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Health Magazine is HEALTHY and on its way to be a “Life-Changer.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Ellen Kunes, Health Magazine’s Editor in Chief

August 26, 2010


Health magazine is healthy. Thank you very much. A statement, of course, that does not reflect the status of the majority of the magazine industry. However, Health magazine has been able to live up to its namesake. The September issue (now on the stands) is the largest issue ever in the history of the magazine. Health magazine is also sporting this month a total new look outside-in. A new logo (a shame that it was half covered by the head of the beautiful Molly Sims) and a lot of new departments and features covering all subjects related to its readers well-being. Be it the obvious (health, food and fitness) or the more focused (beauty) or the brand new (fashion), the magazine moves with the new design and look from a special interest health publication to a “full-fledged women’s lifestyle magazine.”

To quote Ellen Kunes, editor in chief of Health magazine and editorial director of Health.com (who in turn is quoting her mentor Kate White, Cosmopolitan magazine’s editor in chief), Health magazine is “blowing it out.” Kunes adds, “doing things by halves doesn’t get you anywhere.”

I asked Ms. Kunes seven questions regarding the magazine’s redesign and reinvention. Her answers, although short and sweet, are as healthy and energetic as her magazine. The energy and resilience that you read in every answer is nothing short of an “active, fun, reader-oriented” editor who wants to “infect” her readers by the same bug she has. She wants her readers to do things that are pretty revolutionary. “Actually enjoy living the healthy life,” she says.

Health magazine is much more than a content provider, it is yet another example of how a magazine can and should be an experience maker. To quote Ms. Kunes again, “What more could you ask from a magazine?”

Yes indeed. What follows is my interview with Ms. Kunes.

Samir Husni: Is the magazine moving from a specialized health magazine to a more general interest women’s magazines by adding fashion and beauty to the content?

Ellen Kunes: Health has always featured a monthly front-of-book beauty section along with a beauty well feature. Now we’re introducing a new fashion section in the front of book as well as a well feature, and we’re also including spreads in both of these sections, which gives readers a much more exciting visual experience. With our new design and content, we’ve become a full-fledged member of the women’s lifestyle category.

SH: Few years back when the magazine moved from SF to Birmingham, beauty was added to the content, but soon after was pulled out? Why do you think this will work now?

EK: Beauty was never pulled out nor has beauty coverage ever been reduced: In fact, our beauty paging has consistently increased in size in the past 10 years.

SH: Health had a good ride both in terms of circulation and advertising in the last two years. Why mess with success?

EK: In this media landscape who can afford to sit on their laurels? You have to push the envelope with every single issue. My great mentor, Cosmopolitan’s Kate White, always taught me to “blow it out”—doing things by halves doesn’t get you anywhere. We’ve been talking to our readers and they tell us they want more beauty, fashion, food and fitness coverage—along with the same trusted, healthy-life advice we’re famous for—and we always listen to our readers.

SH: How are you using digital and the web to ensure a print future for Health magazine?

EK: We’re so lucky at Health because our web business has 12.5 million unique users, which brings the Health magazine + Health.com reach to a total audience of 20.8 million readers and users each month. We’re also far ahead of our competitors in the social media arena, with 121,800 Facebook fans, and 1.2 million Twitter followers. In addition to bringing us a hefty number of new subscribers each month, we’re able to reach consumers in ways that are both broad and deep—and advertisers and marketers really appreciate that unique strength.

SH: The magazine industry is recovering from one of the worst years in its history, how do you see the future of the industry in general and Health magazine in particular?

EK: I believe that those magazines delivering an experience that’s original and exciting and is enhanced by other digital platforms are going to continue to do really well—which is exactly what Health does. We’re in complete brand-building mode right now, with a website that both expands on our magazine experience and goes beyond it, giving consumers, marketers and advertisers full-circle, healthy-life information and opportunities. We’re also taking the brand into books, with our New York Times bestseller, The CarbLovers Diet, and What the Yuck?!, both released this month. These build on our brand platform: to give women great new ways to enjoy their healthy lives.

SH: In the 1980s the marketplace was flooded with health magazines… today the market has shrunk to a handful of health magazines. What gives and how is today different than the 1980s?

EK: What we’ve discovered is that smart, customized medical content and vital wellness information is incredibly engaging online, while enjoyable, fun, visually-driven, feel-great stories and advice are perfect for print. We’ve learned how to inspire people to enjoy healthier lives using the best possible platforms. Which means that at Health, we now able to reach more than 20 million readers—and that number is growing all the time.

SH: Magazines are much more than content providers; they are experience makers. How do you describe the experience readers have with Health magazine and where to you see this experience heading with all the changes taking place with the magazine?

EK: Reading Health today is really life-changing for our readers: We know that every minute of every day they want to feel great. When they read Health, they expect smart and fun new ways to stay in shape, look amazing and eat fabulous and healthy food. We help them do something pretty revolutionary–actually enjoy living the healthy life. What more could you ask from a magazine?

SH: Thank you.

(The pictures above are for Health magazine new logo (now you can see it without the beautiful Ms. Sims head covering it), the newsstands cover and the subscription cover, the letter from the editor page, and Ms. Kunes picture taken by Heather Weston).

Don’t forget to register for the first Magazine Innovation Center’s Experience ACT. Click here for information and registration forms.

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One comment

  1. Please help me out. I lost my receipe from page 154 – Summer Get-Slim Special. I got the ingreients went to make it -receipe gone. Would you please send it via email -it’s for a dinner tonight. OH YES, first column – cole slaw with plain yogart.



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