Ranger Rick Jr. Magazine: Celebrating Ten Years Of Magic Only Print Can Provide. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Lori Collins, Editor in Chief.

January 6, 2022

“So, with our birthday edition, we’re trying to blur the lines between print and digital rather than to make them choose between them. Our hope is that kids will find it a richer, more engaging experience than any single medium can provide.” Lori Collins, EIC, Ranger Rick Jr. magazine

Ranger Rick Jr., the magazine published by the National Wildlife Federation, is  celebrating its 10thanniversary this year. To commemorate this milestone, NWF is making the February 2022 issue of the magazine a special birthday edition of the magazine.  

Ranger Rick Jr. has its origins in Your Big Backyard magazine that was established in 1979 before becoming Ranger Rick Jr. ten years ago. The magazine now shares a host of publications from the NWF from its older sibling Ranger Rick (aimed at children ages 7 + ) and younger sibling  Ranger Rick Cub (aimed at children ages 0 -4) and Zoobooks.

I reached out to Lori Collins, editor in chief of the Early Childhood Publications at the National Wildlife Federation, and asked her seven questions regarding the tenth anniversary of Ranger Rick Jr.  My questions and her answers follow:

Lori Collins, Editor in Chief, Ranger Rick Jr.

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: Ten years ago you launched RR Jr. in the height of the digital revolution.  Why did you decide to do that and what role does print play in this digital age when it comes to the younger generation?

Lori Collins: Both kids and adults love technology, no question about it. They like the bells and whistles. But kids, especially young ones, love the simple magic only a print product can provide. Our readers look forward to getting mail each month that is not only addressed to them, but also made just for them. It makes them feel special.

More importantly, young children like the quiet time they spend curled up with a parent, mostly at bedtime, going through the pages, looking at the pictures and reading the stories. Most parents cherish those hours with their child as well. 

S.H.:Now that the magazine is ten, what’s in store for the tenth anniversary?

L.C.: When I realized Ranger Rick Jr. was turning 10, I wanted to do something special to mark the occasion. Most importantly, I wanted whatever we chose to do to be fun for our readers. Ultimately, we took a two-pronged approach:

— For the first time ever, we included a sheet of stickers in the magazine. But the stickers aren’t meant to be decorative. Kids are asked to use them to complete features scattered throughout the issue. It’s designed for those kids that are very tactile. The activity will be fun, but it is also designed to reinforce the learning.

—Second, in addition to all the usual content you’ll find in an issue of Ranger Rick Jr. magazine, we’ve included a digital scavenger hunt. When children find and scan any of the ten birthday QR codes we’ve hidden among the pages, they’ll be taken to special web pages that feature unique, bite-sized digital activities related to content in the February issue. The only way to get to any of this online fun is through the print magazine.

S.H.: It seems that you are going beyond the content providing into the experience making, can you elaborate?

I don’t think kids make distinctions between print or digital in the same way that some adults do. Kids just want things to do—regardless of platform—that are designed specifically for them and that are fun. So, with our birthday edition, we’re trying to blur the lines between print and digital rather than to make them choose between them. Our hope is that kids will find it a richer, more engaging experience than any single medium can provide.

S.H.: How are you reaching your audience?  The traditional direct marketing pieces, online, email, etc…

L.C.: Like every publisher, our marketing team relies on multiple methods—direct mail, online ads, email blasts— to get new subscribers. It’s surprising to me—and a little disappointing given the costs—but direct mail still brings in the bulk of our orders.

Nine years ago, I was approached by the founder of the Prekindergarten Reading Encouragement Project (PREP) in Wilmington, Delaware. He asked if we would sell them copies of Ranger Rick Jr. at a reduced rate to distribute in pre-school classrooms in underserved communities in the city. Every month, children in the program receive the magazine and a Parent Reading Guide—in English and Spanish—with tips for sharing the magazine with their children. Thanks to PREP, several thousand families that didn’t previously know Ranger Rick Jr. existed now know and love it. I’m constantly looking for opportunities to replicate the success of PREP in other communities.

S.H.:  What was the major challenge you’ve faced in the last ten years and how did you overcome it?

L.C.: I get paid to write stories about animals for six-year-olds, so I feel like I have the best job in the world. My biggest challenge has been dealing with the grown-ups. It’s expensive to produce and distribute the magazine. The cost of paper and postage continue to rise. Creating digital content is not cheap. So, there’s almost constant pressure to cut corners. But I have too much respect for my young audience to make compromises that will undermine the product we deliver. That often means rethinking how we do some things. It’s OK, for example, to cut pages, providing we can find ways to make the remaining pages more fun and engaging than they were before.  

S.H.: What was the most pleasant moment in those ten years?

L.C.: Late one night about six years ago, I had a chance encounter with a fan. As I was getting in my car, I looked up and saw a man standing outside the car in front of mine flipping through a magazine. When I looked more closely, I noticed Ricky Raccoon on the back cover. 

I pulled up next to him, I rolled down my window, and asked if he liked the magazine. He was as startled by my question as I was to see him reading Ranger Rick Jr. on the streets of Washington, DC at 1am. I explained that I was the editor of the magazine and showed him my name in the masthead. He told me that his daughter absolutely loves the magazine and that she brings it with her when she comes to pick up her daddy after work. He agreed to let me take a quick picture, providing I signed their copy of the magazine. 

The encounter was completely random and unexpected and genuine. It made my night. And it may sound silly, but in all my years working at NWF, I think it was my proudest moment. 

S.H.: My typical last question, what keeps you up at night these days?

L.C.: I can honestly say, “nothing.” I’ve never been one to sweat the small stuff. 

S.H.: Again, congratulations on the tenth anniversary and thank you.

One comment

  1. I used to love this magazine as a kid. I wanted to submit a story to them once but they weren’t open for submissions. I wish more magazines would be open for submissions from authors that don’t necessarily travel to distant lands to get their first hand experiences.

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