As any editor (or publisher, or ad sales person) knows, the days of a magazine experience ending when the reader closes the back cover are long gone. Jessica Hundhausen (pictured), associate publisher of creative services with Garden & Gun, will share how her publication is bringing its editorial content to life at the upcoming Folio: Show, taking place from November 1 -3 in New York City at the Marriot Marquis. Here, Hundhausen shares a glimpse into how G & G is extending its story across media.
FOLIO: Can you share an example of an event that found success outside the pages of the magazine?
Jessica Hundhausen (JH): Our Garden & Gun Club that we started two years ago for the readers. This club was meant to give readers a way to connect to the magazine outside of the pages. No one wants to just read about the food, they want to go taste it. Different membership levels offer different privileges. We have a partner network: we reached out to different restaurants, hotels and shops we’ve written about in the magazine and asked those businesses if they wanted to be a part of the Club. They then offer a privilege uniquely to members. The Club has been a place to put a face to the reader and surprise the reader with ongoing activities. I’m part of the team that goes through the editorial product to identify and reach out to resorts with the right program.
Like the magazine, the Club reflects the pillars of the magazine. Across the calendar, you’ll see a range. We create a mix of programming, but roll out the calendar to geographically represent the readership. It’s tough for us a lot of times, because we can be doing so many things in so many markets at the same time. We’re a small operation, and the Club has given us a focus to guide that programming and looking to satisfy Club memberships. We also do events that aren’t exclusive to the Club.
FOLIO: How many people are currently in the Garden & Gun Club?
JH: Over 3,000 members.
FOLIO: As you were just discussing how this lines up to your bi- monthly editorial calendar, do events always coincide with editorial content?
JH: We have events every month; there are 15 events this fall, and the calendar goes round the clock. Events don’t necessarily take place in the moment when the content is fresh and new. We develop everything around pillars: food and drink; land and garden; style and design; the sporting line; arts and culture and others. These are represented in every issue. Pillars help editors organize content, and we organize the calendar around those pillars. There are some timely things that happen, like when last year we did a music issue: it was a perfect opportunity to go to Nashville and create a show with three bands we’ve written about for Club members.
FOLIO: When was the Club launched?
JH: In fall 2009.
FOLIO: What has the magazine learned through operating a program like the Garden & Gun Club?
JH: The biggest challenge we have with the Club is keeping up with it; it could be its own business. Our events sell out, and we’re limited with the resources with what we have: we work on a magazine, and we work on a club. We’ve learned that programming is essential, and programming that is derived from editorial is the best.
I think people in the industry know what I mean by this, not necessarily so much consumers: we truly created the Club for the readers. We’ve brought some of our advertisers along into the Club for sponsorship, or integration with some of these events. But the Club was not created or contrived as a platform to satisfy advertising merchandising, or to give advertisers something else to sponsor. We’re very sensitive to that, as so much being done out there is done to drum up advertising. We created the Club when advertising was dried up. We thought, “How do we capitalize on the momentum of the connection with our reader?”
Research and demographics are one- dimensional; it is important, and we use it. But when you look at the Club, it gives dimension to who the audience is. While it is a positive for our advertisers, it is a by-product of creating the Club. We didn’t know that would happen. It demonstrates our readers’ level of engagement to advertisers.
It also allows us to be in the market more frequently. We’re limited to six issues a year, and the readers want more of us. The web fills the void a bit; we do two newsletters a week of fresh content, and Facebook helps. But this programming also helps.
We’ve realized you have to be committed to this 100 percent. We have someone dedicated to the Club; he’s on the phone every day with club members looking to rejoin, renew and inquire. They’re calling for advice on New Orleans, because we recently wrote a story about it and they want to know where they should go. It’s become a concierge arm in itself, as everyone expects us to be a walking encyclopedia of Garden & Gun.