Magazine Aims to Be 'Good' for You

This month marks the first anniversary of Good magazine, which takes on topics that are "good" while being both relevant and entertaining. Editor-in-chief Zach Frechette talks about the ups and downs of that rookie year.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ALLISON STEWART, host:

And Luke, sometimes the word good gets a bad rap. No good deed goes unpunished - Clare Boothe Luce. For most folks, no news is good news. The press good news is not news. Only the good die young.

So it's actually pretty nervy for a group of 20-somethings with a vision to create a magazine about social, political and environmental issues to name their magazine Good. It seemed to work out for them. Good Magazine is celebrating its first birthday this month.

Now a year ago, the magazine started with an interesting mission to focus on all those issues we mentioned above - things about the greater good, if you will.

Here's how they described themselves in a video from YouTube.

(Soundbite of video)

Unidentified Man #1: Good Magazine is about 130 to 40 pages of hard work.

Unidentified Man #2: We have one office in Los Angeles.

Unidentified Woman: One office in New York.

Unidentified Man #1: And several satellite offices in our sister cities, Stockholm, Paris, and Peoria.

Unidentified Man #3: We have 32 employees.

Unidentified Man #1: But we average probably around 51. Most people here are in their late 20s, but our accountant is a bit older and he really pushes that up a bit.

STEWART: Kind of the Carl Kasell of Good, if you will.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: They also try to talk - walk the walk that they talk. Good donates all of the subscription fees to charity.

Zach Frechette is editor in chief of Good, was a founding member of the publication. Happy birthday, Zach.

Mr. ZACH FRECHETTE (Editor in Chief and Founding Member, Good Magazine): Hey, thanks very much. I can't believe you guys played that video.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: In a couple of adjectives, how would you describe your first year of publishing the magazine?

Mr. FRECHETTE: Exciting, maybe a little rocky, but mostly successful.

STEWART: In your first year of publication, what was the challenging part of filling the magazine with information that lived up to your standards?

Mr. FRECHETTE: It actually ended up not being as difficult that I think we thought it might have been. As it turns out, there's a lot of this stuff that's out there as we sort of suspected, and the challenging part was to sort of try to reach the audience and to grow that audience.

STEWART: For people who are wondering, so what will I read in Good Magazine that's so dang different? Can you give me a couple of examples?

Mr. FRECHETTE: Yeah sure. I mean, what - we're you know, we're a bi-monthly magazine so we're not trying to really break any new stories, but we're trying to get people thinking about news in a different way.

So in our - in our seventh issue, which is just on newsstands this week, we've got a pretty exciting story about this guy named Bruce Bueno de Mesquita. And he's basically a political scientist. He's spent the last 25 years perfecting, you know, a mathematical equation that essentially predicts the future.

So this is a guy who's on retainer at the state department and Fortune 500 companies and the CIA, and they come to him and they're like, hey, we need to figure out what's going to happen in Iran in a couple of years. Can you tell us? And he can with a sort of startling accuracy.

And you know, that's a sort of example of something where, you know, we can cover - we can get into issues of the day, you know, important news stories, but in a sort of in a more interesting way.

STEWART: So as you were pitching good to people and trying to get them involved in it and you were telling them, you know, this is a magazine for people who give a damn, I think that's how you guys put it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FRECHETTE: Yeah.

STEWART: One of your guys - what did they say? Who's going to buy a magazine about things that are good?

Mr. FRECHETTE: Well, I mean, that's definitely - we're sort of working against the name of our magazine. As you said in your intro, good has almost become this pejorative term like you call someone a good - a do gooder and that's essentially an insult.

But we're trying to kind of reclaim it for a new generation. We think that there's this impulse out there with people who want to do good in the world, who want to be engaged and make change, but sort of rejects the hippie tree-hugging roots of what the word means.

So we think that it's more mainstream now and people are doing it in a more popular way, and we just sort of want to celebrate that.

STEWART: Can you explain to me the subscription deal where you donate your subscriptions fees to charities? How can that actually work for you as a business model?

Mr. FRECHETTE: Well actually, it's worked really well for us. I think what most people don't realize is that getting subscribers is generally a money-losing proposition for magazines. It's really expensive. And the end goal is to get as many as you can because then you can charge more for ad pages.

But typically, how that's done is company - you know, magazines will send millions of millions of pieces of direct mail, which is essentially junk - it's pretty wasteful. And when we heard this, we we're like, this isn't - we don't respond to junk mail, this doesn't make a lot of sense to us, there's got to be a better way for us to spend that money.

And so what we did was we partnered with these 12 non-profit organizations and launched something called the "Choose Good campaign." So when you subscribe, you pay $20, you get the magazine delivered to you, but that entire $20 also goes to one of these 12 non-profit partners and actually ends up being cheaper than if we were, you know, sending out pieces of junk mail to people and hoping that they'd respond.

STEWART: We should also point out that Good is actually a part of a larger media platform that was conceived by founder-owner, Ben Goldhirsh, who comes from - he's from media royalty, basically. His father was the founder of Inc. Magazine.

Mr. FRECHETTE: Right.

STEWART: Why you guys go in the multimedia route out of the box so quickly?

Mr. FRECHETTE: Well it's sort of just makes sense, I think. We actually started as a film company in the early days, you know, with the same mission as the magazine. It's we wanted to make exciting, entertaining movies that you'd go see at any movie theater across the country, but that sort of had some more substantial, you know, relevance underlying social framework.

So a couple of months into that experiment, Ben, who's the founder realized that he could do the same thing with the magazine and we could reach the audience faster, and from there, sort of a natural progression to the Web. So it's all sort of the same goal in just figuring out, you know, which medium the content looks best in.

STEWART: And also full disclosure, as I was doing research, oh my God, this guy's name sound really familiar. We went to the same college. I went many, many years before you.

LUKE BURBANK, host:

And you didn't recuse yourself from this interview?

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: I'm telling you now. Where did you live in Providence?

Mr. FRECHETTE: I lived on William Street.

STEWART: Fair and John(ph).

Mr. FRECHETTE: Nice.

STEWART: Nice. Zach Frechette, editor in chief of Good Magazine. Happy birthday to you all.

Mr. FRECHETTE: Thanks very much.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.