Archive for April, 2013


Dick Porter, President, Media Sales, Meredith National Media Group: That is the Power of Print. The Mr. Magazine™ Minute

April 29, 2013

Do you have any doubts that advertising in magazines increases product sales at retail? Well, if you are Meredith, “the nation’s leading female-focused media and marketing company,” the answer is NO, with a capital N and a capital O. I asked Dick Porter, president, Media Sales, Meredith National Media Group, about the power of magazine advertising and their sales guarantee program at Meredith. Click on the video below to hear his answer:

And for those who want to know more, here is the first three paragraphs from today’s Meredith press release:

The nation’s leading female-focused media and marketing company with an audience of 100 million American women – today announced that it was expanding the Meredith Sales Guarantee program following a very successful inaugural year.

Brands participating in the first year of the Meredith Sales Guarantee experienced an average return on investment (ROI) of $7.81 for every $1 invested in advertising in Meredith magazines, proving that advertising in Meredith magazines increases product sales at retail.

Meredith’s $7.81 ROI, incorporating the impact of both annualized consumer response and total households, was far better than the average $2.79 ROI for campaigns run on digital portals/ad networks as measured by Nielsen Catalina Solutions over the last five years.


Audience First and Other Secrets on How Dwell Magazine Has “Out-Dwelled” Them All and Proven that this Shelter Magazine Knows How to Survive and Thrive – Mr. Magazine’s™ Interview with the President of Dwell Media – Michela O’Connor Abrams

April 29, 2013

Screen shot 2013-04-29 at 7.58.58 AMAudience first, and not platforms, is the number one secret behind the success story of Dwell magazine media. In the shelter magazine industry, no new (if you can call a ten-plus-year-old, new) publication is more revered and respected than Dwell, and for more than a decade, Michela O’Connor Abrams has steered the wheel of this visually-driven design ship with foresight, skill and downright gut-instinct, guiding her vessel across unknown waters successfully. Between Dwell the magazine, and the powerhouse events the media company hosts, Dwell has stood the test of time and proven itself to be a bulwark against the downturns of the magazine media business.

-1The reasons O’Connor Abrams gives for the company’s continued success: her background in technology media and the focus on the audience and the communities Dwell has built and serves faithfully.

With their cornerstone of print and O’Connor Abrams’ supreme belief in digital integration and innovation, Dwell Media’s future looks as bright as any sun reflected in their rear-view mirror.

And when you’re known as the “pornography of interior design” among top designers, well, that’s when you know your visual panoramas are beyond stunning and border on the sublime.

So grab your imagination and let your creativity flow freely as you prepare to enjoy Mr. Magazine’s™ interview with the woman behind the driving success of a shelter magazine that takes the visual to unbelievable levels and proves that with courage and backbone a magazine can sustain more than a decade in an industry that can sometimes be as uncertain as the future it strains to see – Michela O’Connor Abrams – President of Dwell Media.

But first a Mr. Magazine™ Minute with Michela Abrams, followed by the sound-bites and the lightly edited transcript of the full interview.

The Mr. Magazine™ Minute with Michela O’Connor Abrams, president, Dwell Media

And now for the sound-bites:

On Dwell being much more than a print product and whether the future lies with such print/digital integration: Yes. We now have 10 platforms at Dwell Media. The magazine is about 55% of the business and four years ago it was 94% of the business. But the magazine and the SIP’s for the newsstand remain very healthy. I’m happy to say this is turning out to be an incredible year.

On the reason Dwell has “Out-Dwelled” the other magazines that were launched at the same time: Because everybody else was putting the magazine in the middle with all these ancillary products hanging off of it. I remember seeing a very senior executive at TIME Inc. put the magazine in the middle with all of these different, and he called them “arteries of revenue.” I had probably been here, maybe two years. So it was 2004 and I’m thinking, ‘That’s crazy!’

On the main focus of Dwell Media:
The magazine is a platform and the audience is who you should concentrate on. And we had done that; we had adopted that in 2002. The driving mission was bringing modern design to everyone, anywhere, anytime, anyplace and in any form.

On how Dwell is using their cornerstone of print to expand their empire: The print vehicle – because we are a design brand, the paper we’re printed on, the quality of the photography, just everything about that experience is very tactile. And that helps to really spur the excitement and the growth on other platforms, because the magazine still sets expectations for the greater audience, not just the subscribers, but the newsstand buyer and the pass-along reader.

And now for the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ Interview with the President of Dwell Media – Michela O’Connor Abrams.

Samir Husni: After 10+ years with Dwell and Dwell media, your director of communications said that print was still your cornerstone, but that Dwell was much more than print. Is this the future?

Michela O’Connor Abrams: Yes. We now have 10 platforms at Dwell Media. The magazine is about 55% of the business and four years ago it was 94% of the business. But the magazine and the SIP’s for the newsstand remain very healthy. I’m happy to say this is turning out to be an incredible year. Last year was better than the previous, and this one is wonderful.

We have continued to develop the brand on all these platforms. Dwell on Design, which is our large conference and exhibition, is now the largest design event in America. It is at the end of June and we expect a little more than 30,000 people. We have about a 1,000 brands that take up 220,000 square feet at the L.A. Convention Center and the city has declared it Dwell Design week for the entire week. The event is huge, and digitally we would have spent a long year, meaning fiscally, from about March 2012 until now, migrating off of an arcane content management system that served us just fine about 7 or 8 years ago, but was no longer terribly helpful in the growth of digital for Dwell for the last two years.

So we migrated to Drupal and we have begun to see the fruits of the efforts of the team. We have tablet and mobile. I haven’t announced this to anybody, but we have just recruited a very senior executive out of Yahoo to be the EVP of digital for Dwell Media. He has done 4 start-ups in digital pure plays and run content and commerce for Yahoo. And he starts May 1st. It’s very exciting. And that is to digitally transform the whole company, not only to continue to grow our commerce platform, which has been a partner strategy for the last three years, but to really step up our game. You will be able to fundamentally shop Dwell so it is contextualized commerce. It’s not a flash sale. It’s not trying to sell Chach-Keys and every little widget known to man. It’s still highly-curated, just as you would expect to find from Dwell. So he is coming in to lead that entire effort, as well as work on the digital transformation of the company.

Digital and events are the future of Dwell Media and yet because, thankfully, we have always had a profitable circulation model with Dwell, I don’t expect print to be gone in five years, ten – a different story.

This is a very exciting time for us. We’ve been taking digital very seriously for years now, but not really able to do the kinds of things that we wanted to do. If you just look at what’s available to publishers on the tablet; the promise of enhanced digital versions on the tablet, from years ago, is just now really becoming a reality in the sense of a profitable business model. It’s not that we couldn’t use the technology to enhance the digital experience of the tablet, but now we can really maximize the opportunity in a fundamental way.

Samir Husni: When Dwell was started, there were so many other magazines of a similar genre launching too; however, Dwell is the lone survivor of all those other entities. What’s the secret of success behind Dwell?

Michela O’Connor Abrams: Three things. I think that my background in technology media for all those years, which was way ahead of consumer publishing at that time, made sure that the model that we adopted 10 years ago was one of understanding the audience that we serve and almost behaving like a research company, and believing that the community that you serve, the audience, subscriber, and the newsstand buyer, add them all up, were in the center of the business model. And everybody kind of said, “Isn’t that a nuance?” And I said no, it’s not a nuance.

Because everybody else was putting the magazine in the middle with all these ancillary products hanging off of it. I remember seeing a very senior executive at TIME Inc. put the magazine in the middle with all of these different, and he called them “arteries of revenue.” I had probably been here, maybe two years. So it was 2004 and I’m thinking, ‘That’s crazy!’

The magazine is a platform and the audience is who you should concentrate on. And we had done that; we had adopted that in 2002. The driving mission was bringing modern design to everyone, anywhere, anytime, anyplace and in any form. With that as your guiding principle, then you not only know how to serve the reader in print, but you understand how to serve them digitally, at events, and with research, because of that mission statement. And we sell homes; I mean we have ten platforms.

Another reason that I believe we weathered everything others didn’t, was because I knew enough, again from my technology media background, to sustain the audience that we served that was affluent, was 50/50 male-female, 40% trade, 60% consumer, and that was unique. Everybody else in our category was largely 80% female, lower income, and very low trade.

So I thought in order to preserve that very thing that makes us unique, if we put the circulation to half a million or more, and everybody wanted me to, the advertisers in Detroit who said we’re not going to look at Dwell until you pass that 500,000 mark, and I said, “Well, we’re not going there.” I knew that 300,000 was my goal, and this was when we were at 150,000. We went to 325,000 and it was still a profitable circulation, it still maintained that composition I just spoke about.

And that is what fundamentally happened to the people who started those other businesses: the House & Garden, the Met Home, and the Dominos; they were so dependent on advertising; the model was to push circ as far and as fast as you could. Then when advertising fell apart, there was nothing to hold them up. Because they were losing so much money having circulation at those levels, that when advertising went down, the house of cards fell.

Thankfully, we kept the model, we’re still profitable there, the composition is still what I wanted it to be and it’s been a saving grace for so many reasons.

Samir Husni: I hear so much chatter about offers that have come your way, but it’s always, “No, thank you.” Are you happy being an independent blip on this big media company screen, or can you see yourself one day as part of a TIME Inc. or a Meredith Corporation?

Michela O’Connor Abrams: I can only see Dwell Media being a part of one of the very large, still traditional publishing houses. I don’t think anybody in that realm of that size has really turned themselves into a media company yet. They’re huge; they’re battleships. So they’re turning diligently and obviously very smart people run those companies, but you can only turn so far in so much time. I don’t see being a part of that until we would be convinced that they really understood the opportunity and that fundamentally they saw why focusing on communities of people and serving them on multiple platforms makes the most sense.

I would say Hearst is making the most progress and is the company that we see making the greatest strides there.

But honestly, I’ll tell you, people ask me this all the time; does it really make sense to continue this quest by yourself? Well, I don’t know. Here we are almost 12 years into our founding and we’ve continued to grow, we’ve certainly had to stay scrappy to do it, but at the same time, we’ve innovated faster than any of our colleagues. So, who knows? I wish had that crystal ball to tell you. We love partnerships and we do it often. I think that we would want to probably form some kind of joint venture and date before we married anybody.

Samir Husni: One of the secrets that I hear from people about the success of Dwell is a lot of interior designers refer to it as “pornography for interior design.” The magazine, from its very beginning, has been very visually appealing and visually driven. In this ever-changing business model; what do you see the role of print today, and no one knows the future, five or ten years down the road. But how is that visual appeal of the magazine, the paper you print on, the entire physical aspect; how are you using that cornerstone, as your director of communications called it, to expand the empire?

Michela O’Connor Abrams: The print vehicle – because we are a design brand, the paper we’re printed on, the quality of the photography, just everything about that experience is very tactile. And that helps to really spur the excitement and the growth on other platforms, because the magazine still sets expectations for the greater audience, not just the subscribers, but the newsstand buyer and the pass-along reader. There’s still this great fuel, if you will, at the print level expectation for people to experience this brand online, on the tablet and mobile at Dwell in Design. It still remains a really fundamental part of that experience.

This house-porn of which you speak, yes, we’ve been known by that for a long time. And what’s true is that the digital media and the technologies that enable the experience will clearly continue to get better, more refined, more portable, more extensible and more immersive. And as that happens, then of course the role of print continues to evolve. I don’t think it will devolve. I truly think it will evolve. Will it grow and go back to anytime like we knew in the late 90s or the mid-2000s: no, I don’t think so.

It’s important to note that the reason I don’t think so is not because technology hasn’t caught up, it’s because the rest of our model is so arcane and so broken; we have the post office being propped up by the government to the tune of, I don’t know, I’ve lost track – $15 billion now, we’ve excused? The newsstand economy is a joke. The wholesalers are going broke, the distributors are feeling held hostage by the wholesaler, the retailers are being marginalized and yet, they aren’t ever creating a good reading experience or place to buy a magazine. Our bookstores are going out of business, so all those things are conspiring to have a much harder impact than anything to do with the technology.

Samir Husni: In 2008, when the economy busted and technology burst, the traditional American magazine business model completely died. If someone came to you and asked what they should do today, in 2013, to have a sustainable business model, or if Dwell is the working example; could they start as a print entity like Dwell did and then expand, or would they have to start everywhere right from the beginning?

Michela O’Connor Abrams: I don’t think you have to start everywhere. And I do have people calling me all the time. I’m always, I don’t know, humored that people are dying to start a magazine. And my advice always starts with the question, “Well, do you really want to start a magazine? Or are you interested in creating a brand and an opportunity for an audience that you believe is somehow underserved in a particular area, an enthusiast category, a news category” – doubtful, but…

So I keep pushing people back to focus on the audience, not the platform. And the truth of the matter is you see digital pure plays starting magazines. And there’s no doubt in my mind Fab is now raising money at a billion dollar evaluation and all they do is sell stuff. Not curated, just stuff. They’re going to start a magazine. Net-A-Porter, brand new magazine. Guilt was about to start a magazine and I think they didn’t because they have other problems.

So you’re going to see a lot of print fueled by digital pure plays because the role that print can play, which is still going to be partnered with technology, is very important. We published an augmented-reality-infused, if you will, magazine, small, but with our partner AHAlife. You downloaded the app off the cover and you could shop everything. Not a QR-code, you literally just put your iPhone there and clicked buy.

So these kinds of embedded technologies that use print for a different purpose, and as I said, contextualize the experience, so content and the creation of it is still king, but the context of course is what creates the financial model, is alive and well.

So I say to people, if you know you’re dying to tell an audience something that you think they can’t get someplace else, and you’ve got the right brand to do it, then go ahead and make sure that you’ve got a web strategy with a complementary print component, and you should have some kind of events that if for anything, are good for press and market-makers.

You really do have to have a mission that is first, the name of the brand, what it is that brand is to do and it follows with anywhere, anytime, anyplace and in any form. To start a media brand in this day and age and not have that as your driving principal is frankly a death knell. It would be a mistake.

DwellMagazine7286Samir Husni: Can you recreate the success of Dwell should you start a new publication today?

Michela O’Connor Abrams: Yes, I believe we could. I absolutely believe we could. Now, would we start just as a magazine and wait two or three years to do anything else? Absolutely not.

So it would be this concurrent strategy because I have a technology that I didn’t have 10 years ago. I’ve got a forum for events that we didn’t have in the way that we now produce Dwell in Design. I very much believe that there is a strategy that if I thought there was, again – a message, an area that was really underserved by anybody else, or maybe it was being served, but not very well, I would take it on.

I mean, think about it. There were 341 magazines in the home-design, broadly-speaking, shelter category when I started. So who needed another home magazine? Was modern enough of a differentiator to really make a big company that would be alive twelve years later? I would argue yes, but not without all of the other business principles in place because if we had followed a traditional publishing model and many times Laura would say to me, “Are you sure you’re not just happy being publisher of this magazine?” And I’d say I love the magazine, I’m a print person. But it isn’t about what I’m satisfied with, it’s what the opportunity is that we have with this brand and we will be successful if we follow this and focus. And we did.

Whereas, as I say, Domino, House & Garden, Met Home and the whole list didn’t have a chance because of the model. And Domino is the best example of one that was totally a mistake on the part of Condè Nast to close it. That was just ridiculous. They had a voice online, they had a rabid community of fans and followers, they had a chance to be doing commerce, and they had a great chance to do events. But they blew it up because it didn’t match the old model of pump up the circ to 900,000 and lose money there in order to get a $40,000-$70,000 ad page.

Samir Husni: What keeps you up at night?

Michela O’Connor Abrams: Wow, just one thing? It’s a very good question and I should be able to answer it so easily, but honestly I feel so good about where we are in the industry and how we are executing. And that doesn’t mean I think we’re doing everything perfectly, or have all the answers at all. But we’ve been so diligent in following this model of focusing on the community that we serve that we’ve got a model that is resilient, that I won’t say is economy-proof, but we’ve proven during some downturns that we can make it through. And now with the hiring of the gentleman from Yahoo, we complete a phenomenal executive team that I am so privileged to work with, and it’s so exciting.

I guess I would have to say the answer to the question is that the market rewards digital pure plays with no business model and no profitability in any future time, just as they did in the dot com boom and we saw what kind of disaster that was. We’ve created artificial markets and artificial, kind of irrational exuberance that I fear is another bubble. Now, the silver lining may be that we’re certainly not there and that is not who we are and we will prove that being rooted in real assets with real IP and value will win out. But, also making sure that innovation is constantly at the root of everything that we do.

Samir Husni: Do you consider print as the real IP address or is it the events, the shows, the people? You said you have a real IP address; are you saying that digital is not real, or it’s not felt? So far no one is making money on digital.

Michela O’Connor Abrams: I’m saying that the real IP is the audience and the content, but the opportunity, of course, is the context on all these platforms. And if you look at the digital pure plays, what are they trying to do? They’re trying to engage an audience with content. And hiring editors and syndicating content and buying content so that they will remain an engaging brand and build their own communities.

And up until now the unbelievable and truly inexplicable, in my mind, behavior on the part of the largest publishing companies has been to just freely license and syndicate content without thinking about the brand that they have that is relevant on these other platforms. Go figure.

Hearst spent $458 million on iCrossing, which is in our building, right below us, and hasn’t executed their own commerce strategy. The common sense part would be if we could understand that millions of people still love to read and we have cleansed the retail experience of any meaningful, engaging reading place, except the rare exception of your local coffee house. The bookstores are beleaguered; wholesalers take a pound out of your skin every time you turn around and they want you to pay them more just to put your magazine front or forward. It’s a joke, an absolute joke.

I keep thinking if there was a separate delivery system where you bypass the post office, put a separate magazine box outside a house, start a great franchise chain of great reading places, we would fix a whole lot of problems.

Samir Husni: Thank you.


Cake & Whiskey’s Megan and Mike Smith Prove that Entrepreneurship, Passion, Partnerships and a Very Catchy Name Makes for a Unique Business Magazine for Women. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Megan and Mike Smith from Cake & Whiskey.

April 26, 2013

Picture 49A piece of cake and a shot of whiskey – sounds arrestingly appealing, doesn’t it? Megan and Mike Smith are the proud new parents of a business magazine for women who would agree with that description.

Cake & Whiskey magazine was born from gatherings that Megan Smith had among local businesswomen in her city. In her words: “We’d eat cake, drink whiskey and talk shop.” It was a way for women to connect and hash out ideas and concepts, while enjoying some sweet cake and a shot of spirits. Just what the mission of these gatherings was meant to achieve: to motivate and inspire women to send a shot of courage to their spirits and realize the sweetness of success.

Since its inception, Cake & Whiskey gatherings are popping up all over and Mike and Megan are partnering with a lot of women’s organizations to make their business magazine available to that targeted audience who will benefit the most: women.

Megan said her business plan includes building communities among these women who need and want to connect. The idea is compelling and has success written all over it. Just as the magazine titled Cake & Whiskey does.

So slice into some cake and pour yourself three fingers of whiskey, then prepare to enjoy an interview with two entrepreneurs who hope to pass on their message of strength, sweetness and spirit through their magazine that champions those same ideals for all businesswomen.

Click here to read The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Cake & Whiskey’s Megan and Mike Smith.
Picture 43


Inside the Black Box of “Business Black Box” Magazine. A New Business Model Emerges Before the Crash: Mr. Magazine’s™ Interview with Geoff Wasserman, Publisher and Jordana Megonigal,Editor-in-Chief of BBB.

April 22, 2013

Picture 46In the magazine media industry today, finding that new business model – the one that will bring back the results of revenue-days-gone-by – has become a priority. Experimenting with this and that, or that and this has become the first paragraph of most publishers’ daily journal entries.

Geoff Wasserman and Jordana Megonigal – publisher and editor-in-chief respectively of the regional Business Black Box magazine have whittled out a business model for themselves from talents and gifts that they’ve always had and created a “partnership” program that has taken their publication to new heights in the world of regional business magazines.

From events to full-page explosion ads to entire marketing campaigns, Wasserman and Megonigal have taken their marketing experience and applied it inward – to their print publication – to achieve a partnership program with their advertising clients that allow interaction and promotion of ideas among all their clients.

Roundtable discussions between bankers and lawyers turn into events that push their mutual interests – growing their businesses – forward and produce successful results for Wasserman and Megonigal’s clients, while increasing their own revenue streams significantly.

“So after three or four years we asked ourselves what is the strength that we have as a company? What’s the one thing we know we’re strong at, figure that out, and then use it,” Wasserman said.

The answer, of course, was they had a proven track record as a marketing team of growing businesses. The answer to that question developed into their new business model of ad partners that has them flourishing today.

And for most businesses, especially their partners, it’s comforting to know that the “Black Box” filled with the flight plan, the problems and a solution is right there onboard with them.

Click here to read the full Mr. Magazine™ interview with Wasserman and Megonigal.


William Randolph Hearst – The Story That Hasn’t Been Told – Mr. Magazine’s™ Interview with Director and Film Maker Leslie Iwerks and her new documentary – “Citizen Hearst.”

April 18, 2013

Leslie_Iwerks_Photo_Hi-ResNot too many media companies remain privately owned in this day and age. The Hearst Corporation is one of the few remaining privately owned media empires, and the folks who led and continue to lead this empire, continue in the same footsteps as the founder of the company William Randolph Hearst. His focus, as is with the Hearst Corporation focus today, was, is and will always be on the people, from the people, and to the people.

So who is better to tell the inside story of Mr. Hearst and the empire he has built than Leslie Iwerks. Ms. Iwerks is a third generation filmmaker and with her latest venture “Citizen Hearst” she explores William Randolph Hearst and his empire from the beginning and up to the present, something that hasn’t been done before. Iwerks’ film focuses on the achievements of the man and his extraordinary company, rather than the controversies.

One man and one vision that has continued to be carried out, with each successive generation and administration, long after his death. Hearst focused on the human element and paid attention to detail. He was a man who cared deeply about the quality of work and content attached to the Hearst name, and a man who undoubtedly belongs among the names of individuals that were seminal in the foundation and evolution of the media industry. William Randolph Hearst’s legacy lives on with the Hearst Corporation still going strong on the eve of its 126th anniversary

Picture 8And now for the lightly edited transcript for the Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Leslie Iwerks on her new documentary, “Citizen Hearst.” The documentary airs on Tuesday April 23 on the Bio. channel, 7:00 p.m. central.

Samir Husni: Why should people watch this documentary on William Randolph Hearst? What’s in it for them?

Leslie Iwerks: I think it’s a story that’s never really been told. It’s a film about William Randolph Hearst, but also about the company that he founded and what’s happened since his passing. He was the foundation that built the empire, the multi-billion dollar media empire that exists today. And that story, from the time that he died through today, has never been told. And given that Hearst is a private company, they’ve often been very private about what they do and how they do what they do. But I think for their 125th anniversary there was cause to celebrate and enlighten audiences as to how impactful their media enterprises have been over the years and how much it’s grown since the days of William Randolph Hearst.

Samir Husni: My recollection of Hearst and his empire was that he always focused more on the people rather than the platforms. Do you agree and if so, do you think that has continued?

Leslie Iwerks: I agree whole-heartedly. That’s why we called it “Citizen Hearst” because his focus really was toward the common man in those early years and we focused on whatever the entity was; whether it was newspapers, or television, or radio, it was really having the most important information out to people in these various platforms and he didn’t feel like that news was for the masses. It was for the masses, but he used to put a lot of time and energy into crafting and approving and renewing; he had a real hand in so much concerning the editorial information that was disseminated across all his media platforms.

Samir Husni: After doing the film, do you think that William Randolph Hearst’s craftsmanship has continued at Hearst?

Leslie Iwerks: Yes, I do. I had the opportunity to kind of wander around and meet a number of people on the different floors of the Hearst Tower that were editors or writers or photographers. That attention to detail is still there – even the people that I work with at Hearst are extremely quality- driven. You don’t always see that at every corporation. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve worked with a number of very large companies that are all extremely quality-oriented like Disney and Pixar. That kind of quality and that kind of dedication to customer experience is not something that can be taken for granted – it is something that makes these companies as successful as they are because not every company is like that.

Samir Husni: What was the most pleasant surprise for you during the making of this movie?

Leslie Iwerks: That’s a good question, and one that I could answer in a number of different ways. I’m always interested in really good business stories. When I tackled this project, it was a huge undertaking because of the amount of material and the number of subjects that we had to cover. I was surprised by the level of dedication and the service that people have given to Hearst over the years. The leadership and strength is unparalleled. I’ve been trying to think of all the other leaders in the world who have been so popular and so beloved – like Walt Disney – people that have been such a figurehead that people want to please them.

I think Frank Bennack and his leadership was something that really moved me. He is very much understated and yet so powerful in his accomplishment. I think he is the much-kept secret or hidden gem that people don’t realize about Hearst. This leader has been so forceful in propelling the company beyond anyone’s imagination after William Randolph Hearst’s death – from his investments in cable to expansion of enclosure in some regards to newspaper and his strength in content and really developing and respecting quality content.

Samir Husni: And of course, my next question: What was your most unpleasant surprise?

Leslie Iwerks: I think the most unpleasant part for me was having to cut so many things that I wish I wouldn’t have had to. There were so many great stories and great quotes. If I had the opportunity to do a documentary on news in general, I could have made it even better given the amount of material and the amount of time it took to film, shoot, edit and actually put it into a 90-minute film. That was my biggest disappointment, realizing there was so much material that we could have used that got left on the cutting-room floor.

Samir Husni: You speak so highly about Hearst and the Hearst Corporation – even the name “Citizen Hearst,” people are going to get the reference to “Citizen Kane.” Are you a hopeless romantic with the Hearst Corporation or do you feel that this is the real Hearst Corporation?

Leslie Iwerks: It’s really funny because I don’t really see myself as a hopeless romantic toward Hearst. We dealt with the controversies with Citizen Kane and Marion Davies and we could have gone into all sorts of things with William Randolph Hearst if we would have done a 90-minute film on him. There was a lot of controversy about the William Randolph Hearst days, but those stories have already been told. People already know that he visited Hitler and about his misjudgment in the war and things like that. But honestly, people already know that and I didn’t want to reprint history; the real story is what happened after that.

You delve into some of those things like the strike and some other things that I think were the challenges for them. I’ve done a number of films where you have politics within the company and things like that, but heavy politics don’t make a great film. Every company has its politics and its scandals – Patty Hearst would have been a great one to talk about – but the reality is that it didn’t have a lot to do with the company itself. Anyway, there were a lot of things I feel really shined for the company over the years and as with any company it had its struggles. I think the film does a good job capturing those struggles in the media and dealing with those over the years.

Samir Husni: My final question to you: In a nutshell, why should people watch this documentary on Tuesday?

Leslie Iwerks: People will learn something about a media company that has pioneered so many things that we don’t really realize. It has shaped culture through Cosmopolitan Magazine and through Harper’s Bazaar. It has cultivated some of the top fashion designers in fashion. Richard Avedon came from Harper’s Bazaar and you’ve had some of the top newspaper men in journalism come from there. Radio and newsreel and television and cable sprouted largely from Hearst. Comic strips came from Hearst. There are just so many things that I don’t think the audience realizes stems from this one entity and this one man who had a strong vision, which has been carried forward 75 or so years later under Frank Bennack’s leadership. From the standpoint of watching a strong business and creative story combined, I think people will find it interesting.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

Watch “Citizen Hearst” trailer below…

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A Retro Innovation is Born: A Manual Typewriter and the Nostalgia of Thinking Before Writing

April 17, 2013

typewriter close-up useTalk about retro and talk more about innovation. I was flipping through the pages of the Sky Mall catalogue on my latest flight from Atlanta, and had to do a double take when I saw an ad, in the midst of all those new technological creations and inventions, for a manual typewriter. Yes, you read that right: a manual typewriter. The advertisement suggests extinction, or at the very least an unknown quantity to people under the age of 40. But apparently the manual typewriter isn’t entirely extinct, nor is it as cheap as it was when I bought my first one ($42) from Kmart in 1978.

Typewriter page useAlong with obsolescence, the ad also calls to mind a different era when, in the world of writing and creating content, you had to actually think before you wrote. No spell-check to do it for you, unless you count the oversized Webster’s and Roget’s that lay beside you and your manual word-creator. Only 44 keys that like the ad states: required a firm, purposeful stroke.” In other words, you had to hit them like you were pummeling each word into line (hence the phrase – pounding out a story), forcing the lettered creation to comport itself with the well thought-out construction and word choice that you raised it to be. Because it was a fact, you’ couldn’t hit the delete button if you made an error or just didn’t like the way something sounded.

But was that so bad? Granted, no one wants to go back to the days of manual creating, but a lot of it was a foundation for practices that we no longer utilize in today’s digitally spinning world. In fact, I think we would all do well to slow down a bit and think before we create. Remember: the first laptop was a pencil and a notepad – one end of the pencil was the keyboard and the other was the delete button.

And no, I didn’t pull out my manual typewriter to write this…but I did ponder every change spell-check suggested. And vetoed a couple of them. That’s the power of the human element of this thing we call creativity.


Scoring a Strike Every Time. 100 Years of Bowlers Journal Magazine. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Keith Hamilton – President of Bowlers Journal International and the Man Behind the Ball.

April 16, 2013

BJI_1913_PG1sm Bowlers Journal celebrates 100 years of magazine history in 2013. And Keith Hamilton – the magazine’s president – says he’s looking forward to the next 100 with innovation and passion.

“The readers of Bowlers Journal love bowling. And they want to know everything about it. So we’ve always kept our niche and we’ve always understood who our market was,” he said.

Targeting that clearly identified audience with that relevant message, something Keith Hamilton believes in fully.

Bowlers J.3-291The print magazine may be the mainstay of the business, but he’s also not afraid of digital. Bowlers Journal Interactive, coupled with a newsletter that reaches around 800,000 people, is combining these two facets of today’s magazine media – print and digital – into an integrated entity that is working very successfully for Bowlers Journal.

But it’s also the man at the helm’s passion about his subject matter that injects that human touch and special spark that only our species can give to an object of our desire. Be it digital or be it print, the human being controls the creativity and ideology that can sustain a magazine, proving why Bowlers Journal has withstood the test of time and is still among the land of the living magazines today. And proving it very successfully, I might add.

keith-vanityAnd while Keith Hamilton is all about print integrated with digital, he still firmly believes that the ink on paper product lends credibility to the industry that no other entity does, while still acknowledging the fact that no magazine can be a “news-type” product anymore in our day and age. With the amount of information available today for the consumer provided by the web, he believes we have to delve deeper to find that kernel of knowledge not yet unearthed by the cosmic investigators of the internet. We have to utilize our creativity and abilities to bring the reader things they cannot find elsewhere.

A valid point in this digital age, where anything can be discovered with the touch of a fingertip.

The excitement of the magazine’s 100th anniversary has the entire staff excited and doubly-so for its president. It’s been a great centennial and the second one looks even better.

So enjoy Mr. Magazine’s™ bowling adventure/interview with the man scoring the strikes at Bowlers Journal and share the experience of a magazine that has outlived most humans alive today.

A feather in Father Time’s cap, to say the least, and a blessing to bowling lovers around the world.

Click here to read the Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Keith Hamilton, president of Bowlers Journal International.


When Print Seems Unhip, Digital Replacement is Not the Answer. The Mr. Magazine™ M.O. Column in Publishing Executive Magazine

April 12, 2013

Editor’s Note: My column this month in Publishing Executive magazine was accompanied by a short video that appears on your smart phone when you sit down with the magazine and enjoy some quality reading. So enjoy the video first and then read the column. Any and all comments are more than welcomed!

Joint Effort
When print seems unhip, digital replacement is not the answer
photoIn the publishing world you have to stay on top of the latest trends. (Word number one: trends.) And you also need to be as contemporary and innovative as possible. (Words two and three: contemporary and innovative.) Those three words are the only constant in a sea of change.

For some inexplicable reason, the powers-that-be in some publishers’ offices think that in order to be hip­—that is, synonymous with the word-trio trends (trendy), contemporary and innovative—you must accentuate the digital before you mention the print. Think of the many hip-sounding initiatives starting with “digital first.” Or, as has happened on more than one occasion, you may decide to do away with print altogether.

Many of you know that I am not among the followers of that religion. Doing “hip replacement” surgery on your product by taking away the print version and putting in a new digital one is not the answer. Modifying your “hipness” by conjoining the two, on the other hand, is.

With that last statement fermenting in your mind, let me elaborate. Print publishing still brings in the majority of the publishing industry’s revenue. Let me repeat that: print publishing still brings in the majority of the publishing industry’s revenue. Not digital, in any platform. David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines, recently announced that the total digital revenues from Hearst’s magazines is a mere 3 percent. That being said, digital has a place in the business. And that place is on the other hip. The left hip, and the first, will always be print (and yes, I am one of those folks who is willing to say ALWAYS and not just in the foreseeable future). The right hip, the other balance point on today’s two-legged creation, is digital.

Combining the two, without replacing either, is the business model of today’s magazine. Our audience-of-one demands and deserves it. Out of sight is proving continuously out of mind.

Print has, is, and always will be as trendy, contemporary and innovative as we make it. Our creative juices must oil the joints of the body of our work. We cannot expect to succeed in either medium without realizing that.

The key is exceeding our customer’s expectations in all areas of the creation, from the content to the design, from the ads to the masthead; the experience must create a community that our audience-of-one desires to be a part of. If that happens, we build communities filled with loyal and returning citizens. Give them that trip filled with adventure, excitement, and, above all, relevance to their wants and requirements, and we will have what we all want: success, and happy customers.

But you must peel the layers back from your print product and get down to the center of it. Is it as creatively written, designed, and endemically ad-placed as it could be? Do you publish a magazine about parenting and have ads for liquor and tobacco in it? Think about it.

Being trendy and hip in today’s market is about more than just placing that glossy, big-paying ad smack in the middle of your publication. You have to think like a reader. Imagine what kind of ad you would like to see between the two articles you actually bought the magazine for in the first place. If you’re reading a cooking magazine and there aren’t any ads for ingredients between those recipes, you’re going to be a bit disappointed and miffed.
It’s creative placement and execution that makes a magazine innovative and keeps it that way. Not just an app.

But if we balance that print body with our other stabilizng factor, digital, we see a well-rounded, secure creation that knows its place in both worlds.

Print and digital together, done well and with an inspired mindset, can make a magazine the hippest of all media out there. Successful magazine media are going to be content curators, solution creators and experience makers, pure and simple! PE

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Mr. Magazine™ Minute: Lewis D’Vorkin, Chief Product Officer of Forbes Media, on the Future of Print and the Role Digital Plays in Helping and Enhancing Print

April 10, 2013

What is the future of print and how is digital helping and enhancing the printed magazine? Lewis D’Vorkin, the chief product officer of Forbes Media, answers these two questions in this segment of the Mr. Magazine™ Minute. Mr. D’Vorkin was visiting the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi. I asked him first about the future of print. Listen to his answer:

My second question to Mr. D’Vorkin was how did digital help the printed edition of Forbes magazine? His answer:

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Simply Gluten Free Magazine: The Story of a Print Launch Rooted in Recipe Making, Blogging, Television and Books. The Simply Gluten Free Passion and Duty of a Wife and Husband Team – Carol and Thom Kicinski – Revealed in The Mr. Magazine™ Interview.

April 8, 2013

simply gluten free 3-12Carol and Thom Kicinski are a married couple who are used to adjusting the menu. Carol was diagnosed gluten sensitive many years ago, so she had to learn to prepare foods that not only she could eat, but that her husband and family could enjoy as well.

So when they decided to expand their media menu by adding a print magazine to the very successful blog, television appearances and cookbooks that Carol writes and maintains, they knew that they would have to shuffle breakfast to accommodate lunch to save room for dinner and dessert. And do it successfully. Much like Carol did all those years ago when she was devising novel and delicious ways to prepare her gluten free meals.

The new addition to their family fare is Simply Gluten Free Magazine; a print entity that the couple created based on Carol’s blog and has the unique feature of being written, for the most part, by some of the top bloggers in the gluten and allergen free fields today. It’s an ink on paper lifestyle creation that promotes the abundant life that a gluten sensitive person can live. From food, recipes and medical tips – straight from gluten sensitive doctors themselves, to travel, beauty and home tips, Simply Gluten Free encompasses the positive and decries any negative vibes from an issue that is very important in today’s society – having to live a gluten free lifestyle.

So sit back, grab a copy of Simply Gluten Free and follow along on Carol and Thom’s journey into the world of gluten free print. And if you’re not gluten sensitive, no worries, you can still enjoy it. The magazine promises to be delicious and very guilt-free…for anyone.

But first the sound-bites.

The Sound-Bites:

On the journey from digital to print: The reason I decided to go from digital to print is first and foremost, no matter how much I love digital, I read magazines. I subscribe to magazines, I buy magazines and I still read my print magazines. And I know a lot of other people who still read magazines.

On the unique content-providers for the print magazine: Carol chose gluten free bloggers to be her writers, not people who were coming to the blog. In other words, these are the top gluten free bloggers that she recruited to be her writers in specific niches within the gluten free community.

On how they handle the pressures of their multimedia business: So what we do and the decisions we make are based on purpose. It was never based on let’s make a whole lot of money and do a magazine. We probably would have never gotten off the ground if that had been the case.

On whether so far it’s been a nightmare or a dream-come-true: It’s been absolutely the fulfillment of a dream for Carol and the fulfillment of a challenge for me. I tend to handle more of the business end and she handles the creative and design end. So it’s turned out to be the magazine she always wanted and it’s given me an interesting and fun business challenge.

Thom and Carol1And now for the lightly edited transcript for the Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Simply Gluten Free magazine’s Carol and Thom Kicinski.

Samir Husni: Do you think it’s crazy to start a print magazine in this day and age? And what’s the story behind Simply Gluten Free?

Thom Kicinski: My wife was diagnosed gluten sensitive 20 years ago. She raised our two sons and me, who are not gluten sensitive, all during that time period and had to adjust her cooking skills to accommodate her diet and still satisfy us because we wouldn’t buy into the fact that we were going to eat food that “tasted healthy” or had any of that healthy texture to it. We wanted regular food. It sort of forced Carol into a cooking habit of making food that tasted and had the texture of regular food, yet was gluten free, so she wouldn’t get sick every time she would eat it.

In November 2007, Carol started a blog called “” and that blog has now grown to be one of the largest blogs in the world on the gluten free topic. If you go to Google and you simply type in gluten free, you will see right under Wikipedia, which we’ll never beat, and under the Mayo Clinic, which we’ll never beat either, they have way too many topics on health, but right under those two typically always comes up Carol Kicinski and simply next. And that’s all generated naturally. We’ve done no funky things to get that placement. It’s all been a natural generation as a result of the tremendous content that’s on her website.

She’s posting new recipes pretty much every other, if not every third day. It’s extremely popular. The website receives about 775,000 hits per month and that’s over 25,000 hits per day. And that’s from 150,000 absolute unique visitors per month. That’s people who are counted only once per month for having gone to the site, no matter how many times they revisited it. So you have 150,000 different people per month going to this website. Carol receives over 1,000 emails per day from the website, so she has a lot of traffic.

In 2009 the television show “Daytime TV” discovered Carol and they asked her to start doing gluten free recipes on TV and she’s since become their gluten free chef. She’s been on monthly episodes of the show, which is an NBC-based station and is nationally syndicated to about 97 million TV households per month, and she has the gluten free cooking episode every month. She’s now in her 4th season with that.

She then did a couple of cookbooks due to the many requests she’d had for her recipes. The first one was Simply Gluten Free Desserts and then Simply Gluten Free Quick Meals, which teaches people the most difficult areas of gluten free food preparation, and Simply Gluten Free Desserts is about baking and doing breakfast items and dessert items which are some of the biggest challenges for the gluten free person. And of course, Quick Meals is about how to get gluten free meals quickly onto the dinner table for busy moms with families who are challenged with gluten free sensitivities. That’s Carol’s background and then I’ll let her tell you why she decided last March to do a print magazine.

Samir Husni: Carol, you started with a blog, which put you on the digital side of things, then you moved to television, then books and now the print magazine. Take us through that journey.

Carol Kicinski: With the blog, I had people ask me for recipes and I was always a cook who just threw things in a pan. I never measured anything. I’d say, “Oh, just toss in a couple of handfuls of this and a pinch of that.” I didn’t go to culinary school and I’m not a chef. I’m a home cook, a mom who taught herself everything. So people would ask me for recipes and it was a little bit hard if they weren’t a very good cook themselves. So if I just said throw in a couple handfuls of this, pour in some of that, it wasn’t as specific as they needed. I thought that starting a blog would be a good way to force me to be more specific with my recipes. So I really started the blog to gain a bit more discipline in my recipes and really figure out how to make a recipe that’s workable, regardless of your skill-set.

And I’ve always been fascinated with taking pictures of food. We’d go to Europe and most people would come back with pictures of the Eiffel Tower, or the Coliseum and I’d come back with 42 pictures of cappuccinos. I also thought it would be a good way to force me to improve my photography skills and give me some accountability. I didn’t really know if anyone would go to my blog in the beginning. It was quite a surprise when I started getting comments and meeting people. And then I sort of organically grew.

The television show was a bit of a happenstance. I met the producer of the show at the time and she actually had some experience in dealing with people who were gluten sensitive. She told me that people needed to know about this and they needed to have recipes. She was a little ahead of her time because this was four years ago. So she asked me to come on the show and I did a segment and there was a lot of viewer response. She received a lot of emails, the gluten free community tends to be quite vocal, and then they asked me to come back and do a regular segment.

The cookbooks were also an evolution of the blog. I was approached by an editor at St. Martin’s Press who wondered if I would be interested in doing a book proposal for a cookbook. And I said sure. I didn’t really know what a book proposal was so I Googled it, put something together and there you go.

Thom Kicinski: We’re not very pretentious here.

Simply gluten free 2-11Samir Husni: That’s the best way of doing anything these days that succeeds.

Carol Kicinski: The reason I decided to go from digital to print is first and foremost, no matter how much I love digital, I read magazines. I subscribe to magazines, I buy magazines and I still read my print magazines. And I know a lot of other people who still read magazines.

And the other thing was I wanted to be able to go out and buy a gluten free lifestyle magazine, not just one that had recipes in it or that talked about the dietary challenges of being gluten free, but one that was a very pretty magazine that felt good in the hands and had great pictures in it. And I was really honestly hoping someone else would do it. I couldn’t find a magazine like that; no one else did do it, so I decided to create one. I brought the idea up to Thom and off we went.

Samir Husni: It’s my understanding that the way you developed the content of the magazine is also unique. Would you tell us a little bit about that?

Thom Kicinski: I’ll prelude it, and then Carol can tell you more. You know most magazines typically evolve from a producer who identifies the niche, hires some writers to write about that niche, then finds some advertisers and the magazine grows. In Carol’s case, what she did was a bit different from the typical. I’ll let her tell you a bit about bloggers first and then we can go into the evolution of how she organized this.

Carol Kicinski: Having been a blogger myself, I’ve come to realize that people trust bloggers and that’s because for the most part they are the people who are, in our case, living a gluten free lifestyle. We’re not people who are finding out about the gluten free lifestyle from a third party perspective and then writing about it. We’re the ones that are facing the challenges in the grocery store and in the kitchen every day, and people tend to trust that. Because of their no-vested interest and the real-life, on-the-ground experience they have with the subject, readers trust bloggers.

And I’m also very connected in the blogging world. And I happen to know a lot of the top gluten and allergen free bloggers. So I thought people would be interested in reading about the lifestyle and making the recipes if they were written by people who are actually living the gluten free lifestyle, and not people who are just writing about it. I organized about 20-25 of the top allergen free bloggers to write articles for each issue.

And because this is a lifestyle magazine and the medical side of gluten free is so important, I contacted three of the top doctors who specialize in gluten sensitivity. I wasn’t interested in doctors who were just studying it; I wanted doctors who were actually treating patients on a daily basis, because they would know how to communicate with the person who’s new to the gluten free diet. So I got three medical doctors who all happened to not only deal with gluten sensitivities, but also followed a gluten free lifestyle themselves, and also a nutritionist to write for us.

We cover the medical and we cover the recipes, but also things like travel and beauty. A lot of people don’t realize that if there’s gluten in products like your moisturizer or makeup and it’s absorbing into your skin, it may be affecting you. So it’s important to highlight that and do it in a fun way so that readers are learning something like how to do a new look.

We have a cocktail section and as I said, we cover travel. Traveling gluten free is sometimes challenging. We do things such as “Do It Yourself” – make your own vanilla extract, how to do gift wrapping, some things not necessarily particular to gluten free, but as a person who was looking for a lifestyle magazine, I think people are interested in a variety of things. We also cover children. I have a writer who writes every issue and she’s a mom dealing with this in the trenches. She gives her perspective and because sometimes there are bumps in the road, she’s very honest.

For the most part the magazine focuses on the celebration of the abundance of a gluten free lifestyle. We like to point out what you can have, what you can eat and what you can enjoy and not focus on the deprivation. And I believe people are really responding to that as well.

Samir Husni: You mentioned that people trust bloggers; do you mean they trust bloggers in a specific community? For example, if they come to the Simply Gluten Free blog, do they trust those bloggers and that content, or do you mean that people trust all bloggers in general? And do you think that by doing the magazine you have validated the blog, the writers and the stories?

Thom Kicinski: Carol chose gluten free bloggers to be her writers, not people who were coming to the blog. In other words, these are the top gluten free bloggers that she recruited to be her writers in specific niches within the gluten free community. For example, one blogger is very prolific on gluten free for children topics, another on gluten free travel, another on doing the Vegan diet gluten free, and another on the Paleo diet and doing it gluten free. She got the top bloggers in their specialty fields and then made them her writers for the magazine.

Samir Husni: If we actually trust bloggers however, are we giving them a shot in the arm when we then do the print magazine based on the bloggers, or based on their contribution? And does that make them more trustworthy? And is there a link between that vast vapor that is the digital word, with the blog and the print magazine now?

Carol Kicinski: According to some survey data that we had, and it asked various questions, such as whom do you go to with certain queries and whose information do you trust, bloggers came up number one. I believe, and this is my opinion, when somebody reads a blog, the person writing it becomes very real to the reader. They form a relationship. Being a blogger myself, I have been contacted numerous times by various magazines to write articles. Now the fact that I am a blogger is not necessarily played up in the other publications, but I just did a twist on what others are doing. So yes, I am validating the fact that these people are those who are on the ground and living the lifestyle and writing about it, and that they are bloggers.

Thom Kicinski: We did a survey on Carol’s website and the magazine’s website for the months of November and December. And one of the questions we asked was where you get your most reliable gluten free information from. They were allowed to pick from three different sources and 90% came in with the internet and bloggers. That was the item chosen, information from the internet and bloggers. And the next one under that, believe it or not, was an in-store shopping experience, and that was 40% who said they got their information while in the supermarket reading labels and looking at the products. And the third one was magazines, and that was 36%, and in fourth position were friends with 32% and 15% said support groups, while surprisingly only 13% said from a doctor. They were getting their most reliable information; they felt, from the internet and bloggers. It was actually 89.7%. So that tells you who they trust.

Samir Husni: So how is the magazine going to change that? I mean after three issues, what was the reaction to the printed magazine?

Carol Kicinski: I think that it just reinforces this. I don’t think that they are mutually exclusive of each other. I read blogs and I buy magazines. Also in our survey, we figured out who the typical gluten free consumer is. And I am smack-dab in the middle. I am the gluten free consumer. And I’m assuming I’m not alone in that. And I buy magazines.

Thom Kicinski: A blogger is very, very real to people. That’s the bottom line. They read bloggers and it’s just like reading about your neighbor or about themselves. Then when you translate and put all of that in a magazine, now you have a magazine full of content that people feel is very friendly to them. It’s not some writer from a third person position writing it; it’s the person themselves in very simple language, very common language, writing to them. And that is, I think, a very key element of the success of the magazine.

Samir Husni: How does a couple in the 21st century today handle this magazine media world? Carol is everywhere. Your name is everywhere…you’re the national sales advertiser, the publisher…how do you two do it? And what advice do you have for other couples or individuals thinking about launching a magazine? Tell me a little bit about the nightmare behind the dream.

Carol Kicinski: I am passionate about what I’m doing. And I love what I’m doing. We work hard and I think that passion is the basis for that.

Thom Kicinski: And Carol is very right. If you back away and look at it, we didn’t start a magazine to make money. There are two purposes in someone’s mind when they’re doing something like this: there’s the purpose to make money, or there’s the purpose to forward a duty or that purpose. If you just make decisions based on making money, I’ve found in life that those things tend to not do so well, because the decisions made sometimes aren’t the right ones. If you tend to make the decisions based on purpose or duty, it usually works out and makes sense.

Carol’s duty and purpose has always been to communicate to the gluten free, Vegan, vegetarian and Paleo diet world and to the other allergen free world, to communicate good solutions and tips, recipes, tricks and a lifestyle that will help them make healthy choices for themselves and their children. That was always her purpose. So what we do and the decisions we make are based on purpose. It was never based on let’s make a whole lot of money and do a magazine. We probably would have never gotten off the ground if that had been the case. The money end of it was scary and quite challenging, as you can guess when you’re starting something like that. But she’s always wanted to offer solutions to people so they could make good decisions that were healthy for themselves and their family. And I think that you have to look at that as the basis.

simply gluten free 1-10Samir Husni: So taking all that passion and duty, you launched a magazine. How has it been so far, nightmare or dream-like road trip?

Thom Kicinski: It’s been absolutely the fulfillment of a dream for Carol and the fulfillment of a challenge for me. I tend to handle more of the business end and she handles the creative and design end. So it’s turned out to be the magazine she always wanted and it’s given me an interesting and fun business challenge.

Our first magazine, we targeted to print 15,000 copies, which was modest but significant for a premiere issue of a magazine. I had zero intentions of being able to get into any stores with that issue. When I was selling the advertising, I simply told the advertisers that we would be going to doctor’s offices and of course to our subscribers. I had it all figured out how we would distribute that many issues into those areas.

Well as it turned out, the magazine, before the first issue was even printed in concept form only, happened to hit the vice president and the president’s desk at Ingram and they both said, “Hey, we want this. This is something that we can throw our shoulders behind.” And before we knew it, we were in all Barnes & Noble, all Whole Foods across the United States; we were in Sprouts, Wegmans, and many of the health food stores, overnight.

And as the store orders came in, we ended up having to print 18,000 of that first issue just to satisfy the store orders. And then with the second issue we intended to print 20,000 and we ended up having to print 27,000 because of the store orders. And then we thought we’d print 30,000 for the third issue and we were forced to print 40,000. Now with the fourth issue we were going to do 45,000, but wound up doing almost 52,000 just because the stores had been driving our orders.

Carol did a tremendous job with the beautiful, gorgeous photograph of the turkey on the front of the first issue. It turned out to be just a great holiday issue. As you know, you have to pay up front before the printer even schedules your job. Well, about 3 nights after we had put the whole thing to bed with the printer, I remember sitting straight up in the middle of the night in bed and saying, “Oh my goodness! What if nobody buys it?” Literally I remember saying that, because that’s the one thing that we couldn’t control.

But as it turned out, it was a tremendous success, selling a very high percent of sales. The wholesaler compared it to when TV Guide came out. I asked him, “THE TV Guide?” And he said yes, “THE TV Guide.” And I went wow.

And then when the second issue came out, the first week it was in Whole Foods, and Whole Foods is sort of our bellwether, it tells us how well we’re doing. They have 500-600 stores across the United States, and we know how well we’re doing in all the health food stores based on how well we’re doing in Whole Foods. And they’re a terrific marketplace, of course, for people.

So all of a sudden we get the news that we’re selling in the number 7 position, total mag-volume sales, in all Whole Foods across the United States. That’s against magazines like Real Simple, Vanity Fair, and Psychology Today – the big boys. Here we are with our second issue and we’re asking, “Wow, how is that happening?”

And then the next week after that, we’re selling in 5th position, and the week after that in 5th position again, and with really high percentages. And then the third issue came out, which is the March/April issue and we got the news for the week ending March 8th that in Whole Foods market we were selling in 3rd position.

So it seems to be a success and it’s something that the consumer is definitely picking up off the shelf and reading. The magazine was 80 pages, 80 +4, in its first issue, and now with the fourth issue, which is the May/June 2013 issue, Carol has taken it to a 104 + 4 pages. It’s grown in size and circulation.

Samir Husni: Carol, what do you call yourself? Are you writer, editor, inventor, creator, housewife?

Carol Kicinski: For the magazine, I’m the editor –in- chief.

Samir Husni: Yes, but what would you like people to think about when they think about Carol?

Carol Kicinski: I think the truth of the matter is, as a skill-set, I’m a recipe developer. Whether I do it at home, for the magazine, or for the blog, that’s what I do. I make recipes, gluten free recipes.

Thom Kicinski: She’s a creator. She’s very modest. In all the years that we’ve been married, and you can imagine all the meals that she’s put on the dinner table for me and the kids when they were growing up, because we were a family that always ate dinner, every single night, and I could count on one hand the amount of times she ever repeated a recipe in our entire lifetime together. She was and is always doing something new.

Sometimes we would invite other people over and I would ask, “Honey, what are you going to make for dinner tonight?” and she would say, “Well, I’m making this, this and that.” And I would say, “Well, you’ve made that before, right?” And she would say, “No, not really.” And I would return with, “What do you mean, you’re trying a new dish? Tonight’s kind of important, you know?” And she would assure me that it would be fine and that’s the way she’s always been.

So you might ask her what she is and she’ll say a recipe developer. But if you ask me the same question, I’ll say, greater than that, she’s a creator. She’s always creating something new.

Samir Husni: Carol, how would you define Thom?

Carol Kicinski: I tell people, I’m the beauty and he’s the brains. I think I have vision and I can think of how I want something to be. For example, the magazine, I can envision it in my mind’s eye and Thom is the genius who can take that and turn it into fruition. He can figure out anything and he can drive anything through, from concept-stage to completion.

Samir Husni: Now Thom, how would you define yourself?

Thom Kicinski: Well, I think, coming back down to earth off of genius for a second; Carol had a purpose and a goal to do things, and she did. She’s always had her purposes and goals, and that is her driving force. And it became both of our driving force in business. But you have to provide enough of a financial platform so you can accomplish those purposes and goals. In other words, you can say we’re in this for the purpose or the goal of getting out correct information into people’s hands, but you still have to pay some attention to the money end of it. You don’t make your driving decisions based on money, but you’ve got to make correct decisions so that you do have the wherewithal to provide the platform to then be able to forward the purpose. And that’s probably what I am the best at doing.

Samir Husni: What keeps you up at night?

Carol Kicinski: For me it’s always concern. For instance, if I do a cover, like the cover of the magazine that we just put to bed, I really like it and I’m happy with it. But then I ask myself, “OK, but how is the next one going to be better?”

Thom Kicinski: What keeps me up at night is very simple; when she decided to do this project, I was already working a 10-12 hour day with the website and all her other ventures that she had going. So in order to make room for the magazine, I had to start my workday world at 1-2 a.m. So that literally does keep me up. I get about 6 hours of work in before anybody else comes to work and I can then handle the daily traffic of the day, but during that early morning time is when I can accomplish things.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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