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Fri, Aug 26 2011 14:51:38 UTC

Interview with Scott Kelby

Today we have an interview with Scott Kelby, CEO of Kelby Media Group, Publisher of various art and photography magazines, living in Florida. He talks about his recently released iPad magazine Light It.

Can you briefly describe yourself and what you do at Kelby Media Group?

Although I'm the President and CEO, I primarily do two things: (1) have endless meetings. and (2) create training content for our magazines, books, online courses, websites, and so on, and I have a live seminar tour traveling around the US, Canada, and parts of Europe. I also produce a lot of training videos, anywhere from two minutes to two hours---just depends on the topic (I seem to shoot some sort of video about every day or so).

You've worked in photography and media for a long time, are you more on the art side or business side?

I think I'm about 50/50. I get to do both every day, and I enjoy the business side a lot, even though I'd prefer to always be doing something creative.

Recently you came out with Light It, an iPad magazine about studio lighting and photography, how did the idea come for that?

It came while I was looking at another photography magazine. I realized that my favorite part of their magazine was their small section on Lighting, and I sure wished they had a lot more. That got me to thinking about which magazine actually focused on lighting, and I realized---there isn't one, so I set out to create one. I think the best products are the ones you'd really want to use yourself.

In a world where many magazines struggle, and everyone wants free content online, why start a new magazine?

There will always be people searching for free content, and if you want Photoshop tutorials on how to create an exploding planet, or create bullet holes from scratch, there are a million of those out there. But as soon as the content gets really meaty----really valuable-----no matter what the topic (Photoshop, lighting or otherwise) you have to pay for it. Great content isn't free. A lot of folks let you see demos, or parts of a training class, but the idea is to get you to pay for the full blown expensive class. They have to charge, because creating great content isn't free, either.

Our company truly does create great content---it's what we're all about it. If we didn't have the best training out there, we'd be gone because there is so much free stuff floating out there, but we're growing at a rapid pace and breaking our own sales records, because there are still people who don't want to wade through 20 bad free videos to have a half-way decent one. Their time is valuable, and learning what they want to learn, when the want to learn it is important to them. I think the road to success is to make really fantastic training, with great production values, and the best trainers you can possibly afford, and people who want to learn from the best-----people who are serious about learning---those people will be your customers.

I want to take those same ideals and put them into a magazine. At $2.99 an issue, we're going to have to move a lot of magazines to make it worthwhile, but I'm not worried about the profits at this point---I'm worried about making a totally kick-butt magazine. Once we do that----the rest will fall into place (well, that's the plan, anyway).

Since the app is free I assume it's ad supported, was it hard to find sponsors for such a project?

The first debut issue is free, but after that individual issues are just $2.99 each. That's super cheap, but our goal is to reach as many people as possible. We did have some wonderful launch partners and first-issue advertisers, and they helped us keep the cost-per-issue so low. Getting sponsors was a little sticky, because you're selling them on just a concept until the first issue actually comes out. Now that's it out, everybody ''gets it'' and the phones are really ringing. For the launch issue, we're very fortunate to have a number of companies that we partner with on a lot of projects immediately step up to the plate, so that was a huge help.

I see that you've done iOS apps before, how involved is the process of creating such an app?

Much more than you can imagine. There are video issues, issues with compression, file size, codecs, approval, UI, design, and of course there are costs associated with every step of the process, and you have to be careful during development because the prices App are so low. Unless you have the next Angry Birds, you'd better keep an eye on dev costs or you're going to have wasted a lot of time and money.

Are the legal issues such as copyright and trademarks different for an iOS app versus a web site, for photographs and such?

We treat them all the same, and of course we had to have our legal team involved in all this from the beginning. Because we also publish Photoshop User magazine, we have to deal with copyright and model release issues all the time, so it's a part of workflow.

The first issue has very nice pictures and design, how much more involved is it to create content for an iPad magazine versus online content?

Our company was built as a print magazine company, so our designers were thrilled at the change to create a magazine that looks and acts like a regular magazine, but in a different medium. The design department loved it because they weren't stuck with a particular page count----if they need more pages to make something look really cool---or if they wanted to make the photos really big---they just can do it. So, in all, it was like creating for print, but with a bonus. Only one member of the design team actually got involved in the process of converting the magazine into an App, so it was like designing any other magazine (except you never convert the images to CMYK, which is a good thing).

You reached the top 25 free iPad apps list, how has user feedback been so far?

It had just been incredible! You always hold your breath with a new launch---wondering how the community will react, but the people who have downloaded it have been very vocal with their praise. I'm not sure we've ever launched anything that has gotten so much love so fast. However, the folks that don't have an iPad (or have an Android tablet) are just downright angry. That part has been unexpectedly harsh. I guess I should look at it in a positive way----''they want what we're publishing so badly that they're actually really furious that they can't get it'' but when you're taking all those slings and arrows, it's hard to look at it as a positive.

Can you give us an idea of what will come next in future issues, where you see the magazine going?

The 2nd issue is already complete, and it's bigger, better, and just all around more amazing. I wish we could have released it as the first issue, because we really took it up a big notch. It has more pages, more content, and a really nice image gallery for inspiration, which I think is really important. We're so excited about it that we just want to release it now----today----but we need to give the launch issue time to make its way out there and connect with readers. It's off to an amazing start (blowing away our internal estimates by a long shot), but we'll still be on pins and needles until we can release it. This is really an exciting time to be an iPad magazine publisher (if that's even a thing).

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