Backgrounder: Max Schorr

Good publisher Max Schorr. Photo:

When Max Schorr was six years old, he invented cookie dough ice cream. “It didn’t exist yet,” he proudly told this reporter in an October 2006 phone interview. He didn’t patent it, of course, and all the glory went to two guys from Vermont. But, twenty years later, his chance to create something big came again. In 2006, Schorr became the publisher and editor-in-chief of the new magazine, Good. Founded by Ben Goldhirsch, heir to the Inc. magazine fortune and close friend of Schorr’s since high school, Good is an original concept in magazine publishing. Its mission is to “stimulate the culture of Good by creating dialogue around things that matter,” according to its website. With its unabashed ambition to make an impact while still making money, the magazine is diving head-first into the world of socially conscious entrepreneurship.

Good’s first issue hit newsstands and subscribers’ mailboxes in September 2006. Issue number one, “America: Love it or Fix it,” showcased eclectic stories ranging from “Bright Orange,” an article about an anonymous Detroit group that paints rundown houses orange, to “On the Line,” a piece which analyzes about photographs taken by would-be Mexican immigrants and the American volunteer border patrol group, The Minutemen, a volunteer border patrol group in the U.S.

The concept behind Good — idealism with tangible results — came together while Schorr and Goldhirsch were still in high school at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. When they weren’t focused on normal high school pursuits like sports, studying and dating, the pair would often discuss their desire to make a difference in the world. One summer, Schorr’s chemistry teacher and mentor, a South African exile named Temba Maqubela, led a group of students back to his native country. The students helped establish post-apartheid South African Studies programs at several universities. The experience “opened my eyes to injustice, and the misdistribution of wealth,” Schorr told this reporter. “I came back and was re-energized and had a new sense of purpose.” But the drive to do Good was quickly eclipsed by real life concerns, like making a living.

After graduating in 2003 from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, Schorr and some friends started a company that imported lobsters from Maine to Martha’s Vineyard. While this venture was unsuccessful (after a year they essentially broke even and called it quits), Schorr learned that “business is just math and problem-solving,” he said. After leaving the lobster business, Schorr headed back to Andover to work for his mentor, Maqubela, at the Math and Science for Minorities Program. Meanwhile, Goldhirsch had dropped out of his graduate film production program at University of Southern California to start his own production company, Reason Pictures, which makes documentaries designed to be both entertaining and socially-relevant.

Maqubela encouraged Schorr to set up a magazine as an offshoot of Reason Pictures that would help “usher in this culture of Good,” Schorr said in October e-mail interview. He initially eschewed the suggestion. At that point in his life, the idea of being a do-Gooder seemed “inherently un-sexy and boring,” he told this reporter. But Goldhirsch was intrigued by the challenge of making ‘Good’ sexy, and invited Schorr and other longtime friends to come to Los Angeles to get the project off the ground.

The magazine’s unconventional business model reflects its priorities. When you sign up for a subscription to Good online, the site directs you to choose one of twelve charities to which your $20 will be donated. Instead of spending upwards of $40 per direct-mail advertisement (which would-be subscribers generally toss out anyway), Good decided to invest in launch parties in Los Angeles and New York. At both events, young people lined up to pay $20 for an evening’s worth of free drinks and a year’s worth of the magazine (six issues are planned for 2006-2007).

Good had over 7,000 subscribers in its first month, a figure which exceeded projected sales by 50 percent. Schorr knows this does not guarantee long-term success by any means. In an industry in which 95 percent of new magazines fail, he knows it’s going to take more than a large endowment and an extended network of socially-aware friends to ensure the magazine’s survival. But, in his eyes, Good is already a victory. Forget the fact that he’s already having meetings with media giants like Google and the Today Show, to Schorr, the most meaningful hallmark of the magazine’s impact thus far arrived in the form of hand-written letters from Louisiana schoolchildren who benefited from Donors Choose, one of the charities Good supports.

As is typical among the do-gooders of the world, Schorr deflects credit to others. “Our audience is amazing. It’s the side of you that’s amazing. It’s you at your best.”

Suzanne Pekow is a first year graduate student at NYU’s Department of Journalism.


  • Rosen, Sam. “How I’m Helping Start Good Magazine.” Audio interview on personal weblog. August 2, 2006.
  • Waxman, Sharon. “A Magazine for Earnest Young Things.” The New York Times. September 17, 2006.
  • Good Magazine website. October 18, 2006.
  • Schorr, Max. Telephone Interview. October 18, 2006.