The Two Page Spread: A New Auto Magazine Where Content Is A Beautiful Experience… A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story

September 26, 2022

“In keeping with my love of print, each new feature will also include a link to a downloadable file of the Spread in a high-resolution, printable format, suitable for printing 36″ x 24″ posters. Because ‘Print Rules’.” Keith Keplinger, Publisher and Art Director

“I think that working with Keith, I have an art director who sees my editorial vision of what a print magazine can be in this age of people “reading” enthusiast content on their phones.” Richard Truesdell, Editor and Chief Contributor

Keith Keplinger and Richard Truesdell are two well known names in the circles of automotive media. You mention Keith or Rich and folks will stop and listen to see what those two are up to. Some folks at their age either retire or leave the entire industry behind, but their creative juices refuse to let them stop, and as Michael Clinton would say, they are roaring into their second act. And roar it is. Between the two of them, the ideas don’t only come, but are executed in a well curated, edited, and designed way.

What follows is the story of the launch of their latest magazine The Two Page Spread (T2PS). Founded by Keith in 2020 and later teamed with Rich the magazine is a beauty to look at and a welcomed addition to the world of print.

In a typical Mr. Magazine™ format, I asked Keith and Rich my seven questions about the launch of The Two Page Spread and the plans for the future.

Without any further ado, here is The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Keith Keplinger, publisher and art director, and Richard Truesdell, editor and chief contributor.

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: Tell me the story behind the launch of The Two Page Spread and what role each one of you play with this new magazine?

Keith Keplinger

Keith Keplinger: The story: Back In the 1980s, before the dinosaurs vanished, auto magazines were mostly black and white, with only 16 pages of color in the center. After selling a page or 2 in color to paying advertisers, a good editor/art director team could get 7 feature cars in each issue, by making the features ‘Two Page Spreads’. 

I’ve designed hundreds of them, as art Director and Creative Director for Dobbs Publishing Group in the late 80s and early 90s. Loved the concise nature of them, the pure, simple story in 2 pages.

These days, the few print books still out there give six or more pages to the features – beautiful photos, with flowing stories. And the Webzines offer almost unlimited space freedoms. And I think those are great. But I miss the simplicity of my old favorite.

I launched ‘The Two Page Spread’ on Facebook on September 3, 2020, as I was beginning Cancer treatment, to help keep me busy and to give the features that I had shot but never made it into magazines after December 6, 2019, when Motor Trend Group killed 19 titles. On the Facebook page, we showcase The Two Page Spreads of cars I’ve shot and select few other editors/photographers have shot, too. In keeping with my love of print, each new feature will also include a link to a downloadable file of the Spread in a high-resolution, printable format, suitable for printing 36″ x 24″ posters. Because ‘Print Rules’.

I play dual roles as Art Director and Publisher. Richard joined in early 2021 as Editor and Chief Contributor.

His first contribution, in April 2021, was a T2PS on the famous Playboy Playmate AMC AMX.

Richard Truesdell

Richard Truesdell: My story is a bit different than Keith’s as after a short academic career in which I taught high school social studies from 1976 to 1981, I launched a mobile electronics store in 1980, while I was still teaching. It ran until 1992 and during that time I started writing feature stories for trade (Autosound and Security) and then consumer titles. Because of my contributions to Autosound and Security, I was asked to write a monthly column on installation tech when Hachette launched Car Stereo Review in 1987. That led to a three-year gig producing a car electronics special section for Car and Driver. That’s when I got the magazine bug in my system. I’m sure you know that story Samir.

Ten years later, while I was still contributing to Car Stereo Review, after Primedia bought a small boutique publisher, AvCom, and the entire staff of CA&E  quit, I was approached to see if I would take the EIC position at their title, Car Audio and Electronics. At the time CA&E was the category leader, circulation-wise. At the time, I was living in Albuquerque, contributing to several titles in the automotive sector while producing a monthly four-page department in Motor Trend called Autotronics. That was a huge paying gig when MT was published by Petersen, Primedia’s main rival. I accepted the offer but it lasted just 10 months as the publisher, who was technically my boss, thought I wanted his job. Nothing was further from the truth.

As it turned out, the art director at CA&E complained to the publisher that I was always late (which was true as I always strove to make each magazine the best it could be, especially when coverig industry events), which he used as the cause to fire me. It didn’t matter that during my one-year tenure as EIC, both circulation and ad pages increased more than 10%. Five years later, after three editors, Primedia shuttered the title.

In less than 90 days, I rebuilt my freelance business and was making more than I was at CS&E. Then I started self-syndicating my work around the world and except for one year, 2010 when I was the launch editor of Chevy Enthusiast at Amos Automotive (where I also had a running battle with the art director there as I was pushing the design envelope at CE compared to the other six titles), I have been an independent freelance/contract writer, photographer, photojournalist, and now editor from 1997 to the present day, I’ve produced more than 1,500 magazine articles and co-authored three automotive books with my best friend, Mark Fletcher.

I stumbled upon Keith’s The Two Page Spread on Facebook, I queried him to see if he would be interested in using content from my archives. He said yes, and we’ve been working together now for over a year. I brought my print-on-demand experience on CreateSpace/Kindle Direct Publishing where we’ve produced five titles together. I see T2PS Facebook page as a way to get my content in front of more editors around the world as I can produce PDFs of my content items.

And Keith is the only art director I’ve worked with that hasn’t tried to get me fired.

S.H.: You have a different launch model, can you explain it and elaborate on the reasoning behind it?

Keith: When I started, I had zero dollars to invest in conventional printing, so began it online only, with the downloadable print-ready poster. Mid-2021, Richard discussed his success with Kindle Direct Publishing, and we had the first two ‘Annuals’ of 100 pages each on Amazon by Black Friday. We decided to go to a 52-page quarterly model in early 2022 and currently have three quarterly issues available with a fourth on the way next month. And are now exploring newsstand options. The one stroke of brilliance I had with the first print books is that they are not dated, but rather go by volume and issue. Therefore, they have an unlimited shelf life. No wasted copies.

Rich: Just this past weekend I got the T2PS print edition placed in Autobooks-Aerobooks in Burbank, California. I’ve known owner Tina Van Curren for more than a decade as she’s hosted book signings for all three of my books. Autobooks-Aerobooks is the nation’s leading automotive and aviation bookstore. They’ve been around since the 1950s. Jay Leno is a regular and through a stroke of luck back in 2012, Tina got me and Mark a gig on Jay Leno’s Bookshelf which really helped the sales of our first book, Hurst Equipped. And Jay appeared at the book signings for 1970 Maximum Muscle and Hemi Under Glass: Bob Riggle and His Wheel-Standing Mopars in 2021.  

S.H.: What are the major challenges you are facing?  How do you plan to overcome it?

Keith: We’ve had intermittent success reaching people thru posting on the various Facebook Groups on a particular make/model of car (one hit over 37K impressions), but hitting long-term, consistent growth has proven elusive, partly because of the vast variety of makes/models we feature.

Rich: Because of my retail and self-publishing experience, I look at things from a different perspective. I have been kicking around the idea of a quarterly magazine that will focus on cars of the postwar era (1949-89). I think that working with Keith, I have an art director who sees my editorial vision of what a print magazine can be in this age of people “reading” enthusiast content on their phones.

I think that there needs to be a bridge that spans the print-digital divide. We’ve started experimenting with it on T2PS with Keith embedding QR codes into some of the features, mostly mine. Because with T2PS, we’re limited to just 400 words, I sometimes use QR codes linked to PDFs of the original four-to-10-page magazine features which tell a much more complete story.

S.H.:  What are some of the pleasant moments that you have faced since the launch of the magazine?

Keith: I’m loving the design process! Keeps me on my toes. Hearing from the car owners that we’ve made one of their lifelong dreams come true by being featured in a print magazine always puts a smile on my face. Meeting up with Richard and having a place to share his amazing collection of vehicle features and giving them all a new look and life. Working with Richard, one of the best editors I’ve ever known, and learning the art of writing from him.

Rich: I feel the same way about Keith, who I have never met in person. While I have some design expertise, it pales in comparison to Keith’s. But when I transfer the content package (text file, 20 images, and supporting graphics) to him, he instinctively knows what I want.

A great example is a recent T2PS on a modified 1964 Chrysler 300K. Because of the space constraints of T2PS format, we don’t have the luxury of captions. Keith read my text and saw where I mentioned a concealed high-end infotainment system. For two of the five inset photos, he showed the dash with the panel closed as well as open. He knew instinctively what I wanted. From an editor’s viewpoint, that is invaluable. It’s a brilliant layout.

We do disagree on some points but always find a way to make things work. 

S.H.:  The automotive magazine market is definitely not as used to be five, or ten years ago. What is your take on the auto magazine media marketplace?

Keith: One of my areas of expertise while at Dobbs in the 1980s & 1990s was creating the promotions for circulation and advertising. NOTHING I LEARNED OR THAT WORKED THEN APPLIES NOW!

The marketplace is much more scattered, and people have become accustomed to getting free content online. Converting those eyeballs into print book buyers continues to be a challenge.

Rich: You have to give readers something they can’t get digitally if you are going to expect them to pay $10 to $15 per issue. But I believe that digital can complement the print product. That’s what I, we, want to do with my postwar quarterly. It’s aimed at a more mature audience—many who are suffering from failing eyesight—with larger-than-normal fonts, for those who grew up with print magazines, like Keith and I did. We’re all 55+, some more plus than others.

Here’s another example. One story we’ve done in T2PS is on a 1973 Plymouth Duster 340 that’s been in the same family since new, now five decades. In the layout for the postwar magazine, at the end of the story, you see a QR code. After you’ve finished reading that feature, you point your phone to the QR code and it brings up two television commercials for the new 1973 Duster already available on YouTube. It’s an added level of engagement that I think enhances the print reading experience.

S.H.: As you view the near future, what is in store for the magazine and the two of you?

Keith: Continuing to shoot more cars, tell more stories. Dipping our toes into the brick-and-mortar booksellers is an exciting possibility. We’re also looking at repackaging some of this year’s Spreads as 100-page annuals, each one appealing to a more targeted slice of the automotive pie. We’ll launch the annuals on Black Friday.

Rich: We can easily repackage the existing T2PS content into more targeted packages as Keith said above. Keith’s background is primarily Mustangs and Fords so one of the 100-page annuals will target that area. I’m much more of a generalist although I have a penchant for the unusual, out-of-the-mainstream marques, like American Motors and more obscure European brands. At $25 each, they will be great stocking stuffers for your favorite auto enthusiast on your list. The challenge will be how to get noticed. Social media only goes so far. Getting real-time online reviews and getting Amazon to recommend us is crucial. I’m working on that.

S.H.: My typical question is, what keeps you up at night?

Keith: I’ve been cancer-free for over a year now. I’ve been blessed with being a working artist/art director for my entire career, dating back to 1979 when I dropped out of college to take my first AD position. ‘Running out of time’ is what keeps me up at night. Literally. I have more ideas than I can put to page. Things like T2PS – Motorcycles, T2PS – Tiny Houses,  T2PS Mid Century Modern. And exploring other print ideas with Richard.

My hobby is that I’m a serial remodeler, and over 40 years I’ve become so good that friends and family are now imploring me to teach them how to reimaging their houses. And with the downturn in conventional print advertising (my ad agency for the last 28 years, Keplinger Designs, is aimed at the automotive aftermarket), any revenue is welcomed.

Rich: I had a near-death experience this Spring which put the launch of the postwar magazine on hold. We had hoped to launch it (yes, I’ve been coy with its title) this Summer during Pebble Beach Week but have delayed it until January 2023, for Scottsdale Car Week.

If one looks at the auto section of the Barnes and Noble newsstand, almost half the titles are now from the UK, which to me is sad. One thing I know is unless retail is willing to buy it outright at a deep discount for the visibility—with no returns—newsstand is out. We simply can’t afford that unless we are part of a larger publishing organization. 

Having an entity in the vintage automotive world, especially in the high-end auction sector, to be the cover-line sponsor, is the road we’re currently exploring for the postwar title. It allows me to leverage my of almost 30 years in the automotive editorial space, to get the title launched. And having Keith as the design partner is so exciting, seeing what he’s done with my legacy content, giving it a fresh lease on life with T2PS.

That’s the challenge we face. But T2PS does allow us to explore and test many ideas with it costing us nothing except for the time we put into producing T2PS.

S.H.: Thank you both.

Keith: Thank you for this wonderful opportunity and for your helpful insights into our little publishing concept.

Rich: Like Keith, I also want to thank you for giving us this exposure. I clearly remember how helpful you were when I launched Automotive Traveler as a digital-only online magazine back in 2007. I’m hoping that lightning strikes twice.

To view all the Facebook The Two Page Spreads, visit bit.ly/AllT2PS.

One comment

  1. […] Here’s The Two Page Spread Magazine’s November, 2022 feature of dad’s hemi-powered Chevy. There’s a story about how the magazine came to be featuring publisher Keith Keplinger, and editor Richard Truesdell here […]

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