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The Entrepreneur – Jason Binn

CORE Talks // Sep 01, 2008

Trends in real estate, lifestyle, art, and fashion are largely expressed through the media. Print media has the power to communicate who we are as a community and culture. It helps guide our perception and influences our methods of marketing. It has the ability to educate consumers and shape ideas.

Jason Binn is the CEO and Founder of Niche Media. In a short 15 years, has made it one of the most prominent and powerful publishing companies in the United States. As such, he is a pioneer that has helped bring thousands of people together.


Shaun: Why did you start Niche Media and how did you get into the business?

Jason: Out of college, you can do a lot of things. If you fall down, or if you run into obstacles it’s easy to get up. You don’t have your family and financial obligations, so it was a time to take on risk, seek opportunities. I love publishing, marketing, and there was a gentleman by the name of Jerry Powers who I knew, who came to me and said “You know, there are great people I see everywhere. There’s a bigger picture for you somewhere”, and at that point we moved down to Miami together and started Ocean Drive.

Shaun: Was that your first magazine?

Jason: Yes. We moved down to Miami in 1992 during a very challenging time. Two weeks after hurricane Andrew.

Shaun: You’ve been in you in business for 15 years?

Jason: Ocean Drive is embarking on its 15th anniversary.

Shaun: What was your second magazine?

Jason: I ended up moving out to the Hamptons and took over Hamptons Magazine Newspaper. And I started publishing Hamptons.

Shaun: What did you study in college?

Jason: Communications. I went to Boston University.

Shaun: So, you were an entrepreneur and said, “I’m going to start my own business.”?

Jason: I’m going to start my own business and do something that I feel provides entertainment to people. It’s something you can see and feel and touch and enjoy and put smiles on people’s faces. It’s a lot of who I am and what I am. It’s just connecting the dots with the people and the places that make each of these cities so special.

Shaun: How many magazines do you publish?

Jason: Now we have 16 individual titles and we’ll be publishing over 140 individual magazines. We ship around three magazines a week.

Shaun: Where do you see your company in five years?

Jason: I see it consistently growing and expanding into new markets. Not just big cities, but also resort communities. It began with Aspen Peak and Hamptons. Obviously, this is not just a magazine that works in major cities. It’s a magazine that works in resort communities and it’s a magazine that can really work outside the country. In Paris, Milan, London. It’s an exciting business model that has great growth possibilities.

Shaun: And how do you select your Niche markets?

Jason: When I first started, it was about cities I knew or loved or wanted to be in more. Now you create such a foundation and there are only so many cities in the country. Now it’s more about starting to look at the DNA of the market places. Top 10 Markets. Markets with disposable incomes.

Shaun: I would say the perception of Niche as a company and all of your publications are very cutting edge. How difficult is it to stay at the forefront of this competitive industry?

Jason: You’re only as good as your last magazine. You’re only as good as your last event. And there’s no getting around it. You’re always under the scrutiny of the media. You are always under the scrutiny of the consumers, the readers, your friends, and your family. When the books are thin, times look rough. When the books look thick, you are doing well. When you go to events that get at least 80 people, they are hot and people want to be a part of them. When you go to events that look like a bowling alley, you know, a ball going down the alley with nothing in its way, that’s when times aren’t great. So it’s always important to keep on top of your game and to always reinvent yourself. That’s what we do.

Shaun: And how are times now?

Jason: We just secured a 45,000 plus square foot office at 100 Church Street. We’ve moved offices now four times in the last eight years. We’ve grown by pages, revenue and staffing roughly 15 to 20% a year since the beginning. So it’s moving. Moving strong.

Shaun: Regarding the day to day operations of your company, how actively involved are you in every publication?

Jason: I try to be as active as I can based on time and travels and the needs of other markets. You get pushed in a million directions, but I go in with the head that I want to see and touch and be a part of everything, whether it’s directly or indirectly. How many things you get to feel and touch and be a part of is a challenge.

Shaun: How many people do you have working for you?

Jason: Over 300 full-time employees and around 200 contributors/freelancers.

Shaun: One thing that really sets you apart is your covers. Are you involved in the selection?

Jason: I challenge the editors. I want the covers to be exciting. I want them to be current, but I also want them to be relevant to the marketplace. So I try to push the editors as much as I can to get the best product.

Shaun: Over the last 15 years I’ve seen the luxury goods market evolve. It’s reflected in your advertising and to a large extent some of that has been influenced by real estate. Now with real estate being marketed as a luxury product, how much have your magazines changed to cater to the real estate market?

Jason:  When the real estate market’s hot they want to buy ads. They want to build the momentum. I’ve also seen when the real estate market is challenged. In many markets they feel if they don’t get their name out there and they don’t advertize, they won’t be known and they look like they’re having problems. So it’s a double edged sword.

Shaun: Do you find yourself turning away advertisers because a certain advertiser might not fit the certain brand?

Jason: Sure. Sometimes there is a business or categories or creative which doesn’t complement the magazine or doesn’t fit well. One of our magazines, Wynn, actually approves all the ads himself

Shaun: Steve Wynn approves everything himself?

Jason: Yes

Shaun: How challenging is it competing with the internet and online media with your primary focus being print? Is that a medium you see yourself segueing into and capturing part of that market?

Jason: I think everyone is looking at the internet right now to figure out how to drive people’s businesses. I think very few magazines, if any, locally and or nationally, have truly proven to make it a successful model financially. But, it’s a game that we all have to play and put millions of dollars into it and put real staffing behind it.

Shaun: Other than your publications, what would you say is the best icon in the industry? Not necessarily a competitor but someone that you find inspiration in.

Jason: I think a great publication that’s really captured a “niche” is Woman’s Wear Daily. It’s become the trade publication for luxury goods, cosmetics, beauty and fashion. They’ve done it in a way where everything they run is exclusive, so nothing you really read in there is going to be somewhere else.

Shaun: What would you say is the one thing that has been the reason for your incredible success?

Jason: In any business, you have to really believe that what you’re doing is providing a value for someone. I think you can sell the sizzle without the steak only so many times. Sooner or later, youv’e got to sell the sizzle with the steak. I truly believe that with everything we’ve done here, we’ve provided value, a good product, a good place for people to have their businesses showcased, a great way to have them connected to consumers and a great way to activate their brands. I feel passionately that no one is doing what we’re doing here today, in the past and in the future, I don’t see it. It makes me feel I have something special, and it makes it so much easier to stand behind and to be inspired by, because I really believe we’re doing something that’s never been done.

Shaun: I would agree and I think you’re achieving it. I wish you continued success. Anything else you’d like to add?

Jason: I think in today’s day and age, it can be hard to get up every day and want to go to work. When you’re really passionate about what you doing and are entrepreneurial, the passion and the dedication takes over. Then you’re not thinking about how much money you’re making. It becomes more of an art and a passion for that art, and the financial success comes after. I think that’s a lot of what happened with me here.