A Chancellor’s Welcome and The Magnolia Journal Launch… ACT 7 Experience, Day 3 Part 1

May 5, 2017

The Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT 7 Experience opened day 3 with a welcome from Dr. Jeffery Vitter, Chancellor of The University of Mississippi and was followed by Meredith’s Doug Kouma keynote opening address in which he showcased the launch story of The Magnolia Journal magazine…

More ACT 7 Experience videos will be posted as they become available. Stay tuned.


Tony Silber, Vice President, Folio, Leads A Panel On “Tales Of A Magazine Launch” At The ACT 7 Experience…Linda Ruth Reporting…

May 5, 2017

On the eve of the last day of ACT 7, Tony Silber, vice president of Folio, entertained us as a drummer in the ACT 7 band at Ground Zero Blues Club in the Mississippi Delta town of Clarksdale. The next day, that same Silber was leading a panel of publishers who told us their stories of recent magazine launches.

The range of successful launches represented on stage was enormous. It included Jarry, focusing on cooking and lifestyle for gay men; ROVA, a new print magazine for millennials who love to hit the open road in their RV’s; Take, which tells stories about the artists of New England; Good Grit, a social culture magazine for the South; Good Day, which will introduce the Grange and its mission to an audience beyond its current membership; Art+Design, which is bringing the New Orleans culture to 17 countries worldwide; Via Corsa, offering post-purchase adventure for automobile enthusiasts; and HGTV, a home lifestyle publication inspired by the title brand.

Addressing the topic of the balance between passion and business, publishers weighed in with their experiences of translating their passion into revenue. “If I did it as a performance art piece, I would lie in a fetal position and cry for an hour,” Michael Kusik, publisher of Take magazine volunteered. “But I saw Take as an opportunity to address an audience that is being missed. There are vast numbers of experiences people can have if they get in the car and drive.”

“I think you literally have to have a streak of insanity to start a magazine—I feel that every day,” added Laura Bento, founder and editor of Good Grit. “The reality of being an entrepreneur is that you are one step away from being homeless all the time. ‘So kids, you can sleep in a closet for a while, it’ll be fine.’” Her advice for publishers looking for financing: “Ask for three times more money than you think you need. Or four times. Or ten times…you are going to need way more money than you think you will.”

“The definition of passion is the willingness to suffer for what you love,” said Steve Martin, founder and publisher, Art+Design magazine. “I think every publisher can relate to that. We suffer every day for what we love. At Art+Design, we take everything the magazine has made and put it back into the magazine. In so doing, we’ve grown it from 80 pages to 154 pages, with a circulation of 10,000 per issue.”

“We’ve historically had many millions of members, but for the Grange, as for all similar organizations, there’s been a big drop off in membership,” Amanda Brozana, editor, Good Day! magazine added. “But you don’t need to be agriculturally driven to be part of it. We need to communicate this message—so Good Day! is a necessity. The passion part is needing to tell our stories.”

“At Via Corsa, we go around the world and look for car things to do,” said Ron Adams, founder & publisher, Via Corsa magazine. “It often turns into family adventures, which is a passion in our lives. We’re committed to doing what it takes to bring cool automotive adventures to print. Paradoxically, we are beginning, out of necessity, to move away from that passion to take care of the business side.”

“HGTV Magazine is very much a business,” Dan Fuchs, vice president/chief revenue officer, HGTV Magazine, said, to laughter from the audience. “I’m passionate about the business, but there are levels of responsibility with deadlines, economics, company accountability. From issue one, you need to stick to your positioning. If you waver, your readers and advertisers will check out. There is a commitment to following through on your positioning.”


Doug Kouma, Editorial Content Director, Meredith Core Media: “Bringing Existing Brands To Print” At The ACT 7 Experience…Linda Ruth Reporting…

May 4, 2017

After a warm welcome from Jeffrey Vitter, Chancellor of the University of Mississippi, who spoke of the transformative role of the university; the third day of the Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT 7 launched with the inside scoop on Meredith Core Media. Doug Kouma, Meredith’s Editorial Content Director, spoke on how Meredith is bringing existing brands to print.

Meredith Core Media grew out of the Meredith Special Interest Media group, with a mission to bring third-party brands to print through leveraging Meredith’s scale in production, printing and distribution. Products, which diversify Meredith’s portfolio and add new revenue streams, include Beekman 1802 Almanac, Forks over Knives, Eat This Not That, and Scam Alert.

The breakout success of the year is The Magnolia Journal, which, at a 70% newsstand sale, was a huge success from the start, requiring the publisher to go back to press on the first issue, not once, but twice. The Magnolia Journal’s launch timeline was from idea to on sale – five months. The magazine of Chip and Joanna Gaines, TV personalities and creators of the brand, Magnolia is located in Waco, Texas, where Meredith’s special-interest team headed to immerse themselves in the publishers’ aesthetic.

While Meredith first approached Magnolia as a home renovation brand, it soon became apparent that the publication provided a platform for food, gardening, entertaining, family, and design content. Even with such a short timeline, Chip and Joanna were involved on every level, curating every aspect of the publication as carefully as they curate their businesses and their lives. From their end, Meredith was able to tap into existing photography that tied into the aesthetic, and supplement with new shoots featuring the Gaines family.

The first issue came out in October, and retailers began requesting more copies the day after the on sale. Barnes and Noble stores were selling out within days.

Meredith learned that when the partner has the ability to mobilize their followers, it is an important part of building viable, solid new publications. At this point, based on the success of the publication, The Magnolia Journal is ready to move out of the test lab of Meredith Core Media and become a solid part of the Meredith line of titles. At the same time, it remains a project of the launch publishers. “We’re not there to tell our partners what their brand is,” Kouma said..”We’re there to give them guidance and help them match their vision to the realities of magazine publishing.”


Go Towards The Light And Why Magazines Still Matter In The Marketplace… ACT 7 Experience, Day 2, Part 3.

May 4, 2017

The Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT 7 Experience concluded the morning sessions of the second day by the following two presentations:

More videos to come. Stay tuned.


Jerry Lynch – President, Magazine And Books, Retail Association – Explains Why “Magazines Are Still A Viable Product In The Marketplace” At The ACT 7 Experience…Linda Ruth Reporting…

May 3, 2017

With unit sales of 12.1%; the retail space allocated to the category down; the quality of space under fire, and a continuing buzz of negativity associated with print, it is no surprise that the sale of magazines at retail continues to be challenging. Jerry Lynch, the president of Magazine and Books, Retail Association (MBR), spoke with the audience at ACT 7 last week to analyze what is happening to magazines at retail, what the implications are, and how publishers might most effectively respond.

Retail is, in fact, under fire, not only for magazines but for all categories. E commerce is challenging brick and mortar sales. Trips to the store are mostly down, and, when at the store, the shopper basket size is down. While some growth is expected, most will come from stores less than 20,000 square feet—which could be a problem for categories fighting for attention in stores.

Efforts by stores to add departments have not been universally successful. Target, for example, invested in food, but people still don’t go to Target for food. “Just putting a product category in doesn’t change who you are,” Lynch said. Stores are getting people to go through the added departments, but not getting them to buy when in those departments.

How does digital contribute to the mix? Smart retailers are looking to digital commerce as their top place to add revenue. Another approach is to look to the categories where the internet can’t compete—for example, fresh foods and perishables. Retailers are reinventing the front end to move customers through and out quicker. And one promising venture is click and collect: the shopper can order online, and pick the order up at retail. The brick and mortar store locations provide instant gratification and a cost advantage through savings on shipping.

Still, publishers continue to be frustrated by retail, and find themselves asking: should I continue to invest? What is the opportunity?

Print magazines, Lynch told us, are still a category selling over $2 billion annually. We continue to sell over a million copies a day in 121,000 outlets. And there is hope to be found in other measurements as well. Magazine product is still profitable to retailers, the supply chain has dropped out costs, and retailers are looking for help. Magazines still make the retailer 62 cents per sale, compared to other categories, many of which are considerably lower.

And, Lynch said, we have great product. We might not talk about that enough, but we have value to offer our customers. Magazines offer many brands across the category, and our readers believe in the brands and are swayed by advertising. These are the customers retailers want.

What publishers can do is, instead of retreating, to seize the offensive. We can seize the opportunity, embrace retail, raise our expectations. We still have the opportunity to grow. To do so, we must establish our expectations and identify opportunities through benchmarking; we must collaborate with our partners across the supply chain, leading with the consumer in mind. We must communicate what we sell, attacking the impediments to opportunity. And we must celebrate what we have.


Everything’s Gonna Be All Right (Just Different)

May 3, 2017

From the Foredeck of the Titanic

Permanent Musical Accompaniment to this Post: 

I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT 7 conference at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, MS last week. The Magazine Innovation Center was founded in 2009 by Dr. Samir Husni of the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism in response to the crisis the magazine publishing industry found itself in after the start of the Great Recession of 2008. To me, the ACT conferences (ACT means Amplify, Clarify, Testify) serve two purposes: The first is to give a small group of magazine professionals a chance to meet together and exchange information about the business in a setting that is outside the usual “industry conference” setting. The second and in some ways more important one is to allow undergraduate and graduate students of journalism and magazine publishing a chance to learn from and interact with industry professionals.


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Making Magazines Make Money Again… ACT 7 Experience, Day 2, Part 2…

May 2, 2017

The Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT 7 Experience continued on Wed. April 26 with a panel discussion on Make Magazines Make Money Again… relive the panel…

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