Sunday, December 4, 2011

Start-up Journal: Jill Scott is Too Glamorous for Hipsters?

Just realized that I had not posted the winter 2011/2012 issue of JUMP featuring Jill Scott.

Lot's of stuff to talk about with this issue. The most interesting thing, to me, has been the reaction to the Jill Scott cover. The mag moved slowly in whiter, hipster areas - guessing the trendy white kids weren't drawn in by the glamorous looking Philly native in the shiny dress. I flipped the mag after a week or so at a few hipsier joints, fronting the artwork by Andy Molholt (below), and the mag flew from drop spots.That said, I dropped stacks of 50 mags at the FYE at Broad and Chestnut at least five times, each time fronting Jill Scott. On Friday, two days ago, I dropped off another stack at around 4:00 pm. By the time the store opened Sunday morning, there were only three copies left. I've also hit Reading Terminal Market three times with stacks of 50.

Not sure what to make of that. The mag clearly has appeal with certain people. I don't know how we capitalize on that - financially or with future distribution. My thought is that every issue should always have two covers (rather than selling the back as ad space). That way, we can front the side that is more likely to draw readers at different locations.

I can tell you that we will not cover any genre of music with greater emphasis. The goal is to show off the musical talents of the city and our folks are awesome in a variety of genres. We'll use a cover to draw them in but once inside the mag, they will find a world of awesome stuff (not just their genre).

We held three launch events - at Temple University, the Hard Rock Cafe and The Blockley. They were all great fun but I never want to host another event again. I know that events are good for marketing and promotion, and even possibly good for generating revenue, but I am not a promoter. I have no interest in doing that kind of stuff. It's nerve-racking and not worth the stress.

We appeared on XPN2 with John Vettese. We set the playlist for an hour-long broadcast, featuring music we've documented in the magazine. That was cool.

I despise lists in journalism (first of all, they aren't journalism - they are pure marketing; second, they are lazy). We will never run a top ten list or anything even close. We will not present awards of any sort. They are meaningless. That said, we are up for city publication of the year in the third annual Philebrity awards. It's a bullshit, meaningless award but I want to win. As a new publication, we need any validation (and recognition) we can get.

We have other cool stuff on the horizon. For instance, we started a partnership with Philly Beer Scene magazine in which we'll do a regular column about beer and music (the first story is in the newest issue of Philly Beer Scene).

That relationship was born out of a magazine collective we created with Philly Beer Scene, Grid, Origivation, Motivos and (if they ever print again). Not sure how the collective will work together but we're thinking there are commonalities with advertising, printing, content-creation, distribution and other back-end services.

This is very exciting to me as I really enjoy the people in this collective. They are bright and innovative - recognizing that print isn't dying. It's big media that is in trouble. We have all created publications that are primarily print and loved by their respective audiences (JUMP may not be beloved yet but when people see the mag, they become instant fans). Innovation doesn't always mean digital. Innovation is recognizing niches that can be served and building business models that can be sustainable (and profitable).

Other interesting JUMP stuff: got a few more major advertisers and I have been talking with another music organization about running their publication as an insert in JUMP. Things are lining up nicely for 2012.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Start-up Journal: JUMP Year in Review.

I'm the guy in the front row at concerts, usually with a big, stupid grin and bouncing up and down. I love to see talented people performing. I think it's part jealousy - I wish I was up on stage, and part admiration.

One of the greatest things about running this magazine is that it is an excuse to go out, have fun and listen to live music. Not that I needed an excuse but my life is pretty jammed and it can be exhausting. Given the option, I will fall asleep on the couch. But now that I have to attend concerts, I throw down some espresso and hit the town. It's pretty awesome.

Speaking of awesome, I have to say that our latest issue (issue #4), which officially hits the streets on 11/11/11 (though I pick them up from the printer on Monday), is probably the most awesome pop culture, truly Philadelphia magazine in many years. It looks good, it reads well and it covers so much diverse information that it is almost overwhelming.

In this issue, we have Jill Scott, but the story doesn't hinge on her music. Rather, we talk about her dedication to Philly via her foundation. She provides scholarships and training to young people from her neighborhood who otherwise might not have the means nor ambition to do positive things in their lives. She gives them hope.

We have stories about the Philadelphia Gay Men's Chorus, an opera-singing pizza maker, artists who make music posters, hard rock bands, dubstep DJs, hoop dancing, politics, education and so much more.

After printing four issues, I've discovered a few things:

• This is a doable project. Even with my regular, full-time job (I'm teaching around 350 students this semester), I can do this magazine on the side. It eats my life but it is doable. For the month of October, while I was editing and doing layout, I worked on the magazine non-stop from Thursday evening until Sunday evening. I did not sleep. I did not party. I quit playing baseball (that sucked). I ignored my friends. But we got the mag done.
• If I had more time, I could sell more ads and make the mag financially sustainable very easily. There is interest in the product and loyalty from the readership. Our ads are cheap enough that businesses can afford to advertise.
• For this issue, we nearly covered our costs - though that includes a credit from the printer because they goofed up the printing in the previous issue. With winter break coming up soon, I will dedicate four weeks to getting advertisers. I'm feeling pretty good about it.
• Selling ads blows. I take every rejection personally, and there is a lot of rejection. I can't even tell you how many people have blown me off over the last ten months. There are so many more people on my permanent shit list than ever imaginable.

• There is a pattern to production. Story deadline passes and I have few story submissions. Then I freak out and think about shutting down the mag. A few weeks later, I have more than enough content to fill the mag, and I feel like king of the world. This has happened with every issue.
• This is my fault. I am an easy going guy so I don't yell at people when they miss deadlines. I coddle people too much. Now that we have a good core staff and a ton of people interested in contributing, the bullshit is over. You miss deadline and you will never, ever contribute to the mag. There is no reason I should have to stress about that.

• I love the magazine and everything in it. It is far more than just music. We use music as an excuse to talk about Philadelphia. When you read the mag, you experience the city, and you see way more than you would ever find in other regional publications. That's not a slam on them. It's a product of our lack of advertising, abundance of content and my determination to be diverse.

The mag will continue to exist and that's pretty amazing. People like the product - it's print and real, as opposed to the ephemeral nature of the Internet. Our costs are minimal, so the money situation is not out of reach.

Plus, I like attending shows. Being an adult can suck - the realities of work and bills and bullshit obligations can be a real downer. It would be very easy to sit around watching Netflix all day. Instead, I go out all the time (except during production months) and have fun, experiencing so much.

Here are some of my favorite things I've gotten to do because of the magazine:

• Interviewed Mayor Nutter.
• Hung out with Freeway.
• Saw a ton of bands at the Philly FM Fest.
• Spent 12 hours at The Roots Picnic.

I've spent so much time with bands and artists away from the stage, learning about them and their inspirations. I've had the pleasure of learning about talented people who are passionate enough to push onward despite the chances of making a bigtime career out of music being slim.

Running the magazine has been a real treat and I look forward to next year.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Start-up Journal: Where Do Hits Come From?

I attended an event at WHYY the other day where they discussed their new operation, Newsworks. It's a collaborative effort that brings together around 20 different regional journalistic outlets under one umbrella.

Over the first year of operation, they say they've had many successes and failures. The one thing that stood out to me most was that only 13 percent of their audience found content on Newsworks by going through the home page. The rest of the hits came from people who were led to the site via facebook, twitter, search engines and other links.

I just went through our numbers from JUMP. Since the March launch, we have 34,586 total hits. Only 10,655 went through the home page. That means the actual website draws only about 31 percent of the audience. We've had 7,767 hits (22 percent of our total hits) through facebook. Our twitter hits are only at 973.

What are the ramifications of this?

• Well, it makes me realize that I probably don't need to worry about updating the website every day. Two-thirds of our audience aren't even seeing the home page.
• This makes me think that I should be taking advantage of all our online content, not just the newest stuff. I should post and re-post all the old stories all over the place (especially on facebook), as the website really is just a marketing tool for the print magazine.
Twitter blows as an audience generator. It's fine for getting our name out there, so we'll continue with it. But twitter followers don't seem that interested in info beyond 140 characters.

• Most importantly, all of this makes me realize that the web is not a content-generator friendly medium. It is fantastic for users - they can find whatever info they want, whenever they want. But the content-producers are working in a void (and not making money online).

• This reaffirms my commitment to print. The Internet, I think, actually devalues content by nature of requiring so much of it. Print is permanent (or at least lasting) and therefore valuable.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Start-up Journal: The Mission of Journalists.

When buyouts were announced by the company that owns the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, a City Paper reporter contacted me for insight. This is what I told him:

This scares the shit out of me. Losing more journalists hurts the city. Really. As more and more reporters disappear, less and less gets covered. That means the bulk of journalists in the city wind up reacting to events like fires, murders and other tragedies.

That means the reputation of the city, which is very much influenced by the news media, will be as a place where people get killed on the streets constantly, our sports fans are disgusting people who barf on little kids and our politicians are all corrupt. Some of that is true but there is so much more in Philadelphia that 95 percent of the viewing/ listening/ reading audiences will never know about.

Fewer and fewer journalists have the time to go in depth into stories, or even be proactive about stuff. We don't have a lot of professional reporters roaming the streets, learning about folks in neighborhoods.

There are people here in Philadelphia doing amazing things, who never get any coverage because there aren't enough reporters with audiences finding those people.

The Internet has been great for developing grassroots info systems. But those operations reach small audiences, and they are usually under-funded. They can only do so much.

Our large, mainstream media rely upon celebrities, tragedies/ controversies and sports to draw audiences. And it's only going to get worse now.

He wrote back and asked about the future of the local media landscape. I said:

The two newspapers are at the bone now. They've been losing staff for a long time (I took the buyout from the DN in December 2005). Their ability to be anything near comprehensive has been compromised for more than a decade. Probably a lot longer.

Regional newspapers are in tough spots. They try to speak in a familiar voice to a wide range of people - from the Jersey shore to the western suburbs, in the Inquirer's case. But the Inquirer can't cover that much range in a satisfactory way.

So there is a disconnect between the audience and the journalists.

These days, people want information that directly impacts them.

The future of the local media landscape? Honestly, I think the Inquirer and DN will continue to drop in circulation and ad revenue. I think local TV will continue with coverage of reactionary stuff, with emphasis on sports, crime and weather (ugh). And audiences will continue to drift away.

They'll find info online, or in random publications. But they'll have to seek it on their own. And that means many people will never learn about important issues that could have a direct impact on their lives.

The William Penn/ Temple deal
is tasked with helping journalists dig for that "important" journalism. I'm not involved with the process anymore but think about it - they first threw out their intentions with the program nearly two years ago. They could do great things with all that money but it could take a year before that operation is functional. Probably more.

He then asked whether the Daily News (where I worked for nearly 12 years; the image above was my last front page story for the paper, I think) was in better shape than the Inquirer. I said:

I think the DN covers a more specific region and has a more loyal readership (largely because of their sports coverage). I think that leaves the DN in better shape than the Inky.

When Amanda Bennett arrived at the Inquirer a while back, she said that she wanted to make the Inquirer the best regional newspaper in the country. She said she wanted the paper to back off national and international stories in favor of covering local stuff, developing news that people couldn't find anywhere else.

But the Inquirer was only a decade removed from their Pulitzer era, and conceding stuff to the wire services felt like defeat.

The future of journalism, for better or worse, is small and personal to the audience. There will always be a handful of national/ international operations - the NYTimes, Wash Post, etc. The Internet will continue to fragment audiences. And local newspapers, like the Inquirer, will need to figure out what their niche is in this demassified world.

This all connects to our magazine efforts, I think. We are building a financially sustainable journalistic product, one that informs as well as entertains. We are flashy enough to get attention but deep enough to be smart advocates for the city.

Even when we begin paying staff next year (fingers crossed), we won't be muckrakers. We don't have the time nor inclination to do that kind of work. Rather than document corporate or governmental malfeasance, we're doing a public service by highlighting local talent. We're trying to change the reputation of this great place: rather than make people think the city is a shithole where people are raped, killed and robbed constantly, we are showing that there is hope and talent in the city.

I'm not saying we are the future of journalism. But we are a part of it. Our mission is noble, our business is responsible and our product is solid.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Start-up Journal: Follow Your Passion.

The latest issue of JUMP hit the streets last week and I think we have made a world of progress. The design is cleaner and more interesting, the stories are tighter and more random, and we have reader service stuff that makes the mag valuable.

In my publisher's note, I suggested everyone "start a fucking band." Since we started the magazine, I've had numerous people tell me they were in bands during high school or college. And now, they have crappy jobs. In an era when money is tight, jobs are scarce and Philadelphia has few jobs where people actually produce anything, the arts, I think, may be the only hope for the future of the city.

That sounds awful but it's meant to be a positive. We have an awesome and burgeoning music scene. Rather than be known as a place with high crime or political corruption or crappy schools or shitty sports fans, we should be known as a music town.

My young friend Kevin Brosky took issue with my suggestion that everyone start a band. He says that I make it sound so easy, when it's really not. Of course, he is right. But I can't help wonder whether he was troubled by my suggestion because he knows that he's working a job that isn't where his passion rests.

I hope I pissed off a lot of people in a similar fashion. I want people to recognize that as the country deepens into the financial shithole we're digging, we really should be retreating to what makes us most happy (for me, it's baseball, Mookie and music). Quit focusing on the miserable stuff you have to do to pay the bills. Focus your energy on your passions.

Anyway ... here are a few things I learned during the production of this issue:

• Selling ads during the summer is dreadful. When businesses are slow, the last thing anyone wants to talk about is spending money (even while they know that they want to be a part of the fall issue, as it will reach a large audience).
• I need to sell ads for multiple issues well before summer.
• Free labor is unreliable labor. We had a lot of stories fall through for this issue and many of them were for random reasons. We need to get to the point when people are paid for their work. I'm hoping to begin paying for content creation starting in 2012.

• When people look through the magazine, they are impressed. But we still have a branding issue. Some people still don't know what we are.
• We are getting there, though. Today I spoke to a club owner who, eight months ago, told me that he wouldn't advertise in print anymore. But today, he said he liked the mag (he didn't say he'd advertise but I think it's coming).
• I've spoken about the mag at various events and afterward, I'm flooded by people interested in the project. Clearly, we are tapping into something.

• I'm unbelievably proud of the product we've created. Our content in this issue ranges from stories about popular bands to urban bonfires, from black radio to Internet radio, from hip hop and jazz to choral music and chamber music.
• Our web hits have been going crazy. Even on days we don't post, we get 300 or 400 hits. That seems to be people reading the recent issue's content (most likely directed to us via facebook).
• The cover story about Patty Crash has received the most hits. Number two was a surprise: a story about the 150th anniversary of the University of Pennsylvania Glee Club.
• We wrote about Joe Hardcore in the summer issue. When his annual hardcore festival happened in August, the page hits skyrocketed (679 hits on that story on one day alone). It's the most viewed story on the website. I'm not sure how to capitalize on that.

There are days when I don't want to do the magazine anymore. The work is labor intensive. Editing stories eats my life. Doing design is fun but a challenge. Selling ads is awful. Distributing magazines takes forever. And I'm never sure how the magazine is being received.

But the rewards are awesome. Last night, for instance, I ran into a kid who said, "Oh, you're the JUMP guy?" Then he told me how much he loved the latest issue. I went to the opening of a new music venue the other day and people knew the mag, and they liked it. I've hand-delivered mags to advertisers and they are pleased.

What makes me most happy is that we are covering stuff that no one else does. We are educating the region on the awesomeness of the Philly music scene. And we are doing it without selling our souls (no sponsored stories, no concessions to advertisers, etc).

We are still short of our financial goals. For this issue, I put in around $1,500 of my own money into the project (plus countless hours). But I look at this as my contribution to the local arts scene. I have no musical talents. But I can organize a crew and put together a magazine.

I'm not starting a band (not now, at least). But I'll write about you if you do.

This is my passion, my distraction from the bullshit of the world.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Start-up Journal: A Big F-You to You Know Who.

I spent all day yesterday roaming the streets of my neighborhood listening to some really awesome live music. It was so much fun and, frankly, invigorating. I needed yesterday.

The challenges of running this magazine are plentiful, and last week was a tough one. I had writers disappear on me and a few potential advertisers said, "No thank you." Financially, we're nowhere near where we should be and that is a little frightening.

The long-term business strategy for the magazine has us relying upon smaller local businesses to advertise in the magazine. The smaller outlets don't have budgets to advertise in legacy media places like the Inquirer or the local TV stations, so consumers instead run to the crappy national chains who do have ad budgets. The smaller businesses then continue to struggle, teetering on the brink of a downward spiral.

We hit the targeted audiences of the smaller operations so, in theory, their ad dollars are well-placed with us. By advertising in JUMP, they get much needed promotion, we get to publish our magazine and Philly gets a world of information about the awesomeness of Philly music.

The problem is that the smaller businesses are running tight ships these days because of the crappy economy. They don't have the cash to spare.

So, in the short-run, I've been trying to hit up some of the larger businesses in the region. It's tough even finding the right people to hit up at those places. My emails have gone unanswered. My phone calls are not returned.

JUMP is not a lifestyle magazine, so I have no problems with not running a lot of ads. I don't want people to shell out money for crap they don't need. That's not our goal.

We are a community-building project.

The goal is for the spiral to go upward: we write about bands and places, the bands and places succeed, the city gets a better reputation, people stay in the city and support the scene, the schools get better, political corruption ends, my garden bursts with ripened tomatoes and everyone is happy.

That's only a slight exaggeration.

One friend continuously tells me that print is pointless in the modern world. To me, that's short-sighted. In the future (as well as now), all the platforms will co-exist. The Internet is great but it's strengths are immediacy and interaction with the audience. There is a lack of depth to the majority of what goes online, no storytelling and no context (of course, context exists online but the public must find that themselves). And few places online are seen as credible.

By saying that the future is online only, it sounds, to me, like you assume everyone is stupid with a short attention span. If they aren't stupid already, the lack of information provided to them will ensure they are stupid in the future.

Print has a purpose: it's attractive and in-depth, as well as long lasting. It will continue to exist despite the constant scare from big media who could save a ton of money by cutting printing costs (even though all newspapers and magazines generate the bulk of their revenue through print ad sales).

I never, ever wanted to sell anything to anyone so I am the worst ad salesman you could ever possibly imagine. Running an ad-free magazine would be so awesome, I think, a big, rigid middle finger in the face of the corporate world. But we really need the cash.

The last time I posted about the financial end of the business, a local promoter told me he'd run an ad in the mag. He never advertises anywhere but he said he liked what we represented. We talked a few times and then he disappeared. Despite repeated emails, texts and phone calls, I never heard from him again.

And this is a guy I'm pretty friendly with. Even he won't return my messages. That's how awful selling ads really is.

I applied for a Knight Arts Journalism grant. So keep your fingers crossed. The $20,000 grant would fund the magazine for 2012.

For now, I'll continue to do this on my own dime and my own time as long as there is interest in the project. I can think of no better way to say fuck you to all the naysayers than to do it without them.

The fall issue hits the streets on September 2nd.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Start-up Journal: Of Inspiration and Frugality.

As a professor of journalism, it's hard to quantify success.

The work of one day - a lecture or homework assignment or in-class exercise - is but a drop in the bucket of a student's life. What I lecture about, I know, often goes unheard or misunderstood or worse: ignored. Some students, of course, eat up every word. The reality is that I rarely know who absorbs what (or doesn't).

When I worked for the newspaper, there was an immediate sense of gratification after working hard on a story: the next day or so, it was in print for thousands of people to see.

In a philosophical way, I could question the purpose of what I was doing at the newspaper and at a base level, I could question whether people read and were influenced by my work. But you could not debate the fact that a product was created and it existed in the public realm.

I thought of this as I read Shop Class As Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford. Crawford earned a doctorate and landed a high paying job in a think tank but eschewed it all (sort of) for a life as a motorcycle mechanic. And he couldn't be happier (or so it seems).

His book is a call for people to get their hands dirty. We tend to get caught up in abstract, man-made concepts designed by corporations to keep people in line. Office workers stress over stuff that has little impact upon anything. We've created a consumer culture that creates jobs to keep the consumer culture spinning.

Crawford preaches independence in the forms of manual labor and frugality. He even cites Benjamin Franklin, the king of the penny-pinchers. And Crawford urges people to learn by doing.

That's why I love journalism. I get to learn while doing. And then I get to tell people about it. Go to the concert? Yup. Hang with the band? That's my job. Sit down with people and talk about arts and culture in Philadelphia, and how we can make this city a better place? Yeah ... life is good.

Being a journalist is being an educator. As a modern journalist and an entrepreneur, I have to also think about the business end of things. I refuse, however, to let the magazine simply turn into a marketing tool. And we are not party-planners. We are an altruistic journalistic operation with modest financial goals and astronomical goals for benefiting society.

We aren't repairing motorcycle engines but we create a product that informs and entertains people. You can hold our product in your hands, savor it and own it.

I had a long, difficult school year. I got bogged down in ugly office politics and got caught up in other bullshit. This school year, I also dealt with an amazing amount of apathy from students. All of that has made me wonder whether teaching is the right job for me.

Now, all I want to do is run the magazine. Maybe one of these days ...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Two Grandfathers (One Me).

I never knew my mother's father (above, 2nd from the right). He passed away before I was born. And most of the stories I grew up hearing about him turned out to be false.

But he did lose an eye while fighting for Japan during World War II. He was stationed in the Philippines, ironically where my father's father (below) was fighting ... for America. They might have been shooting at each other.
I came real close to not existing.

Then again, because of World War II, the United States put American military bases all over Japan. My parents met because my father served in the Navy in my mother's hometown.

No matter how you look at it, I'm lucky I'm here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Start-up Journal: Getting to Know Me.

A bunch of JUMP staffers spent more than ten hours at The Roots Picnic on Saturday and it was pretty amazing. We networked with a bunch of folks and we gave away more than 1,100 copies of the new summer issue. Some people actually sat right next to us and read through the magazine, scouring almost every story. It was cool to watch.

Many people asked us if we included the line-up of acts for the actual event (which we did not). A few people asked about getting coverage for their bands. The mother of one of our cover musicians snagged about 6 magazines. Then she came back later and grabbed a whole stack.

We've only dropped about 4,000 copies so far. By the end of the week we'll have around 7,500 in circulation. The full run will be out by mid-week next week.

The feedback for the issue has been fantastic. It looks sharp and bright. The stories are strong. Since the issue went live on Friday, we've been averaging around 450 hits per day. That isn't bad for an unknown website that is still building a web audience for a print publication.

Here are a few things that I'm working through:

• People keep telling me we need a better web presence. My goal is to create a print publication and frankly, I don't have time to work on a website. But there is obviously a market for information if we post more stuff online.

• I wanted to create a product that was deep, especially in comparison to blogs. We can write long and run large images. In the first issue, I avoided shorter stories. We have several shorter pieces in the summer issue and the mix seems to be popular. I'm thinking we need more short stories?

• That makes me think that we should be a fairly traditional magazine format - short pieces up front, features in the middle and long-form stuff at the back of the book.

• That confirms my notion that young people want a print Philadelphia magazine that is geared toward them. They were under-served.

• That makes me wonder if we should diversify our content even more - rather than focus on music, should we really be a youth culture magazine (rather than a magazine that uses music as a hook for all the content)? Should we write about movies? Fashion?

The mag will continue to evolve. For the fall issue, we will have a complete re-design: new logo, new fonts, cleaner layout, etc. The issue will coincide with several music festivals so we are planning to do some contextual/ historical pieces. We want to show off Philly's musical heritage.

I have a shed full of magazines to distribute, and that is daunting. But I'm feeling really good about the product (I've already re-stocked several places that ran out of mags).

(Thanks to Sarah Hull for the photo).

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Start-up Journal: The Greatest Feeling in The World.

Here's a sneak peak at the summer issue of JUMP magazine. It officially hits the streets on Friday and I couldn't be more proud. The stories are solid, the images are strong, the amount of interesting content overall is impressive and the presentation, I think, looks way better than issue one.

First of all, I used smaller fonts in this issue, which allowed me to be more creative with design. We were able to run more stories and with larger images. The only people who will likely complain will be my grandparents. Everyone else, I presume, will have no problems reading the type.

I'm pretty excited about the content. The theme of issue two is "The Hook-up." It's all about connections, romantic or otherwise. Surprisingly, nearly everyone followed that theme, creating a package that is consistent and unusual. We learned how all of these bands and places and people came together. It's pretty fascinating.

I'm still reconciling my vision of the magazine with some folks. To me, music is the excuse to talk about all these people doing amazing things. The magazine is more than music. It is a youth culture guide. With that in mind, we cover food, politics, education and lots of other stuff.

I love the blend. I interviewed the mayor about his DJ days. We have a story about a 24-year old guy who is using classical music to transform a Southwest Philly neighborhood. And we have a food story about a West Philly restaurant that is trying to foster the jazz community.

In this issue, we have stories about rappers, neo-New Wave artists, indie rockers, pop musicians, a folk venue, a century-old piano shop and everything in between. It's wildly diverse and I absolutely LOVE that.

Some folks, I think, are really interested in only being about the music. I would argue that Rolling Stone, SPIN and most other mags do really cool pop culture stuff that is connected to music. Why can't we?

Now, the business stuff:

- I sold nine ads to a variety of local businesses. Nearly all of them signed on for multiple issues and they paid up front. Their early payments - around $4,0000 - cover my ass in the short run (it costs $5,500 to print the mags, so I'm still in the hole). We'll owe them space in future issues but they build a base from which we can grow. Their paid ads signify to other potential advertisers that people believe we are product with value.

My goal for the issue was to sell 10 ads or reach half the printing costs ($2,750). I'm pretty satisfied with where we are at this point. I think it will be easier to sell ads in the fall - I assume that businesses realize that the summer will be slow, regardless of advertising.

- I had coffee or drinks with countless people after issue one came out. Some of those meetings resulted in stories, and a few resulted in advertising. More than anything else, however, I thought every meeting had value because they gave me greater perspective.

- Numerous people have told me I need to be less honest with these blog posts. Showing any sort of weakness could hurt the business, they say. But I really want everyone to understand what is happening with the magazine: we are an altruistic operation whose only goals are to be sustainable and make everyone realize that Philly has great stuff going on.

- Everyone I spoke to saw the business as being easily sustainable, and they liked the overall product. One guy told me that we are reaching an audience many people would kill to reach. He told me not to under-value the product.

- I tend to under-value my time, and I messed up pretty good again with this issue. For instance, over the last 72 hours before we went to print, I probably slept about ten total hours. I pulled an all-nighter the night before going to press. I can't even begin to count up all the hours I put into this product.

I should probably begin to delegate tasks but I hate to ask people to work for free. Plus, I want to establish what we are before allowing others to have greater control of the overall. We'll get there.

- With this issue, I found two young writers I am really, really pleased with. I intend to groom them for leadership in the magazine.

I pick up the mags on Thursday and Friday. We'll begin drops on Thursday. I'd like about 2,000 on the street by Friday night (which is the start of Beer Week). We have a table at The Roots Picnic on Saturday and we'll deliver another 1,000 copies then. On Sunday, we'll give out mags at the MAD Dragon Showcase at the TLA.

By the end of the first full week in June, I'm hoping to have around 8,000 copies in circulation.

Look at the virtual mag above. I think it looks really good. Seeing what we created gives me the greatest feeling in the world.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Start-up Journal: Going Broke But Feeling Good.

We are at an important juncture for JUMP right now - story deadline for the next issue is today. Next week, I'll begin editing and designing pages.

This is also an important juncture because the ad deadline is less than two-weeks away. By then, I'll know exactly how much of my personal money will go into this issue. It isn't looking good.

I am a horrible ad salesman. I hate asking anyone for money. I find it humiliating. So I avoid doing it. The magazine (and my pockets) will suffer because of this.

I've been trying to explain to people that we are a community-builder, not a greedy organization. The ad dollars go directly to printing the publication. But we're talking about an industry that is already short on cash. While they can advertise for $50 in the mag, $50 is a lot to them. And me.

Here are a few other lessons I've learned since we completed the first issue:

• You have to constantly promote the magazine. Every day, I'm on the phone, at shows or in meetings with people to talk about our project. It is exhausting.
• You have to be online constantly. I post material every day. I tweet and facebook the hell out of everything. And that gets exhausting.
• Everyone seems to like the magazine. I get emails constantly. And the mag has pretty much disappeared from all our drop spots (we began distribution on March 11 and all 10,000 copies were swept up pretty quickly).
• Everyone wants to be in the magazine. Bands hit me up constantly. Writers and photographers keep hitting me up. That gives me hope that we are doing something right.

Here are a few things I've learned about myself:

• I don't want to be online all the time. This project has kind of made me hate the Internet.
• I am a horrible negotiator. I don't want to play games. I know that you will start low and expect me to haggle but I'm not playing that game. Let's just treat each other with respect, OK?
• I can live on five hours of sleep per night.
• I like being the boss. My full-time job in academia is full of office politics. I used to be able to avoid it. This year, I got caught up in the bullshit. I'm retreating from that stuff. And I'm going to create a comfortable culture in the magazine where the staffers are valued and respected.
• I don't want to be an event promoter.
• I just want to create a magazine.
• I don't want to rely upon hype to make the magazine successful. I'm not going to fall back on the ridiculous practices of contemporary journalism.
• My principles will be the end of me. And the magazine.

My goal for issue two was to raise half the $5,500 printing cost through advertising. I think I have five or six definite advertisers and maybe another three or four more in the wings. Next week, I'll canvas town trying to raise more money. Right now, I'm in the hole big time.

Regardless, the next issue will be available on June 3.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Start-up Journal: So Unbelievably Tired of Talking About Money.

I RECENTLY QUIT an unpaid position working with a wealthy foundation. They are launching a journalism organization with $2.4 million. They are spending $100,000 just to hire a search firm to find the leader for the yet-to-be-formed organization.

When I protested the $100,000 cost of the search firm, I was told, "That's how things operate in business."

That statement alone was obnoxious. The condescending tone it was delivered in made it all the worse.

A business that spends that extravagantly these days is doomed to fail. It is not sustainable (especially when nearly $600,000 of the annual $800,000 budget is allocated to paying the top four people, all of whom produce nothing).

Money. It seems all I do these days is talk to people about money. And that sickens me.

Shouldn't we be doing what is right rather than what makes business sense (i.e. raking in profits)?

Our new magazine is operating on the altruistic notion of supporting the local music scene. We are not out to get rich.

We want to be sustainable - we need $5,500 quarterly to pay for printing costs. Ideally, I'd like to pay the staff for their work, which would add about another $2,500 per issue.

Our ad rates are intentionally cheap. We want everyone to be able to advertise with us. We get their money so we can continue producing content. They get promotion so their business can grow. It's a win-win.

I've already had loose conversations with people who were interested in getting specific coverage in the magazine, for which they were willing to pay. I turned them down. As an independent magazine, our credibility lies in in our editorial independence. We can't be perceived as having sold a positive story (or any story, really). That would ruin our reputation, turning us into public relations hacks.

The federal budget is suffering from partisan bullshit. The state budget is in shambles. Education funding in Pennsylvania is being slashed (like we need more poorly educated kids in Philly). And my job as a professor at a state-related university is tenuous.

I'm holding on to my principles. I'll likely lose a ton of money this year but we'll create a product that we can be proud of, I think. Maybe we can even build a new business model - financially smart, community-friendly, enjoyable all-around.

The world needs a new business model. Because the dire financial straits we're in today are rooted in the ridiculous business practices of the past.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Start-up Journal: If it Costs Money, Will People Just Go Away?

WHEN WE CAME up with the idea for JUMP, I decided that we should be free. I wanted to follow the models of Grid and Philly Beer Scene. They reach their very specific communities and serve them well with free magazines.

I think we can do the same.

Last week, the New York Times announced a paywall strategy. This follows similar experiments here in Philadelphia and elsewhere around the country.

I have real fears that if information comes at a price, people will decline. They'll lean on the free services, like cable news or random online places. That is frightening.

Broadcast news is so desperate for viewers that they air almost anything salacious, and rarely do they provide more than superficial coverage of stories.

The online world is fantastic for breaking stories but it is also a hotbed of inaccuracy - last week, word spread that CNN was sending 400 reporters and crew to cover the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. While the false information (it's really 50 staffers) originated in the Wall Street Journal, it was quickly disseminated by dozens, if not hundreds of bloggers.

We have been slowly turning people into idiots with quick hits, salacious stories, superficial coverage and false information.

And now that reported news is going to cost money, I fear more people will click on to the free sites like Gawker or Perez Hilton than actual news sites.

JUMP is intended to be a magazine that goes deeper and gives people the story behind the band (or whatever). Do we provide quality information that people would pay for? That's not the point. We want everyone to have the best information, not just those who can pay.

I just hope there are enough people left out there who haven't been dumbed-down by the media.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Start-up Journal: You Need a Distribution Plan.

I WENT TO THE printer n New Jersey to pick up 10,000 copies of a 48-page magazine on 60 pound stock paper. And when the dude above tried to set the palette on the bed of my step-father's flat bed truck, it nearly blew the shocks on the Chevy S10.

I had to make two trips with around 5,000 copies of JUMP each time. Even then, the truck was dragging and I thought it might blow out the tires.

Then, I had to figure out where to put the 10,000 magazines. My plan was to distribute around 5,000 copies during week one. Then, a month later, we would deliver the rest after seeing what distribution points were most effective.

But holy cow! Those 10,000 magazines take up a lot of room! I put around 7,000 in my shed (leaving us barely able to take out our bikes) and another 2,000 at my school office. I delivered 1,000 immediately.

One week later, the shed is much more manageable. We've delivered around 7,500 magazine in eight days.

What did I learn in this process?

• We need a place to store stuff. And we need a way to transport the mags. If might even be wise to rent a truck for two days. That way, we have temporary storage until we can canvas the city with mags.

• I had ideas of hand delivering mags to people, and then begin conversations about advertising in future issues. But I've been hustling just to get rid of mags that I have only spoken to a handful of decision-makers at businesses. I just don't have the time.

• I've delivered around 4,000 copies on my own, if not more. That is just plain stupid. I need to teach people how to distribute and then trust them to do it.

• We've dropped small amounts (10 to 30 copies) of mags at tons of places. The thinking is that since people don't know what we are, it's better to have wide distribution - really saturate the city so that people can't avoid us.

• We also dumped larger numbers at mags at strategic points - World Cafe Live, university settings, a few record shops and venues. Basically, where there are large numbers of people or people specifically interested in music, we left a bunch of mags.

• I've delivered mags to prominent producers, journalists, artists and other relevant folks. I've also handed mags to random individual people. I heard a kid rapping on the corner of 6th and Jefferson the other day while he was waiting to cross the street. I asked him if he liked music. Then I handed him a mag.

When was the last time you ran into a magazine publisher? I bet you remember it. Even if these folks don't care, or even if they recognize the fact that I'm just some jackass dude, I guarantee they'll remember the experience.

I never leave the house without twenty or more mags.

• I've followed up at locations where I've dropped mags. I get excited when I see the stacks gone. I get bummed when I see a big pile still there. Fortunately, at most places I've gone, the piles are much smaller. I've even restocked a few places.

Every once and a while, I see people outside reading the mag as they wait for a table at Honey's. That's an amazing feeling.

I understand why people like the Internet - you can instantly see what people are reading and appreciating. With print, it's really hard to tell. But I've walked into places and people have told me they have already seen the mag, or they've heard about it. I've received a lot of emails and the website is getting a few hundred hits per day.

There is a buzz about the mag. That's cool. But it will take a while before we have the word-of-mouth and recognition of the existing publications.

So far, I think we are achieving our goals. We will grow from here.

Friday, March 11, 2011

JUMP Hits the Streets Today!

CHECK THE WEBSITE to find where you can pick up physical copies. Or email me.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Start-up Journal: Being the Boss Isn't Fun.

ON THE EVE of wrapping up issue one of JUMP, I stumbled across the magazine above. The cover story is, "Why I still love print media."

The magazine was in the trash. Actually, it was a whole stack of them. Fairly ominous.

I worked on the mag until 3 am with Chris Malo. After I drove him home, I stayed up until 6 am finishing the details. When I went to bed, the sun was coming up. A few hours later, I took the mag to the printer.

I think it looks good. And overall, I'm fairly proud of the work represented. A lot of people worked very hard. This is a pretty good start.

Today, I want to focus on the editorial side of things because I learned a great deal through this process.

• I was in my office at school, talking to a pair of students when we formally hatched the magazine idea. Neither of those two students got involved in the final product. During the mag build-up, I tried to find a small team of folks who would help with decision-making. The small team I assembled did not get involved to a great extent. A few of them actually disappeared along the way (one owing me two stories, including one potential cover story).

That makes me realize that people need to feel ownership in the project in order to be fully committed. When we aren't paying people, however, that commitment (and ownership) is difficult to come by.

• I tried to create an environment of inclusion. Our meetings were pure democracies - everyone's opinions were invited. I thought that worked out well. The stories that we have in the mag represent that to some extent - we profiled a few bands and did a few stories that I would not have chosen. The open discussions, I think, gave the mag greater diversity.

Some people did not like the open atmosphere of the group (meetings with 20 to 30 folks) and declined to participate. They wanted more control.

I'm not sure whether it is better to have the big open group or a small crew of really devoted folks. Perhaps when I land on a crew of truly devoted people, I'll be better able to make that decision.

• I personally edited every story in the magazine. Some of the stories were written by non-journalists and many were prepared by journalism students. I edited every story to professional standards and that meant kicking stories back to people for re-writes. With some people, I went back and forth many times, to the point that they were very unhappy with me.

I had to re-write a few stories in the mag. I held a few stories until issue two because I thought they could benefit from additional reporting.

(Some of the stories we held for issue two were actually quite good but we ran out of room in the mag. The final decision to hold them came down to a lack of sufficient art.)

I made everyone aware of the changes I made in their stories. A few folks freaked out. But in the end, I think the overall product is much stronger.

No one has ever told me that I am a good leader - I almost refuse to discipline anyone. Punishment, I feel, does not work - it only makes people resentful. You need to make people care. I tried to make people care. But at some point, I'll have to play that strong leader role.

• Since the magazine was a side job, I wound up editing and doing layout during the evenings and on weekends. I got no sleep. I did almost all of the layout myself as I wasn't able to schedule time to get others involved.

Frankly, I'm not sure how to delegate work to folks (especially since the layout needs to be uniform throughout the mag) and I'm not sure I want to. It's their stories and images but it's my money and reputation at stake. I am the one who lives in this city and will continue to do so (while others take off after college or run to Jersey once they have kids).

The consistent thing that will keep this mag going is me.

For this issue, I estimate that I put in 160 to 180 hours of work, from January 1 to March 4. I earned $350 by running a story related to the magazine in the Philadelphia Daily News. We sold two full-page ads for a total of $1,500.

Printing 10,000 copies of the magazine cost at least $5,400 (the mag is at the printer now, so I'll know the exact cost this week).

That puts me in the hole $3,900 (or $3,550 if you factor in the Daily News money).

I'm hoping that once we have a product to show people, we'll be able to generate ad dollars. Our distribution plan involves me walking into businesses and handing them mags, as well as talking to them about advertising.

Other lessons learned?

Stand firm on deadlines. And when deadlines are missed, move on.

The last three pages of this issue were not filled until less than 12 hours before the mag went to the printer. That is beyond unacceptable. Those folks should be charged with attempted murder as I almost had a heart attack waiting for their copy (it arrived more than two weeks late despite daily promises that it would be done that day).

Relax. It will all come together.

I barely slept for two months and that wasn't healthy. I barely spent time with my girlfriend and poor Mookie has been ignored. I need to allocate my time better, and not worry about this so much. I don't need to be a martyr.

Ignore the politics.

I created a magazine using my own money and a lot of my own time. I got a world of positive feedback from folks. I also got a lot of snide remarks from folks. F*** 'em.

This mag is awesome. People will love it. It will be financially self-sustaining. It is not a model for journalism in general but I think it will be a business and editorial model for community and niche media.

It wasn't easy by any means. But when I look at the finished product, I am humbled. I can't believe we made this.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Google Paparazzi!

IF YOU DO a Google street view map for 2nd and Brown in Philly, you'll find me and the Mook walking along Brown. Cool.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bob Marley: "We'll Free the People With Music."

I WAS RECENTLY diagnosed as having hypothyroidism and prescribed hormone pills, so that may be why this video brought tears to my eyes.

But I don't think that's the reason. This is some subtly beautiful stuff. It speaks, I think, to the power and universality of music.

The video was created and released in 2010 by Playing for Change on what would have been Bob Marley's 65th birthday. It's amassed more than 7 million views.

The video released in 2011 for Marley's 66th birthday, two days ago, has already been viewed more than 300,000 times.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Start-up Journal: Celebrating Philadelphia.

IN THE OLD DAYS, journalistic outlets championed for their cities and regions, helping the areas grow and prosper.

The New York Times reports that the founding owners of the Los Angeles Times "used their fledgling publication to push for the development that helped give rise to modern Los Angeles. Water was first piped into the San Fernando Valley because they arranged for it. Los Angeles Harbor was built in part because of their backing."

I don't see journalists championing for cities or regions much these days. Most, especially in Philadelphia, pander to their audiences by feeding them a steady stream of bland information about sports, spot news, weather and gossip.

JUMP will champion the city. We'll focus on the awesome people doing awesome stuff, here in Philadelphia.

As nearly all large-scale manufacturing operations have left the city, leaving our brains as the most important product we create, it's vital that we celebrate our creative community.

JUMP will do that. And hopefully we'll all benefit.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Start-up Journal: Free Ads? Branded Content?

I'VE HAD DISCUSSIONS with several people who have suggested giving away free advertisements in the inaugural issue of JUMP, which will be released in March.

It is a common practice for new publications. There are numerous reasons for giving away ad space - developing relationships with potential advertisers, creating a perception of legitimacy in the eyes of the audience, etc.

Personally, I am against giving away ad space. With all that extra room in the magazine, we can be the magazine we would want to be, not the magazine we have to be because of finances. This is our chance to show the world how awesome we can be.

I'm not sure if that is smart. Thoughts?

Also, I don't want to give away ads when a handful of folks will pay for ads. Just doesn't seem fair.

A few people have suggested that we do branded content. They have suggested we work with potential advertisers to develop story ideas around their businesses. The stories and photos would be presented as regular content. But it would essentially be sponsored.

I'm against that as well.

That all may make me sound naive in business terms. But I try to see things from the readers' perspective. What do they want?

If we can figure that out, we'll gain a following. If we gain a following, advertisers will want to reach them. And we'll throw concerts and other benefits to raise cash to continue the magazine. Plus, we aren't looking for tons of cash.

I'm open to all ideas. Hit me.

(Why the picture of celebrating baseball players from 8th & Poplar? I miss me some baseball. Damn.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Start-up Journal: Defining Success?

WE WILL NOT even come close to breaking even financially on the first issue of JUMP. If I am lucky, we'll sell maybe $1,000 worth of advertising. And our costs will be in the ballpark of $5,500 for the one issue, not including time, concert tickets and basic travel stuff like driving around the city to drop off issues.

We may earn more money through advertising for the second issue. For the third issue, we have a tentative arrangement with City Paper to sell ads because the issue will revolve around the Philly Film and Music Festival, of which CP is a sponsor.

Regardless, I personally am going to be eating a lot of money this year. Some people might automatically consider that a failure. But forget the money for now. I am committed to four issues this year. We'll re-evaluate afterward.

What criteria should we use to decide whether to continue after the first four issues?

First and foremost, I believe, the product has to be good. If the writers, photographers and other volunteers don't have their hearts in the project, it is a failure. If we create a product that is not special, why continue?

Second, there must be interest in the mag. On March 11, 2011, we'll begin dropping the mag at locations throughout the city. We'll deliver half of the 10,000 copies during that first week. One month later, we'll return to those spots. If the mags are gone, we'll leave more. If the original mags are still there, we probably distributed poorly.

If a lot of mags remain at a lot of distribution points, we've created something people have no interest in.

Finally, I want to hear from people directly. I want people to email us and say they love the mag. I want them submitting ideas, photos, art, whatever. I want people commenting online. And I want them clamoring to get involved.

I've already had random people submit a ton of photos. I've had emails from high school students, bands, labels and journalists inquiring about the project and offering to help.

There is interest in the magazine, and that has me unbelievably optimistic. It's been a long time since Philadelphia had a high-quality, local-music-only magazine, and the city has never had it's own glossy publication devoted to pumping up the local music scene.

So, let me tell you why I believe we will succeed:

1. Few places I've ever been have as much civic pride as this city does. If you are not from here and you say something bad about Philly, you will get a beat down (if you are from Philly, saying bad things is your birthright). Philly will support Philly, and the mag is a total community-builder and civic-booster.

2. We will run large, engaging images - on shiny paper - that you can rip out of the mag and tape to your wall. Our stories will be deep, and the variety of stories will be unmatched by any publication in the city.

3. The music scene in Philly is insane. There is so much amazing stuff happening. I went to the recent Diplo Mad Decent party and there had to be 150 people in line to get in, and another 200+ people inside. It was wall-to-wall packed. And it was a Monday. In January.

In November, I went to a Philadelphia Orchestra concert with Yannick Nezet-Seguin, the future musical director and conductor, leading the symphony. Afterward, Nezet-Seguin sat down with fans. There had to be more than 100 people waiting in line to shake his hand and snap pictures with him. It was especially amazing when you consider the Orchestra crowd usually splits for the Main Line before the conductor has taken his final bows.

People here love their music. There is interest in learning more about the musicians, the scene, the city, everything, I think.

4. Finally, we will succeed because we are modest with our goals. We aren't trying to get rich. The idea is to get to a financial comfort level - where everyone gets paid for their work.

Other than that, we want to help the musicians get notoriety. We want to encourage people to come to the city to listen to music. We want our talent to stay in Philly and get lots of love. And we want people supporting Philly businesses that support the Philly music scene.

As always, your thoughts are welcomed and appreciated.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Start-up Journal: Creating the Business and Launching a Magazine.

FOR THE PAST SIX nights, I have experienced the awesome and eclectic sounds of Philly. Last night, I sat in David Gaines Dining Room Recording Studio (above) as he and a group of friends sang, played music and discussed the music scene in town. It was pretty amazing.

This is part of my 31 days of Philly music, the story that I am doing for the new JUMP magazine, the all-local Philly music mag I am launching with the HUGE help of volunteer writers, photographers, editors, artists and other supporters.

As we go through the launch process, I'll detail how we did it so that others can learn from our trials and errors.

I decided to create the magazine in November after talking with a few students about a London mag project I did with students last summer. They loved the London mag but didn't feel connected to it. "If there was something like this for Philly, that'd be awesome," one student remarked.

The same day, Jesse Pearson, the former editor of Vice magazine, told one of my classes that a magazine should represent the editor's way of thinking. "The mag needs to be about my curiosity," he said.

That night I started a facebook group. I invited a bunch of friends and students to talk about the idea and what a mag would look like. By the end of the month, we had our first meeting. One week later, we discussed story ideas.

Over Thanksgiving break, I created a media kit. In December, I started a website, filed for a federal employee identification number, registered as a business and opened a bank account. Mookieland Inc. now exists and will launch JUMP: The Philly Music Project magazine in March.

Total costs to date: $1,425 paid to an accountant ($600 to incorporate the business, $300 for Philadelphia business license and $525 for the accountant's fees) and $25 for a domain name and hosting.

We have nearly 30 assignments in progress right now with stories due on January 28.

In February, I'll edit (with the help of volunteer copy editors) and we'll begin laying out the magazine. It should go to print on March 4, and be on the streets by March 11. Most of the city's college students return from spring break that weekend, so we'll do our major magazine launch party the following week (sometime between March 16 and 19).

It will cost around $5,500 to print 10,000 copies of a 48-page, full-color, glossy magazine. We have no advertising plan right now, so that money is coming out of my shallow pockets.

After the mag launches, we'll do a massive outreach to potential advertisers. Our next issue will be out in June and hopefully, the content/ ad ratio will be closer to 70/30, content to ads.

That is the plan for now.

My concerns? They are plenty: the stories won't come in on time; they won't be good; the images won't be strong and engaging; we'll miss genres; the mag will be too eclectic; we will be perceived as naive; advertisers won't be interested; I will lose $7,000 that I will never get back.

I could go on for days.

For now, however, I am having a great time. The process is exciting. And my 31 days of music story has me exploring every day, meeting amazing people and seeing places I've never experienced. Speaking with all these folks reminds me of why I love journalism.

Any thoughts or suggestions are welcome.