The offices of downtown Knoxville’s newest business sits at the end of the Daylight Building on the 500 block of Union Avenue. In the space that most recently housed the Happy Envelope, the new offices more resemble a war-room than a posh work space. Just settling in this week, the staff hasn’t been completely assembled and it appears the immense volume of work involved in the launch of a magazine supersedes aesthetics and comfort for now.
Johnna Easter, account executive, worked the phones ferociously the entire time I talked with Dan Shannon, the publisher of the new venture. She returned to Knoxville from Atlanta to be a part of this start-up venture. Gay Lyons is also on board as editor and several others have been hired, as well. Six to eight employees will likely form the core of the workforce for the immediate future. It appears chaotic, but beneath the chaos, Dan brings a level of expertise born of two other very similar launches: He publishes city magazines in Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Dan has moved into an apartment in the same building that houses his business. I asked him, “Why Knoxville?” He said it has, “everything needed to support a great city magazine.” He listed the qualities he looks for, including a city with a progressive attitude, a city that feels good about itself, has natural beauty, a strong arts and entertainment community and a diverse commercial or retail economy. He said he admires cities that, “wake up every morning and wants to be better,” and indicates he sees all these qualities in Knoxville.
Originally from Indiana, Dan moved his family from Connecticut to North Carolina in 2001. He’d been a writer and an editor for many magazines, but began considering a different end of the business. In the waning days of the .com explosion, he started an e-marketing magazine which did not survive the ultimate bust of that economic sector. In 2005 during a casual phone conversation, a friend suggested he do a city magazine for Chapel Hill and within days he began the process to do precisely that.
Once successful there, he moved on to Durham and now Knoxville. He anticipates the website will launch the first of the year and the inaugural issue will be the March/April issue. Plans call for six issues each year, produced bi-monthly, plus an annual Visitor’s Guide. The first run will likely run around 20,000 copies, with 15,000 of those mailed directly into homes around the area.
There will be some light content online, perhaps including the stories behind the stories included in the print edition, while the print edition will offer exclusive content. That content will include such topics as food, local personality profiles, in-depth business profiles, artists and musicians Eventually Mr. Shannon hopes to move the magazine to a monthly publication schedule. Revenues will be derived from the sales of ads.
Interestingly, he doesn’t see other local publications or internet web sites as his competition. He feels the primary competition faced today by any medium is for the attention of the consumer. Given all the entertainment options, both electronic and non-electronic, the competition for that simple moment of consumer focus is the current pitched battle. He brings to the venture his passion for City Magazines and his belief that a great city can be made better by a great publication such as the one he plans.
He also enjoys family, good cigars and good coffee. If you can catch him in between phone calls, stick your head into 525 Union Avenue, introduce yourself and welcome him to the city. And for a preview of what we might expect this spring, check out his other magazines here and here.