Archive for June, 2009


Mainstreaming The Week…

June 25, 2009

The Week UKThe Week New USAThe Week Old USA
As Felix Dennis’ The Week continues to spread its wings across the globe (a new Australian edition published earlier this year) and a possible Canadian edition later, in addition to the British and American editions, the US edition just revealed a new cover look that makes the magazine closer to the look of its British counterpart. The cover sports a skyline of topics rather the older left side rail approach. It is easier to read and is more single copy friendly. The inside of both editions is the same, thus making the look of The Week the same regardless where you pick it up. Of course design is not the only reason you pick up The Week for, but rather the smart and true tag line that states “all you need to know about everything that matters.” If it is not in The Week, it does not matter. The covers above are from left to right, the British edition, the new American edition and the old American edition.


“The Naked Solution” or how to avoid ads on magazine covers

June 23, 2009

Warning: There are pictures of naked men and women on the covers of magazines shown in this blog, so please proceed or leave at our risk.

Common sense will dedicate that you expect to see naked women on the covers of Playboy and Penthouse, but you do not expect to see them on the covers of Wallpaper and Vogue? Right? Well I said common sense, something we do not have to have much of lately. Shocking sense is more of the trend rather than the common one. While Playboy and Penthouse are taming their covers, other magazines are going to the extreme with naked models sans some tattoos or strategically located objects or other body parts to hide the complete nudity. Call me a skeptic, but maybe, and this is a big maybe, this is some smart magazines’ editors answer to make sure that they have no ads on the cover, thus making the folks at the American Society of Magazine Editors happy. I guess their thinking is that if the models are naked than the editors do not have to identify all the fashion, makeup, etc. that the models wear and advertise and is always disguised as part of the total package, thus running a foul with ASME!
playboy cover mountIn the last few months I have noticed that my subscription copies of some magazines are arriving with a cover mount that is nothing but an ad. Rolling Stone few months back did that and now my most recent issue of Playboy covered with a New AXE Instinct ad. You can barely (no pun indented) see the word promotion on top of the name of the magazine, but you can easily see the famous trademarked bunny on the cover as part of the ad and an invite to “uncover…”playboy Unlike Playboy, my recent issue of Wallpaper came with no warning, and not one but two naked women on the cover. Now, I am not a purist and I think that I have seen it all, but for a design, interiors, fashion, art and lifestyle magazine to have naked women on their cover is, at least to me, stretching the word “interiors” a little bit too much. (Of course the naked women cover is a limited edition rewarding those of us who subscribed to the magazine as opposed to the single copy buyers; so do not rush to the nearest newsstand since you will not find that copy there).wallpaper
And what about the recent issue of GQ and the news that the folks in Chicago are treating it as porn and covering it as they do with Hustler and other magazines? I wonder if they did the same with Esquire, British Vogue, Rolling Stone hot issue, ELLE, Vanity Fair May issue, the British Attitude magazine and the new adult erotic magazine Jacques. Take a look and judge for yourself. Are naked covers the best way to avoid ads on the covers? Who knows? I know one thing for sure, they get more publicity and sales than those with ads on the covers… so maybe going a la natural will be the answer for putting no ads on the covers!


Innovation in Print: Any newspaper, printed, one at a time, at your neighborhood newsstand

June 23, 2009

Here is a look at a future newsstand opening soon near your home or apartment building. It is no bigger than any of the food carts you see in New York City, yet it provides you with more options than the largest newsstands in existence today. You want the same day The Guardian from the UK, no problem! Le Figaro from France, no big deal! You wish to have a copy of your paper from the Middle East, Japan, China, no problem.

The à la Carte newsstand will print your desired newspaper during the time you are searching for your change to pay for it. Imagine a 100% sale through, no returns and no waste. This is not a figment of my imagination; all what you need is a digital printer and a finisher (at a cost of less than $10,000). I have one in my office and I print my newspaper from Lebanon on it every morning. The print and paper qualities are in fact better than the mass printed copy.

While this futuristic scenario is not available in your neighborhood yet, NewspaperDirect company is now offering ” your favorite newspaper anywhere in the world on the date of publication! Through the innovative technology of the NewspaperDirect global digital network, same-day editions of internationally-recognized newspapers are available in print and onscreen in their original layout.” You can choose from over 1040 newspapers from 85 countries in 41 languages “in over 100 countries through a global network of distributors, the newspaper Print-on-Demand service is suitable for individual subscribers, retail outlets, hotels, cruise ships, airlines, corporate offices, libraries, educational institutions, events and private yachts.”

I asked Susanne MacKillop, director of global business development at NewspaperDirect about this innovative print on demand venture and why people still want a printed edition when the digital one is available for them. Click on the picture above to hear her answers.

What about magazines, you may ask? Well, Mag Cloud is doing that too… check it here.


Bryan Welch of Mother Earth News and Utne Reader: These are the best of times

June 17, 2009

The Mr. Magazine™ Interview
BryanWelchA publisher, a story–teller and an editorial director, Bryan Welch wears more than one hat at Ogden Publications, Inc. He oversees Mother Earth News, Natural Home, Utne Reader and Grit magazines among many others. He has been called an eco-pioneer and has been interviewed by various media outlets seeking his advice and insights on independent magazine publishing, circulation driven publications and all things “green.”
I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Welch for The Mr. Magazine™ Interview earlier this week. His advice was great, his insights were splendid and his views on all things green can’t be any brighter.

What follows are my 11 take-away sounds bites from the interview followed by a healthy dose of questions and answers:

These are very good times…
Print’s biggest problem is not environmental
I see a world of very specialized media created on one a time basis
The current advertising driven business model is not dead yet
The internet brings us all these great tools
Online has been a powerful asset in improving the quality of our print product
Our newsstands numbers are up dramatically
I got into this business because I like to tell stories
Here is my solution for the newspaper problems: give free Kindles with two years subs
We don’t think about the audience as being one age or the other
Be in the business of making the strongest attachment to the audience

Samir Husni: Is it the best of times or the worst of times for the media business?

Bryan Welch: Well, I think actually, these are among the best of times for circulation independent driven magazines. Certainly, in my career, things have never been better for circ driven magazines, so than they are today, largely because the internet just gives them much superior tools for aggregating audiences and for reaching out specifically to niche audiences…to people with a very high affinity for our content. Um, the internet is perfect for that. And so, among my peers, among independent publishers in general, you know, most of the people I talk to are having good success in audience aggregation these days. If they’re able to drive positive cash flows from the audience, then their business model is expanding…their potential is expanding. And these are very good times.

SH: I know you are an advocate and big speaker for green and anything that has to do with green. You’ve been in so many different conferences…many interviews you have given…yet we hear from the critics that a lot about we are wasting the environment, the dead trees, and digital is the future and what’s your take on the future of print as we know it?

utnereaderBW: Well, print’s biggest problem is not environmental. I ask environmentalists when they raise this issue to consider the differences between virtually any activity one could engage in and the act of sitting in natural light or under a single reading light and reading a book or magazine and then take into account the environmental footprint of journeying to the nearest Starbucks and consuming a latte and look at the gallons, you know more than 50 gallons of water is consumed, whatever your transportation costs are, etc. …Reading is a very, has a very low environmental impact. It’s a very positive, in general, it’s a very benign act, and people still prefer reading many media in the print form. I would, I argue, I believe strongly that the existence of print overall has a positive impact on the environment by distracting people from activities that require running around in automobiles or in busses or on trains that require you know going out to restaurants, that require going out to bars…there’s a long list of things. So, I argue in favor of whatever we can do to improve the environment and create a more sustainable presence on the planet. But I don’t buy the argument that print is somehow one of the great demons in this conversation

SH: Ok, so you see then there will be more print publications? Less print publications? I mean, how do you see the shift taking place? I know nobody can forecast the future, but if you have the magic ball, and you are looking to the next five to ten years from now…

BW: I think there will be many more print publications, but they will be distributed in much more efficient ways. I believe that, uh, magazines will improve the efficiency of their distributions through various channels so that, you know, they can effectively be printed on demand so people can order print publications one at a time. I think the Mag Cloud program that Hewlett Packard is putting together, which I know you are very familiar with, is a harbinger of things to come. I guess I see a world in which there can be very, very specialized print media created on a one at a time basis…created on demand…so that we are not printing magazines that no one ever sees, as we do today. Which, you know, is inefficient and on the whole kind of destructive.

SH: Do you think that the business model that currently exists, ie the advertising driven model, for the majority of the magazines is dead, and there is no way it is going to be revived?

motherearthnewsBW: No, I don’t think it’s dead yet, but I think it is on the descendant, and I think that the circulation driven or the audience driven model is on the ascendant among periodical publishers in general. I don’t think it’s possible to accurately predict the speed of the descent or the ascent, but I believe both of those trends are underway. I think we’ll see a short term rebound in print advertising for magazines in the near future. But I don’t think the print advertising market on the whole is destined for long term recovery. And I think it’s in the descendant, so I hate to be so meticulous in my answer. I’d love to make a more declarative statement, but I think all that can be said at this point is that indiscriminant mass market print advertising is in the long term going to decline, and more and more advertising is going to be on demand as well as the print products themselves. What I believe is that really successful advertising in the future will have to be so ingenious, provocative, and well-targeted that people will in fact request to see ads from advertisers in whose products they are interested.

SH: All your magazines seem to have one theme in common: a sense of community. They are all down to earth. How do you see the impact of the internet, the impact of the social networks on this sense of community that you find in your magazines? Is it being affected? Is it being complemented? What are you doing to enhance that sense of community that your magazines are known for?

Well, the internet brings us all these great tools, as I was saying earlier. We aren’t nearly as good at social networking as we need to be, and it’s a primary focus for us these days. But just imagine when we can monitor media and stimulate wide ranging conversations among hundreds of thousands of people on topics that we’ve covered historically. That strengthens our brand, that strengthens our role, and strengthens our databases in a really profound way. Our belief is that in a few years, the core of our business will be driven by databases of tens of millions of e-mail addresses and that we’ll have very detailed information attached to each of those addresses about the owner of the address….what they love, what they buy, what they reached out for, what do they read about, where have they gone, how communicative are they, etc. etc. And we’ll be able to build those databases into profoundly powerful businesses that are on some levels very much like our business is today, which is a business driven by our engagement with an audience, except that the media will include absolutely everything, every kind of medium that can be delivered to or can facilitate a conversation with a given audience…as many media as there already are. So what are we doing today? Well, certainly we are distributing our content in many many more ways than we ever have in the past. We have eBooks and eNewsletters and dvd’s and cd’s and video, video both online and distributed on disk. We have blogs and tweets, our own Twitter persona. We have Facebook pages and pages on other networking sites. We have alliances with social networking sites that are topic specific and they utilize us to enhance their content, so we’re distributing to other people’s networking sites as well as trying to build our own. The fact is we used to have one way of connecting to our audiences…building relationships with our readers, and that was by creating a magazine that was loved. Today we have dozens of ways of connecting with audiences by distributing our content in all of these new ways, and that’s a big step forward for people who are in the business of aggregating audiences and distributing content.

SH: How do you improve and innovate your print products? Are you using any innovation techniques to enhance your printed products?

naturalhomeBW: Well, I think we are. I know for us, the engagement of editorial advisory boards which are made up of any reader who wishes to register online has been a powerful asset in improving our, the quality of the print products so that our covers of Mother Earth News look nothing like they looked 5 years ago. And they’ve, you know, we’ve sort of hit a sweet spot now so that they tend to look very much the same…issue in and issue out, which as an editor vaguely irritates me. Seems to take some of the creativity out of it, except that they sell like hotcakes. And our newsstand numbers are up dramatically. And in Mother Earth’s case, I think it’s largely thanks to the feedback we were able to get on the covers themselves. Historically, as we all know, editors created covers largely by the seat of their pants. I mean, the few research tools we had were primitive at best, and every editor felt like he or she really understood what the audience wanted to see and that was the end of that conversation. One way in which we could enhance the whole product is by seeking more feedback on the print product. We’ve started doing both before and after surveys of subject matter for every magazine so that we ask people before we publish the issue which of these topics do you find most interesting? And then we ask them the same question after they’ve seen the magazine to see where we’ve gone astray in how we crafted or presented specific stories. We’re looking for variation between the before question and the after question…to see where we haven’t presented or executed properly. And learning a great deal from that process. It’s letting us know as we’ve never been able to tell before when it’s not, we’ve never been able to sort out before whether a story was unpopular because of the subject matter or because of how it’s treated. And now we have tools at our disposal to do that. So I think this probably is infinite horizon for improvement of the print product. Have I discovered any silver bullets in terms of, you know, a new design for a table of contents or some damn thing or another that would create, you know, a huge popularity increases for the magazine? No, I don’t know that there are any, as I say, silver bullets…no miracle drug for the print products, but steady ongoing feedback loop with the audience is a, boy, that’s a fantastic improvement in the way that we craft magazines and I’m surprised that not every publisher out there is taking advantage of it.

SH: I’m surprised you’re surprised.

BW: Good point.

SH: What makes Bryan get out of bed and say “wow, you know, I’m in this great business, I love what I’m doing, it’s a great day. Or is it oh God, I have to go on, working in this business, when all the media pundits are saying we are on the way out, we are dying? What makes you tick every morning?

BW: By nature, I’m a story teller. I got into the media business because I really like telling stories. Story tellers, entertainers, people who do what we do out of natural passion love connecting with the audience, love connecting with bigger audiences more than connecting with smaller audiences…love building the audience for the information that we distribute for the stories we tell. And so I’m as enthusiastic today as I was on the first day I ever did this for a living. The first time I ever wrote a story and somebody paid me money for it, I thought I’d gone to heaven. I couldn’t believe it was possible to have that much fun and have somebody pay you for it at the same time. And I, more or less, have the same sense of wonder, amazement, and gratitude today that I had then. I’ve got so many great new ways of communicating. I’ll tell you one thing that relates to this. I hear all the time from publishers that I cannot get the editors to develop the websites to work online like they should, and the one thing that I try to say, every time I get a chance, is give your editors access to the metrics, get your editors into Google metrics or whatever you’re using and let them watch where people are going and how many of them are going and the editor will become the most passionate advocate in your organization for development of the digital media as soon as they see those people coming into our environment and reading our work. It’s thrilling.

SH: As you know I am in the process of establishing the Magazine Innovation Center with the goal to amplify the future of print. So, I am looking for both the future of magazines and the future of newspapers. Do you think people are still willing to wait to the next morning to read the news in their paper and what do you think is the future of newspapers?

BW: It’s just not the most efficient way to deliver news, the newspapers future is not pleasurable. There isn’t a future for the daily newspaper except in this respect, and this blows my mind. I mean, the fact that no one has done this yet boggles my mind…why aren’t newspapers offering free Kindles with two- year subscriptions, digital subscriptions. In this competitive business, surely they can acquire them somewhere between $150 and $200 on a wholesale basis. Then they go out and advertise “buy a two- year subscription at the regular price and we’ll give you a free $350 device on which you can read anything and everything. Own this big library and all its benefits, we’re going to give it to you free with a two year subscription”. The newspapers cash flow would be increased exponentially from that subscription, because they would not be delivering that expensive daily newspaper and they’d be building audiences in the digital realm, which they would need to do. And two years from now, when that subscription runs out, there’d be some other device, some better device available, and they can renew people on the same basis. And I can’t fathom why no one is doing that. In doing so they will be locking people in to a set of behaviors, locking a new generation into a set of behaviors that gives the newspaper a franchise, an ongoing franchise. I think it seems very natural to me.

SH: You mention the word “new generation” , and when I look at the magazines that you all publish, what are you doing to bring in the new generation?

theherbcompanionBW: Well, you know, we’re trying to innovate all the time. We’re trying to move them all in a hipper, younger direction all the time. Some of them are more successful at that than others. You know, I think the reader has built a young audience faster than the others. One important thing to remember, in my opinion, is that advertisers are always seeking out new customers among a younger generation…a generation so young that they’re not very good readers and they’re not contemplative in a way that long-formed journalism needs an audience to be. My wife a few years ago for fun gave me a book full of the minutes from the Missouri Press Association between, I think it was between 1916 and 1928 or something like that…this massive book. And all it was the minutes of the annual meetings of the Missouri Press Association. And I’m flipping through this thing, it’s a wonderful piece of history, and every single year between 1916 and 1928, the subject, one of the major subjects of their annual meeting is why young people don’t read newspapers and what are we going to do? We are going to be run out of business. It’s true to a certain extent that young people just don’t form a bond with a print brand the way that people in their child-bearing years and later do. We try to be as important to our audience as we can possibly be. We try to segment the audience by degrees of passion and not to segment the audience by other criteria. We try not to think about the audience, frankly as being one age or another. We don’t try to push the brand toward one age or another but now if we lose momentum overall, we may look at, whether we’re outmoded. In fact, we’re repositioning a couple of our magazines dramatically this year as we have done regularly over the years to change the design, change the production values, change the content, change whatever we have to do so that we remain relevant and valuable to the audience. Sometimes that means we’re pushing out towards a younger audience, but that’s not the primary motivator. The primary motivator is audience growth by whatever means we need to do that. I think it’s important to make that distinction. The advertisers say, you know, marketers like to say oh we’re looking for the 21-38 year old demographic or whatever. Well, ok, fine, and if we deliver that, fine, and if we don’t, I guess we’re not your medium. But we’re in the business of making the strongest possible attachment with an audience. We’re in the business of being as important as we can possibly be to an audience with a particular interest. And I believe that distraction from that fundamental goal is bad for the magazine and bad for the industry. So, that’s why I tell our marketers: Don’t talk to me about pushing, don’t change a magazine just to appeal to a 24 year old unless it’s going to make your magazine more appealing to the most passionate people in your audience.

SH: Thank you.

The Mr. Magazine™ Interviews are a series of informal questions and answers with industry leaders meant to echo the conversation style in which the interview took place. It is more like telling an oral story using the written word. Enjoy. To read previous interviews click here.


In ELLE: East and West see More of Megan Fox

June 16, 2009

Well, you’ve heard it said before: location, location, location. If you live in New York City or LA, you were lucky enough to get the ELLE June issue with more of Megan Fox’s backside showing, including her tattoo. However if you’ve lived in the rest of these United States of America you have to settle for a traditional frontal shot of her. ELLE magazine did a three way split this month with their cover: the newsstands splitting the above two and the subscribers receiving the same LA and NYC cover sans the color (see below).


Innovation in Print: John Harrington on the future of single copy sales

June 11, 2009

Did you know that the magazine industry still sells 25 million copies, yes 25 million copies of ink on paper magazines every single week on the nation’s newsstands? Did you know that, with all the doom and gloom surrounding our industry, the economics of the distribution channels of magazines have not yet been effectively addressed? And did you know that the current economic situation may be the best opportunity we have to address the need to change the U.S. publishing business model? John Harrington, the editor of The New Single Copy, and a 30-years plus expert of the single copy distribution channel, answered the aforementioned questions and a little bit more in my series of questions to industry experts about print, innovation and the future. I interviewed John at the Periodical and Book Association of America 23rd annual convention in Atlantic City. Click on the video below to hear John’s answers and his views on making the single copy channel more attractive in a revised publishing model.


Innovation in Print: David Benaym and Movmnt magazine

June 9, 2009

Three years ago David Benaym launched the first issue of Movmnt magazine. A magazine aimed at “fashion, dance, music, pop culture together as a lifestyle.” His magazine was not aimed to be just a magazine, but rather a movement, although spelled differently. His latest issue was anything but normal. He opted for a magazine that folds out to be a poster. His reasons are simple: the economic crisis and the environmental crisis. His solutions were to reduce the size of the magazine for this issue, try to reinvent the publication and save both on money and trees. I met David at the Periodical and Book Association of America convention in Atlantic City and asked him about Movmnt, innovation in print and the future of print. Click on the video below to listen and see the passion of a publisher and editor in chief whose all over ink on paper but with some room for pixels on the screen.


Innovation in print: Step one: FOCUS

June 5, 2009

When you aim to go everywhere you are set to reach nowhere. That sums up the status of print and print driven companies these days. The rush to be everywhere, to compete and compliment the new technologies and to blame the current slum in the business model on any and everything but the business model itself, will, in short, lead us to nowhere.

You can call it self-destruction, or you can call it misguided information. In both of the aforementioned scenarios, the end result is the same: another death of a printed product and another praise for the power of digital in attracting everything print including, but not limited to, the print readers. Case in point the recent announcement of Viacom in shutting down Nickelodeon magazine. Joe Flint, writing in the LA Times said, “But like other magazines, Nickelodeon has suffered from the double whammy of more of its audience going to the Internet (darn those early adapters) and a prolonged advertising slump. Although the cable network remains dominant, the value the magazine provided as a marketing tool for it had faded over the last few years.”

Did you see the real problem why the magazine is dead? It lost its “value as a marketing tool,” on one hand and on the other hand those “early adapters” are going to the internet. Try telling that to the folks at Highlights and Highlights High Five, Ranger Rick, Lady Bug, Ask and the tens of kids’ magazines that carry no advertising and their only marketing value is to deliver good educational and entertaining content to their readers. When your readers are your customers, you do not need your magazine to be a marketing tool, especially in the kids’ magazine market.

The first step toward innovation should be Focus. We should stop and focus our efforts on the content of our publications and whether our products are serving the needs, wants and desires of their intended audience. Focusing on the relevant content in our relevant ink on paper product should be our first and most important step. Using print as a mere tool to direct traffic to the web or to be a marketing tool will not help our case of survival. Admit it to yourself that we are not the web, we are not television, we are not radio. We are a 400 years plus technology and unless we use it for what it was invented to produce we are going to miss the point, struggle and die.
Innovation in print must start first within the premise of print. Everything else will be the icing on the cake. Keep in mind if the cake is rotten, no matter how good the icing, no body will take another bite.
So, my friends, examine your recipe for the cake, check it once, and check twice. Mix the ingredients and bake on low heat in those high pressure times. The end result will be a relevant printed magazine with a relevant audience who is not migrating to the internet because the cake you’ve baked can’t be found on the net. Happy eating, oops, I meant happy reading.
PS: And for those who still doubt the power of relevant content to a relevant audience, check the video below of my 17 month old grandson searching for Ernie page by page for more than 21/2 minutes. I am grooming him to be the next Mr. Magazine™ junior.


Seven Questions with Ali Ghanbarian: From SoMa to SOMA and the man behind the “sought-after” arts, culture and fashion magazine

June 4, 2009

Ali-3_1There is no question on who came first, Ali Ghanbarian or SOMA magazine. It was Ali who saw the need in the San Francisco marketplace 20 years ago. He quickly moved to create a magazine that filled that need and beyond. His cup overflowed and the magazine spread its wings from the west coast to the east coast, and for that matter to the international marketplace too. The legacy that SOMA is leaving, and will continue to leave, on the arts, culture and fashion category will ensure a place for Ali among those visionnaires who followed their gut-feeling analysis rather than their statistical spread-sheets analysis. Who can blame him and he is the one that opted in all of his business ventures to be in the two riskiest types of business: launching a magazine and opening a restaurant. Well, Ali did both and in both he continues to beat the odds.

I had the opportunity to ask Ali seven questions regarding SOMA’s past, present and future. However you will not find any questions about his other successful ventures, i.e., the restaurants. This is, after all, the Mr. Magazine Interview™.

Samir Husni: As you look back at the first issue of SOMA, what are the differences and similarities of the first issue and the most current issue?

First issue_1Ali Ghanbarian: The first issue was totally in your face, edgy-magazine, with a sole purpose of supporting the creative community and the artsy-warehouse district of San Francisco, which was similar to SoHo in the ’60s. Now, 20 years later, the magazine does not have much to do with SoMa or San Francisco for that matter. It has evolved to a respected, high-visual, sought-after arts, culture, and fashion magazine with extensive followers in every metropolitan area and beyond, all over the world. Its unique content, innovative design, creative subjects is sought-after, respected, and looked for by 18-38 year olds throughout the world, with special emphasis and appeal to the creative community.

SH: How would you explain SOMA to a prospective reader and to a prospective advertiser?

AG: SOMA is the longest running, independent, avant-guard, arts and culture magazine, with an organic bond and appeal to the most sought-after demographics in the world, 18-38 year old, who are creative, innovative, trend-setting, social warriors, at the forefront of every trend in music, film, fashion, electronics, etc. all over the world.

SH: SOMA has been a breeding ground to editors, designers and other staffers in other major magazines…do you feel that SOMA is stuck in its role as a candle that burns to light other publications?

Volume 15.2AG: As for SOMA being a breeding ground for editors, designers, and staffers for other magazines, I can easily add that it has also launched the careers of PR directors for some of the biggest fashion houses, fashion editors, art directors of numerous high-end magazines, good number of creative directors and photographers as well. This is one of the three main pillars of the existence of SOMA Magazine, and not contradictory to our purpose, as we try to accomplish three things with the magazine.
(A) Identify the most talented creative young people all over the world and offer them a platform to launch their careers. Hundreds of iconic talents (fashion photographers, writers, stylists, architects, designers, i.e. Alexander Wang, Alek Wek, etc.) have had their careers launched by SOMA.
(B) Covering the best of emerging arts, cultural trends, fashion, music, design, and providing our readers with refreshingly new ideas and perspectives.
(C) Last but not least, SOMA’s most important mission, which also keeps myself energized, is providing kids out of school a great training ground to learn every aspect of the magazine and help them to find their niche with different aspects of the creative world, and in a short time they move to bigger environments and continue their endeavors to reach the pinnacle of their careers.

SH: With the media pundits focusing more on digital and anything electronic, what are the plans at SOMA and what role do you think the PRINT edition of the magazine can play?

Volume 23.2_1AG: Because SOMA is primarily a visual magazine, it is more like an art book that people collect, keep on their coffee table, and go through it for enjoyment, relaxation, and appreciation of great arts and cultural ideas with simple, gracious, and elegant presentation. Unlike newspapers and trade publications or mainstream magazine, the digital revolution will not necessarily impact SOMA’s appeal. However, we are not naïve and most our readers being technology-savvy themselves, we have a very innovative website that provides our readers with access to our magazine online. Millions of SOMA fans all over the world would not possibly have access to a hard copy, but they can go online and check out the issue and enjoy it. Furthermore, because we run numerous competitions among young graphic designers, fashion designers, architects, etc. we continuously improve our website to be able to accommodate these campaigns and utilize the latest technology to make it as extensive and efficient as possible. In fact, we are in the middle of drastically expanding our online presence.

SH: In a sentence or two, how do you define Ali Ghanbarian? Who are you? What makes you tick?

AG: For this, I leave the judgment to you. However, I will describe myself as hyperactive, visionary, luckily with an abundance of energy and determination to push boundaries of my imagination 18 hours a day, and at the end of the day looking back, being content with all that I have accomplished on a daily basis. My background has involved a range of different fields. I started as an engineer, to a marketer, to being credited with some of the most innovative concepts in restaurants, clubs, and lounges throughout the west coast, producing some of the most innovative cultural and consumer events, to launching more than half of the premiere spirits throughout the west coast, etc. But to summarize in one sentence what I am most proud of, it would simply be the mentor-ship.

SH: If you are to forecast the future, where will SOMA be five years from now?

Volume 23.3_1AG: After all these years, I think of SOMA as not just a magazine but a brand. We are in the process of launching numerous SOMA-related ideas, i.e., apparel, products, beverages. We are also launching a series of specially-designed venues in major cities called SOMA Racks, to be an absolute destination point for the creative communities across the world. As you know, most arts and culture magazine like SOMA would not be able to get proper exposure in chain stores, i.e., Walgreen’s, Safeway, Wal-Mart, etc., so I have decided to create SOMA Racks to provide an exclusive and innovative place for hundreds of these titles from all over the world, with some additional concepts which would make it a compelling case for all the creative people throughout each city to frequent. This concept will be started in San Francisco very soon, then LA, New York, and so on.

SH: What is your favorite magazine (SOMA not included) and what is the magazine that you can’t stand to see or read? Why?

AG: This is a tough one as I have many favorite magazines. Numero, i-D, The New Yorker, Dazed, Purple, etc. As for the one magazine that I cannot stand. I absolutely hate all the trashy club throwaways and celebrity magazines.


13 new magazines… 13 more reasons to amplify the power of print… and a chance to win a free New Magazine Guide from me

June 1, 2009

We all know that a magazine is more than ink on paper. It is an experience. An experience that is lived, felt and cherished. We also all know that ink and paper are manufactured in factories, but magazines and their brands are manufactured in readers’ minds, one at a time. This past weekend I had the luxury of looking over 13 new magazines covering all types of topics and reaching all segments of the population. Needless to say I had 13 different experiences, each and every one of them helps me believe even more in the need to amplify the future of print and its byproduct that we call magazines.

rebelinkRebel Ink
: a new monthly magazine with “a match made in Hell. Tattoos and a life style that make moms weep and grown men cross the street.” The tag line of the magazine is “A tattoo magazine with attitude.” So, for the rebel in me (after all we are the Ole Miss Rebels) and the tattoos on them, that is one of a heck of an experience. They get the tattoos and I get to see them. Now, I am getting ready to cross the street!

naturalcatNatural Cat
: From the folks who brought you Natural Dog and Cat Fancy comes this latest addition to the family of pet magazines. The magazine “provides your cats with a more natural lifestyle.” And if you are still wondering what type of magazine is this, wonder no more. Here is an experience I never think I will be involved with any time soon. The experience of learning “how the ancient technique of acupuncture can bring relief to your aging or ailing feline companions.”

mambosceneMambo Scene: “Learning how to dance, at any level, is like learning how to speak a new language: it takes patience, lots of practice, great instructors, someone to practice with, and then some more patience…” This is an experience to learn and enjoy the Mambo Scene (the magazine also comes with a CD to help put you in the mood) and a guide to the top Mambo radios, songs, and plenty of advise to get “good in Salsa.”
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Legends
magazine: Staying in the Latin American scene, this new quarterly offers the experience of “training tomorrows legends today.” According to BJJ, “Jiu-Jitsu is the only martial art that a smaller person can beat a stronger person.” The magazine comes with a DVD with “over 3 hours of content, 25 techniques, interviews and fights.” Well, needless to say, I may experience Salsa, but BJJ is taking my experiences a little bit too far.

fightersonlyFighters Only: This British import offers a monthly “essential fighting magazine” that is “The world’s leading mixed martial arts and lifestyle magazine.” The over-sized magazine provides an excellent addition to the Mixed Martial Arts magazine scene that has been growing slowly but surely. It is worth the experience.

blurtBlurt: Time to relax a little bit after all the fighting and dancing experiences. Just sit down and read about the music and the “14 ways to forget about the recession.” This new magazine, from the folks at, is about “real music, real artists and real opinions,” and comes from music folks who experience nothing in life “next to drinking coffee endlessly, it’s all what we know how to do.” And it shows.
Prestige New York
: From the music escape to “The Very Best in Life,” fantasy escape. The magazine that was launched nine years ago in Singapore, arrived on our shores last month with the launch issue “for no matter who in business or society you talk to, New York is viewed as a place of international awareness, culture and intelligence where people embrace new concepts, relish new challenges, thirst after information and are tickled by the quirky side of life.” This is one experience you will not find at a newsstand near you, but if you belong to this “experience” you should have a copy of the magazine on your coffee table already.

loftlifeLoft Life: Well this magazine will have you put some affordable fantasy in your loft or condo and will provide a “guide to life in the city.” What strikes me first is the recession-geared article that will help you move from want to need when it comes to design. In addition the experience is not limited to reading but also tweeting, communicating, enjoying, blogging, living, relaxing and of course subscribing… three issues will cost you $8.

guitaraficionadoGuitar Aficionado magazine: Taking a page from Cigar Aficionado, this Future US new quarterly does not limit itself to guitars but also ventures into “cars, watches, wine and the deluxe life.” The magazine experience debuts “for passionate people who enjoy the guitar in all of its timeless, functional beauty — people who, likewise, have enthusiasm for the very best that life has to offer.”
Technikart Paris-New York
: Here is an experience that has been in the making for 230 years since Lafayette came to the USA assistance and “we’ve had a long and passionate relationship since…though sometimes recently the Atlantic seemed a very cold and wide wall separating us…” This art and artists magazine “was created in 72 hours in France and we cannot be responsible for any damage caused by trans-continental language, incoherent internationalisms or translated European thought.” Quite a hefty experience and admission.

gulfcoastwine+dineGulf Coast Wine+Dine: This is a very doable experience for me since it is closer to home than any of the aforementioned magazines. This new launch aims to cover “coastal Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.” It is a “celebration of our passion for living (and if I may add loving) life.” And in a typical Southern hospitality the magazine’s editor Tim McNally welcomes the reader to the neighborhood and asks “Can I fix you a drink?” A refreshing experience indeed.
Wolverine magazine
: I will admit it from the very beginning. I am a Superman fan, so no matter how many new magazines arrive on the market place celebrating all the other super heroes, none will replace the experience I had with my very first magazine I ever bought, Superman, the one that started my magazine hobby, education and career. Well, enough about me and my Superman experience. Wolverine is the latest full size – full color bimonthly in the Marvel series of new up-sized super heroes magazines. It you are a Wolverine fan, this experience is for you.

marieMarie: Leaving the best for last, if for nothing else but the name. Marie is my wife’s name and although I have no idea whether my in-laws named my wife after Marie Antoinette for which this magazine is named after, I have to say good things about anything that carries the name Marie. The experience, otherwise, will not be as good. This new entry from the publishers of Belle Armoire and Somerset Studio provides “Marie Antoinette – Inspired Mixed-Media Art.” The magazine feature “decadent vintage jewelry” and “royal shoes made of paper.”

So here you have it. 13 different experiences in one weekend. So, what is in it for you? How about Samir Husni’s Guide to New Magazines, Vol. 24. The new Guide will be out soon listing all the new magazines of 2008 is yours for free if you are one of the first five people who comment on this blog and give me the correct answer on how many times did I use the word “experience or experiences” including the aforementioned two in this blog.

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