In an era of slick magazines, Idaho Magazine remains quietly and unapologetically old-fashioned. Its a folksy journal, mostly written in the first-person by contributors across the Gem State, and its rich with history. Not surprisingly, its a labor of love not big money.
We spoke with Kitty Delorey Fleischman, 64, Idaho Magazines owner, publisher and editor, at her Downtown Boise office. A former junior high school teacher in Michigan and longtime journalist, she moved to Idaho in 1981 after five winters in Alaska.
Q: What were you doing in Idaho in the early 1980s?
A: In 1982 I was doing some freelance (writing) work for the Idaho Statesman, the Idaho Register, and I cant even remember the name of it some kind of an oil-drilling magazine that was here. Then I worked at UPI (United Press International), stringing photos for them for three or four years. I worked one legislative session for them as a relief reporter in 1983.
In 1984 a partner and I started the Idaho Business Review, which I owned until 1999. I sold the publication to Dolan Media (based in Minnesota). I was then working for them at their publications in Virginia, New York and Colorado. I didnt want to be there, so I came back to Boise and started Idaho Magazine in 2001.
Q: Did you start the magazine with partners or investors?
A: No partners, no investors. Im the sole owner.
Q: What prompted you to start the magazine?
A: My father-in-law died (this year) at the age of 99. He got to see 100 Thanksgivings, 100 Christmases, and he ushered in 100 new years. He lived here almost all his life. He had great stories about growing up here. There were all of these stories I would hear and I would think, Wow. To hear these stories with deep, deep roots in Idaho, it was really amazing. And it seemed such a sad thing to me that we could lose (over time) all of these great stories.
I heard a quote its been attributed to about 20 different people, so I claim it as my own now Every time an old person dies, its like a library burns down. We now try to gather old stories that people are telling. We want personal stories that are not recorded.
Q: How many subscribers or readers did you have in 2001, your first year of publication?
A: Our first issue was at the printer when the World Trade Center came down. That day, we had advertisers calling and canceling their ads, (citing) uncertainty and instability. The bottom line is that (the advertisers) were afraid. It ended up that we lost almost all of our advertisers before the first issue came out.
But the flip side was that people were looking for stories that didnt have to do with death, destruction or terror. Our magazines were going off the shelf so fast (at Borders Books), it was just amazing. So Barnes & Noble picked it up. The first issue we printed 5,000 copies, although many were free samples that we took around the state to show people.
Over the years we have cut back and cut back (on free issues), so now theyre all paid copies. We print 3,300 copies now. What we charge for subscriptions and what we take in for advertising doesnt begin to cover costs. Normally advertising is where you make your money. Subscriptions just prove that people are reading it.
Q: If subscriptions and advertising dont begin to cover your costs, how do you pay the bills?
A: I subsidize it. My husband and I subsidize it because it is our passion. Weve done better every year since we started.
Q: Better because of more subscriptions or greater advertising sales?
Q: Will you have to continue subsidizing the magazine?
A: Not much longer.
Q: How many employees do you have?
A: We have three paid office employees. We buy freelance work. Most of the people who work for us dont work out of this office. One of the first things I learned about Idaho many years ago when I worked for UPI was that you cant cover Idaho from Boise. I wanted to make sure that Idaho Magazine was not another publication that was called Idaho something that was actually a Boise publication.
Q: Where are most of your subscribers?
A: There are more in this area. It sort of follows the population. The people in Boise love reading about the rest of the state. And people in Idaho hate reading about Boise. Our goal is to make it so it really is a statewide publication.
Q: Do you have a core group of freelancers who regularly contribute articles?
A: We have some people who are avid writers, but we dont usually assign work. Mostly we get people to tell us their stories. A lot of our stories have been ones that no editor would ever think to assign someone. Some people have just one story they want to share, and some people have a number of really terrific stories.
Q: What does it cost to produce an issue of Idaho Magazine?
A: Id be afraid to add it up. But my printing costs alone are about $4,000 per month. And it should probably be more than that. If I didnt have a lot of help and some good friends, it would be about $6,000 or $8,000. Weve got a very good deal.
Q: Have you thought about converting to a digital-only version online to save money?
A: You know, thats something weve asked in our surveys, and our subscribers say no. They like paper. There are a lot of people who have the whole set (of printed issues), and they want to have the whole set that way.
I keep hearing that print is dead. But print is anything but dead, because people want to hold it in their hands. There will always be room for (printed magazines).
Q: Why are you so passionate about this magazine to the point that youll fund it out of your own pocket?
A: Well, read our stories. They are stories that touch peoples lives.
Lennon S. Reid: email@example.com