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Exclusive Interview

AFAR Media’s Trajectory: Self-Funded, Bi-Coastal, Profitable

In 2009, AFAR Media was launched with a focus on travel and a combined $20 million investment from Joe Diaz, Greg Sullivan and Ernie Garcia. This summer, at the five-year anniversary mark and with the August/September issue having just hit newsstands, AFAR has arrived at profitability.

Branded content currently accounts for a third of AFAR’s revenues. In the latest print issue, starting on page 19, there is for example “Artisans Inspired.” Part of a year-long partnership with The Ritz-Carlton, the three-page feature is anchored around quotes from surfer Lon Klein, New York Botanical Gardens curator Karen Daubmann and international travel excursions leader Sean Nelson.

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“This is a multi-dimensional, multi-platform branded content program that lives in print, mobile and on desktop,” says Diaz during a recent telephone conversation with FishbowlNY. “How we try to approach branded content is – it’s really all about what is the core idea. What are the hooks, what are the elements that are going to get people excited.”

“We don’t care if it’s paid [content] or if it’s editorial,” he adds. “Our philosophy is that the content always has to be good. And we’re not shy about making sure everybody knows that this is paid for. The whole idea of the campaign is that artisans inspire and let’s help bring those rich values and characters to life, through the eyes of the people on the ground.”

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Mediabistro Course

Magazine Writing

Magazine WritingStarting September 4, learn how to get your work in top publications! You'll learn how to create captivating stories editors will want and readers will love, understand which magazines are right for your stories, craft compelling pitch letters, and more! You'll leave this class with two polished articles and corresponding pitch letters. Register now! 

The Two-Pronged Approach Responsible for The Week’s Record Traffic

StevenKotkoHeadshotThe Web stats are all going in the right direction.

In May, per comScore, theweek.com registered 7.7 million unique visitors across all platforms. The Google Analytics numbers were even higher (ten million uniques). Meanwhile, for the first half of 2014, The Week will be reporting at the end of the month to the Alliance for Audited Media (AAM) its highest-ever circulation total. Those stats will be publicly released August 7.

So how did they do it? “It’s really two-fold,” explains The Week and Mental Floss CEO Steven Kotok (pictured) during a recent phone conversation with FishbowlNY. “We’ve completely remade the content of the site in the last six to nine months, and there were two prongs to that.”

“On the one prong, we just went on a hiring spree and really wanted to hire the best, young opinion writers in the country,” he adds. “People we love to read and also, people with more ability on social media. Most of these people were brought on full-time; a couple have permanent freelance arrangements.”

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Dynamic Female Duo Now at the Helm of SheKnows

LeaAnnLemingPicThe best way to frame FishbowlNY’s phone conversation today with Lea Ann Leming, chief content officer of SheKnows (pictured, right), and newly hired editor-in-chief Amy Boshnack (pictured, below) is as follows. The company has been profitable for the past several years and expects a 30% increase in revenue in 2014.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that Cosmopolitan, a magazine where Boshnack served as managing editor from January 2005 to January 2008, has just revamped its website. When asked about the then-print vs. now-Web differences, Boshnack notes the obvious change in the speed of news and feature cycles. Per comScore, SheKnows currently averages around 40 million monthly uniques.

“A big thing for me is making sure the women reading us are having conversations,” Boshnack explains. “Part of what’s being done here is continuing to make sure that articles being published are about things women are talking about. And to feed that through our comments section, social media.”

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Steven Kotok Shares Some Felix Dennis Memories

Steven Kotok, a long-serving employee at Felix Dennis‘ various media enterprises and current CEO of The Week and Mental Floss, was among those who shared fond reminiscences for a recent theweek.com tribute following the colorful magnate’s passing. Speaking today via telephone with FishbowlNY, Kotok was kind enough to add a few more.

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“My first memory of Felix is back before Maxim was launched,” Kotok recalls. “It was a 12-person company in 1997 and this guy wandered up holding the plastic part of a six-pack of beer, that had three or four beers left in it. And some Doritos.”

“I was working away in the office at 7 p.m. or something, and he offered me a beer and Doritos. That was the first time I met him,” he adds. “He was a person who just, absolutely, did not want to stand on ceremony or pretense. I think if he had been an assistant, he would have behaved the exact same way. He didn’t know how to be any other way.”

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Chatting with a 92-Year-Old Sportswriting Legend

MurrayOldermanPicIt was my great pleasure, for the Mediabistro Q&A series “So What Do You Do?”, to recently speak via telephone with a true titan of the sportswriting field.

In addition to memorable cartoons, various books and countless newspaper articles, Murray Olderman is also largely responsible for the creation of MVP trophies in two separate U.S. professional sports team leagues. From the conversation:

” In my day, we were more or less on the same economic level as the athletes we were dealing with. And so they welcomed our attention and felt that we could help them.”

” Nowadays, they make so much more money than the people covering them, and they regard most of the media as a nuisance, except in the case of television, where they’re on camera and that serves their purpose.”

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Financial Times Launches New York Video Studio

Here’s something that may surprise anyone not already familiar with the Financial Times website. All video is in front of the paywall.

In recent years, video contributions from reporters in Europe, Asia and Africa have overtaken U.S. video content. However, thanks to a brand new fiber-tethered studio launching Monday at FT‘s New York offices, much more U.S. video content will soon be in the offing.

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“What I’m really focused on, for the rest of this year, is upping the contribution from the U.S. to our video output,” head of video Veronica Kan-Dapaah tells FishbowlNY via telephone. “Although we’ve had a very strong contribution from the U.S., over the last couple of years we’ve really ramped up the amount that we’ve been doing from Europe, Africa and Asia. So that overall, percentage wise, the U.S. contribution has fallen back a bit.”

“We think that the U.S. stories are really key to the editorial,” she adds. “The markets in particular.”

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The FishbowlNY 60-Second Interview with Joe Pompeo

JoePompeoPicYou read the headline right. To highlight Capital New York’s ongoing and very informative Q&A series “60-Second Interview,” we decided to throw that format at the man who came up with the idea – senior reporter Joe Pompeo.

We wanted to adhere as closely as possible to the way Capital does these. So, the conversation was conducted via email and consisted of five questions.

Although these 60-Second Interviews are initially available only to Capital Pro subscribers, they are eventually archived to the open Web. Our thanks to Joe as well as to Capital’s media and marketing associate Caitlin O’Connell for their help with this.

FISHBOWLNY: Which 60-Second Interviews (and/or remarks within) have gotten the most reaction so far?

POMPEO: Obviously the ones we’ve done with “celebrity” type media figures have been pretty popular: Larry King, Glenn Beck, Jay McInerney, etc. I seem to recall our Shane Smith installment going a bit viral. One of our very first ones was with Janine Gibson from Guardian U.S. and that got a lot of traction.

FISHBOWLNY: How is each participant selected? Is it pretty much just up to you, and dependent on access, or is it a daily editorial meeting discussion?

POMPEO: Oh it’s all much more casual than that. And while I was the one who came up with the feature in the first place, I’m by no means the arbiter. Basically everyone on our seven-person media desk is constantly brainstorming and putting out requests. We started getting pitches from publicists and sources pretty early on, too, which is great in terms of feeding the beast. It’s never fun when 5 p.m. rolls around and we realize we don’t have an interviewee lined up for the following morning.

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Lauren Dolgen, Creator of MTV’s Teen Mom and 16 & Pregnant: ‘Bring on the Criticism’

Lauren Dolgen, EVP of MTV series development and creator of Teen Mom and 16 & Pregnant, is no stranger to dealing with negative press. Critics have deemed these shows as “glamorizing” teen pregnancies, but Dolgen says the buzz surrounding the shows is a good thing for exposing the plight of teen mothers.

“I think if you watch the show you realize there’s nothing glamorous about being a teen parent,”  she told Mediabistro for its latest So What Do You Do? interview. “And the truth is that when I do see the girls in the tabloids or [hear] people asking about the glamorization, I really do say, ‘At least people are having the discussion now.’ I mean, they were not talking about teen pregnancy at all when we first created the show. So, I say bring on the criticism, because we are actually dealing with it in a very real way, and at least it’s being talked about and discussed now.”

Read the full interview in So What Do You Do, Lauren Dolgen, VP of MTV’s Series Development?

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Jess Cagle on Taking Entertainment Weekly to TV and Radio

How do you keep an established brand on its feet? For Entertainment Weekly managing editor Jess Cagle, it means launching a radio channel and a reality series. However, just because the mag is making forays into other media (not to mention EW.com’s 7 million-plus monthly uniques), doesn’t mean print is on the decline.

“The print magazine is still the spine of our brand,” Cagle told FishbowlLA’s  Richard Horgan in the latest installment of Mediabistro’s So What Do You Do?. In the interview, he reveals why the magazine won’t be doing sponsored content any time soon, what makes their online community engaging and intelligent and what freelancers can do to get in his good books. Here’s an excerpt:

EW doesn’t use freelancers much, but what is your advice to anyone seeking to pitch a story to the magazine, or website?

We’ll use freelancers to cover events and things like that, but what I would say to any freelancer is that everybody today has an opinion, and we don’t need your opinion. All we need is news. So come with a great bit of access to something that we can’t get ourselves. For that, I’ll write a check, immediately.

Read the full interview in So What Do You Do, Jess Cagle, Managing Editor of Entertainment Weekly?

How Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars Came to ABC TV

Before Pretty Little Liars was an award-winning hit on ABC with its own spin-off,  it was the brainchild of YA writer Sara Shepard. The prolific scribe managed to publish over 20 books in eight years and get two of her series optioned as TV shows. In the latest installment of Mediabistro’s So What Do You Do?, Shepard tells how her series ended up on the screen and what she thinks of the TV incarnations of Pretty Little Liars and Lying Game

Pretty Little Liars I’m really satisfied with. Pretty Little Liars more sticks to what the books are,” she said. “[The TV writers] take their own liberties, and sometimes their ideas are just great. Sometimes I’m like, “Oh, why didn’t I think of that?” So that’s always really fun. But, I mean, it’s just pretty amazing to see it on TV at all. Even if it wouldn’t have lasted a season, it still would have been this pretty incredible thing.”

For more, read So What Do You Do, Sara Shepard, Author of Pretty Little Liars?

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