How did the Italian edition of Rolling Stone Magazine come about?
It all started in November 2003. I was working for the Italian edition of GQ when a young guy called me out of blue and said he wanted me to start up the Italian edition of Rolling Stone Magazine. I didn’t know him or anything about him and it was a small, unknown Italian publishing house. I knew it was crazy: there was no money, no big names were involved but I still found the idea fascinating.
What’s distinctive about the Italian edition?
Rolling Stone Magazine is published all over the world now but the other international editions are really music magazines. Our feeling here is that The Rolling Stone has a very powerful heritage that’s not only musical. It’s about the ‘rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle’ and the American lifestyle. So, the magazine does features on people in politics, the Arts, science, sports - all of whom have the ‘rock ‘n’ roll attitude’, you could say. They’re people with great energy, who love life, action, having fun. So, the Italian edition is not so much a music magazine as a lifestyle magazine.
You became successful right out of the box. Why do you think that happened?
On the front cover of our 2nd issue, we used a photo of the motor cycle racer Valentino Rossi. It was a very powerful image of him dressed as ‘The King‘ - Elvis. Rossi is one of the biggest stars in Italy, our answer to David Beckham. He understood that we were trying to do something different and he was very helpful. There were loads of calls from people who wanted that photo so, from then on, we realised it would be a good idea not to concentrate only on musicians.
How do you communicate and manage your message?
It’s essential to have a strong corporate identity. When you sub-contract - advertising campaigns, for instance - it becomes increasingly difficult to communicate that identity. So, my aim is to develop our own advertising campaign, using low quality, self-made images, slogans and ads. In this highly developed, sophisticated world, I would like to give our readers something different: a product that’s home-made, created with passion and full of ideas that have come from a small group of people. It’s not a magazine made by marketing, but a magazine made by passion.
How do you achieve what you want in the editorial content?
I have absolute trust in our team, an exciting group of 14 journalists.The Editor decides who does what but ultimately all the ideas come from the team. We always try to be original, to do what the other magazines are not doing. We don’t bother with soccer or TV or things you read about everywhere else.It’s hard to define what makes an interesting story but if you’re a good journalist you just feel what’s right.
What do you feel are your greatest accomplishments with the magazine?
What we realised a strong idea with passion. We created a successful magazine without using the usual marketing tricks. And I think we have built up a good editorial mix. A magazine is not a book, nor a series of stories. You have to mix, surprise, attract attention.We also try to work with young photographers and writers to bring innovative, fresh ideas. In the end, I believe in producing work of the highest quality and in being honest.
I also learnt early on that you should never follow market research. You have to give people bright, clever ideas but not things that people ask for. Henry Ford once said that if he’d produced what people asked for, he’d have made very fast horses, not cars!
How do you think printed media can compete with the internet?
It’s a difficult time for printed media. I think the thrill of it will always be with us but the quality has to be improved. Readers are more refined now. You have to give them high quality journalism combined with new, cutting edge ideas. It’s essential for a good journalist to keep in touch with what’s going on, to be curious, to go out on the streets. The worst thing that can happen to a journalist is to lose contact. Once you start earning a good living, you can travel in luxury, with private cars, drivers, you don’t use public transport and you start to lose touch.
Another problem here in Italy is that our papers and journals are aimed at middle-aged readers, because they‘re produced by middle-aged writers! We need to give young journalists more power.It’s different in the U.S.and the U.K. where there are a lot of very young journalists in important positions.
What lessons have you learned in your life?
That family roots are very important. I want to be a good journalist but also a good father and husband. It’s tough! The problem is, as a journalist you’re always travelling, meeting people, going to parties, but now I have a three-year-old daughter and she is the most important thing for me. So often in this business, you see people becoming successful, wealthy, powerful, and yet they lose the only important thing they have - the family.