20 Years Later: Catching Up with the Founder, Former Publishers of Cape Cod Magazine

Where are they now? In honor of our 20th anniversary, we got some answers from the people who started it all.

By Lisa Leigh Connors

Q&A with John Harvey
Founder of Cape Cod Magazine

When John Harvey bought Cape Cod Magazine in 1998, it was a monthly local entertainment newspaper called the Neon Navigator, located in Mashpee. He changed the name soon after he bought it and operated it for four years before Michael and Liz Rabideau purchased it in 2002. Today, Harvey is publisher and editor of the monthly Pet Gazette newspaper and splits his time between Mashpee and Miami. We caught up with him from his home in Miami recently via email.

Q: Why did you change the name from Neon
Navigator to Cape Cod Magazine?

A: Because it lacked focus and needed a broader editorial mission for advertisers and readers across Cape Cod. We branded this new publication as a widely circulated magazine of 25,000 copies. We wanted to make a big splash, so we took it off the newsstands, made it a free publication and partnered with the Best Read Guide Distribution Company. Cape Cod Magazine was then distributed at more than 800 Best Read Guide key publication racks in all 15 towns on the Cape and Plymouth.

Q. What were you doing before you started Cape Cod Magazine?

A: I owned and operated four newspapers in the Metro West area, including the Bentley’s Community Calendar shoppers in Sudbury and Wayland. After the Community Newspaper Company bought the four titles of our company in 1997, I started to search for another newspaper challenge. I came across the Neon Navigator for sale in Editor & Publisher Magazine and the rest is, as they say, history.

Q: As publisher of the Pet Gazette, do you work on the publication from Miami? Where is it available?

A: Yes. I am in touch with my staff daily. I publish the Pet Gazette monthly in print and online, working out of my homes on Cape Cod and Miami Beach. The free, monthly publication is available at more than 1,200 locations, including veterinarian hospitals and practices and other pet-oriented business on the Cape and Southeastern Massachusetts.

Q&A with Liz and Michael Rabideau
Publishers of Cape Cod Magazine, 2002-2014

Photo by Michael & Suz Karchmer

In 2002, Liz and Michael Rabideau bought Cape Cod Magazine, with the goal of producing a glossy magazine with high-quality content. In addition to Cape Cod Magazine, Rabideau Media Group also published Cape Cod Guide, South Shore Living and Chatham Magazine, which are still in circulation today and part of the Lighthouse Media Solutions family. Today, the West Barnstable residents enjoy time at Long Beach in Centerville, Beach Point at Sandy Neck and attending Cape Cod Baseball League games. We took a trip down memory lane with Michael and Liz recently to discuss their time as owners of RMG.

Q: What publications did you own before Cape Cod Magazine?

A: Cape Cod Guide was our initial acquisition of Rabideau Publishing, which later became Rabideau Media Group. We were actively seeking a publication to start what we had always planned to be a group of publications, set in a seaside New England community with a strong local culture. We then created Cape Cod Parent & Child, which launched in December 2000 as a quarterly newspaper to serve young parents in the region. In the fall of 2001, we were approached to buy Cape Cod Magazine. It fit the need of becoming a core product with more of a year-round business cycle. It diversified our advertising base and had great upside potential from a circulation and branding point of view.

Q: Both of you are originally from Connecticut. How did you end up on the Cape?

A: Although we were from different parts of the state, we met while working at Southern Connecticut Newspapers Inc., which published the daily Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time newspapers. It was there that we originally planned to one day own and operate our own group of newspapers. When we began our search, our goal was to create the job we wanted in a seaside New England community steeped in culture and history. It is purely by coincidence we ended up on the Cape—a place Liz had been coming to on vacation since she was born.

Q: You grew and shaped Cape Cod Magazine into what it is today. What was the driving force behind your success?

A: We were both active in the community and we were constantly gaining feedback from the local communities that made up our audience. By 2012, we had evolved from a magazine publishing company into a multi-media company. We began producing digital apps and a tablet version of the magazine. Our audience continued to grow as we created several weekly and bi-weekly newsletters, including Cape Cod Insider, and blogs like Relish and StyleFile, which had, in many cases, their own audiences. We were developing a digital-first format to build brand loyalty and increase audience engagement.

Q: How did you manage to work together as
husband and wife for 15 years?

A: The advantages and challenges of living with your business partner is that there is always a conversation, brainstorming session or debate happening 24/7. Liz focused on sales and I focused on administration and production, and we both worked with our editors on content. While it was clear that RMG was a family-run company, we welcomed and encouraged everyone’s input. We did not always agree, but we felt the conversation, brainstorming and debate always made our products better.

Q: You started the annual Girls Night Out with Puritan Cape Cod nearly 15 years ago. What was the inspiration for this popular event?

A: In the ’80s and ’90s, it was called “value added.” As part of our advertising pitch to Rick and Jim Penn to begin advertising with Cape Cod Magazine, we proposed creating an event in March, traditionally retailers’ worst month of the year. The idea was to simply get our readers into the Puritan store at a tough time of year and vice-versa, to expose some of their loyal shoppers to Cape Cod Magazine. It was a win-win.

Q: What are some of your proudest or most memorable moments at Cape Cod Magazine?

A: It’s always a terrific feeling to see a product you helped create, with your name on it, make it onto a store shelf and into a customer’s shopping bag. We would literally start with nothing, and through the creative process and then the manufacturing process, end up side by side on a store shelf with the greatest magazines ever produced.

Q: Favorite cover stories?

A: I think my all-time favorite was the “99 Best Things to Eat” issue in June 2009. It marked the beginning of a new editorial direction where we focused more on helping the audience discover the best of the best in the region and helped burnish the authoritative voice the brand was seeking. Every single member of the staff participated in brainstorming, developing and writing the list.

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