Magazine Makes 'Good'

Dedicated to the general welfare and determined to be both relevant and entertaining, Good magazine recently celebrated its first anniversary.

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MIKE PESCA, host:

For our Thanksgiving edition of the show, we're going to spend some time replaying a collection of interviews with people who, in their own way, are trying to do something good.

I know right now you're saying, oh, great. The good. But my theory is this why we like to watch football on Thanksgiving. It's a counterweight to all the thanks and the good and the home and the hearth. After all that, you need some smashing to cleanse the pallet.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Mm-hmm.

PESCA: So what I'm saying is don't worry. The smashing is coming now. Let's spend some time with the good.

MARTIN: It's good. It's good for us.

PESCA: We'll start with a magazine that was created solely to highlight good news. It's called, appropriately, Good Magazine.

Alison Stewart talked with editor-in-chief Zach Frechette, I guess his name is.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Sometimes the word good gets a bad rap. No good deed goes unpunished - Clare Booth 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 on a video from YouTube.

(Soundbite of YouTube.com 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 #3: And several satellite offices in our sister cities: Stockholm, Paris, and Peoria.

Unidentified Man #4: We have 32 employees.

Unidentified Man #1: I think the average age is 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: It's kind of the Carl Kasell of Good, if you will.

(Soundbite of laughter)

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

Zach Frechette is editor-in-chief of Good, and 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 as I think we thought it might have been. As it turns out, there's a lot of the 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, well, 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 - well, you know, we're a bi-monthly magazine, so we're not trying to really break any news 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 who 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, at 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 an example of something where we're, 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 of people who want to do good in the world, who want to be engaged and make change, but sort of reject the hippy 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 it's, 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 just 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 were like, this isn't - we don't respond to junk mail. This doesn't make a lot of sense, thus 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 it 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 and owner Ben Goldhirsh, who comes from - he's from media royalty, basically. His father was the founder of Inc. Magazine. Why you guys doing 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. They 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, relevant, 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 a magazine, and he could reach the audience faster. And from there, it was sort of a natural progression to the Web. So it's all sort of towards the same goal in just figuring out, you know, which medium the content lives best in.

PESCA: And that was THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT's Alison Stewart, talking with Zach Frechette, the editor-in-chief of Good magazine.

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