A reflection on Samir Husni and his advocacy of print media.
Media-industry conferences run the gamut. You get the super trendy ones, like SXSW, in equally trendy locations. You get monster events like CES, to which media execs gravitate every January. You get the new-media boutique events, with the hottest digital-media brands represented and the young savants in skinny jeans with all the answers. You also have the more pedestrian ones, the workhorse events, not showhorse conferences.
There are association events, regional events, B2B events, marketing events, social-media events, hosted-buyer events, big-tent events like our own Folio: Show, and small executive forums.
And then you have the ACT Conference, the sixth iteration of which I attended last week in Oxford, Mississippi. (ACT is an acronym that stands for “Amplify, Clarify, Testify.”) ACT is run by Samir Husni, the Ole Miss J-school professor, who over the last 25 years has become one of the best-known people in the magazine industry.
The ACT conference is a different kind of event. It’s small. Only perhaps 100-130 people attend, give or take. Since it’s held at a university, the students also attend. Sometimes Samir pairs them with industry figures, mentee to mentor.
It’s way off the beaten path for the media industry. That’s part of its charm. It’s a different perspective for sometimes-jaded media people.
Each year, Samir attracts several major industry figures as speakers. This year, he brought in most of the participants in the supply chain of that most beleaguered part of the business: the newsstand. Samir hosted a special meeting of wholesalers and publishers. He brought in Hubert Boehle, CEO of Bauer Publishing, the German company that is probably the most successful company on the newsstand in the United States. Interestingly, Boehle said Germany, a country about one-fifth the size of the U.S. and Canada, generates the same revenue from the newsstand as does North America. The “why” of that is a story in itself.
Samir brought in Andy Clurman, CEO one Active Interest Media, of the most successful enthusiast-media companies in the country; and Liz Vaccariello, editor-in-chief of Reader's Digest; Sid Evans, editor in chief of Southern Living; Sherin Pierce, Publisher/VP, The Old Farmer’s Almanac; and Daniel Fuchs, Publisher and Chief Revenue Officer, HGTV Magazine, among others.
Samir brings in those people because of his stature in the business—and because of his decades-long advocacy. Samir Husni is an unapologetic believer in the enduring strength of print media, and that’s what his conference is about. No ifs, ands or buts. I gave the conference-opening “State of the Industry” report, and truth be told, I thought about that contextual reality before I made my presentation. LOL.
Samir calls himself "Mr. Magazine." Last I saw his car, it was even on his license plate. I've known him for a long time. In that time, he's been tireless and persuasive, generous and inclusive. Maybe "Mr. Indefatigable" is just as appropriate.
Because of his advocacy, plus his unrelenting determination to make his case and push his cause, plus his 30-year run of cataloging all the print-magazine launches of the year—and selecting the most important 30 of them—Samir is as well-known and respected as anyone in the business. Now, for the last several years, he’s added a worthwhile media conference to his portfolio—one with a decided point of view.