Profiles

The Nordic Connection

by Debbie Nelson

IMG_5442Rounding the curved drive of The Peabody, famed Memphis hotel, two Norwegian gentlemen waited curbside as planned. Both waved, noticing my red sedan’s front plate, “Rebel Girl, Best in the World.” I’d be their tour guide for the ACT 5 Experience, a truly unique magazine conference led by Dr. Samir Husni at Ole Miss.

The air felt crisp (as it can be) for an autumn day in Memphis, perfect welcome for a first-time visit down South. Espen Tollefsen, CEO, and Tommy Engvik, IT pro, at Norwegian magazine and book distribution company Interpress, typically travel to coastal American cities. I hoped to learn about the country of my own ancestry as much as I wanted to make certain they experienced true Southern hospitality.

We were immediately on a first-name basis chatting with ease during the drive through rural Northern Mississippi. We shared briefly about ourselves before delving into the wonderful world of magazines, and what it’s like in Norway. Both were surprised downtown Memphis has little shopping and was much smaller than expected, so I wondered how they’d find our charming town of Oxford and most beautiful campus in America. Both expected to do a lot of walking, since their hometown’s name translates to English as “steep hill.”

Before long, Tommy remarked in Norweigan how many churches he’d counted in just a brief portion of the drive. Espen laughed and translated for me. Whenever they’d lapse into speaking their native tongue, the melodic sound of the language was peculiarly comforting to me – surely my Norwegian immigrant great-grandparents had spoken it to me before I last saw them at age five.

I wondered what explore career opportunities might await me in Norway, but before we reached the Lafayette County line, my hopes dwindled alongside their shrinking industry. Without a major paradigm shift in single copy sales of magazines, the future for me packing winter clothes and heading to the home of my ancestors was bleak. Both my guests hoped the conference would be a positive source of ideas and inspiration. I’m still tumbling ideas in my head.

With a brief stop at their hotel, I sped toward Memphis to transport another guest. Fortunately we arrived just in time to join my Norwegian guests for conference opening dinner. Truly, the top leaders in the magazine industry treated Dr. Husni’s students as close to peers as one can be, for this incredible space of time.

Mr. Tollefsen’s presentation closed next day’s morning session. An engaging video introduction to Norway evoked many rounds of laughter. Culturally enlightened, the audience relaxed, reminded frequently of Norway’s love for bedtime stories, fish and potatoes. We have the insider scoop on the world’s highest availability and lowest prices on Playstation. We know geographically Norway’s length – if laid on its side – would span the width of the United States, but the population would only fill half of Manhattan.

Espen Tollefsen, CEO Interpress, speaks at ACT 5 Experience, University of Mississippi, October, 2014.
Espen Tollefsen, CEO Interpress, speaks at ACT 5 Experience, University of Mississippi, October, 2014.

Espen shifted gears and focused on the topic at hand – magazines. Interpress splits the entire book and magazine distribution market of Norway with one other company who holds 80% of the 4.5 million dollar market. Published weekly, Norway’s 100 magazine titles are purchased by stores, then refunds issued for unsold returns. Interpress also handles 1500 international titles. Unlike the U.S., oil drives the prosperous Norwegian economy. Property sales are up 10%.  Easy to see why the average price per copy is $10.

Challenges for Interpress include reduced magazine display space by new management at stores. Food and beverage space diminish importance for magazine sales. Compared to 2012, the market fell 7%. Reading has declined 5% annually despite the culture of one bedtime story book on every nightstand in Norway. Inspiring a return to reading, versus other activities, also remains challenging.

Book sales are stable, offering less than 2% on digital platforms compared to the U.S. > 30% digital. Development cost for digital is high due to relatively small population. Increased number of available platforms resulted in an inconsistent supply. Sales are down 10% across the board, yet growth in Food, Health, and Hobby themed magazine sales increased 23%. As CEO of Interpress, Espen Tollefsen showed how a rich country with a relatively small population faces challenges similar to those of the United States magazine industry.

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Jens Henneberg of Denmark’s Bonnier Group shared a return ride to Memphis and return flight to New York. On our way, Espen graciously read aloud my interview questions, answered them smoothly, recording on my smartphone. Reminiscing over the week’s events, I discovered all three men were disappointed not have a stopping point during the excursion to tour the Mississippi Delta region to photograph the cotton in full bloom. Two stops and many photos later, contented guests chatted further.

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I asked if anything surprised them about Mississippi.  Espen’s answer surprised me.

Mid-week, Delta Magazine led a tour to the Mississippi Delta region. First stop, Shack-Up motel in Hopson. As the group quickly ushered through the blues bar in order to view the shotgun houses-turned-motel rooms out back, Espen chatted with staff.

Seems the Blues Express, Norwegian blues band on stage – preparing  to  shoot a music video – stayed over at the motel.We all kept exclaiming, “What are the odds? What are the odds a first visit to the South would result in listening to a band from home?”

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Clinched my goal – true Southern hospitality.

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L-R: Tommy Engvik, Jens Henneberg, Espen Tollefsen

 

 

 

 

 

Profiles

Welcome to the ACT5 Experience

DSC_0009After two round trips shuttling three fascinating magazine industry execs from Memphis to Oxford – with not one but two wrong way turns – The Inn at Ole Miss’ dinner was calling my name. Friendly bartenders greeted me, offering a complimentary glass of wine.

The duo of executives from Norway seemed to be enjoying conversation at the first table I greeted, so I found a chair and joined them just as Dr. Samir Husni opened the conference and dinner was served. Perfect timing. Welcome to the ACT5 Experience. The gentleman to my right from Quad Graphics engaged me in conversation, so my bites were few though chicken with sun-dried tomatoes and black olives kept beckoning. Round tables with students interspersed among magazines’ finest filled the ballroom.

The first evening of the annual magazine conference launched smoothly. Coffee was being served as a student introduced Roy Reiman, who insisted of all magazine conferences, ACT5 is best. Naturally Ole Miss students agreed, after weeks of preparation culminated this evening. Mr Reiman said those in the magazine business are “doers, not dreamers.” When he began with fourteen magazines in print sans advertisements, 1 in 8 American homes subscribed. He said, “Emphasis on creativity and content is a goal for all magazines.”

The limitations Reiman sets for his magazines set them apart from the competition. Each issue features only 84 pages and ads use just 20% of page space. Using his unique approach, advertisers line up to be included in his exclusive publications. In fact, 84% of his advertisers sign on for multiple issue contracts and 50% have full year contracts. Reiman’s Virtual Salesperson Cal posts quips and stories about why he never shows up, since a salesperson is not on staff at his magazines.

To further engage the reader, inventive contests provide prizes from advertisers. “Make it different, then make it better,” said Reiman. “Creativity is the engine that powers publishing.” He reminded the audience that mistakes “show you how to do things right!” As Mr. Reiman said, “Right on!”

Profiles

Govinda Tidball

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Guest speaker at The University of Mississippi, Govinda Tidball (pictured left with Dr. James Lumpp) addresses students in Tupelo, MS, via Distance Learning technology.

March, 2014

Oxford, Miss. — This week Ole Miss hosted a sharply dressed man who spent nearly a decade tackling a variety-pack of challenges which became opportunities in Sri Lanka. Using Prezi for a visual display of his life’s work thus far, Govinda Tidball spoke to an assortment of classes at The Meek School of Journalism and was well received.

How many people heading for a luxury vacation to Sri Lanka would willingly change gears in the face of tsunami? Most would be grumbling at the ticket counter, looking for an alternative destination. Granted, Tidball has family ties to Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, his assessment of the gap between readily available emergency management services and the needs of citizens propelled him into action instead of vacation. As founder of MedONE, he bridged the gap with lifesaving services like the Sri Lanka equivalent of 911 and motorcycles as first-responder vehicles to navigate congested roads. Falck, a prominent emergency management services company based in Denmark, took notice and subsequently purchased MedONE, networking it into an even more effective solution for the people of Sri Lanka.

Tidball has seen the advertising business from both sides – as a successful model for print advertisements as well as CEO of Spendor Media. His humanitarian efforts are significant, both through the quality ads produced to promote education and the economy of Sri Lanka as well as the many organizations he has served.

As a board member for Community Concern Society, Tidball supports the “child-centred Christian NGO (which) empowers disadvantaged children and adults to improve their lives through education, rehabilitation, vocational development, communication, intervention, mobilization and direct assistance for the most needy and destitute.”  His international resource for seekers of truth is Faithmix, a multi-media website.

The take-away from Govinda Tidball:

  • Everyone has problems – keep a solutions mindset.
  • People always want to work with solution-oriented people.
  • Bounce decisions off mentors.
  • Be flexible. (He’s taken flexibility to a whole new level, having lived in a tent for 5 months post-tsunami!)
  • Read, read, read. When you can’t, listen to audiobooks.
  • “If you don’t like to read, you’re probably in the wrong profession,” he said to journalism students.
  • Enjoy the journey.

WiseGeek.com writes, “In the actual Renaissance period, men who were educated aspired to become Renaissance men. They were expected to know several languages, understand philosophy and scientific teachings, appreciate literature and art, and further, to be deft sportsmen.” So let’s add to the list that Govinda Tidball is an athlete who competed in swimming at the University of Nebraska. Indeed, Ole Miss has been visited by a modern-day renaissance man.

Profiles

Timothy Ivy

ImageTough decisions last night – join my sons for the Blind Boy Paxton concert; view the screening of Fresh, about sustainable agriculture; catch the lecture by Timothy Ivy, photojournalist. Everyone who has spent any time around me knows I’m the one to snap a photo or two (dozen) at just about any gathering. My goal is to preserve the moments. There are key people who never seem to want their picture taken. But later on, those photos become special – they tell the story of where we were and what we were doing. They remind us of things we’d forget in the hustle bustle of daily life.

Since I spent the afternoon at an agriculture panel, I narrowed my choices to music or photography. When I thanked Timothy Ivy for his presentation, and let him know I passed on Paxton, he thought it was a financial decision. His lecture was free. He was genuinely surprised that two of us in attendance had actively chosen his presentation over the musical evening.

Who is Timothy Ivy? Photojournalist for the NY Times before returning to Mississippi, he’s an Ole Miss graduate, class of 2001. Have you ever seen his work? This man tells a story, capturing vivid, raw emotion, regardless of the subject. He said we all have a story, “Write it. Shoot it. Design it.” Sounds like tips for success to me.

He has an uncanny way of adding an “artistic look at a mundane topic”. He encouraged us to take initiative, to shoot story ideas, and pitch them to editors. Ivy said editors may not be able to visualize ideas, so create the whole package. He gave a practical example of this – how he recognized a story within a simple chat with a friend, decided to “collaborate with a subject, on a subject”, then sent it in to Ebony magazine, who grabbed the story.

Timothy Ivy is back in Mississippi now, “to capture a slower pace of life”. He always wanted to be a documentary photojournalist. Every shot he takes adds to his story. His presentation has become part of my story. I hope to upgrade my camera for telling more of my story, and others’. He’s right… we all have a story. He has a story of success in telling a story with a single photograph. Powerful images. Be sure to check out his portfolio!

Fab Food

Sunday Success: It’s a Muffin Morning!

Before I begin, it’s only fitting to say HOTTY TODDY! Wow, the Ole Miss Rebels won their first THREE football games this 2013 season. It was so exciting to watch them battle the Texans yesterday. The 44-23 win highlighted what I’ve been saying since I saw the recruits Coach Freeze and his staff snagged… we are going to ROCK SEC football this fall. Oh sure, the naysayers thought it would take a while to get the freshmen cohesive as a team. Nope. They’re each the cream of the crop, and this coach knows how to build a team from attitude to talent. Keep watching those Rebels… I’m hoping they surprise everyone (except me) and upset the Crimson Tide in their house on Sept. 28th. If you don’t think that’s possible, you should have heard Coach Freeze leading the team in chanting the contents of Phil 4:13

I woke up extra early to ideal weather for baking – 61 sunshiny degrees – that just blessed my Sunday morning. I already planned to make it a day of reading and baking, so this was perfect timing for perfect weather. Perfect, perfect, perfect. Sometimes, success just works out that way. Everything falls into place effortlessly.

When I’m happy, I cook. When I cook, I feel even more accomplished & by divine design, I feel even happier. A friend of mine noticed that when I’ve had a migraine, and it goes away, I cook. Makes sense. Who isn’t happy when pain is finally gone? Perhaps from this point forward, I will remind myself “This too shall pass” when I have a migraine, and start thinking about what I will surely cook the next day.

This time I wanted to stock up my fridge and freezer with homemade goodies for the week ahead. My goal is “grab & go” foods, since I have several challenges ahead. My fruit bowl had an apple, 3 bananas, and an orange, all needing to be eaten… or used in cooking. Perfect again!

Today’s Grab & Go Plan:

____Boil Eggs for lunches

____Crock Pot of Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

____Mini-Quiche: Bacon, Cheese, Minced Eggplant & Tri-Color Peppers

____Muffins!

__X__ Cran-Apple Corn Muffins Topped with Roasted Sunflower Kernels

__X__ Glazed Orange Pineapple Muffins with a hint of Coconut

__X__ Blueberry Pineapple Banana  Muffins

____ Boiled Cookies: I like to think of them as Healthy Fudge

The house smelled heavenly once the Orange Pineapple Muffins started baking. Oh my, the taste reminds me of pineapple upside down cake, without the gooey brown sugar. I’ll design a muffin around that flavor next time.

I love baking, then taste testing. I’ve decided the Cran-Apple Muffins needed a heavier hand on the fruit. I love the mix-ins in every bite, don’t you?  Here are the recipes I developed today. I LOVE doing that – personalizing, then sharing. Enjoy!

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Cran-Apple Corn Muffins Topped with Roasted Sunflower Kernels

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt                              (replace regular salt with sea salt from now on!)
  • 1 cup  lactose-free milk                 (use whatever kind of milk suits your family best)
  • 6 Tbsp Coconut Oil, melted         (Coconut Oil has SO many healing properties!)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 large apples, chopped                (Leave the peels on – the vitamins are right beneath the surface!)
  • 1/2 c. chopped dried cranberries
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • Dry Roasted Sunflower Kernels

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Set muffin papers into muffin pan. In a large bowl, mix all the wet ingredients together. Mix in sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, and baking powder. Add this dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir well. Mix in the fruit and cinnamon. I like to make sure the cinnamon gets right on the apples.

Spoon mixture into muffin cups 3/4 full. Top with sunflower kernels.

Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from pan & place on rack to cool. Serve with a little Apple Butter or eat plain. Yum!

Variation: Mix and match raisins, golden raisins, dried cranberries. Also try different kinds of apples! I used Red Delicious, and they were nice & firm. A softer apple will make a more moist muffin.

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Glazed Orange Pineapple Muffins with a Hint of Coconut

  • 1 cup milk                                                    (use whatever kind of milk suits your family best)
  • 1 – 4 oz. cup coconut yogurt                       (orange, pineapple, or plain yogurt, or even sour cream will do)
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice      (grate the orange peel off first – set aside for glaze!)
  • 1 stick (8 T.) salted butter, melted
  • 8 T. coconut oil, melted                               (Coconut Oil has SO many healing properties!)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ tsp sea salt                                                (replace regular salt with sea salt from now on!)
  • 3 ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ T. baking powder
  • 1 small can pineapple tidbits, in pineapple juice

GLAZE:

  • Zest of 1 orange                                          (gives a punch of flavor & looks beautiful!)
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice       (if you forget to set this aside like I did, OJ from the carton will be fine)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Set muffin papers into muffin pan. In a large bowl, mix all the wet ingredients together. Mix in sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and baking powder. Add this dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir well. Slice each piece of pineapple into thinner tidbits, so you get pineapple in (nearly) every bite. Mix in the fruit including the juice.

Spoon mixture into muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from pan & place on rack to cool.

While the muffins are in the oven, mix the glaze and set aside.

When the muffins are still warm, but cool enough to handle, dip each one into the glaze & return to the rack. Allow to cool completely, then spoon on a little more glaze. Did I mention theses smell so delicious when baking?  To serve, they don’t need a thing – moist and so tasty. Yum!

How’s your Sunday so far? Hope it has some unexpected happy surprises! And here’s that verse for you: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4:13

Next up… Blueberry Pineapple Banana  Muffins… stay tuned!