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Mental Floss’ Jim Kaminsky: ‘I Finally Found a Useful Outlet for That Kind of OCD Behavior’

Mental Floss, the magazine packed with information that can stump pretty much anyone you know, has a new guy tinkering under its hood. Jim Kaminsky is the title’s new Editor-in-Chief, and the first issue under his guidance hits newsstands tomorrow.

We got a chance to preview the issue, and from the looks of it, Kaminsky already has the magazine humming. Mental Floss’ Sept./Oct. issue is filled with entertaining and engrossing features that are sure to gain it new readers.

Kaminsky told FishbowlNY via email that when he came aboard, the magazine already had these things, he’s just been doing some fine tuning.

“The core idea of Mental Floss is so strong: the fantasy of a perfect liberal arts education between the pages of a magazine,” began Kaminsky. “The voice springs from that. It’s as though you’re hanging with your smartest and funniest pal, the one who wears geekiness on his sleeve, but is lovable and awesomely fun to be with. Will Pearson and Mangesh Hattikudur, the magazine’s founders, nurtured that voice over the course of a decade, so everything I’m doing with it is just an amplification of what was already there.”

His approach to the first issue was to add more interesting pieces (like a 17-year-old who is fighting terrorism) and make the design sleeker. “I’ve always believed that readers like to know where they are in a publication, and that they love the progression and the pacing from section to section,” said Kaminsky. “They feel a certain ownership with magazine departments they enjoy and come to expect each issue.”

When we pressed Kaminsky on how he’s going to be able to convince people that Mental Floss is more than just trivia, he suggested it would be easy: Just let them read it.

“The more people look, the more they’ll see we bring lots of different things to the party. I think this is one of those magazines that’s sort of tough to describe, but easy to understand. We’re putting more copies out into the distribution channels, so I think the more people see it, the more they’ll get it. Hey, what would you rather read on a long flight: Mental FlossChristian MotorSports or Wood?  I’ll let the publication speak for itself.”

It’s a smart move for a smart publication. Kaminsky is taking a strong idea and tweaking it; there’s no need for him to make a major overhaul. You can tell by reading Kaminsky’s first issue that he fits the magazine and the magazine fits him. “One of the things that drew me to this magazine is that I was always the kind of guy who woke up at three am to look up what year the Whiskey Rebellion started (1791) or who played Mary in Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (Susan George!),” explained Kaminsky. “I finally found a useful outlet for that kind of OCD behavior.”

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