Q&A with A.J. Beson, CEO of Beson4 Media Group and President of the FMA

When A.J.Beson decided to launch a new print magazine in 2013, people told him he was nuts. As the CEO of Beson4 Media Group, a marketing firm and publishing company, he has built a career in diving into new projects and seeing them through their evolution. Over a decade ago, he launched HealthSource magazine as a resource for people in NE Florida to better understand the offerings of the premiere medical industry in the region. Recognizing a shift in the market, this year he re-launched the publication with a focus on preventative medicine and wellness. Two other mags under his belt, Florida Doctor North and Florida Doctor Central, both made the move to a digital format over a year ago, in order to better meet the needs of doctors and their fast paced lifestyle. While his latest project, First Coast Magazine, is a product that hearkens back to the days when magazines were enjoyed as a luxury item, thick with narrative drive stories and polished photography.

You have been a publisher for over a decade in both print and digital media. What changes have you seen over the past ten years in publishing?
So much has changed. When I started as a publisher, there was no revenue attached to a magazine’s digital imprint. You had a website, but that was it. Today, with social media, local products can reach beyond their borders through a multitude of platforms. Digital media has made design and working with printers so much easier. But the flipside is that selling print is much more complicated, because it has a shelf life, unlike digital media. The competition is tough.

You launched First Coast Magazine in the fall of 2013, an ambitious project given that most media is moving into the digital world. What made you invest in print given our current digital age?
I still believe in print. It is cool to be retro today, and in a lot of ways I think this is because things were just made with a higher standard of quality back in the day. When we decided to create First Coast, from the start we were dedicated to putting out a quality product. Fine paper, excellent writing, professional photography, fantastic design. People respond to quality, and love the experience of reading a great magazine. It is forces you to slow down for a minute, and indulge. People need more experiences like that in the digital age.

Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs out there thinking about starting a venture in print?
Build it for the reader, and the advertising will come. People are smart, and they can tell when you are selling out. Even though the bulk of your revenue will not come from subscribers, it is their interest that builds your brand. Know that it will take time, and deep pockets to get started. But if you stay true to the quality of your product, it will pay off.

As the new president of the FMA, what do you see on the horizon?
We are in this together. It takes a village to build a strong industry. My hope is to increase value in our membership, and to bring more people together to work towards creating a stronger magazine community.