Autowriters Spotlight: Joe Sage

Joe Sage studied architecture in the midwest, came to Arizona but was then diverted to Colorado for design and construction work. His drawing board skills led to graphic design work, which he developed into one of the larger ad agencies in northwest Colorado. After 20-plus years of 30-below temps and 27 feet of snow, he returned to Arizona in 2000.Autowriters Spotlight: Joe Sage

Joe almost bought a franchised magazine’s Arizona edition, but its limitations sparked the appeal of doing his own magazine.  He had considered creating a Colorado tour and travel magazine years earlier.  His agency did much tourism work, but also had a range of gearhead clientele, including the Bridgestone Winter Driving School, Steamboat Vintage Auto Race & Concours d’Élegance, Kawasaki Good Times and JET SKI® Good Times Magazines, and the AMA. A new balance was created for Arizona: about 90% automotive, with about a 35% “road trip undercurrent.” Arizona Driver Magazine was born.

Joe came to this project with hundreds of publications, millions of dollars’ worth of printing, and many successful clients under his belt.  On September 10, 2001, Joe had meetings with his lawyer, accountant and staffing company, final steps on establishing the magazine. But he woke up the next day to vastly changed circumstances.  Launching a magazine is a challenge.  Chasing the automotive segment can be a challenge.  And hiring effective sales staff is a big challenge.  In the wake of 911, all was even more so.  The first printed effort went from late 2002 through late 2003.  Joe kept producing full PDF versions, posted online.  The calendar pages flipped and flew off like the segue in an old movie.  But the magazine continued to hear from fans, both personal and in the industry, and continued to receive credentials, press invites and test vehicles.  There was clearly still horsepower in the concept.

In early 2007, the website was cleaned up and relinked.  Keyrings were produced.  And the printing press beckoned. The first thought was to print some marque-specific special editions, to distribute into dealer waiting areas, restaurants, fitness clubs, tire shops and more, for brand-building.  Joe also considered printing the full current magazine.  A photographer offered time between assignments to shag the mag all over the state.  The decision was made to print the two most current issues, complete, and the presses rolled.

There are now over a year’s worth of newly minted magazines in print.  Interest is higher than ever.  Joe thought the magazine’s quality spoke for itself, even online, but he is surprised at the response when people hold the glossy paper edition in their hands: there is something magical, still, in print.

As goes to press, the Fed has used the word “recession,” and sales staff is still a challenge, but ad inquiries are coming in.  So the jury is out, but they’ve ordered pizza and are having fun with deliberations.  One thing for certain: print is still popular, while deadlines and budgets remain as certain as death and taxes.  Stay tuned. And check out