This episode Josh Schollmeyer, co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief of online men’s magazine MEL, takes us through working at the legacy print behemoth Playboy, why that convinced him men’s magazines needed to change and the branded media business model that is at the heart of MEL’s success.
In the news roundup, we discuss growth and success at The Atlantic, The Athletic, El País and Future plc, and come away hopeful for once.
The full transcript is available here, but our highlights are below…
What is Mel Magazine?
…Me working through some shit! I had been working in men’s media at Playboy for about five years, and I was really frustrated with a very narrow, very stereotypical, very outdated mode or archetype of masculinity.
I wanted to really investigate what was the place of the modern man in a rapidly changing society. I really was trying to figure out as a 30-something straight white male at the time, what was my place in the world?
On Playboy and The Hef
You have to hope that what you’re experiencing is also what your audience is going through. At times when you experience the fame, people would always ask me about what [Hugh Hefner] was like, and I’d always say he’s the nicest guy you can meet who’s been insanely famous and rich for 60 years, but he hasn’t left his home in months, so there’s a context there, he’s not living the same life that his readers are.
On Mel as an advertising offshoot of the Dollar Shave Club
I’m just not about pearl clutching. I’ve been inside the belly of the beast, and what they’re doing is no purer, and they’re selling considerable amounts of their soul. So to clutch pearls and point fingers always seemed counterproductive to me in terms of driving the business forward.
I’ve had two edicts from my boss, hire the best people and do the most creative work that you can, and stay true to the mission.
On brand-backed media
A number of brands have approached me about doing something MEL-esque for them. And I always joke that I’m going to start a consulting company that just says no. this was a unique marriage in the sense that Dollar Shave Club was a very irreverent, intelligent, intuitive brand. And that’s sort of what the MEL ethos is, it’s always been, ideally, my editorial ethos.
On Mel’s broad story mix
I think the key is finding your own ways in. I have a very neurotic staff, and so everything that was worrying them, I just kept saying, ‘Well, let’s just make it into content, you’ll stop worrying. We’ll go get the answers.’ There are some days that I walked away and I was like, does this all fit together? Or is it just in my mind that it fits together? But I don’t know, we have a unique lens on what’s going on in the world.
Once Trump got elected, that’s when the phone started ringing to be like, what is going on with men? And then it really crystallised around #MeToo. We were really the only men’s publication to really consistently try to interrogate that.
I think it’s super important right now for men to get together with this approach of like, ‘We broke it, we bought it. And so if we want to be constructive participants in the social change that’s happening, we ought to sit down and start talking to each other.’
On the place of gender-defined publications
I’m not sure. I think that in some ways, you could say that we almost report more on modern masculinity and what it’s like to be a man, not how to be a man, but I’m not even sure I know what male means anymore. If you’re going to cover from a gender point of view, I think that has to be an ongoing, evolving worldview and editorial mission.
News round-up key stories:
- Future estimates profits of over £80 million this year
- The Atlantic gained 20,000 subscribers in one weekend after Trump insult
- The Athletic has hit 1 million subscribers despite there being no sport for half the year
- Spanish newspaper El País has over 64,000 digital subscribers despite only launching its subscription option on May 1st
News in brief:
- The Correspondent has launched an audio app to bring their journalism to members in new ways. They have launched two apps, one in English for The Correspondent’s audio stories, and the other in Dutch for sister site De Correspondent
- Extinction Rebellion blockaded printing presses in the UK last weekend
- Regional publisher JPI Media is reopening itself to bidders after coming through lockdown in a ‘strong place’, but has also revealed plans to cut up to 30 jobs
- B2B publisher Euromoney is also proposing 240 job cuts – more than 10% of its global workforce – due to the impact of Covid on its events business
- Almost a year after announcing a deal to unite, merger talks between chumbox companies Taboola and Outbrain have ended after they failed to agree on revised deal terms
- British Airways is scrapping the print version of its High Life magazine, and replacing it with a downloadable digital edition due to the pandemic
- Not content with cheekily hijacking links, Apple’s latest iOS 14 update will use Smart Banners to prompt users to open stories from News+ publishers in the Apple News app
- This NYMag profile of Ben Smith – ex-BuzzFeed News editor – really paints the man in an annoying light. But more importantly – who is this article for?
- It’s the end of an era for BBC radio journalists, who are now being asked to reapply for new all-purpose reporter positions rather than dedicated audio ones
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