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Afar Publisher John Sheehy: ‘Downturn Is Actually Helping’ Travel Mag Launch

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The Afar team celebrates the mag launch at 632 Hudson last night in NYC. From left: Co-founder Joseph Diaz, editor-in-chief Susan West, publisher John Sheehy, founder and CEO Greg Sullivan, and executive director of travel Claude Girard. Photo by Shawn Ehlers Photography.

Filling an opulent townhouse with Moroccan fare, Basque wine and didgeridoo and capoeira performances, niche travel mag Afar introduced itself and its mission to deliver international editorial content for the “experiential traveler” at last night’s launch party in the Meatpacking District. In an era of cancelled conferences and Christmas parties, folded magazines and company-wide layoffs, the party certainly was transporting.

We spotted some familiar faces in the crowd, including Samir Husni (a.k.a. Mr. Magazine), EntertainmentWeekly.com’s Cyndi Stivers, and TheWrap.com’s Dylan Stableford. We caught up with Afar‘s publisher, John Sheehy, a former Time Inc. publishing director who consulted on Dwell‘s launch, to hear first-hand why anyone would launch a print publication in this economy. Apparently, the industry’s current financial turmoil is of little concern to Sheehy: “The downturn is actually helping [Afar], because people are more selective about travel.” Ad pages account for 25 percent of Afar‘s 100-page launch issue, and Sheehy is bullish about the future. The bimonthly magazine hits newsstands August 18, and a Web site and social network component to the print pub is set to debut in early 2010.

Afar co-founders Greg Sullivan (CEO) and Joe Diaz said they came up with the concept for Afar after a five-week stay in India with no set agenda. Sullivan said they realized that this “beneath the culture” travel had no media representation, and they believe Afar can fill that niche need in the crowded travel mag market. Said Sullivan, Afar “should be a media brand that inspires this kind of [experiential] travel,” he said.

But can another travel mag really endure the journey to success in these hard publishing times? Sullivan (who, by the way, sank $10 million of his own money into this project) seems to have no doubts, saying, “It sure seems like we’re touching a chord here… We really think this could be a big thing.”

Check out photos from the event (didgeridoos included) after the jump…


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Guests at the Afar launch party enjoying the Brazilian Capoeira performance by Grupo Ginga Capoeira from above

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Afar CEO and co-founder Greg Sullivan and Mr. Magazine Samir Husni

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Didgeridoo players from Didge Project perform on the rooftop of the townhouse venue at 632 Hudson Street

Allison Goldstein

Photos by Shawn Ehlers Photography

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