The Jewelry District, Episode 76: Mark Smelzer


In This Episode
You’ll hear JCK editor-in-chief Victoria Gomelsky and news director Rob Bates talk with Mark Smelzer, chief content executive of Jewelers Mutual and JCK’s former publisher.

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Show Notes
01:33 The hosts welcome their guest, Mark Smelzer
03:30 Mark talks about his background in the jewelry business
07:00 Mark recalls his first impressions of the industry
10:10 The role of print today
13:15 The shift to content marketing
19:30 Mark’s prediction on jewelry sales
21:20 What can we do better?
23:50 How the industry has changed

Episode Credits
Hosts: Rob Bates and Victoria Gomelsky
Producer and engineer: Natalie Chomet
Plugs: jewelersmutual.com, @jckmagazine

Show Recap

Mark’s Beginnings
Mark started in magazine ad sales in Los Angeles. He became the publisher of a city magazine called Buzz. When it went under, he moved to Variety—the entertainment trade publication, which is what eventually drew Mark to New York City. After a corporate shake-up at Variety, he was informed that he was the publisher of JCK magazine. Hedda Schupak, JCK‘s editor-in-chief at the time, said, “Welcome to the jewelry business. It’s not unlike the Hotel California. You can check out any time, but you can never leave.” Eighteen years later, her words ring true.

His First Impressions
Mark knew very little about jewelry in the beginning, not having much personal connection to it. He reflects on how much the industry has changed in 18 years. It used to be more male-dominated and traditional, but it’s always been warm and welcoming. It was the first time he had to sell advertising directly to business owners.

The Evolving Role Of Print
Mark compares his time in publishing to selling horse-and-buggies right before the advent of the Model T. There are areas where print still resonates: city magazines, niche books, and catalogs. “Print is not dead, but, boy, did it morph and change,” he says.

The Shift To Content Marketing
There was a gradual shift from writing stories and articles to writing “content.” When the internet became usable by laypeople, the ability to publish content became more widely accessible to the masses. Victoria ties this shift to what Mark is doing at Jewelers Mutual with the Zing Report. His task was to raise awareness of the Zing marketplace—a hub for the variety of services that Jewelers Mutual offers. Content includes upbeat articles, interviews, and more.

Jewelry Sales Predictions
Mark hopes the pandemic sales spike will continue. He says that the pandemic reminded a lot of people of the emotional side of jewelry. Will the industry be in a better place than it was pre-pandemic? That remains to be seen.

What Can The Industry Do Better?
What do we need to overcome in the current economy? The jewelry industry could be more digitally savvy. Retailers should work toward making the in-store and digital experience more seamless. Mark remembers a “Got Milk”–style campaign he worked on with Jewelers of America. It raised awareness of jewelry using the slogan, “Another piece of your story.” Then the pandemic came along, it was shelved, and jewelry had such a great two years that it was no longer needed.

How The Industry Has Changed
It has become a younger, broader industry with more diversity and inclusion. The jewelry business is richer when a greater variety of people is included. He ties how energizing that experience of connection can be to Jewelers Mutual’s upcoming retreat, Conversations in Park City, which will feature networking opportunities, meaningful conversations, big ideas, and fun activities.

Photo courtesy of Mark Smelzer

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