Mr. Magazine Interview Series: AARP EIC Bob Love On Being the Biggest Magazine in America
Following are few highlights from Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni’s interview with AARP The Magazine editor-in-chief Bob Love, who was formerly the managing editor of Rolling Stone and executive editor of The Week. Love shares the secret sauce behind the publication’s meteoric rise to become the most popular consumer magazine in the U.S. and how it has added over 11 million readers since 2003. Love discussed his editorial vision for the magazine, how he wants the magazine to redefine aging in the U.S., and the future of print in the magazine business.
Read the full interview here.
Love on the rapid growth of AARP The Magazine
“Our readership from the Fall of 2003, when we were first measured by MRI, has grown by 11.669 million readers, which is more than the total population of Greece. The growth of the magazine is bigger than 88% of all the MRI measured magazines. . . This is a very rare success story in publishing in the 21st century.”
On the secret sauce behind the magazine’s success
“I think it’s treating readers with respect, not talking down to them, giving them as much variety and depth in the pages of an every two month magazine as we can fit. And keeping it modern and up-to-date, not pandering, and using the best talent in photography and design and journalism that you can afford.”
On keeping AARP The Magazine fresh and interesting to readers
“We poll our readers online every issue because we’re not sold on the newsstand. We do a great deal of internal research and so we find out the things that they want in their magazine and the things that they consider must-reads. So it’s my job to reinvent service for the fifty-plus readership; it’s my job to bring them something surprising in each issue if we have the pages to do it. And I don’t think that’s a job that’s ever done. I feel like you just keep doing it every day. And surround yourself with people who love to do the same job.”
On the missed opportunities of marketing to consumers over the age of 50
“People over the age of 50 are 100 million strong. We will soon control more than 70 percent of the disposable income in this country. We buy two-thirds of all the new cars, half of all the computers and a third of all movie tickets. We spend $7 billion a year shopping online. More than 80 percent of all the premium-travel dollars flow from our credit cards. Add it all up, as my AARP colleague Jody Holtzman did last year, and U.S. adults who are over 50 ka-ching as the third largest economy in the world, trailing only the gross national product of the United States and China! And still, older Americans are virtually ignored by marketers mired in last century’s obsession with youth. In fact, only 5 percent of advertising is directed at older consumers, according to Nielsen, which has been tracking Americans’ habits for decades. It’s insulting.”
On the future of print and digital at AARP
“How do we cross over that divide between paper and digital? We have an active online site for the organization; we put our magazines out on tablet and I’m negotiating with Texture right now to get us onto that platform. Can I see a day when we don’t have a print component? I can see a day maybe into the future, but older readers tend to be the people who are reading magazines. If you look anywhere around you, young people are reading their phones. It’s older people who are actually reading magazines still. So, we’ll be one of the last ones probably to go over because print is still so necessary to reach our readers. And I believe it’s far from dead. There are people who think that we’re in the buggy-whip business, but when you deliver 1.3 million new readers to your publication in the last year, I would say that’s not quite true.”
Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D. is the founder and director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media. He is also Professor and Hederman Lecturer at the School of Journalism. As Mr. Magazine™ he engages in media consulting and research for the magazine media and publishing industry.