Ink’s Cofounder on What Makes Print Fly in His World

Simon Leslie, the co-founder of travel media brand Ink, pulls no punches talking about what’s “wrong” with magazine publishing today.

“The biggest challenge that the other brands are having is they have stopped investing in their product, they have stopped believing in their product, they have stopped loving their product,” he said in an interview with Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni. “They have listened to what the naysayers have told them, as opposed to believing in why they existed in the first place.”

This is a man who believes in his brand. And he believes in the power of printed magazines to engage the right audience and, by extension, draw in the right advertising partners.

“I’m spending nearly every waking hour looking at how I can be better in that [travel information] space,” Leslie tells Husni. “At the moment I have airports, I have people at home, I have people who, before they check-in, I inspire them before they even decide where they’re going to go. I then get them on the airplane and I can talk to them about where they’re going, where they should go or might go, where they should think about going. And then I get them on the way back, and I have a different message for them. So, I am interested only in the traveler. And that traveler has a high propensity to spend money. They’re agile, opportunistic, and they don’t think twice about spending money.”

If you’re noticing a theme in this story that sounds familiar, you’re right. Leslie is describing his company’s laser focus on what Husni calls the “audience first” approach to publishing. It’s meeting them where they are, on whatever channel they are in, and telling good stories.

What happens when you do that? You get committed fans, engaged readers, and ad partnerships that keep the doors open. 

“My products are in a place where we haven’t got as much digital interference as some of the other people have,” Leslie said. “And readers don’t have to get out there and buy it, it’s right there in front of them [in the seat pocket]. They have to spend $300 or $400 on an airline ticket, but the magazine is there and it gives them stuff they didn’t know they needed to know, and I think that’s why they’re still engaged with it and still excited by it, still inspired by it. And because of that, we find brands that want to be associated with that.”

He believes, like many in the publishing industry, that we’ve collectively forgotten how important print is to the buying cycle … especially to the affluent reader. It’s why high-end luxury brands spend more on print than digital ads.

His secret sauce? He believes in what he does, and he believes in the printed word. At the end of the day he’s a consummate storyteller, and he imbues everything and everyone on this team with that ethos. And he is fearless about facing new challenges.

“Some of the biggest companies are formed during recessions. Some of the brightest stars were created when times were tough. I’m actually looking forward to a recession, because that’s going to bring so many opportunities that haven’t been here,” he says. “People aren’t doing anything at the moment, they’re just sitting and waiting, and you actually need a shakeup from time to time to bring opportunity and fresh ideas.”

While he’s waiting, the travelers of the world and the advertisers who want to reach them get to reap the benefits of his relentless pursuit of excellence. We can’t wait to see where he flies next.