NEW YORK, NY – April 11, 2019 – Independent publishing executives will convene for the Annual IMAG Conference hosted by MPA – The Association of Magazine Media at the Charleston Marriott in Charleston, SC on May 8-9. The event is chaired by Donna Kessler, president, Morris Media Network and hosted by Rebecca Wesson Darwin, cofounder and CEO, Garden & Gun. The theme of this year’s conference is Indie Edge, celebrating the spirit and tenacity of independent and enthusiast brands.

“The 2019 IMAG Conference will focus on the success indie brands have enjoyed through brand extensions, community building, and product innovations,” said Linda Thomas Brooks, president and CEO, MPA – The Association of Magazine Media. “With deep audience connections, the IMAG companies featured throughout the program illustrate a ‘sky’s the limit’ approach to what their brand can mean in the lives of their enthusiast audiences.”

“This conference is about sharing ideas and advancing opportunities,” added Kessler. “It is so beneficial to the growth of my company to meet with other independent publishers to candidly discuss best practices and resources unique to enthusiast brands.” 

Program Highlights Include:

  • Andrew W. Clurman, president and CEO, Active Interest Media; Rebecca Wesson Darwin, cofounder and CEO, Garden & Gun; and William S. Morris III, chairman and CEO, Morris Communications Co. will each share their brand stories and how they are growing in the changing media landscape.


  • In a panel moderated by Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni, top executives of some of the most iconic magazine brands share how they’re thriving in the digital age, engaging a legion of devoted followers and attracting new audiences. Panelists include Anthony Licata, group editorial director, Bonnier Media; Erin O’Mara, president, The Nation; and Mina Seetharaman, chief strategy and creative officer, The Economist Group.


  • Camilla Cho, general manager, E-commerce, New York Media and DéVon Christopher Johnson, founder and CEO, BleuLifeMedia will discuss how they’ve transformed their companies from print-centric publishers to dynamic content providers across platforms.

  • Hearst Enthusiast Group’s Bill Strickland and Active Interest Media’s Jon Dorn will discuss how connecting to passionate and devoted audiences can lead to innovation, from custom content to commerce to new experiences.


  • Greg Gatto, EVP, Bonnier Media will sit with AFAR Media COO Laura Simkins to share his insights on effective video strategy to reach passionate audiences. 


  • Publishers of the South’s most successful city magazines discuss the unique perspective regional brands bring to the media ecosystem. Panelists include Charleston Business Magazine’s Lori Coon, Augusta Magazine’s Ashlee Duren and Savannah Magazine’s Anita Hagin.


  • Jennifer Skog, founder, chief creative, MJ Lifestyle and Garrett Rudolph, editor, Marijuana Venture will discuss the upsurge of cannabis-focused media and the exciting revenue opportunities in this growing market. The panel will be moderated by Lori Rosen, founder and president, Rosen Group.


  • Gary Michaelson, vice president, consumer marketing, Garden & Gun; Brook Holmberg, vice president and publisher, Yankee Magazine; and Renee Jordan, SVP and group publisher, The Taunton Press  will share how they’ve leveraged their trusted relationship with consumers to create successful brand extensions beyond the pages of the magazine.


  • Fran Middleton, chief digital officer, America’s Test Kitchen and Anni Cucinnello, audience development manager, AFAR Media will sit with FOLIO:’s Caysey Welton to discuss SEO best practices.


  • Wenda Harris Millard, vice chairman, MediaLink will sit with MPA President and CEO Linda Thomas Brooks to talk about the media trends of the day and the best bets for the future of independent magazine brands.
  • FTI Consulting’s Ken Harding and Pete Doucette will reveal paywall lessons learned from the newspaper industry and the best approach for enthusiast media.


  • Trevor Carroll, manager, content partnerships, PressReader will share ways enthusiast brands can monetize existing content and engage consumers in new and profitable ways.


  • Additional speakers include Heather Plant, VP, acquisition and retail Sales, Trusted Media Brands; Richy Glassberg, cofounder and CEO, Safeguard GDPR; Donna Kessler, president, Morris Media Network; Jamie Martin, editor in chief, Experience Life; Joe Spector, cofounder and CEO, The Local Palate; and Dr. Don Vaughn, neuroscientist.


At the opening night dinner, the Lee Brothers, bestselling authors and Southern cooking gurus, will explain Charleston’s rich culinary history and share how the city became the go-to destination for low country cuisine.

On May 9, conference attendees are invited to the Imagination Awards luncheon reception sponsored by PubWorX ProCirc to honor the work of independent publishers. These awards recognize projects and teams that capture the essence of a brand and demonstrate innovative thinking and imaginative tactics, well-defined business objectives and successful execution and results.

The 2019 IMAG Conference is an important opportunity for brand publishers to connect with the innovative vendor partners who are helping them drive their businesses forward now and into the future. The following strategic associate member companies have invested in the IMAG event as sponsor partners, demonstrating their commitment to the industry and their support of this community: MRI-Simmons and Quad. Support also comes from these MPA partners: Adcellerant, AdvantageCS, Alliance for Audited Media, CMG-Comag Marketing Group, eMagazines, Freeport Press, FTI Consulting, Invisibly, MediaWorks360, Port Hawkesbury Paper, PressReader, Secondstreet and ZINIO.

For more information about the 2019 IMAG Conference and to purchase a ticket, go to

About the IMAG Community
MPA – The Association of Magazine Media has carved out a community of independent publishers to facilitate peer-to-peer convening, sharing and learning. Fueled by the passionate interest of enthusiast audiences, IMAG brands produce world-class content that captures the attention and loyalty of consumers. These brands continue to build, expand and monetize audiences and assets across platforms and formats.

About MPA
MPA – The Association of Magazine Media is the primary advocate and voice for the publishing industry, driving thought leadership and game‐changing strategies to promote the industry’s vitality and increase its revenues and market share. Established in 1919, MPA represents 150 domestic, associate and international members. MPA is headquartered in New York City, with a government affairs office in Washington, D.C.



Susan Russ
[email protected]