Cynthia Moyer is a social enterprise publisher of a health and living magazine with one of the most unique twists to magazine publication we've seen. Each issue of Open Magazine is focused around one colour, and all the products, stories and articles are linked to that colour. As I write this, the upcoming issues are to feature Yummy Yellow, Lavishly Lavender, and Lively Lime.

How long have you been publishing your magazine?

Two years.

Tell us about your target market.

We connect with open-minded Canadian women seeking lifestyle advantages. Our audience is less dogmatic valuing balanced information delivered in an unbiased benefit to risk format. They’re also what we term the ‘Gatekeepers to Balanced Living’ in their families and communities. They’re the leaders people turn to for information on topics they’re most interested in such as health, environment, organics, financial wellness, women’s issues and living well in today’s hectic environment. The women who read Open are highly educated independent thinkers that consumer profiling marketing groups deem an optimal target consumer. We’ve reached out into the general populace and touched a unique female consumer who is truly open to new products, services and concepts that fit her lifestyle.

Did you have an interest in this niche before you started publishing your magazine?

Yes.

I’ve been an open-minded independent thinker my entire life. If something has merit, I’m willing to consider it but I want to make up my own mind. If you preach to me or tell me what to do I won’t listen and I won’t believe it. I steer clear of information sources that push or dictate. I’m intelligent and educated and I know there are two sides to every story; multiple points of view and most things in life are neither black nor white but shades of grey. I’m the consumer who’ll give you another chance if your plant is shut down with a bacterial outbreak, especially if you speak to me and tell me there were problems and you’ve fixed them and I’ll work for you to share this information with those in my sphere of contacts. I’m also the customer that will try your product if your research and evidence has value to me. I’ll switch my brand and try yours if you’ve demonstrated yours has better value. I’m also an early adopter. If it’s new, different, interesting and has merit, I’ll give it a try or convince others to try it. I’m where ‘word of mouth’ sales come from. People listen to me because they trust I’ve weighed the evidence and come to a logical conclusion of risk versus benefit.

You've mentioned that you are a “Social Enterprise” publisher. Could you tell us more what that means?

A social enterprise publisher is an entrepreneur with a social mission. We serve ‘the public good’ by filling societal gaps unmet by either the public or private sector. Social enterprise publishers have social or natural (environment) value at the core of their business model. We publish niche publications that serve a social or natural purpose. We may focus on underserviced regions, populations, cultures or markets and a key component of being a SEP is that we remove barriers to accessing information; our publications are usually provided free.

Did you see a need for your magazine in the market? What need did you meet that made your magazine successful?

In our market research we determined that no one was speaking to the open-minded woman or giving us we what we valued most - choice. The women we interviewed were tired of information sources that promoted glitz, glamour and celebrity life that was unrealistic and stereotypically negative. Women were crying for something different; something that spoke to them; information that was real and relevant whether they lived in rural Nova Scotia or urban Vancouver. We identified women who wanted simple truth. They told us they were constantly bombarded with media ‘telling them what to do’ but could find none that understood who they were and what they valued as consumers and people.

We speak to women who are interested in Social Determinants of Health – environment, culture, finance, health, mental health, women’s issues and social responsibility. We share a common goal – the need to be provided with unbiased information in a realistic and doable fashion that empowers us. We’re the Champions for Change in our communities and networks and wield significant influence. We’re the ones in the group that will speak up and say ‘hey, wait a minute’.

We had successfully identified a need but then the question became, how do we fill it without resorting to stereotypical hooks? The answer came from science and women’s natural affinity for colour. We discovered that a number of women possess the ability to see greater variations in colour (than other women or men), colour is relevant in health and psychology (blue is calming, green is healing) as well as marketing (red = hunger).

Open magazine became the first publication in the world to theme and focus both the creative and editorial on one colour and make a significant change to magazine publishing. We’re leveraging science, human psychology, emotion, cognitive ability and marketing to create one of the most comprehensive information experiences available today.

How? People have an emotion to colour and a person’s favourite colour says a lot about their personality type. Our audience sits down with Open magazine and is enveloped in an experience of colour, information and emotional experience. Colour has been scientifically proven to increase cognitive ability, information absorption, knowledge retention and influences decisions. Our audience loves that someone came up with a way to connect with them in a highly unique format they ‘get’.

We know that a bulk of revenues from 'conglomerate' magazines comes from advertising revenues. Does your niche provide good opportunities for revenues from advertising?

Yes. Our marketing partners are corporations and business that share in our social value purpose and recognize our audience as their customer. They are organizations that have mandates to demonstrate corporate sustainability and/or responsibility and identify our audience as the optimum champions for their brand or message. They see triple bottom line benefit of not only marketing to their target market, but also positively contributing to civil society by helping to remove barriers to access in underserviced populations as well as helping to address social or natural issues.

Do you pursue advertising yourself, use a rep, or a marketplace like mediabids.com?

Our entire organization and audience is involved. We’re making a tangible difference in the lives of people every day and that’s infectious. We never stop talking about the good works we’re doing and business and organizations want to be a part of it.

What do you see as the biggest benefit to advertisers in magazines in general and in your magazine in particular?

Magazines are in the business of referrals. We publishers have purposely sought out a specific segment of the population that we’ve identified as underserviced. We connect with an audience that seeks us out as their information resource. Canadians still rank reading as their #1 leisure activity and women cite magazines as their top information source (women are responsible for over 90% of product purchases and significantly influence all household and major purchases), it baffles me why more advertisers aren’t leveraging magazines like the U.S. and Europeans are. I can turn off my radio and fast forward television but I’ve got to turn pages in a magazine to get to the article I want to read and I love the visuals. A magazine ad will get my attention, even if only for two seconds. According to research, that’s enough time to accomplish brand recognition and affirmation. A magazine’s best feature is its low tech – it requires manual engagement and high mental involvement to operate.

A magazine is also portable, transferable, removable and selective. It is still the best comprehensive medium at reaching populations underserviced by technology and information can be assimilated at the discretion of the user. No electricity, gadgets or hidden costs required!

Advertisers with Open magazine have a unique opportunity to become part of our audience’s experience by leveraging our colour theme. Our marketing partners are having a lot of fun matching their brands, logos or ads to the colours. We regularly have ad agencies and brand managers asking us when we’ll be publishing a specific colour theme so they can match their product, brand or marketing.

When we talk to people in sales and ask them who their ideal buyers are a) a closed-minded, I’ve got my brand I like and I’ll stick to it or b) someone with an open mind, they pick open-minded people every time. Sales people know these are the buyers who will consider a product or service if it has merit. They know open-minded people also share information with others and have the highest probability of increasing their sales numbers.

What is your circulation?

75,000 print, up to 10,000 virtual views, national distribution

How often do you publish the magazine?

Quarterly

Are there any restrictions on where you deliver your magazine?

Yes, qualified distribution partners need only apply and there is a waiting list.

Is your magazine available on any shop newsstands?

No

How do you market your magazine?

True to their nature, our audience tells everyone about Open magazine. We also attend B2B tradeshows and we host our own events. Our events are tied into our publication and we encourage integrated sales programs with our marketing partners to provide 360 degree marketing opportunities.

Where do you find your writers? Photographers?

Our writers are industry professionals and our photography is subcontracted.

Editorial mission?

Unique, unbiased, can’t find anywhere else, researched and credible information that can translate to value in the hands of a professional or the average person. All editorial must coincide with the colour theme which gives a comprehensive experience to the reader.

How would you describe your magazine's editorial style?

Unbiased and purposefully written for maximum knowledge transfer capability.

What are your biggest challenges when it comes to content?

Maintaining the integrity of Open magazine and dedication to our audience. I’ve had to let go writers and advertisers (yes I walked away from money) go because they couldn’t adhere to editorial or advertising policy.

Does your latest issue look similar to the issue you launched with? What has changed? What's the same?

We’ve evolved without compromising integrity or our unique difference.

Do you have a website?

Yes - http://www.openmagazine.ca/

Is the content of your magazine available on-line?

Yes - www.myvirtualpaper.com/doc/Wise-Moove/Open-magazine/

With the internet being touted as a resource for information, how are you faring in terms of competition with the Internet and what challenges do you face?

No challenges. The internet augments our purpose. Our online virtual magazine allows us to reach readers around the globe.

How long did it take before your publication began to see a profit? If you're not yet seeing a profit, when do you predict you will?

As a Social Enterprise Publisher, our priorities are different so this question is a little tougher to answer. We value social or more-than-profit and reinvest in growth, so we’ve already exceeded our social profit goals. We estimate the value of our social contribution at twenty million dollars to date. As with all publishers we’ve just got over that two year wait time that advertisers want to ensure you’re going to make it and we anticipate a profitable year despite the economy.

Did you seek government subsidies when starting or after you began publication?

No, we do not qualify for most.

What opportunities do you see for your magazine?

Growth. We’ve already been asked to publish in the US and Australia. It’s in our plans, but not this soon. We hadn’t expected to be pulled across Canada this quickly either.

What do you see as the biggest challenge in your niche industry over the next year?

Managed growth. With an audited 96.48% pick up rate, a waiting list of distribution partners and demand for more copies it is hard to not want to fill the demand, especially when it’s needed.

In your opinion, what sets apart successful independent magazines from those that are not successful?

  • Identifying and successfully reaching a targeted audience
  • Being truly different than anything else out there
  • Having support mechanisms in place for long term
  • Staying true to your purpose and having an undying passion to communicate
  • Having a commitment to your audience, understanding they are relying on you
  • Know your audience, know your audience, know your audience
  • Having the capability to multitask
  • Being an excellent communicator, manager and business person
  • Excellent at sales and identifying revenue opportunities
  • Manage people, your time and find life balance
In general, what would your advice be to someone considering publication of their own magazine?

Don’t even think about it unless you have outside investment and you have all of the qualities, attributes and passion noted above. If by chance you do decide to wade into the publishing pool be prepared to give up quite a lot to be in service to millions of people you will probably never meet. It is not a project for the faint of heart, but can be one of the most rewarding careers there is. I get to wake up every morning to emails, letters and telephone calls from people across the country thanking me for the difference I’ve made in their lives. Job satisfaction doesn’t get any more rewarding than that.