Vicki Vowell, the public face of AY Magazine, smiles from the cover of this month’s special 30th-anniversary issue, blond and blue-eyed in an illustration designed by Jamie Smith.
But when we reached out for thoughts on the milestone, we heard back from AY’s publisher, Heather Baker, another familiar face in Arkansas publishing.
The Vowell Inc. magazine, which bills itself as the state’s largest lifestyle publication with a press run of 36,000 a month, has some news to share beyond its longevity. It will soon be home to a new print version of Arkansas Money & Politics, a Vowell publication that has been online-only for the past two years.
Starting in June, a print version of AMP will be inserted into AY, but the goal is for AMP to eventually come out monthly as a standalone magazine.
“I think 30 years says a lot for AY, has a lot of impact, especially when you’re talking about print,” said Baker, 41, who has been a publisher since age 23, when she launched Arkansas Autobuyer. She also started Savvy Kids and Arkansas Wild for Alan Leveritt, the Arkansas Times founder. Both publications continue today.
“AY is thriving, and this year we won the Henry Award, given by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism to the media outlet that represents the state better than anyone else.”
She said that reviving a printed AMP inside AY — essentially tucking a business and politics vehicle inside a lifestyle magazine — may seem like mixing her audiences, but a strategy is emerging.
“AMP is coming back to print, starting as a part of AY, but we’re also doing direct mail to businesses in Arkansas that gross a certain amount of money, so it’s going to be a free mail business publication.”
A great deal of content will go into the AMP print version, and breaking news and “current stuff” will go onto the website, AMPpob.com, and AMP’s social media sites. “AMP will eventually come out of AY, depending on how fast we grow, but it will be a monthly,” she said, not a once-every-two-months publication.
“AY is a consumer-based product, and AMP is business-based,” she added. “Businesses, health, politics, that’s the market segments that we’re going for.”
AMP doesn’t see itself as competing with Roby Brock’s Talk Business & Politics, which covers the same nexus of commerce and government. “We’re definitely our own product, not looking to be like anyone else,” Baker said. “Roby doesn’t have a monthly publication, and we’re the only slick magazine. Plus, with our mailing list, substantial businesses will be sure to see us throughout the state.”
Baker is also excited about the work of her new managing editor at AY and AMP, Caleb Talley, a former reporter for the Times-Herald of Forrest City.
Vowell Inc. has expanded from its original publications, AY and AMP, to include Arkansas Hospitals, Mental Health Guide of Arkansas, and NARMC, an Arkansas Governor’s Cup publication. Other titles are said to be in the works.
Baker said working for Vowell since February 2017 has been joyful. “I just love Vicki, and she’s a huge partner to me, working hard on expansion. Our whole staff right now is incredible.”
Meanwhile, Baker’s old publications in the Arkansas Times stable have been taken over by Katherine Daniels, who in March became publisher of Savvy, Arkansas Wild, Arkansas Food & Farm and Arkansas Flavor, among other titles.
Daniels worked until January as senior vice president at Martin-Wilbourn Partners, the Little Rock corporate communications and reputation management agency.
“I used to work for Alan Leveritt a few years ago, and after I went out on my own after Martin-Wilbourn, he asked me to look at his brands and give feedback.” A month later came the announcement that she would be publisher of “all the niche brands.”
“Alan has been working with me, but he’s leaning on me to come in with fresh eyes and a vision for growth potential,” Daniels said. “The Savvy and Arkansas Wild brands have shown potential, but with changes in leadership they’re ready to have an opportunity to grow.”
Savvy has a new focus on health care and education, and Bike Arkansas, an Arkansas Wild spinoff, is poised to capitalize on the state’s cycling explosion.
Daniels says she’s excited and looking to do some hiring. “We’re ready to take things to the next level, repositioned for the next opportunity.”