In August, Dope Magazine named former MJ Biz Daily President George Jage as its new Chief Executive Officer. DOPE Media is a cultural cannabis magazine that was founded in 2011 by David Tran, Trek Hollnagel, Evan Carter, James Zachodni and Nathan Chrysler. The company is backed by Hypur Ventures and Poseidon Asset Management and is headquartered in Seattle, Washington. The magazine has a circulation of 70,000 and can be found in many retail establishments.
Green Market Report had a chance to catch up with George and talk to him about his new job.
GMR: What made you decide to go to Dope Magazine?
George Jage: I had been familiar with the brand for several years since I entered the cannabis space and admired the rapid impact the founders had on the industry. They were one of the early stage media assets to jump in the industry and they fulfilled a real need for a modern consumer lifestyle brand over the legacy, black-market focused publications that existed. While much of my past experience has been running b2b media companies I had always wanted to build consumer media assets as the potential audience and impact is vastly larger. After leaving MJBiz, I got a lot of calls from media companies in the cannabis market but the one company I saw with the biggest potential was Dope. After meeting with the founders, investors, and executive team, I knew it was the right fit for me.
GMR: What is the vision for the publication for the future?
Jage: My goal is to continue the founders’ vision for the brand of normalizing the use of cannabis for recreational or medical purposes. Dope actually stands for Defend Our Plant Everywhere. My vision is to build the largest and most successful consumer cannabis media brand in the country through events, digital, print, and social media platforms.
GMR: Was it a difficult decision to leave MJBiz daily?
Jage: Unfortunately, it was an executive divorce as a result of contract issues with the owners that is now being settled in court. I had been very fortunate to have previously owned, built and sold two niche business media companies previously which led the owners of MJBiz to recruit me originally. I am very proud of the work I was able to do to scale the business from an early-stage publishing company with small conferences and at-home employees to the most respected news source with the largest business tradeshows in the industry. It was very bittersweet as I was truly grateful to work with some exceptional people like Chris Walsh and Mary Pemberton to grow the business, but there were far too many disparities and conflicts with the owners to continue.
GMR: How does leaving MJBiz and going to Dope effect media in the industry?
Jage: These are truly two completely different businesses with unique clients and audiences, but it is still a small industry. Both the business media and consumer media spaces are very crowded and while Dope is one of only two fully integrated consumer media companies with digital, print and event platforms, there is a ton of competition within each of those product silos.
GMR: There are several culture/lifestyle cannabis publications, how will Dope differentiate?
Jage: This ties into what motivated me to join the team at Dope. While there are a lot of publications, Dope is unique in that it provides a national publication with regional/state editions to allow the licensed cannabis businesses to market through our entire offering within the boundaries of their license. And again, while there are many publications, websites, and events, we are one of only a few consumer media companies that can deliver messaging across multiple platforms.
GMR: What kinds of operational changes have you made?
Jage: Dope has had break-neck growth like many of the businesses in the industry, with over 90% YoY revenue increases on average. I see this all the time in the cannabis industry where the weight and pressure of that growth can cause companies to become reactive instead of proactively building the business for the future. It can be difficult for a company to have the bandwidth to stop and evaluate its internal processes and technology to ever get ahead of this. Fortunately, these are very easily identifiable fixes and Dope has done the hard work of building the brand, the business, and relationships for success. It all comes down to focus, discipline, and execution as the core attributes for the business moving forward.
GMR: Do you foresee any change in editorial content under your leadership?
Jage: Content is king. The editorial team has done a great job delivering high-value content to our audience so I don’t seek to fix that which is not broken. What I love about the content is that we are focusing on art, culture, food, music, and other lifestyle topics with cannabis as part of that conversation but not the focus. It aligns with our goals to normalize cannabis as part of an everyday lifestyle for a broad demographic. Of course, there will be changes, but not taking away from our existing content, more to add new content to increase our brand reach.
GMR: What are your plans for growth?
Jage: I often get labeled as an events person because, in all my business media experience, the content is to create the audience that is actualized and monetized at events. The same holds true for consumer media, but as a lower percentage of overall revenues. That said, we have a great portfolio of existing events that I am analyzing to see how we can scale. But a majority of our growth will come from print and digital expanding into new markets and increasing our overall digital performance.