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Jill Madden: Her Journey From College Student to Publisher

Madden Media didn’t start as a full-service advertising agency. In 1982, a group of friends from The University of Arizona decided to try their hands at publishing a magazine, and Tucson Guide was born. Of those five wildcats, one was a woman: Jill Madden. Her journey from the garage to the MacArthur Building is an inspiration for women everywhere. You see, she is the brawn behind the brains of her husband, Kevin Madden. And the two of them took a chance on love and publishing. 

In the Beginning

Jill’s story begins with love. Kevin graduated college in 1982 (a year before Jill) and headed west to California to make his mark selling ads in an independent yellow page book. While he didn’t want to return to Tucson, he came back because he couldn’t live without Jill.

At that time, the Sheraton El Conquistador was under construction (now known as the Hilton El Conquistador) and Kevin saw a niche they could fill: a visitors guide. So while Jill finished her last year in college, she helped put together a magazine that felt a lot like a school project. They even paid the delivery driver with beer and tip money to help offload hundreds of issues at their home and then threw a kegger. Much to Jill’s dad’s dismay, after she graduated with her degree in business administration with a major in finance in 1983, she decided to stick with magazine publishing and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Women In Advertising 

Back in the 80s, women in advertising and marketing were among the most accepted roles in the workforce. As Jill recalls, women made up the bulk of the advertising professionals at TV and radio stations and magazines across the city, excelling at the art of selling by building relationships. And when asked who the best salesperson was, most of the time, it was a woman. And as Tucson Guide grew, Jill was that salesperson for Madden Publishing. 

“My philosophy was always if it doesn’t work for my client, it doesn’t work for me,” Jill said. “I didn’t just go to a business to sell them something; I tried to make it work for them so they would continue advertising forever and always.”

She excelled in making relationships with clients that lasted for decades. What’s more, she worked as a team with Kevin, both recognizing when one or the other needed to step in to close a deal. As the years went by, Kevin purchased a preprint publishing company based in Florida that opened up markets in Missouri, Florida, and beyond, evolving the name from Madden Publishing to Madden Pre-Print Publishing. Noticing the shift to digital marketing, Kevin expanded into websites and digital marketing that led to the current company, Madden Media. While the company grew and expanded, Jill’s heart remained steadfastly with Tucson Guide reaching 120,000 annual circulation at its peak when it was Tucson Guide Quarterly. 

“I didn’t just go to a business to sell them something; I tried to make it work for them so they would continue advertising forever and always.”

Raising a Family with a Guide

While Tucson Guide was Jill’s first baby, she eventually had real babies — three girls — and as with many mothers, her priorities shifted. Luckily she was able to work from home before working from home was a thing, and it gave her the chance to continue her career while being a mom. 

“I loved being a mom. I loved picking them up from the bus. I coached their soccer teams for ten years. I liked driving them to practices, and I was at every swim meet and every soccer game,” Jill said.“I wouldn’t change that for the world.” 

Her dedication to her family did take a professional toll. In between her kids’ activities, she met with clients and multi-tasked from her car to still make Tucson Guide work for her clients. Her busy lifestyle kept her from physically being in the office eight hours a day. While she wasn’t physically present, she worked tirelessly to keep her professional relationships strong in order to publish one of Tucson’s most beloved visitor guides. And while Tucson Guide grew into a resounding success, Jill will tell you that the best thing she ever did was raising her three girls.

A Career Well Spent

Today Jill enjoys the spoils of her hard work. While she no longer sells advertising space in the Tucson Guide, she is happy it has a new female owner and publisher Katie Bailey, a former Madden Media employee who purchased their flagship publication in 2021. As Jill sees it, Katie adopted her baby, and she couldn’t be happier. 

“I feel like somebody else loves that baby as much as I did,” Jill said. “Our company grew so much, and it was hard for anybody to give that magazine what it deserved with so many other things going on. I’m very happy about this outcome.”

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