In circ: DMNews chats with John Sheehy of Afar

Afar Media, which is launching its experiential travel title, Afar, in August, has just appointed Laura Simkins as its Audience Marketing and Planning Director. DMNews spoke with John Sheehy, president and publisher of Afar, about the hire.

DM: What made Laura Simkins a good fit for Afar?

JS: What didn’t make her a good fit? I worked with Laura on the launch of Dwell magazine, and she is just the right person for our needs. She has start-up experience, she is skilled at building a boutique publishing model — which is Dwell and Afar — and building a very engaged audience that is heavily direct to publisher. She also knows how to target a psychographic audience, which can be a challenge with list management and direct mail efforts in going beyond just identifying the travelers. Laura has great experience in looking at the psychographic elements of a target audience and building around that. She also has a deep background in audience research — not just subscriptions but also advertising, so she understand really how circulation and audience development work hand in hand with editorial and advertising.  

DM: What are her specific responsibilities?

JS: On the audience development side for the magazine, she will be developing our sub file as well as overseeing our newsstand efforts. She’s also involved in our online development. She’s also taking on budgeting and planning efforts in the company, and I think she is also going to be our modeling person overall in the company.

DM: DMNews covered the upcoming Afar launch a while ago – is Laura one of the last pieces falling into place?

JS: She’s the last of our senior executive team, with exception of Web development. We have a really well-seasoned group right now — all of us have worked together on Dwell together.

DM: What will be her first priority on the job?

JS: We have a direct mail campaign coming up in June and then a second campaign in December, so that’s first. Then, since we are so heavily direct-to-publisher, she’s starting to look at very targeted sponsorship subscription deals. Circ modeling is the other priority.

DM: Laura is coming from 8020 Media. How might her work there affect her approach with Afar?

JS: This is what made her very attractive on the Web audience development side because 8020 started with a Web audience and brought that into print. It’s important that each property we develop not be seen as a companion but be its own discrete platform. What’s wonderful about Laura is 8020 freed her trying to tie the Web back to print, so she can disengage from print and look purely at the Web environment.

What challenges might Laura be facing?

JS: The biggest challenge is marketing smartly and efficiently. We’re doing a lot of different tests because a big challenge right now is figuring out where the consumer market is.

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