“I was SO nervous,” remembers Danielle Maupai of the moment she stood up at an NYU Center for Publishing Board of Advisors meeting and summarized key elements of her graduate thesis, or “Capstone.” After delivering a flawless Capstone presentation the week before in front of her fellow graduate students in the NYU M.S. in Publishing program, Maupai had been selected to tell the Board members about her thesis. Maupai knew this was a wonderful opportunity to outline her business plan for a new magazine for American teachers in front of executives like Nina Link, President and CEO of MPA: The Association of Magazine Media; John Q. Griffin, former Executive Vice President of Time Inc. & President of Time Inc. News Group and current President of Griffin & Associates; and Louis Cona, Chief Marketing Officer for Condé Nast.
As an added touch, Maupai even showed off a four-page color brochure outlining the key marketing elements of her project. “I was trying to be as realistic with the presentation as possible,” she notes. “Having worked at an integrated marketing company, it just seemed natural to create a leave-behind piece summarizing the mission statement and highlights of my idea—to bring it all to life. Plus I really like playing with design software!”
Despite being nervous, Maupai was so poised, polished and passionate about the magazine industry that Louis Cona not only took note—he took action. He swiftly reached out to Maupai through the publishing program and invited her to interview at Condé Nast. Before long, Maupai was hired as a manager in the Condé Nast Media Group’s integrated marketing division. “Our department does a lot of ideating and concept development for corporate sales proposals. I think it’s proving to be a great—though challenging!—next step for me,” she says.
When Maupai first entered the Capstone classroom last January, she found herself listening to a different kind of ideation: her fellow students sharing their concepts for business plans for new media ventures. Their professor, Lavinel Savu, Director of Editorial Operations for InStyle, guided them through the early Capstone discussions and helped them shape their projects. Students in Maupai’s class focused their Capstones on the magazine industry while those in the companion class taught by Steve Rago, Vice President of Corporate Development at John Wiley & Sons, developed book-based projects.
In the months to follow, Maupai gradually refined her idea, which was inspired, in fact, by her mom, a second grade teacher. She began with some basic research on what she had identified as her core audience: teachers in the K-8 classrooms— and no parents or policymakers. “By mapping out the field, I was able to identify spaces in the market, such as a lack of content directed at the lifestyle and day-to-day experience of being a teacher,” Maupai explains. “I also found there was a real need to engage younger educators with sophisticated design and an energetic, modern editorial voice.”
Using two simple surveys created on SurveyMonkey, she reached out to nearly 800 educators in her specified target audience and heard back from about 375. “I received great, honest feedback from teachers on when and how often they consume different kinds of media, whether they own smartphones or plan to buy an iPad (overwhelmingly, no!), and what topics and services would appeal to them in a new magazine and website,” she says.
Armed with her research and convinced that there was a market for a community-based magazine for younger educators interested in lifestyle as well as classroom issues, she began creating a business model that involved multiple revenue streams. Lavinel Savu helped at every step of the way. “I wouldn’t have had the focus to really push past the idea and research stage without the classroom sessions,” says Maupai. “My professor had some particularly insightful ideas for my project about financial modeling and mobile apps.”
Savu, in turn, was impressed with his student. “From the start, I thought Danielle’s idea was relevant and timely,” he says. “She proved that her magazine brand had the potential to become a viable launch by supporting her audience and revenue assumptions. Ultimately, it was the immaculate execution of Danielle’s final plan, from the sophisticated mock covers and TOCs [tables of content] to the thorough financial projections and break-even analysis that convinced me she had a clearly differentiated magazine brand which could thrive, even in today’s volatile economy and crowded media marketplace.”
Looking back at the Capstone course, Maupai found it rewarding. “I actually really enjoyed the process—but I recognize that the experience wasn’t as enjoyable for everyone,” she says. “Finances were a particular struggle for most of us. And the research component was difficult for some projects because of a highly-targeted audience, or emerging media formats like the iPad with little solid data to date (as of the past spring, at least!). I think having a concrete idea early on in the semester, one that you don’t mind completely delving into, really helps. I probably lucked out by finding good inspiration!”
As for lucking out, Maupai did so in more ways than one. Her Capstone not only helped her land her dream job at Condé Nast, but is still in her dreams as a potential real-world media project down the road. “I really would like to make my magazine for teachers happen in some form in the near future. I still see a need for it,” she says.
Meanwhile, Maupai has a little advice for this semester’s Capstone students: “My suggestion is to focus on passion points within a population segment and then see what’s missing—or what can be done better. It seems less daunting to approach it that way vs. isolated brainstorming and waiting for the ‘big idea’ to hit! Also, remember that people—especially millennials— will pay for good, useful content. So don’t give content for free unless you’ve got a surefire, innovative way to make revenue around it!”
by Andrea Chambers