August 24, 2004
With two daily newspapers, myriad radio stations and a pair of local television stations, it’s hard not to notice the media in Aspen. And now, with the unveiling of Aspen Peak this summer, our small resort town has three glossy magazines to its credit.The latest entry into Aspen’s media market, Aspen Peak hit local and national newsstands in July; it features local writers dishing out different takes on living in Aspen. And while some may say two other Aspen-based magazines already cover this territory – Aspen Magazine and Aspen Sojourner – these three publications have different histories, fill different niches, and attempt to put Aspen in the spotlight through slightly different perspectives. Or so say the magazines’ editors.Mother of local magazinesAspen’s magazine mania began three decades, when Ernie Ashley Goodnough created Aspen Magazine in 1974.”There was a need for it. There was no slick publication telling the story of the town,” said Goodnough, who splits her time between homes in Aspen and Florida. “Magazines do something newspapers can’t do – they tell stories of the town through its people, and offer retention for advertisers with a very targeted reach. Publishing is marketing. You have to occupy a niche.”Goodnough moved to Aspen in 1968 with 15 years’ experience working for trade magazines and newspapers, writing feature articles and selling national advertising.
In its formative years, Goodnough said Aspen Magazine was a “real town magazine,” since second-home owners were rare in those days.”Since Aspen and Snowmass have a high return of visitors, people must harbor a desire to live here,” she said recently. “We wrote from an insider’s point of view. Visitors want to live here, so they’re very curious about how people live here. How does anyone afford it? How do you get a job?”This is the formula for all resort magazines, according to Goodnough, and is a common thread in Aspen’s current triumvirate of magazines. But it begs the questions: Do all three magazines have staying power, both locally and nationally?”It’s an intriguing thing – I call it a war because one of them won’t survive,” predicted Goodnough, the founder of 12 magazines, including Sojourner, Vail Magazine and a magazine for Beaver Creek. “The magazine that will survive has to have great management, a great vision of what Aspen is, what the readers want, and a passion for their product.”The Aspen Magazine tradition continuesAspen resident Janet O’Grady, along with husband Randy Beier, purchased Aspen Magazine from Goodnough almost 18 years ago; it is currently published six times per year, along with separate visitor guides.O’Grady said owning a local magazine and living in the Aspen area was a dream of hers and Beier’s.
“From the beginning, I believed in the intelligence of the reader,” O’Grady explained. “My philosophy has been editing the magazine for people who live here, on the theory that if you were a second-home owner or visitor you didn’t want something touristy. Over the years we have really built the brand identity. “We’re the gold standard – what people compare themselves to.”Beier died in June 2001, but O’Grady said their relationship with Aspen, each other and the magazine is a “love story,” which helped them garner a strong, loyal readership.O’Grady, who still owns the magazine and serves as its editor, said her staff is always looking toward the “next step.” Most recently that has included embracing a younger generation of readers.”We’ve sharpened the magazine all around, and there’s something for everyone,” she said. “Things are changing – there were no snowboarders when I moved here. But the common denominator with someone 26 and someone 66 is a similar passion for the town.”Since moving to Aspen, O’Grady said she’s seen some five magazines start up, a few of which only published for a couple of years. Aspen Magazine’s 31 years is her publication’s proven track record, and it’s “going to be here forever,” she said.From a sojourn to a 10-year stay
The upcoming issue of Aspen Sojourner will mark its 10th anniversary, although a lot has changed since its first edition hit the stands.Back then, Sojourner (without the word “Aspen” in its name) was a hard-cover book placed in local hotels twice a year. The target audience was second-home owners and visitors, said the magazine’s current editor Jennifer Young.Young arrived in Aspen in 1999, just as Sojourner was making its transition to soft cover. There was a demand for the magazine locally, she said. Goodnough, who founded Sojourner, had developed the tag line “substance with style” for the publication – and it’s a concept that has stuck.”We’re about getting underneath the glitz and glamour to the real substance of Aspen – the focus is on how we live here,” Young said. “I think that’s always been the hallmark of Sojourner. It has always been sophisticated, with good, strong articles and photography.”Aspen Sojourner, which is owned by Southwest Media LLC, publishers of The Santa Fean and Vail/Beaver Creek magazines, recently decided to increase its frequency from two to four times per year. The change allows the publication to be more timely, and it affords visitors the opportunity to truly learn about what’s at the heart of Aspen’s four seasons.Another aspect that distinguishes Aspen Sojourner, according to Young, is its “three-magazines-in-one” concept – mini-magazines called Mountain Homestyle and Mountain Connoisseur are included within Aspen Sojourner but are also distributed separately.
As for the addition of third magazine to the local mix, Young said she’s concentrating on Aspen Sojourner’s future.”Having a new magazine come to town makes us all better at what we do,” she said. “We’ve already become a lot more focused about our mission, and we’re always improving because we have to compete.”The new kid on the peakBeing the newest magazine around, especially when your competitors have more than 40 years of collective experience under their belts, can’t be easy.But Leigh Jude Vogel, executive editor of Aspen Peak, is undeterred. The magazine’s publisher, Jason Binn of Niche Media, has built a publishing empire through magazines like LA Confidential, Hamptons and Gotham.Plus, Vogel said she’s received a positive response to the first edition of the magazine, which was launched this Fourth of July with a photo of actress Kate Hudson on the cover. A number of local writers, business owners and personalities contributed to the magazine.”Respectfully, it’s not intimidating,” Vogel said of starting up a magazine in the Aspen market. “I found that there were so many people who wanted to write about certain topics, waiting for a certain outlet to do that.”
Binn’s other publications feature photos from parties and fund-raisers, and the first issue of Aspen Peak included several similar pages; Aspen Sojourner and Aspen Magazine also include photos from various local parties in their back pages.”It is a major part of our local coverage, because there are a lot of nonprofit events that deserve national attention,” Vogel said. “It’s nice to have people who live here and own shops here exposed on a national level.”National distribution is one of the Aspen Peak’s greatest strengths, Vogel said. Binn agrees. About 60,000 copies of the magazine’s premier issue were printed; they were mailed directly to second-home owners, placed on newsstands in Aspen’s “feeder markets” like Chicago and Dallas, as well as distributed in local hotels and at local events. It’s a staggering number for one issue, especially considering that Aspen Magazine publishes a total of 165,000 copies a year (for six issues) and Aspen Sojourner will publish 72,000 copies annually of its four issues.”What I’m trying to create is a strong lifestyle coffee-table book that speaks with local people, not at them,” Binn said. “If someone calls from another city around the world and says ‘I’ve read and heard so much about Aspen, send me something that really represents what Aspen is about’ and they’re sent Aspen Peak, I’ll know what I did was really successful.”Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org