Archive for May, 2009


A new PRINT magazine for university students? Say it ain’t so…

May 28, 2009

It is not an oxymoron. A new PRINT magazine aimed at college kids by college kids. Yes, yes I know, but please keep on reading… University Link magazine describes itself as “an edgy, fun and socially conscious magazine written exclusively for college students by college students that informs and entertains.” When I heard of the newly launched monthly last April, I had to take a double take. A print magazine for college kids! Didn’t all the “media pundits” tell us that college kids are no longer interested in print, and if they are interested, than it is only in free print. So why on earth will someone, anyone, launch a new monthly magazine aimed at college kids and written by college kids and, to top it all, has the guts to charge for it $20.00 for 10 issues.

Well I took my questions to Ali Salomi the managing director and co-publisher of the Southern California based magazine and here’s what he had to say:

Samir Husni: A print magazine for college students? Isn’t this concept outdated? Some say college kids don’t use print anymore? Care to comment…

Ali Salomi: We don’t believe this concept is outdated. We have three years of research that we completed prior to launching this magazine that gave us enough confidence in welcoming the phrase “Print is Dead.” We found that other than local school papers, there really isn’t any print media aimed only at college students. We felt that by publishing a magazine that was edgy and entertaining and at the same time informative we would capture our readers’ attention.

We have street teams that are on college campuses everyday to sell subscriptions and to take surveys from students to find out what they want to read about. We wanted to design a magazine with the reader in mind and because we’re generating income with our subscriptions we’re not beholden to our advertisers for content. We keep the students and their interests first.

We charge the students $20 per year (10 issues) for our subscriptions and DO NOT publish any of our stories FREE on the web. We are the ONLY subscriber-based, college-magazine in Southern California.

With our first issue we had 12,000 subscribers, and our second 15,000. We are forecasting 20,000 subscribers by our September issue and 30,000 by year’s end. For a magazine that just launched (and the first we’ve published), these numbers are incredible. Our reader responses have been amazing and the flood of email from students asking to write for us is always nice as well. Students regularly report to our street team how nice it is to take a “break” from school and read the magazine between and sometimes even in class.

SH: Why is the magazine limited to Southern California and what are the expansion plans?

AS: The magazine is currently limited to Southern California. We did this for two reasons; one was to make sure that the voice of the magazine remains the voice of Southern California college students. It speaks to them in their own lingo and covers subjects within their own communities. We also wanted to assist student writers within the Southern California region. All our stories are written by college students. We are trying to give students a leg to stand on when they enter the world of journalism. By writing for our magazine they will gain hands-on experience while still in school.

The second reason we are only in Southern California is for our advertisers. There are many companies that are located in Southern California who don’t need a nationwide advertising campaign. By advertising in our magazine, they are able to hit a niche 18-24 year old demographic within their own region.

Our expansion plan is to cap off at 50,000 subscribers in Southern California then open up to another major market. Once in another major market, we will publish a magazine only for that area, i.e. University Link Magazine: Miami Edition, it will be a different magazine with different writers and different content. We will use student writers from that area. Our long-term goal is to target 10 major U.S. markets.

SH: What innovative things you consider yourself doing launching ULM?

AS: We consider ourselves the first paid, subscriber-based magazine targeting college students; that is also written by college students. We will strive to keep our advertising costs low, so that local businesses can advertise in a high quality publication.

Best of all, starting in September, we will be launching our “Editor Internship Program.” This will be a 5-month internship program where we will select five students to work with University Link Magazine. During these five months, each student will be able to edit one of our next five issues with the other four interns learning and assisting. The five interns will be working directly with our Managing Editor, Taylor Van Arsdale, who has more than 15 years of editorial experience.

The covers above are those of the first and second issues of the magazine.


A rainbow of colors, some fox(es) and a wizard of a president, make a great coffee table display

May 27, 2009

This is one of those blogs where a picture is worth at least 900 words. Three magazines and 12 covers makes the perfect dozen to adore your coffee table and start quite a conversation. V magazine’s special swimsuit issue by Mario Tastino shed some new light and color on an old topic; Uptown magazine provides its readers with three different covers starring no other than Mr. Foxx himself; and Wizard magazine goes for their regular 3-way split with yet another collector’s edition cover featuring President Obama and the First Lady. The other two deal with other super-heroes and a Fox. So take a peek, walk to the newsstands, pick up a copy or 12, display them on your coffee table and let the conversation start.


Newsweek of 2009 is no different than Newsweek of 1933?

May 21, 2009

NewsweekFirstIssueNewsweektocNewsweekNewweekWhat if I tell you that the reinvention of Newsweek dates back to 1933. After I read all the media reports regarding the “reinvented and rethought NEWSWEEK” I decided to go into my archives and dig up the first issue of Newsweek dated Feb. 17, 1933. You can always learn about the future from looking (and hopefully) learning from the past.

The 1933 magazine’s logo separated the News from the Week with a hyphen. The 2009 Newsweek’s table of contents eliminated the S from Newsweek leaving it as a New Week. The 1933 magazine was divided into five sections: The Front Page, The News-Week at Home, The News-Week Abroad, Headliners, and The News-Week in Sports, Business and Entertainment. The 2009 magazine is divided into four sections: Scope, The Take, Features and Culture. The examples of the frontispieces (or the splash pages as we call them now) of the 1933 and the 2009 are anything but the same treatment with the added factor of the 76 years of advances in print and color technologies.

Scope (for short-form pieces) in the new magazine is what The News-Week at Home and Abroad used to be in the original Newsweek. The Take in the new magazine is what The Front Page was in the original Newsweek; analysis of the news of the week. The only difference is in The Take you have the columnist names; in the original it was all Newsweek’s. Culture in the new Newsweek is what The News-Week in Sports, Books, Media, etc. were in the original Newsweek.
So how is the new Newsweek different from the old Newsweek? Better paper, better design, better pictures, higher cover and subscription prices (see PS below) and in the words of its editor Jon Meacham “As we see it, Newsweek’s role is to bring you as intellectually satisfying and as visually rich an experience as the great monthlies of old did, whether it was Harold Hayes’s Esquire or Willie Morris’s Harper’s, but on a weekly basis.”

However, if we believe that readers’ time and attention are our biggest competitors, one must ask, is Newsweek as “a monthly on a weekly basis,” going to fare better than the weekly, turned monthly, U.S. News & World Report? If time (no pun intended) is of no concern to either magazine, I can’t but wonder, what about TIME (pun intended)? I guess the survival of the fittest rules in the magazine world, the same as it does in all other industries. At least no one is comparing TIME to The Economist or Martha Stewart Living for that matter.

PS: All the changes to Newsweek do not come without a change in the price of the magazine. The cover price is now $5.95 (almost $320.00 for a year) with an 87% discounted annual subscription of $40.00. Just for the curious folks out there, the cover price in 1933 was 10 cents (almost $5.20 for a year) with a 22% discounted annual subscription of $4.00. The newsstand price grew by almost 6,000% while the subscription grew by only 1,000%. Go figure.


Yes, Bob. There is innovation in print: A micro magazine called Abe’s Penny

May 20, 2009

Innovation in print is well, alive and kicking. Abe’s Penny: A micro magazine created by Anna and Tess Knoebel, is the latest of such innovation. Each volume of Abe’s Penny “contains four postcards that subscribers receive one by one, once per week, for one month. Each postcard features an image and a few lines of text. The full set of four postcards is a full story.”

This new magazine caught my attention and provided a nice answer to my friend Bob Sacks who spoke earlier in the week in Colorado and defined the word magazine as anything but ink on paper. So, Bob, read my interview with Anna Knoebel and, please, come down from you high horse and discover the beauties (and money making) advantages of ink on paper. (By the way Bob, can you name ten magazines with no ink on paper editions that are making any considerable amount of money? I can name hundreds if not thousands of ink on paper magazines that are making a lot of money, even in this depressed economy).

Well, enough of Bob and plenty of Anna and her Abe’s Penny. I asked Anna:

SH: What was the idea behind Abe’s Penny?

AK: Why does anyone start a magazine? The idea definitely didn’t start with, “Let’s figure out a way to sell advertising.” We were looking for a way to communicate. Abe’s Penny starts a conversation. First, between the artist and the writer, then between the result of their work and the person who reads it.

SH: In this age of digital and digital social networks, what do you
expect to achieve with Abe’s Penny and how do you propose to do that?

AK: Our current aim is simple: to pursue the dialogue. Of course, any print publication competes with online, but we’ve received such positive feedback. People still want tangible things. Another really positive result of starting Abe’s Penny has been discovering communities of people working to preserve letter writing / mail art: Postcrossing, The Letter Writers Alliance, PodPost, etc.

SH: Is there future for print or you are just “yet another crazy print lover”?

AK: We don’t consider ourselves fanatical about print. It’s more about recognizing a common desire to share experiences, and then providing space — in our case a postcard — where those experiences can be shared. It’s nothing new. It doesn’t matter whether you find it online, in something you hold, in people you meet, but it matters that you find it. Is there a future for print? Books have been around since something like 2400 BC. Seems like print will last.


Form follows function at Good Housekeeping: A Q and A with Publisher Pat Haegele

May 19, 2009

First it was the content, now it is the format… talk about common sense! Few in our industry actually still utilize common sense as a strategy to achieve what is needed in today’s magazine world, and Good Housekeeping is one of those few. The first step came in April 2007 when the content of the magazine was revamped and now the magazine plans to revamp the format (physical size) of the magazine: form following function. Although the official changes will not take place until next year, the magazine continues to test the new size and cover price in limited areas of the United States. The examples above show the June issue of GH in both sizes and cover prices.
Pat Haegele 3-2004 CI asked Pat Haegele, the first woman publisher in the history of the 124 year-old Good Housekeeping, few questions regarding the changes at the magazine.

Q. In a market where everyone else is trimming the size of their publications, you are increasing the size, why and why now?

A. We see this as a huge opportunity to make a long-term investment in our brand. Good Housekeeping’s mission has always been to provide the best service in the form of advice and tips for saving time and hassle, and our 25 million readers clearly trust our content and our voice. We’re always looking for new ways to add value, and by increasing our size, we are able to provide readers with a more pleasurable aesthetic – what our editor in chief Rosemary Ellis calls “a visual vacation” – and make Good Housekeeping that much more satisfying. Our newsstand tests proved that readers clearly saw the increased value and were willing to pay for it.

Q. I have noticed that you are reducing the circulation and raising the cover price. Are you going to increase the sub prices as well?

A. We’ve found that once people are introduced to the magazine, they become loyal, long-term subscribers. Right now, we are looking closely at our sub file, and eliminating those sources that renew at very low rates. The next step will be increasing the longer-term subscription prices.

Q. With such a mass audience GH reaches, what are some of the innovative ways you are doing to keep that audience, increase the audience and maximize the brand?

A. We engage our current readers and attract new ones by spotlighting the incredible work we do at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, which is at the heart of the unique value proposition our readers connect with so deeply. For 100 years, the Good Housekeeping Seal has been a hallmark of the magazine’s promise of quality. Every product that has earned the Seal has been evaluated by the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, our state-of-the-art laboratory, staffed with engineers, scientists, chemists and nutritionists who are dedicated to protecting consumers by testing products for safety and efficacy. Products with the Seal carry a limited warranty: if the product proves to be defective within two years of purchase, Good Housekeeping will replace the item or refund the consumer. The same holds true for every product advertised in the magazine: if it does not clear the Institute, the ad does not run. And if a product currently advertising doesn’t perform as it claims, Good Housekeeping will replace it or refund the consumer within two years of purchase. There is no other magazine that offers this kind of assurance.

This year, to celebrate the Seal’s 100th birthday, we opened the Research Institute for public tours so consumers can see first-hand all of the careful work we do. We started by offering one monthly tour, but the response was so great that we quickly doubled that, giving two tours a month.

Another initiative is the Green Good Housekeeping Seal, an environmental extension to the existing Seal. At a time when there is no universal definition of “green,” the Green Good Housekeeping Seal will evaluate products based on their measurable environmental impact and offer consumers guidance about buying truly green products. It is now in beta testing and we plan to roll out the first Green Good Housekeeping Seal holders later this year. With so many products claiming to be green, consumers are confused by, and even mistrustful of, many product promises, and we feel a responsibility to help them make the wisest and healthiest choices. Of course, a product that earns the Green Good Housekeeping Seal must have to first pass the Institute’s evaluations and earn the original Seal.

Q. What is the future of print and where do you see GH five years from now?

A. Magazines provide a sensory experience that no other medium can, which accounts for the passion readers have for their favorite titles: it’s why we’re investing in that sensory experience to grow our brand following. Now more than ever, magazines are truly brands, and it is essential to take a 360° approach. For Good Housekeeping, this means a vibrant Web site, filled with information and how-to on everything: health, beauty, recipes, parenting and more, our one-hour television specials that are attracting more viewers than ever before and partnerships that resonate with our readers. Good Housekeeping will always be the trusted and reliable resource for consumers and the leader in consumer advocacy, with the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, the Seal and now the Green Good Housekeeping Seal. (Picture to the right of the current size of GH on top of the new size).


In an interview with Industry Intelligence: Husni on all things print, web, the future and innovation

May 17, 2009

“If we really want to amplify the future of print, we should not leave any stone unturned.” That was my concluding statement in a lengthy interview with Industry Intelligence Inc., for its Executive Perspective newsletter, I answered a host of questions regarding the future of print, the web, the Magazine Innovation Center and the magazine industry as whole. Industry Intelligence Inc. mission, in the words of its CEO Rami Ghandour, is “To do anything in life successfully, you need the right information at your fingertips. Our cross-enterprise system ensures that all types of information users, in every position in a business, have information they need, when they need it, and how they need it.”

What follows are excerpts of the Q and A with me in the May 2009 issue of Industry Intelligence Executive Perspective:

Industry Intelligence: With some newspapers either shifting online or completely closing, do you see a similar fate befalling the magazine industry?

Samir Husni: I gave a speech maybe three years ago, and the very first slide I showed was: Newspapers in America aren’t dying; they’re committing suicide. And magazines are starting to do the same thing. It’s what I call the shovel policy— everything I have, I give it to you for free on the Web site and charge you for print. I have to be stupid to continue buying your print product, so we have nobody to blame but ourselves when we offer this great content that we create for free. I think we’ve made two major mistakes. We did not think digital, we were thinking print on the Web, so our industry did not look at the Web and say, “What are the strengths of pixels on a screen that I cannot have in print?” All we tried to do was imitate this on the screen. Then we decided it costs nothing to start a Web site compared to print. If somebody comes to me and says. “I want to start a new magazine,” one of the first things I ask for is, “Show me the business plan, your entry and exit strategy, the plan for the content, the budget.” When someone wants to start a Web site, they sit down on their computer and create a Web site. But we didn’t have a business strategy that says: I’m in the business to make money, and if
I’m going to create great content, somebody has to pay the price.

IndustryIntel: What would you say about the magazines that have closed or shifted completely online?

SH: Whether it’s Teen People, CosmoGirl, Elle Girl, all these magazines that they killed in the last few years, they said we’re going to be on the Web now. Where are they? The Web has been the best excuse for someone to kill a magazine that had no audience or was just given away. When they folded Blender—what did they say? We’re going to be on the Internet only. Give it six months … if you are a print product, you are not going to survive on the Web. It should be a crime when you have a magazine like Hallmark that had doubled its circulation in one year, from 400,000 to 800,000, and had increased its ad pages 35% from last year to this year for the company to say, “We looked at the future, and the future does not look good, so we’re not going to continue publishing.” For you not to be able to continue publishing a magazine with 800,000 subscribers—there’s something wrong with that picture, and it’s not the ink on paper, it’s the publishing model.

IndustryIntel: Do you think it was premature for some of these magazines to close?

SH: It’s not only premature, it’s also the publishing model [that says], I’m going to make all my money from advertising, put all my eggs in one basket and then saying, the advertising is going to dry up and I’m not making any money from circulation. This model worked so well for us since World War II until September 2008 when the economy busted.
The majority of our revenue had come from advertising—80%, 90%—so we ended up being in the business of counting customers and taking that number and giving it to the advertisers. So what I’m saying is we have to stop and start finding customers who should be willing and able to pay the high price of the product. Look at The Economist—it’s a news weekly like Time, like Newsweek. Their circulation is up, their advertising is up, and people pay $129 to subscribe to the magazine.

IndustryIntel: Aren’t publishers worried that people won’t pay a premium for a print magazine, especially with competing mediums like TV and the Internet?

SH: Look at the book industry. Book sales were up in Europe last year—book sales in the first two months were up in Germany 2.3%, up in France 2.4%. We were down in America 1% mainly because in ‘07, we had this giant book called Harry Potter that sold millions. So you give me something relevant, I will pick it up. If you tell me, here is this book that you can pay $29.95 or you can go download this on your computer for free … it’s just pure common sense. The Internet companies make you feel that you’re getting all this free stuff, but you’re actually paying a price of connectivity. The average household pays $30 (a month) just to be connected to the Internet on a daily basis. But you don’t think about the monthly fee. You don’t think I’ll multiply that $30 times 12—do you know how many magazines and newspapers you can get for $30 a month? And then the publishing industry came and told those utility companies, “You want to fill in that space, let me give you stuff for free and you collect the money.” It’s like printing the newspapers and giving it to the truck drivers and telling the drivers to go ahead and keep the money.

IndustryIntel: Can the U.S. market sustain 7,000 consumer magazines?

SH: Those 7,000 are in a constant state of change. Last year, we had 715 new titles come into the marketplace in 2008. Probably half of them will die before 2009 is over, but another 700 or 800 will come this year. It’s a cycle. It keeps on coming and going, and that’s nothing new. It’s been like this since 1741 before radio, before television, before the Internet.

IndustryIntel: But there is evidence that we’re entering unprecedented times in terms of closing print newspapers and other publications.

SH: I gave an example yesterday to a group of journalism students in Jackson, Missssippi. I said, “Imagine The New York Times or USA Today or any major metropolitan papers as a nice mansion and then somebody in that neighborhood decided to build a swimming pool, and of course, the word spread. Everybody wants to build a swimming pool, so everybody starts digging. Everybody hires the best contractors to build the most amazing swimming pool. They put in the diving board, and they heard someone say jump and they jumped. Oops, we forgot to fill the swimming pool with water.” That’s exactly what we did with the Internet. We went in with no business plan. We went in with no thinking. We went in because everyone else was going in and we gave away all of our content. And now we are complaining why nobody is buying our newspapers, why circulation is down.

IndustryIntel: Still, isn’t it a terrible time to start a magazine right now?

SH: It’s the best time. When the economy is bad, when everybody is shrinking, when the big media companies are at a standstill, that’s the best time to start a new magazine because it’s going to take one to two years for that magazine to evolve and establish itself. Then you hope in two years, the economy will pick up and you’re ready for that marketplace. Historically speaking, some of the best magazines in this country were started in the worst of times. Fortune started in the midst of the Depression in 1930; Reader’s Digest and Time Magazine in the ‘20s; Esquire and BusinessWeek in the ‘30s during the war.

IndustryIntel: Why did you create the magazine think tank?

SH: One, I can’t believe an industry as big as we are in this country has lost our minds and decided to commit mass suicide. The minute I heard about Hallmark … I used them as an example for the launch of a new magazine. I was speaking at the same press conference with the minister of media in Belgium, and I gave Hallmark as an example of a success story. Two weeks ago, they sent me an e-mail saying they doubled their circulation and their ad pages, and then I come back from Belgium and I get this e-mail that they’re killing the magazine. I said, there’s something crazy about this industry.

IndustryIntel: Was the closure of Hallmark Magazine the first spark for this idea?

SH: I had the idea a long time ago, but that was like, “This is it, I have to do it.” I don’t want to be chair of the [journalism] department anymore. I just want to teach and I want to do this. I made my announcement and my note to my boss and said I’m stepping down in June and I’m going to raise some money for the center. I hope I can raise $1 million. We’ll have a board of advisers, a board of directors. I have three CEOs from printing companies who are very interested in taking part. I’m not going to say no to anybody who’s willing to come here, sit down, and think for a day or two on how we can innovate our business. We’ll have very specific topics, whether it’s distribution, single copy sales, printing, innovations in printing … we’ll have people from the tech industry, and we need to get their ideas. If we really want to amplify the future of print, we should not leave any stone unturned.


As Newsweek changes to be the next Economist…

May 15, 2009

It is ironic as Newsweek gets ready to unveil its new reinvention and design, that on the magazine’s web page announcing the new and improved Newsweek, there is an ad for The Economist magazine offering readers a trial subscription for the magazine that Newsweek is said to imitate in its new reinvention. Take a look at a captured screen from Newsweek below.
newsweek web page with the economist ad


The Mr. Magazine™ Interview: Seth Semilof of Haute Living: A Recession-Resilient Magazine Publishing Model

May 12, 2009

Is there such a thing as a recession-resilient market in our magazine business? Well, for one publisher, Seth Semilof of Haute Living series of magazines, recession-resilient is the key word he built his entire publishing model on. Semilof, together with his partner Kamal Hotchandani, launched earlier this year their fourth edition of the upscale magazine Haute Living. The magazine is now published in four U.S. cities: Miami, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. (Photo: Semilof with Gordon Getty practicing what he preaches)

SH: You hear some people saying that the affluent market is becoming a nightmare instead of a dream, and here you are launching a fourth edition of Haute Living magazine in a fourth major city, acting as if there is nothing wrong with the industry. Why is that?

HauteLiving1SS: We consider ourselves recession-resilient. That’s the word we classify it as – recession-resilient. We believe that there is something going on that is wrong with the economy, but, at the end of the day, it impacts someone like Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, or Madonna differently. Yesterday Madonna closed on a $40 million home. The very, very affluent, upper one percent of people we’ve always wanted to reach, still have money. They’re still going to buy nice cars. They’re still going to buy nice watches. They’re still going to buy these types of things. I personally believe that, because of this crazy economy, luxury is going to actually become more of what real luxury is. I was with one of the owners of Mercedes, and he was explaining that 40 percent of leases for the C-Series ended in repossession while the more-expensive S-Series only had eight percent repossessed. We’ve always hit our niche and that’s all. We’ve continued to hit our niche. Our niche is simple. In each market, we mail to homes with incomes in excess of $5 million. We hit the private fliers on over 10,000 private jet flights per month. We are in high-end hotels, high-end boutiques, and retail traffic stores. We feel that if we hit those three areas, then we’ve hit what we [call the] money in motion. Our strategy is not trying to hit someone who lived in a $6 million home three years ago, lost his business, and now he’s out—our advertisers don’t want to hit that guy. Our advertisers want to hit the guy that is living in a $6 million home now. We were able to hit him. Launching in San Francisco wasn’t easy at all. It was very hard and very costly, but, in a short period of time, we’ve built a brand with recognition.

SH: A lot of people told us that print is dead, and everything is now going digital. At the same time, you are continuing to launch print magazines. You have “H-Interactive.” You have extended your presence on the Web and are continuing to add things. What are you doing to innovate in print and the Web, and how do you differentiate the two entities?

SS: I do not believe print is dead. I believe print has changed. Things change, and you have to change with them. I think some print publications are in trouble, [particularly] the ones that give you daily information. But for us, it helps us, because we have built the brand for the magazine, because we go to people’s mailboxes and private jets, [and we] use the Internet to our advantage. We’ve built a section called Haute Interactive Media where we’ve built many websites:,,,, and Each website is niche related and updated daily, but also promotes our advertisers, promotes our editorial stories and educates our readers. It also provides the best news on yachts, jets, etc. We use the Internet to complement the magazine and to go to our advertisers with a larger package.

SH: What is your biggest challenge now in the marketplace?

HauteLiving2SS: To be honest with you, this economy was great in building our character. The last six or seven months it’s been hard. A lot of our competitors that were 800-pound gorillas and had a lot of money are now struggling or out of business. That is interesting, because six months ago, when I was speaking to advertisers, 100 magazines had classified themselves as luxury brands. Everyone was pitching to advertisers a lot of stuff that I felt was not possible. I used to tell that to advertisers. Now, those companies that claimed they were doing all these great things are out of business, because they weren’t doing those things. And I think given our brand more credibility. In this tough time, we can make it. Today my partner in the magazine secured a very large deal, a monumental deal for my magazine. We signed up to be guaranteed on 10,000 private jet flights a month in 13 major cities around the world. Whether you like it or not, someone that has the money to spend $75,000 to fly one way from L.A. to New York has to have money to buy watches, cars and so forth. And some of our advertisers, Rolls Royce, Cartier and East Coast Jewelers, are still getting amazing results. We just had a client who had an $8.5 million piece of property in Miami put an ad in my magazine. A gentleman on a Net Jet flight saw the magazine, loved the property, bought it sight unseen and paid 8.5 million dollars cash for the property, just through an advertisement in my magazine. This was all because the guy picked our magazine. He was from London. He had just been in Palm Beach on a business trip and wanted to buy that island because it was about 45 minutes away from Miami. I believe print works. I believe now, just like in all businesses, the best are going to survive and a lot will not, but print is by no means dead.

SH: What is your philosophy in picking up the cities. You started in Florida, then New York, then L.A and now in San Francisco. Is there a method to the madness?

SS: To be honest, there is no method to our madness. I looked where my competition wasn’t. At the end of the day, I liked Chicago, but I saw two of my competitors were in Chicago and I didn’t want to be the third. So, the reason why I picked San Francisco was because I didn’t see much competition. There is a lot of wealth in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Marin, and Napa, as I felt this market was lacking a magazine like Haute Living, that would connect each city, and give content that would appeal to most of our readers. Plus, that is where I am from, and it was exciting to go back and build something in a market I live for over 8 years. We only saw one major player in San Francisco, and we felt the market was big enough to have a second player. The same thing happened with New York and so forth. We just studied where our competition was and we stayed away from areas that were heavily polluted.

SH: I know there is a lot of local content in each of the magazines, but at the same time, there is a cross breeding of editorial content among the magazines. There are some articles that transcend the city. How is that decision being made? Is there a formula?

SS: We have built an interesting formula. We share content that write about private jets, private yachts, exclusive jewelry stories, and so forth. Most people in all our markets are interested in reading this type of editorial, from the latest Rolls Royce 200EX, to Cartier’s new watch, to the new trends in men suits. If you live in L.A., Miami, San Francisco or New York, it doesn’t matter to you. This content appeals to everyone, in most major cities. We kept the same name to build the brand, but changed content on a regional level. A lot of our clients drive Rolls Royce’s, so it’s all the same to them. If you live in Miami Beach or Newport Beach, you still are interested in the same type of boats, as they are international brands. We just did an amazing story on a writer visiting the corporate headquarter of Patek in Switzerland. Most of our readers are Patek customers, and found this story very interesting and appealing. What we deliver is what our reader wants.

SH: How did you come up with this idea? What made you wake up one day and say “Aha! There is a void. There is a niche. There is something in the marketplace that no one is doing.”

HauteLiving3SS: That’s a very good question. I moved back to Miami to be with my ex-girlfriend. I wanted to get involved in real estate, but I didn’t want to actually sell real estate. I decided to launch a real estate magazine, that would promote listings over $2 million in Miami. I was a big fan of Ocean Drive magazine, the major player in Miami, but a lot of people that I knew weren’t really Ocean Drive readers. I believe that Ocean Drive and my magazine can complement each other. A lot of people when they launch magazines will fight and compete with the big guys. We always complemented them and said, “You should buy ads and read both my magazine and Ocean Drive.” We tried not to copy and do what everyone else does. We tried to build our own niche and brand. A lot of people argued with us and a lot of people thought we were crazy when we launched the magazine. We wouldn’t accept ads that we felt didn’t merit the attention of our readers. If you go look at most of the ads, they’re all name brands. We turn down at least 10 percent of the ads every month if we don’t feel they meet the criteria of our readers. It’s almost like a very high-end nightclub, where they don’t let a lot of people in, but the people they do let in are the quality names. I think that’s how we kind of built our brand. I saw a void in Miami, and I started the magazine and then I got involved with my partner, Kamal Hotchandani. He was able to take Haute Living to the next level. We then decided to build the publication in Miami for the next year, and then launch in New York. After success with New York, we launch Los Angeles, and then San Francisco this year. This has been a thought out process, for the past four years.

SH: What makes Seth get out of the bed every morning and do what you’re doing?

SS: Basically, I love what I do. My partner, Kamal and myself, we love what we do. We love building a brand from scratch. I like when we go into a market and people think we are crazy. I like the challenge. I believe in our product. I believe that the product actually works and the product benefits our advertisers. That is what is so exciting. I constantly hear success stories about advertisers. Getting a lot of new business and making money through Haute Living.

SH: What advice would you give to someone fresh, new? Prestige New York just published its first issue, Niche Media continue publishing and expandiing, and, like you said, everybody wants to be in the luxury market.

HauteLiving4SS: Niche Media is a fine organization. I’m a huge fan of Jason Binn and Jerry Powers. I think Jason Binn and Jerry Powers are the godfathers of luxury magazines. What they accomplished is amazing. Jason built his niche, and I think his brand is going to continue to build and go into cities. If I talked to any young publisher, I would tell them, the only way you’re going to make it happen is if you’re selling, building the edit, and distributing. The only reason Kamal and I built our brand is because we were the ones that got the amazing editorial content, that gave us credibility. You can’t buy the story. What people think is that they can get a million dollars, hire a big editor, hire a big sales guy and build a brand. You can’t. If I had to give advice to anybody, the advice is look at how Jerry Powers and Jason Binn build their business. They build it from scratch. When they launched Ocean Drive, they would put blood and sweat. They built everything on their own. I think anyone who wants to make it in publishing should do it on their own. You have to put blood and sweat into it, and you can’t hire somebody to make it successful. I believe if someone has a passion, they can make it happen. I believe a magazine is like a restaurant. Nine out of ten restaurants close within the year. The owner is what makes a restaurant successful. That’s my humble opinion. We’ve done well, and we’ve never tried to buy people to build it.

SH: How far have you come from where you first launched and today

SS: I look at the magazine just for fun. We continue to get better. I think people like us because we grow with our readers. I have advertisers called the “Jills” that are the most successful realtors in Miami. They’ve been with me since day one. They buy two to four pages each issue. Good or bad they’re with me, and we’ve delivered. They can call me up and call Kamal up, and we’re around. Same with Rolls Royce, as we have developed a great partnership, along with friendship. I also take a lot in pride in the team we have built. I have a great Art Department, Editorial Department, and back end that makes our company special. Most of our people have been with us for the past couple of years, as they have been a huge part of our success.

SH: One final question Seth. How many people have you let go since the downturn of the economy?

SS: On the sales side, the only people that I’ve laid off are under-performers. Sales is the most important part of this business, and we have been able to rebuild our team, and hire some great regional people that believe in Haute Living, and are going to help take our brand to the next level. We’ve hired seven new sales people in the last 90 days. It is very humbling, as they all give credibility to Haute Living, which speaks about the hard work Kamal and myself have invested into building Haute Living. We have kept our back office team, editorial team, and distribution team intact.


More good news: a weekly LA Times magazine

May 10, 2009

Today witnessed the debut of LA Etcetera, the new weekly magazine distributed on Sundays inside the pages of the LA Times newspaper. The weekly will appear on the weeks where the monthly magazine LA is not. Annie Gilbar, the magazine’s editor in chief, wrote in the debut issue, “The response to LA, Los Angeles Times Magazine, has been overwhelming and immensely rewarding. So in answer to your pleas of “Why is the magazine only a monthly?” we present the debut issue of LA Etcetera, bringing you MORE of what you have been wanting.”
A welcomed good news for the newspaper industry in the midst of all the doom and gloom. Thank you Annie for bringing us MORE in these times of less.


37 good things I have learned from the 37th FIPP World Magazine Congress

May 10, 2009

I just came back from London after attending the 37th FIPP World Magazine Congress. Here are the 37 good things I have learned from the conference. You will notice that I have focused on the positive things, since media reporters and pundits alike chose to focus on every negative statement that was made in the Congress. Take those 37 positive statements and compare them with you’ve read and heard from the rest of the media world, and I can assure you that you will see, as I do, the cup as half full and not have empty.
All of the following 37 statements come directly from the different speeches and panel discussions that were held during the two-day event in London on May 5 and 6:

1. It is important to adapt a long-term perspective and to accept the short-term decline.
2. Magazine companies will continue to acquire publications and will emerge leaner but better able to compete in the years ahead.
3. The magazine industry may find a new role after one or two false starts
4. By the 4th quarter of 2009 the advertising issues will hit bottom; by 2010 it will be flat.
5. Journalism is an extremely expensive business.
6. The music has suddenly stopped and now we are having a cold shower. In the magazine world the problem is the economy.
7. The digital model (we have now) is a dumb model: putting dollars to chase cents.
8. Increasing traffic to your site is not a trade off: you can’t monetize traffic.
9. The web is a great enabler.
10. Continue to make sure that you are producing quality content (and not just content) and enduring brand. Keep the brand relevant.
11. Continue to invest in valuable editorial content. Content others can’t replicate.
12. If all publishers agree to charge for content, what would Google do?
13. We will still launch new magazines: it is still a very good business.
14. Even newspapers will have longevity.
15. Great magazines are not simply great content; they have a heart and a soul and they will be with us for a long, long time.
16. Magazines have the ability to have an intellectual exchange with the readers.
17. You can’t substitute the magazine experience; it is a treat and is welcomed in your private space.
18. Magazines provide a quality reflective experience and a beautiful thing to have.
19. Do not call the established media traditional media; call it Analog.
20. Do not blame digital and keep in mind it is not yet time for obituaries.
21. Take complete advantage of your brand.
22. Do not stand still.
23. Unlike many sectors, Gucci will see a decrease in luxury online spending.
24. Magazines are still useful, relevant and interesting.
25. Digital and online are like a “successful parasite that does not kill its host.”
26. Google is not a media company; it is a technology company.
27. Magazines are robust and tactical products. The best lifestyle package to sell every issue.
28. Select your best brands and invest in them.
29. The current crisis should help us innovate and find new sources of revenue.
30. The brand DNA should transfer to the web; not the ink on paper magazine.
31. Once you feel safe you should start thinking about the incoming danger.
32. Paper provides emotional engagement and attention: the so called “Did you see moment?”
33. Print is a moment in time. We need to get consumers to value that moment.
34. Content creates conversation; utility creates engagement. Only outstanding content is king and queen.
35. Those who believe that paper and print will disappear, there is only one word to pronounce – nonsense
36. Don’t waste the crisis. Use the time to start thinking. Take advantage of magazines great brands. Magazines have built communities long before the internet started.
37. Ten years from now we will remember the current situation as one of the greatest financial opportunity in the history of our magazine industry.

So, ladies and gentlemen, here you have it in 37 simple aforementioned statements that I hope will push us to innovate and amplify the future of our magazine industry. We are not dead yet, and we will not be for a long, long time.

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