Last week, Buffalo Books interviewed David Harney about his career in media, his current publication, Talk About Healthy, and his plans in franchising it.
Linda: I noticed that now your magazine has changed its name and is called Talk About Healthy.
DH: Yes, when you sell franchises, one of the things franchisees– for their protection– like to have is a trademark so others can’t encroach on a particular name. So Talk About Healthy® is a trademark.
Linda: So when people buy franchises—as opposed to what you already had—they will call it Talk About Healthy, and then will they name it with their town?
DH: Well, that’s the convention we’re using here, Talk About Healthy / Rochester. So it would be Talk About Healthy / Burlington or Talk About Healthy / Toledo, for instance.
But basically the branding is Talk About Healthy. Essentially what we did was follow the success we had in Buffalo and Rochester. We simply made the word “healthy” a big part of the masthead design. We didn’t want to mess with success because we had found a formula that worked for almost 10 years in our upstate NY publications.
Linda: How did you get into this line of work? I know you had done broadcast journalism but I’m wondering how you got into print journalism.
DH: It’s a two-fold story. Back in 2004, after a 27-year stint at Kodak and an exit package, I said, “OK, now what do I do?”
Linda: What were you doing at Kodak?
DH: I had been in sales and marketing in divisions as wide ranging as consumer cameras and film to the dental business.
Linda: So you already knew something about this kind of publication going in.
DH: I already knew something about marketing communications; that’s right. And I always wanted to be a publisher. In my earliest days, we had a family friend who was a publisher of various community newspapers in the Boston area. I had spent a summer working for him.
When I left Kodak, I thought that I’d love to publish a magazine. Even earlier that that, there were already magazines, like Western New York Family, for one. I kicked myself as I passed their magazine display for the first time and thought, “Why didn’t I think of that?” So when I left Kodak, I thought, “Health publishing may be an opportunity”
There were very few free health magazines that I was able to find in the US at that time. Certainly, there wasn’t one in western New York. So I thought, maybe this has some national possibilities and could be franchised.
Linda: Do you offer them by subscription also, or are they always free?
DH: We have subscribers, but for the most part, it’s free at various places where they are placed for distribution.
Linda: Do you have a number of places for distribution? How would franchisees do this?
DH: In many markets, there are already professional distribution services. Often they are the same people who “rack” publications in supermarkets and other places.
Linda: So people who want to have a franchise in other cities don’t have to envision themselves loading their vans.
DH: Actually, it is a good idea to stay in touch with what’s going on in the marketplace—a good way to find out where your readers are and what your competition is doing. It’s also a good way to find new locations and meet potential advertising clients. We’re in 1400 medical waiting rooms; hospitals, doctors, dentist’s offices, and so on. I do some of my own delivering. It takes me about a day each month. But the bulk is by professional distribution and by direct mail.
Linda: What it is about living healthy that makes it such a popular topic with readers?
Why do we care so much about it?
DH: The answer might be different for each individual, but it probably goes to the thousands of quotes concerning health as the most important thing for the individual; a dynamic to be taken care of ahead of anything else. And I think that people, especially as life and the economy have gotten so much more intense, difficult, and stressful, find a kind of salvation or a way to cope by taking better care of themselves. Those who practice it regularly—wellness, nutrition, exercise—find these are their own reward. If you do it, and you feel better, then you’ve created a kind of feedback loop that works and you’ll keep doing it.
So I try to reach this type of reader. I try to find a selection of articles each month that will enhance their drive to better wellness. For our franchisees, we offer ten years’ worth of articles like these that can be customized for their own local markets. They can also create new articles if they like. Advertisers appreciate the power of our articles and, more importantly, readers do also. It is this combination of targeted, benefits-oriented articles and advertising that can make local Talk About Healthy franchisees successful with local health and wellness advertisers.
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Contact Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org