Archive for the ‘Words of Wisdom’ Category

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“Magazines Are The Antithesis Of The Online Experience. They Are The Best Slow Media Experience. Magazines Help People To Focus, To Slow Down, To Savor The Moment…” – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Anne Alexander, Editor, Mindful Magazine.

February 25, 2019

“That’s what I love about magazines, they’re such an intimate form of communication. When a magazine is done very, very well, I think that the reader feels an intimate connection with the writer, the editor, and the art director, and they have a beautiful experience. It’s a deep, rich experience.” Anne Alexander…

Mindful is a mission-driven non-profit brand, dedicated to inspiring, guiding, and connecting anyone who wants to explore mindfulness—to enjoy better health, more caring relationships, and a compassionate society. Anne Alexander is editor of the magazine and knows her way around multiplatform brands and content strategies. Anne is a New York Times bestselling author, she was editorial director for the National Geographic Society and also editorial director for the then Rodale’s Prevention brand, among many other leader positions.

And being editor of a brand that she is so very passionate about is a role that fits her perfectly. The field of mindfulness is one that is growing and proving to be a very important factor that many people are looking for in their hectic lives these days. And Anne is a firm believer in the brand’s signature mantra: Healthy Mind, Healthy Life. She believes the mind is a valuable resource that people are starting to realize needs protecting from the everyday stress and reflections of the past and the future that they’re often forced to think about. And she feels that Mindful is the voice of this emerging mindfulness community and the place to go for insight, information, and inspiration to help us all live more mindfully.

Anne thinks mindfulness is a unique and profound approach to social change, and the work a social innovation initiative. And that mindfulness is entering the mainstream and presents an historic opportunity to transform society.

From conferences and collaborations, Mindful is a contributing factor to the Mindfulness movement and keeps the integrity and expertise throughout the brand, relying on experts and researchers who have been in the field for years. It’s a fascinating topic and one that is exploding all over the country.

So, sit back in your favorite relaxed position and come into the moment as you become “Mindful” of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Anne Alexander, editor, Mindful Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On how she became editor of Mindful magazine: I had been at Rodale, and I had done a lot of consulting too, I’d had a whole series of fantastic consulting projects, and then I just really wanted to find a group of good people who were doing good work, work that was really meaningful. And so I just reached out to my network, and somebody I knew who knew somebody who knew somebody put me in touch with Barry Boyce and Jim Gimian, and we had a very lengthy conversation about mindfulness and editorial, and all sorts of things. So, really over a long period of time, we just decided there was a fit.

On why now for this huge public interest in mindfulness: I think the “why now” is because we’re experiencing a tremendous confluence of events, and stress is epidemic and mindfulness is one of those things that can help people destress. The instantaneous payoff is that mindfulness can help relieve stress, but over a longer period of time mindfulness is so important because we’re all involved with multitasking and our attention is being eviscerated by all of the technology that we have. So, our attention is constantly being drawn from our devices to all of the things that pull it away, so mindfulness is a way to bring our attention back, to enable us to regroup and to focus.

On what she thinks when some people tell her the future is for AI and there will never be an artificial mindfulness, that it still has to be part of the human being: Whether or not there’s an artificial AI version of mindfulness, or whether AI instruments develop their own form of mindfulness is something for other folks to ponder. I think that the human mind is such a valuable property that mindfulness enables us to reclaim that beauty and whether or not we want to develop that in some artificial way; I’m sure there are other ways to artificially stimulate ourselves, but I think that mindfulness is something that is inherently human.

On whether when she asks her readers to engage with the brand, will there be a need to put their devices down, or does she feel the role of the printed magazine has also changed: What I would love to do is ask them to try each of those things, because the online experience is wonderful for many reasons. The online experience with our articles, we can help inform people and empower them in some ways. But what I love about the magazine is it’s also sort of the antithesis of that. It’s the best of slow media, if you will, because it helps people to focus, to slow down, to savor the moment. In some ways our articles are old-fashioned, almost artisanal compositions. We have art directors and editors who really focus on the nuance of what we’re trying to say. I think that’s one of the reasons that readers are responding to it.

On whether it makes a difference she is working for a nonprofit, such as Mindful, or a for-profit entity: The nice think about mindfulness, or Mindful, is that the good work that we’re doing, the benefits that we’re accruing, we’re trying to put that back out and to benefit the wider audience. And in some ways it’s a more direct approach than what we were doing at Rodale, and certainly some of the benefits at National Geographic were going back out to help the environment and various things. With Mindful, because it’s such a small organization, you can actually see the benefits and where the revenues are going, to which cause. So, it’s very specific. You can see it on almost a one-to-one basis.

On whether she sees herself as a content provider or an experience maker in this world of editing: I believe that when content is done well, you are delivering an experience to people. When you have the beauty of combining visuals, you’re always creating an experience. To me, that’s the beauty of the work. That’s what I love about being an editor. You’re seeing the content isn’t just the words, it’s the words and how they’re presented and how they’re visually presented. And in order to be successful, I truly believe that has to be an experience for people.

On whether there will be any changes with the magazine since she has become the editor or will she just stay the course: We’re definitely staying the course because it’s been a very successful brand. But actually you will see changes or you could spot changes because I started consulting and working with them in August. You can start to see it in the covers. One of the things that we did with the cover for the January/February issue is we did a beautiful cover with Manoush Zomorodi on self-compassion. I love to try and have a photograph of somebody who just looks so natural and appealing and so authentic.

On her passion for the subject matter: Mindful is something that’s really important to me, and it’s important not just on an individual basis, but it’s important from a community, social and logical standpoint. We’re all so isolated now from a community, sociological point of view. And it’s important to see other people as humans in order to connect and engage with them and to care.

On whether she ever feels that she’s swimming against the current and that audiences have been brainwashed so much and then she has to de-brainwash them: I think people need to be reminded and given permission to slow down and to pause. And that’s where, if there’s a brainwashing that needs to be undone, that’s where mindfulness is coming in, and that’s part of what’s driving the growth of mindfulness. We’ve been going faster and multitasking, thinking it’s cool to have more than one device, and I think that we’re coming to a sense that our attention is a resource that needs to be guarded; it needs to be nurtured and protected and cared for. And the idea of slowing down and pausing is actually something that’s our human right. To do that is something that is important for us and for the community.

On what she would hope to tell someone she had accomplished in one year with Mindful magazine and the entire brand: There are so many growth areas. I would love to see the magazine engage with more people. I would love to see the website engage; we’re reaching like 1.2 million people on a regular basis through the different formats. And there is such a need for mindfulness in the healthcare community and the educator community. And we’re doing work with Aetna and Harvard Pilgrim and Kaiser Permanente, in terms of developing content about mindfulness in healthcare.

On working with Bryan Welch, the new CEO of Mindful: I’m inspired. I love Bryan, because I think Bryan thinks big. And Bryan brings a perspective on strategic growth and opportunity that will really help boost this brand and the company to the next level. He has the street cred to not only believe it, but to help make it happen. So, I am looking forward to working with him. And I think that tremendous things are possible and Bryan will help get the brand there and he’ll do it with his own tremendous integrity.

On presenting the true mindfulness experience: Really being in league with the top researchers who are doing this. We take tremendous pride in working with people like Amishi Jha and Pat Rockman, with the people who have been in this field for years and years, and take it seriously and do incredible research. They aren’t just doing things fly-by-night. You can find apps and all sorts of things claiming to be mindfulness and that claim all sorts of benefits, which their research hasn’t really been out. There are tremendous benefits with mindfulness, but we want to stick with things that are truly credible.

On anything she’d like to add: I think it’s a great group and I’m delighted to be working with them. They’re really smart and this field is growing. One of the things with Barry Boyce, and Jim Gimian who is the founder, they are really committed to carrying a message and the information about mindfulness in a way that’s really responsible. I was recently on the phone with Amishi Jha, who is one of the top leading neuroscientists in the field of mindfulness, and we were talking about how do we grow and maintain that level of integrity and commitment. To not overpromise or oversell.

On the biggest misconception she thinks people have about her: I think sometimes people can be intimidated and I try to be really, really nice and really human and fun.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: Leader.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: I’m such a creative at heart. I love cooking. I love to try and throw together a meal that my kids will actually eat. I’m the mother of three teenagers. And to me, I enjoy cooking and it’s such an accomplishment. I love it if I can make a meal and they all actually eat it and it disappears. And everybody is happy and we all have a sense of contentment.

On what keeps her up at night: There are so many things that need to be done. There are so many great ideas, concepts that need to be developed and launched. When I was in high school I used to row on the rowing team and we would row on the Potomac, down in Washington D.C. And all these planes would land every 30 seconds, and it’s this incredible experience being out on the Potomac at night and you see all these planes that are lined up, and I often feel like that. There are so many ideas that are just waiting out there. Sort of an ether, that are waiting for their time to come in and land. What keeps me up at night is how to land all of those planes. (Laughs)

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Anne Alexander, editor, Mindful Magazine.

Samir Husni: Congratulations on the new job. You’re now editor of a magazine that’s entering its sixth anniversary, Mindful Magazine.

Anne Alexander: Thank you.

Samir Husni: How did you become editor of Mindful?

Anne Alexander: I had been at Rodale, and I had done a lot of consulting too, I’d had a whole series of fantastic consulting projects, and then I just really wanted to find a group of good people who were doing good work, work that was really meaningful. And so I just reached out to my network, and somebody I knew who knew somebody who knew somebody put me in touch with Barry Boyce and Jim Gimian, and we had a very lengthy conversation about mindfulness and editorial, and all sorts of things. So, really over a long period of time, we just decided there was a fit.

I had actually been consulting with them since August, so it’s been kind of an evolution of a role and I had literally just posted my business cards because they had just arrived, but I’d actually been working with them for quite some time, since August.

Samir Husni: The last time I interviewed the CEO of Time Inc. when we had a Time Inc., he told me the largest selling bookazine they had ever produced was on the topic of mindfulness. And when Mindful magazine was started six years ago, it was sort of the early entrant into the marketplace; why do you think it took so long for the population to realize that it’s important to be mindful? Why now?

Anne Alexander: That’s a great question. I think the “why now” is because we’re experiencing a tremendous confluence of events, and stress is epidemic and mindfulness is one of those things that can help people destress. The instantaneous payoff is that mindfulness can help relieve stress, but over a longer period of time mindfulness is so important because we’re all involved with multitasking and our attention is being eviscerated by all of the technology that we have. So, our attention is constantly being drawn from our devices to all of the things that pull it away, so mindfulness is a way to bring our attention back, to enable us to regroup and to focus.

Personally, I draw some parallels with how there was an explosion of interest in sugar; I wrote the “The Sugar Smart Diet,” which turned out to be nice because it was a New York Times bestseller. But in the same way that sugar had become so ubiquitous in our diet, I think we’re experiencing the same thing with all of these things that call our attention away from other things and dilutes our experience of being alive and feeling that we’re present in the moment. We’re worried about the past; we’re worried about the future; our attention is being drawn to what’s on the news, what’s on our devices, what’s on the radio; just all of these things. What’s happening on Instagram and Twitter.

All of these things are splintering our ability to concentrate and to focus, and the beautiful thing about mindfulness is that it’s the antidote to that in so many ways, because it enables you to just focus on what’s going on in the present moment and to feel more alive and more awake actually while you’re in that moment instead of worrying about the future or the past. So, it’s something that’s very easy; it’s very accessible, and it delivers an ability to feel alive and awake in the moment in ways that we don’t really feel right now.

Samir Husni: What do you think when some people tell us the future is for AI and there will never be an artificial mindfulness, that it still has to be part of the human being?

Anne Alexander: Whether or not there’s an artificial AI version of mindfulness, or whether AI instruments develop their own form of mindfulness is something for other folks to ponder. I think that the human mind is such a valuable property that mindfulness enables us to reclaim that beauty and whether or not we want to develop that in some artificial way; I’m sure there are other ways to artificially stimulate ourselves, but I think that mindfulness is something that is inherently human.

Samir Husni: In that “me” moment, when you want someone to pick up your magazine and engage with it or go to the website, are you going to ask them to drop their Smartphones, close their computers, and sit down and enjoy the moment, or do you see the role of the printed magazine as changing too?

Anne Alexander: What I would love to do is ask them to try each of those things, because the online experience is wonderful for many reasons. The online experience with our articles, we can help inform people and empower them in some ways. We have a whole podcast series that’s going gangbusters, and those are audio practices that enable people to experience mindfulness through meditation. And oftentimes that happens on their devices, and in that case you would want to be tethered to your device. You would want to be experiencing the meditation or practice using your device.

But what I love about the magazine is it’s also sort of the antithesis of that. It’s the best of slow media, if you will, because it helps people to focus, to slow down, to savor the moment. In some ways our articles are old-fashioned, almost artisanal compositions. We have art directors and editors who really focus on the nuance of what we’re trying to say. I think that’s one of the reasons that readers are responding to it. It really gives them that ability to savor and come together on a topic.

That’s what I love about magazines, they’re such an intimate form of communication. When a magazine is done very, very well, I think that the reader feels an intimate connection with the writer, the editor, and the art director, and they have a beautiful experience. It’s a deep, rich experience.

So, I would answer that question in multiple ways. I think there is a role for the digital version and a role for the print magazine. One of the really nice things about Mindful is all of these different growth areas. The print magazine serves in a very traditional and what I call, slow media way, which is to just give people that ability to pause and enjoy something and to absorb it. And to be visually delighted and to be stimulated through that word. And again, it’s a very intimate connection.

And I think that our online version can do that as well or our podcasts can do that. We’re also doing these community-based Facebook Live posts, where you get to interact with other people. We’re doing Mindful30, which is a video course. So, there are so many different aspects of the brand and our goal is to meet people where they are and to serve them in whatever ways we can.

Samir Husni: In your mission statement you say that you’re mission-driven but not for profit. And this isn’t new for you, you’ve worked with the National Geographic Society when they were not for profit. How does that differentiate your look or your approach to editing? Does it make a difference whether you are working for a nonprofit or a for-profit entity in your experience?

Anne Alexander: In my experience it’s funny, I tend to be somebody who is always drawn to the sort of do-gooder enterprises. That’s just my passion, trying to help empower people to live happier, healthier lives. And there is a purity about that, in terms of trying to provide people with information that is truly empowering for them. It gives them the tools that they need to live a happier, healthier life. Or in the Mindful case, we like to think of it as living a well-balanced, meaningful life. So, we’re giving people the tools to do that.

With Mindful, part of the nonprofit status and the mission-driven status is to bring the message to as many people as we possibly can. So, there are a whole group of initiatives that we’re undertaking, such as Mindful30, which is an invitation to anybody to sign up and to get 30 days of really good mindfulness information. And part of the proceeds then go to supporting educators in the field who are bringing mindfulness to various institutions and educators. So, I think that’s one of the benefits.

The nice think about mindfulness, or Mindful, is that the good work that we’re doing, the benefits that we’re accruing, we’re trying to put that back out and to benefit the wider audience. And in some ways it’s a more direct approach than what we were doing at Rodale, and certainly some of the benefits at National Geographic were going back out to help the environment and various things. With Mindful, because it’s such a small organization, you can actually see the benefits and where the revenues are going, to which cause. So, it’s very specific. You can see it on almost a one-to-one basis.

Samir Husni: Do you see yourself as a content provider or an experience maker in this world of editing?

Anne Alexander: That is a great question. I believe that when content is done well, you are delivering an experience to people. When you have the beauty of combining visuals, you’re always creating an experience. To me, that’s the beauty of the work. That’s what I love about being an editor. You’re seeing the content isn’t just the words, it’s the words and how they’re presented and how they’re visually presented. And in order to be successful, I truly believe that has to be an experience for people.

Samir Husni: As you take over the helm of the magazine; you’ve been consulting with them since August, but now you’re the editor. Are we going to see any changes with the magazine or are you going to stay the course?

Anne Alexander: We’re definitely staying the course because it’s been a very successful brand. But actually you will see changes or you could spot changes because I started consulting and working with them in August. You can start to see it in the covers. One of the things that we did with the cover for the January/February issue is we did a beautiful cover with Manoush Zomorodi on self-compassion. I love to try and have a photograph of somebody who just looks so natural and appealing and so authentic.

And our April cover is with Dena Simmons, who is the assistant director at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. And again, I just think there is a beautiful authenticity to her on the cover, and I’m so excited as I look at other folks for the cover to cover on the inside.

Everybody has their work that they bring; to me I really want to make the magazine feel that you’re communing with it to bring out the humanity of it and to show the leading experts in mindfulness and the tremendous work that they’re doing. The April issue coming out has an amazing story from Mark Coleman who is a wilderness meditation expert. He leads a lot of meditations in the wilderness and it’s a beautiful piece, because it’s so heartfelt about climate change.

We used to think of going to nature as just this sort of restorative experience, the beauty of nature fills us with awe and all of these things. And now of course, with climate change, sometimes when we’re experiencing nature we have this deep sense of sadness and grief at what’s going on. And Mark talks about that, he talks about mindfulness and this ability to hold a paradox in your mind, to hold the beauty of nature and to hold your grief at the same time. What I loved about this article was it’s very emotional.

And again, to your question about whether content should be an experience, I believe it should be an experience. The words that he’s written are an experience. And the art is an experience, because you can’t help but look at the art and have your heart moved by seeing these polar bears, by seeing what we’re doing. And yet there’s also hope in the piece.

I guess what I try to bring to everything I do is a sense of connection. In order to move people to action or to inspire people, you have to touch them; you have to have them feel that they’re a part of something and that they’re emotionally moved. So, I would like to think that the art, the stories, are going to have a very strong emotional connection. I think that’s one of the things that we’re looking for quite frankly.

Samir Husni: We’ve chatted before and we’ve corresponded, but I have never felt you so passionate about a subject matter. When you launched National Geographic History, you were passionate about the subject, but you weren’t beaming like you are about Mindful.

Anne Alexander: I actually think the secret sauce of that History magazine was and is, in some ways, being able to put people into historical perspective. Being able to put them on the beach in those Roman outfits; what’s it like to march 60 miles a day?

And in some ways it’s the same. It’s creating a visceral reaction and that’s what I love to do. So in some ways it was so funny for me to work on a history magazine, because that’s my true calling, is to try and move people. And to emotionally engage with them. So yes, I was excited about that, but I was excited about that because I felt like I was somebody bringing a very different skillset for a very different subject.

Mindful is something that’s really important to me, and it’s important not just on an individual basis, but it’s important from a community, social and logical standpoint. We’re all so isolated now from a community, sociological point of view. And it’s important to see other people as humans in order to connect and engage with them and to care.

Samir Husni: Do you ever feel that you’re swimming against the current? That the audiences have been brainwashed so much and then you have to de-brainwash them?

Anne Alexander: I think people need to be reminded and given permission to slow down and to pause. And that’s where, if there’s a brainwashing that needs to be undone, that’s where mindfulness is coming in, and that’s part of what’s driving the growth of mindfulness. We’ve been going faster and multitasking, thinking it’s cool to have more than one device, and I think that we’re coming to a sense that our attention is a resource that needs to be guarded; it needs to be nurtured and protected and cared for. And the idea of slowing down and pausing is actually something that’s our human right. To do that is something that is important for us and for the community.

So, do I feel like I swimming against the current? I don’t know if I’m swimming against the current, but I think Mindful as a brand is sending out a very important message. There’s a reason why this brand and this concept is growing. It’s a message that people need to hear and need to be reminded of.

Samir Husni: If you and I are chatting a year from now, what would you hope to tell me you had accomplished with Mindful Magazine and the entire brand?

Anne Alexander: There are so many growth areas. I would love to see the magazine engage with more people. I would love to see the website engage; we’re reaching like 1.2 million people on a regular basis through the different formats. And there is such a need for mindfulness in the healthcare community and the educator community. And we’re doing work with Aetna and Harvard Pilgrim and Kaiser Permanente, in terms of developing content about mindfulness in healthcare.

I would love to be able to feel that we have enabled even more people, whatever would be a tremendous growth, but enable people to connect with themselves, with the present moment, and for them to feel a sense of relief. If we could provide those tools for more people, I think that would be a tremendous accomplishment. And to do it with integrity.

Samir Husni: Bryan Welch is now the new CEO of Mindful. And Bryan comes from a not for profit business that he started before and before that Mother Earth News. How is the new team going? Can you give us a glimpse of working with Bryan?

Anne Alexander: I’m inspired. I love Bryan, because I think Bryan thinks big. And Bryan brings a perspective on strategic growth and opportunity that will really help boost this brand and the company to the next level. He has the street cred to not only believe it, but to help make it happen. So, I am looking forward to working with him. And I think that tremendous things are possible and Bryan will help get the brand there and he’ll do it with his own tremendous integrity.

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

Anne Alexander: I think it’s a great group and I’m delighted to be working with them. They’re really smart and this field is growing. One of the things with Barry Boyce, and Jim Gimian who is the founder, they are really committed to carrying a message and the information about mindfulness in a way that’s really responsible. I was recently on the phone with Amishi Jha, who is one of the top leading neuroscientists in the field of mindfulness, and we were talking about how do we grow and maintain that level of integrity and commitment. To not overpromise or oversell.

This is a field that’s growing. Time magazine is in this market, and lots of people are in this market. But one of the things that really makes Mindful stand apart is this tremendous commitment to getting the information right and not overselling.

Samir Husni: And it’s not just one book, it’s really living it.

Anne Alexander: Yes, and really being in league with the top researchers who are doing this. We take tremendous pride in working with people like Amishi Jha and Pat Rockman, with the people who have been in this field for years and years, and take it seriously and do incredible research. They aren’t just doing things fly-by-night. You can find apps and all sorts of things claiming to be mindfulness and that claim all sorts of benefits, which their research hasn’t really been out. There are tremendous benefits with mindfulness, but we want to stick with things that are truly credible.

Samir Husni: What’s the biggest misconception people have about you?

Anne Alexander: I think sometimes people can be intimidated and I try to be really, really nice and really human and fun.

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

Anne Alexander: Leader.

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

Anne Alexander: I’m such a creative at heart. I love cooking. I love to try and throw together a meal that my kids will actually eat. I’m the mother of three teenagers. And to me, I enjoy cooking and it’s such an accomplishment. I love it if I can make a meal and they all actually eat it and it disappears. And everybody is happy and we all have a sense of contentment.

And then we watch something on TV together. It’s usually a debate between “Chopped” or “Locked Up Abroad” or something. I just like hanging out with my kids. We have a dog and two cats and two goats. I’m taking my yearly teacher training right now, and if I can get my kids to agree for me to teach them yoga and be my stand-in class, that would be fantastic. My son is 16 and he wants to join the Marines, and so we’re doing this marvelous piece about mindfulness in the military. And he kind of thinks this mindfulness stuff is a bit softy-softy, but when I started telling him why and how it benefits the Marines and the Army, I love seeing his ears perk up and he says, “Oh really?” So, he takes a little more interest in what his mom is doing.

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

Anne Alexander: There are so many things that need to be done. There are so many great ideas, concepts that need to be developed and launched. When I was in high school I used to row on the rowing team and we would row on the Potomac, down in Washington D.C. And all these planes would land every 30 seconds, and it’s this incredible experience being out on the Potomac at night and you see all these planes that are lined up, and I often feel like that. There are so many ideas that are just waiting out there. Sort of an ether, that are waiting for their time to come in and land. What keeps me up at night is how to land all of those planes. (Laughs)

You’re grabbing the ideas from the ether and you’re bringing them together with other people. Deepak Chopra talks about it as pure potentiality and that’s exactly it. You’re bringing these ideas in and working with people to create them. And being this sort of brand mama, you give birth to them and then see whether people like them. And it’s an amazing experience.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Michael Clinton To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: 2019 Will Be The Flight Back Year To Quality, Quality Brands, Quality Environment, Safe Environments, And Obviously, Our Magazine Brands Represent That. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Michael Clinton, President, Marketing & Publishing Director, Hearst Magazines.

January 2, 2019

The Real Influencers Of The Marketplace : The Brands Themselves 

“I think credibility is a real issue right now because there was that moment in time where influencers were viewed as an important platform. Well, I think the market has learned that many people who set themselves up as influencers really are not influencers. They’re just people trying to set up a business and when you’re coming through the Cosmo lens or the Elle lens or the Good Housekeeping lens, that’s influence.” Michael Clinton…

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 Michael Clinton is a confirmed believer in the trust factor of magazines and magazine brands. In fact, according to Michael, it’s all about the brands; everything. The brands are the trust factor and that spans the entire multiplatform existence of each and every Hearst product, from the legacy titles, such as House Beautiful and Town & Country, to the latest mega-success stories, such as Pioneer Woman and Airbnb, the brands are the key to consumer trust and creditability, from print product to pixel.

I spoke with Michael recently and we talked about the trust factor of the brands and the legacy titles of Hearst that continue to grow audience and gain new readers, even after 100 years of service to the consumers. Michael said that evolvement is a big reason that Hearst products continue to flourish and grow, and that innovation has always been a part of their magazines’ DNA and will continue to be so. From the year of “Data,” which is what Michael said 2019 will be, with data working for companies in a much larger way, to “Content with Purpose,” Hearst’s new editorial mission, innovation and evolution are key.

This first Mr. Magazine™ interview of 2019 was such an eye-opening and interesting way to start the magazine New Year off. Michael Clinton is optimistic, but totally aware of the challenges that the latest “shiny new thing” of 2019 could bring to the world of magazines and magazine media. However, the passion and strong faith that he has for and in the Hearst brands is palpable and always uppermost in his mind as you will tell immediately from our conversation.

And now without further ado, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Michael Clinton, President, Marketing & Publishing Director, Hearst Magazines.

But first the sound-bites:

On his predictions for 2019 where magazine media is concerned:I think one thing that we’re seeing is a flight back to quality, quality brands, quality environment, safe environments, first-party environments, and obviously, our magazine brands represent that. And I think there is a lot of concern about context and I think a lot of CMOs are really beginning to step back and rethink things and I believe that plays well for magazine brands. So, I would say that’s one.

On how Hearst keeps growing audiences with its numerous legacy titles, many of which are over 100-years-old:What has to happen with the print magazine is that it obviously has to evolve with the culture. And so, it has to represent what is happening in the culture at any given point in time. If you go back to Town & Country in the 1980s; the eighties had a very different affluent market than today’s affluent market. So, you have to reflect the contemporary times and you have to move the reader along as well. I think it’s the magic of our editors who are constantly evolving the product.

On how he conveys that message of evolvement to advertisers:It’s all in the product; you walk them through the product and show them how the product is evolving and how the product will evolve. Brands want to align themselves with contemporary messaging. And they’re doing the same thing, they’re always taking their brand message and their brand packaging and they’re evolving it and they’re changing it, and they’re changing their message points based on the culture at the time to make it relevant for both their existing customer and new customer. So, I think they’re always looking for the environments in which we can pro-message together.

On print advertising and whether that same trust factor carries over into all of the platforms:First of all, it’s all about the brands, right? The brand is the trust factor. So, if I’m a Cosmopolitan reader, I have the trust factor in print, in digital, in social, on Snapchat, because I trust the brand. And that gets into the context discussion. I think that if you’re seeing something that is on Cosmo.com, you know that it’s been produced by professional editors; it’s authoritative; it’s been vetted properly; as opposed to some pure play digital site or some influence, it has a real credibility.

On how print can be used in today’s digital age to its own best advantage:That’s a great question. Hearst today is the dominant player in the fashion/luxury market; with our brands we produce more content in that space, in print, digital and in social. So, we now dominate. That’s been an evolution and we’re proud of that position we have now with the global luxury brands. One of the things that we’ve done is we’ve really believed in the production values of all of our luxury books: Bazaar, Marie Claire, Elle, Town & Country; they’re all oversized; they’re a luxe presentation. The amount of time, energy, and money that is put into beautiful photography and amazing representation of the luxury market; well, the editorial grit behind all of that really allows us to have those great connections with the consumer.

On whether his job today has become more difficult or easier than it was 10 years ago:I would say that it’s become more complex. What is exciting is that our brands now live in many different places. So, 10 years ago, you were basically selling a print platform, right? Today you’re selling a print platform, a web platform, a video platform, a social media platform, and an experiential platform. So, where the excitement lies is in the fact that the brands have been unleashed and we now have consumers interacting with our brands in so many different places, knitting all of that together to create a community  and that’s what’s really exciting.

On what he feels is a big challenge facing the industry today:I would say two things to that. One is there is within the buy-side of the world, there is oftentimes, the chase for the shiny, new thing. And the shiny new thing is not necessarily what’s going to move the consumer to action. So, the pessimism I would have is the lack of appreciation for the broader view of the media world, the media mix. There needs to be more of an investment in educating and training on the buy-side for what all of the different mediums represent. So, that’s one.

On what he thinks will be the “buzzword” or important one word that will define 2019 as the year of what:It’s the year of data. It’s the year of really putting our data to work in a much bigger way and so that data is both print data and digital data. And we’re doing lots of work on the data front, not just for our own content creation, and Troy (Young) may have touched on this, but our new editorial mission is what we call “Content With Purpose,” and when I say content with purpose it doesn’t necessarily mean socially conscious, although that could be a part of it. But it’s content that we know through our data that our readers really respond to.

On any new titles that may be coming in 2019:Possibly. But first let me say that Pioneer Woman has been a huge success for us, it just broke half a million rate base, as you may know. Airbnb will move to six times frequency in 2019 and it will have a rapid circulation growth. So, that’s good. We’re always looking at new products, both print and digital. There’s nothing that’s eminent, but we always have something in the kitchen. Nothing eminent now.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him:That I’m a New York Mets fan. (Laughs) I’m actually a Yankees fan, but that’s beside the point. I do have a reputation of being a bit of a workaholic, but I would argue that I have an extremely well-balanced life. And you have to nurture both sides. While I work hard, I also have lots of interests outside work.

On whether he ever feels as though he’s running in a magazine marathon:That’s a great question and I would just make the response that life is not a sprint, it is a marathon. When you take the long-term view, like in marathon running, you always have stamina and you always have a good Zen-like view of the future, because it is a long play.

On what he hopes is the first thing that comes into people’s minds when they hear the name Michael Clinton: That he respects all people, that he believes in service to people, so as you may know, I have a foundation that some friends and I started eight years ago called Circle of Generosity and it is our commitment to have service to others. And I think that’s just a really important part of how we should live our lives.

On how he decides what to retweet:I think it’s about the optimism of our business. And you’re self-included. I think it’s important to get the positive news out there about our business and about our industry and about media. As you know, parts of the media are under siege these days, and I think what we do is an incredibly important service. And while our magazine company is not in the news business, it’s really important what we do, because we inform people and educate them and entertain them. And so the Retweets are something that are either positive about the business or something that’s really innovative and unique that one of our brands is doing or that I see in the marketplace that is an innovative idea in terms of how you can use magazine brands.

On what keeps him up at night:I’m a good sleeper, but the only thing that keeps me up is when my puppy jumps on my head in the middle of the night. (Laughs)

 

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Michael Clinton, President, Marketing & Publishing Director, Hearst Magazines.

Samir Husni: Michael, put your fortunetelling hat on for a moment if you would, and tell me your three major predictions for what is going to happen in magazine media in 2019.

Michael Clinton: I think one thing that we’re seeing is a flight back to quality, quality brands, quality environment, safe environments, first-party environments, and obviously, our magazine brands represent that. And I think there is a lot of concern about context and I think a lot of CMOs are really beginning to step back and rethink things and I believe that plays well for magazine brands. So, I would say that’s one.

The second thing that I would add to that is, the addiction of too much bottom of the funnel performance-based media has sent shockwaves through a lot of brands, which have begun to see meaningful erosion of their brand equity or consideration. And we’re seeing, if you will, a rebalance of the media mix. And with that is an appreciation for all of the things that magazines represent, print magazines in particular, in terms of brand equity. And I think that race to the bottom has eroded a lot of brand equity, so I would say that’s the second.

And then on the third, I would say that the magazine brands’ digital platforms have a very special sauce to them, because we have very engaged users who are around our subject areas, so whether it’s fashion, beauty, or home, high levels of engagement, high levels of first-party engagement, safe environments, all of this is kind of connecting back to number one. And also in the world of content and context, that plays really well for us.

So, we continue to see huge growth on our digital platforms. I think you know that Cosmopolitan is at 38 million uniques. We just launched Oprahmag.com, and within two or three weeks we’re at 1.3 million uniques. Obviously, what Oprah and Oprahmag.com represents has great connection with consumers. So, I think all of these things bode well for both our print platforms and our digital platforms.

Samir Husni: I have been looking at and researching magazines from 1919 for the MPA’s 100thanniversary, and quite a few of the titles are from Hearst and are still being published today, 100 years later, whether it’s House Beautiful or Town & Country, Harper’s Bazaar or Popular Mechanics. You publish more legacy magazines than any other media company. Tell me, how do you keep growing audiences with these legacy magazines? You just shared that Cosmopolitan had 38 million uniques, yet it’s a title that’s over 100-years-old. How do you do that?

Michael Clinton: What has to happen with the print magazine is that it obviously has to evolve with the culture. And so, it has to represent what is happening in the culture at any given point in time. If you go back to Town & Country in the 1980s; the eighties had a very different affluent market than today’s affluent market. So, you have to reflect the contemporary times and you have to move the reader along as well. I think it’s the magic of our editors who are constantly evolving the product.

I believe the sign of a great magazine is when you go to a particular magazine and you pick up an issue from two years ago, forget 100 years ago, just two years ago and you say: wow, that magazine was very different then than it is today, because the editors are constantly evolving the content, the relevance, the stories, and that’s what keeps it modern and fresh. And I think we have lots of great examples of that in the house.

Samir Husni: When you work with the other customer, the advertiser, how do you convey that message of evolvement to them?

Michael Clinton: It’s all in the product; you walk them through the product and show them how the product is evolving and how the product will evolve. Brands want to align themselves with contemporary messaging. And they’re doing the same thing, they’re always taking their brand message and their brand packaging and they’re evolving it and they’re changing it, and they’re changing their message points based on the culture at the time to make it relevant for both their existing customer and new customer. So, I think they’re always looking for the environments in which we can pro-message together.

It’s really the high-touch selling. I think one of the things is that print has always been a high-client touchpoint medium, and so, while we obviously work with our agency partners, clients have always been very, very interested in the print medium. So, there’s a lot of that high-touch human contact that goes with selling the print medium.

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Samir Husni: One of the points that I’ve noticed when looking at the legacy magazines from 100 years ago is there was always that guarantee that all of the advertising in the magazine was true and honest, guaranteed, there was a certain trust factor. Today, if I see that trust factor in print, can I take that promise with me to the digital? Or is it based on the brand?

Michael Clinton: First of all, it’s all about the brands, right? The brand is the trust factor. So, if I’m a Cosmopolitan reader, I have the trust factor in print, in digital, in social, on Snapchat, because I trust the brand. And that gets into the context discussion. I think that if you’re seeing something that is on Cosmo.com, you know that it’s been produced by professional editors; it’s authoritative; it’s been vetted properly; as opposed to some pure play digital site or some influence, it has a real credibility.

And I think credibility is a real issue right now because there was that moment in time where influencers were viewed as an important platform. Well, I think the market has learned that many people who set themselves up as influencers really are not influencers. They’re just people trying to set up a business and when you’re coming through the Cosmo lens or the Elle lens or the Good Housekeeping lens, that’s influence.

Samir Husni: How can you use print to its own best advantage in this digital age?

Michael Clinton: That’s a great question. Hearst today is the dominant player in the fashion/luxury market; with our brands we produce more content in that space, in print, digital and in social. So, we now dominate. That’s been an evolution and we’re proud of that position we have now with the global luxury brands. One of the things that we’ve done is we’ve really believed in the production values of all of our luxury books: Bazaar, Marie Claire, Elle, Town & Country; they’re all oversized; they’re a luxe presentation. The amount of time, energy, and money that is put into beautiful photography and amazing representation of the luxury market; well, the editorial grit behind all of that really allows us to have those great connections with the consumer.

A lot of it is production value and execution by the editors. And then of course, that rolls into the digital platforms as well. One of our fastest growing sites this year has been Harper’s Bazaar. I don’t have a stat in front of me, but Harper’s Bazaar, its luxe presentation in print and its digital execution has helped to drive huge digital growth for us this year.

So, when you look at the production values that those brands have on their websites and also on their social media, it also reflects that. And don’t forget, there are global brands and also don’t forget that we have, aside from global print brands, we now have the capability to work with our luxury partners globally across Elle.com globally or Bazaar.com globally. And that’s a big differentiator for us. So, we’re doing a lot of business with global luxury brands that want that kind of global footprint .

I would use those as a few examples, but we’re really proud of the fact that we’re now the leading fashion/luxury publisher in the world.

Samir Husni: If you reflect back 10 years ago at the dawn of digital, the Smartphone, the iPad, etc., has your job today, looking toward the future, has it become easier or more difficult?

Michael Clinton: I would say that it’s become more complex. What is exciting is that our brands now live in many different places. So, 10 years ago, you were basically selling a print platform, right? Today you’re selling a print platform, a web platform, a video platform, a social media platform, and an experiential platform. So, where the excitement lies is in the fact that the brands have been unleashed and we now have consumers interacting with our brands in so many different places, knitting all of that together to create a community  and that’s what’s really exciting.

So, today you have the women’s health community. And the women’s health community has exponentially grown because the user and the reader live in lots of different places. And that’s been very exciting for magazine brands because we were never able to live in multiplatform the way we do today.

But with that comes complexity, because the different platforms require different content; you get different analytics; you get different measurements, and so you have to knit all of that together for the marketing partner, but that’s the fun of it today.

Samir Husni: Someone reading this interview might say that you’re the eternal optimist, but what is something that you’re afraid is going to be a big challenge as the industry moves forward?

Michael Clinton: I would say two things to that. One is there is within the buy-side of the world, there is oftentimes, the chase for the shiny, new thing. And the shiny new thing is not necessarily what’s going to move the consumer to action. So, the pessimism I would have is the lack of appreciation for the broader view of the media world, the media mix. There needs to be more of an investment in educating and training on the buy-side for what all of the different mediums represent. So, that’s one.

And I think that leads to a lack of an appreciation for what the magazine media represents on all of its platforms. So, that’s our day-to-day job, to make sure we’re out there telling that story. So I think that’s the biggest, sort of pessimistic view that I would have.

But fortunately, we have a great team at Hearst and that’s what they do all day long  and they change perceptions and they put together great programs that have great metrics and great numbers. So, the proof is always in the pudding.

Samir Husni: For the last several years when I speak with people they’re always saying this is the year of “voice,” or this is the year for “video;” is there one word for 2019? It will be the year of…?

Michael Clinton: It’s the year of data. It’s the year of really putting our data to work in a much bigger way and so that data is both print data and digital data. And we’re doing lots of work on the data front, not just for our own content creation, and Troy (Young) may have touched on this, but our new editorial mission is what we call “Content With Purpose,” and when I say content with purpose it doesn’t necessarily mean socially conscious, although that could be a part of it. But it’s content that we know through our data that our readers really respond to.

A great example of that is that we know that the Good Housekeeping reader is passionate about the television show “This Is Us.” They watch it live; it is an appointment viewing for them; they’re passionate about that show. So, how did that express itself then in the content that we created. Creating content that had purpose for the Good Housekeeping reader is that there might be stories or covers about the “This Is Us” cast, because we know there is a high level of interest.

So, how do you take your data, connect it to content creation, and then connect that content creation and that data to advertiser partnerships for both advertising and ecommerce. Data-informed content, data-informed advertising partnerships, that’s what we’re really excited about for 2019.

Samir Husni: In 2018, you didn’t launch any new magazines, what with all of the changes that were taking place. Anything up and coming for 2019? Will we see any new titles based on partnerships or just from scratch?

Michael Clinton: Possibly. But first let me say that Pioneer Woman has been a huge success for us, it just broke half a million rate base, as you may know. Airbnb will move to six times frequency in 2019 and it will have a rapid circulation growth. So, that’s good. We’re always looking at new products, both print and digital. There’s nothing that’s eminent, but we always have something in the kitchen. Nothing eminent now.

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

Michael Clinton: That I’m a New York Mets fan. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too.)

Michael Clinton: I’m actually a Yankees fan, but that’s beside the point. I do have a reputation of being a bit of a workaholic, but I would argue that I have an extremely well-balanced life. And you have to nurture both sides. While I work hard, I also have lots of interests outside work.

Samir Husni: What was the latest marathon that you ran?

Michael Clinton: Albuquerque.

Samir Husni: How many marathons have you ran so far?

Michael Clinton: 15. And the next one will be in Anchorage in June.

Samir Husni: If you were to rank them, which one would be the number one, the one in the Artic, or where?

Michael Clinton: I would have to say Antarctica because it was such a surreal experience and it was my seventh continent and there are less than 1,000 people in the world who have run all seven continents, so I feel like I’m part of a very special club.

Samir Husni: Do you compare your work with magazines to your marathons? Do you feel as though you’re running in a magazine marathon?

Michael Clinton: That’s a great question and I would just make the response that life is not a sprint, it is a marathon. When you take the long-term view, like in marathon running, you always have stamina and you always have a good Zen-like view of the future, because it is a long play.

Samir Husni: When people hear the name Michael Clinton, what do you hope is the first thing that comes into their minds?

Michael Clinton: That he respects all people, that he believes in service to people, so as you may know, I have a foundation that some friends and I started eight years ago called Circle of Generosity and it is our commitment to have service to others. And I think that’s just a really important part of how we should live our lives.

Samir Husni: How do you decide what to Retweet, because every now and then I see you Retweeting something.

Michael Clinton: I think it’s about the optimism of our business. And you’re self-included. I think it’s important to get the positive news out there about our business and about our industry and about media. As you know, parts of the media are under siege these days, and I think what we do is an incredibly important service. And while our magazine company is not in the news business, it’s really important what we do, because we inform people and educate them and entertain them. And so the Retweets are something that are either positive about the business or something that’s really innovative and unique that one of our brands is doing or that I see in the marketplace that is an innovative idea in terms of how you can use magazine brands.

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

Michael Clinton: I’m a good sleeper, but the only thing that keeps me up is when my puppy jumps on my head in the middle of the night. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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The 2019 Mr. Magazine™ Manifesto: “Quotes of Wisdom.” A 2018 Rearview Mirror Look.

December 31, 2018

“The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself.” Mark Caine…

It’s a brand new year and Mr. Magazine™ for one is excited and focused on all of the good things 2019 can and will bring to magazines and magazine media. And for anyone who may not know or remember where Mr. Magazine™ stands when it comes to the ONLY definition of a magazine: if it isn’t ink on paper, it’s not a magazine, but the magazine is only one platform of the brand that the magazine is named after. Can I get an amen? And if we’re all being honest and looking beyond the PC-ness of today’s thought processes, we know it’s true that relying on digital-only to bring in the bucks in today’s media environment would not only be dangerous, but very presumptuous as well. In today’s world, it is Mr. Magazine’s™ staunch opinion that unless you have a valid footprint in both realms of publishing, the success rate of any publication is slim indeed. It would occupy this entire space if I were to list the publications that said they were quitting their print business and were no longer in business, or became just a figment of what used to be both, in terms of audience reach and revenue.

But in this year’s manifesto, I decided that instead of waxing poetic on what my take on this world we call magazines and magazine media is, I would instead let you learn from the experts, the leaders and visionaries of the publishing industry itself. I have had the honor and the pleasure of interviewing many of those said dignitaries throughout 2018 and their wisdom and thoughts cannot be taken lightly, they must be reiterated and studied so that the industry that we all love so much can thrive and move forward into this new year of 2019.

And it is with this in mind, that I give to you 18 of the best and most eloquent quotes that Mr. Magazine™ had the privilege of garnering from the sources themselves over the course of the last 12 months. These quotes come from publishing CEOs, presidents, vice presidents, editors in chief, publishers, and a few mavericks who believed in their entrepreneurial dreams. And while the opening quote from above by analyst and strategist, Mark Caine, is not one given directly to Mr. Magazine™, the 18 below most definitely are. But it is with Mr. Caine’s mentality that I present to you this manifesto and tidbits of industry wisdom from the experts.

For if magazines and magazine media had succumbed to the environment that each had found itself in several years ago; if the industry had refused to innovate and trail blaze new paths to success; if digital and print had not realized the amniotic fluid of ink and pixels that they were both destined to share from the beginning of the creative cyber revolution, the chances that Mr. Magazine™ would be here today talking about all of this would be very slight.

So, without further ado, here are 18 quotes from 18 of the most prominent and visionary leaders of the publishing, digital, and magazine media industry.  The titles used are those they had when interviewed in 2018 and the quotes are in alphabetical order.

And Happy New Year to all!

 

Michael Biggerstaff – Owner/CEO, Nxtbook Media:

“We look at publishing like a three-legged stool, you have websites, you have print, and you have digital. And they should all support each other. And one shouldn’t be shortchanged or you’re going to have a rocky stool. We look at that as an opportunity from a print standpoint to support the print product and the website. And the website can support print and digital, but we also look at it like you need to be providing something different in a digital edition. You don’t have the constraints that you do in print.” Michael Biggerstaff, Owner/CEO, Nxtbook Media…

Roger Black – Editor in Chief, Type Magazine:

“I believe that’s the real problem and that’s the second part of what we’re going to talk about at this conference, what do we do; how do we recreate the magazine experience in the digital era? And how do we do it digitally? I will be the first to admit that I have not succeeded in figuring out digital formats for magazines that have the same compelling feeling, the same attraction, the same experience where you sit down with a good print magazine and you enjoy it. And then you get to a finish; you feel like you’ve completed it and you put it down. And that’s not true with the websites or the apps. They’re never finished. And it’s a very tangential and short experience. You dive in and read part of an article and you’re gone. You don’t even know where the article came from some of the time.” Roger Black, Editor in Chief, Type Magazine…

 Agnes Chapski – President, NewBeauty Magazine:

“It’s a huge population and a very affluent audience. They actually have more spendable income and more money. In the beauty space, it’s completely underserved, so when you think about it, to me, it’s an amazing opportunity to speak to women who are hungry to have this kind of information. No one is really intelligently speaking to them, so that is a strong business reason.” Agnes Chapski, President, NewBeauty Magazine…(On Why Baby Boomers & Gen Xer’s Are So Important To NewBeauty)…

 Steve George – Vice President – Content, Kalmbach Media:

“Coming back to some fundamentals that we who love magazines have been talking about for years. I think there’s a physical, tangible reality to magazines that you don’t get online. There’s a durability there in a print product and to a certain extent, there’s a promise that the time and effort that would go into creating and editing and vetting that content in a more durable form, whereas I think online, and we’re seeing this, it’s a voracious beast, where you have to constantly be cranking out new content.” Steve George, Vice President – Content, Kalmbach Media…

William R. Hearst III – Editor & Publisher, Alta Journal of Alta California:

“I wanted to deal with things that last a little bit longer. I was thinking about the people that I know: writers, photographers, editors; these are people who often write books, that take some time to write something. I was less interested in immediacy; I wanted things that had a lasting quality.” William R. Hearst III, Editor and Publisher, Alta Journal of Alta California. …

 James Hewes – CEO, FIPP:

“I think it’s going to be a pretty good year, actually. It’s funny you know, ever since I took this job I’ve been hearing more and more people telling me about the resurgence of print magazines and how print magazines are coming back as a medium, and I think 2018 might be the year when you start to see some signs of that filtering through into the numbers, because, obviously, the numbers that are released by the publishing companies have been pretty bad in 2017.” James Hewes, CEO, FIPP…

Brian Hart Hoffman – President & Chief Creative Officer, Hoffman Media:

“We want to continue making our print-brand publications better and brandier. And updated in line with what people expect and where we see revenue success today…” Brian Hart Hoffman, President & Chief Creative Officer…

 JJ Hornblass – President & CEO, Royal Media:

“An organization has to have a core competency, several actually. So, what is the core competency that we’ve developed? There are a few, but one of the central core competencies is that we’re in constant change mode. So, in fact, if I looked at what we’ve done since 2010 when we made that acquisition to now, probably if I was 10 years before that, all of these things were going on, but now it’s kind of par for the course. And we’re trying to continue to change. So, the walk in the rose garden, is just one that has many twists and turns, but if you know that they’re coming then it’s not so surprising.” JJ Hornblass – President and CEO, Royal Media…

Chuck Howell – Vice President of Strategic Sourcing, Newsstand and Production Operations, Meredith Corporation:

“I don’t think it will be Newsstands 101. I think it needs to be educating the buyers. It’s the readership that’s looking for that content at newsstand that will ultimately carry the message. We just need to make sure that we stay viable at the front end long enough for that message to be had, because to your point, I think the younger buyers out there who don’t have an intrinsic knowledge of what the magazine brings and that lean-back experience, they traditionally get their information and their news off the Internet, but the buyers aren’t necessarily there yet. Eventually, that will evolve.” Chuck Howell (on educating buyers on the importance of magazines and that lean-back experience)…

Joe Hyrkin – CEO, Issuu:

“The reason we’re doing it is because, one – it’s near and dear to our hearts, of course. And at the end of the day we believe strongly that it’s through the telling of stories in a high quality, curated, published way that people are really able to share their passions, to share the area’s ideas and content that moves them, and there’s a huge audience to connect with around that.”Joe Hyrkin, CEO, Issuu…(On why Issuu held the Generators Summit on December 4, 2018.)…

Steven Kotok – CEO, Bauer Media Group USA:

“The women’s service readers definitely like the experience of buying something in print. As much as they love the product and as proud of the product as we are, the buying experience is a big part of it as well. We’re growing our subscriptions, but the physical act of making the purchase from the supermarket and giving yourself a treat after a long day, that is part of the pleasure of these products. Even if some of the information is available online, it’s that retail experience that ultimately excites our consumers.”Steven Kotok, CEO, Bauer Media Group USA…

Jeremy Leslie – Owner & Curator, Mag Culture:

“I’ve always had a fundamental belief in it (print), but what encourages me to continue that deep belief is the wave after wave of new magazines with fantastic ideas and fantastic values; just the good stuff that’s being made is what continues to inspire and excite me.” Jeremy Leslie, Owner & Curator, Mag Culture…

Simon Leslie – Joint CEO & Cofounder, Ink Travel Media:

“We support print because print works. People still love that ephemeral moment of picking up the magazine and flipping through it; that lean-back experience rather than lean-forward. Sometimes it’s nice to get off the screen and have that moment to yourself.” Simon Leslie, Joint CEO & Cofounder, Ink Travel Media…

Sandra Long – Publisher & Editor in Chief, Rosa Magazine:

“I am partial to print magazines, I still think there is a market for them. And when we had women pick it up, the look and feel of Rosa resonated with people and to be able to turn that page was important. Women still buy magazines, whether it’s fashion or, as we hope, political, they’re still buying magazines. I was firm that it had to be print. We will transition to do a little bit online, just to be able to feed that marketplace. But we’ll do print as long as they are supporting it.”…Sandra Long, Publisher & Editor in Chief, Rosa Magazine…

Adam Moss – Editor in Chief, New York Magazine:

“The cover is no longer really to sell magazines on newsstand. As newsstands have become so much less important to all of us, the cover has a different function. It is basically the brand statement of what we make. It declares what we think is important or interesting; it declares our voice. Also, it’s an amazing document for the purposes of social media. Social media takes your cover and distributes it all over the place and it becomes an advertisement for the magazine that’s actually more important than it was originally meant to be when it was to stimulate newsstand sales.” Adam Moss, Editor in Chief, New York Magazine.…

 Doug Olson –President, Meredith Magazines:

“We’ve made a pretty big bet that magazines are not going out of style with our acquisition of the Time Inc. portfolio of brands. We continue to be very excited about the future of these brands in all platforms, whether it’s in print or digital or social. Allrecipes is a perfect example of one of the brands that we took from digital and turned it into print, so obviously it has a very large footprint in digital, but the print continues to grow.” Doug Olson, President, Meredith Magazines…

Vicci Rose – Vice Presdent & Chief Revenue Officer, Us Weekly:

“I’m a great fan of digital and I’m a big supporter. Us Weekly has a very sizeable print footprint with just under two million copies, 1,968,000 per week is our most recent AAM (Alliance For Audited Media) statement for the six months ending December 2017, so of course, we’re big believers in print. And I am incredulous with the number of conversations that I have with agencies and clients in acknowledging that their own research with media-mix modeling, etc. will point to a strong ROI, but it’s not in fashion, so the industry is often plagued with people who are concerned for their jobs because they’re not forward-thinking enough.” Vicci Rose, Vice President & Chief Revenue Officer, US Weekly…

Troy Young – President, Hearst Magazines:

“I would say that in all mediums we have to serve the customers and understand how we are serving those customers. And I call that content with purpose. And I think we just have to be incredibly mindful, whenever we’re delivering a magazine into someone’s home or we are engaging that consumer on YouTube, why we’re there and how we make someone’s life better. Print is heavily edited and curated and it’s like a celebration or an event that happens once a month. And there’s something really wonderful about that. And it’s a lean-back experience that I think gives a consumer a break from the intensity of the digital world. And I think increasingly that people are going to look for that. So, print plays a really important role in saying this is important and this has a place in culture, and take a moment to think and read about this and consume it. And I think our magazines are going to play an important role in how we do that for a long, long time.” Troy Young, President, Hearst Magazines… (On the role of print today)…

 

 

 

 

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Tyler Brûlé Of Monocle Fame To Magazine & Book Retailers: “Cut The ‘Digital Transformation’ Bullshit.”

November 1, 2018

In the November 2018 issue of Monocle magazine, Tyler Brûlé, the magazine’s editor in chief, “wants to know why (book and magazine) retailers insist on watering down their print offering — literally — and has a few ideas about what they can do to turn it around.”

Call it a cry from the heart or a call to action, Tyler Brûlé’s sensible and dare I say, spot-on advice should resonate with every magazine and book retail manager at any store, big or small, chain or indy. If more publishers and editors follow Tyler Brûlé’s approach, I am willing to bet that we will see a reverse in the trend of shrinking retail space for the many great magazines and books that are out there.

So, without any further ado, here are Tyler Brûlé’s five thoughts on “what’s the industry to do?”

1. Cut the “digital transformation” bullshit. We’re in the business of selling print so let’s not dress it up as something else.

2. Follow the lead of the luxury-goods industry and improve the overall retail experience – less strip lighting and bargain bins and more wooden shelves and lamps.

3. Surprise the consumer with an exciting offer. This might be stating the obvious, but the offer is so dumbed down that there’s little reason to visit most kiosks.

4. Airport and rail-station operators need to seize the cultural high ground and not pack concourses with Subways and Starbucks. Consumers need intellectual nourishment – give it to them. Demand more of tenants.

5. Move away from the idea that people on the go only want to read from screens. Sure, a mobile device is part of our daily news diet, but there is a drive to move our eyes back to paper.

Thank you Tyler Brûlé.

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Fighting For Freedom, Democracy, And Justice – The Lebanese Way: Journalist Paula Yacoubian, The Newest Member Of The Lebanese Parliament In An Exclusive Interview with Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni.

July 23, 2018

A Mr. Magazine™ Report From Lebanon

Paula Yacoubian, journalist and one of the newest members of the Lebanese Parliament.

“I feel like I have an obligation to give back and I enjoy it. I love to feel that I’m useful and that I’m helping. And honestly, I cannot imagine myself sitting around. Sometimes I get tired and I want to go and just have fun like everyone else. I go for one day and then the next I realize that what’s fun for me is helping people. So, it’s not only an obligation, it’s a pleasure to help, honestly.” Paula Yacoubian…

“Although it is not yet in the Guinness book of records, I read my first national newscast at the age of 17. Reading the news was not the only skill I started to develop… I had the chance to develop my news writing and language skills…” So starts the biography of one of the most recognized names in Lebanese media Paula Yacoubian. At age 42, Ms. Yacoubian was elected last May to the Lebanese Parliament.

During my visit to Lebanon, I was so intrigued by the story of Paula Yacoubian, I felt the need to meet with her and find out more about the many changes that took place in the Lebanese media since I left my home country in 1978.

Honest, truthful, energetic, ambitious, are but a few of the adjectives that I can think of after my meeting with Paula. She beams with enthusiasm as she recalls her career and her plans now as a member of the parliament rather than a member of the media. The old adage, “nothing will stop us now,” is certainly applicable to her mindset.

I met with Paula at al Mandaloun Café in the Achrafieh district of Beirut and the conversation that followed shed some light on her career, the media, and the issues that are of major concern to her and, if I might add, the majority of the Lebanese people.

“Is it more powerful to be a journalist or a politician in Lebanon?” I asked her. Paula Yacoubian’s answer will surprise you.

Reporting from Beirut. This is the first of interviews and stories about the media in Lebanon, my birth country.

So join me as we go on a journey of Lebanese media and politics in the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Paula Yacoubian.

But first the sound-bites:

On how Lebanese media has changed in the 25 years she has been involved with journalism: Technically, it has changed and evolved. We have beautiful, big studios and great technologies. However, the problem is the owners are the same and the media in Lebanon is part of the political system.

On who supports Lebanese media: All Lebanese press is supported. Even the Lebanese media that is published outside is no longer supported by foreign governments, but rather is supported by well-known, influential Lebanese individuals. There is no more foreign support of the media in this day and age in Lebanon. The days that Qadafi or other Arab leaders paid to help and launch Lebanese media are long gone.

On some of the stumbling blocks that she’s faced in starting her own communications company: I decided to start my own company because I knew as a journalist I would never be free unless I had my own company. As an employee I would never have the freedom that I would have as the owner, the boss. I care about freedom a lot and without ownership there is no financial security, no building self-confidence and no independence. Because, as you know, working for someone else is never secure. At any time they can let you go regardless of your performance or ability.

On the moment she knew that she wanted to be a journalist:
It happened by pure coincidence. I was paying a visit to someone in television and they asked me would I be interested in doing a screen test. And I said yes, why not. I was in the elevator with the lady and I asked her what kind of anchor she was looking for and she said a news anchor. I wondered how in the world I could do it, but I took the test. And the grammar wasn’t that hard to read and they liked my voice. So, the next day they told me I was hired.

On whether she feels that she has reached the top of her profession or that she still has more climbing to do: It depends on how you want to measure it. My mom’s ambition for me was to have a decent job and to have security. When I look back, I arrived a very long time ago, but you don’t know what life has in store for you around the next corner. And things unfold in your life. Now my ambitions are much, much bigger. I want to try and make a difference in my country. I want people to believe again that they can do change. And if they elect someone out of the box, out of the system, out of the ruling parties, they will do the right thing. This is how change happens.

On her social activism and why she always felt compelled to keep doing more:

“I want to try and make a difference in my country. I want people to believe again that they can do change.” Paula Yacoubian to Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni.

I like to be proactive with my life and when I feel that I can help, that I can bring something to the society that has given me so much, I like to pay back. The Dafa Campaign started because I was visiting one of the Syrian camps and it was so awful; the conditions were not human. So, I decided to do something. And I realized when you are a well-known figure you can do so much more than anyone else. A famous person can get things done, but most people don’t think of using their fame to do something for society.

On whether her work as a journalist was easier than her work as a member of Parliament: My work as a journalist wasn’t bringing any change to society. People don’t listen to journalists, unfortunately for us. I wish they did. They would know so much more. If they listened to journalists more than the politicians, they wouldn’t be living in denial. Now that I’m a politician, they listen much more to what I say, it gets more coverage.

On the trust factor that’s missing in both journalism and politics right now and the fact that she represents both: The campaigns in my race were really unheard of. They said all kinds of things about me. Some parties told very Christian conservatives that I was Muslim, because I was once married to a Muslim. I named my son Paul, he is baptized. I’ve never changed my name, it’s always been Paula.

On whether she can ever shed the journalistic Paula and just be the politician: I really wasn’t a journalist when I was a journalist. I was more of a politician, I used to give my opinion. I’ve never thought that objectivity was a really important part of being a journalist. I was always more of a politician when I was a journalist, because living in Lebanon you cannot just cover the news, the news is your life. You just can’t be objective in Lebanon and you shouldn’t be. Amanpour said it in a very nice way, being useful is more important than being objective.

On why she’s never seemed to mind crossing television networks: And it was also any challenge for me was a new challenge. I don’t like routine; I don’t like to keep on with the same thing. I get bored easily and I like new challenges, so that was partly why I used to change television stations. And sometimes circumstances forced me. Like MTV, I had to leave due to a contract obligation.

On how she felt being chosen to conduct an interview with the current Prime Minister: I think they chose the television, someone chose that that interview should be on Future Television and I was the only one who had a political show on Future TV, so I think that the network was very lucky that I was the person conducting the interview because I did everything possible to help the network with the situation they were in. And I did that despite the fact that maybe it was against my own interests, but I did what I had to do and I did the right thing without thinking twice about whether it was the thing for me to do or not.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: Honestly, you wouldn’t find me in the house. I don’t go back to the house before midnight. Tonight for instance, I’m having dinner with someone, an environmental specialist, before that I have another engagement, and before that another meeting. I have continuous meetings usually. Normally, I start around 8:00 a.m. and have meetings all day and then dinners in the evening that are related to what I do, such as the garbage crisis.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: Humbleness, because this is also one of our major problems in Lebanon, we all think that we know about everything and no one wants to be just a normal citizen, everyone wants to be someone. And we have an attitude problem. So, I just remind myself everyday about being humble, it’s just so important to stay in touch with reality and be human.

On what keeps her up at night: The garbage crisis, especially the environment. I used to say a few years ago that we can’t swim in our sea anymore. Very soon our kids will not be able to touch the sea and people would say that I was so pessimistic. And then before we realized it, it’s there. You cannot swim anywhere on many of our shores, and things are getting worse and worse by the day. And nobody cares.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Paula Yacoubian, acclaimed journalist, talk show host, and member of the Lebanese Parliament.

Reporting from Beirut, Lebanon.

Samir Husni: You’ve been at this for almost 25 years now; you started as a journalist at 17-years-old. Briefly, from your point of view, tell me how the Lebanese media has changed in those 25 years.

Paula Yacoubian: Technically, it has changed and evolved. We have beautiful, big studios and great technologies. However, the problem is the owners are the same and the media in Lebanon is part of the political system. And this is the same since the end of the civil war. They’re either directly party television or newspapers, or independent television or newspapers that need a political cover to support or defend in order for it to survive. There is really no free press in Lebanon, all the media are nothing but voices of the authority, I am sad to say.

Samir Husni: One of the very first articles I wrote in the States was about who owns the Lebanese press and I said there are three groups: the political parties, the Arab government and the foreign governments.

Paula Yacoubian: All Lebanese press is supported. Even the Lebanese media that is published outside is no longer supported by foreign governments, but rather is supported by well-known, influential Lebanese individuals. There is no more foreign support of the media in this day and age in Lebanon. The days that Qadafi or other Arab leaders paid to help and launch Lebanese media are long gone.

Samir Husni: You’ve done a lot and have established an integrated communications company that you are the CEO of. What have been some of the stumbling blocks that you, as a journalist, have faced throughout your career?

Paula Yacoubian: I decided to start my own company because I knew as a journalist I would never be free unless I had my own company. As an employee I would never have the freedom that I would have as the owner, the boss. I care about freedom a lot and without ownership there is no financial security, no building self-confidence and no independence. Because, as you know, working for someone else is never secure. At any time they can let you go regardless of your performance or ability.

Samir Husni: When Henri Sfeir took a chance on you, you were 17-years-old.

“My work as a journalist wasn’t bringing any change to society,” Paula Yacoubian to Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni

Paula Yacoubian: (Laughs) I lied about my age. I said I was 21, and he wasn’t the one to decide, actually. There was someone else who said that this girl could be an anchor and I told him that I was studying political science and that was how I started. And then he told me that my Arabic was very good, even though I was Armenian. And that’s when I told him that they were asking for my papers and I couldn’t bring any papers. And I told him that I was 17 and didn’t have any degree.

But I said one day I will have a political science degree and that’s when he told me to go and do not worry about it. So, I started with a lie and I never thought it would continue, but it was something to do during the summertime. But then it took over my whole life and I’m still somehow, even in what I do right now, I still have my journalistic skills and curiosity, even in my new job.

Samir Husni: You have a new job, as a member of the Lebanese Parliament. I guess congratulations are in order.

Paula Yacoubian: Thank you.

Samir Husni: At 17, even before going to college, when was that moment that you said this is it, this is what I want to do?

Paula Yacoubian: It happened by pure coincidence. I was paying a visit to someone in television and they asked me would I be interested in doing a screen test. And I said yes, why not. I was in the elevator with the lady and I asked her what kind of anchor she was looking for and she said a news anchor. I wondered how in the world I could do it, but I took the test. And the grammar wasn’t that hard to read and they liked my voice. So, the next day they told me I was hired.

It wasn’t something I planned or worked for or applied for; I didn’t even apply for the job. I didn’t fill out an application. But soon I was reading the newscast. And that’s how it happened. I had colleagues who helped me to read well and to know what I’m reading about. Then I learned Arabic and the grammar.

Samir Husni: But you moved from an anchorperson to a journalist, a reporter, an interviewer. And through the years you’ve become a household name in Lebanon and the Arab countries. When did you feel that you’d finally reached the top of your profession, or are you still climbing?

Paula Yacoubian: It depends on how you want to measure it. My mom’s ambition for me was to have a decent job and to have security. When I look back, I arrived a very long time ago, but you don’t know what life has in store for you around the next corner. And things unfold in your life.

Now my ambitions are much, much bigger. I want to try and make a difference in my country. I want people to believe again that they can do change. And if they elect someone out of the box, out of the system, out of the ruling parties, they will do the right thing. This is how change happens.

We have to overcome fears and believe that our country is not doomed and that it can have a future. And that the problem is with us and our choices and this political cast, this molding, and that it owns almost everything: the media, the money, the services. And they own the stories, they can do the stories the way they want. So, this is my new ambition now. But now the sky is the limit and if there are still Lebanese people who can still believe in anything, we can succeed.

Samir Husni: One of the things that I tell my students all of the time is that I never want them to say that the sky is the limit. I want them to say that they are the limit, such as Samir is the limit of himself.

Paula Yacoubian: Circumstances are important. I am lucky enough that people are ready to believe again. I think in four years we can have a major breakthrough and we can be a real alternative to this corrupt cast.

Samir Husni: But even before you entered politics, as a journalist you were involved with a lot of social issues. You did the Dafa Campaign, and I was reading some of your background and you’ve fought for women’s rights; you name it and you’ve done it. Why didn’t you just stop and enjoy being the top journalist and anchorperson in the country?

Paula Yacoubian: I like to be proactive with my life and when I feel that I can help, that I can bring something to the society that has given me so much, I like to pay back. The Dafa Campaign started because I was visiting one of the Syrian camps and it was so awful; the conditions were not human. So, I decided to do something. And I realized when you are a well-known figure you can do so much more than anyone else. A famous person can get things done, but most people don’t think of using their fame to do something for society.

For me, I feel like I have an obligation to give back and I enjoy it. I love to feel that I’m useful and that I’m helping. And honestly, I cannot imagine myself sitting around. Sometimes I get tired and I want to go and just have fun like everyone else. I go for one day and then the next I realize that what’s fun for me is helping people. So, it’s not only an obligation, it’s a pleasure to help, honestly.

Samir Husni: Do you think your work in journalism was easier than the work you will be doing as a member of Parliament?

Paula Yacoubian: My work as a journalist wasn’t bringing any change to society. People don’t listen to journalists, unfortunately for us. I wish they did. They would know so much more. If they listened to journalists more than the politicians, they wouldn’t be living in denial. Now that I’m a politician, they listen much more to what I say, it gets more coverage.

And others are always worried about my next step, what will I do. I think people are watching and they should be able to know what’s happening. They should be able to know the difference between smear campaigns and other things. I’m hoping that now I can do something if I continue, if I have the stamina and the energy. If I don’t get depressed. I can do a lot of things. But I need to feel that I have the support of the people. I think those who elected me are happy. And I hope that I’m making more people happy.

Samir Husni: Trust is the biggest missing factor in media today and in politics. And now you have double mistrust, you’re a journalist and a politician.

Paula Yacoubian: Not only that, they discredited me like no one else. The campaigns in my race were really unheard of. They said all kinds of things about me. Some parties told very Christian conservatives that I was Muslim, because I was once married to a Muslim. I named my son Paul, he is baptized. I’ve never changed my name, it’s always been Paula.

And still they had the guts to go and lie to people and tell them that I had changed my religion. With every Tweet they were saying different statements just to discredit me. And they were picking videos from my interviews, taking sound-bites and cutting them and it was going viral. Things like I wasn’t Armenian and people shouldn’t vote for me. It was a machine that had nothing to do but discredit me.

Samir Husni: But you overcame all of that and you were elected five weeks ago. Are you missing journalism? Can you ever shed the journalistic Paula and just be the politician?

Paula Yacoubian: No, I really wasn’t a journalist when I was a journalist. I was more of a politician, I used to give my opinion. I’ve never thought that objectivity was a really important part of being a journalist. I was always more of a politician when I was a journalist, because living in Lebanon you cannot just cover the news, the news is your life. You just can’t be objective in Lebanon and you shouldn’t be. Christiane Amanpour said it in a very nice way, being useful is more important than being objective.

Samir Husni: You started with the ICN (Independent Communications Network), then you went to LBCI, then MTV, then ART, and briefly at Al_Hurra in the United States. Your last job before being elected to the Lebanese Parliament last May was with Future TV. It seems that you didn’t mind working at politically diverse television stations. It seems to me, it was always Paula, rather than MTV; Paula rather than LBCI, etc…

Paula Yacoubian: Every new job for me was a new challenge. I don’t like routine; I don’t like to keep on with the same thing. I get bored easily and I like new challenges, so that was partly why I used to change television stations. And sometimes circumstances forced me. Like MTV, I had to leave due to a contract obligation.

So, it wasn’t always me choosing to leave or change television stations. I was always looking for something different. I never felt that this is what I want to do and this is where I want to stay. It’s more now that I feel that this is what I’m maybe destined for or what I’d like to do. I’m much, much better as a politician in Lebanon than being a journalist, because there is no independent journalism in Lebanon. It’s part of the system. All media outlets are part of the system.

Samir Husni: When the eyes of the world were on Paula, the only journalist to conduct a live interview with Prime Minister Hariri after he resigned from Saudi Arabia, every television channel, every country, the entire world was watching you. Can you describe for me the feeling that you had the night you were heading to the airport to do the interview and the world was watching you more than anybody else?

Paula Yacoubian: I think they chose the television station, someone decided that that interview should be on Future Television and I was the only one who had a political show on Future TV, so I think that the network was very lucky that I was the person conducting the interview because I did everything possible to help the network with the situation they were in. And I did that despite the fact that maybe it was against my own interests, but I did what I had to do and I did the right thing without thinking twice about whether it was the thing for me to do or not.

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

Paula Yacoubian: Honestly, you wouldn’t find me in the house. I don’t go back to the house before midnight. Tonight for instance, I’m having dinner with someone, an environmental specialist, before that I have another engagement, and before that another meeting. I have continuous meetings usually. Normally, I start around 8:00 a.m. and have meetings all day and then dinners in the evening that are related to what I do, such as the garbage crisis.

So, it’s every day, ongoing. Day and night, working as a Parliamentarian. And also for the issues that I’m handling. It’s difficult to be up to standards when it comes to the garbage crisis because you have to be a bit of an environmentalist, chemist, and you have to be a lawyer to know how they are doing the TOR (terms of references). So, it’s not an easy job.

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

Paula Yacoubian: Humbleness, because this is also one of our major problems in Lebanon, we all think that we know about everything and no one wants to be just a normal citizen, everyone wants to be someone. And we have an attitude problem. So, I just remind myself everyday about being humble, it’s just so important to stay in touch with reality and be human.

And to know that chance and luck are important components in our lives and is what drives you anywhere you go. I believe there are people who are much more qualified than I am, in a much better position to do what I’m doing and they just don’t have the same chance. If we’re all aware of this, maybe we’ll all be more humble.

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

Paula Yacoubian: The garbage crisis, especially the environment. I used to say a few years ago that we can’t swim in our sea anymore. Very soon our kids will not be able to touch the sea and people would say that I was so pessimistic. And then before we realized it, it’s there. You cannot swim anywhere on many of our shores, and things are getting worse and worse by the day. And nobody cares.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Citizen Designer, Perspectives On Design Responsibility: The Presence Of Ink In Hand Design Is Powerful & Responsible – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Véronique Vienne, Co-Editor/Author, Citizen Designer…

June 11, 2018

“I was writing about the fact that taking ink to paper and writing something by hand has so much more credibility than taking that same message and printing it and putting it on a wall. So, the presence of the ink and the hand, which is what the kids did in the anti-gun movement. Kids went out into the streets in the United States and wrote slogans on panels and pieces of cardboard. They weren’t very sophisticated slogans, but they were done by hand. And the kids were holding them. And there were pictures being taken of the kids holding the pieces of cardboard. And those pictures made it onto the Internet.” Véronique Vienne…

The second edition of “Citizen Designer” attempts to answer the question of what it means to be a designer in today’s corporate-driven, over branded global consumer culture, according to the powers-that-be behind this simplistic, yet powerfully-written book. Between the essays that are raw and informative to the glossary of terms and words used religiously in the design community written by former art director and co-author of the book, Véronique Vienne, this dynamic tool is far from a mere self-help guide to great design.

Recently, I spoke with Véronique, via Skype at her home in South France, one half of the team (along with Steven Heller) who put this book together and we talked about the social change and responsibilities that designers can affect and do have in our world. Véronique believes that design can and should be more than just a service to clients and can bring about political and social manifestations of importance within our society. This new edition of the book, the first having been written some 15 years ago, contains a collection of definitions and brief case studies on topics that today’s citizen designers must consider, including new essays on social innovation, individual advocacy, group strategies, and living as an ethical designer.

Véronique said she felt compelled to participate in this updated version due to the upheaval in the world today, with the American political front and many other important issues. And after having spoken with her, Mr. Magazine™ can certainly understand her dedication to her convictions and beliefs; the passion in her words came through loud and clear. And her faith in the power of design is inspiring.

So, without further ado, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Véronique Vienne, co-author, Citizen Designer.

But first the sound-bites:

On the book “Citizen Designer”: About a year ago, the publisher thought that it would be a good idea to bring back the book and update it. And we did. I wasn’t keen on doing it, but I thought that it was my duty to revisit the topic in light of the political situation in the United States and in the world, and all the things that had happened since the first edition. And I thought we needed to take a good look at the profession, not only because of the political situation, but because of the evolution of technology and social networking and all of that. It’s a totally different situation today.

On her belief that graphic designers have a social responsibility: Since I came back to Europe, I can say that in America I think design is miles apart from Europe. The American graphic design community is unfortunately held hostage to marketing. They think they’re apolitical, but you cannot be apolitical. If you’re apolitical, that’s a political stance. You have to stop thinking that you can be apolitical. You serve an economy based on different principles and if you serve that economy, you serve the principle of that economy. You have to stop being naïve.

On what she believes the role of ink on paper is in today’s digital world: I wrote about this very topic in a recent posting on a blog called “Common Edge,” about architecture and design. I was writing about the fact that taking ink to paper and writing something by hand has so much more credibility than taking that same message and printing it and putting it on a wall. So, the presence of the ink and the hand, which is what the kids did in the anti-gun movement. Kids went out into the streets in the United States and wrote slogans on panels and pieces of cardboard. They weren’t very sophisticated slogans, but they were done by hand. And the kids were holding them. And there were pictures being taken of the kids holding the pieces of cardboard. And those pictures made it onto the Internet.

On having worked in magazine media and media on both sides of the Atlantic and some differences that she still sees today: There are many differences, of course. When I came to the States in the early sixties, it was a different time. It was the Cold War; it was Camelot, the whole thing. And I was very gullible, in a way. I bought the bull. I loved America and I still love America. I am very proud of my American passport. I adore the country, I really do. It is my home. I think in English, I write in English and I love the country.

On why a book about design has no pictures: One of the realities is that publishers nowadays want the authors to get the pictures for free. Or do the research for the picture. And you spend half of your time doing the photo research. I’m not interested in that. The second thing is people go online all of the time to look at pictures. To have really good pictures and really good illustrations, it’s a job in itself. Steve and I did a book that does very well, which is going into its second edition called “100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design.” For that one we did a lot of research and we got designers to give us information for free and they signed paperwork and documents that we could publish it on the moon if we had to. And half of your time is spent chasing images, when actually readers go online and Google the image.

On where in the book she would like for readers to begin: Steve and I put the glossary in front, because I think it’s the first thing they should read. Second, one thing we did not do is make it a self-help book. It’s really a collection of essays, without us trying to have a theory behind it. At the very beginning what I think is there is going to be a change of mentality in the design community. We have to find our soul. We have to find that designer within ourselves. And everybody does it in a different way.

On why the book is dedicated to Michelle and Barack Obama: Yes. I think both Steve and I are sentimental and we thought they were two great people. We love them. And it came from the heart. I think one of the reasons that we did the book is because we’re under the shock of the Trump election, which did not reflect our convictions.

On anything else she’d like to add: Yes, I hope it’s a book that people can browse through and find essays here and there that resonate with them. I love the design; I think it’s very spartan. I think it’s readable. We wanted it to be easy to read, in terms of typography. The design is there in the typography; the choice of the designer. It’s a very humble book. We’re not proclaiming that we know anything. It’s a little grass roots; we wanted it to be that way, because I think that’s the way it’s going to be. I don’t believe we can change the world, but we can try to make sense of it.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: Smart, intelligent, provocative, and honest.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: You’d find me cooking for my friends. I believe that around the table, around food, around a glass of wine, yes, but also around food which takes a longer time to enjoy, a dinner, a meal, lunch, people can get to know each other and can spend some time.

On what keeps her up at night: I don’t know. My daughter in Los Angeles. That’s a long way. And I hope she’s fine. It’s thinking about all of my friends in the United States and I’m in France. My heart is still with all my very dear friends on the West Coast and everywhere in the States.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Véronique Vienne, co-editor/author, Citizen Designer.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the book “Citizen Designer.”

Véronique Vienne: Steve (Heller – coeditor of the book) and I collaborated together, 15 years ago, on the book, at a more gentle time. We thought that there was already a sense in the graphic design community that there was more to design than just serving the clients; the designer maybe had another function. Another thing that they could do. Pro bono work or who knows what else.

The book was mildly successful in its first edition. It remained in print because I think universities and schools were interested in the topic. It’s a very hard-to-define topic because basically graphic designers are at the service of their clients. There’s an assignment and you try and deal with that assignment. But more and more there was a sense in the community that entrepreneurship and authorship is also a part of the profession.

So, recently, about a year ago, the publisher thought that it would be a good idea to bring back the book and update it. And we did. I wasn’t keen on doing it, but I thought that it was my duty to revisit the topic in light of the political situation in the United States and in the world, and all the things that had happened since the first edition. And I thought we needed to take a good look at the profession, not only because of the political situation, but because of the evolution of technology and social networking and all of that. It’s a totally different situation today.

And more and more graphic designers were questioning and wondering what they could do to “save the world.” You know we all want to save the world. So, we decided to tackle the topic again. We kept about a third of the articles; we reread what had been written 15 years ago, and actually they were quite a few articles that were almost premonitions; they were really good and we kept them at the back of the book.

And we generated more interviews and I did a job that I wanted to do, which was a glossary, that was my main contribution. I took all of those words that we know a little bit about and all of those terms that we have a fuzzy notion of what they are, and I thought it was important to, for myself first and then share it with designers, take a good look at what was behind the terms. I think in order to be effective politically and citizen-wise, you have to be informed. And informed with an opinion and not just informed Wikipedia-style. You need to learn more of a point of view. And that’s why I tackled this glossary.

Originally, I had wanted 100 terms, but after 60 terms, I was running out of time. I feel the first thing a graphic designer needs, or anyone for that matter who wants to make a difference, is information and trying to get some straight answers. You can’t just Google something and think you know what it’s all about. So, I dug a little deeper in those entries. And they were very brief entries, but I wanted to do them to clarify for myself some of the terms.

But with “Citizen Designer,” Steven and I had a discussion about that; what do designers actually do? And my conviction, which is partly shared with Steve, is that designers have incredible communication skills. That they can put into service a lot of good causes. But what’s depressing sometimes is to see good people with really good intentions or good causes have very poor communication skills. I compare designers in a way to scribes of the past. We transcribe, we design, but we transcribe other people’s convictions and ideas into a language that other people can appreciate and interact with.

As scribes, and I always wanted to be a scribe, this ability to make visible, to make readable, to transcribe and translate other people’s convictions into a language that is powerful is what designers can do. They’ve come to save the world by doing a campaign.

A citizen designer for me is someone who is well-educated, like a scribe, smart and savvy, but also chooses their causes and puts their talents at the service of organizations or communities, or something.

Samir Husni: What makes you connect that love of being a scribe, love of translating politics and citizens, and the social aspect with design? You rarely hear graphic designers or art directors talking about social responsibility, most talk about the font their using for this or that.

Véronique Vienne: Since I came back to Europe, I can say that in America I think design is miles apart from Europe. The American graphic design community is unfortunately held hostage to marketing. They think they’re apolitical, but you cannot be apolitical. If you’re apolitical, that’s a political stance. You have to stop thinking that you can be apolitical. You serve an economy based on different principles and if you serve that economy, you serve the principle of that economy. You have to stop being naïve.

I’m actually chagrined and upset sometimes when I look at some of the topics that are discussed in the graphic design community in the U.S. because it’s totally about a tight-fist or the vernacular or blah, blah, blah. It’s about what I call the “merch.” Recently, I was reading an article and it was talking about the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The journalist who wrote the article was saying that their marriage was all about love, it was all about the love of two people and it was so inspiring. And another person in the article was saying, no, it’s all about the merch. And by the merch, they mean the merchandise. The hats, the T-shirts; it’s about the merch.

And in a way I think, and I’m really sad to see it, that the American community in general, not everybody, of course, doesn’t think that they can remain on the sidelines. And that’s why I think the book is necessary, along with many more books, not just the one. This one is just the second edition. We could try to define what graphic designers could be. I know that in Europe, political statements start with a manifesto. You write it and you glue it on the wall. So, I think posturizing, writing something on a wall, writing something on a piece of paper, is really part of the DNA of graphic design.

Samir Husni: What role do you think ink on paper, print, plays in today’s digital age? And do you think that we can do the same things through the digital platforms, or there’s a big difference between ink on paper and pixels on a screen?

Véronique Vienne: I wrote about this very topic in a recent posting on a blog called “Common Edge,” about architecture and design. I was writing about the fact that taking ink to paper and writing something by hand has so much more credibility than taking that same message and printing it and putting it on a wall. So, the presence of the ink and the hand, which is what the kids did in the anti-gun movement. Kids went out into the streets in the United States and wrote slogans on panels and pieces of cardboard. They weren’t very sophisticated slogans, but they were done by hand. And the kids were holding them. And there were pictures being taken of the kids holding the pieces of cardboard. And those pictures made it onto the Internet.

It’s a little bit of what we learned with Je suis Charlie – I am Charlie – when people took to the streets. It was a viral panel that a designer had done, Je suis Charlie. And if they had printed it and took to the streets and held it…well, I think the ink and the paper and the handheld message, even in our digital age, still has a lot of power. And it’s still very much a part of how you can harness the strength of the graphic gesture, if you will.

Samir Husni: I’m very intrigued by your own story. You spent 40 years in the States, but you’re originally from France. During those 40 years you spent here in the U.S., you had a chance to work in magazine media and in media, so you’ve worked on both sides of the Atlantic. What are some of the differences that you still see today?

Véronique Vienne: There are many differences, of course. When I came to the States in the early sixties, it was a different time. It was the Cold War; it was Camelot, the whole thing. And I was very gullible, in a way. I bought the bull. I loved America and I still love America. I am very proud of my American passport. I adore the country, I really do. It is my home. I think in English, I write in English and I love the country.

But of course there was a shift after 9/11, even before. I became politicized little by little, like everybody else. With age you start to look at the situation and of course, I had been exposed in France at the Bozar. I had gone to the Bozar School in Paris, briefly in architecture, but I did finish. I had been exposed to something called the Situationists there. And so it was sort of hanging around in my consciousness.

I wrote a bestseller, believe it or not, in the States called “The Art of Doing Nothing.” And in my brain was a critique of the consumer culture. It sold a half million copies. And people completely misunderstood what it was about. They thought it was an adorable gift book. I almost invented the gift book category with it. (Laughs) It’s still in print. I had meant it to be a political gesture. And it turned out to be the opposite. It became a franchise. They wanted me to become a television guru and I refused, because that wasn’t what I wanted to do.

So it was always in the back of my mind, a critique of that consumer frenzy, if you will, but I was never able to do anything about it. And eventually, with the second Bush administration, even before we get to our time, there was an empty intellectualism in the United States. Anti-French intellectualism. And in order to survive, I suppressed in me the desire to be more honest; it was self-censorship, I guess that’s called. After a while, 40 years, I realized that self-censorship was becoming hard; I wanted to do something else. And I couldn’t do it.

I was writing for a women’s magazine at the time, I was no longer an art director, I was writing for an architecture magazine; I was writing for a lot of different things. But I somehow always had to push the merch. And I wanted to go back to a place where I didn’t have to be fabulous all of the time. It’s so tiring to be fabulous all of the time. In the States, in order to survive, we have to be fabulous. If not, you don’t count, you don’t make a difference. So, I wanted to try living in a place where being fabulous wasn’t part of the picture. That’s why I went back to France, and to take care of my mom, who is going to be 100-years-old in a few months. I split my time between Paris and the South of France, where I moved back into the family home.

Samir Husni: As I was reading some of the essays in the book and flipping through the pages, I noticed something. Here is a book about design from two graphic designers, but there isn’t a single picture in the book. Was that intentional?

Véronique Vienne: One of the realities is that publishers nowadays want the authors to get the pictures for free. Or do the research for the picture. And you spend half of your time doing the photo research. I’m not interested in that.

The second thing is people go online all of the time to look at pictures. To have really good pictures and really good illustrations, it’s a job in itself. Steve and I did a book that does very well, which is going into its second edition called “100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design.” For that one we did a lot of research and we got designers to give us information for free and they signed paperwork and documents that we could publish it on the moon if we had to. And half of your time is spent chasing images, when actually readers go online and Google the image.

So, we made a choice. And we decided it would be a bad idea, because the image we might find and be able to afford, there would be no budget for those images. And it was so insignificant compared to what could be done. So, we decided that we would hopefully write things that people would want to read. But we may be wrong. “100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design” is a lot of illustrations. And it’s doing well, very well.

Samir Husni: After buying the book, if someone asks you where in the book would you like for them to begin, what would you say?

Véronique Vienne: Steve and I put the glossary in front, because I think it’s the first thing they should read. Second, one thing we did not do is make it a self-help book. It’s really a collection of essays, without us trying to have a theory behind it. At the very beginning what I think is there is going to be a change of mentality in the design community. We have to find our soul. We have to find that designer within ourselves. And everybody does it in a different way.

And so this is not a prescription; we don’t say do this or do that. Everybody has a different approach. And some are a lot more theoretical and some are just gut feelings. And so we left the essays in a raw state, because as an engaged community we are not quite together yet. We’re still in the stage of trying to find ourselves, and I’m talking about the French as well as the Americans, which are the two communities I know well. I think it’s going to take time for us to figure out what on earth we’re doing. Are we already so incredibly obsolete that we’re just kidding ourselves? And I think the book is reflecting a lot of the different attempts by individuals to make sense of what they can do.

Samir Husni: You’ve dedicated the book to Michelle and Barack Obama, why?

Véronique Vienne: Yes. I think both Steve and I are sentimental and we thought they were two great people. We love them. And it came from the heart. I think one of the reasons that we did the book is because we’re under the shock of the Trump election, which did not reflect our convictions.

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

Véronique Vienne: Yes, I hope it’s a book that people can browse through and find essays here and there that resonate with them. I love the design; I think it’s very spartan. I think it’s readable. We wanted it to be easy to read, in terms of typography. The design is there in the typography; the choice of the designer. It’s a very humble book. We’re not proclaiming that we know anything. It’s a little grass roots; we wanted it to be that way, because I think that’s the way it’s going to be. I don’t believe we can change the world, but we can try to make sense of it.

I was reading recently about the first books, before the invention of the printing press, it was on scrolls, and it basically said that the very fact that we can go back to the book and leaf through it now, allows us to not scroll through a text like in the ancient times, but online we’re back to scrolling. When we go back and forth in print, our relationship, our mental relationship, the structure of our analysis of a text was changed because we were no longer following the linear narrative, we could go back or we could go forward. We could comprehend the whole thing and then choose where we wanted to go.

And that was a major change in our mental structures, because of that leafing and that ability to go back and forth. The mental structure of the text disassociated from speech, because when you scroll, it’s like when you speak, you have to listen to the end of the sentence. In a book you are free from that, you’re free from the speech and it’s a different thing.

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

Véronique Vienne: Smart, intelligent, provocative, and honest.

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

Véronique Vienne: You’d find me cooking for my friends. I believe that around the table, around food, around a glass of wine, yes, but also around food which takes a longer time to enjoy, a dinner, a meal, lunch, people can get to know each other and can spend some time.

One of the things that’s most interesting about what’s happening in the design community is the realization that, and you made a point when you mentioned a Skype interview before we talked, that we need to give it the time. Time is really part of design. You can’t design something because you’re smart and you’re doing it all electronically. I think you need to learn to listen to other people, to hear what they have to say, not be in a result mode. To me, that’s one of the most interesting things that is happening in the design community, the realization that you have to do field work. You have to go ask the people what they want. You can’t just have a brief and try to respond to that. So, you’d find me cooking.

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

Véronique Vienne: I don’t know. My daughter in Los Angeles. That’s a long way. And I hope she’s fine. It’s thinking about all of my friends in the United States and I’m in France. My heart is still with all my very dear friends on the West Coast and everywhere in the States.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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TypeNotes Magazine And How The Typewriter Changed Typography And The Way We Communicate…

June 7, 2018

Every now and then, a magazine grabs my attention, I really mean grabs my attention, and it becomes impossible to let go. One such recent magazine is TypeNotes, “A journal dedicated to typography & graphic design.” The magazine is published by the UK’s FONTSMITH that was founded by its creative director Jason Smith.

The first article of issue two is what grabbed my attention. The title “Tap Dance” and the subtitle “Fontsmith designer Stuart de Rozario on how the typewriter changed typography and the way we communicate.” Now, I know some of you don’t even know what a typewriter is, thus you will need to buy the magazine to learn the entire history of the typewriter.

Here is the first two paragraphs from the Tap Dance article… It is worth every single word:

The sound of the mechanical typewriter is a familiar one to many of us, who grew up to its distinctive percussive clack and chime. It’s also the sound of a bygone era; a machine handed its redundancy by computers, tablets and mobile devices.

The fall of the typewriter is just one moment in a long history of changes to how mankind has used written communication, from cave paintings to letter carving and handwriting to texting. Humanity as we know it simply couldn’t have existed without mark making and visual communications.

To read the entire evolution of the typewriter you have to find yourself a copy of issue two of TypeNotes at a newsstands near you. Enjoy.

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