Look Who’s Talking – Travis M. Morrow, CEO of Storelocal® Media Corporation
In this digital age, when we have an overabundance of free information at our fingertips, why do people spend their hard-earned money on magazine subscriptions? The answer is content. That may seem straightforward on the surface, but anyone who has read a “rag mag” can attest that not all content is created equal.
People who buy a magazine or pay for a magazine subscription are oftentimes seeking exclusive content that cannot be found elsewhere. As for trade magazines, those readers typically want high-quality, factual information related to their business and in-depth analysis of that material for a deeper understanding. Indeed, with the proliferation of “fake news,” accurate content from a reputable source is both valuable and essential, especially when it is employed to make business decisions.
According to Storelocal’s CEO Travis Morrow, trade publications like Mini-Storage Messenger are “an important part of the industry,” because they are a reliable source of education and data. “Better data and better education lead to better operators,” he says, “which is better for the industry.”
“We view Mini-Storage Messenger and its annual Self-Storage Almanac as more than a group of publications though,” Morrow says. “It’s a communications platform in a relatively small industry that has been around essentially since the beginning.”
Since Storelocal® and its parent company Tenant, Inc. share a mission of providing freedom, choice, and innovation to self-storage owners and operators, it is fitting that the operator-owned company would foster the enhancement of industry-specific educational resources. Through Mini-Storage Messenger’s alignment with Storelocal Media, the new communications division of Storelocal, Morrow and Storelocal aim to bring their technology-focused approach to self-storage into the industry’s flagship magazine and its data source, the Self-Storage Almanac.
“We are big proponents of tech,” says Morrow, who intends to use technology to create new options for the publications as well as industry partners with new ways to access them digitally. Though enrichments are planned for the digital versions, print editions of most of Mini-Storage Messenger’s publications will still be available, and enhanced. The redesigned website will be modernized and provide subscribers and non-subscribers with more self-storage-related content and news in one site than exists anywhere else. The digital Messenger will also be modernized to bring audio and video components to the magazine, both of which provide advertisers the opportunity to provider readers with richer, more immersive content.
“I’ve said ‘modern customer experience’ more times than people want to hear about self-storage facilities, but I believe the same holds true for self-storage platforms as well. I look around and look at how I consume information in other parts of my life, and I try to bring those experiences to self- storage.”
“We’re ensuring that these publications remain in the hands of owner-operators to benefit owner- operators,” Morrow says, adding that Mini-Storage Messenger is “not just a magazine,” nor will it become a member-only magazine for Storelocal.
“It’s what it represents to the industry,” he says, pointing out that the magazine has been a self-storage staple since its inception in 1979. “It’s very exciting. There’s endless opportunity.”
In approximately 43 years, Mini-Storage Messenger has amassed more than 40,000 pages of industry- specific content that Morrow wants to scan into a high-resolution digital format to facilitate search capabilities by keyword. Why take on this monumental task? Unless you have boxes and boxes of past editions of the print magazine, he says the content from past editions is basically “gone.” “The trends of the entire industry exist within those pages, and we want to pull them out.”
By preserving the past, Morrow and Storelocal Media will simultaneously lead the platform into the future. This is just one of Storelocal Media’s pending projects for the platform; while a massive enterprise, Morrow emphasizes that Storelocal Media’s goal is to grow the platform for the benefit of the entire industry.
The Real Focus
Although this venture and the accompanying technology-related objectives will undoubtedly be beneficial to the publications, as well as its readers and advertisers, Morrow believes it is time for the industry to realign its focus.
“It is, and always will be, about the real estate,” he says. “People within the industry need to keep in mind that there’s no self-storage industry without self-storage facilities.”
In other words, everything related to self-storage begins with the physical real estate.
As such, Morrow, Mini-Storage Messenger, Storelocal, and Storelocal Media will continue to find ways to help operators enhance their facilities and operations. In turn, those improvements help provide better self-storage experiences to their customers. And enriched customer experiences enable Storelocal’s goal to come full circle.
Data, for instance, has become progressively more important to operations. The collection and analysis of data has helped self-storage operators make strategic business decisions that have resulted in improved net operating income and reduced expenses.
Morrow plans to increase the level and frequency of the data presented in Mini-Storage Messenger and the Almanac through Storelocal’s numerous vendor and member partnerships, as well as new industry partners.
“We want to help operators share their data efficiently,” he says. “We want to help them pool data in a safe way and be the source that everyone comes to for that combined data.”
Morrow goes on to say that he is hopeful that others within the self-storage industry will recognize the importance of sharing data for the greater good. He intends to implement secure (and anonymous) ways for operators to contribute data that will be beneficial to everyone within the sector.
Clearly, there are countless opportunities that can be pursued thanks to this partnership. While excited about new prospects, Morrow isn’t one to hand over all of their plans for the platform. Instead, he reveals that Mini-Storage Messenger (MSM) will be expanding its news reporting in an effort to eliminate industry-related “gossip” that arises when people fill in missing details with their own speculations.
“Press releases are meant to generate press,” he says, “but no one in the industry picks up the phone and calls for more information or to ask questions and report it.” Morrow wants this to change. He intends to apply a journalistic approach to industry news reporting that will provide self-storage professionals with more comprehensive information and further strengthen Mini-Storage Messenger’s reputation as the source for education and actionable data for the self-storage industry.
Morrow says, “Our industry has thousands of stories that would be of interest to readers if there was a mechanism to report them. We believe that with Messenger and www.ministoragemessenger.com, The Education Destination for Self-Storage, we can build the team to get these stories out to the industry and provide more value to the reader.”
To gather more of these stories, MSM will have more opportunities to submit news and article ideas directly from the website.
“We want to curate the best content from around the industry from those who are willing to share it with us,” says Morrow.
Even with all these additional objectives, one thing remains certain: Our readers can rest assured that Mini-Storage Messenger and its publications will continue to deliver relevant, timely, and truthful content that you’ll want to read!
Erica Shatzer is the editor of Mini-Storage Messenger, Self-Storage Now!, Self-Storage Canada, and MiniCo Publishing’s annual Self-Storage Almanac.