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Fit to Print

Genesis magazine’s Brittany K. Earls defies a global media recession in pursuit of publishing mogulhood

PRINT MEDIA ARE as dead as disco . . . but don’t tell that to Brittany K. Earls. Taking her best shot at magazine mogulhood at a time when many publications are slashing staff or shutting down, Earls, now 25, launched Genesis in October 2009 — and has never looked back.

Well, for the most part, anyway. “I have second thoughts every day!” she says. But so far, her plan appears to be working. Genesis celebrates driven achievers across all walks of life — entrepreneurship, the arts, philanthropy. Its slogan is “Be the First” (get it?), and many of its profile subjects are admirable self-starters who bear a certain professional resemblance, it’s hard not to notice, to Earls herself.

A native of Gainesville, Georgia, and a graduate of Georgia State University, Earls relocated to New York — “always my dream city to move to,” she says — on New Year’s Day 2010, just months after her debut issue hit newsstands. “Twenty-four of our 30 advertisers were NYC-based,” she explains. “I quickly took the hint.”

Today, Genesis has offices in Manhattan and Atlanta, and boasts a circulation of 100,000 digital readers and — no small triumph in 2011 — 40,000 readers of the print edition.

As Genesis’s editor-in-chief, Earls oversees a team of eight, and her ultimate goal is nothing less than a profitable media property that will last decades. “My staff and I understand that if we take care of Genesis now,” she says, “it will be a major source of income for us for years.”

Hubristic, especially in an industry that’s currently on life support? Maybe, but Earls is nothing if not confident — a quality she lauds in others as well. “I admire anyone who has been able to create greatness from scratch,” she says. And she might even put them on Genesis’s cover as well.

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You launched Genesis in the teeth of one of the worst recessions on record, and that goes double for print media. Did you ever think, “Hmm . . . maybe I should just stick to online publishing”?
I have second thoughts every day! This is such a digital age, and I know my subscribers would be perfectly happy with a digital magazine or app and not a print magazine. However, my advertisers still value the thought of their ad held in a consumer’s hand. Many magazines and papers have [gone out of business], but the truth remains that print media is the cream of the crop. Print media still fronts a larger return on [advertising] investment than billboards, radio or online ads. Seasoned business owners know this.

How do you attract advertisers — what’s in it for them?
The first thing that attracts advertisers to Genesis magazine is our low prices. As CEO, I had to make a decision: People are hurting, and although I would love to charge $9,000 to $15,000 for a print ad, I know I would be reaching. So my staff and I work for lower salaries than what would typically be offered in this industry. We understand that if we nurture and take care of Genesis now, it will be a major source of income for us for years.

So what, exactly, is your target demographic?
The ordinary guy or girl next door. If you study the media kit of any major magazine, you’ll see that the average salary of their readers is $80,000-plus — which is awesome if you’re selling Prada bags. However, many people have products that appeal to working middle-class families, and the thriving Gen Y. That’s our target audience: young and old, family-oriented, talent-driven, self-starters, entrepreneurs.

Right now you publish quarterly. What’s your near-term plan? Are you finding that the economics of print media are working for you even in the current economic environment?
We hope to be bimonthly by the end of this year. Right now we’re on the right side of the print competition — print is really expensive, so printing companies have seen a drop in their sales and are eager to gain new business. Negotiating our terms has not been too hard.

Do you one day want to move the business entirely back to Atlanta?
I love the heartbeat of New York City; the networking events here top anything that Georgia could ever imagine. I do not wish to leave, but am open to having a second home and keeping our office open in Atlanta.

Most magazines are shedding staff these days, and getting by with less. How big is your staff?
Eight. I have an amazing creative director, Fran Sherman. I hand her the magazine as a Microsoft Word document, and she turns it into gold. I’m also very lucky to have talented assistants, an associate editor and a pool of writers and photographers. Everyone is freelance, and truly a gift to my vision for this company.

What are your own favorite magazines? Genesis aside, of course.
Black Enterprise, Inc., Entrepreneur and O.

And who are your business idols, media industry or otherwise?
I really admire Angela Jia Kim [the founder of SavorTheSuccess.com, a network for businesswomen], an awesome entrepreneur here in New York. I also look up to Vanessa Parker, the CEO of [the similar women-in-business site] ThePinkBoss.com. I admire anyone who has been able to create greatness from scratch. •