Oxford — In the late spring, Dr. Samir Husni, chairman of the Department of Journalism at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), was chosen by Media Magazine — one of only two academics and the only journalism professor — as one of “the Media 100 — People You Need To Know.”
This was only the latest accolade for Husni, widely known as “Mr. Magazine,” and called by The Chicago Tribune “the planet’s leading expert on new magazines.” He is the author of Samir Husni’s “Guide to New Consumer Magazines,” now in its 19th year, and “Launch Your Own Magazine: A Guide for Succeeding In Today’s Marketplace.”
Husni holds a master’s in journalism from the University of Missouri and a doctorate from the University of North Texas and is director of the University’s Magazine Service Journalism Program.
And Husni stands out as that rare liberal arts academic who has turned his area of knowledge and experience into a successful business that has no connection with the university. He is president and CEO of Magazine Consulting & Research, which specializes in magazine launches, the repositioning of established magazines and packaging publications for improved presentations and sales.
He has presented seminars on trends in American magazines to the editorial, advertising and sales staffs of the Heart Corporation, the Meredith Corporation, Reader’s Digest, ESPN the magazine, Sail Magazine, the National Geographic Society and magazine groups in Sweden, Finland and Japan, among many others.
Mass market mags? Say ‘goodbye’
The 1980s were a “golden age” of magazines and the 21st Century is a “diamond age,” according to Husni.
“There are more magazines being published now than ever before,” he said. “There are more weeklies. Sales revenue is up. And today’s magazines are more relevant.”
When people talk about the decline of magazines, they’re talking abut mass market magazines, Husni added. “And the days of mass market magazines are over.”
Now, a mass market magazine will be one with a circulation of 500,000 to a million. But, what’s driving this diamond age is the successful publication of small, niche magazines, often with a circulation of 5,000 to 10,000.
“The publisher can charge $12 to $13 an issue for, say, Rock Climbing, and the magazine provides laser targeting for advertisers — the ideal audience delivered up to you on a golden platter.”
But it’s neither a golden nor a diamond age for most people who launch new magazines, Husni said. Only 38% of magazine startups make it through the first year. Only 20% are still in business after 10 years.
Starting up a magazine can cost $1 million but, despite the cost and the low survival rate, scores of people think that they have such a great idea that they can’t fail. They do fail, because “their knowledge of the magazine business is bad. But their fascination with magazines is driven by their egos. They want to be publishers and editors of their own magazines.
“And they can always get money for startups from the ‘three F’s’ — family, friends and fools.”
Husni said that magazines have one appeal, one advantage that broadcast media can’t match — “a beginning and an end. The reader can put a magazine down, go do something else for an hour, come back, pick it up and continue reading the article.”
The genesis of Husni’s involvement with magazines is a childhood hobby of collecting magazines, a hobby that became an addiction and continued into adult life. It led to his doctoral thesis, a career teaching journalism and his first book.
“That’s when I first stepped into the limelight, with the publication of ‘Samir Husni’s Guide to New Consumer Magazines,’ published in 1986.
“This created a buzz, there were articles in the media and several asked, ‘Why didn’t anyone do this before?’ The book came out of frustration. I had presented my research to a group of journalism educators and they were less than enthusiastic. ‘That’s just business,’ they said. And, of course, writing and editing is important, but what we do is a business.”
“So, I was frustrated and my wife said, ‘You have this information, why don’t you put it into a book?’ And my wife came up with the title. I was considering ‘Guide to New Consumer Magazines by Samir Husni,’ and she suggested I call it ‘Samir Husni’s Guide to New Consumer Magazines.’
“Lo and behold. I was giving the book away — I had a grant from Meredith — and all 1,000 copies were gone in two weeks.
People kept calling, and they wanted the book and all of a sudden, publications such as The New York Times and Ad Age were writing about me and the book. And people couldn’t say the name of the book without mentioning my name.”
In addition to chairing the journalism department, writing books and working as a consultant, Husni maintains a Web site at www.mrmagazine. com, where, each month, he traces new magazines and offers recommendations and comments on what’s new and what’s hot, as well the previous years most notable launches.
There’s also a comprehensive list of every new magazine launched each month, some 75 new magazines a month, on average.
Contact MBJ contributing writer at George McNeill at email@example.com.