Don’t call Marvin Shanken a publisher. The man behind Wine Spectator, Cigar Aficionado and Whisky Advocate calls himself “an experience maker in addition to a content provider.”
“People think of me as a businessman or an entrepreneur, I’m really an editor. I spend more time thinking about, planning and working with my editors to execute each issue, in terms of everything from selecting the cover topic to the content, shaping the stories, to getting the photography, to making sure it’s right,” Shanken said in a recent interview with Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni. “That’s where my fingerprint is, but nobody necessarily knows that. I consider myself more of an editor than anything else. It’s no accident that our magazines are great.”
His passion for three things – wine, cigars, and good whiskey – has led to a brilliant career and recognition in 2019 by the MPA.
“The Association of Magazine Media named Marvin the 2019 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, an honor that was well-deserved,” Husni explains. “And he has also taken his brands into a new direction, the WS New York, a private dinner club in Hudson Yards, where his passions can have full rein. Along with two other partners, Marvin is tackling this new endeavor like he does with everything: positively and determinedly.”
He started his publishing career in 1972, based solely on his passion for wine.
“I would say that the first five years I starved to death and the next five years I began to make a living, but not a very good living, and then things kept progressing,” he explains.
Interestingly, his wine publishing endeavors began life as a B-to-B newsletter.
“Before Wine Spectator, my first publication was a trade newsletter called ‘Impact,’ which is research and analysis for executives in the wine/spirits industry and I still have that and it’s read all over the world. And that’s the one the sponsors the Impact seminar, which we’ve been doing for 44 years,” he explains.
From there, the consumer-facing Wine Spectator seemed like the logical step, and he replicated the process (B2B then B2C) for the cigar and whiskey audience. He was also a maverick of sorts in creating live events based around a magazine brand.
“This year we celebrated our 40th anniversary of the New York Wine Experience, which is a weekend where we have 6,000 people come to taste hundreds and hundreds of wines and have sit-down seminars for a thousand, and so forth,” he notes.
Ultimately, his publishing realm developed out of his true passions, and it shows.
“The categories that I chose to go into are areas in which I have a passion for, so it’s very easy for me to want to do wine-tasting events for readers who share their love and interest in discovering wine like I do,” Shanken explains. “Events became a natural extension. The experience is an extension of the magazine to feed and reward people that have a passion for wine, whiskey and cigars.”
In the process, he created iconic brands for a highly enthusiastic fan base … and a legend was born. Congratulations to Shanken on his Lifetime Achievement award. I raise a glass and a cigar in his direction. Cheers!