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Country Living Goes “Country” In The June Issue For The First Time In Its 36-Year History – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Rachel Barrett, Editor-In-Chief, Country Living.

May 13, 2015

“Country Living had never dipped its toes fully into the country music waters, but if that audience is going to read a shelter decorating magazine, I think Country Living is the magazine for them. So, we talked about how to be very deliberate about penetrating that world without alienating our core readership, because I’m realistic; I know not all of our readers are country music fans and they don’t come to our magazine for celebrities and/or music.” Rachel Barrett

country living june 2015 Country Living magazine is taking its June issue on a long drive into the country with a guest editor and the first-ever person to appear on its cover in the magazine’s 36-year history. Grammy-Award winning singer, Miranda Lambert is the distinguished celebrity that received the honor. And it is a momentous event indeed.

Rachel Barrett is the magazine’s editor-in-chief and said the upcoming issue of Country Living showcases many firsts for the magazine as it rubs shoulders with the country music industry without deviating from its original DNA. No celeb-tell-alls here; Country Living merely continues to do what it does best, celebrating country style with tasteful class and easy fun.

I spoke with Rachel recently about the memorable June issue with all its ‘firsts,’ from the new feature: Turn This Country Room Into a Song to the first edition of Country Living Backstage, a free mini-mag created in partnership with the Country Music Association for the CMA Fan Fest held in Nashville June 11-14.

A true southern lady herself, Rachel graciously shared her enthusiastic excitement about the issue and the magazine in general. It was a conversation that was as refreshing as a mint julep on a hot southern day.

But of course, Country Living doesn’t happen only below the Mason-Dixon, as Rachel was quick to point out, even though it’s published in Birmingham, Ala. The magazine appeals to people everywhere who enjoy the country lifestyle; from New York to Nebraska; Country Living satisfies its audience all across the United States.

I hope you enjoy this fun and lively conversation with Rachel Barrett, Editor-in-Chief, Country Living magazine. I know Mr. Magazine™ did.

But first the sound-bites:

On why the June issue was chosen for the magazine’s maiden voyage into ‘country’: We began looking at what time of year to potentially do this issue and to be honest, we weren’t even seeking to put a person on the cover; we were just talking about the fact that country music is so mainstream. A lot of topics that just lined up with the country music lifestyle felt really right for the magazine to explore right now.

On the things she’s implementing in print to interact with the magazine’s audience: We’re just adding different levels of engagement. I mentioned that we moved Simple Country Pleasures to the back page of the magazine, so now we’re opening the feature well with a seasonal cross stitch and in June it’s a guitar because it’s a country themed issue, but we’ve done various cross stitch patterns.

On discovering Hearst was moving Country Living to Birmingham and her feelings about that when she was offered the job: I felt full support from Hearst; they handled the whole thing brilliantly. Transitioning a major national brand from New York to Birmingham, staffing it from scratch; I was also pregnant when I took the job, so that added to some of the chaos. (Laughs) But there were challenges and sometimes I’m floored, in retrospect, as to how we pulled it off. A lot of that credit goes to the New York-based Country Living team who sort of helped pass the torch in the most graceful manner.

On the major stumbling block she had to face: I think just starting from scratch. There was a small window of time where we had a temporary office space and a post-it note on the door that read Country Living. (Laughs) And our neighbors were like: what, the magazine?

On her most pleasant moment: The best moments are just every time we’ve added a person to the staff; it was also such a unique opportunity because the people would ask what’s the job description and we’d reply, well, what do you want it to be? (Laughs)

On anything else she’d like to add: One of the other exciting things on the heels of this country music play is that we have Country Living Backstage and I think this is a testament to how mainstream country has become.

On what keeps her up at night: What doesn’t keep me up at night? (Laughs) For one, my two children. I have a two-year-old and a one-year-old. But in addition to them, I think it’s just excitement for Country Living. You know, we’re really a small magazine, as I have reiterated a couple of times, and so everyone multi-tasks. We’re definitely kind of scrappy; I’m working on everything from brainstorming the reader page to big picture brand-building.

CLX050115_010 And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Rachel Barrett, Editor-in-Chief, Country Living.

Samir Husni: There are so many firsts in the June issue of Country Living; we have the first celebrity guest editor, the first Backstage Pass, the first Country Living Backstage mini-magazine, you name it; I was just going through the list of how many firsts the magazine has in the June issue. Why now and why June for all these premier bonanzas?

Rachel Barrett: I’ve been onboard now for almost two years; I started in October 2013, and we took about six months to build a staff here in Birmingham and to complete the transition. And we’ve been a little slow about introducing some changes into the magazine, but recently I read an article in The New York Times about a study done by the MPD Group that talked about how country music had finally become the most popular musical format in the country with its widespread appeal.

Country Living had never dipped its toes fully into the country music waters, but if that audience is going to read a shelter decorating magazine, I think Country Living is the magazine for them. So, we talked about how to be very deliberate about penetrating that world without alienating our core readership, because I’m realistic; I know not all of our readers are country music fans and they don’t come to our magazine for celebrities and/or music.

We began looking at what time of year to potentially do this issue and to be honest, we weren’t even seeking to put a person on the cover; we were just talking about the fact that country music is so mainstream. Recently, even Steven Tyler announced that he was doing a country album; Nelly is also going to do one, and so there’s definitely widespread appeal. We decided to look at the lifestyle associated with the genre of country music.

As we started discussing the issue in more detail and brainstorming ideas, we thought that it would be more authentic and interesting to bring on a guest editor from that world to help us brainstorm. We bounced around a few names, but Miranda Lambert just seemed like the perfect choice for us; she’s the reigning queen of country; she took home a ton of awards recently at the ACM’s, I think more than any other country artist, and then we started digging a little deeper and found out that she’s from Lindale, Texas, where the town’s motto is actually “Good Country Living,” which was perfect. She chooses to live in the small town of Tishomingo, Oklahoma; I think the population is around 3,000 people.

So, we reached out to her publicist, who also happened to be a Country Living fan; it’s always great when an L.A. publicist is familiar with a magazine called Country Living. It turned out she’s a reader and so we didn’t really have this awkward back and forth, where we were trying to rope in the celebrity who didn’t really understand the magazine or was pitching content that was off brand. Miranda reads us on her tour bus.

She bounced around a ton of ideas on our first phone call; she had clearly taken notes and went over ideas with Blake (Shelton), it was a really nice back and forth. We photographed her for the inside story and of course, if you’re Country Living and you have a photo shoot and time carved out with Miranda Lambert, you’re going to shoot a vertical, a potential cover shot; it wasn’t necessarily the plan to put her on the cover, but it felt like the right move at the right time. I can’t think of anyone, particularly in the last five to ten years, who would be a better face for the magazine.

I felt strongly that everything we put in this issue needed to appeal to the Country Living reader who didn’t care at all about country music; the houses weren’t going to be chosen just because they were tied to a celebrity, they had to be houses that would be worth running in the magazine no matter who their owner was.

We found spaces that fit the bill. We have a story called ‘King of the Road’ and the title is inspired by a country song, but it’s a celebration of the new travel trailer culture. Of course, country stars drive around in their Airstreams and have these great, decked-out trailers, but our readers are also really into that lifestyle and we know they’re also into small spaces, so a lot of topics that just lined up with the country music lifestyle felt really right for the magazine to explore right now.

In terms of Backstage, that was just another thing we felt was right. We’d been talking about; generally speaking, people aren’t flocking to the newsstands as much as they used to, so we talked about how Country Living needed to be present where our readers are and where potential readers are. I’m originally from Tennessee and I know that the CMA Fan Fest is a huge event. I think 50,000-plus people flock to downtown Nashville to celebrate country music; HGTV has a presence there, they have this giant building called ‘The Lodge,’ and so we thought: how does Country Living build a presence at this event, because it’s great exposure for us, albeit a slightly different audience.

When I worked at Glamour, we had done a special publication during Golden Globe’s week and it was distributed throughout Los Angeles and Glamour has the Golden Globe’s weekend; this feels similar in spirit to that. It’s sort of Country Living’s inside guide to downtown Nashville throughout that weekend. The content gives attendees a sneak peek into our brand, but through the lens of the things they’re interested in.

One of the stories that we have in Country Living Backstage is ‘Turn this Country Song into a Room,’ so we’re taking four or five songs that will be performed through the CMA Fan Fest in downtown Nashville and we’re putting together a room. There’s one song called ‘Get Your Shine On’ by Florida Georgia Line, so we put together this living room with a bunch of fun, metallic touches and there’s, of course, some sort of Tennessee Moonshine resourcing on the page. (Laughs) Another song out right now is ‘American Kids’ by Kenny Chesney and so we built this whole Americana-inspired porch.

So, I think that we’re finding a way to tap into the world of country music without pandering to the celebrity side of things.

Samir Husni: One of the things that I remember about Country Living from the days of John Mack Carter and Rachel Newman, when the magazine was first launched, was it had that spirit of enjoying everything ‘country.’ And you seem to be bringing that trait back to the magazine. You’re not going miles from the original DNA, but you’re rebuilding upon that basic foundation.

Rachel Barrett: I appreciate your saying that. Country Living has only had four editors in the history of the magazine and I’ve received some sweet letters from readers who’ve said, I think it’s a promising sign that your name is Rachel. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too)

Rachel Barrett: You know, everyone sort of pines for their old issues, including myself; I love looking at magazines from their very beginnings and I’ve been in touch with Rachel Newman and Nancy Soriano, so there’s this nice connection from past editors; I’m sort of revisiting some of my favorite aspects of all of the incarnations of the magazine over the years. We’re definitely trying to celebrate that more in the magazine and we’re putting a little more heart and soul into the pages.

Samir Husni: We’ve named all the previous editors; let’s also add Sarah Gray…

Rachel Barrett: Yes, certainly. Even working in the magazine industry in New York, I’m from Tennessee and she’s from Mississippi; everybody was always saying that she and I needed to meet. And I’ve always been a huge fan of what she did at Country Living; I would say that I started reading Country Living even more regularly when she came onboard. And I think that she definitely seized upon the social trend of country becoming cool again. Even hipsters in Brooklyn were into canning. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs as well)

Rachel Barrett: I think that she really embraced that in a smart way and brought a whole new readership into Country Living. I haven’t had a chance to communicate with her, but I’m definitely a fan.

Samir Husni: You also created ‘Find the Horseshoe’ inside the magazine, which was a staple of Country magazine that was started by Roy Reiman many years ago. What other types of things are you doing in print to engage people in this digital age and create that interactivity with the audience through ink on paper?

Rachel Barrett: Country Living was not a magazine that was broken, so we’re not trying to come in and fix it and introduce whiplash-inducing change, but one of the things we did modify was our section called ‘Collecting.’ The word collecting is great, it describes jut what it is, but I felt like it wasn’t tapping into the heart of collecting. So, we renamed the section ‘The Thrill of the Hunt’ because it opens up this section for us to feature some new merchandise. I had been at a Country Living fair in Columbus and they were doing a TV segment and we asked this woman: what brings you to the fair? And she said it’s the thrill of the hunt. And you really see that in action at our events and so we decided to rename the collecting section ‘The Thrill of the Hunt.’ And that’s when the Horseshoe Hunt came up and we thought to play off of The Thrill of the Hunt we’d incorporate that element into our pages, so we’ve been hiding a horseshoe in every issue. It’s just one way to have readers interacting with every page of the magazine.

A reader came up to me recently at the Nashville fair and she said the first thing that she always did when she got her issue of Country Living was look for the horseshoe. And that just made me so happy that that one little touch, a tiny, subtle little horseshoe, could bring such fun to a certain set of our readership.

Another example of that interaction, I would say, would be Simple Country Pleasures, which is this longstanding popular column in the magazine. It used to be the back page of the magazine, then it opened the feature well, and recently, we moved it back to the back page of the magazine. It’s an image of the countryside and then a great quote. To be candid, it’s one of the most popular pages and the easiest page to produce. Beautiful images of the countryside are not hard to come by. On our side, we said, OK, this is a page that we don’t have to really do anything new with; it’s successful as is, but is there some way we can build on this; some way we can do something to get readers really excited about it.

So, I read an article in The New York Times recently about how adults have gotten into coloring books and these childhood-inspired crafts. Even our guest editor, Miranda Lambert, had posted something on Instagram the other day; she was coloring in a coloring book while drinking beer. (Laughs) It was like hashtag beer and coloring book.

One thing that a lot of people shop for at the Country Living fairs is paint-by-numbers, those relics of the 70s and 80s; they’ve really had a big resurgence. So, we found this Kentucky-based company, Easy 123 Art, to team up with and they have turned every image now on the back page of the magazine into a paint-by-numbers kit that readers can order.

We didn’t really change the DNA of the page, there’s just a small redirect to the company. And the company has been inundated with thousands and thousands of orders for these paint-by-numbers kits. It’s really been amazing. Some readers are sharing their paint-by-numbers art online; we’ve tapped into the sort of crafty mindset of readers and given them something else to take away from their magazine experience. So, that’s another example.

This is another small example; we’re introducing in our July/August issue a column called ‘Ask a Country Vet.’ It’s another really popular franchise. We have a fairly new country vet that answers our reader’s questions and talks all things animal. We know from social media that people just love adorable pet pictures, so now we’re adding one pet photo that’s just captioned ‘This Pet Photo’ and it’ll be almost our version of The New Yorker caption contest. So, we’ll see how much readers get into that. It kind of gives them the chance to be clever and we’ll run their best answers in the next issue of the magazine and hopefully, eventually we’ll tie it to a prize.

We’re just adding different levels of engagement. I mentioned that we moved Simple Country Pleasures to the back page of the magazine, so now we’re opening the feature well with a seasonal cross stitch and in June it’s a guitar because it’s a country themed issue, but we’ve done various cross stitch patterns. We make the cross stitch pattern available online and readers are sharing that they’ve recreated our cross stitch. Of course, the ultimate goal would be to sell a Country Living brand of cross stitch kits down the road and it’s beautiful that our copy editor is actually the person who does the cross stitch every month; she’s definitely multi-tasking. (Laughs)

We’re still exploring it every month, but kind of looking at pages that are already successful, but figuring out if there is a way to give them more depth either in the magazine or off the page.

Samir Husni: When David Carey announced that Country Living was moving to Birmingham, there were a lot of skeptics out there who said this move was just a nice way of killing the magazine, shipping it from New York to Birmingham. When you took this job, did you have any doubts or any fears that screamed: I’m moving from an established magazine that was doing very well to a brand that people were sure was about to end? Can you recall your original feelings when you were offered the job? Were you skeptical as well or did you jump and say, no, I believe in this brand and I’m with it all the way?

Rachel Barrett: Even when I moved from Real Simple to Southern Living, I kind of felt like it was a similar challenge. I felt like Southern Living had been a brand that my grandmother had read, but didn’t have as much cache with a younger audience or a new audience, so at the time I think even people in New York were asking; what is she doing. (Laughs) And Southern Living has had this great resurgence and a lot of success recently, so I felt like that challenge only inspired me. I had always loved Country Living. Way back in the day, when I was an associate editor at Glamour and Eliot Kaplan would do his requisite check-in with you and he asked me what magazine at Hearst would I ever want to be editor-in-chief of and I pointed at Country Living and he remembered that.

I love the content, it’s great. And I know while you’re transitioning a magazine, there are a lot of question marks around that and it creates storylines, but Country Living has such a healthy subscriber base and that’s something we’re looking to build on with the Country Living fairs and other events; it’s a really strong subscriber base and they’re very loyal, so I didn’t feel as uncertain as other people around me felt.

And I felt full support from Hearst; they handled the whole thing brilliantly. Transitioning a major national brand from New York to Birmingham, staffing it from scratch; I was also pregnant when I took the job, so that added to some of the chaos. (Laughs) But there were challenges and sometimes I’m floored, in retrospect, as to how we pulled it off. A lot of that credit goes to the New York-based Country Living team who sort of helped pass the torch in the most graceful manner.

I think one of the advantages; obviously, having some sort of history with the magazine, there’s a lot to be said for that, and there were a lot of people at Southern Living and it was so helpful to have these people around you who had this knowledge of the brand and why certain things didn’t work. It’s also rare and maybe unprecedented to be able to look at and build upon a decades-old brand through the eyes of an entirely new team. That was very exciting. Our style director came from the New York-based Country Living staff, but for the most part we were a fresh staff. There was no one saying ‘but that’s not how we’ve always done it.’

I think in some ways it was such an interesting opportunity to be able to take a magazine with a strong subscriber base and look at it with fresh eyes and fresh energy; trying to build on, I hope, the best parts of all the decades of the magazine.

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

Rachel Barrett: I think just starting from scratch. There was a small window of time where we had a temporary office space and a post-it note on the door that read Country Living. (Laughs) And our neighbors were like: what, the magazine?

In terms of recruiting during that interim period; recruiting a staff from scratch was definitely challenging. I brought over a couple of people from Southern Living who I really admired, but I also saw it as an opportunity to expand within the talent pool of Birmingham. I didn’t want our filter to naturally skew Southern; I wanted to make sure we had people representing different parts of the country. I think seven or eight people on our staff relocated from New York City and other locations. And we’re a small staff right now; we’re at 16.

Just building a staff from scratch and finding office space and really just finding the right balance, sometimes when new editors come in they’re very eager to try a million new things, but I realized that this isn’t a magazine where you need to do that. So, part of the challenge is just reining myself in. (Laughs) I mean, you get very excited and have a ton of ideas. Ellen Levine had some great advice; sometimes I’m like trying to brainstorm some flashy, amazing new pet column, and she says Ask a Country Vet is working, readers love it; don’t overthink it. (Laughs again) Sometimes I need to be reminded of that.

Samir Husni: And what has been the most pleasant moment?

Rachel Barrett: There was a week when we were fully staffed. We have an open position right now; our executive editor was just named editor-in-chief of Coastal Living.

As a small staff we just have lots of great, little victories; we’re a very close-knit group. Every time we get our new issues in the box delivered, we have sort of an official unveiling in the conference room.

The best moments are just every time we’ve added a person to the staff; it was also such a unique opportunity because the people would ask what’s the job description and we’d reply, well, what do you want it to be? (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too)

Rachel Barrett: When you have open headcount that’s entirely open; I mean normally at magazines you’re dealing with one very specific role, because one person leaves and they have a very decisive role and you’re filling that position. But with every new person that came onboard, I was asking well, what do you want to do and then we’ll hire the next person based on what you don’t want to do. It’s just been this really unique and interesting experience.

My dad is a recruiter, a headhunter, so maybe I learned a little from him. I was really pleasantly surprised. The most daunting thing probably was having a staff of one and three months pregnant. (Laughs) But one of the most surprising and rewarding things was building this really talented staff from scratch and seeing how well they work together and how everyone inspires each other here.

Samir Husni: The journalist in me has to ask you this question; was that like a Time Inc. revenge, getting your executive editor to be the editor-in-chief of Coastal Living because you left them? (Laughs)

Rachel Barrett: I don’t think so. (Laughs too) I feel like when you hire really talented people, other people are going to recognize their talent too. We were so excited for Steele (Marcoux). We had a champagne toast in the conference room and she was recently at High Point and uploaded a picture on Instagram with our address and I was like hands off, Steele Marcoux. (Laughs) I don’t see it as a revenge play at all, I think Steele is such a great hire; she was the first person I hired. Every meeting I was ever in with her, I was always in agreement.

So, I think if you’re looking to tap into the talent pool to hire a new editor-in-chief for Coastal Living, she was such a clear choice, regardless of where she was working. She also started her career there.

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

Rachel Barrett: One of the other exciting things on the heels of this country music play is that we have Country Living Backstage and I think this is a testament to how mainstream country has become. Back when I lived in New York City there wasn’t even a country station and now, of course, they have a country station and they’re also getting a huge country music festival this summer, in late June. It’s called FarmBorough and it’s a 3-day country music concert series that will be held on Randall’s Island. Country Living is also taking over the Green Room for that event. So, that’s exciting. Again, it’s a different audience; it’s a New York City-based audience and so we’re currently putting together the plans of how we’re going to decorate the Green Room for that event.

That’s been fun. It’s hard, because I left New York four years ago, and now I’m thinking if they’d only had a country station and a country concert festival when I lived there. (Laughs) But this is just another exciting thing that Country Living is doing, in tandem with this June issue.

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

Rachel Barrett: What doesn’t keep me up at night? (Laughs) For one, my two children. I have a two-year-old and a one-year-old. But in addition to them, I think it’s just excitement for Country Living. You know, we’re really a small magazine, as I have reiterated a couple of times, and so everyone multi-tasks. We’re definitely kind of scrappy; I’m working on everything from brainstorming the reader page to big picture brand-building.

I think step two for Country Living is really building on our fair franchise; we just had a really successful first-time Country Living fair in Nashville. I think we had 22,000-plus people attending over three days. I go to the fair and it’s a huge success, but then my brain begins churning with how do we build on this franchise and how do we round out the experience? Do we add a sound stage; just that sort of thing. So, the things that keep me up at night probably change every single day, but I think it’s just that we have a great magazine and how do we expand upon it in ways that are really going to resonate with our subscribers.

And then also those toddlers. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too) Thank you.

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A Millennial Read That’s Fast-Paced, Upbeat & Not Digital – The Mr. Magazine Interview With Emily Cronin, Editor-In-Chief, Trending NY Magazine.

May 11, 2015

“One of the results of living on your Smartphone is you crave a break and people like me and my friends; our readers, I think increasingly, new magazines bring a breath of fresh air and a treat. Although, like you, it’s my job to read magazines and keep up with everything that’s going on, I still favor them and bring them on vacation with me, because you read a magazine very differently on a long commute or a flight or in a beach chair than you do at your desk.” Emily Cronin

Trending_Cover_May 2015 A new free, monthly fashion, beauty and entertainment magazine for millennial New York women, that’s the concept behind Hearst’s, Trending NY. It’s upbeat, colorful and a fast read that not only competes with millennials’ digital devices; it’s actually a welcomed diversion and something readers are excitedly craving in their fast-paced lives, at least according to Trending NY’s founding editor, Emily Cronin.

And if anyone should know the minds of the magazine’s readers; it’s Emily. Being a millennial herself, she knows the value of a long, deep breath away from the bombardment of today’s information flood and Trending NY is ready to provide that much-needed respite. After four pilot issues last year, Trending NY starts regular monthly publication with the May 2015 issue.

I spoke with Emily recently and we talked about her early interests in political science, becoming a foreign correspondent, and then the ultimate realization of her love of stories, storytelling and beautiful, collectable covers. And of course, we talked about the potential of Trending NY and the goals she hopes to accomplish with the magazine that collects all the trending topics of interest a millennial New York woman wants and needs to know, and puts into the timelessness of print.

I hope you enjoy this refreshing interview with a young lady who knows the convenience of the digital age, but also knows in order to enjoy the beauty and joy of life, sometimes you have to slow down the pace and relax with a great magazine. And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Emily Cronin, Editor-in-Chief, Trending NY.

But first the sound-bites:

On how her career transitioned from a Political Science major in college to fashion, beauty and entertainment: It’s a long story, but the short version is when I was in college I wanted to be a foreign correspondent in the Middle East. But at the same time I was working on the student newspaper and the student magazine. And I found that what I loved was telling longer stories that you could really invest in and make beautiful and create covers that had a lifespan.

On why she believes millennials are craving the lean-back experience of print:
One of the results of living on your Smartphone is you crave a break and people like me and my friends; our readers, I think increasingly, new magazines bring a breath of fresh air and a treat.

On whether she fears that readers will come to expect an overabundance of direction from Trending NY:
Actually, that’s really fun. Whether I’m an editor or not, I’m constantly on the hunt for information about what’s new and what’s on the horizon. And Trending NY is an amazing vehicle for my team and me to share our discoveries. Everything that’s in the magazine is something that we’re excited about.

On the basic concept of the magazine:
Trending NY is the new free monthly fashion, beauty and entertainment magazine for millennial New York women. The magazine is a quick shop-able read; everything in the magazine, all the clothes, all the beauty items, are in store now; there’s none of the delayed gratification that we’ve grown accustomed to with traditional monthly fashion magazines.

On whether she thinks we may see more “Trending” titles upcoming:
You never know. I would love it if that were somewhere in the future, but I’m really not at will to say. Although, I will say that Trending is a name that lends itself to other cities, so I wouldn’t be surprised.

On the biggest stumbling block she’s had to face:
There have definitely been small challenges, but there have been no stumbling blocks; this whole thing has been a lot of fun, honestly.

On her most pleasant surprise:
I love it when I see people reading it on the subway. It makes me feel a little like a spy, sitting there watching them and trying to see the pages that they’re lingering over and just to witness people interacting with it and enjoying the product that we’ve worked so hard on is really a joy.

On what she feels the role of an editor is in 2015 compared to the years before the digital explosion: I think now more than ever the editor has a responsibility to filter all of the information that’s out there. There is an unbelievable torrent of information hitting our reader every day and something that I repeat all the time to my team is that we have to be specific.

On what motivates her to get out of bed every morning and look forward to going to work:
What really keeps me going is the next big idea. Hearst has now committed to producing more issues of Trending NY to December 2015 and we have ideas for features for a year beyond that. So, constantly we’re refining and building our ambition and trying to figure out how we can make the next issue even better and that’s a huge motivating factor.

On what she reads at home when she’s relaxing:
What am I reading? Everything, I’m very lucky. One of the best things about being an editor at Hearst is that I get all of our magazines and I bring them home with me and have giant leaning towers of magazines on the floor all over the apartment. I love nothing more than after the kids go to bed, flipping through a magazine and really taking more time with it.

On what keeps her up at night: I’m always thinking about the magazine and am really driven by excitement at what we can accomplish with it.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Emily Cronin, Editor-in-Chief, Trending NY.

Samir Husni: You majored in Political Science and graduated with honors from Duke University, but so far your journalism experience has been in fashion, beauty and technology, no politics. When was the transition from Political Science in school to what you’re doing now? It’s very fascinating. And now you’re editor-in-chief at a very young age for a major magazine; can you tell me about your career paths?

EmilyPortrait1 Emily Cronin: It’s a long story, but the short version is when I was in college I wanted to be a foreign correspondent in the Middle East. But at the same time I was working on the student newspaper and the student magazine. And I found that what I loved was telling longer stories that you could really invest in and make beautiful and create covers that had a lifespan.

When I graduated, instead of moving to the Middle East, I moved to London and I did start working in financial and political news; my first jobs were actually at the Financial Times and CNBC. But it became quickly apparent to me that I wanted to be in fashion magazines; I wanted to do features and fashion and create those beautiful stories that I loved.

I was very fortunate; I entered and won the Vogue talent contest for young writers, which having moved to London and not knowing anyone in the magazine industry, it gave me a great foot in the door and paved the way for me to go and work at Harper’s Bazaar and Elle UK in London. I’m really happy with the path my career has taken.

Samir Husni: Congratulations on your latest achievement, becoming editor-in-chief of Trending NY. If someone your age asked you; Trending NY is aimed at millennials, are you out of your mind to publish a print magazine for this age group? Millennials live on their Smartphones and digital devices; this is a digital age, after all. Why do you think they would be reading Trending NY in print?

Emily Cronin: That’s very true, but one of the results of living on your Smartphone is you crave a break, and people like me and my friends and our readers, I think, increasingly view magazines like a breath of fresh air, like a treat. And although, like you, it’s my job to read magazines and keep up with everything that’s going on, I still savor them and bring them on vacation with me, because you read a magazine very differently on a long commute or a flight or in a beach chair than you do at your desk.

What I’m so excited about with Trending NY is the chance to provide something that surprises and delights our reader and makes her feel like she’s been given a gift. So, absolutely, there’s not just a place for this in New York, but it’s something that women in our demographic are craving.

Samir Husni: You’re now the curator for these women in New York. Do you feel any sense of alarm or fear that they’re going to depend on you to tell them what to do?

Emily Cronin: Actually, that’s really fun. One of the reasons that I think a lot of people, including myself, get into journalism is that we like to be the ones who know what’s going on before anyone else and we also like to be the ones who tell everyone else what’s happening.

Whether I’m an editor or not, I’m constantly on the hunt for information about what’s new and what’s on the horizon. And Trending NY is an amazing vehicle for my team and me to share our discoveries. Everything that’s in the magazine is something that we’re excited about. We make very sure of that. It’s really a pleasure every month to share it with the readers.

Samir Husni: For those who are not living in New York, Emily; can you tell me a little bit more about the magazine so people outside of the City will have a better idea of what’s trending and what it’s all about?

Emily Cronin: Of course. Trending NY is the new free monthly fashion, beauty and entertainment magazine for millennial New York women. The magazine is a quick shop-able read; everything in the magazine, all the clothes, all the beauty items, are in store now; there’s none of the delayed gratification that we’ve grown accustomed to with traditional monthly fashion magazines. And we really collect the best of what’s happening in New York so that our readers can maximize their experience in the City. It’s positive, upbeat and inspirational and everything a girl could want to read on her commute.

Samir Husni: Can we expect to see from Hearst later on a Trending L.A. or a Trending Chicago; is this an experiment or is New York unique for such a magazine?

Emily Cronin: You never know. I would love it if that were somewhere in the future, but I’m really not at will to say. Although, I will say that Trending is a name that lends itself to other cities, so I wouldn’t be surprised.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest stumbling block that you’ve faced since starting Trending NY and how did you overcome it?

Emily Cronin: This whole experience has honestly been so refreshing because we had a chance to come in and do something completely new. We are effectively a startup publication with all the backing and resources of the incredibly well-resourced Hearst Corporation.

There have definitely been small challenges, but there have been no stumbling blocks; this whole thing has been a lot of fun, honestly.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant surprise?

Emily Cronin: You know what; I love it when I hear that people are saying nice things about the publication behind my back. In other words, when I get positive feedback secondhand; where someone will say to me, my colleagues came in and saw the magazine on my desk and said they picked that up recently and it was really good.

I also love it when I see people reading it on the subway. It makes me feel a little like a spy, sitting there watching them and trying to see the pages that they’re lingering over and just to witness people interacting with it and enjoying the product that we’ve worked so hard on is really a joy.

Samir Husni: You’re now the editor of Trending NY; what would you say if someone asked you what the role of editor is today in 2015 compared to what it was before the digital explosion?

Emily Cronin: I think now more than ever the editor has a responsibility to filter all of the information that’s out there. There is an unbelievable torrent of information hitting our reader every day and something that I repeat all the time to my team is that we have to be specific. If we’re going to tell our reader that she needs to go to this festival in Brooklyn, that’s not good enough. We have to tell her the one event that she can’t miss and what she should eat and drink and wear.

I view one of the roles of Trending NY as a crib sheet for overstretched New York women; they don’t want to know every movie that’s opening this weekend or every restaurant that has a special, they want to know exactly what everyone else is talking about so that they can stay in the flow of the conversation, which is moving faster and faster every day.

Samir Husni: Having said that; what makes Emily get out of bed every morning and look forward to going to work?

Emily Cronin: Well, the first thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is my 16-month-old twins. They wake up very early and then of course, I’m up early too, which gives me a chance to check my email and look at Instagram and Twitter.

But what really keeps me going is the next big idea. Hearst has now committed to producing more issues of Trending NY to December 2015 and we have ideas for features for a year beyond that. So, constantly we’re refining and building our ambition and trying to figure out how we can make the next issue even better and that’s a huge motivating factor.

Samir Husni: The twins are in bed and asleep and you’re sitting on your couch at home with a glass of wine if you indulge; what would I find you reading and would it be on a digital device or in print?

Emily Cronin: What am I reading? Everything, I’m very lucky. One of the best things about being an editor at Hearst is that I get all of our magazines and I bring them home with me and have giant leaning towers of magazines on the floor all over the apartment. I love nothing more than after the kids go to bed, flipping through a magazine and really taking more time with it. Obviously, I look at everything that comes across my desk at work in a very quick way, with a view toward seeing how the things that we’re doing are trending. But really reading the features and looking at the fashion shoots; I look at everything you’d expect me to look at in all of our publications that I can name and some that I can’t. I also look at the international titles, having come up in London; I still get all of my British magazines as well.

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

Emily Cronin: Can I say the twins again? (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Of course. (Laughs too)

Emily Cronin: What keeps me up at night is actually very similar to what gets me up in the morning and that’s excitement at the potential of what we can do with Trending NY and what we can accomplish.

And I’ve definitely learned to sleep with a pen and a notepad on my nightstand so that if I wake up with a very specific, detailed thought about a feature or a headline or a distribution issue, I can write that down and I can also write down the big ideas. Sometimes when I wake up, I find that I’ve written down something that actually is useful.

To be a little more concise, I’m always thinking about the magazine and am really driven by excitement at what we can accomplish with it.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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The Shoeholic Addiction Is “Stiletto” Sharp For Its Creator – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Tinu, Publisher, Shoeholics Magazine…

May 8, 2015

“In my case, I guess you could say it’s like putting a beggar in charge of a bank. (Laughs) I turned my passion, my addiction; my love for shoes into a business. I guess it’s part of my African background, take every opportunity possible for survival. It’s just a way of life for us.” Tinu

21307_10153109681061201_5711377935958755971_n Shoes are an important part of all of our wardrobes; most of us wear them without a second thought. But for some, shoes are much more than a necessity; they’re a passion that knows no bounds. Rather than just protect the feet; for the “shoeholic” shoes adorn and grace every podiatric inch.

For a woman simply known as Tinu, the term “shoeholic” fits to a perfect T. Tinu is a New York City based singer-songwriter, designer, philanthropist and publisher of Shoeholics Magazine. Brooklyn-born, but globally raised, Tinu’s sense of style is as dazzlingly-known as her extensive shoe collection.

Her video by the same name, Shoeholic, which went viral, started Tinu on the road to her present magazine publishing destination. She is an entrepreneur who brought something elementally tangible to the magazine media table: a limitless addiction for her magazine’s subject matter. Tinu’s efforts are not only showcasing her love of shoes, but also paying off with some very big-name celebrities gracing her covers. From Cyndi Lauper to Whoopi Goldberg, famous faces are sharing the Shoeholic mania. In fact, on a recent episode of The View, Whoopi showed the magazine and talked at great length about it on the show, which provided a massive spike in sales that day, proving that tenacity and a passionate dream can go hand-in-hand.

Tinu with Samir I spoke with Tinu recently about Shoeholic and her magazine’s business model, which might be described by some as eclectically executed, but is working wonderfully for her, and the fact that collecting shoes and the pages of Shoeholics Magazine is an art form in itself.

Tinu is a free spirit and a businessperson, savvy and sophisticated; her personality shines through the pages of her magazine. I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who made me laugh and made me think as we talked about the beauty, collectability and success of Shoeholics…

But first the sound-bites:


20150121_151253-01x On how as an individual entrepreneur she’s managed to be successful in the magazine media world:
In my case, I guess you could say it’s like putting a beggar in charge of a bank. (Laughs) I turned my passion, my addiction; my love for shoes into a business. I guess it’s part of my African background, take every opportunity possible for survival. It’s just a way of life for us.

On being one of the first to use digital to cross over to print:
Yes and yes. (Laughs) It’s true. You cannot log into our website and flip through the magazine. It doesn’t work that way; I’m sure you know that. We have the blogs and the regular stuff online, but to be able to just log on and flip through the entire contents of the magazine; no, we don’t have that.

On whether she can envision a day when Shoeholics isn’t in print: Our livelihood and survival is in print. Although we have a great digital following, at the end of the day a lot of them do both. Our magazine is a collectable and we have to have it in print.

On the balance between her budget between advertising revenue and circulation: When we started this magazine, none of us had profit in mind. It was more about feeding our addiction and that of our fellow addicts. Think of it as a main vein. (Laughs) We saw no profit. We started out with little or no ads. We do have ads, don’t get me wrong, but we can go an entire issue without an ad; we don’t care.

On her most pleasant moment since the magazine launched:
My shoe collection grew. Put an alcoholic into a bar and you’ll understand why my shoe collection grew. When I started the magazine, I had 500 pairs; now, I would be pushing it to imagine a number. I’m crossing the line between a collector and a hoarder. That’s the best way I can describe it.

On any stumbling block she’s had along the way:
There was one particular public figure that I wanted to interview, but her people had a different mindset. Some people don’t understand the concept of being a shoe collector; they think it’s a joke.

On what keeps her up at night
: My shoes, of course. A lot of times when I’m at home and bored, I put on a pair of shoes and get into bed and just relax. (Laughs)


And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Tinu, Publisher, Shoeholics Magazine.


10898044_10152916047931201_4724832597722037549_n Samir Husni: You’ve beaten the odds; you’ve started a magazine as an individual entrepreneur about a subject that you love and you’ve stayed in business. How have you managed that? What gives?

Tinu: In my case, I guess you could say it’s like putting a beggar in charge of a bank. (Laughs) I turned my passion, my addiction; my love for shoes into a business. I guess it’s part of my African background, take every opportunity possible for survival. It’s just a way of life for us.

I thought, why should I keep wearing all these shoes and spending all this money and it’s not giving me anything back. Especially as you get older, I’m not 18 anymore; I wondered what was going to happen to my beautiful collection? I knew I’d love to share it with the world.

Everything actually started with the music video. The video is called Shoeholic and it went viral on YouTube. At the time when I did the video, shoes were much more in the background than they are today. Now you have big shoe stores; places like Saks, Macy’s and internationally too, in Dubai and the Netherlands; all of these kinds of places make shoes a lot grander than they once were.

Shoeholic went viral and everyone was asking about the shoes in the video; were they mine or someone else’s. It was then that my publicist said, you’re getting asked a lot of questions, you should write a book. So, I did that; I wrote a book. The book is on Amazon.com and I also sell it out of my own warehouse and it is doing phenomenally well. It’s called “The Shoeholic.” I’m very excited about it.

It just sort of grew from there. And the next thing you know, retail stores started carrying it in their shoe department. You have a whole floor of shoes and they’re beautiful. Shoes are now in the foreground, as opposed to when I did the video, shoes were in the background. The only shoe song that comes to mind, other than mine, is the 1960s song by Nancy Sinatra: These Boots Are Made for Walking. That was the only shoe song that was out there. And that was years ago.

Then the song got airplay on MTV, along with YouTube, and then it sort of caught fire, I would say. Thousands of people saw it, and then tens of thousands and it just kept growing.

Prior to Shoeholics Magazine, I had a fitness magazine and that was sort of my lead into the publishing world, as it were. And there were really no shoe magazines out there, except for trade publications, and I knew if anyone was going to do a shoe magazine, it had to be me. So, I said; why not? I had the book out and we already had all the necessary stuff to make a magazine, the graphic department, printer and Barnes & Noble was interested and Target; literally the first issue went straight to the newsstand. There was no let’s wait and see the first issue to see what it looks like; no, they wanted it straight so they could immediately stock it.

I remember when we emailed some fashion designers at the time; no one would give us the time of day. No one even responded; they just ignored us. Literally, the first issue, 90% of the clothes and the shoes that we used on the models were from my closet, believe it or not. Yes, we had to make do. It’s understandable though; the designers didn’t know who we were; they had no idea what the creative angle would be.

So, we put out the first issue and it was a blockbuster. First of all, the people in Asia ate it up like wildfire. The Japanese especially and the Koreans; our circulation grew like an addiction. I’ve never been on drugs in my life, but this has to be similar. Yes, this magazine is my drug. We get high on every issue.

How do I put it? I guess it’s kind of hard if you’re not a shoe kind of person the way we are to do this, because you have to have it in your DNA to do what we do. It’s not just a regular fashion print, it’s not just another magazine to pick up wherever; this is an addiction-feeder. We have collectors who are addicted to every issue; the pages have to be perfect because usually they frame them. It’s a collectable magazine and we take it very seriously not to have any issue dated, meaning, we don’t even talk about trends; not a word about what’s coming up for the fall or spring. We want a magazine that comes out today or last year to be as current as possible, even ten years from now. So, we tend to generalize our stories, our articles.

Samir Husni: You’re actually one of the first to use digital to cross over to print.

Tinu: Yes and yes. (Laughs) It’s true. You cannot log into our website and flip through the magazine. It doesn’t work that way; I’m sure you know that. We have the blogs and the regular stuff online, but to be able to just log on and flip through the entire contents of the magazine; no, we don’t have that. You can find it on our app; you can look through it on your phone, but we don’t really want to spoil our readers. Personally, I think that’s what’s killing a lot of magazines; they’re spoiling their readers. It’s giving everything away; it’s too easy to get to online. Seriously, why would anyone buy it in print if it’s already there?

People get our app and see it there and go rushing out to buy the print version. That makes sense, not giving it away, because at the end of the day, our audience is print collectors.

Samir Husni: Can you envision a day when Shoeholics will not be in print and only digital?

IMG_5647 Rx Tinu: Our livelihood and survival is in print. Although we have a great digital following, at the end of the day a lot of them do both. Our magazine is a collectable and we have to have it in print.

We’ve actually changed our model. When you first saw the magazine we were on the newsstands. Now, we’re not there anymore. The reason for that is because first of all, a lot of the stores are dying. It used to pain me to walk into Barnes & Noble and see people reading parts of the magazines: Vogue, Elle, Shoeholics, just whatever. Just sit there in the store and read them and then put them back. I went in one day and literally counted how many people read Shoeholics or Vogue; it happened from the time they opened until the time they closed. And to calculate how much we just lost as a publisher; how much money we could have made if people had bought all the issues that were read and then returned to the shelf. I did the math. One day, in one store 12 issues were read. And they were $7.99 per copy, so, $7.99 x 12; that’s how much money we lost that day.

However, it’s good for the advertisers. Their ads get seen by the world; yes, they put them back, so for the publisher it’s a killer. And do you know what happens at the end of the season? At the end of the issue cycle? They still send them back and say “unsold copies.”

We just realized that that wasn’t the way for us. We have a high number of subscribers and we have our digital and our app. We talked to our distributor and said, hey, we want to check-out. (Laughs) We canceled that section; here’s the check and we’re done. (Laughs again)

Now, we have them printed and delivered directly to us and we have some very highly-placed venues around the world that we ship boxes to and they give them to their clientele for free. So, it gets into the right hands and it still makes the connections around the world. We’re in a better situation today than we were.

Samir Husni: Are the venues retail stores?

10984162_10152997832016201_3481924300470859236_n Tinu: Yes, top retail stores, higher end, independent places that are higher in traffic. We send them boxes of the magazine and in the box are 100 copies. A higher end store might be in Chicago, we send them a box; we have another big store here in New York City that’s uptown, we send them two boxes. In Australia, we might send them four; in Russia; we might send two, but we’re still getting our international circulation.

In fact, we just came back from Japan where we shot our first international editorial, for our upcoming summer issue in July. So, at the end of the day the boxes that the stores get around the world get the magazines to key people and we don’t have to worry about copies that aren’t sold.

And here’s the kicker; we offer them for free this time.

Samir Husni: The stores buy them and give them away for free?

Tinu: No, we don’t sell to the stores; they get them for free. The way we make our money is when people get addicted to that first issue they see and then subscribe. They subscribe and then they get it automatically every two months.

Samir Husni: How’s the balance in your budget now between advertising revenue and circulation?

Tinu: When we started this magazine, none of us had profit in mind. It was more about feeding our addiction and that of our fellow addicts. Think of it as a main vein. (Laughs) We saw no profit. We started out with little or no ads. We do have ads, don’t get me wrong, but we can go an entire issue without an ad; we don’t care. We don’t care, because we’re not thinking profit, profit, profit. As long as we have enough money coming in from circulation and subscribers to pay for production costs and to get the boxes to as many people around the world as we can, we’re good. If advertising money happens to come in; it’s icing on the cake, but it’s not our main goal.

Samir Husni: One of the topics that I use in my seminars is for us to create a magazine in this day and age, we have to create elements of addiction and we have to be the drug dispenser and the doctor who prescribes the drug.

Tinu: Exactly. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: And you’re a prime example of that.

Tinu: We’re sort of built-to-order for that description. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: If I gave you a magic wand that could turn Shoeholics into a human being with one strike upon its cover; would I see Tinu?

Tinu: Of course.

Samir Husni: Since the inception of the magazine until today; what has been the most pleasant moment in this launch story?

Tinu: My shoe collection grew. Put an alcoholic into a bar and you’ll understand why my shoe collection grew. When I started the magazine, I had 500 pairs; now, I would be pushing it to imagine a number. I’m crossing the line between a collector and a hoarder. That’s the best way I can describe it.

My big beautiful living room with its18-foot ceiling; one wall is literally covered with shoeboxes. Yes, it grew.

My taste in shoes also changed. Instead of the conservative, high heeled pumps; now I’m starting to get a bit more whimsical. I like odd-shaped shoes and retro-looking. Unusual heel shapes. Just something that strikes a conversation the minute you walk into a door. Every time I turn around, someone wants to talk about what I’m wearing.

I’ve been on Instagram for about a year now and I find I post my shoes more than anything. Recently, I posted a picture of me in thigh-high boots. I’ve become more daring with my shoes; I guess is what I’m trying to say. Thigh-boots, laced all the way up the front to the thigh, that’s seductive.

I met my friend in the park and we took a picture of me in those thigh-high boots and a one-piece swimsuit with a high-waisted cinch belt and I posted it and the picture went viral. It was shared almost 200 times in the last five days. That’s the beauty of what I do and it’s very pleasant.

Samir Husni: If someone is reading this interview, they’re going to think that you’re living the dream, that you’ve never had any stumbling blocks and everything has gone your way. But was there a stumbling block that you had to overcome?

997085_10152678117466201_2409483018856811511_n Tinu: There was one particular public figure that I wanted to interview, but her people had a different mindset. Some people don’t understand the concept of being a shoe collector; they think it’s a joke. But this particular person happened to have a gatekeeper who didn’t get it when came to fashion, because I Googled her and researched her.

So, that’s a downside to the business; when you want to interview someone and you can’t get them. But I don’t think it’s unique to me; it happens a lot.

Samir Husni: If someone like me, who has an addiction besides magazines, neckties; 1800 of them so far, comes to you and says, Tinu, you took your addiction and started Shoeholic Magazine, should I start a Tieholic magazine?

Tinu: I don’t see why not.

Samir Husni: (Laughs) I don’t have time for one thing.

Tinu: I understand that.

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

Tinu: My shoes, of course. A lot of times when I’m at home and bored, I put on a pair of shoes and get into bed and just relax. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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For City & Regional Magazines “Open Sky” Is Filled With Limitless Possibilities – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Todd Paul, President, Open Sky Media, Inc.

May 6, 2015

“Advertisers and consumers want to pick something up; they want to have this luxury experience of flipping through pages and all of those types of things, so I don’t see digital-only as being the future for how we move forward or the space as a whole moves forward, but I think there will be some subsets in there that will knock it out of the park.” Todd Paul

City and Regional magazines are niche marketing at its best, focusing in on the topical area and presenting its audiences with information they both want and need. They are the answers you receive when you Google the question: where do I find out the intricacies of a certain city or region.

Open Sky Media has five titles that are producing quality content to a decisive audience and doing it successfully. From Marin to Slice, Austin Monthly, and San Antonio Magazine to Gulfshore Living; the magazines are enjoying a robust present and have a healthy diagnosis for the future.

Todd Paul is president of Open Sky Media and reached out to me on a recent trip he made to Oxford, Miss. We met in my office at the Magazine Innovation Center, enjoyed a cup of coffee together and talked about the city and regional space and how the niche was doing as a whole, and more specifically how the five titles under his umbrella were weathering the storms of the digital age.

His answers were insightful and offered a definitive perspective from the financial aspect of his business for the city and regional category. The trajectory he presented for the future of his titles was a positive-print tomorrow, with an added dash of digital to achieve that ever-so important balance between the two.

I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Todd Paul, a young man who’s at the helm of some very profitable city and regional titles and knows how to keep them that way. In Mr. Magazine’s™ opinion; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

But first the sound-bites:

Todd Paul1 On the status of his titles: Our titles are spread out from California to Florida, with a big focus in Texas and Oklahoma City and they’re growing pretty significantly on a revenue and profitability basis.

On whether his magazines are the exception to the rule or he’s seeing this positivity across the city/regional board:
I think on the whole that people are really seeing this work. On the whole, all of these boats are rising; the people are focusing on the core things that differentiate the city and regional magazines in their space and in their community. And the people who are focusing on that are winning; they’re growing their business and revenue and growing the quality of their products.

On what he’s doing differently today than in 2007 to produce his magazines: Over the last couple of years, we’ve definitely had to think of those as almost little sub-businesses; we’ve had to add some editorial staff and those kinds of things, so there are some functional things that we’ve done differently.

On whether he believes digital-only is the way to go for city and regional titles: On the broad scope of things, no. I don’t think that would work for the city and regional magazine space as a whole.

On why he believes the city and regional audience still wants print:
I think people view digital as utility and print as luxury. The audience and advertisers don’t seem to be moving away from that print experience.

On why he thinks investing in print in 2015 is a wise thing to do:
From a sheer economics and financial perspective, it’s a really good investment. People would be shocked at some of the profitability that we’re able to achieve in our divisions. From an investment perspective, it works from that standpoint.

On the biggest stumbling block he’s had to face: When we entered this space, we thought that maybe part of the approach was to take the newspaper strategy of consolidating a lot of services like production, accounting and things like that and then have five or six magazines with most of their business centralized and have the editorial and sales out in the local markets. We played around with that idea because the centralization of services was one of the big things that newspapers were doing. We realized very quickly that it wasn’t going to work.

On why he believes the media keeps preaching about its own demise:
I think that these businesses are very structural in nature, economically and financially-speaking, because of the nature of marketing dollars and how they survive recession. When you take this narrative of there’s this big area of media that’s struggling to get moving and make the digital transition, coupled with the giant recession that we had; it naturally takes ad dollars out of the market . It really just created an easy story to tell, but I think it glossed over the broader picture.

On what keeps him up at night:
I think I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m spending a lot of mental energy on how to balance this digital transition; in our space no one has figured it out yet. And how to give the consumers and the advertisers what they want and be true to our core brand and what we’ve built in all of these different divisions. I spend a lot of time thinking about those things.

Todd Paul and Samir Husni And now the lightly edited transcription of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Todd Paul, President, Open Sky Media…

Samir Husni: Todd, welcome to Oxford.

Todd Paul: Thank you.

Samir Husni: Tell me a little bit about the status of your titles and then, in general, where do you see the city and regional magazines heading?

Todd Paul: Our titles are spread out from California to Florida, with a big focus in Texas and Oklahoma City and they’re growing pretty significantly on a revenue and profitability basis.

And one of the things that we do is we really push quality of the product first. We see the advertising base, and our respective geographies are really starting to grab onto that; and we see it in a couple of different ways. We’ve just been through a big recruiting cycle this spring, and what we noticed was our quality of recruiting candidates was so much better than we’d seen previously, because people would say, Austin Monthly, I really like what they’re doing and I want to work there. So, we’re starting to see that come back. And we’re seeing that same behavior from the advertisers too.

So, it’s really been interesting to watch some of these, I guess you’d call them archaic things today (Laughs) happen, but they’re coming back around. People are saying, wow, that’s a good product or it’s a good magazine. From a business perspective, we’re seeing that those things are really starting to pay off and work and do well. Our businesses as a whole are doing really, really well.

Austin-Monthly-1 Samir Husni: Are you the exception to the rule in the city and regional marketplace or is this something you’re seeing across the board?

Todd Paul: The city and regional space is really interesting because it’s not competitive and everybody is pretty open to talking about their businesses, so it’s one of the luxuries. When I’m talking to various other people of our size and other people in the community of the city and regional space, they’re always seeing those kinds of things happening.

A mutual friend of ours, Todd Matherne in New Orleans; he launched a business title last year that is just knocking it out of the park. Then I talked to Dan Denton in Florida and his titles are doing great.

I think on the whole that people are really seeing this work. On the whole, all of these boats are rising; the people are focusing on the core things that differentiate the city and regional magazines in their space and in their community. And the people who are focusing on that are winning; they’re growing their business and revenue and growing the quality of their products.

From the people who I’ve talked to, it seems to be making more movement in that direction.

Samir Husni: I hear people ask from time to time; who needs a city magazine nowadays; I can go to Google and get everything I want and need to know. What differentiates today’s city and regional magazines, especially yours, from how you were producing them, let’s say, back in 2007 prior to the digital age?

Todd Paul: Over the last couple of years, we’ve definitely had to think of those as almost little sub-businesses; we’ve had to add some editorial staff and those kinds of things, so there are some functional things that we’ve done differently.

And I think there’s this big rub of do you recreate the magazine on a digital platform or do you use the brand of the magazine to create a different product? We kind of go back and forth. One of the interesting things about how we run the businesses is we realize what makes these businesses successful is that they’re local. So we keep the decision-making largely in the local hands of the publisher and then I serve as consultant accountability metric to those publishers.

One of the interesting things about that is our publishers use different strategies around that vein, so we have people doing different things in that market.

From an advertising perspective, when we get people wanting to advertise with us, it’s primarily driven by print, but then they want to talk about what we have in digital; what are we doing with events; they want to have those conversations, of course, still around the print, but if you have print and don’t have digital; you’re at a disadvantage. We see it as definitely an auxiliary request and something that people are wanting, but we’re still primarily focused on print.

Samir Husni: If we reverse that formula; I’ve noticed recently that some magazines have decided to kill their print edition and go digital-only. Do you think that’s the way to go?

Todd Paul: On the broad scope of things, no. I don’t think that would work for the city and regional magazine space as a whole. I think there are some pockets, as we were discussing earlier; some like 7×7 Magazine and what they’re doing out there, because they’re geographically located in San Francisco, kind of the epicenter of a lot of this kind of thing; I think they’re doing some really interesting stuff and seeing a lot of success at it.

In Austin we see some of those kinds of trends too, just because of the geographical nature. Is that going to work in Naples, Florida? No, I don’t think so. At Gulfshore Life that’s never going to be the case. From a broad perspective, I don’t think that’s a strategy that we would go forward with at all.

Custom publishing and all of those inserts around magazines; people crave that stuff. And I think they still see that in the industry. Advertisers and consumers want to pick something up; they want to have this luxury experience of flipping through pages and all of those types of things, so I don’t see digital-only as being the future for how we move forward or the space as a whole moves forward, but I think there will be some subsets in there that will knock it out of the park.

So, some will spend the dollars and put the energy into creating a model that works in that type space and some people will be successful at that.

Todd Paul Samir Husni: You mentioned earlier that even though the audience expects the digital and mobile; they still want the print. Why do you think that’s the case?

Todd Paul: I think people view digital as utility and print as luxury. I don’t know if that works out perfectly on the print side of that statement, but when we look at our digital use on a monthly basis for Austin, for example, it’s super-high mobile, because you know what, people come to Austin and they get on their phone to learn about the city, where should they go eat barbecue and they click it and Austin Monthly comes up as being this brand authority in this space, which I think is really part of the core values of a city and regional magazine; we’re the authority on lifestyle, culture and the longer formed editorial voice in the community.

The consumer wants that experience; they want to know if they should go to Franklin Barbecue; they want to read about that in two seconds. The flipside of that is the people in the local community subscribe to the magazine every month or pick it up on the newsstand, they want to have a different experience; they want to sit down and read more, just consume the whole culture of that environment as opposed to being focused on just one specific thing. I think that’s how we see the audiences differently. And there is very little overlap in that in most of our markets. The audience and advertisers don’t seem to be moving away from that print experience.

Samir Husni: You seem like a person who’s putting his money where his mouth is. You’re expanding, buying and growing in your space. Put on your futuristic hat for a minute and tell me what does tomorrow hold for your titles? Are you out of your mind investing in print today, in 2015? Or do you believe it’s a wise investment?

gulfshore_life.1220 Todd Paul: From a sheer economics and financial perspective, it’s a really good investment. People would be shocked at some of the profitability that we’re able to achieve in our divisions. From an investment perspective, it works from that standpoint.

And we are growing. We have a pretty focused niche on where we’re looking to buy magazines, but I’m still trying to buy. I’m actively talking to three people right now, trying to partner with them, buy their magazines. So, we’re in that mode.

Five years from now, I believe our business will be twice the size it is now. People may think we’re crazy for investing in this space, but it has a lot of characteristics that just aren’t going away. People in the community still want to have the experience they get through a city and regional magazine.

For example, I live primarily in Evanston, Illinois and I go to the mailbox on Saturday and there’s a new Evanston magazine sitting there and it just launched. And it’s a good quality product. People are still entering the space and it has a lot of opportunity in it. Advertisers still need to reach the audience that we provide and I think the audience still demands a quality editorial product with thoughtful and well-placed advertisers. They want that experience because they want to learn about the advertising base as much as they want to learn about the content base.

One of the things the digital world has programmed and we learned this through all the studies out there that are saying, you’re automatically blocking banners and certain things on a website that one side of your brain has already learned to overlook. So, that kind of advertising to me is just throw-things-against-the-wall and hope that there’s some fraction of people who see it and want to click on it.

Our audience is really picking up the experience and is interested in what’s new in the marketplace as far as commerce as much as they are reading about whatever editorial topic is going on. So, there’s a really interesting meshing of those two worlds that happens in our type of product that consumers are interested in.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest stumbling block that you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

Todd Paul: When we entered this space, we thought that maybe part of the approach was to take the newspaper strategy of consolidating a lot of services like production, accounting and things like that and then have five or six magazines with most of their business centralized and have the editorial and sales out in the local markets. We played around with that idea because the centralization of services was one of the big things that newspapers were doing.

San Antonio mag We realized very quickly that it wasn’t going to work. You start to lose the product and the local feel. It was a learning curve. We thought it would work here and here, but we realized that it didn’t. It wasn’t a catastrophe, by any stretch of the imagination, it was just one of the things we tried and we stumbled a lot around it, culturally, within the business and community-wise, when it came to having those connection points.

That was one of those about-faces in the business where the strategy and the reality started to differ pretty quickly. We went down that path briefly and then we quickly about-faced the other way because if you’re an advertiser and you’re working with the ad designer in one of our businesses, you don’t want to talk to that person in Marin if you’re in Austin, Texas. You want to talk to somebody in Austin, Texas. If you say you’re local, that’s got to penetrate all the way down to all of your consumer experiences, whether that’s your advertiser, subscriber or whoever, because that’s really where the value of this niche is at this point in the game. That was one of the interesting learning curves for us.

Samir Husni: You told me how good your titles did last year and that you’re on track to do great this year; Norm Pearlstine at Time Inc. told me that all their magazines were profitable last year. Everyone that I’m interviewing is telling me how good things are going for them. Why then do the media keep preaching about our demise?

Todd Paul: I think there are certain areas of media and print products that are definitely in that vein and a lot of that led the charge through the 1990s and the early 2000s into today. Like all people, we enjoy stereotyping; creating east mental constructs in order for us to understand parts of the world and I think that’s what we do in an information-rich society. I think that people look at that experience and those areas of media and assume that it’s happening across print as a whole.

slice And then I also think that these businesses are very structural in nature, economically and financially-speaking, because of the nature of marketing dollars and how they survive recession. When you take this narrative of there’s this big area of media that’s struggling to get moving and make the digital transition, coupled with the giant recession that we had; it naturally takes ad dollars out of the market . It really just created an easy story to tell, but I think it glossed over the broader picture.

MarinAPRIL2014cover_web-4b86b70f I communicate a lot with people in my space, but I also talk to people who are doing trade publications and other types of media, and niche media and media with a very specific audience and that have a very good way of communicating with that audience, is knocking it out of the park. They’re doing what they’ve always done and they’re kind of head-down, not talking about it as much as say The New York Times is talking about it. (Laughs) When you are the platform and you talk about it, it’s a little different than all these little niche spaces that are pretty fragmented around the U.S. If they’re doing well, the cumulative voice of them doesn’t matter, so it’s a combination of those three things. There are definitely some people who are struggling in the space and some of the niches, but there are a lot of other ones that are doing really well.

Samir Husni: How many titles do you have in total?

Todd Paul: We own Marin magazine, Slice magazine, which is in Oklahoma City, Austin Monthly, San Antonio magazine and Gulfshore Life in Naples. Within those five areas there are quarterlies and annuals; we do Austin Home, Design Oklahoma, some of those are bi-annuals or quarterlies. On an annual basis, we’re producing around 120 products.

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

Todd Paul: These conversations are what I’m having with friends or what we’re having within our business units. Nobody has the answers, for sure, and we definitely know that we’re in a great period of change, but it’s fun conversations to be had when your businesses are growing and getting product and design awards and growing financially; when all of those things are clicking along, these are fun conversations to have, because you can put the energy in, not putting out fires, but really creating the next version of whatever it is your doing in the space.

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

Todd Paul and Samir Husni Todd Paul: I think I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m spending a lot of mental energy on how to balance this digital transition; in our space no one has figured it out yet. And how to give the consumers and the advertisers what they want and be true to our core brand and what we’ve built in all of these different divisions. I spend a lot of time thinking about those things.

I think that there’s a big prize for whoever figures out the right balance in that. What keeps me up at night is making sure that balance is right. You can go too far one way and not far enough another, so I’m trying to bite that off in increments. I don’t ever, in the foreseeable future, the next five years, it will never be even 50% of our business from a revenue-based perspective, but if I think about our businesses as curators of eyeballs and I want to make sure that I’m thinking about those eyeballs proportionately and getting that balance right. Getting the balance is really the core of what makes me anxious. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Martha Stewart Living At 25: Leveraging The Personality, The Magazine, And The Cross Platform Selling. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Daren Mazzucca, Publisher, Martha Stewart Living.

May 4, 2015

“I believe that tablet access for all brands has kind of flattened out a bit; if you look at two or three years ago when we all believed that tablets were going to soar and some believed they would replace print, but that hasn’t been the case. The paper format is still the primary vehicle that women want to engage with. They curl up with it, take it with them, and tablets have pretty much plateaued in the marketplace.” Daren Mazzucca

MSL cover Martha Stewart Living has always lived up to the dynamic personality of its namesake, staying true to its mission and focus: the creativity of the domestic arts. The magazine will celebrate its 25th birthday in 2016 under the masterful guidance of Meredith Corporation.

Meredith acquired the rights to Martha Stewart Living and http://www.marthastewart.com in October 2014 following a 10-year licensing agreement under which Meredith is responsible for sales and marketing, circulation, production, and other non-editorial functions of Martha Stewart Living and Martha Stewart Weddings magazines.

Daren Mazzucca, fresh from Better Homes and Gardens, where he also served as publisher, joined Meredith five years ago and has held senior sales leadership positions within the company. During his career, Daren has also worked at Good Housekeeping, Parade, Woman’s Day, Midwest Living and Country Living magazines.

I spoke with Daren recently and we talked about his first four weeks at the helm of Martha Stewart Living and the direction he saw the popular brand heading. If enthusiasm and excitement can catapult the compellation of properties that are held beneath the Martha Stewart umbrella successfully forward toward its 25th birthday, the brand should already be celebrating.

With collaboration and the resurrection of some favorite titles, Daren, along with the inimitable Martha Stewart and her editorial team, have some big plans for Martha Stewart Living. The future looks bright indeed for the brand and sunshades are definitely in order. Print has a definite champion in Daren Mazzucca and will surely thrive in the positivity of his attitude.

I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Daren Mazzucca, a man who thinks the tried and true value of the printed page may not be ready for the retirement pasture just yet.

But first the sound-bites:

On his most pleasant surprise during his first four weeks at Martha Stewart Living: I would have to say one of the biggest surprises has been how well-loved this brand is in the marketplace.

On his biggest stumbling block since coming onboard and how he plans to overcome it:
Right now a stumbling block or simply a challenge is getting to meet and know all of the MSLO (Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia) editors and doing so as quickly as possible and understanding how we can collaborate. And at the same time make sales calls and set a strategic plan in motion; so it’s that coordination of schedules.

On where he sees the future of celebrity-titled magazines heading:
I think it’s really all about the brand, and the personality which is Martha, translates into the brand-living. She sets the tone, but clearly Eric Pike, our editor-in-chief and his creative team, really fulfill that mission. The brand is really the front door to the world of Martha Stewart Living.

daren_mazzucca On how his relationship is with the brand’s namesake, Martha Stewart: It has been spectacular at this point. We’ve probably been together about six or seven times at different social settings. And they opened up their offices and home for a nice toast-and-get-together with the senior management team here and with Meredith and her editorial visionary team. It’s been a great collaboration.

On why Meredith removed all the bells and whistles from the digital entity and made it a straight replica of the magazine: I think it makes the most sense. I believe that tablet access for all brands has kind of flattened out a bit; if you look at two or three years ago when we all believed that tablets were going to soar and some believed they would replace print, but that hasn’t been the case. The paper format is still the primary vehicle that women want to engage with. They curl up with it, take it with them, and tablets have pretty much plateaued in the marketplace.

On doing anything differently to sell digital versus selling print:
Clients really want Omni-channel, cross platform opportunities. I really believe today that we lead with both together. So, they’re absolutely critical in the fact that Martha Stewart.com is a robust site that complements Martha Stewart Living, the print product. It really just gives us tremendous opportunity to be integrated.

On whether a brand like Martha Stewart Living could exist without a print component:
I don’t think so. (Laughs) I know that I answered that pretty quickly, but I really don’t believe so because when we talk to readers and marketers who buy it, they adore the printed product.

On why he thinks some media are still reporting on their own demise:
I don’t want to speak for them, but I think the issue there that you have to look at is their context when they use the word print. They may be talking about newspapers or weekly titles; it’s really more about what’s the context there.

On why he thinks we’re not doing more to promote print in this digital age:
I believe we are. In fact, at Martha Stewart, we’re launching four special interest line extensions that are starting soon. One is coming out in July, under the Everyday Food title, so we’re resurrecting the name and launching it as a stand-alone newsstand property. We are continuing to push out print products as extensions and bring them back.

On whether leaving Better Homes and Gardens, the largest consumer magazine in the country, took a huge weight off his shoulders: Perhaps. (Laughs) It’s wonderful to be at the crown jewel of the Meredith Corporation, which is Better Homes and Gardens; it’s an amazing brand that gets invited to be a part of every dialogue and discussion. What I do enjoy with this Martha Stewart Living opportunity is the fact that we can leverage the personality as well as the cross platform selling.

On whose idea it was to marry Meredith and the Martha Stewart brand:
That’s a good question. I’m not sure exactly who started the conversation, but I think both sides saw the benefits. Steve (Lacy) has said this; it’s very difficult in today’s marketplace to be a stand-alone brand. It’s very challenging, regardless of who you are. And when you can find opportunities to create new models that benefit both partners, that’s the kind of thing we’re pursuing and other media companies are pursuing too. I believe one has to think creatively that way.

On what he hopes to accomplish in a year:
We’re looking to create content opportunities that are rooted in creative insight for the reader first and then marry them up with an advertiser’s opportunity. I truthfully hope to fully benefit by having Meredith and collaborating with corporate sales, so we can put together great partnerships and deals.

On what makes him click and tick and keeps him motivated: Well, I have a family of five children; I’m highly motivated. (Laughs) What keeps me going is keeping up with technology, but also not losing a firm focus on family and togetherness and being with clients.

On whether he’s bothered by programmatic advertising or native advertising: They’re here to stay for the moment and it doesn’t bother me. Again, it’s learning the nuances of them and how they work in a media schedule. However, I think what’s tried and true has always worked too. We need to stay focused on that as well.

On why he believes it took the magazine industry so long to realize that print and digital have to coexist:
It’s been a rapid evolution. A lot has happened in a very short amount of time. And I think both sides had to adapt to that. Within our company it’s a very good synergy between the two. There are just a lot more tools in the toolbox.

On what keeps him up at night:
(Laughs) I don’t sleep much anyway, it’s a fast-paced world. What keeps me up is moving this brand, doing an exceptional job for Meredith and for Martha and the MSLO team.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Daren Mazzucca, Publisher, Martha Stewart Living.

MSL cover2 Samir Husni: Daren, you’ve been four weeks on the job; what has been your most pleasant surprise so far?

Daren Mazzucca: I would have to say one of the biggest surprises has been how well-loved this brand is in the marketplace. I’ve been to several offices and I was at the New York Auto Show the day after I was announced and both clients and competitors were all acknowledging how much they loved the brand and that they were excited that it was part of Meredith and that I was going to be leading the charge.

I know that sounds a little self-serving, but the overall excitement in the industry for Martha and what she stands for really surprised me a bit. And I’ve been very pleased with that so far.

Samir Husni: And what has been the biggest stumbling block for you so far and how did you overcome it or how do you plan to overcome it?

Daren Mazzucca: Right now a stumbling block or simply a challenge is getting to meet and know all of the MSLO (Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia) editors and doing so as quickly as possible and understanding how we can collaborate. And at the same time make sales calls and set a strategic plan in motion; so it’s that coordination of schedules. We live in a world that’s fast-paced and everyone has a lot on their plates. The challenge has been making sure we’re all communicating as best as we possibly can.

I left a message just this morning for the CEO of MSLO, Dan Dienst, and I said that this week was a profound turning point; we’ve been having some really great engagement with Martha and her team overall and I feel like at week four, wow, we’ve made some great strides. I would say that that would be the challenges and the opportunities.

Samir Husni: Meredith now has Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray; where do you think the future of celebrity-titled magazines are heading? Do you think that it’s a trend that’s going to pick up and continue?

Daren Mazzucca: I think it’s really all about the brand, and the personality which is Martha, translates into the brand-living. She sets the tone, but clearly Eric Pike, our editor-in-chief and his creative team, really fulfill that mission. The brand is really the front door to the world of Martha Stewart Living. From her calendar that she publishes each and every month to her video plays on YouTube, as well as the buzz that she’s creating in the industry from a PR perspective in her social media settings.

It’s interesting to see. When you read about what’s happening with Dr. Oz and other personalities; at Meredith, we only put weight and stock into the brands, whether it’s Better Homes and Gardens brand, Rachael Ray brand or Martha Stewart Living.

Samir Husni: Martha is known in the industry as a hands-on magazine creator among other things. Judging from just these first four weeks that you’ve been there, can you expand on that? How is your relationship with the brand’s namesake?

Daren Mazzucca: It has been spectacular at this point. We’ve probably been together about six or seven times at different social settings. And they opened up their offices and home for a nice toast-and-get-together with the senior management team here and with Meredith and her editorial visionary team. It’s been a great collaboration.

I was recently at their Center for Living Gala which took place last week. She’s partnering with Mount Sinai, so I was able to participate in that. This week, Martha was hosting and emceeing the Matrix Awards, and she was beautiful and overwhelmingly excited to be there and looking to collaborate with us from a client’s perspective. She’s looking to help; she really has her finger on the pulse, and she’s been a great partner. She gave me a wonderful tour of her studios and test kitchens and talking to the editorial team, they tell me her input is greatly valued and she usually amplifies and makes things even better. And we’re excited about that. Does that make sense?

Samir Husni: Yes, it does. And you’re still in the honeymoon period. (Laughs)

Daren Mazzucca: (Laughs too) No doubt, but truthfully I’ve spent more time with her and her team than I’ve ever spent with someone else at any other brand during the first four weeks. We’ve been spending a lot of time together.

Next year is our 25th anniversary for the brand, the magazine, and so we’ve been brainstorming and talking about opportunities and initiatives rooted in reader benefit or user benefit and thinking about how now is the time to put those ideas in motion for greater sales success in 2016.

Samir Husni: One of the first things that Meredith did when they entered into that partnership was the announcement that they were removing all the bells and whistles from the digital edition and as of May it would be a replica of the magazine. What’s the philosophy behind that?

Daren Mazzucca: The straight-from-print edition, from a tablet perspective?

Samir Husni: Yes.

Daren Mazzucca: I think it makes the most sense. I believe that tablet access for all brands has kind of flattened out a bit; if you look at two or three years ago when we all believed that tablets were going to soar and some believed they would replace print, but that hasn’t been the case. The paper format is still the primary vehicle that women want to engage with. They curl up with it, take it with them, and tablets have pretty much plateaued in the marketplace.

Clearly, our newsletters continue to do exceptionally well; readers want to know the inside track and what’s happening with Martha and the brand, so they love our newsletters; they love search and our recipes, so it’s really aided the brand overall.

A part of the discussion around the tablet issue is also that by making this conversion, it has enabled us to go to other platforms. That actually enabled us, over the long-term, to potentially grow that reach, because before then we really weren’t able to do that. If you think about things like Next Issue media and other platforms, this gives us a greater opportunity to do that with the tablet version.

Samir Husni: According to comScore; you have almost the same monthly unique visitors as your readership, ten million readers for every issue, compared to about eight million monthly uniques; how do you think that relationship between the unique visitors and the readership is going to help you in your job as a publisher of a brand? Are you doing anything differently to sell digital versus selling print?

Daren Mazzucca: Clients really want Omni-channel, cross platform opportunities. I really believe today that we lead with both together. So, they’re absolutely critical in the fact that Martha Stewart.com is a robust site that complements Martha Stewart Living, the print product. It really just gives us tremendous opportunity to be integrated.

I’m working very closely with our corporate digital leadership here at Meredith Corporation to make sure that we leverage all of the view ability across both our web traffic as well as others, which is what marketers are looking for when it relates to scale. If they just want to tap into Martha Stewart Living we can do that, but the great benefit of being a part of the Meredith National Media Group is that we can scale things up.

Did you know that across the Meredith digital network we reach at least 70 million uniques; that’s the latest number that I’ve seen.

Samir Husni: 70 million across the entire company’s digital network?

Daren Mazzucca: Yes, across the entire Meredith digital network. That’s all of our different brands and properties.

Samir Husni: As we talk today, what’s the advertising revenue in terms of percentages between digital and print, mainly for the Martha Stewart Living brand? Are you still 90% print or is that number moving a little bit?

Daren Mazzucca: I don’t have that exact number today, but again, it’s the leverage of it across the network. One of the things the digital leadership is trying to do is reach the goal of 100 million uniques.

Samir Husni: So you’ll have 100 million in readership, because don’t you reach 100 million American women?

Daren Mazzucca: Yes, 100 million women, but if you’re talking about them in a digital platform only, now we’re at 70 million uniques, the goal we’re aiming for is to get to 100 million uniques.

Samir Husni: In one way or the other, would it be accurate to say then that the Meredith brand is in almost 1 out of every 2 households?

Daren Mazzucca: Yes, absolutely. It’s tremendous.

Samir Husni: So, how are you using that to sell more of the brand?

Daren Mazzucca: From Martha Stewart digital alone, we reach 32 million monthly uniques, so it’s nice to have that built-up traffic to be able to offer to an appliance manufacturer or to an automotive manufacturer. So, again, we’re using that scale and it’s great to have it, as opposed to having a million unique visitors. The fact that this brand has 32 million monthly digital uniques and then has scalable opportunities that Meredith can run with is phenomenal. If someone wants digital-only, we’re leading with that and then building in a print concept. And conversely, with every print proposal we’re taking out to marketers, we are weaving in a digital component as well.

Samir Husni: One of the majorly persistent questions that I hear from industry people is can a brand today, like a Martha Stewart or a Better Homes and Gardens exist without its print component?

Daren Mazzucca: I don’t think so. (Laughs) I know that I answered that pretty quickly, but I really don’t believe so because when we talk to readers and marketers who buy it, they adore the printed product. Just yesterday I was at an appliance company’s offices and when we walked in, from the receptionist to the assistants and laborers in the building, they glow; they light up when we hand the printed product to them. So, I really don’t believe so. Ask me 15 years from now, maybe that will change, but today the print is very much on the leading edge of the brand. It’s the front door, if you will.

Samir Husni: And I’ve seen that. In April we saw almost every major magazine company launch new titles. Meredith with Parents Latina, National Geographic with History, Bauer with Simple Grace; yet, why do you think that every time I pick up a newspaper, an Ad Age or an Adweek, they’re telling me that print is dead or dying or in decline?

Daren Mazzucca: I don’t want to speak for them, but I think the issue there that you have to look at is their context when they use the word print. They may be talking about newspapers or weekly titles; it’s really more about what’s the context there.

Samir Husni: Why do you think we’re not doing any more to promote the future of print in this digital age?

Daren Mazzucca: I believe we are. In fact, at Martha Stewart, we’re launching four special interest line extensions that are starting soon. One is coming out in July, under the Everyday Food title, so we’re resurrecting the name and launching it as a stand-alone newsstand property. We are continuing to push out print products as extensions and bring them back.

Advertising paging has been challenged, but the audience and demand as the 360 demographics revealed there’s still consumer demand for brands like Martha Stewart and Better Homes and Gardens in print. Marketers today have to cover off more bets than ever before and that has created an ad paging challenge, but demand has never been higher. And that’s why I also believe firmly that there’s a robust future for all of us. Consumers still want their magazines and content.

Samir Husni: You were the publisher of Better Homes and Gardens, the largest paid consumer magazine in the country, and now you’re at Martha Stewart Living; am I hearing this excitement in your voice because you took that big heavy load off of your shoulders, because you went from the largest print magazine in the country to one of its younger siblings?

Daren Mazzucca: Perhaps. (Laughs) It’s wonderful to be at the crown jewel of the Meredith Corporation, which is Better Homes and Gardens; it’s an amazing brand that gets invited to be a part of every dialogue and discussion. What I do enjoy with this Martha Stewart Living opportunity is the fact that we can leverage the personality as well as the cross platform selling. And we talk about sparking creativity and working more collaboratively with our corporate counterparts. It’s just a tremendous opportunity for us at Meredith to use our talents and skills to bring this brand to new levels and new heights.

Samir Husni: Whose idea was all of this? Was it Martha Stewart who came to Meredith saying, guys, I need help, or was it Steve Lacy (Chairman of the Board of Directors of Meredith Corporation and Chief Executive Officer with media and marketing operations) going to Martha Stewart saying that Meredith could help her brand?

Daren Mazzucca: That’s a good question. I’m not sure exactly who started the conversation, but I think both sides saw the benefits. Steve has said this; it’s very difficult in today’s marketplace to be a stand-alone brand. It’s very challenging, regardless of who you are. And when you can find opportunities to create new models that benefit both partners, that’s the kind of thing we’re pursuing and other media companies are pursuing too. I believe one has to think creatively that way.

And it’s not just in the magazine world, Samir. Look at other media industries and what goes on in the digital space alone. In the pure digital space, look at the acquisitions that go on and the partnerships. Again, that’s all about leveraging the best opportunities for both sides of the partnership.

I would also say, who would have thought that we in the media industry would have created a company called Comag and partnered together, where everyone was siloed? But I really believe that if you go backward in time, there’s always been collaboration and playing to your strengths and this partnership really allows, like I said earlier, Martha Stewart and her creative talents and her team to do what they do exceptionally well and then partner with Meredith to do what we do exceptionally well: packaging, contracts, efficiencies, printing, collaboration; it’s really a perfect storm and a perfect opportunity.

Samir Husni: That throws back for an old timer like me to a time in the 1970s and the 1980s when Meredith and Reader’s Digest were partners in Select, which was like one of the national distribution companies. And also Meredith had the printing plant in Des Moines and they were printing all kinds of magazines from all different areas.

Daren Mazzucca: It’s the modern day version of working and having a collaborative and creative synergy, absolutely. And other companies are doing it too. They’re outsourcing their HR departments because they’re not good at it and they do other things.

I worked at Reader’s Digest and earlier, you said I was smiling for our brand, and that’s so true. I’ve worked at other scale titles like Parade, which was the biggest brand in the business. To be at Martha Stewart Living today really gives me tremendous enthusiasm and energy to partner with it.

Samir Husni: So, what’s the future look like? I mean, if somebody stopped you on the street and said, Daren, I hear you’re now working at Martha Stewart Living and then they run into you a year later; what do you hope to have accomplished within that year to tell them about?

Daren Mazzucca: Well next year is our 25th anniversary, so we kick off officially with the December/January issue. As I mentioned earlier, we’re looking to create content opportunities that are rooted in creative insight for the reader first and then marry them up with an advertiser’s opportunity. I truthfully hope to fully benefit by having Meredith and collaborating with corporate sales, so we can put together great partnerships and deals. I’d like to grow automotive and appliances and food and packaged goods, cosmetics and home DIY. We’re having some unbelievable dialogue with the beauty and prestige categories right now that have been in the works.

I’m really excited about this pre-selling time that we’re doing right now, so we can have 12-month benefits as we gear up for 2016.

Samir Husni: You mentioned already that you’re going to bring back four SIPs with the Everyday Food brand and Meredith has been the leader in SIPs from its existence; are we going to see more SIPs that have Martha Stewart’s name on them: Martha Stewart Decorating, Martha Stewart Cooking…

Daren Mazzucca: We’re always looking for opportunities. We’re starting with her strength though, Everyday Food; we’re doing Halloween, which Martha does exceptionally well every year and we’re also going to do organizing, which Martha does great every year as well. So, we’ll start with those and look at other opportunities from there.

Samir Husni: Will I ever see a Martha Stewart/Rachael Ray Everyday SIP together?

Daren Mazzucca: You never know.

Samir Husni: (Laughs) They both have that “Everyday” thing working for them; one is living and one is food. And you need food for the living.

Daren Mazzucca: (Laughs too) Absolutely. I’m really excited. Martha and I have already discussed, as well as her team, places we’re going to go together and she’s a great partner with us. So, we’re very excited about that.

Samir Husni: Daren, what makes you click and tick and really look forward to getting up in the mornings and going to work?

Daren Mazzucca: Well, I have a family of five children; I’m highly motivated. (Laughs) What keeps me going is keeping up with technology, but also not losing a firm focus on family and togetherness and being with clients. I just love being a solution-based seller; I’ve told my father that for years, who was with Bristol-Myers Squibb his entire career, and he gave me great advice years ago. He said don’t ever go out in a car without showing something that’s unique from the magazine, so our team will be highlighting and pulling out a story or a feature, whether it’s the pork shoulder that’s coming up in our July/August issue or something else unique and different.

That’s what really keeps me going. This organization has been great, the Meredith Corporation. I’ve been blessed to be on three of the brands now, from Midwest Living to Better Homes and Gardens and now Martha Stewart. I’m really excited about what the future brings for us as an industry and as a brand.

Samir Husni: Are you bothered by programmatic advertising, native advertising; all of these new little phrases or programs that are creeping into the industry? Or do you think the more the better?

Daren Mazzucca: They’re here to stay for the moment and it doesn’t bother me. Again, it’s learning the nuances of them and how they work in a media schedule. However, I think what’s tried and true has always worked too. We need to stay focused on that as well.

I was just reading in The New York Times recently about the traditions of baking bread and how it’s come back and if you look at what’s happening in children’s home baking toys, they’re becoming more upscale. So, there are the nuances of the new, but working together with the nuances of what worked in the past.

And it’s always great content at the end of the day and that’s everything, Samir.

Samir Husni: Why do you think it took the magazine media industry five or six years to recognize what they’re recognizing now, that print isn’t going away and digital is not taking over; we have to coexist? We should stop using digital as a mistress and instead welcome her into the house as a sister or brother. Why did it take us six years?

Daren Mazzucca: It’s been a rapid evolution. A lot has happened in a very short amount of time. And I think both sides had to adapt to that. Within our company it’s a very good synergy between the two. There are just a lot more tools in the toolbox.

And there are a lot of great innovators out there; I happen to be in Chicago recently. Who would have thought to create Uber and it’s changing the way we use taxicabs. All digital platforms, from native to others are changing at light speed. Twitter and Facebook – light speed. We need to stick our toe in that market and be aware of what’s happening, but not jump into the deep end of the pool, because at the end of the day, we don’t want to jeopardize the good relationship we have with readers, which connects ultimately back to content.

I think if you look at ASME, as an industry we continue to evolve and change, so we’re moving faster now as an industry collectively, I believe.

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

Daren Mazzucca: (Laughs) I don’t sleep much anyway, it’s a fast-paced world. What keeps me up is moving this brand, doing an exceptional job for Meredith and for Martha and the MSLO team. You know, we want to be successful as a group; we want to continue to bring her brand to new marketers and come up with some solutions to grow our franchise. That and a big family keep me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Travel Is Hot & So Is Print – The Reinvention of Travel+Leisure – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Jay Meyer, Publisher & Nathan Lump, Editor-In-Chief, Travel+Leisure Magazine

May 1, 2015

“If you look at travel media; travel media has had a growth of 37% in the last three years and the research team says that because of two reasons. One: because travel is luxury, and two: because we’re all so attached to our desktops, tablets and phones; at some point in time, people actually want to put those devices away and have a lean-back experience and dream a little bit and plan a trip; do something for themselves.” Jay Meyer

“What we’re seeing from the business community is that obviously, from a brand awareness and storytelling perspective, print is still a really important tool for us and that’s also partially because we’re living in the luxury space. And luxury advertisers have really seen that print still works for them from that perspective.” Nathan Lump

TL_May_2015_COVER Travel and magazines are two luxuries that go hand-in-hand, or so the powers-that-be over at Travel+Leisure believe whole-heartedly, and I would have to agree with them. While no one necessarily needs to read a magazine or travel to Europe just to see the Eiffel Tower; more often than not, it’s called for, if for no other reason than simply to disconnect from the real world and all of its devices that seem compelled to proclaim yet another notification of information. Something else travel and magazines have in common is their ability to transport you to idyllic locations totally different from the norm, another much-deserved, take-a-breath experience in our world of fast-paced existence.

Jay Meyer is vice president and publisher of Travel+Leisure magazine and Nathan Lump is editor-in-chief. The two are the highly-proud parents of the reinvented, more immersive and transporting travel magazine. With a redesign aimed at the current ravenous appetite affluent consumers have for travel, the magazine reaches out and touches that audience with an experience that shares their own memories through the art of travel. And for some, travel is art. And the new Travel+Leisure magazine showcases that trait beautifully.

I spoke with Jay and Nathan recently about the positive changes the magazine has made and about some of the numbers that support the idea that travel is a hot commodity right now in the world of magazine media. According to Jay, T+L is enjoying its largest audience ever in print, with 6.7 MM and in digital, 3.3 MM. The magazine is twice as large as its nearest competitor and has more millionaires in its audience than any measured publication.

Also, according to Time Inc.’s 10th Annual Time Inc./YouGov Survey of Affluence and Wealth which was recently released; leisure travel is expected to grow the most among all categories studied, with an increase of 15.9% from 2014 to $115.2 billion. When asked about passions, travel was the top response (67%), followed by “spending quality time with my family” (65%).

The findings certainly bode well for the future of Travel+Leisure and the two men whose passion for travel is exceeded only by their ardor for their brand.

So, I hope you enjoy this “trek” into the minds of two avid travelers as they talk about the magazine that always goes with them on their travels – the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jay Meyer, Publisher, and Nathan Lump, Editor-in-Chief, Travel+Leisure.

But first the sound-bites:


On why Jay believes travel is so hot right now on the publishing scene:
If you look at travel media; travel media has had a growth of 37% in the last three years and the research team says that because of two reasons. One: because travel is luxury, and two: because we’re all so attached to our desktops, tablets and phones; at some point in time, people actually want to put those devices away and have a lean-back experience and dream a little bit and plan a trip; do something for themselves.

On Nathan’s opinion of the lean-back experience:
I think for me, it’s really true in the sense that when you think about it, we have so much information at our fingertips; no one necessarily needs to read a magazine in order to learn things, so those that do are obviously making a very conscious choice that they want to give a certain amount of their leisure time to that experience.

On whether Nathan can ever imagine Travel+Leisure not having a print component:
Sure. We’ve seen the growth in digital and all of us can imagine that world. I don’t think that world is upon us yet. Our readership in print is actually larger than it’s ever been in its history.

On Jay’s opinion of why Travel+Leisure’s audience numbers have increased within its print media, rather than its digital: I think there are a lot of reasons, but the simplest is that we needed to re-platform, which is now done. And in the past we have been producing about 10 pieces of content per week, and Nathan and his team are moving into a place where they’re going to produce 20 pieces of content per day, high velocity publishing, and we expect those numbers to increase exponentially.

On whether as a publisher, digital makes Jay’s life harder or easier when it comes to selling the brand to advertisers:
I think digital absolutely makes our lives easier. Nathan was talking about consumer behaviors earlier; if you actually think about the process and mindset of looking at travel as being inspired and then planning and considering and then buying and sharing; we need to be on all of those channels; we’re not there yet, but obviously, digital is a huge part of that process.

On how Jay sees the magazine’s attempt to attract luxury advertisers, but stay grounded and keep the magazine at mass appeal at the same time:
The answer is if you look at syndicated research, to your point, we have a really great audience and marketers see that audience as exactly what I said previously, in terms of, they have a healthy income, they take action, they travel, and outside of Travel+Leisure, if you look at it from the advertiser’s brand perspective, these are people that they want as customers.

On the humanization of the magazine and who would appear if Nathan struck the magazine with a magic wand:
Everything that we’ve done with the changes to the brand really begins with who we see this reader as, and fundamentally for me, it is that person who Jay mentioned earlier who takes 23 trips per year. So, when you think about that person, that person has been a lot of places, done a lot of things; they’ve crossed a lot of things off of their bucket list and they are fundamentally worldly people. They bring a sophisticated and cosmopolitan point of view to their lives and to their travels.

On why the magazine’s logo wasn’t changed during the redesign according to Nathan:
Partially, because I think that the brand is in such a healthy place and it has such great awareness and recognition. I felt why tinker with something that is working for us.

On the biggest stumbling block Jay had to face as publisher of the magazine:
In terms of Nathan’s arrival and from that point to where we are now, I think the biggest challenge has been time.

On how he overcame it: Honestly? Relentless hard work and a ton of travel. (Laughs)

On anything either would like to add – Jay first:
One thing that I would add is that we kind of summed up that the travel space is doing quite well and Nathan talked about the travel industry as a whole, the GDP and the number of jobs; I would just say that I want to applaud Time Inc. for giving us the resources to make this happen in print and digital, which as you know, doesn’t always happen together.

On what Nathan would like to add:
The one thing that I would add, Samir, is that we focused quite a bit on the print magazine, but I think the other thing that is really important here too is the digital piece because obviously we see tremendous opportunity for us to grow and also to evolve our business, particularly leveraging our digital platforms.

On Nathan’s opinion of why it took five to six years for the media industry to realize when it comes to print and digital, it’s not either/or, it’s both: I think for a lot of people there was just some basic fear and lack of understanding of how people were really using the product.

On what keeps Jay up at night: As we move forward, it’s an interesting time in the media world; it’s all about ideas. So, ideas keep me up at night, my own and others.

On what keeps Nathan up at night: What does keep me up at night is the fact that I have so many things that I want to do, that we want to do, and there is always that thinking like, oh no, are we going to be able to do it all and do it all as quickly as I would like.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Jay Meyer, Publisher, and Nathan Lump, Editor-in-Chief, Travel+Leisure.

Samir Husni: First, congratulations on the magazine; I love the new design; actually, I love the whole reinvention of the magazine.

Jay Meyer: Thank you.

Samir Husni: Jay, what’s the status of the travel magazine market today? You’ve reinvented Travel+Leisure; Condè Nast Traveler is upscaling their magazine and changing the size; National Geographic Traveler has a new editor; Smithsonian came out with a new travel magazine and so did Airbnb; suddenly, it looks as though travel is hot. Why do you think this is happening now?

Style: "Rich_Color" Jay Meyer: Travel is hot. If you look at travel media; travel media has had a growth of 37% in the last three years and the research team says that because of two reasons. One: because travel is luxury, and two: because we’re all so attached to our desktops, tablets and phones; at some point in time, people actually want to put those devices away and have a lean-back experience and dream a little bit and plan a trip; do something for themselves.

We believe, and these products were built for, the reader and viewer of Travel+Leisure who wants to be inspired and we call those people: experience-collectors. They travel 23 times per year; they all have passports, and they have a really healthy income. And that 23 times per year breaks down to 13 business trips and 10 leisure.

Samir Husni: Nathan, you wrote in your letter from the editor that reading a magazine is a luxury. Can you expand on that a little bit more and on what Jay just said, in terms of the lean-back experience?

Nathan Lump: Sure. I think for me, it’s really true in the sense that when you think about it, we have so much information at our fingertips; no one necessarily needs to read a magazine in order to learn things, so those that do are obviously making a very conscious choice that they want to give a certain amount of their leisure time to that experience.

I’ve spent a lot of time looking at what behaviors look like across the platforms. One of the things, and it sounds very intuitive and I think it’s important to keep it in mind, because we live in a digital age, if I’m looking for information about something in particular, I’m going to engage in digital behaviors around finding that information. If I’m a traveler and I’ve decided to go to Spain; I’m not sitting around waiting for my Travel+Leisure to come and hoping there’s going to be an article about Spain in it for me. I’m going to go online and find out more information about the place that I’m going to go to.

From the magazine reading experience, I think what that means is we have this audience whether they purchased the magazine on the newsstand or they’re a subscriber, they’re interested in travel; they’ve decided to give us some of their leisure time, and they’re basically coming to us in an open mindset. They’re saying, I am open to the idea of discovering new places, new experiences and new things, so they’re issuing an invitation to us to get them excited.

For me, editorially, the bar that we set for ourselves, particularly in print, is to try and create an experience that is immersive and rich enough that we are, in fact, actually getting people excited about things that they didn’t know they should get excited about. And that’s a lot of what I mean when I talk about the luxury of magazine reading.

I would also add, just building on what Jay has said too about the travel category in general, and you probably know some of this, so forgive me if I’m telling you something that you already know; travel is over a $7 trillion industry globally. One in every 11 jobs is generated by the travel industry, so this is a huge category. It’s bigger than a lot of other categories or industries that we think about when we think about media and verticals.

When you look at spending; over the years travel has become much more essential to people. Twenty years ago when you used to ask people if times got tough, what would you cut out of your lives in terms of spending, travel would be right up there at the top. This has actually changed in the years since and it’s become much more of a thing that people say they wouldn’t cut out. They’ll say they won’t buy that new sofa, but they’re still going to take that trip. And that’s been a really important shift.

Recently, Time Inc. released the results of an annual survey that we do, a survey of affluence and wealth, and among the findings, one that I found compelling was of all the discretionary spending categories that these folks said they were going to spend money on this coming year; their desire for travel was the second biggest category in that survey for spending after automobiles. So, it’s obviously a real priority for people, which I think contributes to the durability of the category.

Samir Husni: As an editor-in-chief, Nathan, can you ever imagine Travel+Leisure not having a print component after what you told me about the strength and power of print?

Nathan Lump Headshot 4.15 Nathan Lump: Sure. We’ve seen the growth in digital and all of us can imagine that world. I don’t think that world is upon us yet. Our readership in print is actually larger than it’s ever been in its history.

Jay Meyer: Yes, it’s at 6.7 million.

Nathan Lump: I would say that for the moment we see print still as a healthy piece. Obviously, digital is a really important growth opportunity, but we still see that there is a desire for this kind of luxurious, more lean-back experience, at least, in our category.

Samir Husni: Jay, it has been your print audience that has almost doubled in number, rather than your digital audience. Yet, when I look at statistics and numbers from other magazines and hear about their 3 million in print circulation and their 25 million in digital audience, why do you think Travel+Leisure’s audience is still attached to the print media?

Jay Meyer: I think there are a lot of reasons, but the simplest is that we needed to re-platform, which is now done. And in the past we have been producing about 10 pieces of content per week, and Nathan and his team are moving into a place where they’re going to produce 20 pieces of content per day, high velocity publishing, and we expect those numbers to increase exponentially.

Now, having said that, I think the key was to re-platform and redesign, so that we were able to move this forward.

Samir Husni: Did digital make your life easier or harder, Jay, in terms of selling the brand Travel+Leisure? Is digital making your job as a publisher harder or can you just walk into any ad agency and not hear the word crazy when talking about the reinvention of a print magazine in this digital age?

Jay Meyer: I think digital absolutely makes our lives easier. Nathan was talking about consumer behaviors earlier; if you actually think about the process and mindset of looking at travel as being inspired and then planning and considering and then buying and sharing; we need to be on all of those channels; we’re not there yet, but obviously, digital is a huge part of that process.

Nathan Lump: I would add that what we’re seeing, and Jay correct me if I’m wrong, what we’re seeing from the business community is that obviously, from a brand awareness and storytelling perspective, print is still a really important tool for us and that’s also partially because we’re living in the luxury space. And luxury advertisers have really seen that print still works for them from that perspective.

And then digital gives us an additional tool in our toolkit to do that, but also to help those partners who are interested in really driving bookings or consideration via their own website. It satisfies those kinds of needs, so in fact, I think it gives us, from a strategic perspective; it gives us more to sell as opposed to selling against. It allows us, depending on what the partner is looking for, to provide them with the product that makes sense for them, or in many cases, both products because many of our advertisers advertise across platforms with us.

Jay Meyer: And that’s really the point. I think what we’re seeing and what we’ve seen in the last couple of years is that most core partners of Travel+Leisure are using both. They’re not choosing one over the other; they’re actually using both for different reasons.

Samir Husni: Jay, as I look at the May issue and the variety of ads; we go from Cartier to GEICO; can you briefly tell me how you’re trying to capture that luxury market and at the same time stay grounded and be as mass as the magazine can be since you are the largest travel magazine?

Jay Meyer: That’s a good question and a tough question. And the answer is if you look at syndicated research, to your point, we have a really great audience and marketers see that audience as exactly what I said previously, in terms of, they have a healthy income, they take action, they travel, and outside of Travel+Leisure, if you look at it from the advertiser’s brand perspective, these are people that they want as customers.

On the luxury side, if you break down the 6.7 million, we actually have 1.1 million who are millionaires. So, there is a super healthy top end of that audience and certainly the luxury marketers understand that and want to reach those people.

Samir Husni: Nathan, let me shift gears a little bit and talk about the content. If you could humanize the magazine, strike it with a magic wand and have a person appear; would I see Nathan materialize, and if so, what type of conversation would he and I have about Travel+Leisure?

Nathan Lump: That’s a good question and I may end up answering it in a slightly roundabout way. Everything that we’ve done with the changes to the brand really begins with who we see this reader as, and fundamentally for me, it is that person who Jay mentioned earlier who takes 23 trips per year. So, when you think about that person, that person has been a lot of places, done a lot of things; they’ve crossed a lot of things off of their bucket list and they are fundamentally worldly people. They bring a sophisticated and cosmopolitan point of view to their lives and to their travels. So, from my perspective what that means is, editorially, we need to be where they are. We need to be as sophisticated as they are or more so, because they’re looking at us to surprise them and to give them novelty.

We’re really trying to push the boundaries in terms of what we give them, making sure that we are not only super current and in the know, but that we’re also really insightful. These folks are also, I think, really engaged with the world and understand what’s going on around them, they comprehend that travel is a tool for understanding the world.

You’re going to see in upcoming issues, such as in our June edition, our cover story is about Cuba; we have another big story in that issue looking at New Orleans 10 years after Katrina. These are two of the big stories of our time and we’re looking at them particularly through the lens of travel because we know that our audience use travel as a means of understanding. It’s pleasurable, of course; we want to capture the pleasure and the joy and fun of travel, but we also understand that we need to engage with some of the big issues, so, you can tell me if I’m answering your question, but I’m trying to conjure that reader.

And if we’re personifying ourselves; I want to be them. I want the product to feel, in that way, very intelligent and sophisticated, very worldly and with a very strong global perspective; that we’re paying attention to the entire world, we’re engaged with that; we’re as interested in what’s happening on the other side of the planet as we are with what’s in our backyard.

Samir Husni: So, when the June issue arrives at my home and I peer through the peephole in my door; do I see Nathan standing there?

Nathan Lump: Well, sure; I am definitely this person myself, I would say. I’m a serious traveler and have been my whole life. I probably travel a bit more than 23 times per year; that may or may not be recommended. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too)

Nathan Lump: But I love it. For me, travel is the great passion in my life; it is the thing that has changed me. It’s opened my eyes to so many things. I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin and I’ve had this travel bug ever since I was a child. Who knows why – I do try to bring to the product my own passion for this subject.

In the very first issue that I touched, which was the December issue of last year, and was largely completed when I arrived, but I did make a couple of small changes to it; we changed the cover, but I also wrote my first editor’s note for Travel+Leisure. And one of the things that I said in there was that I believe the fundamental hallmark of a traveler is curiosity. A true traveler is genuinely curious. And they don’t lose that. The more that they see and travel; the more curious they become. And that is absolutely true of myself in my own life and I definitely bring that to the page.

So, yes, I hope that the magazine is a reflection of me in that way.

Samir Husni: You’re also sounding like a journalist because I tell my students that a true journalist is a curious journalist. I tell them they don’t need a degree in journalism; they need a degree in curiosity.

Nathan Lump: I completely agree with that and that’s the thing about our subject matter. A lot of people say that this is fluffy stuff, but I really charge my team with bringing a journalist’s point of view to the work that we do. And that doesn’t mean that it’s all serious, a lot of travel is about joy, and the traveler’s experience is having fun, but I think there is a lot about learning and exploring and seeing the world and that is journalism.

Samir Husni: So, my next curious question is why did you leave the design of the logo the same? You changed everything except the nameplate.

Nathan Lump: That’s true. Partially, because I think that the brand is in such a healthy place and it has such great awareness and recognition. I felt why tinker with something that is working for us. Sometimes an editor will come in and feel that they have to change absolutely everything, including that, but because our brand has such great awareness and such great affection from our readers, I didn’t want to confuse them in that way. I just thought it was better to keep that piece stable.

Samir Husni: Jay, what has been the biggest stumbling block that you’ve had to face with Travel+Leisure and how did you overcome it?

Jay Meyer: In terms of Nathan’s arrival and from that point to where we are now, I think the biggest challenge has been time.

Samir Husni: As in the company, the magazine, or real time? (Laughs)

Jay Meyer: No, real time. In terms of setting the course of what we wanted to do with the product and who we were talking to and actually making that happen in a very short amount of time, which was certainly tough on both sides of the house.

Samir Husni: How did you overcome it?

Jay Meyer: Honestly? Relentless hard work and a ton of travel. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too)

Jay Meyer: I think Nathan and I would have the same answer, which is just relentless determination to make sure it happened.

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

Jay Meyer: One thing that I would add is that we kind of summed up that the travel space is doing quite well and Nathan talked about the travel industry as a whole, the GDP and the number of jobs; I would just say that I want to applaud Time Inc. for giving us the resources to make this happen in print and digital, which as you know, doesn’t always happen together.

Travel as a category is not a core category for Time Inc. and not one that they have played in before Travel+Leisure arrived here. So, we applaud them for seeing the opportunity and giving us the resources to make it happen.

Nathan Lump: The one thing that I would add, Samir, is that we focused quite a bit on the print magazine, but I think the other thing that is really important here too is the digital piece because obviously we see tremendous opportunity for us to grow and also to evolve our business, particularly leveraging our digital platforms.

As Jay said, and as you know, we re-launched the print magazine and the website at the same time, and like Jay said that almost never happens. I can’t think of the last time someone did it. And we did it because I was really committed and the company was committed and supportive of the idea to reimagine the platforms holistically, understanding the ways in which they’re related to each other and the existing dialogue they have with each other and they allow us to do slightly different things to serve our audience.

From my perspective, what we’re going to be doing digitally; you’re going to see a lot more from us and the dispersion of the website is really just the beginning. There is a lot more to come in terms of features and functionality, but also in terms of how we use that to engage and serve the audience.

So, the digital piece of it is, I think; we don’t really look at it as a threat; we look at it as an opportunity. I’ve actually been more focused on digital, although I have a long background in print, I’ve been more focused on digital in recent years. And that’s also a little bit unusual for a magazine brand editor. The last five or six years, I’ve been almost exclusively focused on digital products, and so I really see the ways in which we can leverage that.

Samir Husni: Nathan or Jay, why do you think it took us almost five or six years to except the fact that it’s not either/or, it’s both?

Nathan Lump: I think for a lot of people there was just some basic fear and lack of understanding of how people were really using the product.

I also think too that some categories have been more challenged by digital than we have in the travel verticals; for instance, news media have had a harder time adjusting to the balance between print and digital. And those are obviously some of the biggest and best-known brands out there. So, I think that’s also driven the narrative a little bit. Publicly, because the news organizations have such large audiences, such a big pulpit, they’ve also been the ones that have in some ways seen digital be more of a challenge to print than we have in the travel verticals.

Samir Husni: My typical last question, and I’ll start with Jay; what keeps you up at night?

Jay Meyer: I’m not a strong sleeper, so a lot of things keep me up at night. (Laughs) I would say, and I won’t speak for Nathan, but I’m ambitious and curious. As we move forward, it’s an interesting time in the media world; it’s all about ideas. So, ideas keep me up at night, my own and others.

Samir Husni: And Nathan?

Nathan Lump: You kind of stole it from me, Jay. (Laughs) What does keep me up at night is the fact that I have so many things that I want to do, that we want to do, and there is always that thinking like, oh no, are we going to be able to do it all and do it all as quickly as I would like. Like Jay said, the world is evolving so quickly and so is the industry, that there’s always that concern if you’re moving along with it quickly enough. I think that’s why we’ve been so aggressive in the last six or seven months and why we’re going to keep that pace up. That is really the biggest thing, honestly, for me.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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New Magazines Enjoying A Strong Spring Time… Rediscovering PRINT.

April 29, 2015

Rodale's Organic Life Sub.parents latina

The beauty of Springtime, in large part, is always the fresh, new buds that Mother Nature gives birth to and then nurtures with her showers and warmer temperatures.

April saw major publishers doing the same thing with their brands, giving birth to beautiful new magazines and cosseting them with the care and concern that only a parent can.

national geo history

A total of 70 new titles hit the newsstand for April and 20 of them were with regular frequency. Out of those 20 newborns, 5 of them were delivered from large-scale publishers that show no fear in the face of cynics who still decry the value of print in today’s world. Print is on the rise; was there ever any doubt?

From National Geographic’s ‘History’ to Bauer’s powerhouse, ‘Simple Grace;’ the big houses are once again inking up their printers and truly having a good old-fashioned ‘print’ revival. Meredith launched ‘Parents Latina;’ Smithsonian has decided to take quarterly ‘Journeys’ and Rodale is educating us on the ‘Organic Life.’ What more could a magazine lover ask for? Maybe to see the beautiful covers?
SGD-1505-coverSJ

So, first here are the numbers for April 2015 launches compared to that of April 2014 as seen in chart 1 and in chart 2 below are the top categories for both years.

Chart 1
april launches

Chart 2
April categories

To see each and every launch of April and every other month please visit my Launch Monitor blog at www.launchmonitor.wordpress.com

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