Husni: Give me some background on Collective Quarterly.

The first issue of The Collective Quarterly.

The first issue of The Collective Quarterly.

Seth Putnam: We’ve been working in earnest on it since January. 2013. My business partner and I met through the social networking site Instagram. I was working as a magazine writer in Chicago and he’s an editorial illustrator who has created covers for everyone from The New York Times Magazine to GQ to Money, and I think he actually did the Planet Hillary cover for The New York Times Magazine last year and then also the 10th anniversary of September 11th for the cover of Newsweek as well, so he’s a very accomplished illustrator.

As we looked at each other’s work on the social media sites, we became intrigued and decided to set up a call. During that call he told me that he’d like to start a magazine, so I asked him what he wanted it to be about and he asked: how about the creative process? I said that’s a little bit abstract to do an entire magazine about; how are we going to focus that?

We landed on the idea of travel, because we’ve found personally that the trips that we take and the people that we meet in these unseen, often, off the beaten path hideaways are certainly extremely inspiring to us and our passion for stories.

It basically became a travel and design magazine where the travel portion is covered by each issue focusing on one location; one region. And then the design portion is covered by the fact that we bring with us a group of artists or craftspeople and we put together an experiential, inspiration trip for them, almost like an artist’s residency. And then they go home and make something in their discipline, based on their time there, the things that they saw, and the people that they met. We chronicle those experiences and their design processes in the completed product and it’s available through our website as well.

Those are the two hooks of the magazine.

Samir Husni: When did you graduate from the University of Missouri?

Seth Putnam: 2010 – so, five years ago.

Samir Husni: You’re in your twenties?

Seth Putnam: Yes, I’m 26, as is my business partner.

Samir Husni: So, you’re a digital native; why print? When everyone is telling us that the future is digital and you even met your business partner via Instagram; why did you decide to go with print?

Seth Putnam: I guess we’re just young and foolish. (Laughs) Some parts of our business we approach with great research and thought, and then some we do simply out of a passion for something or a gut feeling. We decided to do print because, while yes, magazine subscriptions are falling and certain titles are closing, more titles are opening, particularly in independent, boutique niche genres’.

And much like we’re seeing people return to vinyl records, we’re seeing a love or an appreciation for tangible lifestyle, human interest coverage. So, sure newsweeklies and titles that rely on breaking events are probably suffering because of the immediacy of the internet, but I think that there’s definitely a market out there of people who are willing to put their dollars toward an experience or deeper stories that form another entertainment bucket for them.

But for us; it’s the beauty of being able to hold it; it’s the beauty of sending, as often as possible, reporters, writers and photographers places so that they can tell the stories in person; it’s a little hard to do sometimes, but it makes a better story. And I think the same is true for print versus consuming content on the web.

For the first few issues or the first couple of years, we focused entirely on print, whereas now we’re about to launch a journal on our website so that we can provide more daily stories for our readers, but print has definitely been the thing that we have thrown most of our energy into.

Samir Husni: I noticed that you have a hefty cover price for the print magazine.

Seth Putnam: (Laughs) That’s true. We landed on that price based on the cost to print a thousand copies of the issue 0 – we looked at it as an experiment. And it was very expensive.

What we’ve done is put out a second issue and we’re actually going for a third and we have negotiated a new deal with our printer that will hopefully allow us to get that cover price down in the $19 or $20 region, maybe not by the next issue, but in the not too distant future.

We’re finding that many of the magazines in our similar niche are charging in the $15 to $25 and sometimes up to $30 range, which is a luxury price point for sure. And we want to try and get that down as much as possible because we’ve seen that the magazines that are sticking around have come down somewhat from their original price point.

But again, when you’re printing a thousand copies, of course, we’re printing more than that now, but in the beginning we were doing a 1,000; the price per copy is exponentially higher than if you were printing 10,000 or 15,000 copies.

Samir Husni: I’m seeing more and more new magazines following your approach. The digital generation is finding some love for print or some enduring aspect of the printed product.

Jesse Lenz, co-founder and creative director, The Collective Quarterly

Jesse Lenz,
co-founder and creative director, The Collective Quarterly

Seth Putnam: Yes, I agree. When I deal with the internet, I don’t feel there’s a sense of accomplishment necessarily or permanence with it; it’s so fleeting. And I wonder if that’s something that my generation is responding to, in terms of something tangible. When I finish reading a book or a magazine; I can look at it and say, I finished that, rather than just moving on to the next click or page.

Samir Husni: And who do you view as your audience? Who bought that first issue and who’s buying the second? Do you have a sense of your target audience?

Seth Putnam: We’re beginning to get a better sense. I think the audience that adopts a magazine like Collective Quarterly in the beginning is definitely one that is sort of trend-focused; they care about travel and the story behind the destination and they might be the kind of people who shop at anthropology or urban outfitters, for example, which are some of the retailers we work with.

Demographically, we haven’t run a lot of surveys or specific numbers, but I would say our audience skews younger, probably that 21 to 35 age-range, with a fairly even split of men and women, from the orders that I see coming in.

But definitely people who have more than just one income and are able to purchase a magazine of that price point and also buy the products inside and maybe even take the trips that we’re recommending.

I suppose it’s an affluent audience, which raises some questions for us as far as how we want to make ourselves accessible to others as well.

Samir Husni: How did you come up with the name: the Collective Quarterly?

Seth Putnam: We put together a big Google document at the very beginning of our trip and the initial idea was much more focused on artists and makers than it currently is; I think we’ve achieved a little bit of balance there. We were thinking of it as a place where, not only we could bring together really talented artists and craftspeople to go on these trips because each time the cast of characters is rotating, but also use our platform and voice as a medium for our readers to get involved as well. So, we had a sort of inclusive mindset and that’s why we ended up calling it the Collective Quarterly. We toyed around with a lot of different names, but that one just seemed to fit.

Of course, since then we found out a lot of things are called collective. (Laughs) That raises some challenges for sure.

Samir Husni: (Laughs too) I noticed on the website that you refer to you and your team as ‘the Collective.’

Seth Putnam: Yes, definitely. That’s designed to create a sense of inclusion and to make it more about the group as a whole.

For example, there are certain titles out there, particularly in the independent niche genre, where they’re very much connected to a specific person, whether that’s Ben Ashby’s Folk magazine or Nathan Williams’ Kinfolk; they’re synonymous with one individual oftentimes. We wanted to start out at least by being a place where people could rise; the particular people that we find along the way and that we feature, and we’re hoping to be as active an organization as possible to help these people and give them success as well.

Samir Husni: The decisions to go to these places, whether it’s Texas or Montana or wherever you find those offbeat locations that the magazine focuses on; are they collectively decided on or are they just sudden ideas, someone saying, hey, why don’t we go to Texas?

Seth Putnam: Within our internal office structure, which is sort of a misnomer, because no one is in the same place; we have people in different cities: San Francisco, Phoenix and Chicago, also in West Virginia and Minneapolis; I don’t think any one of us is in the same city.

So, there is no office, so to speak, but within our decision-making structure there are definitely those who provide the drive and motivation and the pushing, and others who provide the steering, for sure. Usually it’s a collaborative decision between me and Jesse, the creative director, but we try and do a pretty good job of soliciting ideas at least from the other five or six people on our team or people that we’ve met on the ground in locations that we’ve visited. See what works with our schedules and our interests and then we go and scout those places to see if they have the kind of story quality that we’re looking for.

Samir Husni: When you graduated in 2010; did you ever think that you’d be doing what you’re doing now?

Seth Putnam: I had no idea. Usually people graduating from college aren’t sure about the next job they’re getting, much less what their long-term ambitions are. When the first issue came out I spoke through Skype to a class from the University of Missouri and I just did another one after the Montana issue came out and that first time I told them that I sure wished that I had taken magazine publishing because I didn’t have the first clue about making a magazine. There’s been a lot of trial and error, to be certain.

I spent the last four or five years freelancing and there’s a lot of isolation that comes with that when you’re working for yourself or rather, for 15 or 16 different editors or publications at a time, but you’re doing it from the comfort of your own home. So, I spent a long time as an individual rather than a manager or part of a team and I think that has been a really exciting challenge, and also transitioning from thinking that I’m not someone’s employee anymore, I’m a boss or an owner. That quick wired a definite mindset shift that I didn’t predict when I was in college.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest stumbling block since launching Collective Quarterly and how were you able to overcome it?

Seth Putnam: When we all went to Texas, there were about eight or nine people on the trip, and everyone who was there paid their own way; we covered our own lodging costs and expenses, because as I said earlier, sometimes we make decisions without doing all the research that we could have. We started the magazine with no funding and we just paid our own way.

When we had gathered all of the content for stories and the photographs, and it became time to actually take it to print, we knew that we couldn’t foot that bill ourselves, so we considered whether or not we should do a Kickstarter. But we decided that if we were going to be a magazine that sells for that cover price, we wanted to establish ourselves less as needing help and more as something people would want to get in on early and be the first to get a copy.

We made a video and sort of styled it after a Kickstarter campaign and we ran that through our own website and we sold pre-orders rather than donations. And with what we earned in the first month or two, we were able to take it to print and the sales from that issue covered many of those expenses that we had paid out of our own pockets for the next one. So, it covered travel costs and lodging and some meals here and there.

Everything we have done so far has paid for itself and that’s been really exciting for us, but the challenge has been cash flow, for sure. Trying to make sure that when you’re working on two or three issues at a time, there’s enough money in the bank to pay your bills.

I think that’s one of the things that come along with not taking funding at the very beginning and obviously, there are tradeoffs. If you take funding then your investor owns part of your company and you lose a little control, but if you keep that control you may not have the liquidity to be able to do some of the things that you’d like to. We’re very much in that challenge mode right now and trying to figure it out; we’ve put out two issues now and we’re about to do a third; how do we stick around long enough to be able to keep this going for a while?

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant moment?

Seth Putnam: The reason I got into journalism is because I have a very strong attachment to hearing other people’s stories. I kept track of how many days I was on the road between this magazine and my other assignments last year, I was on the road for about 125 days, and most of the time was spent going to small hamlets around the country.

I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Georgia Rambler; he was an Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist a few years ago, but he would go to small towns in Georgia and find someone and then ask them who was the most unforgettable person they knew. Then he would go and write about that person.

It’s funny because I corresponded with him; his name is Charles Salter, after hearing him on This American Life a few years ago; actually, when I was working in Mississippi, and we corresponded a little bit and I asked him as a naïve 21-year-old: how do I get a job like yours? And he said there aren’t that many out there anymore because you would need to be on a newspaper staff for 15 or 20 years to gain the experience, credibility and cache which would allow your editor to say: OK, go do this column. And then you’d have to write a daily column in the newspaper and the bottom is falling out of newspapers and that’s just not possible anymore.

But oddly enough; that’s what we’ve been doing. It’s been really gratifying to see that we’re sort of living in a brave new world where if you’ve got a good idea and an internet connection, you can create your own platform for doing that kind of storytelling.

Samir Husni: What advice would you give to students now who are reaching the graduation stage?

Seth Putnam: That’s a great question. I don’t generally have one go-to piece of advice where I say: if you’re a young journalism student, you need to know this, but one of the things that I really loved about my education, and still see at the University of Missouri when I go back and talk to students there, is that there are no limits on what they think is possible. And I think that’s worth reminding ourselves and them about to. If you have a story to tell, or if you want to tell someone else’s story, but there’s no obvious path to be able to do that through traditional media, then just do it; do it yourself.

Start a website or start some sort of platform online that allows you to tell that story and realize that it’s highly possible that you may have to do it for free because as a young student no one may be willing to pay you to do that.

But I think it’s a really powerful truth that when there’s something a person feels compelled to do or a story that someone feels compelled to tell, that’s inside and just has to come out, doing it on your own and doing it well; eventually, somebody is going to find a way to pay you for it. It’s an exciting time because there have never been fewer barriers to those of us in the storytelling industry to be able to seek our own path.

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

Seth Putnam: Right now what’s been waking me up at 3:00 a.m. is the closing week of our Vermont issue. As I said; I’ve always worked as an individual and now I have a team of writers and colleagues and they’re depending on me to get things done, on time, and make sure all of the loose ends are neatly tied up, particularly when you’re about to send it to print. There are a lot of things that appear to be falling through the cracks and need your attention.

Just making sure that we’re doing good work and we’re treating people well, our sources and our team members, and that we’re doing a better job this time than last time.

It’s such a beautiful magazine and I am in such awe of our photographers and designers and the guys that are making sure it all happens. Another thing, from my standpoint, that sometimes keeps me up at night is trying to figure out how to elevate the quality of the writing, for sure, and to get people involved with us that are much better than we are, and can lift us to greater heights with the actual content.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

A Return To Print: Plough Quarterly Digs Deep Into Christian Issues One Cause At A Time… The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Publisher Sam Hine

February 19, 2015

“We had a very successful website, but we felt that the engagement with the material was superficial. People were only spending a few minutes, even less than a minute, on an article and not really thinking deeply about the topics we were raising.” Sam Hine

Plough1-1 In a world sometimes gone mad with violence from social and religious contentions and other issues that can only be handled from the far left or the far right; we all need a message of hope and renewal to refresh our hearts and souls and assure us that there is a greater good out there and we do have hope when it comes to a peaceful and loving future.

Not that socially and religiously-charged conflicts haven’t been going on since the Garden of Eden, it’s just that Adam and Eve didn’t have a Smartphone, iPad or computer to send them notifications about the battles every five seconds. Today the dissent is extremely in-your-face and there is no reprieve from it. But there are people out there dedicated to bringing us a different notification and message; one of hope and salvation from all the disunity we see in the world today.

Plough Publishing re-launched its 94-year-old magazine as Plough Quarterly on June 10, 2014. It had been twelve years since the publication went online-only. Since then Plough.com had become a top destination for Christian e-books and online inspiration, and it seemed the editors learned a few things from its success online.

“Magazines are more relevant than ever,” said Sam Hine, publisher of Plough Quarterly in a press release that was released before the magazine’s re-launch. “They have been reimagined to answer a widespread dissatisfaction with the online reading experience. People are hungry for something that isn’t ephemeral—a quick scan, then on to the next thing with a click, swipe or tap. If content has integrity, people will be happy for a beautifully crafted product they can keep around or pass around.”

I spoke with Sam recently about the reasons behind Plough Publishing’s decision to bring back the print component of the brand and the message and mission of the company. As he talked about the compassion and genuineness of the magazine’s purpose: to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, his voice was soft-spoken and even, yet firm in his passion for the magazine’s mission and his determination to give his readers a more meaningful and engaging way to connect with that calling, through the power of the printed word.

I hope you enjoy this uplifting and inspiring conversation as much as I did. The words are real and the feelings behind them absolute: love and peace are much more satisfying than their antonyms any day of the week.

And now the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Sam Hine, Publisher, Plough Quarterly.

But first the sound-bites:

Sam Hine On why Plough Publishing brought back their print magazine after 12 years:
There is also a limit to presentation, how nice you can make the reading experience online. And we heard from readers who missed the print magazine and told us that they would love to receive a quarterly journal from us. All of those things convinced us that it was time to bring back print.

On the DNA of Plough Quarterly and its focus:
It’s published by Plough Publishing House and we also publish books, currently about 12 titles per year, on faith, spirituality and social issues. And the focus of the magazine is to encourage people who want to put their faith into practice.

On why Christian magazines seem to be on the rise with consumers:
I think the United States has always been a very religious country. And I think people have always been serious about their faith. For a magazine like ours to succeed, it needs to offer something different and Plough Quarterly is really for people who are looking to go deeper with their faith and who are very serious about putting their faith into practice every day, not just on Sunday.

On what made him feel there was a place on the newsstands for Plough Quarterly:
Our sales are primarily subscription, but for us it’s important to be on the newsstands too so that new people discover us; that is the main reason we’re there.

On his biggest stumbling block during the re-launch and how he overcame it:
The decision was easy; we just had a lot to learn. The world has changed in many respects; how to promote and market a magazine; how to publish a product that offers something unique and different from what consumers can get online. And I think with each issue we’ve learned something and gotten better.

On his most pleasant moment:
The best thing was hearing from individual readers about how much they appreciated the magazine.

On what keeps him up at night:
Our mission as a publication and a publishing house is to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and to reach as many people as possible with the message of forgiveness, reconciliation and renewal that comes when we apply our faith to the needs of our time and we’ve hardly scratched the surface. Every day I think of how few people we’re reaching in comparison to how many are actually out there who need that message.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Sam Hine, Publisher, Plough Quarterly.

Samir Husni: Like the rest of the masses 12 or 13 years ago; your company said there’s no future for print, everyone is going online, so let’s fold our printed magazine and go digital. But then last summer you came back with a beautiful, very well-done, quarterly ink on paper magazine; what changed your mind after 12 years and made you decide you needed the print component again?

Sam Hine: The decision was made in 2002 to close the print magazine because we decided we could reach more people at less cost online only. And that was probably true, but over the years since, we had a very successful website, but we felt that the engagement with the material was superficial. People were only spending a few minutes, even less than a minute, on an article and not really thinking deeply about the topics we were raising.

There is also a limit to presentation, how nice you can make the reading experience online. And we heard from readers who missed the print magazine and told us that they would love to receive a quarterly journal from us. All of those things convinced us that it was time to bring back print.

Plough2-2 Samir Husni: For readers who are not familiar with Plough Quarterly, can you give me a little background? I know the magazine was founded in Germany in 1920, but can you give me more about the actual magazine, the movement and its mission?

Sam Hine: It’s published by Plough Publishing House and we also publish books, currently about 12 titles per year, on faith, spirituality and social issues. And the focus of the magazine is to encourage people who want to put their faith into practice. So, it’s applied Christianity; how can we apply what we believe to every area of life, from social issues to current events and popular culture. It’s a magazine of stories, ideas and art to inspire people to put their faith into action.

Samir Husni: Is the magazine published only in the United States, in English, or does it still exist in Germany?

Sam Hine: We’re only publishing in English, but it’s available worldwide. We have many subscribers in the United Kingdom, for example.

Samir Husni: I interviewed Carol Brooks last month from Bauer Publishing and they’re coming out with a new magazine called Simple Grace in April. And this is a secular publishing house that’s putting out a Christian-based monthly magazine on the nation’s newsstands. She quoted a lot of the same statistics that your company did in your press release, such as 77% of Americans are Christians and she also quoted the figures of how many copies the book Jesus Calling is selling. So, they decided to come up with this Christian magazine for the newsstands with a daily meditation for readers. Why do you think we’re seeing this resurgence maybe or renewed interest in Christianity now? Is it the political world that we live in or simply the changes that are happening? Why now?

Sam Hine: I think the United States has always been a very religious country. And I think people have always been serious about their faith. For a magazine like ours to succeed, it needs to offer something different and Plough Quarterly is really for people who are looking to go deeper with their faith and who are very serious about putting their faith into practice every day, not just on Sunday. It is a niche publication for people who are looking to dig deeper.

Another gap that we see we’re filling that other Christian publications for the most part are not, is the ability to build bridges between denominations. There are over 40,000 different Christian denominations and many Christian publications are published by a particular group or geared toward a particular segment. So, one of our goals and focuses is to really reach out across all these barriers and to include voices from all the different streams of Christianity. Plough Quarterly is a place where we can build unity and understanding between Christians of many different flavors and stripes. Jesus’ last prayer was for all of his disciples to be one.

Plough3-3 Samir Husni: I noticed that you put the magazine on the newsstands; in fact I found my copy at Books-A-Million. What made you feel that there was a place on the newsstands for this niche Christian-living type magazine?

Sam Hine: Our sales are primarily subscription, but for us it’s important to be on the newsstands too so that new people discover us; that is the main reason we’re there. We’re in Barnes & Noble as well as Books-A-Million and other independent newsstands. So, the main reason is that new people find the magazine and hopefully subscribe.

Samir Husni: When the decision was made to bring back the printed magazine; what was the biggest stumbling block that you faced and how did you overcome it? Or was the decision and the process easy and it was done?

Sam Hine: The decision was easy; we just had a lot to learn. The world has changed in many respects; how to promote and market a magazine; how to publish a product that offers something unique and different from what consumers can get online. And I think with each issue we’ve learned something and gotten better. And another important facet was that it had to be graphically pleasing. We’ll also sit down and spend a long time with an article and with print we’re able to do a longer form of journalism.

Samir Husni: What was the most pleasant moment with the re-launch?

Sam Hine: The best thing was hearing from individual readers about how much they appreciated the magazine. We’ve been pleasantly surprised; we passed our subscription goals for the first year within the first six months. We were a bit surprised at the reception.

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

Sam Hine: Not Plough Quarterly. (Laughs) Our mission as a publication and a publishing house is to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and to reach as many people as possible with the message of forgiveness, reconciliation and renewal that comes when we apply our faith to the needs of our time and we’ve hardly scratched the surface.

Every day I think of how few people we’re reaching in comparison to how many are actually out there who need that message. We’re a mission-driven organization; we’re not for profit and we’ve barely begun. There is so much violence and suffering in the world and if we can encourage a few people each day to make a difference, to step out and do something for others, makes it worthwhile for me to come to work each morning and helps me sleep at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Picture 40

h1

Jimon – The Man & His Magazine – A Five Year Anniversary Of High Fashion Photography With An Artful Design – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Jimon Aframian, Editor-In-Chief, Jimon Magazine

February 4, 2015

“The magazine is an outlet. We all need something to inspire us and if it’s going to inspire other people, so much the better. I get emails from people telling me they cry when they look through the magazine or they tense up. And when I read that I say, wow, it’s not just me. There are other people who appreciate what I’m doing.” Jimon Aframian

me From photographing beautiful models for Playboy in Europe to starting up his own sleek, oversized high fashion and art magazine; Jimon Aframian is a visionary who refuses to sell his soul to the minions of celebrity success and popularity.

Jimon – the magazine, is celebrating five years of publishing perspective and while Jimon – the man, said that through those years there were many times he had asked himself why he was still doing the magazine, he always found a reason and the tenacity to go on.

The magazine is filled with different photographers’ muses and displays high fashion in an artful and creative way. When he could have bolstered the magazine’s acclaim and public approval by putting well known notables onto the covers and within the magazine’s pages, Jimon chose to stay true to his vision and the content of the magazine.

And by doing so, the magazine – Jimon is a true extension of the man – Jimon and brings clarity and a maxim of genuineness that cannot be ignored. It is a must-have for your coffee table conversation pieces.

Also a must-have is the limited edition, signed book Jimon is publishing of all 10 issues of the magazine that he has produced over the last five years. But as I said, it’s a limited edition and the copies are numbered. So, get your copy reserved quickly. Mr. Magazine™ is definitely looking forward to his. You can order on Jimon’s Facebook page.

I hope you enjoy this lively celebration of five years in the publishing industry with a man who stubbornly believed in his dream and continues to do so today. It’s a Mr. Magazine™ departure into the world of creative genius with Jimon Aframian, Editor-in-Chief, Jimon magazine…

But first, the sound-bites:

Screen shot 2015-02-03 at 2.11.11 PMOn how he came up with the concept of Jimon magazine: I love photography; so I started working on shooting fashion and soon realized that fashion photography was very different from other types of photography. At some point, I ran into the bureaucracy or maybe I should say the editors’ vision, where my views or my ideas were not really what they had in mind. That kind of set me back a while, but then I said to myself: you know what; maybe I’ll just start my own magazine.

On the biggest challenge he was able to overcome when launching the magazine: I would say the financial part of it. I had no idea; they say ignorance is bliss, well; mine was a perfect case of it. If I’d known at the time what it takes, I probably would have never started it.

On the secret to Jimon’s longevity: Ignorance is bliss, but my personality is one where I don’t necessarily give up that easily. As I went along I realized that this game is not a simple one. In other words, you need to build momentum.

On his most pleasant moment during this five year journey: That’s easy. The most pleasant moment for me was in the beginning, after the first and second issue had come out and I would go to the newsstands, anywhere really, in Milan or Paris or London, L.A. or New York and I would see the magazine that I had started sitting next to the magazines that I adored.

On why he decided to do a five year limited edition book of all 10 of the magazines he has published so far: From the beginning when I started doing it, I wanted to have a certain number of copies held back and publish a book. I hadn’t decided if it was going to be done in five or ten years, but at this point I just decided to do it.

On what he has planned for Jimon in the future: There are times when you ask yourself: why are you still doing this? But somehow you find a reason to keep going. And five more years from now, I would be surprised still, because it’s not easy or sustainable, but you do find a way to keep going with it.

On the advice he would give to someone looking to start their own magazine: If you want to start a magazine, a fashion magazine, have some money. You definitely need money. And you need to know every aspect of it yourself, especially if you don’t have any money.

On what keeps him up at night: It’s really not the magazine. (Laughs) I can tell you why it’s not the magazine; if it kept me up at night, I would not be doing it.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Jimon Aframian, Editor-in-Chief, Jimon magazine…

Screen shot 2015-02-03 at 2.14.25 PM Samir Husni: Congratulations on reaching this milestone: five years of publishing the magazine Jimon. Could you tell me the story of how you came up with the idea and launched the magazine?

Jimon Aframian: I was a photographer for a number of years and I shot Playboy Europe mainly. And I think it was in 2005 when I decided to do fashion because I figured when I’m 50 or 60 years old, it would not look proper for me to be shooting 18-year-old girls naked, although everyone might think it was cool; I wouldn’t think so. But I figured that I would still want to do fashion.

I love photography; so I started working on shooting fashion and soon realized that fashion photography was very different from other types of photography. It’s not that it’s competitive, it’s more: if you have access, I think. And I really can see that from the photography that’s in the magazines. It doesn’t mean the photography is good, but because you have access a person can pretty much create their own genre. And we see it a lot; it’s very common these days. You can see photographers who decide not to shoot the norm; it’s pretty outside of the box because they’ve done it and have found a following. They get paid for what they’re doing now.

I did some fashion and I was pretty good at doing it in California and I did a lot of fashion photography for different magazines at the time and some for European markets. In Europe things are different obviously, but in L.A. I did pretty well.

At some point, I ran into the bureaucracy or maybe I should say the editors’ vision, where my views or my ideas were not really what they had in mind and they would say that won’t work because they wanted simple stuff that people could relate to or understand. The magazine was a lifestyle magazine that I shot for then. So, I shot for a couple of other magazines, but basically what I had in mind was more of a European style and they just did not go for it.

That kind of set me back a while, but then I said to myself: you know what; maybe I’ll just start my own magazine. So, I did and started contacting new photographers that I knew and they were all interested in working with the magazine and shooting for it.

The toughest part was finding the printer to print the format that I wanted, which was oversized and on a very high quality paper. This is not easily found these days, because a lot of printing companies print digitally. And I needed a company that had a specific printing machine called a Heidelberg; I’m sure you’re familiar with them.

So, I looked around and I found a couple of companies that could basically do what I wanted to do. And that’s pretty much how I got started.

Samir Husni: What was the major stumbling block after you found the right printer, the biggest challenge that you were able to overcome when launching the magazine?

DSC_0091_sepia Jimon Aframian: I would say the financial part of it. I had no idea; they say ignorance is bliss, well; mine was a perfect case of it. If I’d known at the time what it takes, I probably would have never started it. And because my background was not in publishing, I was somewhat in the dark. I thought I was going to print a magazine and get advertisers left and right.

Even finding a distributor was very simple because I put a mock-up together and went to a pretty large distributor that carried titles that I adored myself and when they saw my mock-up they said sure, we’ll distribute this. So there was no problem getting a distributor.

Then as soon as the first issue came out I flew to Paris and met with the distributor in Paris and they also picked it up without any problem. I’m sure they had the incentive of not having a lot to do, but still they’re not going to pick something up that is no good. I truly believe that.

Samir Husni: Five years ago your magazine was the exception to the rule. Now we see a host of similar magazines, ones where people are using art/fashion photography to produce magazines. What has kept you going for five years while others after you have already come and gone after one or two issues? What’s the secret of Jiman’s longevity?

Jimon Aframian: I brushed upon this earlier, I think. Ignorance is bliss, but my personality is one where I don’t necessarily give up that easily. As I went along I realized that this game is not a simple one. In other words, you need to build momentum. Just like what you said; a lot of magazines come and go. They do one or two issues because it’s easy.

But to keep doing it over time, it takes a certain personality and the financial part of it is important. I did find some traction in that sense and I did a lot of research. I even went to FIT in New York and did research there because I go every year for fashion week. And I found out how the life of a magazine works. And I looked at other magazines’ histories to see what their progressions were. I found out that some of these magazines were still going strong. Those publications that started in the heyday of fashion magazines were still very popular. There was no internet per se and they struggled for almost ten years before they could really reach a level where they were sustainable.

And then there are the conglomerates. Conglomerates have so many titles they could lose money in. What if they lost money in 50 of them? But they could make money in 200 of their titles. So they distribute them out to keep the name going.

With an independent publisher you have one title and you just somehow have to maintain it the best you can. Everybody thinks that they can start a magazine and make money; I think they’re just hallucinating. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too) So why are you still persevering and publishing the magazine?

Screen shot 2015-02-03 at 2.13.26 PM Jimon Aframian: It’s art. To me the magazine is really art because I’ve been approached by artists who want to be in it. But maybe I shouldn’t say artists; I have been approached by certain starlets or some of today’s hottest personalities who have had their publicists ask about them appearing on the cover. And I have had to decline and tell them that this is not that type of publication. Just because I believe the magazine is more of an extension of me. I want to make sure that what’s on it and in it is a representation of who I am. Now for example, if I allow Kim Kardashian to be on it or in it that is completely against who I am. And I think she’s been on the cover of enough magazines lately as it is. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: What was the most pleasant moment for you in this five year journey?

Jimon Aframian: That’s easy. The most pleasant moment for me was in the beginning, after the first and second issue had come out and I would go to the newsstands, anywhere really, in Milan or Paris or London, L.A. or New York and I would see the magazine that I had started sitting next to the magazines that I adored. To see my magazine sitting next to them was pretty much all I needed. That was good enough for me. I counted that as done; achieved and ready. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: You have put 10 issues out over the five year period and you just published a collector’s edition with a very limited number of copies signed by you, which contain all 10 copies of the magazine. Why did you decide to do that?

Jimon Aframian: From the beginning I had this plan. You make a number of copies and you distribute them to the newsstands, Barnes & Noble and overseas. And either they send some back to you or they destroy the extras.

But from the beginning when I started doing it, I wanted to have a certain number of copies held back and publish a book. I hadn’t decided if it was going to be done in five or ten years, but at this point I just decided to do it. But I should have kept some more back for a tenth year book too.

Samir Husni: If you and I are having another conversation ten years from now; what do you envision yourself telling me?

Jimon Aframian: There are times when you ask yourself: why are you still doing this? But somehow you find a reason to keep going. And five more years from now, I would be surprised still, because it’s not easy or sustainable, but you do find a way to keep going with it.

But then again, you’re not willing to sell your soul and you could sell your soul easily. And I refuse to do that.

Samir Husni: What advice would you give the new generation of photographers and journalists? What would you tell someone who came to you and said: Jiman, I love what you’ve done with your magazine; what advice can you give me about my own career?

Screen shot 2015-02-03 at 2.21.32 PM Jimon Aframian: Going back to when you asked me about my most pleasant moment; there was another moment that I was really pleased by, which was when the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena invited me to come and speak to their graduating class. They have asked me twice so far. I haven’t been able to go because I have been so busy, but they would invite me to come and talk to their graduating class. They had seen the magazine and they couldn’t believe that it was being produced in L.A. They contacted me and wanted to me to talk to their graduating class in photography. And I was very pleased by that. To me that said that I was doing something right. I might have done a lot of things wrong (Laughs), but I had done something right for sure.

And going back to your question: I would have told each of the students to have a portfolio and find out what they want to do. A lot of people don’t really know what they want. They have no idea what’s out there, but that’s a good thing in this case, because if they did know, they might run away, especially in fashion photography.

The problem is the digital camera because everybody thinks they’re a photographer when they have a camera in their hand. And that’s not the case. A photographer needs to know how to frame something, even if it’s a teapot. And most people don’t know that. And you go to school and you can’t learn that. It’s inherent. It’s something that’s inside you. A person can learn a lot by going to school; you can expose your talent by going to school, but if you don’t know how to do it, it would be really hard on the photographer. You’d probably become a mediocre photographer at best. I would also tell them to keep shooting every day.

Now what would I tell somebody who wants to start a magazine? Or someone who wants to be a fashion photographer?

Samir Husni: How about both? You answered for the photography aspect, but what about starting a magazine?

Jimon Aframian: If you want to start a magazine, a fashion magazine, have some money. You definitely need money. And you need to know every aspect of it yourself, especially if you don’t have any money. If you don’t have money and you’re determined to go and start a magazine, then you need too many people working for you. You have to hire an art director, an editor, a copy editor, a graphic designer, and these people will want money. And if you don’t have the money, it becomes almost impossible. So, you really do need to know a lot yourself.

Besides that, find a niche. You have to have a niche. It could be anything. I went for art and high fashion. And then just do it. Put a mock-up together and go out and do it.

There were stages before I started the magazine… you’re familiar with the magazine called Stern from Germany?

Samir Husni: Yes, I am.

Jimon Aframian: They would show one photographer’s work in each issue, for example. My original thinking was to do something similar to that, but I slept on it for a couple of years and I decided that might be a bit monotonous for me and not work. And that’s why I changed my idea to making a more collaborative effort with five or six photographers in each issue and a few artists.

So, they need to find some sort of theme and let it evolve, because it will evolve. A lot of people will send them a lot of things, but they need to listen and take note of things around them. Some things work and some do not.

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

Jimon Aframian: It’s really not the magazine. (Laughs) I can tell you why it’s not the magazine; if it kept me up at night, I would not be doing it. The magazine, like everything else in life, can be tough. I don’t have children, but I see my brothers and sisters children, and with having kids, there are tough moments, but also a lot of good moments.

So, the magazine is like that. It has a lot of good moments and it brings a lot of good to my life. It’s definitely not the magazine that keeps me up at night.

The magazine is an outlet. We all need something to inspire us and if it’s going to inspire other people, so much the better. I get emails from people telling me they cry when they look through the magazine or they tense up. And when I read that I say, wow, it’s not just me. There are other people who appreciate what I’m doing. And you’re not an artist until other people admire your work. If you’re the only one admiring your own work, you’re a hobbyist, not an artist.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Yoga Digest Magazine: A Launch Story. The Lifestyle Of Yoga Comes To Life In Print – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Co-Founder Cody Groth.

February 2, 2015

“Honestly, I think people are out of their minds to get out of print. I still think that the majority of people are just so engaged with something that’s in-hand and they look forward to getting something in the mail or seeing it on a newsstand; it’s just more appealing to them and to me too honestly.” Cody Groth

Yoga Digest 1-1 In June 2014, an online community of yoga enthusiasts and practitioners was born – yogadigest.com. Within that realm of digital connection a yearning for a deeper engagement with the lifestyle of yoga was communicated and in November 2014, the print version became a reality: Yoga Digest magazine.

Jenn Bodnar is a yoga teacher/trainer and Cody Groth, a former college basketball player who had his aspirations and career cut short by a back injury, co-founded the online site and the magazine. Jenn had been following the yoga lifestyle for some time, while Cody experienced the restorative power of yoga when his involvement with the practice healed his back injury completely, without surgery. Even though every doctor he saw said he would eventually need surgery to find relief from the injury.

I spoke with Cody recently about the ink on paper addition to the website and why it was necessary for the fulfillment of their mission. From the engagement factor of print to the tangible quality of the paper itself; the 26-year-old digital native confessed his obsession with print and his belief in its power to engross today, even with a myriad of digital screens at people’s disposal.

The interview was vibrant with positivity, the power of the dream, and a never-ending hope for tomorrow, all brought about by the birth of a printed magazine, proving once again that reality complements virtual quite nicely.

I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Cody Groth, Co-Founder, Yoga Digest magazine. I know I did.

First, the sound-bites:

On the decision to do a print magazine: We initially started as an online community just to build a foundation. Then after a couple of months and after reaching out to many contributors in the industry, we were getting feedback from people who would much rather be in print. There’s still something about being in print that’s appealing to people.

On the conception of the magazine:
It was a natural flow that stemmed from the feedback that we were getting. The online community was doing great, we were getting a lot of hits to the site, but again, we sat down and decided that if we wanted to reach the amount of people that we did; we had to be in print.

On the biggest stumbling block they had to overcome:
The biggest stumbling block for us is was our unfamiliarity with the publishing business. We had no backgrounds in the magazine industry at all.

On what the future of Yoga Digest looks like: It’s looking very promising. We’re getting a lot of interest from the financial world. So, we have a lot of connections in place.

On how they hope to compete with the more established yoga magazines for advertisements:
As for advertising, right now we’re just working with the small range of products that you see in the magazine: the yoga lifestyle products and we want to keep it that way. We don’t expect to compete with the bigger magazines when it comes to advertising.

On whether they were out of their minds to start a print magazine in a digital age:
Honestly, I think people are out of their minds to get out of print. I still think that the majority of people are just so engaged with something that’s in-hand and they look forward to getting something in the mail or seeing it on a newsstand; it’s just more appealing to them and to me too honestly.

On what they will be concentrating on over the next 12 months with the magazine:
We will be trying to increase our brand recognition over the next year to go along with our magazine. We have a lot of fun things in place to counter our brand that’s known as a magazine right now, but we hope to expand on that with different events and involvements.

On anything else he’d like to add:
The main thing that we really want to emphasize is how we separate ourselves from the bigger magazines. They have their own audience, their own niche that they appeal to, but we really are trying to appeal to the everyday person who maybe wants to start yoga but thinks they need to be able to touch their toes before they begin. That’s not the case at all.

On what keeps him up at night:
I would have to say Yoga Digest keeps me up at night because it keeps me so busy.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Cody Groth, Co-Founder, Yoga Digest…

Samir Husni: Take me through the journey of Yoga Digest. You started the website first and then you decided to do the print magazine. With the multitude of yoga magazines already out there; why did you decide to do a print magazine now? Tell me the story of Yoga Digest magazine.

cody groth Cody Groth: We initially started as an online community just to build a foundation. Then after a couple of months and after reaching out to many contributors in the industry, we were getting feedback from people who would much rather be in print. There’s still something about being in print that’s appealing to people. So, we sat down and we thought it through and in order for us to reach the amount of people that we wanted to reach for our mission, we decided to go into print as well.

From there, regarding the other magazines in the industry, we really wanted to separate ourselves by being an approachable resource, as opposed to what’s already out there, which is mainstream, Ph.D. yoga and kind of a naturalist, hippie-type yoga. We wanted to be the middleman between the everyday person and a resource that reaches all populations of yoga. Not everybody needs to wear high-end yoga gear or buy the most expensive mat in order to do yoga. Yoga is a lifestyle that contributes to overall health and wellbeing, not just an ego or materialistic-type of practice.

Samir Husni: You started on the web in June and then you launched your first print issue in November; what changed in that time frame, besides your contributors telling you that they wanted to be in print? Can you take me through the conception of the magazine through its status today?

Cody Groth: It was a natural flow that stemmed from the feedback that we were getting. The online community was doing great, we were getting a lot of hits to the site, but again, we sat down and decided that if we wanted to reach the amount of people that we did; we had to be in print.

The transition from online to print was just a steady flow. And it really did go very naturally in the direction that it did. We were accepted by the printer and the distribution company that we wanted. The other things sort of fell into place for us and are still going smoothly.

Samir Husni: What was the biggest stumbling block for you during this journey and how did you overcome it?

Cody Groth: The biggest stumbling block for us is was our unfamiliarity with the publishing business. We had no backgrounds in the magazine industry at all.

But everything just fell into place, from getting the right designer to set our style to getting accepted by the distributor. And we didn’t have anything to show other than a few mock-up articles and a website demographic. So, we were very surprised to be accepted by the distribution company that we did.

Samir Husni: Do you consider that the most pleasant moment in the launch of Yoga Digest?

Cody Groth: Yes, absolutely. The most difficult or something that almost stopped us was the funding. We had really hoped to raise some money to get it going, but we ended up having to self-fund it ourselves and it’s still 100% self-funded.

Samir Husni: You have two issues under your belt; what does the future look like for Yoga Digest now?

Cody Groth: It’s looking very promising. We’re getting a lot of interest from the financial world. So, we have a lot of connections in place.

Yoga Digest 2-2 Nothing is set yet, but there’s a good possibility that we’re going to be expanding our distribution to a broader audience, not just the targeted audience. We’ll be in about 1,900 GNC stores and a large amount of chiropractors and doctor’s offices. We have a connection with the owner of Walgreens, who is interested in our magazine. Barnes & Noble has shown interest and we have a connection with some airports and one of our partners already has products at airports. We’re going to be partnering with Quarterly, which is a subscription box service and we’re going to be offering yoga products with them.

So, we have a lot of things in place, both with the magazine and a bunch of fun, external things that we’re getting involved with.

Samir Husni: Magazines have two major sources of revenue: circulation and advertising. With your circulation as it is now; how will you compete for advertisements with some of the more established yoga magazines out there?

Cody Groth: That’s a good question. Our current distribution is just over 10,000, that’s just in Wholesome Foods and Sprouts and what’s in the house markets and that’s with just one distribution company.

As for advertising, right now we’re just working with the small range of products that you see in the magazine: the yoga lifestyle products and we want to keep it that way. We don’t expect to compete with the bigger magazines when it comes to advertising.

Obviously, when we increase our circulation in the next couple of issues, we’ll have to hire an advertising team. But we want to make sure that our magazine is offering advertisement that is relevant to our reader. We don’t want to sell anything that isn’t relevant to our audience and our content within the magazine.

Samir Husni: Do you think that being a novice in the magazine business helped to make the transition from digital to print easier for you in an age when everyone says that print is dead or declining? Are you out of your mind to start a print magazine in today’s digital world?

Cody Groth: Honestly, I think people are out of their minds to get out of print. I still think that the majority of people are just so engaged with something that’s in-hand and they look forward to getting something in the mail or seeing it on a newsstand; it’s just more appealing to them and to me too honestly. I’d rather have something in-hand that I can take with me wherever I want to go as opposed to reading it on a screen.

Samir Husni: And if I may ask; how old are you, Cody?

Cody Groth: I’m 26.

Samir Husni: So, we can’t count you as a digital immigrant; you are a digital native.

Cody Groth: Right; I’m within the digital generation, but I’m still obsessed with print.

Samir Husni: Good to know. Tell me a little about the future of Yoga Digest; if I take a sneak peek into your business plan, what will I find you doing within the next 12 months?

Cody Groth: You’ll see a lot of brand recognition, not just in print; we’re trying to expand the Digest into festivals, retreats, and featured classes around the country, and also into the Quarterly partnership.

We will be trying to increase our brand recognition over the next year to go along with our magazine. We have a lot of fun things in place to counter our brand that’s known as a magazine right now, but we hope to expand on that with different events and involvements.

Samir Husni: Why did you opt to name the magazine Yoga Digest when you’re publishing a standard-sized magazine rather than a digest size?

Cody Groth: Yes, a lot of the digests and catalogues are smaller-sized, but we see “digest” as reading. Golf Digest also does a full-sized magazine, so that was helpful to us when we named the magazine. It let us know that we wouldn’t be completely out of the box by going with a full-sized magazine but calling it a digest.

When choosing our brand, the Digest, we were very surprised that it was available. If you look at all the major industries, any kind of niche digest is either well known within the industry that it’s in or it’s been around for 50 or 60 years.

But to have a growing industry like yoga have the brand “digest” available was very appealing to us.

Samir Husni: That was a surprise to me as well. With all the yoga magazines out there and none of them having the name Yoga Digest was amazing. But sometimes the obvious is the one thing people don’t think about.

Cody Groth: Yes, agreed.

Samir Husni: You have a partner and the two of you are publishing the magazine; did you both quit your day jobs?

Cody Groth: (Laughs) No, we do this as a…well, I was going to say hobby, but I guess it’s turning into a full-time gig. It started as a hobby; we both have a passion for yoga; we love doing and sharing it. Jenn Bodnar, my co-founder, is a yoga instructor and a yoga teacher/trainer, so she teaches people to become yoga teachers. She’s very knowledgeable in the industry and very well connected.

I’m just a product of how yoga feels. I was a college basketball player and I had a back injury that forced me to quit my college basketball career and every doctor I saw told me that I needed surgery. After doing some research myself and talking to quite a few people who had opted for yoga over surgery; I decided to start yoga. And even though it was a slow transition over the course of the last three years, yoga has completely healed my back. So, I’m very passionate about sharing that with people.

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

Cody Groth: The main thing that we really want to emphasize is how we separate ourselves from the bigger magazines. They have their own audience, their own niche that they appeal to, but we really are trying to appeal to the everyday person who maybe wants to start yoga but thinks they need to be able to touch their toes before they begin. That’s not the case at all. Yoga is for everybody and everybody can do yoga.

I think it was Zig Ziglar who said: you don’t have to be great to start something; you have to start something to become great. So we’re trying to share our passion with everyone and separate ourselves into that audience.

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

Cody Groth: I do sleep very well, but I would have to say Yoga Digest keeps me up at night because it keeps me so busy.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

This Pineapple Is To Have, Hold, And Enjoy! The Story Of The Latest Travel Magazine Launch. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Publisher Christopher Lukezic.

January 30, 2015

“We believe print is a really unique way to experience content and a really unique way to engage with our readers. The tactile quality of the paper that we’re producing the magazine on, the photography; all of it, really comes to life on paper in a way you can’t necessarily get on a digital screen.” Christopher Lukezic

Pineapple-1 Airbnb, the world’s leading community-driven hospitality company, has added another component to their online presence: an ink on paper component, Pineapple magazine. Long known as the symbol for hospitality and welcome, the pineapple was a fruit that survived much during the 1400s and still managed to thrive, according to Pineapple publisher, Christopher Lukezic. It was brought to Europe from the West Indies and quickly became a sweet symbol of cordiality.

And the heritage of the “Pineapple” was a Godsend to Christopher as it represented everything he and his team wanted to present with their very unique travel magazine, which is slated to become the content force and driver of Airbnb’s community of readers and travelers, a hale and hearty symbol of travel that welcomes and greets warmly.

The magazine marks a major step for Airbnb to become not just a platform where stories are created, but where stories are told. Pineapple will reflect the unique perspective of Airbnb’s global community, with deeply local and personal content that hopefully will inspire travelers everywhere.

I reached out to Christopher recently and we talked about the excitement this ink on paper product has produced within the company and about the reasons for it. From the beauty displayed between the printed pages to the tactile feel of the paper itself; Christopher shared why he and Airbnb believe in the power of print as a digital entity themselves and why the distinct point-of-view of the magazine will go a long way in distinguishing it from the multitudes of competition on the newsstands already.

The magazine will cover a wide variety of topics – such as culture, art, food, and style – from a local’s perspective with neighborhood guides, insider tips, and unique, personal stories. Each issue will showcase three different cities through the lens of local community members and global travelers.

So grab your traveling gear and follow Mr. Magazine™ and Christopher Lukezic, Publisher of Pineapple, as they take you on a trip around the world of travel…

But first, the sound-bites:


Christopher Lukezic On why Airbnb chose a print component in a digital age:
I think that Airbnb wanted to be a bigger part of a producer of really high quality travel content. The magazine is a part of a larger effort by the company to move into the world of publishing and producing travel content.

On why he thinks more digital entities are adding a print component to their equation these days:
I believe that there is a certain tactile quality to print that engages with people and that’s something that doesn’t necessarily happen on a digital screen.

On the unique selling proposition he is offering the marketplace with so much competition out there already:
One of the things that we try to do is not to have a prescriptive travel magazine. We’re not a team of editors trying tell people what they should and should not do in a city.

On the major stumbling block he has had to face during the magazine’s conception and launch: You said it earlier: a digital company moving into print. It’s a very new world for us and we’ve been learning a lot as we go.

On that “aha” moment when he knew he’d hit on something special:
We went through a couple of iterations and a couple of ideas early on and we shifted course a few times, but I think for us it really all kind of came to fruition when we landed on the name. And I think that was the moment that we knew we were going to do something really special.

On his distribution strategy for the magazine:
We’re still trying to figure out what the future of the distribution strategy of the magazine will be. You will be able to purchase it and we’ll also distribute it to our community, so both of those ways will continue.

On the relationship between Airbnb the company and Pineapple the magazine: It’s very much a two-way street relationship. The future of this and how it ties into the business and how it relates to our core business, we’re still working on a lot of that, but it will very much be an integral part of the Airbnb experience.

On what he hopes to have accomplished with Pineapple a year from now:
Our real goal with Pineapple is for people to start to think about it as a place where they can come to plan their trip experience, as well as to book accommodations.

On what keeps him up at night:
Not much actually. I’m pretty happy with where things are and I’m really excited about the potential for this magazine and the future of it. The only thing that would maybe keep me up at night is not being able to do everything that we want to do.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Christopher Lukezic, Publisher, Pineapple magazine…

Samir Husni: Airbnb has been a digital entity for almost seven years now, having begun in 2008; why did they decide to go with a print magazine now?

Christopher Lukezic: I think that Airbnb wanted to be a bigger part of a producer of really high quality travel content. We wanted to be a source for people to come to, not only to find great places to stay while they’re on a trip, but also when planning the trip itself; a source where they can find content that inspires them to visit places and also informs them about places they’re already going.

The magazine is a part of a larger effort by the company to move into the world of publishing and producing travel content.

Picture 36 Samir Husni: These days we are seeing more than one digital entity bring print into their equation and in this age where everyone not long ago was predicting the demise of print, we’re actually seeing a reversal of that bleak forecast. Why do you think this reversal is taking place?

Christopher Lukezic: I believe that there is a certain tactile quality to print that engages with people and that’s something that doesn’t necessarily happen on a digital screen. People are surrounded by screens all day long; they’re reading on their phones and their laptops and other digital devices. The engagement of content with print is that you can really get at someone in a different way with it. It’s a little bit of a slower experience and people will come back to it over and over again in the course of a few months, not consuming the magazine all at once, but in sort of bits here and there.

I think that from a travel standpoint print is still a really big part of the travel experience. Every year Google does a lot of research around different industries and they try to figure out what the different experiences are for the different industries. And for travel they put together an insight study every year. And actually they’ve shown year after year that print remains the most important source for travel, once they’re at a destination. When a traveler arrives in a city, print is still the predominant source of information that people use for planning their trip once they’re at the destination.

Those things combined make it an attractive opportunity for us as we move into content, to have a print aspect that is very much at the forefront of our content efforts as a whole.

Samir Husni: As a publisher of a new travel magazine and as you go on your sales calls; what is the unique selling proposition that you are offering the marketplace knowing that there are so many competitors out there?

Christopher Lukezic: One of the things that we try to do is not to have a prescriptive travel magazine. We’re not a team of editors trying tell people what they should and should not do in a city.

All of the content of the magazine is actually from people who live in these places, so we’ve actually gone and found people from every community in the cities that we feature. And we try to discover the city through their eyes. Not only places to see and eat, but to showcase what the life there is really all about.

We try to get at what the actual experience of living in the featured cities is and how these communities have formed over time and how people interact with each other in these cities. And on top of that, there are some tidbits and guides that are more digestible and easier to consume content which is important to travelers as they plan their trips.

But what we really wanted to get at was to honor the cities and unpack them from the inside out, rather than from the outside in. I think a lot of travel magazines approach that in the opposite direction; there’s a team of editors going to places and telling the reader about their experiences in the city and not necessarily going and finding people who live there and allowing them to tell the story.

Samir Husni: What has been the major stumbling block for you as a publisher and how did you overcome it?

Christopher Lukezic: You said it earlier: a digital company moving into print. It’s a very new world for us and we’ve been learning a lot as we go.

The big thing was trying to figure out what direction that we wanted to take with the magazine and how we could engage with our community in the right way. And we really wanted that balance of having this be something that was a collaborative effort that we made in conjunction with our community, but still contain a lot of interesting editorial content which engaged people in the right way. And we found a happy medium.

I think the challenge now is the future and continuing to expand the magazine and our content efforts as a whole, doing that both in print and online. So, we have a lot of work ahead of us and this is just the beginning of the process.

Samir Husni: And what has been your most pleasant moment or that instance when you just sat back and went “aha?”

Picture 38 Christopher Lukezic: This has been a team effort and there were four of us that were very involved in the production of the magazine.

Our editor-in-chief is Alex Tieghi-Walker and Brendan Callahan, who is our creative director and our photo editor, Carrie Levy. The three of them are all from magazine backgrounds and Alex has actually published a couple of his own magazines before and worked for Wallpaper, and so we have some great experience here. But trying to do something new and create something in a crowded market that we really felt proud of was important.

We went through a couple of iterations and a couple of ideas early on and we shifted course a few times, but I think for us it really all kind of came to fruition when we landed on the name. And I think that was the moment that we knew we were going to do something really special. We were struggling to find the right name for this magazine and when it did it was one of those moments when everything just seemed to fall into place. The name really tied together what the magazine is all about.

The name Pineapple is a descendant of hospitality; it’s a symbol that has been recognized for a very long time. The fruit was discovered back in the 1400s and was taken back to Europe by travelers and it’s one of the only fruits that survived the voyage from the West Indies back to Europe. And it became the symbol of hospitality. It was something you would leave for a guest when they came to visit you. It was a gracious sign that a host would leave.

And that’s what the magazine presents. We wanted the magazine to be a gift that a host would give to a guest when they arrived at their destination. So, naming the magazine Pineapple really reached the core of what we were trying to do with the content and the print magazine overall. We wanted this to be something that would greet the traveler when they arrived in their city somewhere around the world.

Samir Husni: I noticed that your distribution is divided; once people arrive at the place they are staying, part of Airbnb’s community of customers will get the magazine, or people can buy it on the newsstands at select bookstores. Will that be the norm for distribution, or are you thinking of building more of a presence on the nation’s newsstands and also of having a subscription base?

Christopher Lukezic: We’re still trying to figure out what the future of the distribution strategy of the magazine will be. You will be able to purchase it and we’ll also distribute it to our community, so both of those ways will continue.

We wanted this initial pilot issue to be a limited edition copy and there are 20,000 copies of this first issue, so we knew that it would be something quite special. We actually gave away a number of copies to our community free as a gift. But we also made them available for sale through very boutique shops and newsstands around the world. We’ll most likely be expanding our circulation into something much larger than it is now. But how we’ll actually distribute the magazine, we haven’t decided on.

Samir Husni: Can you describe for me the relationship between the magazine and Airbnb? Are the two entities separate or is it a two-way street relationship?

Christopher Lukezic: It’s very much a two-way street relationship. This is something that we created and all of the people that we feature in the magazine are from our community. These are all people who are active travelers, who are active hosts in the communities, so we have an incredibly diverse audience who read us and also an incredibly diverse community base who want to contribute to the magazine.

This is really a snapshot of the creative process of the world and I think that we’ve captured the most interesting people from our community and in these cities and brought their stories forward. The real pride of the community and the real pride for me is that the whole magazine is produced with the cooperation and in conjunction with our community. The photographers, the illustrators and all of the people we feature are Airbnb community members.

And the future of this and how it ties into the business and how it relates to our core business, we’re still working on a lot of that, but it will very much be an integral part of the Airbnb experience. Pineapple is our content arm, if you will.

Samir Husni: If a year from now, you and I are sitting down and talking about what Pineapple has accomplished in that year; what would you tell me?

Christopher Lukezic: Our real goal with Pineapple is for people to start to think about it as a place where they can come to plan their trip experience, as well as to book accommodations. So we’re clearly seeing it as a place where people come. Maybe they know where they want to go and they might actually rely on some of our hosts when they get to a destination to figure out what they want to do while they’re there.

We think that there is a real opportunity for content to play an important part in that experience. To help people plan trips and also to help people figure out what they want to do once they get to their destination. For us, that is the real goal of the magazine. We really want to be seen as a source for trusted, travel content.

Picture 37 Samir Husni: Will the frequency stay quarterly or are you planning something different for the future?

Christopher Lukezic: We’ve started issue two and it looks like we’ll launch sometime in the summer. From there, our goal is to continue to produce quarterly.

Samir Husni: Would you like to add anything else?

Christopher Lukezic: This is something that is very exciting for us as a company. It’s a new venture. In terms of a company going into print; I think print is very strong and I think it has changed.

We believe print is a really unique way to experience content and a really unique way to engage with our readers. The tactile quality of the paper that we’re producing the magazine on, the photography; all of it, really comes to life on paper in a way you can’t necessarily get on a digital screen. And for us that is really important. It means that the engagement with the magazine’s content and the relationship that people have with it is going to be much deeper than if we only did it onscreen.

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

Christopher Lukezic: Not much actually. I’m pretty happy with where things are and I’m really excited about the potential for this magazine and the future of it. The only thing that would maybe keep me up at night is not being able to do everything that we want to do. We have to limit the things that we put into the magazine and for me that’s sometimes tough. There are things that we want to feature, write about and cover and produce, but we have a limited team and a limited number of resources we have to work with.

But for me, I’m really excited about where things are and I’m looking forward to the future of the magazine.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

The Buzz Factor: A Man Who Knows His Niche & Strongly Believes In Print. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Buzz Kanter – Publisher, TAM Communications

January 26, 2015


“We keep hearing: print is dead, print is dead. Well, no, print is not dead. What’s happening is it’s shifting and the people who are on the internet, it’s in their best interests to promote the internet over print and they’re saying it as loud as they can.” Buzz Kanter

Buzz Kanter Buzz Kanter is a third generation print publisher (TAM Communications) and a man who knows his own mind when it comes to the things he believes we can do as an industry to grow our audience and breathe new life back into the print component of magazine media. His grandfather founded Classics Illustrated (comics) in the 1940s. His father worked for him and then left and grew what evolved into Penny Press/Dell puzzle magazines. Buzz worked for him for years and then started TAM Communications (as the thesis for his MBA in 1989). He now runs TAM Communications and its stable of magazines. Along with the reborn RoadBike to Motorcycle Rides & Culture, his list of niche magazines is impressive:

• American Iron Magazine
• American Iron Garage
• Motorcycle Bagger
• Motorcycle magazine
• Classic American Iron forum

With a redesign that lead to over 40% growth in readership and an increase in his magazine frequency to seven times per year instead of just six, his former RoadBike magazine was reborn into Motorcycle Rides & Culture about a year ago. And the response from readers has been phenomenal as the numbers prove.

Motorcycle Rides & Culture shares long-form articles and more exciting art and graphics that appeal to the thinking rider looking for more. And, based on the more than 40% growth in readership in the first year, the “Buzz Kanter” formula appears to be working.

I spoke with Buzz recently and we talked about the industry and the practice of discounting subscription prices to gain more readers, which he believes is not the answer. We talked about enthusiast magazines, such as his and their past, and we talked about the future and how print isn’t dead, no matter what the internet phantoms shout.

So, I hope you enjoy this very special conversation with a man who has a straightforward and clear focus on the future of print media. Sit back, relax and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Buzz Kanter, Publisher, TAM Communications.

But first, the sound-bites:


IMG_8230 On why he thinks his formula is working:
I can’t speak for news magazines because I think that’s a whole different issue. But I can speak for special interest and enthusiast publications and I believe there is still plenty of room for them in print.

On whether he believes it’s the system that’s broken and not ink on paper:
I don’t think it’s black and white. There are a lot of different elements involved. We keep hearing: print is dead, print is dead. Well, no, print is not dead. What’s happening is it’s shifting and the people who are on the internet, it’s in their best interests to promote the internet over print and they’re saying it as loud as they can.

On how he responds to someone shouting: print is dead:
The easy thing to do is create shock value and tell them: no, print is not dead, I’m still in business and we’re doing OK, we’re paying our bills and we’re growing our product.

On the specifics of the Buzz formula:
The “Buzz” formula? (Laughs) My feeling is if a print magazine is just a print version of a digital website; why bother?

On his future publishing plans:
For Motorcycle Rides & Culture we went from 6 issues last year to 7 issues this year. If our growth continues and we get the support from our readers and advertisers, then we’ll continue to increase frequency.

On the outcome of the digital piracy of his magazines:
I think the company was called Issuu. Someone pointed out that my magazines were being offered free to whoever signed up with Issuu, without permission from us and they were current issues, not any they pulled out from the past. We go there once a month or so and check and the onus is on us. We’re not finding our magazines, but we’re finding enormous numbers of magazines out there.

On a major stumbling block he anticipates facing:
I would say the biggest challenge we have is uncertainty of the future. And if I had a really good answer for that, I’d be calling you from my yacht in the Bahamas right now. (Laughs)

On his most pleasant moment in publishing:
It’s very rewarding to produce a product that you’re proud of and that brings value to your audience. And I hope that doesn’t sound cliché.

On facts he’d like to add:
I certainly hope that magazine publishers stop doing foolish things that impact the industry. I think some of them are drawn on us and I think some of them are drawn to us and by us.

On what keeps him up at night:
As a third generation publisher, I question if there is going to be a viable industry for my children to become a 4th generation publisher. And if so, what’s it going to look like?

tam1 And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Buzz Kanter, Publisher, TAM Communications…

Samir Husni: You’re a third generation print person. Why do you think you’re bucking the trends, doing better and enhancing your print product, while others are declining?

Buzz Kanter: I can’t speak for news magazines because I think that’s a whole different issue. But I can speak for special interest and enthusiast publications and I believe there is still plenty of room for them in print.

The problems are pretty widespread and they cross a lot of different areas. The three main revenue streams are single copy, subscriptions and advertising. And all three of them are under attack. Some of the attacks we’re bringing on ourselves and some of them the market is bringing to us. With single copy, the biggest challenge is that the wholesale system is badly flawed and for the most part the magazine wholesalers that are controlling it, and the national distributors that are banking it, are trying to apply the same solutions that haven’t worked for decades. Isn’t that the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

I hate to say it, but what’s happening is the wholesalers are asking the publishers to subsidize their inefficiencies, rather than finding better ways or smarter solutions. They’re saying that this is the best that they can do and if you want them to carry your product, you’re going to have to pay them more money.

So, the single copy is a distribution issue; it’s not a demand issue or a product issue, it’s predominantly a financial distribution challenge. The wholesalers are basically cannibalizing each other and expecting someone else to subsidize them and make them whole. And it’s a very, very dangerous game because they’re getting farther and farther extended to where the publishers are saying, “You know what, it’s more economical to put an even cheaper price on subscriptions than to deal with the single copy system.”

Samir Husni: Do you believe then that it’s the system that’s broken and not the ink on paper product itself?

images Buzz Kanter: I don’t think it’s black and white. There are a lot of different elements involved. We keep hearing: print is dead, print is dead. Well, no, print is not dead. What’s happening is it’s shifting and the people who are on the internet, it’s in their best interests to promote the internet over print and they’re saying it as loud as they can.

What I find is that people don’t have as much free time or better stated they’re finding ways to use whatever free time they might have. How often have you been out in public and seen people standing at a bus stop or sitting in a restaurant looking at their cell phones? That used to be free time, where they would socialize, converse, think or observe, but now if people have a minute to spare, they pull out their cell phones and go on Facebook or check the stock market, read the latest news or whatever it is they’re doing with their cell phones.

What’s happening is these portable devices are vacuuming up all the spare time. And if that’s the case and it becomes a habit, and it is, I think; then how do you find time to sit down with a print magazine or a book? And I think that’s the issue.

Samir Husni: And we, as the magazine industry, are also to blame because we jumped onto that bandwagon wholeheartedly.

Buzz Kanter: Yes.

Samir Husni: Every time someone tells you either print is in decline or print is dead and you’re living the print process, producing a magazine and increasing circulation; how do you respond to that? What is the reality check?

Buzz Kanter: I guess it depends on what kind of mood I’m in at the time and who the person is I’m talking to. But the easy thing to do is create shock value and tell them: no, print is not dead, I’m still in business and we’re doing OK, we’re paying our bills and we’re growing our product.

What’s happening is most people are parodying what they hear, not necessarily what they’ve thought through carefully. And I think that’s not unusual. Print is not dead; there are still an awful lot of people reading newspapers and buying books and magazines. Go to an airport and look at how many people are on their tablets versus those actually reading magazines and books. Then what happens when you’re in the airplane and you don’t have Wi-Fi? Some people are reading off of Kindles and Nooks or whatever.

So, is print dead? No. Will it become more and more unusual with each generation? Yes, I think so. As the portable devices become better and easier to use, I think they will cut into it, as they already have.

It’s interesting; I talked to some of our advertisers and a number of them a couple of years ago would say, we’re cutting back our print advertising and going to the internet. We’d ask: what will you do on the internet? And they’d say, I don’t know, we’ve just been told we have to be there. We’d ask: how are you going to market there? And they’d respond, I don’t know, but I’m told I have to have a website. I’m told I have to have an internet presence. We’d ask: how are people going to find you? And they’d say, I don’t know. It didn’t matter what our ad department said, these people had to be on the internet and they had a limited ad budget which they’d pulled from print and went to online. Well, once that happened, everyone said print is dead because the advertisers were leaving. Many of the advertisers were leaving, but they didn’t know why or how.

And in the last year they’re starting to come back. They’re saying they tried the internet and it didn’t work. They got lost in the huge volume of data out there. Many of them are now coming back and saying, “Your magazine is focused and aimed at my audience, people who use my products and services.” And many of them are now coming back and pulling their dollars out of the internet because they found it was just overwhelming, whereas we can give them a targeted audience.

Samir Husni: You have a specific niche. Your magazines target a very definitive audience. Your magazine has increased readership, advertising and frequency to 7 times a year; what’s your secret? What’s the “Buzz” formula that’s making this happen?

Buzz Kanter: The “Buzz” formula? (Laughs) My feeling is if a print magazine is just a print version of a digital website; why bother? We can’t do it as well as the websites. I’m seeing a lot of enthusiast publications forcing over a print version of its website. Heavy on the graphics, lots of pictures, lots of charts and graphs, pulled quotes, little factoids and not much meat or substance. And my feeling is the people who pick up the magazine want some substance, they want a good read. If there is an article about something they’re interested in; the reason they bought the magazine in the first place, they don’t want to read five paragraphs and see three photographs like you would on a website.

The delivery of content in print should be more in depth, exciting and interesting for them to sit down for a half hour or an hour to read the article in a magazine. The internet is fabulous for quick information. Does it come in blue? Can I get one overnighted to me? Those types of things are great for the internet. But I personally don’t want to sit down and read a 3,000 word article online. I want to read that in print.

So what we did with our magazine called RoadBike; originally, it was a pretty good general interest magazine about motorcycles, but it couldn’t get traction. Rather than fold it, which we were considering, I said that I wanted to publish a long-form journalism magazine with terrific art and give the articles and the photography all the space they need, rather than try and squeeze it down and condense it like a website. I said let’s try it. If it works great; if not, we can always pull the plug if we have to. Something I was hoping not to have to do.

We renamed it Motorcycle Rides & Culture. Now, I suspected those were good search engine optimization words. (Laughs) But meanwhile, it also tells the reader what the magazine is in print. And instead of putting in 30 short articles in one magazine, we cut it down to 8 or 10 longer articles, with lots of great photos, information, and emotional content and knowing it’s in print and the people who still buy print, we threw in certain cultural things. We have some artists every issue who are involved in the motorcycle world. They might be a painter or a sculptor or a photographer; we do unusual cultural pieces involving motorcycles, beyond the Hollywood bikers and outlaw stuff.

And it seems to have resonated. We’re up 46% year over year. Our newsstand and subscriptions are climbing. I just received a report recently from Wal-Mart, which is the largest seller of magazines in America. And even though we did 6 issues last year; annually we were the 6th bestselling motorcycle magazine in there, outselling several of them that come out monthly, twice the frequency of ours. On an annualized basis, we’re outselling them.

tam2 Samir Husni: What’s the plan for the future? Anything up and coming you’d like to share with us?

Buzz Kanter: For Motorcycle Rides & Culture we went from 6 issues last year to 7 issues this year. If our growth continues and we get the support from our readers and advertisers, then we’ll continue to increase frequency. My feeling is we’re going to move this gradually. If we make a misstep, we want to have time to fix it.

I wish I had a crystal ball, I really do. If I knew where the media industry would be in 3 or 4 years, I’d be way ahead of the curve. But at this point I’m producing a product that we’re all proud of and that the consumers are responding to and we’ll continue to do that. We just have to stay flexible.

One thing we will not do and I’m seeing more and more of this, is the aggressive discounting of subscriptions. Many, many years ago I learned a lesson when I was watching some competitive titles, one was called Cycle and the other was Cycle World, and this was back in the 70s, and then ended up being owned by the same publishing company. And both of them were in a war to build subscriptions. It was a race in pricing and they were getting cheaper and cheaper. Then, as I said, they ended up with the same publisher and then the ad market dropped down. So they had this massive subscription liability with no ad revenue and no sub-revenue. One ended up inhaling the other one and they merged together. It took them years to get financially stable again.

My feeling is I never want to sacrifice the future of the magazine by using aggressive subscription discounts. If the advertising declines, then you’re left holding the bag. I think it’s a very dangerous place to be.

One of the things that we try to do is instead of making money on the newsstands; we try to make money on subscriptions and advertising. Even if it’s a break-even or a small profit, and that way we’re less susceptible to market shifts that could be fatal.

Samir Husni: If my memory serves me right, you tweeted once, and linked me and others to the Tweet, about a certain entity lifting your magazine and putting it onto a digital device without your permission. How did that turn out?

Buzz Kanter: I think the company was called Issuu. Someone pointed out that my magazines were being offered free to whoever signed up with Issuu, without permission from us and they were current issues, not any they pulled out from the past. So we contacted them. We had our intellectual property lawyers contact them and tell them to cease and desist. And they wrote back basically saying they were just a platform and not a policing agency and if we didn’t want our product on their platform, it was our responsibility to identify them and bring it to their attention and they would remove them. They said they were a type of YouTube for magazines, where YouTube isn’t responsible for whatever postings are there.

We go there once a month or so and check and the onus is on us. We’re not finding our magazines, but we’re finding enormous numbers of magazines out there.

Samir Husni: So, who’s posting those magazines; who is putting them on the platform?

Buzz Kanter: I couldn’t say, but many of them seem to be coming from overseas and it’s similar to YouTube. And I don’t know what the motivation is. I could understand if a publisher needed to bolster the circulation numbers or get more responses for advertisers, they could use that as a marketing tool. But I don’t know why someone would do it to my magazines without our permission or knowledge.

Samir Husni: Besides that major problem with the digital devices accessing your property without permission; what is the biggest stumbling block you can see or envision facing TAM and your publications and how do you plan to overcome it?

Buzz Kanter: That’s a good question. I would say the biggest challenge we have is uncertainty of the future. And if I had a really good answer for that, I’d be calling you from my yacht in the Bahamas right now. (Laughs)

As you know, I’m a third generation print publisher. I remember my grandfather’s biggest challenge was movies and black and white TV. They were told that TV sets in the house were going to kill magazines. And yet magazines survived.

My father’s business was Penny Press. His biggest challenge was cable. And they said that magazines weren’t going to survive cable television. And yet he survived the naysayers.

Now my generation has been told the internet is going to kill magazines. And while it’s definitely having its effect on magazines, it’s certainly not killing them. As long as there is a demand for quality print publications, there will be clever publishers who will figure out ways to financially succeed in delivering that content. The challenge is identifying the efficient ways to do that and then growing them. A lot of people are trying a lot of things now, some are putting them online and some aren’t. We have to keep our eyes opened and be flexible because the rules are changing.

tam4 Samir Husni: And to go in the opposite direction; what has been the most pleasant moment in your publishing experience so far?

Buzz Kanter: Other than talking to you today?

Samir Husni: (Laughs) Yes, other than that.

Buzz Kanter: It’s very rewarding to produce a product that you’re proud of and that brings value to your audience. And I hope that doesn’t sound cliché. I started my first motorcycle magazine in 1989 and it was out of a spare bedroom in my house. It was basically a classified ad magazine for old motorcycles and parts. This was before the internet, before Craig’s List or eBay or anything, and I launched it because I was rebuilding and riding old motorcycles and I couldn’t find a source for parts and information. In my youth, back in ’89, I started this magazine. It never really amounted to much, but it gave me a platform to then grow my business into enthusiast’s books.

To this day I have people say: wow, Old Bike Journal, yes I love it. I bought a bike here, the parts there. It’s very rewarding to hear how it helped people with similar interests to mine. I still get a kick out of meeting readers who say they read something in my magazine or they thank me and tell me how something in it helped them. It just made my passions that much stronger and better.

As a publisher of an enthusiast magazine, it’s wonderful to get feedback from people saying that what we do makes a difference.

Samir Husni: Anything you’d like to add?

Buzz Kanter: I certainly hope that magazine publishers stop doing foolish things that impact the industry. I think some of them are drawn on us and I think some of them are drawn to us and by us. These deeply discounted subscription deals are silly. Flooding product into the newsstand racks that has little chance of selling is silly. Too many publishers’ long-term strategies are I can hold my breath longer than my competitor. And I think that’s both dangerous and foolish.

Samir Husni: I agree, but sometimes you feel as though you’re a profit in the wilderness.

Buzz Kanter: I’m used to people telling me that I’m nuts or that it makes sense, but it’ll never happen. I spoke on a PBAA panel years ago and I said the future of our industry is to sell more copies of fewer magazines and that we’re pushing too much product through a system that can’t handle it. And everyone basically told me I was nuts.

Years later I gave basically the same presentation and everyone told me I was brilliant. But nothing has really happened. How can we justify distributing product that doesn’t meet some minimum criteria of sales efficiency or profitability.

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

Buzz Kanter: Really good television shows? (Laughs) As a third generation publisher, I question if there is going to be a viable industry for my children to become a 4th generation publisher. And if so, what’s it going to look like?

Samir Husni: Thank you.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,111 other followers

%d bloggers like this: