How big is the need to get good magazines to a child while growing up?
Literacy is essential to freedom and prosperity. A child unable to read is a child lost – unable to learn any school subject. Adults unable to read were once children who didn’t learn how. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently ‘prescribed’ parents reading to children as young as infants to inoculate against illiteracy. With titles for every reading age and interest, we know that magazines are especially powerful for literacy. ‘Reading is Fundamental’ says that 10 million+ US children in poverty live in homes with no books – a number that stunned me. We can change that. There are billions of readers to reach, worldwide.
MagazineLiteracy.org’s growth in the past 20 years has been substantial. Is this what you expected or has this been a surprising journey?
Our journey has been full of pleasant surprises. We learned early that magazines are especially powerful literacy resources and that consumers love their magazines and love to share them with the readers in our program. Our mission resonates with people who passionately cherish their favourite titles and love to share them with new readers. We have an unprecedented opportunity to partner across every magazine media channel – from print to digital, via editorial stories, display ads, circulation, newsstand, and online promotions – to engage consumers to get magazines into the hands, hearts, and homes of at-risk readers on every continent.
The structures and systems you have put in place for your literacy missions to apply for assistance, register their needs and then supply the correct material seems to be really refined and well thought out. How has this been developed? What are the biggest challenges?
We are as much a technology idea as we are a media or literacy project. Our dream is to build a global crowdfunded magazine literacy marketplace that pools consumer funds to deliver magazines to match literacy wish-lists anywhere and everywhere – from culinary magazines to chef job training programmes, business and financial magazines to financial literacy programmes, teen, sports, and science magazines.
We pivot constantly to try new approaches – investing in those that work and staying nimble to meet varying needs. What works in one community may need adjustment to work in another, so we empower thousands of organisers on the ground to be local literacy ambassadors. We get lots of tech support, but we need industry help – we need to tap the technical media prowess of the publishing industry to build consumer-friendly crowdsourcing platforms – to eliminate friction so more people are more likely to engage more frequently to put magazines into hands and homes. We need to wrap multimedia around our print delivery, so the moms and dads unable to read can experience reading with their children.
Is this a print magazine only mission or can we expect to see changes to these systems to accommodate (paid for) online content?
Print is a portable and powerful medium that readers love to experience through all their senses. Yet, great content in all formats is what teaches and inspires – satisfies and engages us. We will constantly innovate and evolve. All formats and distribution channels should work together to drive the engagement that is so mission-critical to our growth and success.
Your campaign makes it possible for new and recycled magazines to be distributed. Do you have a breakdown or percentage split between new and recycled?
Our focus has shifted from one to the other as we experiment to learn what matters and what works. Delivering both new and recycled magazines will always be equally emphasised. Back issue magazines are like gold mined from deep in the earth – timely and timeless year-round. We give consumers compelling reasons to buy new magazines for child, teen, and adult readers year-after-year. To reach our full potential for new magazine orders, we need to partner with every magazine media channel – via stories, ads, circulation, newsstand, and online – to drive consumer engagement.
How supportive and generous are publishers in assisting you in achieving goals? Do you ever encounter opposition from publishers who might feel that MagazineLiteracy.org is redistributing magazines into a potential market?
From day one we have enjoyed the faith and support of magazine industry stakeholders. We only supply magazines to at-risk readers without ready access to them – so we are creating and serving entirely new markets – untouched and untapped. We need publisher support now more than ever to reach our full potential. We only create value for the readers, consumers, and companies throughout the publishing industry. We celebrate our enthusiastic love for reading and sharing the magazines and the stories that move us. There is a mission critical role for every professional – from the mailroom to the boardroom. To sustain and grow our dream, we need personal and corporate commitments from the captains of our industry at levels of support that they know they can renew year after year.
How do you see the role and how important is the work of FIPP, as the worldwide magazine media association, in MagazineLiteracy.org’s reaching its goals?
FIPP has been a very long-time friend and champion of our literacy mission from our earliest days. Our mission is ready for replication into every magazine market in the world. FIPP is the world stage for our global call to action. If we can airlift 2,000 magazines to Inuit readers in the middle of winter’s polar vortex, we can put magazine media into the hands and hearts of every reader in every village in every valley and every mountaintop on Earth.
Mennell will be one of more than 700 people at FIPP’s World Congress in Toronto this October. Join him, and us, there.