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Andy Clurman, President & CEO, Active Interest Media, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “We Have Put More Into Print To Make It An Even Better Physical, Tactile Experience And A Premium Product.” The Mr. Magazine™ End Of The Year Interview…

December 21, 2020

“I’ll speak for ours (Print) and it could apply to others globally. We are like someone’s happy thought when we show up in the mail amidst all kinds of uninvited and unwelcomed material. We are the thing that is a moment, an opportunity for people to spend some time thinking about studying some of the things that they love best.” Andy Clurman…

Bloom in the Midst of Gloom and Doom … Magazine Media 2021  Part 5: Andy Clurman, President & CEO, Active Interest Media

Andy Clurman, president & CEO, Active Interest Media.

2020 is almost behind us with a brand new year just waiting in the wings expectantly. The hope is there for a return to normalcy, a return to sanity, where life doesn’t seem quite as different and complex as we all have recently experienced. With this in mind, Mr. Magazine™ offers up his end of the year interviews with presidents and CEOs of major magazine media companies to get their take on what they feel 2021 holds for each of their companies and magazines in general. Our next magazine media president has arrived. Please enjoy…

One of the world’s largest enthusiast media companies, Active Interest Media (aimmedia.com) produces leading consumer and trade events, websites, magazines, and films and TV shows that reach millions of readers, fans, and attendees in 85 countries. AIM powers the second-richest equestrian competition in the world, the World Series of Team Roping. Understandably, 2020 has been a different year for the enthusiast world as well as all of us.

Andy Clurman is president and CEO of the company and said the biggest challenge for the company this year has been remapping the way AIM conducted its business. I spoke with Andy recently and we talked about this difficult year and the way AIM handled itself during the onset of the pandemic and the successes and challenges they have had so far. 

It was an informative conversation and one that inspired hope and continued energy for the world of magazines and magazine media. So, please enjoy the fifth installment of the Mr. Magazine™ end of the year interviews with Andy Clurman, president & CEO, Active Interest Media (AIM).

But first the sound-bites:

On the biggest challenge that AIM faced in 2020 and how the company overcame it: I’d say the biggest challenge was just remapping our work life, our product portfolio, and emphasizing what we said about combining frequencies of different print issues because advertising had collapsed in the spring and early summer. We didn’t want to lay anybody off, that was always a high priority. So, we redeployed people and put them to work on a big ecommerce initiative that was showing promise around the company.

On the roadmap for AIM into 2021: As the business has evolved and we see other opportunities out there, it’s clear to us that there are some different opportunities and possibilities that aren’t all similar across all of our groups and finding investors who have a category-focused strategy and the capital to support it in some cases is better than us trying to ration resources and grow all things all the time across multiple different verticals.

On the future of print: I’ll speak for ours and it could apply to others globally. We are like someone’s happy thought when we show up in the mail amidst all kinds of uninvited and unwelcomed material. We are the thing that is a moment, an opportunity for people to spend some time thinking about studying some of the things that they love best. Like others, we have put more into print to make it an even better physical, tactile experience and a premium product, which I think serves a very different purpose than how people are engaging digitally.

On the changes he sees on the horizon for magazines and magazine media: The old tried-and-true business model was the magazine being the mother ship and the source of all other lines of business, whether it was licensing, a website, or what have you, now the magazine is just one of the planets in this whole galaxy of content and customer connections that you have. It’s continuing to evolve to where you’re able to think about that whole galaxy of content and relationships and grow and sustain all of the points of that as opposed to having it heavily skewed toward emphasis on print or emphasis just on digital.

On some of the things AIM is doing to implement more diversity and inclusion into the company: It’s education first. And that’s what we’ve been focusing on. How do we understand in a deeper way what we should be doing, could be doing, and how to think about it as opposed to the way we’ve all been trained and the structures and the conventions that have led to where we are right now. I think it’s energizing to not just respond, but to think about how we could do things differently that would bring in other kinds of voices and faces to what has been a pretty homogenous group.

On any active initiatives to educate employees about diversity and inclusion: Yes, we created a Jedi task force, which is Justice, Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and is a cross-section of people from the company. We also brought in an ad hoc diversity officer who has been leading this in terms of sourcing, education, facilitating conversations, doing content and promotional audits, hiring practices, so really looking top to bottom through our organization and our messaging and content. And strategically are there different organizations’ approaches within a different group?

On anything he’d like to add: We’re very grateful for where we are right now. I’ll say that this year has been and continues to be a major test, but I think if you went around and asked people in our company how they’re feeling, I believe they are feeling energized and gratified by the reinforcement for what we’re doing and that it matters to people and is something that people, no matter what’s happening in the world around them, will continue to value and make a place for in their lives. And that’s sort of the punchline to this terrible joke we’ve all been living through. 

On what makes him tick and click: I’ve always been an idea guy. I love working with our group to come up with the next thing or to activate someone else’s great idea, then watching it proliferate through the company, watching it proliferate through our audience and our community. I get a lot of weird satisfaction from that.

On how unwinds at the end of the day: I’m very fortunate to live in Colorado. So, right outside my door there is always opportunities for a long bike ride or a hike or all kinds of things. I just got a hip replacement recently, so now I’m focusing on physical therapy, that’s my release. I’m hoping to get back to the great outdoors as soon as I can.

On what keeps him up at night: You think you know the unknowns as you navigate life as we now know it. And every once and awhile, you can’t escape that uneasy feeling that you don’t know all the unknowns. Other than that, I tend to sleep pretty well.

And now for the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Andy Clurman, president & CEO, Active Interest Media.

Andy Clurman

Samir Husni: 2020 has been one of the most difficult years for all of us, on all fronts. What has been the biggest challenge that AIM (Active Interest Media) has had to face this year and how did you overcome it?

Andy Clurman: It evolved overtime as we experienced, understood and reacted to all the things happening in the country and the universe. Normally, and I’ve been in this industry for a long time, you tend to have an outdated convention, but you used to have a Rolodex of ways to solve problems. You came to work, something cropped up and you remembered how you’d solved it in years past. But there was no Rolodex or no tried-and-true solution to the pandemic. It was of course something that none of us had experienced in our lifetime. 

The level of social and civil unrest, very few of us had experienced in our lifetimes, depending upon your age. So it was uncharted territory as we first began to understand the gravity and depth of what the pandemic was going to impact on everybody, personally, professionally and socially. 

We operate without a major financial net most of the time. And recognizing that businesses were shutting down, our customers in many cases were shutting down their brick and mortar storefronts, consumer demand was plummeting, people were shut-in and staying at home, we first went into a rapid situation of assessment modeling where we didn’t know if the business and demand would just collapse. Would people stop buying things if outlets for physical products were closed? Advertising was cascading downward. 

So, we did a lot of very quick what-if scenarios and looked at our whole portfolio. What are the things in different categories, things that would absolutely be negatively impacted very quickly? Things that might actually benefit from people buying virtually via ecommerce, consuming content virtually, still being able to get magazines in subscription form to people’s homes, and that led to a whole series of decisions that we made, which fortunately turned out to be successful.

Things like certain issues of certain magazines; other people have done this where you combine frequency, suspended some products. All of our physical events were shut down, so which events could we transform into a virtual experience, a hybrid experience. Is there another way to accomplish a similar task or put a different product out into the marketplace? 

Then we wondered what was going to happen to our workplace in terms of how we work, where we work. How are we technology-enabled and do we have all the tools in place; do we have the right support for the staff to do what they do; how are they feeling, are they healthy; can we help them financially? 

I’d say the biggest challenge was just remapping our work life, our product portfolio, and emphasizing what we said about combining frequencies of different print issues because advertising had collapsed in the spring and early summer. We didn’t want to lay anybody off, that was always a high priority. So, we redeployed people and put them to work on a big ecommerce initiative that was showing promise around the company. 

Samir Husni: What’s your roadmap for AIM as you move toward 2021?

Andy Clurman: We’ve been on a fairly traditional course since we started the company, which was to build a large scale, multimedia enthusiast business across multiple categories. And I think we’ve accomplished that very successfully, at least the initial strategy and roadmap that we created 15 years ago. 

As the business has evolved and we see other opportunities out there, it’s clear to us that there are some different opportunities and possibilities that aren’t all similar across all of our groups and finding investors who have a category-focused strategy and the capital to support it in some cases is better than us trying to ration resources and grow all things all the time across multiple different verticals.

So that led to the sale of one of our larger groups to a group that has a very focused category strategy, very focused category investment, and we thought that would be a good way for them to accelerate growth of that group and let them pursue their opportunities. So, meanwhile we’re doing the same thing with the rest of the company. We’re still very vested in horses, homes and the marine industry. And again, even though there are different opportunities there, we have the ability to put the resources we have against growing their lines of business. 

For example, I think one of the silver linings around COVID is people with more time and interest in our online education writer’s group and our woodworking group has really taken off. As well as digital woodworking plans and digital products for people who are at home doing the things they love. 

So, we really want to double-down on those categories. And even though post-pandemic, there’s a COVID bump, I believe, that we all have experienced in parts of the business that may secede as we get through next year, but this has showed us some of the opportunities of the products that we consider to be ancillary to other lines of business that could be much bigger if we put the focus on them. 

Samir Husni: What is the future of the print portfolio?

Andy Clurman: I’ll speak for ours and it could apply to others globally. We are like someone’s happy thought when we show up in the mail amidst all kinds of uninvited and unwelcomed material. We are the thing that is a moment, an opportunity for people to spend some time thinking about studying some of the things that they love best. Like others, we have put more into print to make it an even better physical, tactile experience and a premium product, which I think serves a very different purpose than how people are engaging digitally. 

We obviously have multiple, multiple platforms, but from what we’ve seen, there has been a surprising boon in print subscriptions this year. Things that were questionable, we are now even more convinced they have a long-term viability and a place in people’s media diet. 

Samir Husni: In general, what do you see on the horizon for magazines and magazine media? What are some of the changes you see taking place? 

Andy Clurman: The old tried-and-true business model was the magazine being the mother ship and the source of all other lines of business, whether it was licensing, a website, or what have you, now the magazine is just one of the planets in this whole galaxy of content and customer connections that you have. It’s continuing to evolve to where you’re able to think about that whole galaxy of content and relationships and grow and sustain all of the points of that as opposed to having it heavily skewed toward emphasis on print or emphasis just on digital. 

The words diversification and balance, and this year really was the biggest proof and test of that. What would your business look like if your advertising was down thirty, forty, fifty percent? Do you still have a business? And thankfully, we answered and have driven through that scenario pretty successfully. So, it’s given us a lot more confidence and enthusiasm for the fact that there really is a great business here, but you can’t think of it in limited dimensions.

Samir Husni: Beside COVID, 2020 was a year filled with upheaval. Whether it was social injustices and Black Lives Matter, diversity, equality, or inclusion. And at last count in the past several months there have been over 318 magazines that have had Black subjects on the cover, which is more than there has been in the last 60 years. What are some of the things that you’re doing now to ensure that social responsibility, inclusion, diversity and equality are taking place at AIM?

Andy Clurman: We, in the magazine media, have always thought of ourselves as fairly progressive, enlightened and have not really been at the forefront of accountability around social progression. I think what’s really been brought to the light this year is our audiences, whether it’s younger people or people in the outdoors within our broader audiences, which do have different levels of diversity, have called us to task, which is reasonable and appropriate. 

To think about not just how we present content and what’s the diversity in the content, but how our whole industry and organizations look. Which to be fair, there is a very low level of diversity that we’ve accomplished, both as an industry and in media. And some of the underlying industries that we serve.

It’s education first. And that’s what we’ve been focusing on. How do we understand in a deeper way what we should be doing, could be doing, and how to think about it as opposed to the way we’ve all been trained and the structures and the conventions that have led to where we are right now. I think it’s energizing to not just respond, but to think about how we could do things differently that would bring in other kinds of voices and faces to what has been a pretty homogenous group.

Samir Husni: Are you taking any active initiatives to educate employees about diversity and inclusion?

Andy Clurman: Yes, we created a Jedi task force, which is Justice, Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and is a cross-section of people from the company. We also brought in an ad hoc diversity officer who has been leading this in terms of sourcing, education, facilitating conversations, doing content and promotional audits, hiring practices, so really looking top to bottom through our organization and our messaging and content. And strategically are there different organizations’ approaches within a different group? 

People in the marine industry have a different approach than people in the horse industry, but all have their opportunities we’ve found to partner with different people. And a number of the groups have come up with very industry-specific categories, specific strategies, to bring in some new faces and voices.

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

Andy Clurman: We’re very grateful for where we are right now. I’ll say that this year has been and continues to be a major test, but I think if you went around and asked people in our company how they’re feeling, I believe they are feeling energized and gratified by the reinforcement for what we’re doing and that it matters to people and is something that people, no matter what’s happening in the world around them, will continue to value and make a place for in their lives. And that’s sort of the punchline to this terrible joke we’ve all been living through. 

Samir Husni: What makes you tick and click?

Andy Clurman: I’ve always been an idea guy. I love working with our group to come up with the next thing or to activate someone else’s great idea, then watching it proliferate through the company, watching it proliferate through our audience and our community. I get a lot of weird satisfaction from that.

Samir Husni: How do you unwind at the end of the day?

Andy Clurman: I’m very fortunate to live in Colorado. So, right outside my door there is always opportunities for a long bike ride or a hike or all kinds of things. I just got a hip replacement recently, so now I’m focusing on physical therapy, that’s my release. I’m hoping to get back to the great outdoors as soon as I can. 

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

Andy Clurman: You think you know the unknowns as you navigate life as we now know it. And every once and awhile, you can’t escape that uneasy feeling that you don’t know all the unknowns. Other than that, I tend to sleep pretty well. 

Samir Husni: Thank you. 

Up next, Kent Johnson, CEO, Highlights for Children.

A Mr. Magazine™ Editorial

The “Bloom” in the midst of gloom and doom. Magazines and magazine media have mainly focused on the positive and been an advocate for easing the pain and stopping the hate, seeking to help their audiences both in print and online. For these uncertain times and an audience that is constantly bombarded with bad news, magazines are like trusted friends that you can visit with while they console and encourage you in the midst of a pandemic and social and racial conflicts. 

2020 is almost behind us with a brand new year just waiting in the wings expectantly. The hope is there for a return to normalcy, a return to sanity, where life doesn’t seem quite as different and complex as we all have recently experienced. With this in mind, I offer up my end of the year interviews with presidents and CEOs of major magazine media companies to get their take on 2020 and what they feel 2021 holds for each of their companies and magazines in general. 

Keeping the faith, easing the pain, stopping the hate, spreading the love and hoping that this too shall behind us.

Here’s to a healthy and happy 2021

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

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Debi Chirichella, President, Hearst Magazines To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “Print Plays A Very Important Role In The Ecosystem Of Our Brands.” The Mr. Magazine™ End Of The Year Interview…

December 20, 2020

“For several years, as I mentioned, our strategy has been to expand our business model by focusing on new delivery platforms. And that’s going to include not just print, but also going deeper into digital, social and video, and exploring and developing new revenue streams anchored by our brands. But for Hearst, print is an important component of our strategy and our print editions really do remain the flagship of each brand.” Debi Chirichella

“We know that print validates our brands’ authority with our consumers and with our advertisers. And that ultimately strong print supports strong digital growth. We’re committed to great print products and excellence in editorial, not just in print, but also in digital. And we’re investing in both.” Debi Chirichella

Bloom in the Midst of Gloom and Doom … Magazine Media 2021  Part 4: Debi Chirichella, President, Hearst Magazines 

Debi Chirichella, President, Hearst Magazines 

2020 is almost behind us with a brand new year just waiting in the wings expectantly. The hope is there for a return to normalcy, a return to sanity, where life doesn’t seem quite as different and complex as we all have recently experienced. With this in mind, Mr. Magazine™ offers up his end of the year interviews with presidents and CEOs of major magazine media companies to get their take on what they feel 2021 holds for each of their companies and magazines in general. Our next magazine media president has arrived. Please enjoy… 

Hearst Magazines has always been a staunch believer in print, and as 2021 approaches, new President Debi Chirichella, confirms that nothing about that faith has changed. Debi feels strongly that print validates the company’s brands with authority and trust. 

I spoke with Debi recently and we talked about the direction Hearst Magazines would be taking in the New Year and the effects the pandemic has had on the daily operations of the business. As she stressed, 2020 was a challenging year, but challenges present opportunities and Hearst is well-positioned to capitalize on those opportunities. And as a new leader at the helm, Debi is excited to take the company into 2021 and beyond with conviction and dedication as she helps to seize those opportunities. 

Now, please enjoy the fourth installment of the Mr. Magazine™ end of the year interviews with Debi Chirichella, president, Hearst Magazines.

But first the sound-bites:

On the biggest challenge Hearst Magazines faced in 2020 and how she overcame it: Obviously 2020 has been a very challenging year and honestly, I’ve been in this industry for a while, it’s probably been one of the toughest years that I’ve ever experienced. COVID-19 exacerbated the challenges that the magazine industry was facing and Hearst Magazines was not immune. But, Hearst is a very disciplined and resilient organization and I am very proud of our performance.

On her roadmap for Hearst Magazines as the company moves toward 2021: For several years now we’ve been on the path of redefining the magazine model based on the power of our brands. And we’re staying on that path. Despite the challenges of 2020, we’re exiting the year with momentum. And in 2021 we just want to build on that momentum. We’ve made great strides in diversifying our brands across platforms, and then taking the audiences we’re building and diversifying them across multiple revenue streams.

On Hearst’s strategy to invest more in print: For several years, as I mentioned, our strategy has been to expand our business model by focusing on new delivery platforms. And that’s going to include not just print, but also going deeper into digital, social and video, and exploring and developing new revenue streams anchored by our brands. But for Hearst, print is an important component of our strategy and our print editions really do remain the flagship of each brand.

On what she feels is the future of print in this digital age: Print plays a very important role in the ecosystem of our brands. Again, it validates our brands’ authority through trust with our consumer, it separates us from our digitally native competitors, and it allows us to have stronger brands overall. And so we feel like it plays an important role in the future.

On the changes she sees on the horizon for magazines and magazine media: In this new media environment, choices are abundant. So, we need to focus on getting closer to the consumer and deepening our relationships with our growing audiences. We think it goes beyond scale and we need to build personal connections with our audiences. And then to take those deep connections and monetize them in new ways.

On some of the things Hearst Magazines is doing to implement more diversity and inclusion into the company:Hearst Magazines is committed to being a workplace, and also creating media, that reflects the world we live in. And that’s one that respects and protects and represents voices and opinions of all people. In 2020 we made significant progress against our diversity, equity and inclusion goals. And I think this had actually started a little bit before 2020 — we’ve been implementing operational changes and launching key initiatives to support the enlightened and inclusive workplace that we strive to build.

On whether she believes the move toward more people of color reflected in magazines is a sign of the times or an idea that’s here to stay: Again, we’re on a journey; we’re not done. I don’t think this is a one-time thing. We are really committed to creating media that is reflective of the voices and the opinions of all people.

On anything she’d like to add: It’s been a challenging year, but we have lots of opportunities and I think Hearst is really well-positioned to capitalize on those opportunities in 2021 and beyond.

On what makes her tick and click: I love the company I work for; I love the work we do, creating content. I love the people I work with and again, we’ve had lots of challenges, but we also have lots of opportunities and that’s what makes me very excited to get out of bed every morning.

On how she unwinds at the end of the day: You know, I try to find a silver lining through this health crisis. I have three children, they’re not really children anymore, they’re kind of grownup. Two of them came home from college early, I still have a high school student at home and one of the things that I’ve been able to do as a way to unwind is actually spend more time with my family at the end of the day.

On any new launches that are up and coming for the New Year: I think in 2021 we’re going to add some smaller publications as part of our membership. But I’ll have to just let you wait and see for now.

On what keeps her up at night: Again, I’m very family-oriented, and I am a mom. Usually the only thing that keeps me up at night is anything to do with my kids. My kids are young adults, like I said, and they’re thriving. But it doesn’t stop me from worrying about them.

And now for the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Debi Chirichella, president, Hearst Magazines.

Samir Husni: 2020 has been anything but a normal year, on all fronts. With the changes that took place at Hearst Magazines, with you being appointed interim and now the president of Hearst Magazines, what has been the biggest challenge that you faced in 2020 and how did you overcome it?

Debi Chirichella: Obviously 2020 has been a very challenging year and honestly, I’ve been in this industry for a while, it’s probably been one of the toughest years that I’ve ever experienced. COVID-19 exacerbated the challenges that the magazine industry was facing and Hearst Magazines was not immune. But, Hearst is a very disciplined and resilient organization and I am very proud of our performance.

If I think about some of the challenges, one that we all faced was the need to switch to a virtual environment overnight. We had to quickly adapt to meet the needs of this new normal and to meet our customers and clients where they were. And we did just that. Our content team produced from home 150 print issues; we produced 3,000 videos without the benefit of our normal expanded video team. We invested in the quality of our print products; and we grew our digital audiences to unprecedented levels, hitting all-time highs. We did all this all at home in a way that, I think at the beginning of January and February, we would have never thought possible. 

So, I’m very proud with how we pivoted and how we met this challenge. 

Samir Husni: Each president, each CEO, when they come to a job they have their own plans and their own ideas. What is your roadmap for Hearst Magazines as you move toward 2021?

Debi Chirichella: For several years now we’ve been on the path of redefining the magazine model based on the power of our brands. And we’re staying on that path. Despite the challenges of 2020, we’re exiting the year with momentum. And in 2021 we just want to build on that momentum. We’ve made great strides in diversifying our brands across platforms, and then taking the audiences we’re building and diversifying them across multiple revenue streams. 

We’ve been focused on leveraging the power of our brands to create the best products and to build strong audiences. We are investing in deepening our consumer relationships. We’re supporting growth in our digital offerings. We’re leveraging our sophisticated data and our technology capabilities to serve our advertisers. All of these are things that we started in and prior to 2020 and will continue in 2021 because they’re working and we see great growth opportunities there. 

At the same time, we are continuing to evolve our culture and we are making Hearst Magazines a great place to work. 

Samir Husni: I’ve heard from other CEOs and presidents of magazine groups that during 2020 they’ve seen an increase in print subscriptions and people are utilizing their digital platforms. What’s the current status of your relationship with the audience? Are you seeing a larger demand for print? I know you’re investing in print and you’ve hired an editorial director for print, tell us a little bit more about that investment.

Debi Chirichella: For several years, as I mentioned, our strategy has been to expand our business model by focusing on new delivery platforms. And that’s going to include not just print, but also going deeper into digital, social and video, and exploring and developing new revenue streams anchored by our brands. But for Hearst, print is an important component of our strategy and our print editions really do remain the flagship of each brand. 

We know that print validates our brands’ authority with our consumers and with our advertisers. And that ultimately strong print supports strong digital growth. We’re committed to great print products and excellence in editorial, not just in print, but also in digital. And we’re investing in both. 

Not only did we move Lucy Kaylin into a new role as vice president of print content, but we’ve also invested in the actual product itself. We’ve launched Premium Print, which is a multimillion investment across several brands in our portfolio to strengthen our position in the marketplace and enhance the quality of our print products. And this is something that we’ve been doing and will continue to do in 2021 and in the future.

Samir Husni: What do you feel is the future of print in this digital age? 

Debi Chirichella: Print plays a very important role in the ecosystem of our brands. Again, it validates our brands’ authority through trust with our consumer, it separates us from our digitally native competitors, and it allows us to have stronger brands overall. And so we feel like it plays an important role in the future. 

Samir Husni: In general, what do you see on the horizon for magazines and magazine media? What are some of the changes you see taking place, is it in the business model, in the quality of print, or something else?

Debi Chirichella: The magazine media landscape is evolving and changing. And consumer behavior is shifting. We do have what we think are the most powerful brands in the industry and we know we have the most talented group of people in the industry working on those brands. 

In this new media environment, choices are abundant. So, we need to focus on getting closer to the consumer and deepening our relationships with our growing audiences. We think it goes beyond scale and we need to build personal connections with our audiences. And then to take those deep connections and monetize them in new ways. 

We’re building ways for consumers to connect directly with our brands through memberships, bundles and products. We’re putting effort behind our new product “Mylo” through CDS-Global,  making it easier for customers to use and work with our brands. We’re working on personalizing the content experience. So, I really do think it’s all about deepening relationships with the consumer.

Samir Husni: Beside COVID, 2020 was a year filled with upheaval. Whether it was the social injustices and Black Lives Matter, diversity, equality and Hearst, like every other magazine company, was not safe from that environment. What are some of the things that you’re doing now to ensure that social responsibility, inclusion, diversity and equality are taking place at Hearst Magazines? 

Debi Chirichella: Hearst Magazines is committed to being a workplace, and also creating media, that reflects the world we live in. And that’s one that respects and protects and represents voices and opinions of all people. In 2020 we made significant progress against our diversity, equity and inclusion goals. And I think this had actually started a little bit before 2020 — we’ve been implementing operational changes and launching key initiatives to support the enlightened and inclusive workplace that we strive to build.

We put new training programs into place and added some advisory groups across the company to help us with this. It’s a journey and we know it’s a journey. I don’t think you’re ever finished. We made progress in 2020, but we’re going to continue to build on that progress.

Samir Husni: We’ve seen a lot of Black subjects appearing on the covers of mainstream magazines in the last few months. In fact, the last count I had was 318 magazine covers in the last six months that have Black subjects on the covers, which is almost 10 times more than we had in the last 100 years. Do you think this is going to be the new normal or do you think this is just in response to the times we live in now?

Debi Chirichella: Again, we’re on a journey; we’re not done. I don’t think this is a one-time thing. We are really committed to creating media that is reflective of the voices and the opinions of all people. 

Samir Husni: Is there anything you’d like to add about Hearst or your position?

Debi Chirichella: It’s been a challenging year, but we have lots of opportunities and I think Hearst is really well-positioned to capitalize on those opportunities in 2021 and beyond. 

Samir Husni: As president of Hearst Magazines, what makes you tick and click?

Debi Chirichella: I love the company I work for; I love the work we do, creating content. I love the people I work with and again, we’ve had lots of challenges, but we also have lots of opportunities and that’s what makes me very excited to get out of bed every morning. 

Samir Husni: How do you unwind at the end of the day?

Debi Chirichella: You know, I try to find a silver lining through this health crisis. I have three children, they’re not really children anymore, they’re kind of grownup. Two of them came home from college early, I still have a high school student at home and one of the things that I’ve been able to do as a way to unwind is actually spend more time with my family at the end of the day. I am now cooking dinner most every day, not something that I did. I do like to cook and I have great ideas to pull from because we have Good Housekeeping and Food Network and Delish, so I have a wealth of new recipes to try. 

And so I find unwinding at the end of the day cooking dinner and spending time with my family, something that I didn’t do as much in the past, but again, I think it’s the silver lining coming out of this pandemic. And it’s absolutely the best way to end the day after a steady diet of Zoom calls.

Samir Husni: Hearst Magazines has been known, almost every other year, for launching a major new publication. Do you have anything on the horizon?

 Debi Chirichella: I think in 2021 we’re going to add some smaller publications as part of our membership. But I’ll have to just let you wait and see for now.

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

Debi Chirichella: Again, I’m very family-oriented, and I am a mom. Usually the only thing that keeps me up at night is anything to do with my kids. My kids are young adults, like I said, and they’re thriving. But it doesn’t stop me from worrying about them. So, if anything keeps me up at night it’s because something is going on in their lives and I don’t think that’s ever going to stop. 

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Steven Kotok, President & CEO, Bauer Media Group USA To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “Our Readers Stuck With Us And Our Business Grew In A Lot Of Ways, Which Was Good.” The Mr. Magazine™ End Of The Year Interview…

December 18, 2020

“Bauer will always follow our audience. Our audience is largely women in the middle of their lives. Our digital properties are growing, but they really want the experience that we provide in print. If there comes a day when they don’t want it, we won’t fight it. We will bring them what they want.” Steven Kotok

“I’ve always been an advocate for the audience and the user, money talks, BS walks. If the readers are supporting the content, that’s going to make for better content.” Steven Kotok

Bloom in the Midst of Gloom and Doom… Magazine Media 2021  Part 3: Steven Kotok, President & CEO, Bauer Media Group USA

Steven Kotok, President & CEO, Bauer Media Group USA

2020 is almost behind us with a brand new year just waiting in the wings expectantly. The hope is there for a return to normalcy, a return to sanity, where life doesn’t seem quite as different and complex as we all have recently experienced. With this in mind, Mr. Magazine™ offers up his end of the year interviews with presidents and CEOs of major magazine media companies to get their take on what they feel 2021 holds for each of their companies and magazines in general. Our next magazine media president and CEO has arrived. Please enjoy… 

Bauer Media Group Publishes two of the top selling magazines at retail, Woman’s World and First for Women. Their titles connect with a nationwide audience of readers across diverse editorial segments: women’s (Woman’s World, Celebrate, First for Women) and science and technology (iD – Ideas & Discoveries), so there is a broad spectrum of content they cover. Steven Kotok is the president and CEO in the United States of this fifth generation-owned company, something he is very happy about. 

I spoke with Steven recently and we talked about Bauer and the year 2020 in retrospect. Obviously, it was a trying year for all, including Bauer, but as Steven tells me, financially it wasn’t as bad as they had thought it might be, which is always good news. Challenges occurred, but Steven and his team were up for them and still excited about what they do, even during a pandemic.

And now for the third installment of the Mr. Magazine™ end of the year interviews with Steven Kotok, president & CEO, Bauer Media Group USA.

But first the sound-bites:

On the biggest challenge that Bauer faced in 2020 and how the company overcame it: We’re in a challenged industry, so we’re pretty accustomed to facing challenges, but this year it was just the uncertainty. No one really knew how bad it was going to get and what the effects would be. Going remote was actually surprisingly easy, but really knowing how to respond as a business was the toughest thing. I don’t know that we overcame it; I think we just stayed more flexible than ever.

On any plans he can share for 2021: For us, we’d still like to make an acquisition, it’s pretty tough to find the right thing. I think our 2021 plans are really focused around three things: one is to maintain our number one position for Woman’s World and First for Women on the newsstand, that really remains the bread and butter, but to really grow to other parts of our business.

On the future of print: I’m not a defender of print. I consider myself an advocate for the audience. I’ve always had the good fortune to work for audience-driven publishers, The Week and Felix Dennis, Wirecutter, Bauer. What made us successful was we weren’t focused on the medium. Wirecutter happened to be digital, but the focus was on serving the reader. The Week and Bauer are more largely print, but again we’re audience-driven.

On whether it was a positive that Bauer’s products are mainly distributed inside supermarkets which didn’t shut down at the beginning of the pandemic: Compared to, for example, magazines that have a large airport component, they really felt that because people weren’t flying. I usually fly every month or so and I haven’t flown since February. So comparatively. But we saw a lot of changes in grocery store habits as well. The days of the week that people shopped completely changed. It used to be Friday and Saturday, now it’s really Monday and Tuesday that are the big days.

On what he sees on the horizon for magazines and magazine media: For media generally, I think we are seeing a shift to more consumer revenue models, in print and digital and in streaming. I personally think that’s good. I’ve always been an advocate for the audience and the user, money talks, BS walks. If the readers are supporting the content, that’s going to make for better content.

On how he feels Bauer handles diversity and inclusion: With Bauer I would go back to 2018. In 2018 we did a really comprehensive reader study with focus groups, but it was also quantitative and it was along with an editorial leadership change and a redesign. And we really heard loud and clear from our African American readers that they love the magazine, and not intentionally, we wound up having some focus groups with just African American readers and they wanted more representation on the covers of the magazines and within the pages, specifically the beauty pages. And that’s something that we did in 2018. It wasn’t difficult. It definitely was a change to something we were doing before in the beauty pages, and seeking new cover subjects. But it made us a better magazine.

On anything he wants to add: Globally and in the U.S., it is an exciting time to be in the company. I’ve only been here four years and I’ve seen so much change in terms of how the company has become more progressive in its leadership style. It’s been a really fun time, even though we’ve been in uncertain times with the pandemic.

On what makes him tick and click: I still love my work, so I would say that makes me tick, and everything I said about serving the audience. To unwind, definitely playing with my son. And working from home, or Sundays it feels like sleeping in your office, but whichever it is, it’s really nice to be able to see him, even if it’s just for 10 minutes before a conference call. It’s the best substitute for what used to be a walk around the block or something, such as when I worked in Midtown. It’s really fun just to spend time with him.

On what keeps him up at night: At this point, I don’t think there’s as much being up at night as there was before. A lot of the things we were all scared of has happened to some extent. I probably feel as good about our business as I’ve felt since I’ve been here. We see the upside in our subscriptions; we see the market with these SIPs; and we’re number one on the newsstand. And I don’t even mention it because I’m not a big ad guy, but we’ve been number one in the women’s category for growing advertising. Woman’s World I think is the only magazine to grow advertising five years in a row.

And now for the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steven Kotok, president & CEO, Bauer Media Group USA

Samir Husni: 2020 has been one of the most difficult years for all of us, on all fronts. What has been the biggest challenge that Bauer has had to face this year and how did you overcome it?

Steven Kotok: We’re in a challenged industry, so we’re pretty accustomed to facing challenges, but this year it was just the uncertainty. No one really knew how bad it was going to get and what the effects would be. Going remote was actually surprisingly easy, but really knowing how to respond as a business was the toughest thing. I don’t know that we overcame it; I think we just stayed more flexible than ever. 

Financially, it wasn’t as bad as we feared. Our readers stuck with us and our business grew in a lot of ways, which was good. And thankfully all of our employees remained safe. It was really the uncertainty. A lot of challenges are really difficult and they’re difficult because you don’t like the outcome of them or something. Here, we really had no idea what to expect, so knowing how to respond and how to address the challenge itself was incredibly difficult, because you’re really guessing at some levels. 

Samir Husni: Last year when you and I chatted, you had big plans for 2020 and you were going to acquire or launch something, and then of course everything came to a halt. As you look toward 2021, what’s the roadmap for Bauer? Any plans you can share with us?

Steven Kotok: For us, we’d still like to make an acquisition, it’s pretty tough to find the right thing. I think our 2021 plans are really focused around three things: one is to maintain our number one position for Woman’s World and First for Women on the newsstand, that really remains the bread and butter, but to really grow to other parts of our business. 

The subscription side of our business was probably not emphasized for many, many years. When I got here I made a couple of changes, but in 2021 we’re going to make a very significant investment in subscriptions. We’ve been growing that side of the business, but really amp it up a bit. We’ve done a bunch of testing; we’ve developed some new sources; greatly improved our economics, so now is the time to really triple down and invest in the subscription stream. So, that’s for Woman’s World And First for Women, which are already number one on the newsstand, so we’re kind of furthering the investment in that. 

Then second, it’s really our bookazines, our SIP program. That’s probably going to double in 2021. And again, that grows out of our strength at the newsstand. As you see in so many parts of media, the shift has moved from general interest to very narrow casting with the explosion of cable channels and podcasts, and SIPs are really a part of that, the special interest publications, where you can really narrow cast. And the narrower we go, if we do it right, and we’re doing a lot of these right out of our women’s group editorial group, we really hit it on the head. We did one just on people with thyroid issues, for example. That’s a very narrow topic and it did incredibly well. The Keto Diet has been really popular and effective for people, but we did Keto just for women over 50. And that was one of our bestsellers. 

I think investing in subscriptions for our existing products and launching these new products is by far where most of our financial and our time investment is going in 2021. 

Samir Husni: What do you think is the future of print in this digital age?

Steven Kotok: I’m not a defender of print. I consider myself an advocate for the audience. I’ve always had the good fortune to work for audience-driven publishers, The Week and Felix Dennis, Wirecutter, Bauer. What made us successful was we weren’t focused on the medium. Wirecutter happened to be digital, but the focus was on serving the reader. The Week and Bauer are more largely print, but again we’re audience-driven. 

Some publishers focus more on creating a pleasant environment for advertisers; I’ve just always been at places where we’re creating really a product or a service for consumers. So, Bauer will always follow our audience. Our audience is largely women in the middle of their lives. Our digital properties are growing, but they really want the experience that we provide in print. If there comes a day when they don’t want it, we won’t fight it. We will bring them what they want.

In the larger industry, as we’re seeing a title like Maxim, which once upon a time was huge in print, that audience has moved on. A lot of reference materials have moved on. So, I think the future of print is really audience-by-audience and use-case-by-use-case, not this global print-not print thing. 

Certainly, as we’re seeing it’s the present and the past, not the future. Certain audiences for certain use cases are finding what they need in digital rather than print. And I think that’s great because those are great digital products. I believe it will certainly be less and less that print is the best solution for that audience in that use case.

Samir Husni: Your products are mainly distributed in supermarkets, which did not shut down during the onset of the pandemic, whereas the bookstores did. Was that a positive for your business, being distributed in the grocery stores?

Steven Kotok: Compared to, for example, magazines that have a large airport component, they really felt that because people weren’t flying. I usually fly every month or so and I haven’t flown since February. So comparatively. But we saw a lot of changes in grocery store habits as well. The days of the week that people shopped completely changed. It used to be Friday and Saturday, now it’s really Monday and Tuesday that are the big days. 

So no, we certainly didn’t hit our budget this year. And in April and May, everything saw a huge decline. It has largely come back. It definitely wasn’t a benefit the way Zoom, which we’re using now, and some of these other companies saw a benefit to their business. 

But I think it did strengthen the connection with the readers. We have a lot of health content; we are an every-week read for some people, so I think the tough times can bring you closer, just like they do in a family. But financially it wasn’t a plus, by a long shot.

Samir Husni: In general, what do you see on the horizon for magazines and magazine media? Are we going to see more titles, less titles as a whole?

Steven Kotok: For media generally, I think we are seeing a shift to more consumer revenue models, in print and digital and in streaming. I personally think that’s good. I’ve always been an advocate for the audience and the user, money talks, BS walks. If the readers are supporting the content, that’s going to make for better content. 

In the golden days of advertising you could pay to send someone halfway around the world to write one story for a beautiful magazine and I’m sad that’s gone. But I do think the shift to reader-supported, reader revenue models is definitely here to stay. 

For magazines generally, for print media, that’s going to be a benefit to some and a harm to others. Look at Condé Nast, where The New Yorker was perpetually the money-loser out of that stable. Now it’s very profitable reportedly. And it’s not surprising. They’ve mastered that consumer revenue model. 

In our world, you’re not seeing more launches of magazines, but you’re certainly seeing many more launches of these bookazines, these special interest publications that narrow cast. And those have been successful. 

So, the broad trend I think is a shift to reader-supported models, which is where media started and I think it’s a great place for media to be. It’s longer-term and there’s more stability in that even with all of these disruptions, it can really be difficult. 

Samir Husni: With the social injustices that happened during 2020, the last few months, have seen more Blacks on the covers of mainstream magazines than ever before. How do you feel Bauer handles the issue of diversity and inclusion? 

Steven Kotok: It has been an incredible few years, with both diversity and inclusion, and also the Me Too Movement getting the level of national recognition and also corporate, which is the first time that companies have embraced addressing these issues. 

With Bauer I would go back to 2018. In 2018 we did a really comprehensive reader study with focus groups, but it was also quantitative and it was along with an editorial leadership change and a redesign. And we really heard loud and clear from our African American readers that they love the magazine, and not intentionally, we wound up having some focus groups with just African American readers and they wanted more representation on the covers of the magazines and within the pages, specifically the beauty pages. And that’s something that we did in 2018.

It wasn’t difficult. It definitely was a change to something we were doing before in the beauty pages, and seeking new cover subjects. But it made us a better magazine. Again, when you follow your reader. If anything during that period, we certainly beat the market during that time. Overall, it made us a stronger magazine. 

In terms of representation and the covers you’re talking about, I wish we were a hundred years ahead or even fifty years, we’ve only been around for forty years, but we were ahead of the game on that purely by listening to what our readers wanted. 

From a corporate perspective, this summer a lot of publishers were releasing statements and we kind of debated on doing that. And we felt that we wanted to do something in that moment, but we also felt were we really walking the walk to have a statement be that meaningful? Aside from changing our content in response to what we heard from our readers. 

So we’ve engaged with a consulting firm that specializes in diversity, equity and inclusion and we’re going through a process where we’re educating ourselves, meaning the whole company, the whole team. And we’re having some listening sessions as well to hear from the team. And whatever we do, actions or statements, it may take a little longer, but that’s going to come not as a top-down, written by our very excellent communications people, but more bottom-up as a company on where we stand and what we think. 

What’s nearest and dearest to our heart is really what we put on the pages and what we do for our readers. And we’ve been responsive there. What we do as a company is in process, we had an all-company meeting facilitated by this group. In January and February we’re going to have 10-person listening/speaking sessions. So, more to come on that. But we did feel like it’s best for something so important to not release a statement and be done with it, but try to take a full company approach. 

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

Steven Kotok: With Bauer globally and in the U.S., it is an exciting time to be in the company. I’ve only been here four years and I’ve seen so much change in terms of how the company has become more progressive in its leadership style. It’s been a really fun time, even though we’ve been in uncertain times with the pandemic. 

I’ve heard from a lot of the employees, even after they leave, when they can say whatever they want, that they feel good about working at the company and I feel good about working at the company. For as hard as 2020 has been, and everyone is working harder, we are enjoying it and still find it really gratifying to do what we do. We really feel we are serving an important audience and the response we get from them is very meaningful to us. We feel very vital to the audience we serve and it’s still what drives us. 

Samir Husni: What makes you tick and click?

Steven Kotok: I still love my work, so I would say that makes me tick, and everything I said about serving the audience. To unwind, definitely playing with my son. And working from home, or Sundays it feels like sleeping in your office, but whichever it is, it’s really nice to be able to see him, even if it’s just for 10 minutes before a conference call. It’s the best substitute for what used to be a walk around the block or something, such as when I worked in Midtown. It’s really fun just to spend time with him. 

I like taking walks or hikes with my wife, we’re fortunate to live on a nature trail. And then cooking; I’ve always loved cooking. I was in the food business before I was in the media business and I don’t really do writing in my spare time, I’m not talented enough for that, but cooking in my spare time is really great. I love putting together something I’ve never made before. In better days, I would have said travel, but that seems so long ago. (Laughs)

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

Steven Kotok: At this point, I don’t think there’s as much being up at night as there was before. A lot of the things we were all scared of has happened to some extent. I probably feel as good about our business as I’ve felt since I’ve been here. We see the upside in our subscriptions; we see the market with these SIPs; and we’re number one on the newsstand. And I don’t even mention it because I’m not a big ad guy, but we’ve been number one in the women’s category for growing advertising. Woman’s World I think is the only magazine to grow advertising five years in a row. 

I really have to say there’s less that I’m scared of now than before. Twenty years ago I would have been up at night thinking about the business as it is, it’s been so difficult, what we’ve seen in the supply chain and all that. But all those things have either happened  or have taken care of themselves. Two years ago it was the supply chain that was really scary, but I feel pretty good about the retail supply chains.

So, I sleep as well I’ve slept, not because things are the best they’ve ever been, but I think we have a better sense of the kind of risks and challenges than we’ve ever had as an industry. 

Samir Husni: Thank you.

Up next Debi Chirichella, President, Hearst Magazines.

A Mr. Magazine™ Editorial

The “Bloom” in the midst of gloom and doom. Magazines and magazine media have mainly focused on the positive and been an advocate for easing the pain and stopping the hate, seeking to help their audiences both in print and online. For these uncertain times and an audience that is constantly bombarded with bad news, magazines are like trusted friends that you can visit with while they console and encourage you in the midst of a pandemic and social and racial conflicts. 

2020 is almost behind us with a brand new year just waiting in the wings expectantly. The hope is there for a return to normalcy, a return to sanity, where life doesn’t seem quite as different and complex as we all have recently experienced. With this in mind, I offer up my end of the year interviews with presidents and CEOs of major magazine media companies to get their take on 2020 and what they feel 2021 holds for each of their companies and magazines in general. 

Keeping the faith, easing the pain, stopping the hate, spreading the love and hoping that this too shall behind us.

Here’s to a healthy and happy 2021

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

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Catherine Levene, President, Meredith National Media Group, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: The Magazines That Matter Will Survive: “It’s All About What The Consumer Wants. And The Consumer Has Told Us That Print Matters.” The Mr. Magazine™ End Of The Year Interview…

December 16, 2020

“We know and believe that print matters… Our subscription growth is over 30 percent this last quarter than a year prior. That just shows you that women really appreciate the experience of reading offline. It’s a different experience; it’s a lean-back experience.” Catherine Levene

Bloom in the Midst of Gloom and Doom… Magazine Media 2021  Part 2:  Catherine Levene, President, Meredith National Media Group

Catherine Levene, president, Meredith National Media Group

2020 is almost behind us with a brand new year just waiting in the wings expectantly. The hope is there for a return to normalcy, a return to sanity, where life doesn’t seem quite as different and complex as we all have recently experienced. With this in mind, Mr. Magazine™ offers up his end of the year interviews with presidents and CEOs of major magazine media companies to get their take on what they feel 2021 holds for each of their companies and magazines in general. Our next magazine media president has arrived. Please enjoy…

Meredith’s National Media Group reaches almost 95 percent of all U.S. women and over 190 million monthly American consumers through its trusted and iconic brands. From People to Allrecipes, and all the popular titles in between, Meredith is the largest magazine media company in the world. And for the first time in its 119-year history, a woman is at the helm. And from her own words: “Now that is progress.”

Former chief digital officer for Meredith, Catherine Levene is now heading up the National Media Group Division. In her new role, she will oversee print and digital magazines and the consumer products that are branded with titles of the Meredith magazines. It’s an encompassing job, but one that Catherine is excited and ready to handle. Her vision for the company centers around continued growth and driving engagement across all of Meredith’s platforms. And with 25 years in the business, Catherine brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the job.

Now, the second installment of the Mr. Magazine™ end of the year interviews with Catherine Levene, president, Meredith National Media Group.

But first the sound-bites:

 

On the biggest challenge that faced Meredith in 2020 and how they overcame it: The biggest challenge is probably obvious in that it was adjusting to a company-wide working from home model starting in March and adapting to that. Meredith is a very collaborative culture and it’s a vigorous in-person culture as well. And so working from home was a challenge. But our first priority was keeping our employees safe and healthy and that continues to be our top priority.  We were pleasantly surprised at how smoothly (the adjustment to working from home) went and just how productive and collaborative our employees are working from home. 

On her roadmap for 2021: They’re all around the notion of growth. Number one is to continue to drive engagement across platforms. Last quarter we drove 30 percent more subscribers to our print publications than that same quarter last year.

On whether she feels the increases the company had this year is the silver lining for 2020. It continues to show and prove the relevance and the resonance of our brands and the trust that consumers have with our portfolio. Because our brands are so rich in its content of knowledge about what women need and want, we were able to rise in this area, particularly digital. So, all of that data gives us insight as to what’s important to women.

On what Meredith knows that no other company seems to know that they’re putting so many new ink on paper titles on newsstands: We know and believe that print matters. It’s all about what the consumer wants. And the consumer has told us that print matters.

On any changes she sees on the horizon for magazines and magazine media: There was a period of time years ago when there were so many print magazines in the market. And at that time it was probably hard to differentiate between them. Now the magazines that matter survive, the magazines that are able to adapt to consumer’s needs, that provide quality content and a different experience. And also to be able to extend those brands, it’s not just about print. It’s about digital, audio, video, television; it’s about voice. 

On how she feels Meredith handles diversity and inclusion: I’m very proud of the way our team handles this issue. First of all, internally we have a culture of acceptance and diversity and inclusion. Now that doesn’t mean that we can’t do better and we can always improve. One of our main goals this year and beyond is to continue to advance the diversity and inclusion in our own company.

On more women being at the head of magazine media companies today as CEOs or presidents: There you go. Now that is progress. As we all say, it takes time and I believe we get to the right place. Obviously, we all want to move faster with diversity and inclusion. But I think Meredith has expanded its base of leadership, particularly with women. And I am very proud of that.

On what makes her tick: In general, in life, creativity and progress. I’m constantly full of ideas and being in a position to test those ideas, collaborate with the team to make them better and bring them to life, not just my ideas, but any ideas that our teams have, that really makes me tick. Bringing something to life that didn’t exist before, I would say creativity. And then progress meaning continually trying to improve. Improve myself, improve my work, our work and do things that are ideally helping the world in some way, shape or form.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: Besides taking care of the baby, we’ll probably be sitting around the dinner table drinking wine with family and friends. We do that a lot and that’s what I’d say we miss the most. Interacting in person with our family and friends. 

On what keeps her up at night: As it relates to the business, one is just making sure everyone is safe and healthy. And two, is my mind spinning on ideas and opportunities. I keep a pen and paper beside my bed and when I have these inspirational moments I write them down and follow up on them later. That’s what keeps me up at night.

And now for the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Catherine Levene, President, Meredith National Media.

Samir Husni: Congratulations on being named president of Meredith National Media. 

Catherine Levene: Thank you so much.

Samir Husni: 2020 has been one of the toughest years on all fronts. Even before you became president of the National Media, you were in charge of the digital side. What do you think was the biggest challenge that faced Meredith in 2020 and how did you overcome it?

Catherine Levene: The biggest challenge is probably obvious in that it was adjusting to a company-wide working from home model starting in March and adapting to that. Meredith is a very collaborative culture and it’s a vigorous in-person culture as well. And so working from home was a challenge. But our first priority was keeping our employees safe and healthy and that continues to be our top priority. We were pleasantly surprised at how smoothly it (the adjustment to working from home) went and just how productive and collaborative our employees are working from home.

We didn’t adjust a magazine schedule; digital grew, our traffic grew that quarter 19 percent, so we’ve done quite well. The first quarter was very tough for everybody, there was so much unknown, particularly in the ad market. That was a tough quarter, both the decline in ad revenue across the board as well as the getting everybody set up to work from home.

Samir Husni: As you look toward 2021, what’s your roadmap? Now that you’re the president for all of Meredith’s national media, can you tell me about any plans you have for 2021?

Catherine Levene: Let’s start with our most important asset on top of our employees, which is our trusted brands. We produce strong, premium, relevant brands and have very large loyal audiences. We reach 95 percent of U.S. women. So that’s the base upon which we start.

From there, I have three real main initiatives and they’re all around the notion of growth. Number one is to continue to drive engagement across platforms. So, that is in print and as I think you know, last quarter we drove 30 percent more subscribers to our print publications than that same quarter last year. 

We’re driving engagement on our digital properties, that’s on the web and on mobile. We are expanding formats, investing in audio and video. In fact we launched in this calendar year, 9 to 10 podcasts, including one recently from Laura Brown called “Ladies First” by InStyle, which is a fun one. 

So, it’s a focus on cross platform, including social, cross platform growth. And that can come with our existing brands and it can also come from creating new brands. Last year we launched “Daily Paws” in August. We’re proud of the agility and resilience of our team in continuing to stay on schedule. We launched Millie and of course we launched Sweet July with Ayesha Curry. We’re constantly expanding the offerings we have for our audiences.

The second growth area is leaning into our rich and proprietary data, which allows us insights capabilities that help, first and foremost, product roadmaps, and also help our advertisers understand their audiences better and to message to them more effectively. That data is first-party. In a world where third party cookies are going away, the use of proprietary, first-party data is critical and it’s a big asset. It’s also a big differentiator that we have. 

The third area of growth is to diversify our revenue stream. You already know that we have a very large consumer revenue stream in our subscription base, and we’re looking beyond our print subscription base to consumer revenue in digital. And that could be in e-commerce revenue or offering new paid products. 

Samir Husni: You’re the second president/CEO of a magazine media group that has told me 2020 wasn’t that bad after all, in terms of the revenue. Do you think that increase in subscriptions and the increases in print, the growth in digital for the trusted brands; do you think that has been a silver lining for 2020? 

Catherine Levene: It continues to show and prove the relevance and the resonance of our brands and the trust that consumers have with our portfolio. Because our brands are  so rich in its content of knowledge about what women need and want, we were able to rise in this area, particularly digital. So, all of that data that I just talked to you about gives us insights as to what’s important to women. 

Right now we’re in the categories that are most important to women: parenting, family, health, wellness, home, food, and entertainment; those are the categories that are essential for women and they provide inspiration and they provide help for women. Because our portfolio is broad and inspirational for women at this time, we’ve been able to take advantage of that. 

And while that is a silver lining, I don’t want us to forget how difficult this period has been for employees who my have had family members sick; children at home and dealing with parenting while they’re working. And of course, the decline of ad revenue that happened in March, second quarter. While we have absolutely shown that our brands have real resonance and growth opportunity, I don’t forget just how difficult it has been for many people. 

Samir Husni: Meredith launched more print magazines in 2020 than any other magazine media company, large or small. As you mentioned, from Reveal to Sweet July to Millie to all of the SIPs and the specialty magazines; what do you think is the future of print in this digital age? What does Meredith know that no other company seems to know that they’re putting so many new ink on paper titles on newsstands?

Catherine Levene: We know and believe that print matters. It’s all about what the consumer wants. And the consumer has told us that print matters. Our subscription growth is over 30 percent this last quarter than a year prior. That shows you that women appreciate the experience of reading offline. It’s a different experience; it’s a lean-back experience. You’re away from your screen. We all spend so much time in front of our computers and working from home also indoctrinates that. 

Having a lean-back experience or a kind of luxury experience with print isn’t going away. We believe in that. And we’ve shown that. You can have growth in print magazines. 

Samir Husni: What are some of the major changes that you see on the horizon concerning magazine media? Not only at Meredith, but in general.

Catherine Levene: There was a period of time years ago when there were so many print magazines in the market. At that time it was probably hard to differentiate between them. The magazines that matter survive, the magazines that are able to adapt to consumer’s needs, that provide quality content and a different experience. To be able to extend those brands, it’s not just about print. It’s about digital, audio, video, television,voice.

When we think about our portfolio, we don’t think about print, digital, though those are our major lines of business. We think about the brands and how our consumers want to experience them. So PEOPLE is a weekly. It’s much more like a newsmagazine about celebrities than it is a monthly service magazine. We launched the number one TV show, syndicated TV show, this year with the PEOPLE brand and our Local Media Group. PEOPLE had its best quarter yet in his history this past quarter. 

We’re expanding into audio. We’re launching a new podcast early next year called “PEOPLE Every Day” in collaboration with iHeart. It’s going to be the stories of people in a podcast. We don’t necessarily think about the brand as print and digital. We think about it as trusted brand that evolves over time. We want to be in every medium that’s important to women.

Samir Husni: How do you feel Meredith handles the issue of diversity and inclusion? And moving forward, how will you continue to handle it?

Catherine Levene: I’m very proud of the way our team handles this issue. First of all, internally we have a culture of acceptance and diversity and inclusion. Now that doesn’t mean that we can’t do better and we can always improve. One of our main goals this year and beyond is to advance the diversity and inclusion in our own company. 

We’re focused in two areas. One is the culture inside the company and our workforce and the other is what we show to our consumers and it’s not only the right thing to do, it’s good business to enhance our content and storytelling. To be more inclusive both in the content itself, but also in producing that content, whether that be in print, digital, video, in the art that we use, the photography. All of that has to be diverse because our audience is diverse. 

Samir Husni: Talking about diversity, it’s the first time that I can recall in magazine media history that there are now four women CEOs or presidents of major magazine media companies.  

Catherine Levene: There you go. Now that is progress. As we all say, it takes time and I believe we get to the right place. Obviously, I we all want to move faster with diversity and inclusion. But I think Meredith has expanded its base of leadership, particularly with women. And I am very proud of that. 

And as far as diversity, I know you spoke to Laura Brown (InStyle) recently and I don’t know if she mentioned but she recently signed onto the 15 percent pledge, which is to support and promote a diverse creative community. They committed 15 percent of its coverage to Black-owned businesses. And they’re focusing on diversity, inclusion as representation. Now that may include models, celebrities, etc. 

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

Catherine Levene: We could talk for hours, but for now you’ve done an excellent job capturing the questions that are important to Meredith. Thank you for all of your work, support and interest in our company. We appreciate it.

Samir Husni: What makes you tick and click?

Catherine Levene: In general, in life, creativity and progress. I’m constantly full of ideas and being in a position to really test those ideas, collaborate with the team to make them better and bring them to life, not just my ideas, but any ideas that our teams have, that really makes me tick. Bringing something to life that didn’t exist before, I would say creativity. And then progress meaning just continually trying to improve. Improve myself, improve my work, our work and do things that are ideally helping the world in some way, shape or form. 

On a personal note, I would say that what makes me tick is family and my new baby. I just had a baby, she’s three months old. And it is bringing me so much joy during this time to have this little girl, to watch her smile and see the world through her eyes, which is an incredible experience. 

Samir Husni: Congratulations.

Catherine Levene: Thank you.   

Samir Husni: Let’s assume there’s no COVID-19 and I show up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Catherine Levene: Besides taking care of the baby, we’ll probably be sitting around the dinner table drinking wine with family and friends. We do that a lot and that’s what I’d say we miss the most. Interacting in person with our family and friends. 

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

Catherine Levene: As it relates to the business, one is making sure everyone is safe and healthy. And two, is my mind spinning on ideas and opportunities. I keep a pen and paper beside my bed and when I have these inspirational moments I write them down and follow up on them later. That’s what keeps me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you. 

A Mr. Magazine™ Editorial

The “Bloom” in the midst of gloom and doom. Magazines and magazine media have mainly focused on the positive and been an advocate for easing the pain and stopping the hate, seeking to help their audiences both in print and online. For these uncertain times and an audience that is constantly bombarded with bad news, magazines are like trusted friends that you can visit with while they console and encourage you in the midst of a pandemic and social and racial conflicts. 

2020 is almost behind us with a brand new year just waiting in the wings expectantly. The hope is there for a return to normalcy, a return to sanity, where life doesn’t seem quite as different and complex as we all have recently experienced. With this in mind, I offer up my end of the year interviews with presidents and CEOs of major magazine media companies to get their take on 2020 and what they feel 2021 holds for each of their companies and magazines in general. Keeping the faith, easing the pain, stopping the hate, spreading the love and hoping that this too shall behind us.

Here’s to a healthy and happy 2021

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.d.

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Bonnie Kintzer, President & CEO, Trusted Media Brands, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “Our Print Magazines Are Very Strong And They Are A Very Important Part Of Our Brand Identity… We Feel Really Good About Where We Are From A Business Perspective.” The Mr. Magazine™ End Of The Year Interview…

December 14, 2020

“We’re a completely integrated company with our print businesses and our digital businesses; we don’t have separate editorial groups; we don’t have separate marketing groups. We’re one company. We’re one Reader’s Digest, one Taste of Home, one Family Handyman; the content may look different in the different mediums, but it’s the brand ownership and those multiple touchpoints. It’s all about delivering the content the way the customer wants to consume it.” Bonnie Kintzer…

Bloom in the Midst of Gloom and Doom… Magazine Media 2021  Part 1:  Bonnie Kintzer, President and CEO, Trusted Media Brands

2020 is almost behind us with a brand new year just waiting in the wings expectantly. The hope is there for a return to normalcy, a return to sanity, where life doesn’t seem quite as different and complex as we all have recently experienced. With this in mind, Mr. Magazine™ offers up his end of the year interviews with presidents and CEOs of major magazine media companies to get their take on what they feel 2021 holds for each of their companies and magazines in general.

Bonnie Kintzer, president and CEO, Trusted Media Brands

Up first is Bonnie Kintzer, president and CEO of Trusted Media Brands, a media and direct marketing company that connects with more than 58 million unduplicated consumers across industry-leading brands such as Taste of Home, Reader’s Digest and Family Handyman. 

Since Bonnie has been at the helm of the company, Trusted Media Brands has doubled its digital reach and launched new direct-to-consumer products such as MyDiyUniversity.com, Taste of Home’s Cookware and Bakeware, and Special Delivery subscription boxes.

I spoke with Bonnie recently and we talked about the past, present and future of the company. From Reader’s Digest to Family Handyman to the pandemic and diversity and inclusion, Bonnie has a firm hold on the vision she has for Trusted Media Brands throughout every facet of the business. She is clear, decisive and very optimistic about the future for both print and digital.

Now, please enjoy the first of the Mr. Magazine™ end of the year interviews with Bonnie Kintzer, president and CEO, Trusted Media Brands. 

But first the sound-bites:

On the biggest challenge the company faced in 2020: Actually, our business has done really well during the pandemic, which I know is an amazing thing to hear. Our fiscal year began July 1 and we’re up in digital ad revenue by 25 percent and also overall company revenue is up and our EBITDA is way, way up. So, we feel really good about where we are from a business perspective.

On the plans for Trusted Media Brands in 2021: We’re very focused on making sure that we’re best-in-class digital marketer. We are absolutely the best-in-class direct mail marketer and our goal is to make sure that we have that same competency digitally. Our digitally-sold businesses, whether it’s magazines or books or DIY University or the subscription box are all growing significantly. So, we feel like we’re on a path and that investment will continue, whether it’s an investment in people or infrastructure.  

On what she thinks the future of the printed product will be in this digital age: Our print magazines are very strong and they are a very important part of our brand identity. When I talk about digital, I’m talking about selling those products digitally. That allows us to form a digital marketing relationship with these individuals. And so I think there’s a lot more that we can do with consumers once we have that digital relationship set up.

On where she sees magazine media when it comes to the digital business: You do have to make a lot of investments. We have made a lot of investments over the last three to four years in making sure that our digital infrastructure  is as good as it needs to be. I think that if we hadn’t done all of those investments then we wouldn’t have had this big boon from the pandemic. Basically, food content and DIY content and gardening content is super important right now to people and we have excellent content in those areas.

On where she sees social responsibility, diversity and inclusion for the Trusted Media Brands: It’s very important to us and very important to our employees. We have a diversity and inclusion team. They have four pillars that spell out the word MORE within our diversity and inclusion and that’s Mentoring, Opportunity, Recruiting and Education. And honestly, I look at these initiatives and I think these are things that we talked about that we should have always been doing. And now we have so much employee involvement to get these things done.

On anything she’d like to add: People that I know that are running media companies, we’re very realistic; we look at the good and the bad and we manage our businesses accordingly. And if we are all true to our customers and have good financial acumen, we will have strong businesses. And that’s definitely what I expect for us.

On what makes her tick and click: I’m very grateful for my health and the health of my family. Obviously, I don’t take any of that for granted. As you may know, I got remarried five years ago and my husband and I are having a really good time being at home together. I’m in a very fortunate category to really enjoy being with my partner. We are now home with four dogs, we got two pandemic puppies in the midst of all of this, so there’s always something going on here and a lot of joy and happiness.

On what she does to unwind at the end of the day: I’m sorry to say that we’ve become binge TV watchers which we never were before. (Laughs) That’s definitely a new thing. And in addition to enjoying wine, I have developed a taste for bourbon, so I would say that probably sums it up.

On what keeps her up at night: The pandemic definitely keeps me up. We, as you know, have had more employees in the Midwest, so this cycle of Northeast and Midwest; I mean now everyone is being hit hard, but at the beginning it was the Northeast and then it was the Midwest, so it’s always on our minds, always on my mind. Are people being safe? We’ve had a number of people lose very close family members and that’s been very heartbreaking. So, that definitely worries me.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Bonnie Kintzer, president and CEO, Trusted Media Brands. 

Samir Husni: It has been a tough year, what has been the biggest challenge that you faced in 2020 and how did you overcome it?

Bonnie Kintzer: Actually, our business has done really well during the pandemic, which I know is an amazing thing to hear. Our fiscal year began July 1 and we’re up in digital ad revenue by 25 percent and also overall company revenue is up and our EBITDA is way, way up. So, we feel really good about where we are from a business perspective. 

If you go back to March and April, the biggest thing was of course how are you going to run your company with everybody in their homes, not knowing what everyone’s situation was from a space perspective and children, and all of that. I think we’ve come through really strongly in that way. We had already done a lot of technology investments previously, so that really paid off. And we’ve done a lot of outreach to our employees and that’s really our primary concern is their health and safety. 

We’ve brought back probably about 30 people into the Milwaukee office to work in the test kitchens and the photo studio. And about 10 or so in Family Handyman just outside of Minneapolis to work in the workshop. But other than that, we have very few people going in and I’m amazed at the quantity and quality of work. Truly, it’s inspiring to me the way people have operated. 

The biggest challenge is definitely around people with childcare or a sick family member or some other disruption. We try to just pay attention to that and meet the needs of our employees. But business is the best it has been in my six years. Knock on wood all day long. (Laughs) Our content really provides a lot of value during the pandemic. 

Samir Husni: As you look toward 2021, what’s the roadmap for Trusted Media Brands? You have legacy publications, such as Reader’s Digest which is almost 100 years old. You have the Family Handyman that just celebrated its 70th birthday. And you have Taste of Home and the rest of the magazines that are newbies compared to the other two. What is your plans for all your brands as you move forward?

Bonnie Kintzer: We’re very focused on making sure that we’re best-in-class digital marketer. We are absolutely the best-in-class direct mail marketer and our goal is to make sure that we have that same competency digitally. Our digitally-sold businesses, whether it’s magazines or books or DIY University or the subscription box are all growing significantly. So, we feel like we’re on a path and that investment will continue, whether it’s an investment in people or infrastructure.  We have rebuilt really every system in this company and we continue to make more investments, particularly in the area of data science and that will be a very significant part of our roadmap. 

Ultimately, we want to be launching more products, more non-published products, so scaling the subscription box and DIY University and the digital project plans are top of mind for us for calendar 2021. 

Samir Husni: What do you think the future of the printed product will be in this digital age?

Bonnie Kintzer: Our print magazines are very strong and they are a very important part of our brand identity. When I talk about digital, I’m talking about selling those products digitally. That allows us to form a digital marketing relationship with these individuals. And so I think there’s a lot more that we can do with consumers once we have that digital relationship set up. 

We’re a completely integrated company with our print businesses and our digital businesses; we don’t have separate editorial groups; we don’t have separate marketing groups. We’re one company. We’re one Reader’s Digest, one Taste of Home, one Family Handyman; the content may look different in the different mediums, but it’s the brand ownership and those multiple touchpoints. It’s all about delivering the content the way the customer wants to consume it.

Samir Husni: I have a heard a lot of stories about audiences and customers and media businesses having a lot of trouble with digital. In fact, recently somebody told me that their digital business was like the Sony Beta when the VHS was king. Yet Trusted Media Brands is doing good in both print and digital. Where do you see magazine media when it comes to the digital business? 

Bonnie Kintzer: You do have to make a lot of investments. We have made a lot of investments over the last three to four years in making sure that our digital infrastructure  is as good as it needs to be. I think that if we hadn’t done all of those investments then we wouldn’t have had this big boon from the pandemic. Basically, food content and DIY content and gardening content is super important right now to people and we have excellent content in those areas. 

I look at our magazines as part of our portfolio of the brands. I don’t look at our business as here’s our magazines and here is our digital business. I look at it as here’s our Taste of Home business and that Taste of Home business includes many different lines of business of course, including the magazine, but we do a tremendous cookbook business. And we have a strong SIP business, and we have cookware and bakeware. And we have the subscription box. So I look at it holistically, how do we get the right products to the right consumers? And do we have the opportunity to sell more products to the same consumer and also attract more into our brand?

It’s the same thing for Reader’s Digest. Reader’s Digest is obviously one of the largest magazines in the country, but also a growing website and has a great book business as it has had for years. So, we feel good about it. And again, we look at a brand as a holistic brand and the relationship that we have with the consumer. 

Samir Husni: Besides the pandemic, this year we have also seen a lot of diversity issues, with the George Floyd murder and the Black Lives Matter movement. There was an article recently in The New York Times about how even the book business is discovering Black subjects and Black authors. I did an article for the Poynter Institute about how in the last six months we’ve seen more than 300 magazine covers featuring Black subjects, which is almost six times more than what we’ve seen in the last 100 years. Where do you see social responsibility, diversity and inclusion when it comes to the Trusted Media Brands?

Bonnie Kintzer: It’s very important to us and very important to our employees. We have a diversity and inclusion team. They have four pillars that spell out the word MORE within our diversity and inclusion and that’s Mentoring, Opportunity, Recruiting and Education. And honestly, I look at these initiatives and I think these are things that we talked about that we should have always been doing. And now we have so much employee involvement to get these things done.

We did our first education program, which was Women in Digital. We had five amazing women on our staff who worked on our digital business and it was really great. Recently, one of our employees retired after forty years and people who never worked with him or really knew him came from this online video chat Q&A. We just launched our mentoring program and in less than 24 hrs. we got 10 mentors signed up. Our employees are eager to be part of the solution and now we have a lot of plans underway for what’s due for Black History month and Martin Luther King, Jr. ‘s birthday. 

If you think about our brands, and when you think about Reader’s Digest, we have always been talking about social justice. And for our other brands, Taste of Home has been covering some of the baking groups that have cropped up to fight against racism and Birds & Blooms has been covering a Black birding group and Farm & Ranch Living, there have been other places writing about Black farmers, and I think they have enjoyed being a little bit more proactive and making sure that we’re showing people of color in the pages of everything that we do.

Samir Husni: Speaking of diversity and inclusion, this is the first year that I’m interviewing eight of the leading magazine media companies where four of the CEOs or presidents of the groups are women. 

Bonnie Kintzer: We’ve come a long way, baby. (Laughs)

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

Bonnie Kintzer: People that I know that are running media companies, we’re very realistic; we look at the good and the bad and we manage our businesses accordingly. And if we are all true to our customers and have good financial acumen, we will have strong businesses. And that’s definitely what I expect for us. 

It’s interesting, the magazine that is doing unbelievably well during this pandemic is Birds & Blooms. And that’s been very cool to see. They’ve had a real boost. People are home and they’re looking at their birds and their flowers, they want to learn. It’s just very interesting. 

Samir Husni: In the midst of working from home and being at home, what makes you tick and click these days?

Bonnie Kintzer: I’m very grateful for my health and the health of my family. Obviously, I don’t take any of that for granted. As you may know, I got remarried five years ago and my husband and I are having a really good time being at home together. I’m in a very fortunate category to really enjoy being with my partner. We are now home with four dogs, we got two pandemic puppies in the midst of all of this, so there’s always something going on here and a lot of joy and happiness. 

We’ve had our kids come home for extended periods of time, which has been amazing. Those are the silver linings. My daughter and her fiancé were here for five weeks from San Francisco. So, that’s a great thing, to be able to have the experiences that just wouldn’t have happened without a pandemic. I do try to focus on the positives that have come out of this very scary time and make sure that people are safe.

Samir Husni: What do you do to unwind after a busy day with Zoom meetings and team meetings throughout the day?

Bonnie Kintzer: I’m sorry to say that we’ve become binge TV watchers which we never were before. (Laughs) That’s definitely a new thing. And in addition to enjoying wine, I have developed a taste for bourbon, so I would say that probably sums it up. 

We do a lot of cooking, my husband even more than I do. So, we’re enjoying good meals and seeing people outside even in the cold weather. We’re going to see some friends to light the menorah and eat outside and soon we’ll be celebrating someone’s birthday outside. It’s cold, but we’ll keep on seeing people and celebrating the important milestones. 

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

Bonnie Kintzer: The pandemic definitely keeps me up. We, as you know, have had more employees in the Midwest, so this cycle of Northeast and Midwest; I mean now everyone is being hit hard, but at the beginning it was the Northeast and then it was the Midwest, so it’s always on our minds, always on my mind. Are people being safe? We’ve had a number of people lose very close family members and that’s been very heartbreaking. So, that definitely worries me.

And upcoming postal increases keeps me up at night. So, we will work through that too. 

Samir Husni: Thank you. 

Up next, Catherine Levene, president, Meredith National Media Group.

A Mr. Magazine™ Editorial

The “Bloom” in the midst of gloom and doom. Magazines and magazine media have mainly focused on the positive and been an advocate for easing the pain and stopping the hate, seeking to help their audiences both in print and online. For these uncertain times and an audience that is constantly bombarded with bad news, magazines are like a trusted friend that you can visit with while they console and encourage you in the midst of a pandemic and social and racial conflicts. 

2020 is almost behind us with a brand new year just waiting in the wings expectantly. The hope is there for a return to normalcy, a return to sanity, where life doesn’t seem quite as different and complex as we all have recently experienced. With this in mind, I offer up my end of the year interviews with presidents and CEOs of major magazine media companies to get their take on 2020 and what they feel 2021 holds for each of their companies and magazines in general. 

Keeping the faith, easing the pain, stopping the hate, spreading the love and hoping that this too shall behind us.

Here’s to a healthy and happy 2021

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

 

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Dan Wakeford, Editor In Chief, People Magazine, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “Print Is Going To Last Forever.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

December 10, 2020

“I think for print to thrive in 2020, you need to add depth and sophistication to a print product. You need to deliver what you can’t often get on the Internet, which is expertise and authority, because print needs to provide something emotional and arresting and something distinct that you can’t get digitally, with deeper, exclusive stories.” Dan Wakeford…

People magazine is a force to be reckoned with, even in the midst of a pandemic. The print magazine is still the cornerstone of this mega-multiplatform brand and consistently drives strong sales at newsstands. With its topnotch celebrity coverage and its moving, emotional human interest stories, the magazine remains the go-to source for all things entertaining and informative.

Since March 2019, Dan Wakeford has been editor in chief. Dan came to the job with four years of People experience under his belt, as he had served as the magazine’s deputy editor since 2015. To say that Dan knows and loves his brand would be an understatement. To say that he thinks print is still an important part of everything his brand does would be the absolute truth. 

I spoke with Dan recently and we talked about this impressive cultural force called People. It was a delightful conversation and one I think you’ll find as fascinating as Mr. Magazine™ did.

Dan Wakeford, Editor in Chief, People magazine

So, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ video cast with Dan Wakeford, editor in chief, People magazine. 

But first the soundbites…

On the challenges of publishing a magazine like People in 2020: It has definitely been challenging and people have been talking about pivots this year, but People has been pivoting since its existence in 1974. We’re a news brand so we react to the news. And in many ways we thrive on that. It was intimidating to begin with, putting out a print edition from home, but now it’s what we do. It’s second nature. We didn’t have any choice whether to do it or not and the human condition thrives in circumstances like that. It’s been satisfying in many ways, because there has been so many creative solutions that we’ve come up with.

On the unique selling point that differentiates People from the other celebrity-type magazines on the market: It really has to do with the fact that People brings people together. And that’s what we have done this year as always. I think PEOPLE has the power to bring people together; we’re a demography breaker, People touches so many American lives, it speaks to so many women from all walks of life across society. And it’s a unique place where women can come together to celebrate everyday people doing extraordinary things. And as we say, extraordinary people doing ordinary things and see that they are relatable as well.

On whether there was ever a conflict between the social responsibility of the magazine in 2020 and the moneymaking aspect: There are tensions at times, whether you’re doing something to sell for the cover or whether you’re doing something for the right reasons. But I have very supportive bosses who understand that tension and so you do different stories for different reasons at different times. And I don’t think it’s always an element of it has to sell a lot, we’re on so many different platforms.

On how the four people for People of the year were chosen: It has been a difficult year, which made it very interesting to choose who would be a person of the year, but at the forefront of my mind was people being a cultural force for good. So I looked at people who had really stepped up and gone above and beyond and had done good in many different areas. With Fauci it was obvious he would be a person of the year, it really was. And then digging into different celebrities and different personalities and what they had done in different areas, it was a very natural choice: George Clooney, Regina King and Selena Gomez, had all done such amazing work in different fields. 

On how he sees the issue of diversity and inclusion manifesting itself in mainstream magazines, specifically in People: I don’t think it’s quite the same situation for People magazine as it has been for the other magazines. I’ve done an early analysis of this and we were in an okay position before Black Lives Matter. We were telling stories way above the census of specifics for Black subjects, but it’s something we’re working on every day and thinking a lot about, racial equality and how we can do better at every level. 

On where he sees the future of print: Print is going to last forever. People magazine in print will be here in 20 or 25 years. We’re in an amazing and powerful position. I think for print to thrive in 2020, you need to add depth and sophistication to a print product. You need to deliver what you can’t often get on the Internet, which is expertise and authority, because print needs to provide something emotional and arresting and something distinct that you can’t get digitally, with deeper, exclusive stories.

On the biggest challenge he’s faced since taking over as editor in chief in 2019 and how he overcame it: There were many challenges. Fortunately for me, I inherited a brand that didn’t need ripping up and starting again. People really does work. There are many different challenges. For me, I think one of the challenges of the brand is competing with celebrities’ social media, they like to tell their own stories. But I think they realize some of the mistakes they’ve made and that People really is an authoritative storyteller, we’re the best in the world at what we do, so continuing that momentum has just been a challenge.

On any secret sauce Meredith has for being able to launch new products during a pandemic or that he has when it comes to the overseeing of People: I think we’re very close to the consumer and understanding what the consumer wants. We have an amazing data department and we have that data and we also have editors who have huge empathy for the audience and a huge connection with that audience. And an amazing staff. And a spirit and a company culture that wants to come up with ideas and create new products, which is exciting. And to tell stories. That’s what we’re here to do as journalists. And to tell them in the best way possible.

On what he thinks differentiates print magazine journalism from what people see on television or in newspapers: I think magazine journalism is about the consumer and working out what they want and starting with a mission statement and building a magazine around that mission statement so you can achieve your goal. It’s about deeper stories, a deeper connection, an emotional connection to the reader and that you’re delivering them an experience that you can’t get anywhere else.

On whether he has a favorite People magazine cover so far: A big element for me is being a force for good. And so during this time I haven’t shied away from subjects that are difficult for a mass market magazine. I did the first-ever Pride issue during lockdown, which was celebrating LGBT subjects. And we had Anderson Cooper on the cover with his baby. For me, the idea of diverse inclusion; growing up if I had seen a gay man on the cover of a magazine, a big magazine, with a child it would have made my path to happiness very much quicker. 

On any cover he regrets: No. There have been covers that haven’t performed as well and I probably should have listened to my gut a little bit more, but again, they did good and they were great stories. Perhaps I shouldn’t have put them on the cover, but I certainly don’t regret telling those stories.

On anything he would like to add: We could talk for hours about the magazine, but I’ve been really proud. Every single platform of People has been thriving this year. Our direct subscriptions are up incredibly, 20 percent in 2019, the rates of response to subscriptions, so it shows the quality of the magazine and what we’re delivering our reader. Our digital numbers have been through the roof, visits are up 24 percent year over year; our video views have increased as well. The TV show is the most popular new syndicated show, it’s on fire. You hear the statistics, more people tune in and can’t turn it off. So, I’ve just been really proud of how the whole organization, the print, the people has been driving together.

On what he does to unwind after a busy day: I do what everybody else does. This is the year that the television has brought us together. (Laughs) I am particularly enjoying HBO Max at the moment, the shows Industry, The Flight Attendant; I just finished Coming Undone, that has been amazing, and it’s such a big part of People’s DNA, so it’s kind of working, but not. (Laughs)

On what makes him tick and click: Storytelling does, to be honest with you. And what connects celebrity to the consumer. I’m a very consumer-driven editor. I like to think about what the consumer is getting out of the story.

On what keeps him up at night: I think it’s always been being a good leader of People. It’s a big, big job with a lot of responsibility. And a lot of staff. That’s always in the back of mind. That and how many things I haven’t done on my to-do list. (Laughs) 

And now, without any further delay, enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ video cast with Dan Wakeford, editor in chief, People magazine. 

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Marvin Magazine: A New Upscale And Luxury Ink On Paper Music Magazine For 2020 And Beyond – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Marvin Scott Jarrett, Cofounder & Editor In Chief …

December 9, 2020

“When we were doing Ray Gun, Neville Brody (the famous British graphic designer and art director) came out with this quote, The End of Print, and I think he meant it in a derogatory manner. We ended up using that in places and then David (Carson), my first designer, ended up doing a book called The End of Print. To me, this is sort of tongue-in-cheek, but it’s really me getting back in print. It’s the rebirth of print.” Marvin Scott Jarrett (on the tagline of his new magazine The Rebirth of Print)…

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

From Ray Gun to Nylon and many titles in between, Marvin Scott Jarrett is no newcomer to magazines. And he is making his return to print in a big way: a big beautiful magazine with a very familiar and personal moniker, Marvin, a quarterly  music magazine that is very stylish and fashionable and is aimed at men as its main audience. Marvin has traveled all over the world and has called L.A. his home for most of his adult life except for the period he published Nylon magazine when he moved to New York City. 

Marvin magazine, Marvin told me that this may be his most exciting title yet, simply because it is centered on his passions, his vision, and his own personal headspace. And quite unique in that the advertising for the magazine is based on one partner/one sponsor per issue instead of the traditional way of selling and carrying advertising in magazines. For the first issue, the magazine has teamed up with Porsche, a company that saw a desire to partner and showcase its luxury brand with this new luxury magazine. A very intriguing concept that comes from a very intriguing man. While many might still argue that print isn’t what it used to be, Marvin believes print is still a viable and desirable investment. 

So, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ video cast with Marvin Scott Jarrett, cofounder & editor in chief, Marvin magazine.

But first here are the sound-bites: 

On the tagline which reads The Rebirth of Print: When we were doing Ray Gun, Neville Brody came out with this quote, The End of Print, and I think he meant it in a derogatory manner. We ended up using that in places and then David Carson, my first designer, ended up doing a book called The End of Print. To me, this is sort of tongue-in-cheek, but it’s really me getting back in print. It’s the rebirth of print.

On how he visualized his ideas for the new magazine and then put them on ink on paper: I had been thinking about it for two years, from inception of idea to it coming out into the world. Basically, I knew that I wanted to start a new brand more on the male targeted side, although it’s really for any gender. And it was going to be very music-focused. I was in the desert, we were on vacation, and basically had the hotel stationery. I drew a picture of Marvin as the masthead and I drew a little person on the cover. I kept that and I started thinking about what I could do in this world; what would I do if I had a new print vehicle? 

On whether he was concerned about starting a new print magazine during a pandemic and an ever-changing world: I always saw us getting past the pandemic. And with the current world situation, I realized that I was able to do meetings all over the world through Zoom. We put this together in a pandemic and we didn’t make a big deal about that. It was a time for reflection, a new chapter for me. And it allowed me to really think about what I wanted to do.

On this being one of many magazines that he has launched: When I was doing Ray Gun, I had a bunch of magazines. I did a snowboard magazine called Stick; I did a magazine for MTV in Europe called Blah, Blah, Blah; we did a custom magazine for Warner Music Group. I was doing all those different magazines under the Ray Gun publishing company. And then with Nylon, my partner and wife Jaclynn really pushed me to just focus on one title, one title was vital. The closest thing we got to another title was the spinoff of Nylon Guys.

On how the birth of Marvin compares to the birth of Ray Gun or Nylon: It could be the most exciting launch for me ever. The fact that it’s called Marvin makes it more personal. It’s really exciting to do whatever I wanted in the print world and not think about making it for $2 because it’s going to sell for $4 or $5. Or it’s got to be this and we have to print hundreds of thousands of them. It wasn’t that. It was something born in a different space in my mind. It was really a creative project.

On the frequency of the magazine: It’s a quarterly.

On whether it’s offered in subscriptions: Not as of yet. There may be a time that I might want to do subscriptions, but for right now it’s just at these 15 or 20 cool bookstores around the world. 

On how he decided on the U.K.-born singer, songwriter and actor Yungblud for the cover of the first issue: I made a mood film before I started the all execution of the print. And Yungblud was one of the features in the film and somebody that I liked. I personally met him a few years ago. He came to my house and we chatted and I liked him before he really took off and I thought that I would be interested in doing something with this guy someday. It just kind of came full circle and I wanted him to be the launch cover.

On what he believes is the future of print: I think more specialized, personal magazines are going to be the ones that impact the most when it comes to print. Some of the big magazines, traditional print magazines that are owned by the three or four big publishing companies, the product is different than it was ten years ago. They have to make it for as little as possible, and the distribution system is crazy. The idea praying that 10 magazines sell three or four  and the rest get destroyed, that model didn’t really interest me. 

On anything he’d like to add: It’s exciting for me to do it again. I worked on that Ray Gun book with Rizzoli for two years. It came out last year. And I really started getting more into music again, not that I was ever not into music, it’s part of my life. I grew up as a musician and most of my friends are musicians. I’ve just wanted to do a new music magazine for 2020 and beyond.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: I generally play some music. I’ll watch some form of TV or film to relax. I get up really early and I find that my best thinking time is in the morning. My first four or five hours are my best. 

On whether he feels more at home on the West Coast than the East Coast: Yes. Basically, I lived my whole adult life in Los Angeles, except for when I started Nylon. I moved there full time for five years. And then for the following 10 years we were bicoastal, so I always kept my house in L.A. There are so many creatives out here, more space, there’s sky and the weather. L.A. is my home.

On what keeps him up at night: I’m not really in that headspace right now that I have those worries. I sleep well at night. I’m doing what I love and I’m building a new business, a new brand, a new platform and it’s really an exciting time for me. To me, this is Act Three and I want it to be the biggest and best Act yet.

And now, without any further delay, enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ video cast with Marvin Scott Jarrett, cofounder and editor in chief, Marvin magazine.

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Real Simple: Life Made Easier Has Never Sounded So Good – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Liz Vaccariello, Editor In Chief & Daren Mazzucca, SVP Group Publisher…

December 6, 2020

“When Real Simple was launched and what this brand stands for cuts to the chase of what women need in their lives. It’s that word simplicity. It’s that word simple.” Liz Vaccariello…

“Simplicity really lends to creating more valuable time to do the things that we want to enjoy. And that’s how we sell it to advertisers, that presents a beautiful environment for the advertiser to deliver their message to the consumer.” Daren Mazzucca…

Real Simple launched in March 2000 and quickly became one of the industry’s biggest success stories. Dedicated to making lives easier for women everywhere, the brand has achieved its mission even during a pandemic, giving its readers that “me” time of escape that they need right now. 

Liz Vaccariello, Editor in Chief, Real Simple
Daren Mazzucca, SVP Group Publisher, Real Simple

I recently spoke with Liz Vaccariello, Editor in Chief and Daren Mazzucca, SVP Group Publisher, about working during a pandemic and about an upcoming redesign that will continue the 20-year tradition the magazine has of staying “simple,” yet offer a bit of a new aesthetic at the same time. It’s a rejuvenation, not a change, but something Real Simple can offer its readers in the new year that will lend a bit of a different look to the beloved magazine that they know and treasure.

So, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ video cast with Liz Vaccariello, editor in chief & Daren Mazzucca, SVP Group Publisher, Real Simple. 

But first here are the sound-bites:

On whether being truly “Real Simple” works for the magazine (Liz Vaccariello): I think everybody wants to and needs to simplify their lives. They want to simplify ideas. I think that’s really the outcome of this Internet age, every consumer, every reader of all ages is now overwhelmed by content, ideas, by points of view and opinions. I firmly believe that’s why magazine media has never been healthier, because of everyone’s need for curation. 

On how they sell that “Simplicity” to advertisers and media (Daren Mazzucca): I really believe that simplicity saves us time. When you’re organized and you know where things are, you don’t have excess of things; it saves time. And that allows the consumer, us, the bandwidth to do the things we want to do. Simplicity really lends to creating more valuable time to do the things that we want to enjoy. And that’s how we sell it to advertisers, that presents a beautiful environment for the advertiser to deliver their message to the consumer.

On how Real Simple is different from its competitive set (Liz Vaccariello): When Real Simple was launched and what this brand stands for cuts to the chase of what women need in their lives. It’s that word simplicity. It’s that word simple. All women’s magazines have tried to make life easier for women, whether it’s giving them a recipe or helping them clean the house. But Real Simple is the first brand to make the user experience of the magazine simple. And one of the most beloved aspects of the Real Simple print product is the user experience.

On how Daren Mazzucca, as chief revenue officer, operated during the pandemic (Daren Mazzucca): Truthfully, we adjusted very quickly. I told everyone initially to pack like we’re going to be going to a snowstorm for a week or two, bring home your materials. Little did we know we would be home for eight months. Most people brought their initial packets as if they were going on a trip for a week or two. And I think this is very important for Meredith, but we also did it at brand level, we had regular check-ins with our teams, daily or every other day, with everyone to make sure we were healthy, our employees, making sure they were safe and to put aside any concerns so they could stay focused. And truthfully, we did a lot of phone calls before we all started adapting very rapidly into Zoom and Webex. 

On whether, as editor, Liz Vaccariello is longing to go back to normal and sit around a table with her team (Liz Vaccariello): That’s precisely what I miss, I miss standing around the art table. And I can look at a layout on a screen and send a note to Emily Kehe (creative director) about what I think about it, but that huddling over it, that moving it around and the looking at the wall, moving the pages around, I miss that. And then also the editorial process, the creative process, particularly when you talk about magazine making and all the areas that a brand like Real Simple covers, from food to home to beauty to fashion, the walking around, the talking with each other, the standing over the coffee machine  and complaining about my shoes aren’t comfortable enough, those are story ideas for us and it’s very much a part of the creative process. But in some ways it has been illuminating, you don’t need to send nine people to a photo shoot. 

On how the advertising marketing side has felt during the pandemic (Daren Mazzucca): For sure, we miss just spontaneously walking 10 feet away to ask a question or just give some thought versus texting someone on their phone. But I would say that we’ve made adjustments and we certainly miss the old way, but I’m not so sure we’ll go back to the old way. I think some of us are trying to figure out, and we talked a lot about this, what are the boundaries of our workplace? And how long do we work? I’ve been on the phone with our corporate people at 9:00 or 10:00 at night, whereas normally I would have returned home from the commute and stopped. So, I think we’re all trying to work this work/life balance now and because we’re not able to just huddle around a conference room, I think our day has been extended a little longer as a way to keep the flow going.

On whether the magazine can be used as Prozac for the audience or Vitamin C (Liz Vaccariello): A lot of people say that the magazine is their “me” time. They put down the phone, they put down the computer, I think the time spent is like 90 minutes with the magazine. It’s a soothing experience. A prescription of getting a subscription to Real Simple.

On being the chief revenue officer for Real Simple and Martha Stewart Living and any internal competition (Daren Mazzucca): There’s a good degree of internal competition for food and some packaged goods, but clearly both brands stand on their own. Yes, there are categories and lifestyles by the ad community, but the readers don’t see it as such. They come to Real Simple for a whole different set of values and content and they come to Martha Stewart for their own set.

On working for her first non-legacy title and whether she feels more energetic and free (Liz Vaccariello):Surprisingly, to me it’s about brand strength. And the strength of the Real Simple brand, thanks to my predecessors, thanks to Kristin van Ogtrop and the launch editors and Leslie Yazel who came before me, the Real Simple reader knows what to expect, trusts the brand to the same extent and with the same passion that my 95-year-old lifetime subscriber of Reader’s Digest did. This is their Real Simple, it’s not mine.

On the redesign (Liz Vaccariello): This is the name of the Roadshow, The Future of Home is Here. I remind everyone what the brand pillars are, then I talk about consumer trends and insights for the last year or so. How has COVID, how has this election, how has everything that’s happening in the world from May on, how has it impacted what’ people’s sense of what home is? And then a sneak peek of the redesigns. 

On when the relaunch will take place (Liz Vaccariello): The February issue. 

On anything they’d like to add (Daren Mazzucca): This brand has a lot of expectations. You mentioned legacies or years of a brand, although we’re young, 20, there is a high expectation within the Meredith Corporation. I was talking with Tom Harty yesterday, from a portfolio Liz mentioned HHI, we sell at newsstand at $5.99 and still sell a lot of magazines at the newsstand at $5.99 and our subscriptions continue to be renewed at very high rates, so from a profitability perspective, consumer revenue, ad revenue all works together to make a really great brand story for the Meredith Corporation. 

On anything they’d like to add (Liz Vaccariello): I’ve worked with some great publishers in my career and Daren and his team are really the A-Team. When Doug Olson moved me over to Real Simple he was like you have Daren and Daren has Kristin Guinan, and you guys have got to win and I said okay. (Laughs)

On what keeps them up at night (Liz Vaccariello): I always care deeply about my team, but this has been a year where I worry even more, how everybody is doing. And not just their health, but their mental health as well. Across the Meredith Corporation we have a lot of parents who are particularly in the content organization and they are just doing triple duty. Yes, we don’t have commutes anymore, but it is very exhausting to be on a computer all day, to have to be up and also to potentially homeschool. 

On what keeps them up at night (Daren Mazzucca): In these times, and you mentioned relationships earlier, relationships if you have them can be maintained when we’ve been in the business sometime. I think often about some of our up and coming marketing teams and junior sellers and establishing those relationships, both internal at Meredith and external because we’re doing a lot of calls but we’re stuck behind a screen. I often see that secret sauce that we had at Meredith, where people were congregating in the open space areas, that’s really good especially when you’re 26 or 27 and looking to make the next pivot move.

And now, without any further delay, enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ video cast with Liz Vaccariello, Editor in Chief & Daren Mazzucca, SVP Group Publisher, Real Simple. 

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The Saturday Evening Post At 200: Yes, It Is Still Being Published And Still Celebrating America’s Past, Present, and Future – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Steven Slon, Editorial Director and Associate Publisher & Jeff Nilsson, Director Of Archives…

December 2, 2020

“There has been so much talk about digital replacing print completely, but in fact delving into a print publication with its design, all the multiple levels of interest that you have in a magazine, it’s not like anything else. And there is plenty of evidence that people are returning to print in great numbers. And I think that point can be shown in America.” Steven Slon… 

“There are many things that The Post got wrong historically. They had some very unenlightened views on women and immigrants, but as far as Black people, they really have a long history of being a little bit more aware than the average publication,  going back to the 1800s when it was a solid abolitionist newspaper and was very much pushing for the civil rights of Black Americans and the end of slavery.” Jeff Nilsson…

The Saturday Evening Post Then August 8, 1862
The Saturday Evening Post Now November/December 2020

In 2021 The Saturday Evening Post will celebrate 200 years of chronicling American history in the making. From Napoleon to Lincoln to The Civil Rights Movement, the magazine has been a staple and a part of our American culture for generations. 

With the upcoming celebratory milestone, I spoke recently to Steven Slon, editorial director and associate publisher & Jeff Nilsson, director of The Post’s archives and we talked about what some have called the most significant of the early magazines. Its rich history and still-strong future gave us quite a lot to discuss and the conversation was as fascinating as the magazine itself.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steve and Jeff as we take a look back, a present glimpse, and a glance into the future of The Saturday Evening Post.

The Jan. 1, 1921 cover

But first the sound-bites: 

On The Saturday Evening Post’s claim that it was founded in 1721 by Benjamin Franklin when it was really launched in 1821 (Steven Slon): The market people for The Saturday Evening Post in the mid-twentieth century were very clever by today’s standards. You could call it alternate facts or you could call it just a little creative bending of the story, but in effect we do feel that The Post owes a debt to Benjamin Franklin in that his Poor Richard’s Almanack in a way provided a template for the concept that became the model for The Saturday Evening Post. It’s like a popular publication for the whole family, safe for all members of the family to read, interesting to diverse interests and senses of humor and so on. 

On what role The Saturday Evening Post plays in today’s marketplace (Steven Slon): We’re continuing the tradition of a magazine for the whole family, not bifurcated into now-interest groups, not following the trend toward verticality. We are a magazine that  you immerse yourself in. And you’ll find some stories about trends, some about politics, some news-based, some personal interest stuff, some self-care; our health reporting is almost in the Rodale tradition, which has been my background, the you-can-do-it, here’s-how-to-do-it. So we cut a wide range of subjects and our readers just really enjoy immersing themselves in the magazine, sort of like a warm bath, you can just relax and you find interesting material.

On whether he feels The Saturday Evening Post is swimming against the current in today’s magazine publishing world (Steven Slon): We are swimming against the current and we’re proud to do it because we feel this is where a really good magazine is. It’s like the personality of a human, there’s an arrangement of interests, people aren’t just tennis players or skiers or cycling enthusiasts, or just interested in politics or just interested in cooking. We have recipes, we have sports, we talk about gambling in the next issue.

Steven Slon

On why Beurt SerVaas thought the magazine was worth saving in the 1960s (Steven Slon): To begin with Beurt SerVaas, who ultimately purchased the magazine, was an international businessman with many operations around the world. He had factories in Poland, for example. And he was known as a turnaround guy. He was brought in to help with the breakup of The Saturday Evening Post when it went bankrupt. 

On what the 200-year-old legacy of The Saturday Evening Post means in today’s world (Steven Slon): I think solid reporting, fairness, balance, just quality. Certainly we consider our 200-year-old history as being a part of American history. One of the things that we feel strongly about is the magazine in the 1920s, under George Horace Lorimer’s leadership, was part of the effort to make the United States feel like a truly united country.

Jeff Nilsson

On how The Saturday Evening Post has coped over the years with each facet of new media, from radio to the Internet (Jeff Nilsson): Starting in the 1920s radio was considered a novelty but certainly no challenge to print publications. And motion pictures were also really considered off the chart. They really weren’t going to be any threat to established media. By the late 1920s, they were reporting on radio broadcasting and the business with a bit more respect, but still the numbers were so high in the 1920s that they weren’t worried. But as sound came to motion pictures, it started to bite into the entertainment dollars of the United States.

On the future of The Saturday Evening Post as it enters its third century (Steven Slon): The future is we’re certainly growing our website, we’re 50 percent more traffic year over year. In the last two years, it’s just been going up exponentially. The challenge that we face is the lack of awareness that the publication is out there. We’re not on the newsstand right now because the cost of that is prohibitive. We don’t have a ton of financial backing to do that kind of thing. So, we have to be conservative in our business plans. Our readership is somewhat closed, we have 250,000 paid subscribers; our actual market share is bigger in the sense that over one million people read the magazine based on third party analysis of the pass-along rate.

On getting the word out that the magazine isn’t dead (Steven Slon): We have a story to tell and that is that we have an extraordinarily good magazine. For the price of a couple of ham sandwiches, you get a year’s subscription, $15. It’s a magazine that you can immerse yourself in. We have one of the highest rates of read-through. I was talking to our salespeople recently. When they’re tabbing the magazine they talk about the fact that people don’t read just one article, they immerse themselves, they read from cover-to-cover. A much higher rate than other magazines.

On getting the word out that the magazine isn’t dead (Jeff Nilsson): I wanted to add something, and you mentioned this earlier; when The Post really started taking off it tried to reach a national audience in the 1800s, but particularly in the 1900s. And Curtis believed that there was an American taste. There was an average American that was interested in certain things and instead of breaking up the readership like McClure’s did or Harper’s or Atlantic which pitched itself to various sections of New England, he pitched it to the country.  

On whether The Saturday Evening Post would be considered a history of American taste or just a general interest magazine reflecting today’s marketplace (Steven Slon): I think certainly it’s a history of pop cultural America and also a more serious part of American history. We created a regular column that Jeff writes called The Post Perspective and we feel we have this unique ability to show let’s say that a trend of today has antecedents in history.

On what’s in store for the celebration year of 2021 (Steven Slon): The big issue will be the July/August issue because that’s the actual anniversary, but in each issue we’re going to have a selection on a theme. The first batch for the January issue will be a selection of some of the earliest stories and earliest reporting from the 19th century. So, reporting on the death of Napoleon, for example. On the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, we covered that. 

On why magazines of today are so different from the magazines of yesteryear (Steven Slon): There are some that are maintaining a style, culture and a tradition that dates back to their origins, such as The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, even The Smithsonian, which covers a range of subject matter with a historical slant. We’re going against the trend toward verticality because we can’t. It’s that simple. We couldn’t even begin to be a vertical, we have so many different strands of interest that we’d have to completely restart the magazine with a different theme.

On how he thinks The Post handled diversity and people of color (Steven Slon): I’d say that we were similar to the historically other mainstream magazines in that I don’t think there was adequate representation of minorities. I would dispute the claim that some people make that The Post prohibited coverage of minorities. That is not true, I believe.

On how he thinks The Post handled diversity and people of color (Jeff Nilsson): I’d like to also add that there are many things that The Post got wrong historically. They had some very unenlightened views on women and immigrants, but as far as Black people, they really have a long history of being a little bit more aware than the average publication,  going back to the 1800s when it was a solid abolitionist newspaper and was very much pushing for the civil rights of Black Americans and the end of slavery.

The Saturday Evening Post September 29, 1821

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steven Slon, editorial director and associate publisher & Jeff Nilsson, director of archives, The Saturday Evening Post.

Samir Husni: In 1821 The Saturday Evening Post was launched and it became the most important magazine in American history, according to many historians. Yet, some were confused when The Saturday Evening Post added the tagline “Founded in 1721 by Benjamin Franklin” before even Benjamin Franklin started his own magazine in 1741. Can you tell me about that story?

Steven Slon: The market people for The Saturday Evening Post in the mid-twentieth century were very clever by today’s standards. You could call it alternate facts or you could call it just a little creative bending of the story, but in effect we do feel that The Post owes a debt to Benjamin Franklin in that his Poor Richard’s Almanack in a way provided a template for the concept that became the model for The Saturday Evening Post. It’s like a popular publication for the whole family, safe for all members of the family to read, interesting to diverse interests and senses of humor and so on.

Now there’s a bit of a real connection in the sense that the founders of The Saturday Evening Post in 1821 were modeling on some of the work of Benjamin Franklin. And they also published it, printed it in the same printing shop in Philadelphia that Benjamin Franklin had used so that they could claim a little, let’s say paternity. (Laughs)

The Saturday Evening Post May 3, 1862

Samir Husni: But in 1821 Benjamin Franklin was dead. 

Steven Slon: And his publications, The Pennsylvania Gazette, whatever, had been gone for 15 to 20 years. The real start of the magazine, granted it owes a debt to the kind of thinking and the style and tone of Poor Richard’s Almanack and The Pennsylvania Gazette, the magazine was founded in 1821, the real publication. And it really had no direct link. We’re now counting it the real way and we feel that 200 years is a pretty long history. And it makes us the oldest magazine in America.

Samir Husni: And of course, the folks at the Old Farmer’s Almanac will say that they’re 225 years old, but the difference is they are an annual and you’re a periodical publication. 

Steven Slon: Yes. 

Samir Husni: What role is The Saturday Evening Post playing today? You have a 200-year-old history, but how is that past relevant in today’s marketplace?

Steven Slon: We’re continuing the tradition of a magazine for the whole family, not bifurcated into now-interest groups, not following the trend toward verticality. We are a magazine that  you immerse yourself in. And you’ll find some stories about trends, some about politics, some news-based, some personal interest stuff, some self-care; our health reporting is almost in the Rodale tradition, which has been my background, the you-can-do-it, here’s-how-to-do-it. So we cut a wide range of subjects and our readers just really enjoy immersing themselves in the magazine, sort of like a warm bath, you can just relax and you find interesting material.

We’re also in the tradition of, from the earliest platforms that were released in the early part of, certainly the 20th century, the idea that we want to be known for unbiased reporting, we don’t take sides. For example, in the recent, current election we’re not taking sides, we’re sending issues that relate to some of the big trends in the country, such as America’s divide and what can be done about it. We’re not saying that we support one candidate over the other. In addition, we’re a nonprofit, so we’re a 501(c)(3), we’re not really committed to advocate politically.

The Saturday Evening Post August 27, 1898

Samir Husni: As you look at the status of magazine publishing, and as you look at the extreme niche that we’re moving into, it seems many are calling print a luxury item now and believe you have to sell it with a cover price of $10 or $15 or even more, how does it feel to be swimming against the current? You have a magazine like The Saturday Evening Post, still with a cover price of $5.99 and still printing a quarter million copies or more every other month, do you feel you’re swimming against the current? And what do you hear from your audience?

Steven Slon: We are swimming against the current and we’re proud to do it because we feel this is where a really good magazine is. It’s like the personality of a human, there’s an arrangement of interests, people aren’t just tennis players or skiers or cycling enthusiasts, or just interested in politics or just interested in cooking. We have recipes, we have sports, we talk about gambling in the next issue. 

Our readers like it. Granted, we’re swimming against the tide, but we hear from our readers that they’re very satisfied. Our renewal rates are historically high for magazines.  And we’re happy. As an editor, certainly I’m happy to be producing a magazine where you get to talk about lots of different things. I have a short attention span, I want to hear about this and a little bit of that, and I think our readers do too.

Samir Husni: The Saturday Evening Post has died and come back several times over these 200 years of existence. And really, the major salvation for the magazine came in the 1960s when all three biggies, Life, Look and The Saturday Evening Post were facing their demise, but someone came to the rescue and bought The Post along with its archives. Can you talk a little bit about why Beurt SerVaas thought it was worth saving?

Steven Slon: To begin with Beurt SerVaas, who ultimately purchased the magazine, was an international businessman with many operations around the world. He had factories in Poland, for example. And he was known as a turnaround guy. He was brought in to help with the breakup of The Saturday Evening Post when it went bankrupt. 

The Saturday Evening Post December 30, 1899

The story of why it went into bankruptcy is rather involved, but I’ll just briefly say that in the early 1960s The Post actually hit its highest circulation numbers, it was over six million. And in some regards, it became top-heavy, and it was very expensive to produce that many copies. And when small details go wrong, the whole thing began to collapse. They started buying timberland to control the paper and the value of the land went down and then they tried cutting circulation, limiting it to the higher income zip codes. And that turned off a lot of readers because it’s a magazine for average folks, it was never a New Yorker, a high-brow magazine, it was a magazine for middle-grounders, regular people. There was an author in The Post who found out after receiving his check for his article that they were taking him off their subscription list. Sorry. (Laughs) 

In any case, Beurt SerVaas was brought in to help break up The Saturday Evening Post. And in doing so, he saw value, not so much in The Post, but in the children’s magazines, Jack and Jill and Child Life. And at the time these were circulated through schools and were very profitable. And he thought that would be of some value to him, so he wanted to preserve that. So in the process he shipped all of the equipment and materials, what was left of The Post, out to Indianapolis. 

But in doing so there were several Rockwell canvasses lying around the office. In those days, they were considered to have no value, even Rockwell didn’t value them. He had gotten paid for them and in some cases he gave them away like to the local Boy Scouts for an auction. One of his canvasses went at auction for 50 cents in the ‘50s or ‘60s. And he called SerVaas and said that he’d like to come down and pick up his paintings. 

So, he came down in his old station wagon, drove down by himself and threw his paintings in the back, just tossed them in. Rockwell told SerVaas that he was glad he was taking over the company and hoped he could revive the publication. SerVaas told him sure, he could maybe do that, but he said it sort of noncommittally. 

Then later, Norman Rockwell was on The Today Show and he was asked about what was going to happen to The Saturday Evening Post, because as you and I know this was such a big publication, it was as if a network TV station had gone out of business. Rockwell then said that he’d met the new owner of the company and that he was going to relaunch The Saturday Evening Post. He mentioned that they were in Indianapolis and they received bushels of mail from people across the country wanting to know when they could get the magazine. 

So Beurt SerVaas said to his wife Cory, I guess we’re launching this magazine. (Laughs) And you’re going to be the editor. So, his wife Cory, who was an M.D. and not someone in the publishing business became the facto editor of the magazine and it went on from there. And it was very heavily focused on health reporting in those years, but otherwise they kept a lot of the traditions alive. 

The Saturday Evening Post May 30, 1916 (First Norman Rockwell cover)

Samir Husni: You have a rich archive with 200 years of magazines, and the last time I visited The Post they were digitizing everything. What do you think the legacy of The Saturday Evening Post is today?

Steven Slon: I think solid reporting, fairness, balance, just quality. Certainly we consider our 200-year-old history as being a part of American history. One of the things that we feel strongly about is the magazine in the 1920s, under George Horace Lorimer’s leadership, was part of the effort to make the United States feel like a truly united country. 

At the turn of the century, America was not in any sense a “United” States. There were pockets of immigration all over, people speaking different languages, there were different cultures. And remember travel was difficult at the time, for the average person they may not have gone 20 miles from home, you traveled by horse and buggy, cars were just a new concept that very few people had. So, The Post gave this picture of America, partly through its covers, its portraits, its illustrations, a picture of America that people could relate to and say yes, that’s who we are, especially when you look at Rockwell and the sense of unity, the sense of children playing, the sense of adults working the commuter life in later years, were brought to life by The Post and it was a shared experience that helped create a part of that feeling of being united. 

We have this incredible archive in which we have completed our digitization and relaunched our website about a year ago with full access to all but a few issues of the magazine, all the way back to 1821. You need to be a subscriber to get full access, but if you go online a lot of the time we surface selections from our past, flipbooks, and tell a story about a particular story that ran and allow people to read it. But subscribers can go to any edition of the magazine and read through it at any time. So, all of this great history is there for the reader to have and it’s an American treasure. 

The Saturday Evening Post July 5, 1919

Samir Husni: With its history, you have a magazine that has witnessed the birth of radio, television, the Internet and digital. Do you have a sense of how the magazine coped with all of this new media, how it adjusted?

Steven Slon: I can talk about digital because that’s something that we’re involved in right now. It’s a good point, certainly, TV did not hurt The Post in the mid-century because – actually I can’t speak to that, I don’t know why. The publication is a different experience, reading a magazine and watching TV, those are two discrete things. 

I think that digital is hurting the basic news business because we learn things in minutes, in seconds. For example, Biden being declared the winner recently. Everybody was talking about that within seconds of its occurrence. In the early part of our existence, we reported on the death of Napoleon within two or three weeks, and that was fast then. (Laughs) So, it’s hurting that kind of reporting, but our well is featured stories that are timely, sensitive and relevant, but they’re not based on breaking news. As a bimonthly, one can’t be anyway. 

Jeff Nilsson: Starting in the 1920s radio was considered a novelty but certainly no challenge to print publications. And motion pictures were also really considered off the chart. They really weren’t going to be any threat to established media. By the late 1920s, they were reporting on radio broadcasting and the business with a bit more respect, but still the numbers were so high in the 1920s that they weren’t worried. But as sound came to motion pictures, it started to bite into the entertainment dollars of the United States.

And in the 1950s as television started up, they ran several articles to talk about how television was having trouble. It had trouble because the networks weren’t putting any money into television, they thought it would fail. But in the early reporting by The Post, they sort of stood back and considered it to be an unusual, two-headed dog of entertainment. They didn’t really take it seriously until the 1960s. 

The Saturday Evening Post responded to that by sort of giving television a bad edge and they talked about the cultural wasteland, which is what one of the famous critics of the 1960s called television. But by the mid-sixties, they realized that television was here to stay and that we would look stupid if we didn’t start covering television as part of our mix of editorial content. 

So, from that point on they did start taking it seriously, but I think that radio had started the drift away from print and even from what I’ve read the numbers of The Post had started to decline a little before the Second World War. With the Second World War though there was a paper shortage and the magazines were limited as to who could publish and who couldn’t. The Post had all the paper that it needed, though flimsy of stock, but they were able to enjoy a closed market and people were hungry for information during the war. So it boosted us up, but the plateau was not exactly level and it was declining somewhat. Even in the ‘50s when our numbers were still good, we got up to six and a half million in subscriptions in the early ‘60s, but even so they could realize that magazines weren’t growing at the same rate they used to. 

The Saturday Evening Post May 29, 1943

Samir Husni: As the magazine enters its third century, what’s the future for The Saturday Evening Post? 

Steven Slon: The future is we’re certainly growing our website, we’re 50 percent more traffic year over year. In the last two years, it’s just been going up exponentially. The challenge that we face is the lack of awareness that the publication is out there. We’re not on the newsstand right now because the cost of that is prohibitive. We don’t have a ton of financial backing to do that kind of thing. So, we have to be conservative in our business plans. Our readership is somewhat closed, we have 250,000 paid subscribers; our actual market share is bigger in the sense that over one million people read the magazine based on third party analysis of the pass-along rate. 

People read it, but that’s still a small percentage of the population. So, it’s somewhat hermetically sealed. Our readers love us and they enjoy it. It’s hard to get the word out to people beyond that. And we’re hoping in a way with our 200thanniversary we can get the word out. Hey, we’re still here and we’re incredibly vibrant and alive, interesting and diverse. 

Samir Husni: Do you have a story to tell that will shed this idea that the magazine is dead? 

Steven Slon: We have a story to tell and that is that we have an extraordinarily good magazine. For the price of a couple of ham sandwiches, you get a year’s subscription, $15. It’s a magazine that you can immerse yourself in. We have one of the highest rates of read-through. I was talking to our salespeople recently. When they’re tabbing the magazine they talk about the fact that people don’t read just one article, they immerse themselves, they read from cover-to-cover. A much higher rate than other magazines. 

Why is that? As an editor I want to say that it’s about the quality. It’s about good reporting, tight editing, respect for the reader, and again to clarify, we’re not a nostalgia magazine, we’re a magazine that shares its past,  but we’re a magazine about what’s going on today and the trends. I just think it’s a great magazine and I think quality is what makes a magazine sell and grow. And people have to hear about it, of course to do that. 

I can share a story. I was giving a talk about the history of the magazine, showing slides of the new covers and so on that we’re doing, keeping up the tradition of the great art covers of the past. And somebody raised their hand in the audience and asked, you’re completely online, so how do I get the magazine? And I said I’ve just been telling you for an hour that we’re still in print. But people have it in their heads that we’re not, so it’s hard to break through that.

Jeff Nilsson: I wanted to add something, and you mentioned this earlier; when The Post really started taking off it tried to reach a national audience in the 1800s, but particularly in the 1900s. And Curtis believed that there was an American taste. There was an average American that was interested in certain things and instead of breaking up the readership like McClure’s did or Harper’s or Atlantic which pitched itself to various sections of New England, he pitched it to the country. 

If you think about where the magazine is right now, we have at least 100 years, more than a hundred years, that we have really been reaching to American standard tastes. Now in an age of continual change, where there is so much that isn’t recognizable, The Post stands out as something that is more of a standard. This is how Americans have entertained and educated themselves for hundreds of years, and will keep going in that way. But now, in my mind, the phrase keeps coming back now more than ever when people are wondering what is it that defines being American, what is the American experience. We are probably as good a reflection as any magazine if not better. 

Steven Slon: And I’d like to add that there has been so much talk about digital replacing print completely, but in fact delving into a print publication with its design, all the multiple levels of interest that you have in a magazine, it’s not like anything else. And there is plenty of evidence that people are returning to print in great numbers. And I think that point can be shown in America. 

The Saturday Evening Post February 13, 1960

Samir Husni: With this rich history, how are you making use of it and how are you promoting it for a new generation? Is there a chance that The Saturday Evening Post will be considered a history of American taste or is it just a general interest magazine reflecting today’s marketplace?

Steven Slon: I think certainly it’s a history of pop cultural America and also a more serious part of American history. We created a regular column that Jeff writes called The Post Perspective and we feel we have this unique ability to show let’s say that a trend of today has antecedents in history. 

In 2008 to 2010, there was the economic crisis that we were facing and we could talk about the bank crisis of 1907 because we covered it. We did a story that showed the ups and downs of the banking system over the years and showed that these down moments were part of a cyclical trend rather than just a one-off event, which when in real life it appears we’re in the midst of a banking crisis and it seems to be a unique event, but in fact it has a history. 

In our current issue we have a small selection of some of the ads that ran in the 1950s that would be shocking if you saw them today. We actually say on our cover “Censored” 1950s ads. These are ads that portrayed women as domestic tools of the family whose only care and interest for Christmas gifts was to get a new vacuum or a new refrigerator, some tool of the trade. And men were juvenile, and not to mention we have pictures of cowboys and Indians, costumes for kids that were completely cultural appropriation and all that. 

And then of course, cigarette ads. There is this incredibly funny ad, a picture of Santa with a cigarette in his mouth, promoting the T-zone or whatever it was, what a good cigarette.

Samir Husni; And you can do that because you’re no longer on the newsstands. I remember when you did the Kennedy reprint, you could not put it on the newsstands because of the cigarette ads.

Steven Slon: I didn’t check into that, but you’re probably right. But I think because we’re showing it in a historical context, we’re not actually running an ad for cigarettes.  

Jeff Nilsson: You asked about the relevance of historical material. I have to keep reminding myself as a historian, I think this is all interesting. I always say that if you don’t know how you got here, you don’t know where you are. But when I think about the readers of The Post, I think about having visited some friends and they bring out their family album. Nothing is more boring than somebody’s family album. You don’t know any of these people. 

And American history is very much the same way. If you don’t know what’s going on it’s just a number of incoherent stories. Our job is to provide history that people can see a connection to, see how it affected their lives, see how it parallels with what is going on. And if we can’t do that then yes, we are a nostalgia magazine, but we’re making sure that this is relevant, that all the material in the vaults somehow touches on experiences and thoughts that people have today. And that’s our goal and that’s how we’re going to stay relevant.

The Saturday Evening Post August 8, 1964

Samir Husni: Can you see yourself as the bridge that connects yesterday with tomorrow?

Jeff Nilsson: Sure. I’ll take that exactly as it is. I’m going to copy that one. (Laughs) 

Samir Husni: Tell me about 2021, the celebrations. What’s in store? Will you be celebrating the entire year?

Steven Slon: The big issue will be the July/August issue because that’s the actual anniversary, but in each issue we’re going to have a selection on a theme. The first batch for the January issue will be a selection of some of the earliest stories and earliest reporting from the 19th century. So, reporting on the death of Napoleon, for example. On the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, we covered that. 

Jeff Nilsson: Yes, we got that to the newsstand within a week, which was very unusual.

Steven Slon: And then in future issues we’ll celebrate fiction. And I’ll read off a few names. This is the thing that people don’t realize, in the 19th century Edgar Allan Poe, James Fenimore Cooper, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Washington Irving and Mark Twain were all published in the magazine. 

In the 20th century Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, Call of the Wild was first published in The Saturday Evening Post before it was put out as a book, Ring Lardner, Ray Bradbury, Agatha Christie, Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald is a story unto himself, 68 stories published in The Saturday Evening Post over the years. The first story he was paid $400 which in the ‘20s was huge money. By the end of his tenure with The Post, he was being paid $4,000 per story. That was what some people made in a year then. So, a well-paid job. He was able to travel the world, squire Zelda around to their European extravagance, was criticized by other writers like Hemingway for frittering away his talents on short stories when he could have been writing novels, but he was being paid so well he didn’t need to. 

And then of course later, Kurt Vonnegut. And we had great reporting. In the sixties with the “new” journalism. We had the writers associated with the new journalism who wrote for The Post. 

Jeff Nilsson: Tom Wolfe and Joan Didion.

Steven Slon: Yes. Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, that was published in its entirety, it was assigned and published by The Post. Eisenhower’s memoirs was published in The Post, his war memoirs before he became president.

Samir Husni: Why are today’s magazines nothing like what magazines used to be? Unless you disagree with me and then if you could tell me how they are the same.

Steven Slon: There are some that are maintaining a style, culture and a tradition that dates back to their origins, such as The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, even The Smithsonian, which covers a range of subject matter with a historical slant. We’re going against the trend toward verticality because we can’t. It’s that simple. We couldn’t even begin to be a vertical, we have so many different strands of interest that we’d have to completely restart the magazine with a different theme. 

We can do it because we’re a nonprofit, we’re not just chasing the easiest dollar. Certainly with magazines today, many of them are purely a business operation, it’s let’s find interest groups and target them and it’s an easier sell. We’re targeting Americans in the broad sense. We could be a much bigger circulation .

The Saturday Evening Post Sept./October 2020

Samir Husni: We are seeing a huge increase in Black subjects on the covers and inside the pages of American magazines. We’ve seen more in the last 120 days than we have in probably the last 120 years. Any idea how The Saturday Evening Post dealt with diversity? Were minorities and people of color a part of the magazine?

Steven Slon: I’d say that we were similar to the historically other mainstream magazines in that I don’t think there was adequate representation of minorities. I would dispute the claim that some people make that The Post prohibited coverage of minorities. That is not true, I believe. 

I would add that today we are making it a renewed commitment to diversity. We have a big article coming in the next issue about a school that has made an extraordinary drive to increase diversity and support low-income students whoever they are without any concern for their ability to pay. And how they have created extraordinary change in their culture. 

We covered Black Lives Matter in our kids magazines this year. Actually, one of our kids magazines had an article, first-person story about teenaged kids who attended a Black Lives Matter demonstration over the summer and how they were moved by it. So, I think that has to be part of the conversation going forward. 

Jeff Nilsson: I’d like to also add that there are many things that The Post got wrong historically. They had some very unenlightened views on women and immigrants, but as far as Black people, they really have a long history of being a little bit more aware than the average publication,  going back to the 1800s when it was a solid abolitionist newspaper and was very much pushing for the civil rights of Black Americans and the end of slavery. 

In the 1900s they were reporting on how the Black vote was being suppressed in the South. In 1917 they were talking about Black troops and how they had acquitted themselves with such honor that they were showing up the white troops that they were serving alongside of. In the 1940s they were saying that this was their country too and Blacks should be able to serve in combat roles. Starting in the Civil Rights movement we had a number of pieces talking about the Freedom Riders in the South and the young people who were getting involved. We had a piece by Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Steven Slon: There was a cover story on Malcolm X and we also did an in depth story about Jackie Robinson and the behind-the-scenes planning that led to his being placed in the Major Leagues. There was some subterfuge involved and they pretended he was being prepared for a Minor League team when in fact the plan was to put him in a Major League team. 

Samir Husni: Thank you both. 

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A Christmas Quiz From A Century Ago…

November 30, 2020

Tomorrow is Dec. 1, 2020. The beginning of the end for 2020. Traveling through the magazine-time-machine back to December 1920… A Christmas Quiz From A Century Ago…
Magazines were the only interactive medium available. Take a look at this December 1920 issue of The Ropeco (pronounced Ro-Peek-O) magazine carried within its pages a Christmas puzzle challenging the young boys (the magazine’s audience) to solve. The Ropeco was a monthly digest-sized magazine published by Rogers Peet Company in New York City “in the interests of their younger friends.”
Below is the magazine cover and the puzzle. It will be fun to see if today’s adults, let alone “our younger friends” can tackle a puzzle like this one. Enjoy and let me know if you figure it out. Enjoy.

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