A Tree Falls in Brooklyn… and Two Indies are Born

Credit: Jackie Roman for InsideHook

Freelance travel photographer Matt Hranek had a windfall … literally … the helped him and his partner Yolanda Edwards launch a dream in print.

The couple, who met on the staff of Condé Nast Traveler in its glory days of the late 90s, ended up losing their jobs in the layoff meltdown of 2018. Since then, they’ve longed to realize a way to launch a men’s magazine based on the success of Matt’s social media influence. Championing lifestyle brands like Negroni, Barbour and vintage Land Rovers, he built a legion of like-minded style seekers.

Ironically, reports Nathaniel Adams in Inside Hook, their dream was made possible when a falling tree smashed his beloved Land Rover, releasing a windfall insurance settlement that funded the title WM Brown.

“The success of WM Brown was so swift and so total — there were more than 600 orders on the day the first issue was announced — that Edwards used the momentum to kick off her own personal dream project: the luxury travel magazine YOLO Journal,” Adams continues. “Publishing one print magazine today could be seen as ambitious – two might be pathological.”

“We’re out of our minds,” admits Edwards. “We’re competitive with each other.”

Maybe so, but their real competition is social media, not other magazines in their niche.

“The covers themselves,” Adams writes, “look like Instagram shots deserving to be shared in 10,000 stories: an arresting large-format photo with a single line of text — the magazine’s title. No by-lines, no headlines, no subheadings. As a result, issues have become items to be photographed for social media.”

The couple’s expertise on Instagram, where they both admittedly spend “maybe a little too much time,” honed their editorial instincts in print. As Edwards explains, “because we are so in it, I know what I want to see not in a tiny little square box. We’re so saturated with visuals that when you see something and it jumps out at you, you’re like, ‘I want to see that bigger.’ Or there are photographers that I know where I’m like, ‘Your work is terrible on Instagram, but it’s beautiful in this magazine.’”

Ultimately, their magazine is for the same audience they’ve grown on social media, just at a different point in their day.

“People want to have this moment,” Edwards explains, “‘I’m going to put my phone down now and I’m just going to take time for myself and not have the news alert pop in or a text message while I’m in my relaxed mode. I’m just going to look at a magazine.’”

And that is a recipe for great engagement from a passionate audience.