The coolest couple on Instagram has a plan to save print media

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The typical story you hear month after month, year after year, is that the print edition is dead or at the very least dying a Torquemadan death at the hands of a soulless new media leviathan who devalues anything long and in-depth in favor of “content” to nibble on and share. Newspapers (local and national) and magazines (independent and legacy) withered – folding, merging and hemorrhaging talent. The term “media bloodbath”Is the one you’re used to seeing quite regularly these days.

What to do about it? One can go entirely online, abandoning the dream of a printed future. Or fight the rearguard actions, going through compromise and downsizing after another until a magazine’s staff can fit in a closet and each issue is thin enough to slip under a door.

(Jackie Roman for InsideHook)

But what if there was a third way? Yolanda Edwards and Matt Hranek, a New York couple deeply rooted in the world of glossy magazines, bet on the overthrow of existing models, creating not one but two magazines designed to compete for serious public attention. warned exhausted by madness. superficiality of the age of influencers. The kind of magazine you want to have and keep on your coffee table – not a magazine that pops up just because you forgot you subscribed to it using the auto-renew feature.

Edwards grew up knowing she wanted to be a travel editor from a young age. She wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but always kept meticulous records of articles and images from magazines as an outlet for her budding passions as a commissioner. Hranek, a photographer by trade, began freelance photography for magazines when he moved to New York in 1992. They met thanks to a mutual friend also in publishing, eventually married and ended up. work together for Condé Nast Traveler, where Edwards was Creative Director and a transformative editorial force at the magazine. In 2018, amid sweeping reshuffles and layoffs in publishing, but especially Conde Nast, the US and UK editions of Traveler were merged and Matt and Yolanda found themselves out of work.

“Finish at Condé Nast Traveler was a dream, ”Edwards recalls. “We had a great time even though we knew things were about to change. I would say to everyone, ‘It’s not going to last’, but when it finally goes, it’s such a blow. It wasn’t that hard for Hranek: “I’ve always been a freelance writer,” he says, “so I was losing my job every week. The emotional training for this is excellent. My instinct was: okay, great. Now we just move on to the next thing.

(Jackie Roman for InsideHook)

For this couple, the next thing was a new men’s lifestyle magazine: WM Brown (William Brown is the full name, rarely spelled.)

“Yolanda and I have been talking for a long time about wanting to make a men’s magazine,” Hranek explains. “I’ve been in love with men’s magazines, but maybe four of them spoke to me individually. Not one was the whole version of myself which was the trip and the food and a little athletic and about style, not fashion. It’s not that I was an expert on the subject, but I had a strong opinion on it. So we just built it with Yolanda’s advice.

WM Brown, a midwife by Edward’s editorial skills, was born from Hranek’s talent for communicating his enthusiasms in an almost contagious way. . In fact, it was Hranek’s Land Rover that got run over by a plummeting London Planetree in Brooklyn that got him an insurance deal and funded the first issue of WM Brown.


Related: Top 100 Independent Magazines


However, the budget was tight and contributors had to be found. “After working in this company for a very long time,” Edwards says, “we have a lot of goodwill with a lot of writers and really talented people who make interesting subjects and photographers. “

“People were so happy to see their photographs and ideas come to life in a physical way,” adds Hranek, “especially a lot of photographers and writers that I know personally and who no longer have significant outlets for their work. Everyone was so generous, “Yes, of course. When do you need it? Yesterday? Can I Pay you? ‘ It was like that. We couldn’t have built it without them.

(Jackie Roman for InsideHook)

The success of WM Brown was so quick and thorough – there were over 600 orders on the day the first issue was announced – that Edwards used the momentum to launch his personal dream project: the luxury travel magazine YOLO Newspaper. Publishing a print magazine today could be seen as ambitious – two could be pathological. “We’re crazy,” Edwards admits. “We are competitive with each other.”

But more than that, the success of both WM Brown and YOLO can at least in part be attributed to the fact that they are in competition with social networks rather than with traditional magazines. The covers themselves look like Instagram photos worth sharing in 10,000 stories: a striking large-format photo with a single line of text – the magazine’s title. No by-lines, no headlines, no subtitles. As a result, problems became objects to be photographed for social media. A copy of YOLO is a must-have accessory on a boutique hotel table trying to get the Ace vibe, just like a copy of WM Brown pulling out of the pocket of a high-end parka is a mark of good taste and wit for a #menswear enthusiast.

“Yolanda said it the other day,” Hranek said; “She’s never seen anyone photographing magazine covers like this. It’s interesting in terms of culture.

(Jackie Roman for InsideHook)

The couple are extremely savvy about what it takes to be successful in the digital age:

“We both recognize the attention span of the current climate in this high-speed world of Instagram,” Hranek said. “I’ve always been frustrated with the long, wordy format in traditional publishing, especially in the travel and men’s style. As a visual artist, I love and respect photography. And I noticed how much less importance was given to it. I wanted to celebrate imagery and get straight to the point with words. In a way, it’s kind of born out of that Instagram idea of ​​strong visuals, short dialogues.

“Matt and I are both a lot on Instagram – maybe a little too much,” Edwards confesses, “but because we’re so into it, I know what I want to see. not in a very small square box. We’re so saturated with visuals that when you see something and it jumps out at you, you’re like, “I want to see it bigger. Or there are photographers I know where I am, ‘Your work is terrible on Instagram, but it’s beautiful in this magazine.’ People want to have this moment: “I’m going to put my phone down now and I’m just going to take some time for myself and not get the news alert or text message while I’m in my relaxed mode. I’m just going to look at a magazine.

(Jackie Roman for InsideHook)

The novelty of a print power couple today – a literal mom and pop establishment that strikes well above its weight in terms of quality and interest – is not lost on Edwards and Hranek . Their children are even starting to embark on the new family business.

“Clara, our daughter, was on the cover of the second issue of YOLO Journal, says Hranek. “She was right there and it was her with the camera, not me.”


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