Publishing Vet Jack Kliger: ‘Trump Could Help Real Journalism’

The roster of media mavens, moguls and boldface names spotted today at Michael's.

Diane Clehane and Jack Kliger

DianeClehaneLunch_FeaturedHappy New Year! From the looks of things at Michael’s today, most of the media mob and A-listers were still celebrating (or have already headed off to Los Angeles for Sunday’s Golden Globes), but no matter. We were happy to get back into the swing of things and made our way to 55th and Fifth to ring in 2017 with the first ‘Lunch’ of the season.

I was joined today by publishing vet Jack Kliger who I’ve known since he was publisher of Glamour (we were both children at the time). The former CEO of Hachette Filipacchi (more on that later) and EVP at Condé Nast is one of the most respected executives in the business. In recent years, he’s put his great instincts to bring dormant brands back to life. In 2008, he was tapped by OpenGate Capital to resuscitate TV Guide Magazine and two years later, the magazine returned to profitability. Between bites of Dover sole, Jack filled me in on his ambitious and intriguing plans for 2017.

Diane Clehane and Jack Kliger
Diane Clehane and Jack Kliger

Jack bought the 35 year-old title British Heritage in 2014 when he founded Kliger Heritage Media. Renamed British Heritage Travel, the retooled title is flourishing. Besides redesigning the book to include more photography and expanding the magazine’s coverage of popular culture (Full disclosure: I write the occasional story about British period dramas), Jack decided to expand the magazine’s travel coverage with more service-oriented features (highlighting restaurants, hotels and various historical points of interest) to help its U.S.-based Anglophile subscribers with the travel plans to the U.K. The subscription-only publication (“I may do specials”) also offers readers, whose numbers are on the rise, a newsletter with ‘members only’ promotions and discounts.

This year, British Heritage Travel is officially in the travel business, offering subscribers exclusive tours launching this summer, with itineraries created especially for its readers by the magazine’s editors. Jack told me, “We want to offer subscribers experiences that have a unique and authentic flavor for experiencing all things British. Everything is designed to appeal to the U.S.-based Anglophile.” To that end, a tour celebrating Jane Austen will take travelers to many historical locations, including her family home in Bath and the village of Steventon where she wrote several books. It also includes a stop at Highclere Castle, the now-iconic great house where Downton Abbey was filmed. Other trips and an August cruise will give travelers the chance to visit villages and locations tied to popular television shows including Game of Thrones and Poldark. An Outlander tour (sign me up!) is also in the works.

“Can I tell you about my latest project?” asked Jack. Please do. Jack is working with Condé Nast International negotiating the rights to publish an English language version of La Cucina Italiana in North America. He told me he’s hopeful that he’ll publish the first issue later this year. Clever Jack did his due diligence before deciding to snap up the rights to the food- and wine-focused title. “We surveyed 70,000 former subscribers [they stopped publishing in English in 2014] and 20 percent said they’d resubscribe. That’s a big number!”

Not surprisingly, his plan for the revamped version will include travel coverage and expand beyond the printed page. There’s a La Cucina Italiana cooking school in the Condé Nast building in Milan staffed with full-time chefs, a restaurant-quality kitchen and an entertaining space. Jack, who was born in Italy, plans to offer trips to the school. He’s also eyeing the rights to the magazine’s extensive library of cooking videos. “Who doesn’t love Italian food and wine?” he said.

Needless to say, Jack is optimistic about the future of print. “Publishing about people’s heritage is a good special interest [niche] to be in these days,” said Jack as we sipped our coffee. “Magazines are an experiential product that enhance everything. If you can do that right, your business is going to be OK. Magazines got caught up on the advertising drug and forgot the primary relationship should be with the consumer.”