“Fashion with a Conscience” is What Sets Marie Claire Apart from the Rest of the Fashion Magazines and Solidifies The Standard For Fashion, Beauty & Issues Important To Women Globally – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Editor-In-Chief, Anne Fulenwider…September 16, 2014
“I absolutely think that the social conscience of Marie Claire is as important today as it was 20 years ago. And I believe that has a great deal to do with our present success.” Anne Fulenwider
Passionate, hard-working and definitely driven when it comes to the success of Marie Claire, Editor-in-Chief, Anne Fulenwider has been in the magazine business for over 20 years and has certainly learned what it takes to head a major brand. From Vanity Fair to Brides, she has worked closely with some of the top editors in the industry before becoming editor-in-chief of Marie Claire. A perfect fit with the magazine that since its inception helped coin the phrase “fashion with a conscience.”
On a recent trip to New York, and in the midst of her busy Fashion Week schedule, Anne was able to carve out some time for me after hours to speak with her about the 20th Anniversary issue, print plus digital and what it takes to achieve the success she has known in the world of magazine media. We met in her office on the 34th floor of the Hearst Tower and the conversation was filled with laughter and great information as her passion for the brand illuminated the discussion and proved that she knew just exactly what the right formula for Marie Claire’s future should be.
So sit back and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with a woman who has worked hard and passionately to rise in the ranks of magazine media…Editor-in-Chief, Anne Fulenwider, Marie Claire.
But first the sound-bites:
On the role a socially-conscious fashion magazine such as Marie Claire plays in today’s marketplace: I absolutely think that the social conscience of Marie Claire is as important today as it was 20 years ago. And I believe that has a great deal to do with our present success.
On whether we’re seeing more social issues today in print or in digital: I think the role of social media is important because we feel enabled and empowered to do something and they are more able to participate in the conversation and to make a difference.
On her most pleasant experience since coming to work at Marie Claire: When I was first offered the editor’s job at Marie Claire I was ecstatic because it is honestly my favorite magazine, as a reader I can say that.
On some of the stumbling blocks that she has faced: The stumbling block for me immediately was that I had only been at my current job, the one I was in at the time, for less than a year.
On any feelings of jealousy or competition with other brands that are in the same building as Marie Claire, such as Elle or Harper’s Bazaar: I believe the fashion space is a highly-competitive space and I feel competitive with all the fashion magazines. And certainly, we’re always competing for cover stars.
On why she chooses print when she curls up to read at home: If I’m going to enjoy a magazine right now, for the most part, I read it in print.
On any advice she would give someone just starting out in the industry, with the ultimate goal of being the next editor-in-chief: To become the next magazine editor, I think that they should maybe do what I did: I worked really hard, kept my head up and looked for opportunities, talked to as many people as possible.
On what the industry has done wrong since the 2008 crash of the economy and the rise of digital: I think we as an industry adapted too slowly to the tablet. When a new technology arrives on the scene no one really knows what to make of it at first or how the consumer is going to embrace it.
On what keeps her up at night: But really what keeps me up at night is this flash I sometimes get in the middle of the night that I’ve forgotten to a write thank you note to a designer for sending me flowers or I’ve forgotten to sign my son up for karate; it’s really about the keeping-the-whole-life-together type of thing.
And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine interview with Anne Fulenwider, Editor-in-Chief, Marie Claire…
Samir Husni: I was consulting for John Mack Carter when Hearst launched Marie Claire in 1994. I referred to Marie Claire back then as the “fashion magazine with a conscience”. Now, 20 years later, with your biggest issue ever; do you think the social aspect of being “a magazine with a conscience” plays any role in the success of a fashion magazine today or is it strictly about the fashion?
Anne Fulenwider: I absolutely think that the social conscience of Marie Claire is as important today as it was 20 years ago. And I believe that has a great deal to do with our present success. More now than ever before, young women are very engaged in the social issues of the day, partly because of social media and the Internet. They’re more aware of what’s going on in the world and more able to make a difference and engage in those social issues today.
So, in our 20th anniversary issue for September, we celebrated 20 women who are changing the world. And some of those women are celebrities, but some are a different type of celebrity. Tammy Tibbetts, for example, is the founder of She’s The First.org, and it is an organization dedicated to helping women become the first in their family to go to college.
Women like Tammy, in this country and around the world, were able to find an issue they were passionate about, study it and then do something about it often through social media. I think that this is very relevant to today’s graduating class of college seniors and to women who are thinking about what they want to do with their lives.
Samir Husni: Are you seeing more of that in print media or are we depending on all the social media for those issues?
Anne Fulenwider: I think the role of social media is important because we feel enabled and empowered to do something and they are more able to participate in the conversation and to make a difference.
I’m certainly seeing print media, as far as women’s magazines, doing something related to women’s issues. And I’m seeing this in the advertising campaigns as well; all types of media are paying attention to women and what matters to them, but Marie Claire has been addressing this for all of its life.
Samir Husni: Every editor that comes to a magazine experiences pleasant moments and those that become more of a challenge. When you were first offered the job at Marie Claire; can you tell me the most pleasant thing that happened and also some of the stumbling blocks you encountered?
Anne Fulenwider: When I was first offered the editor’s job at Marie Claire I was ecstatic because it is honestly my favorite magazine, as a reader I can say that. It’s something that I can identify with because of its mix of fashion, beauty, social issues and its journalistic approach as well all of the things that make a women’s magazine great.
The stumbling block for me immediately was that I had only been at my current job, the one I was in at the time, for less than a year. That was really a stumbling block for me because I was enjoying the job that I had and I didn’t think that I had finished it and I had just hired a whole group of women, mostly women, a few men, that I had encouraged to join me in this adventure of evolving that brand, which was Bride’s Magazine.
So, I really had to think about it from that point of view. That being said, timing is never perfect in life and I went home and talked to my husband and he was very helpful. He said, “The head coach job only comes around once in a while and you have to think about the brands where you would really want to be in charge.” And he knew there were really only three or four places that I would want to be head of. In the end, I just had to make the leap.
Samir Husni: We are no longer talking about magazines in our industry; everyone now refers to them as brands, so the magazine becomes one of the many items or products in the brand. How do you view Marie Claire? The magazine has a worldwide presence, of course, but does that really matters for the American audience? What role does this brand now play in the marketplace?
Anne Fulenwider: First I would say that I think the American audience, our reader, is interested in the fact that we have a global presence. I think that the Marie Claire reader does have a global view of the world. I believe that the print magazine will always be one of our core businesses and products. If you hadn’t just spent time with him, I’d try to steal this phrase, but Michael Clinton was just recently interviewed about what he calls print magazines: bricks and mortar businesses.
But our audience is also incredibly engaged on their mobile phones, on the web and on their social media voice. So, I think of print and digital working side by side, complementing each other and all of them being very valuable to our reader because she’s reading the magazine. I love to read magazines too; I crawl into bed and read one after the other in print and then when I’m traveling I read my iPad. And people are the same, so the reader is engaging with the brand in many different ways throughout her day and her life.
But it’s important that the Marie Claire voice, sensibility and point of view is communicated in the appropriate form for each media, so that when we’re speaking to you on Twitter, we’re catering our message to Twitter. When we’re speaking to you on your phone and showing you a Marie Claire story on your phone it has to be short, visual and popping up one after the other.
I believe print will always be central and a major part of the brand, but digital is becoming more and more important.
Samir Husni: Do you ever envision a day where there will be no printed edition of Marie Claire?
Anne Fulenwider: No.
Samir Husni: How about all the brand extensions from print? You have Marie Claire @ Work, Marie Claire @ Play and you’re introducing women to football – NFL…
Anne Fulenwider: (Laughs) I have a new brand extension that we’re introducing in the October issue that is very exciting and another big part of women’s lives. What about the other extensions?
Samir Husni: Any of them spinning off on their own to become separate magazines?
Anne Fulenwider: Yes, I would love that. In fact, there are certain venues, for example, Marie Claire at work, separate booklet, Marie Claire at play, separate booklet or digital editions and absolutely, I would love it if they became more. I really have a great idea for “at work” for example, in which the digital edition of that could be distributed on its own. And we are always innovating, in terms of where we can put our product and where we can put the catered message and the specific sections and spinoffs. So, yes, that is very much a part of our plan.
Samir Husni: You’re a part of a major brand media company, Hearst, and you have two other competitors in the same building: Harper’s Bazaar and Elle. Do you ever feel any sense of competition or jealousy?
Anne Fulenwider: On a personal level, I get along very well with Robbie and Glenda, I see them in the building and I’m always happy to see them at shows. I think they have great magazines. I believe the fashion space is a highly-competitive space and I feel competitive with all the fashion magazines. And certainly, we’re always competing for cover stars. Plus, I’m a very competitive person; I played three varsity sports in high school and I think that’s healthy. I think it’s healthy for the marketplace and helps you make the best product and I think complacency is never good.
I don’t feel more competitive with magazines in the building than I do with others outside of the building. I just have pride in Hearst and what we’re achieving in this space right now.
Samir Husni: Almost with no exception all the fashion magazines in September have seen their largest issues ever; what do you attribute that to?
Anne Fulenwider: Do you mean at Hearst?
Samir Husni: At Hearst and your competitors. InStyle had its largest issue; People StyleWatch had its largest ever…
Anne Fulenwider: I think the fashion industry is very healthy and is enthusiastic about what we’re all doing in magazine media. I believe the fashion designers and companies love to see their beautiful ad campaigns and designs photographed by some of the most fantastic fashion photographers in the world, in the magazines. There is no better place to see those beautiful pictures than in large format print on paper. By the way, I also think it looks fantastic on the iPad in large format digital. We’ve felt greatly supported by our partners and I think they’re doing very well.
Samir Husni: For anyone who doubts the future of print; I carry around the Fashion Box filled with three magazines. It’s 9 lbs. of ink on paper for $13. (Laughs)
Anne Fulenwider: (Laughs) I take two of them home and just lift them up at night, try to do a couple of reps and that’s my workout. (Laughs again)
Samir Husni: You mentioned that when you were at home and in bed, you read in print. Why?
Anne Fulenwider: I’m omnivorous; I love magazines and I love to read. I read The Sunday Times in print as well. But I also read lots on my phone and on my tablet; I read a lot of news on my phone on the way into work when I take the subway. So I do a lot of reading on my phone and on my tablet. But if I’m going to enjoy a magazine right now, for the most part, I read it in print. I read home magazines, fashion and news magazines; I read a lot.
Samir Husni: Other than Marie Claire; what’s a magazine that you feel you can lose yourself in or have an experience with when you’re just sitting and having a glass of wine and enjoying reading?
Anne Fulenwider: The World of Interiors and The Atlantic; two completely different experiences. One is more visual and one is more about the issues that I care about.
Samir Husni: Being the editor-in-chief of a women’s fashion magazine with a lot of social interaction; what advice would you offer someone entering this field? What can you tell them that might prepare them to become the next editor-in-chief?
Anne Fulenwider: That’s a really good question. I think that they should read magazines, of course, if they don’t already. And I’m sure they’re all really adept at social media. They should focus on just exactly what it is they love about whatever it is they’re reading. I love speaking to young people and to students who are still in college and I tell them all to do what they love and to pursue it with ferocity.
To become the next magazine editor, I think that they should maybe do what I did: I worked really hard, kept my head up and looked for opportunities, talked to as many people as possible. They really need to become knowledgeable about the industry, read the business news, read the trades and pay close attention. Try to be as useful as possible to whomever they’re working for.
One of the most important things is to become incredibly adaptable, because this business is changing so fast. Someone asked me the other day, “How has the magazine industry changed since you got to New York?” (Laughs) I said that I didn’t have email at my first job; there were computers, but no email. It’s completely changed over my 20 + years in the industry. And that’s exciting to me, because you always have to embrace change and the velocity in which it changes. You have to be able to innovate and take charge of the future and look forward to change.
Samir Husni: Do you think we’re doing ourselves an injustice by trying to replicate our success in print on digital devices? Or do you think we need to leap toward digital and be even more creative with it?
Anne Fulenwider: We are no longer trying to replicate the print experience on digital devices. The minute the iPad came out or all these digital devices, the trick should have been to see how the reader and the user interacts with them and likes to play with them.
We need to delight and surprise them in the voice, mood and point of view that is Marie Claire. And I always think of Marie Claire as really a point of view, a way of viewing and experiencing the world and seeing the fashion shows or reacting to news about women of the world. So I don’t think about it as just the print magazine and we need to be duplicating that digitally, I think of it as this is Marie Claire and a Marie Claire reaction.
So this can be translated into a game or a photo-shoot; we could take photographs and leak them online; so I certainly don’t think we should just be replicating things. I don’t think, for example, we should just put the contents of our magazine on the website, which we don’t do; we create unique content for the website. The unifying theme is the Marie Claire point of view and the Marie Claire voice and style of images.
Samir Husni: If someone asked you to humanize the magazine; if I gave you a magic wand and you struck Marie Claire and a human being popped out, can you define that person who is going to engage all these women in that conversation?
Anne Fulenwider: It’s me. (Laughs)
Samir Husni: Perfect. (Laughs) So when you look at the magazine industry as a whole, and you’ve seen quite a few changes during your tenure; what do you feel was the biggest mistake the industry committed as we are seeing all these rapid changes?
Anne Fulenwider: I think we as an industry adapted too slowly to the tablet. When a new technology arrives on the scene no one really knows what to make of it at first or how the consumer is going to embrace it. No one really knew Twitter was going to end up being a news delivery system, for example. With the advent of the tablet, we as an industry thought the right move was either to replicate the print product or to add a whole bunch of bells and whistles that readers were not necessarily interested in.
But, we know now that that’s not the right tactic—it’s not how people want to interact with a tablet. Mostly, they want to watch TV shows and play games. The answer for every platform we publish on is to create a product that suits the medium. For mobile we have to create a product that fits with our reader’s behavior there.
Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?
Anne Fulenwider: Honestly? I have always been a very good sleeper, but sometimes we have a feature in the magazine about women’s issues, such as women in refugee camps, I don’t want to get too heavy here, but a feature that bothers me and I’ll think, we’re doing a story on that, but what else can we do.
But really what keeps me up at night is this flash I sometimes get in the middle of the night that I’ve forgotten to a write thank you note to a designer for sending me flowers or I’ve forgotten to sign my son up for karate; it’s really about the keeping-the-whole-life-together type of thing. It’s more about the full, busy life and less about the real things I should probably be worried about.
Samir Husni: Thank you.