Journalist Q&A: Jen Bernstein, High Times

Jen Bernstein, managing editor of High Times, talks about how the print edition is still the brand's number one product.

Jen Bernstein, managing editor of High Times, talks to Lindsay Stein about plans for the magazine's 40th anniversary and how the print edition is still the brand's number one product.

What is High Times doing for its 40th anniversary in 2014?
We've created a new column called 40 Year Flashback and it is going to talk about the brand through the ages.

We do a quarterly magazine called The Best of High Times and we are planning for one of these issues to include some of the classic pieces that people might have missed the first time around.

We are also going to reach out to a lot of celebrities and people who have worked with High Times and ask them to share their memories.

How is print doing?
Print is still the biggest part of our brand. For the first time that any of the staff can recall, we have increased the size of the January 2014 issue and bumped it up to 146 pages.

With declining ad sales and a decreasing ad revenue market, we increased editorial pages, and we may do it again for February, so 2014 is looking really good for the brand.

Why do you think it's so successful?
We are a niche publication. There are going to be a lot less magazines in the future, but the ones that will stand the test of time will offer specific information that you can only go to that publication for.

If you're coming to High Times, you're specifically interested in growing, chemicals, drug culture, politics, or the reforming laws.

All of the print content doesn't go online?
That's correct. With the news, we try to be timely and we do a lot of lists, similar to BuzzFeed. We want to give people short, snappy, fun things to read, such as The Best 15 Stoner Movies.

How do you leverage social media?

The way we prefer to use social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, is to promote the articles. We're not doing any specific content for social, except if we're going to highlight an event. We may throw up a link and a photo to help sell tickets to events.

Has anything changed with the political issues around marijuana?

With the ongoing movement, High Times is growing up a little bit and we want to put our best foot forward.

We are doing more political news. We also have a longtime relationship with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and that column is still running.

Are the cover photos shot by High Times?
Yes. We put Oliver Stone on the cover in August last year and he was smoking a doobie.

We went out to California and we took some behind-the-scenes videos of that photoshoot for our website.

Who would you want to get on the cover?
I would love to get Rihanna. She is very open about her pot use. Also, Miley Cyrus, who said on Saturday Night Live that weed is the best drug. The thing is our readership doesn't want to see people on the covers because they are growers.

Our research shows that people want to see big, beautiful buds on the cover. We are the National Geographic of marijuana photography.

What do you look for in PR pitches?
It's easier when publicists come to us because you either want to be in High Times or you don't want anything to do with us. That's because marijuana is not legal, but pot is growing up and it is mainstreaming. It will be legal in our lifetime. Look at Colorado and Washington.

I used to work in travel and did a lot of desk sides, so I would say face to face is always best, but it is going to be hard to get an editor's time. We are at our events so often.

If you come to one of our Cannabis Cup events and see what we're doing, that's a cool way to meet the editors. It helps when you pitch for a specific section of the magazine. We have clearly defined sections, such as How to, which is specific to growing [marijuana].

If you're representing a hydroponics store or a brand you want to get in the magazine, then for How to, you could say, "I have a great grow box. We should do a step-by-step guide on how to set it up."

What new content has been added?
We just struck up a cool new relationship with a band called the Dirty Heads that wanted to provide us with Web content. We have a "Munchies" food column that runs every month in print, and nobody was taking those recipes and using them. It turns out the Dirty Heads love to cook, so they are now providing us with content and videos that we can just put up on our website.

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