Since 2011, Magazine B has devoted each monthly print issue to a single “well-balanced” brand, uncovering untold stories from the business and its customers, and providing original insight and analysis. Eunsung Park took over as Content & Editorial Director in 2017, but she’s been on staff since the magazine’s fourth issue in 2012. She corresponded with Wonder Shuttle on how she runs the “brand documentary magazine,” their global network of correspondents, and why their financial independence is so important. Her answers were written in Korean, and translated to English by Magazine B staff, with special thanks to YB Kim.
Can you describe your responsibilities as Content & Editorial Director? How do you understand the magazine’s audience?
From planning and creating content to marketing and selling it, I guide the overall direction, conduct business strategies, and do my best to share my vision with our team. I believe it’s important for all the editors, marketers, distributors, and designers to look in the same direction, so I try to give thoughtful advice as the person who has worked at the magazine for the longest period of time, guiding them on what Magazine B is about. It’s fair to say, however, that our members now have the ability to make the right decisions themselves.
In addition, I strive to communicate how important I believe it is for the people making this magazine, myself included, to consider ourselves as the core reader. There is, of course, an ideal target for Magazine B readers, but our original expectations of it can often be different from when we receive feedback and discover new readers. As opposed to trying to predict our changing audience, we have set a high standard to satisfy the people creating the content, believing that there will be many more people that have similar standards.
In your position, how do you measure Magazine B’s success?
Magazine B selects and introduces well-balanced brands. At the top left corner of the magazine cover, we have “Brand. Balance.” written on it. This shows that we continue to hope our book remains a media platform with a balanced perspective.
Though financial success can be easily judged by the numbers, the way success is defined for Magazine B is how well we keep our balance between the brand’s story and Magazine B’s voice. Through experience, we have seen that the issues that did a good job in maintaining this balance have been loved by our readers for longer. The key to this success is how well we include and eliminate certain information from the original stories of the brands.
What are the standards you expect of Magazine B’s writing? How do you ensure those standards are consistent when the magazine is translated from Korean to English?
Like other media, the writing has to be very efficient and effective for Magazine B. With a relatively small-sized format and an image-centric layout, the wording should be simple and easy to understand while also delivering the key message.
In order to do so, we eliminate exaggerated expressions, individual habits that emphasize the personality of writers, and emotional appeal that can momentarily draw cheers from readers. This does not mean that the writing has to be boring or heavy, but it should have everything harmoniously put together, from the information and insight to general experiences, to allow the readers to understand and interpret the context themselves. To have this same standard met for the English version, we require the lead editors to be responsible for checking the final nuance of each and every issue.
You have remote “correspondents”, are they interviewing and writing for each issue? How does your editing team provide feedback to them?
Magazine B has been using global correspondents from the very beginning, which took a lot of time and effort to communicate the unique concept and perspective of the magazine. It’s due to the fact that our correspondents are not just people who deliver new information, but are also responsible in elaborating and judging the value of information within the boundaries of a brand.
After a relatively long time spent together, we work with correspondents who understand our brand, as well as our in-house editors. We work very close with them day and night, which allows us to receive and give feedback spontaneously. This is the same with the photographers we work with around the world. Though the main task of correspondents is to interview brand users or members of the brand we’re documenting, their role in searching for the right interviewees is relatively more important.
How are the brands selected for each issue? Is it difficult to ensure access to the brand?
All the brands we introduce in Magazine B are selected based on our own standards. But it’s also true that we are contacted by a lot of brands, which often end up amongst our choices. Even in these cases, we go through a long discussion to decide whether or not a particular brand can be defined as “well-balanced.”
Trying to figure out how we’ll look at the brand is as difficult as selecting the brand itself. If we choose to focus on financial success, it would be no different from a finance magazine, and if we focus on the product, it would be no different from a brand catalogue. We mostly have our attention on the people who make the brand, use the brand, and have been closely related to the brand for many years, to have the opportunity to look at a brand from all these different perspectives.
There’s no ads in your print magazine and no financial support from the brands covered. Why is that financial independence important to Magazine B?
“No advertisements” and “We do not accept any financial rewards from choosing a brand” are bold statements that signify that we believe it creates more value when we focus on creating meaningful content. A lot of magazine companies, while making excuses with advertisements, have compromised their content.
On the other hand, Magazine B has been making quality content that meets our own standards, which enables us to gather loyal customers within our brand. This loyalty is very important to us. Irrelevant from whether we do or do not run advertisements or even the fact that we do or do not accept money, it’s important because we have a large number of readers who trust in the balanced perspective of Magazine B. Interestingly, it’s not only the readers, but also the companies who work with us who rely on our balanced perspective and try to give us total independence.
How did you first get involved in editing? Do you have a personal story of how you felt at home as an editor?
Whenever I found something new or that I liked, I had this enjoyment in sharing it with the people around me. I basically got satisfaction from this rather “annoying” task of making people and seeing people enjoy the things I like, or helping them understand it. It was specifically through the combination of putting together words and photography, mostly because I was also someone who found the things I like in magazines.
Before I became a professional editor, I practiced writing in blogs and then naturally ended up working for a magazine company. Starting my career as an assistant editor at ELLE, later working in movie and lifestyle magazines, I found enjoyment working in the magazine industry by realizing that we can deal with almost anything that brings us joy. These different experiences led me to the position that I’m in now, where I deal with brands.
Do you have any favorite publications?
I personally enjoy reading BoF (Business of Fashion), which helps me look at the latest, often in-depth, coverage from the fashion industry, through their keen ability to sense even the smallest changes. It’s easy for a publication that writes about fashion to be sucked into the same industry, but I personally think they are leading the present and future of the fashion industry in a very practical and elegant way. For paper magazines, I enjoy philosophy-themed magazine the New Philosopher. The way it focuses on time, family, and food helped Magazine B choose brands in its early days, and helped us think of how we would connect to a bigger social and cultural impact.
Do you have any final thoughts on editing or brand marketing?
I always think of these interviews as a great opportunity to help me look back at Magazine B and myself. Thus, the ability to continuously question yourself would connect to the ability of “editing” and “branding” as well. Reminding yourself why you are doing what you do and the thought process behind it is often very important. I would like to thank Wonder Shuttle for giving me the opportunity to question this myself.