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The Global Reach Of Hearst Magazines International – And The Woman Who Guides & Supports With A Passionate Flair Of Communication – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Kim St. Clair Bodden, Senior Vice President/Editorial Director, Hearst Magazines International

August 26, 2015

“I think the brands are strong. As a long-time editor, I am very much attached to print. But I would say that my title over the past couple of years hasn’t been editorial director; it’s really been brand manager. I’m a brand steward and it’s about the brand. And I can see that in certain areas maybe print would provide better and in other areas maybe a digital-only aspect of that brand would exist.” Kim St. Clair Bodden (on whether the many brands could exist without a print component)

cosmo australia Being a global entity takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to Hearst Magazines International and its overseas editions. As the largest U.S. publisher of magazines worldwide, Hearst Magazines International is composed of nearly 300 print editions and 200 websites in 34 languages and 81 countries. Its brands, including, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s BAZAAR, Esquire, Town & Country, Good Housekeeping and ELLE. The company has launched new print products in countries from Chile to Vietnam, and in the last five years alone, HMI has launched over 20 new editions in markets around the world.

Those achievements are both extraordinary and competently maintained by a team of professionals that listen to their expert editors around the globe and apply what they learn from them and more importantly, their audience, to the content they create, both in print and in digital.

Kim St. Clair Bodden is the matriarch of all of that international editorial content. As senior vice president/editorial director at Hearst Magazines International, Kim, who has been at Hearst since the early 1980s, believes in a support system with her global partners that far exceeds annual meetings or occasional conversations. Keeping her finger constantly on the pulse of the international editions by promoting and utilizing open dialogues and almost 24/7 access and communication, Kim is a leader that is there for her world editors and admits she learns as much from them at times as they do from her.

I spoke with Kim recently about the many facets of the Hearst Magazines International operation. From the print product to the digital and digital-only entities that are popping up in remote and not-so remote regions of the world. Suffice it to say that the Hearst magazines have definitely gone international and are continuing to explore new opportunities just about everywhere.

I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Kim St. Clair Bodden and get a sense of the scope and “cosmopolitan” (pun intended) flavor of the international arm of Hearst Magazines. I know you’ll appreciate the passion and dedication Kim has for the magazine brands. So, sit back, relax and get ready to globetrot with one very busy lady.

But first, the sound-bites:

KimStClairBodden1
On the impact the Internet, digital and mobile has had on her role as an editor:
That’s a very good question and it’s something that I’ve thought about often. As you know, we have magazines all over the world, but the Internet impact is really affecting everyone at different stages and at different volumes, but at the end of the day, it still is making that impact. But it has turned around quickly. Our editors at our magazines have embraced it; they understand that it is the new world order and it’s something that they go into feet-first, with mind, body and soul following, and they do so with excitement.

On how her mind switches gears from a monthly magazine to the second-by-second dynamics of digital:
We really go from month to moment, because that’s exactly what we need to do. I think the secret to our success is that we rely on our partners around the world to be experts in their markets. And they rely on us to be experts on the brand. And I think the real success comes from the communication and the dialogue that we have, so we are constantly sharing best practices; Melinda Lee (Content & Audience Development – Digital), she and I work very closely together because again, we have to be very nimble and we need to be very practical on how to get that content out there.

On how the Internet is helping print to remove borders and spread the message worldwide:
I think the Internet has helped with the obvious; I mean, it’s quick and easy, it’s rapid-fire. But that said, I’ve been in this industry for a very long time, decades, and we have always been proud to say that our international editions, before the Internet became the Internet, were successful. We were the forefathers of that no-borders mentality. We were able to produce covers worldwide before it became, let’s say, the mode du jour, because our international editions have been based on being able to share content globally.

On the burning question her global editors ask when she speaks with them:
That’s a very good question and I’ll have to say that it differs, but I think there’s a resounding: what next? How do we sustain the business? The good news is that we have these venerable brands that are strong, that have survived the test of time. But they’re looking for a way to keep the motors going, because it’s very – I won’t say uncertain – but the playing field has change. So they’re looking to other countries, to the U.S., the U.K., to the let’s say, more resourced countries, to figure out how they’re surviving and sustaining the business, because they want to sustain themselves and be able to adapt to what they’ve learned and to be able to apply it in their markets, because each market is a nuanced business around the world; each market is very different.

On how much she immerses herself in those markets:
Every single day. And that’s the great pleasure of my job. I have the best job in the whole world, because I am able to…let’s put it this way; I am able to show up in Estonia, lose my passport and wallet, and be able to call somebody, if I have the right tokens in my pocket, who can pick me up at the airport because they’re our friends and family, and I have that all over the world. And that’s a wonderful story for me to tell, because we really are more than just partners; we’re family.

On whether she has a favorite country out of all the different places she visits:
I would be lying to you if I said; no, every place is the same. I will tell you, and I might be dating myself a little bit, but there was this beautiful movie called “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” and she was this wonderful schoolteacher and she had all of her children and everybody was the same, and that’s how I feel about all the magazines around the world, but truth be told, do I have a special place in my heart for a country? I would say that two come to mind.

On whether Hearst acquiring some of their franchising and expanding in Europe has changed anything about her job:
It does change, of course it does, but I would say for me personally I go back to the movie “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.” I am not going to make a “Sophie’s Choice;” I’m not going to make a distinction between someone who is my own child or an adopted child or my step-child; they’re all ours and at the end of the day it’s really not about them, it’s about the brand. And the brand is the thing that’s up there signing and we need to uphold that.

On whether Hearst has folded some of its international titles:
Yes, of course it happens from time to time. But I have to say that we are, and I hate to say this because it sounds snotty, but we’re almost the biggest and the bestest around. We have the largest selling young women’s magazine in the world called Cosmo; Elle, even though it’s partnered with Lagardere; we have our own huge share, Bazaar is around the world; so yes, there has been some fallout, but I think it was because of economic challenges in certain parts of the world.
seventeen Argentina
On whether the different titles could exist without the print component:
I think the brands are strong. As a long-time editor, I am very much attached to print. But I would say that my title over the past couple of years hasn’t been editorial director; it’s really been brand manager. I’m a brand steward and it’s about the brand. And I can see that in certain areas maybe print would provide better and in other areas maybe a digital-only aspect of that brand would exist.

On one of the most exciting “wow” moments she’s had during her career: But one of the “wow” moments that I’ve had was getting off the plane in Moscow in 1994 when we launched Cosmo in Russia. And that was wow for me because I had never been to Russia; it was a very different market, where there are only a few titles. There were no international titles and we launched Cosmo. So, we really changed the way that women were reading media and consuming content. That was an extremely exciting time for me and that definitely stands out in my mind.

On the biggest stumbling block that she’s had to face:
This may sound cheesy, but difficult times for me I’ve always taken as an opportunity to figure out how we can navigate through the problem. Editors have left; we have had to close magazines. We’ve dealt with horrible tsunamis and natural disasters where our companies have lost people. All of those times have been very difficult for us as a company, but we are partners and we value our partnerships and we will do whatever we need to in order to make that partnership grow.

On whether she looks at and approves every cover of every magazine:
No, and I have to say that I don’t even have the word approve in my international dictionary. We’re partners and I would say that I’m a mentor and guidance counselor. I’m here as the expert of our brands that we publish internationally. I don’t micromanage or micro edit anyone, because the truth is, even if that were my job, I don’t really have the bandwidth here, we have so many titles. Also the truth is that we’re often teaching some of the less experienced countries and editors how to fly on their own. So, we’re here as a support system. I have a whole team of people, editors who are here as support.

On what motivates her to get out of bed every morning:
My personality and my DNA has always been someone who sees the world as the glass half-full. And even though there’s stuff that goes on in the world, I feel that it is my duty and I have been given the right of life to be able to get up and go forward. And I have a very dear friend who left this world a few years ago whom you knew, Helen Gurley Brown, who told me very early on in our relationship: you need darling to hit the deck running. And that’s what I do every day.

On what keeps her up at night: Ideas. Ideas keep me up at night. I have to say night is when I get my best ideas and the silly part of that is, and I think other people have probably said this; I am so tired at night that I get these ideas and I just need to write them down. By the time I get to the office in the mornings; I only remember maybe half of one.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Kim St. Clair Bodden, Senior Vice President/Editorial Director, Hearst Magazines International.

Samir Husni: Hearst has been in the international magazine business and licensing, franchising and owning, for years and years, and you’ve been there for some time as well. From an editor’s viewpoint, could you briefly describe the impact that the Internet, digital and mobile has had on your role as a magazine editor?

Harper's Bazaar China Kim St. Clair Bodden: That’s a very good question and it’s something that I’ve thought about often. As you know, we have magazines all over the world, but the Internet impact is really affecting everyone at different stages and at different volumes, but at the end of the day, it still is making that impact.

What I feel is that if I look at my heart, I think in the beginning, it was frightening, because editors begin with a pencil in their hands, and they’re thinking about addressing an audience from a very different platform. But today I believe that nervousness or scared reaction quickly turns to opportunity and excitement, because at the end of the day an editor wants to reach and resonate with an audience. And on whatever platform that opportunity may be; it’s still the content that’s being provided to that audience.

But it has turned around quickly. Our editors at our magazines have embraced it; they understand that it is the new world order and it’s something that they go into feet-first, with mind, body and soul following, and they do so with excitement.

Samir Husni: In that short period of time, and we’re not talking decades here, we’re talking less than ten years; how do you change your mode of thinking from creating a monthly or bimonthly magazine to something that changes by the second? How do you go from the coal-powered train to the nuclear-powered train with your mindset?

Kim St. Clair Bodden: We really go from month to moment, because that’s exactly what we need to do. I think the secret to our success is that we rely on our partners around the world to be experts in their markets. And they rely on us to be experts on the brand. And I think the real success comes from the communication and the dialogue that we have, so we are constantly sharing best practices; Melinda Lee (Content & Audience Development – Digital), she and I work very closely together because again, we have to be very nimble and we need to be very practical on how to get that content out there.

So, we are taking the best of the best; our U.S. team has an amazing success story related to digital and we’re tapping into that. And we’re providing that knowledge through all of our partners, so they have become quite nimble themselves. They have smaller teams; some of the digital teams are embedded on the editorial print side, some are separated out; we feel whatever works, because our partners are the experts in their markets.

Samir Husni: Do you think the Internet and this global, no-borders kind of world that we live in today has helped with your success? For example, last year you had Katie Perry on the cover of Cosmo worldwide; do you think that would have happened if the Internet wasn’t around to break down borders? How is the Internet helping print to spread the message?

Town & Country Thailand Kim St. Clair Bodden: I think the Internet has helped with the obvious; I mean, it’s quick and easy, it’s rapid-fire. But that said, I’ve been in this industry for a very long time, decades, and we have always been proud to say that our international editions, before the Internet became the Internet, were successful. We were the forefathers of that no-borders mentality. We were able to produce covers worldwide before it became, let’s say, the mode du jour, because our international editions have been based on being able to share content globally. So, if there was a cover in the U.S., our international editions have always been able to use it.

These days it’s easier to do things much more up front, because back in the day, you had the slides and you had to send them around; people had to look at them and they’d have to be retouched in different ways, so the time frame to be able to see something that appeared in the U.S. and the U.K. and then see it internationally was a longer time period. That global takeover was more difficult.

Today it’s easier because of the Internet. And because of how celebrities and publicists want their stories to be told globally; we have the best venue for that because we have 60-some-odd editions of Cosmo; we have 30-some-odd editions of Bazaar and 27 editions of Esquire. So, we’re able to get that message out. Today is easier, but we’ve always been able to do it. If you look back 10 or 15 years ago; you can see on any given month, various editions of Cosmo using the same covers. It’s just easier today, much easier.

Samir Husni: When you meet with your global editors or whether it’s your annual meeting with all the editors of Cosmo or with Esquire or Harper’s Bazaar; when you meet with those editors what is the burning question they all have for you? When the editor of Cosmo from Finland or Spain comes to you and asks: Kim, here’s my question for you…what do they ask?

Esquire Singapore Kim St. Clair Bodden: That’s a very good question and I’ll have to say that it differs, but I think there’s a resounding: what next? How do we sustain the business? The good news is that we have these venerable brands that are strong, that have survived the test of time.

But they’re looking for a way to keep the motors going, because it’s very – I won’t say uncertain – but the playing field has change. So they’re looking to other countries, to the U.S., the U.K., to the let’s say, more resourced countries, to figure out how they’re surviving and sustaining the business, because they want to sustain themselves and be able to adapt to what they’ve learned and to be able to apply it in their markets, because each market is a nuanced business around the world; each market is very different. So they’re trying to glean as much as they can from these opportunities that we make together, so that they can apply it.

And we’re very conscious and sensitive not to give a one-size-fits-all; we know that each operation is different and as I said, nuanced and special. We need to give them information so that they can apply it adequately to their market.

Samir Husni: How much do you immerse yourself in the knowledge of those markets?

Kim St. Clair Bodden: Every single day. And that’s the great pleasure of my job. I have the best job in the whole world, because I am able to…let’s put it this way; I am able to show up in Estonia, lose my passport and wallet, and be able to call somebody, if I have the right tokens in my pocket, who can pick me up at the airport because they’re our friends and family, and I have that all over the world. And that’s a wonderful story for me to tell, because we really are more than just partners; we’re family.

I’m not kidding when I say that we’re on the phone, emailing and texting every single day to see what’s happening with our editors around the world, because we’re constantly feeding them information. We have our yearly or biannual meetings with our magazine editors, but I travel a lot; I’m on the phone a lot; I have my colleagues here whom I work with who are constantly interfacing with our partners, so there’s not enough days in the year actually, I would say, because we do have a lot of titles that we work with.

Samir Husni: And considering all the different time zones, do you work 24/7? (Laughs)

Kim St. Clair Bodden: (Laughs too) I do sleep. But I will say that it is a 24/7 job. And I think when you are in this international arena; you have to be OK with that. You need to be OK with someone texting you at 2:00 a.m. and saying: there’s an emergency.

Of course, you need to be able to have a dialogue with your colleagues and be able to say: I’m not a martyr; yes, call me anytime and I’ll just hop on a plane. (Laughs) But people understand the parameters. It’s definitely not a 9 to 5 job, however.

Samir Husni: When people ask me about my favorite magazine, I always tell them they’re all my favorites; I don’t differentiate among my children. With all of the different places you visit, do you have a favorite country? Is there one place that’s special and dear to your heart?

GHK India Kim St. Clair Bodden: I would be lying to you if I said; no, every place is the same. I will tell you, and I might be dating myself a little bit, but there was this beautiful movie called “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” and she was this wonderful schoolteacher and she had all of her children and everybody was the same, and that’s how I feel about all the magazines around the world, but truth be told, do I have a special place in my heart for a country? I would say that two come to mind.

One is because my partner, we’re not married, but he’s my partner, he’s from Argentina and the first time that I stepped off of the plane in Buenos Aires; I fell in love with the country, and this was before I met him. We had magazines there.

And the other place that’s very dear to my heart is Paris. I lived there for a short time and I loved it. Paris is high on my list. But every place in the world has its special charm and I’m fortunate enough to have been to many, many places.

Samir Husni: Do you think now with Hearst acquiring some of their franchising and expanding in Europe and other countries; when you look at say, the Netherlands and Cosmo, which used to be franchised by Sanoma and is now with Hearst; did that change anything about your job?

Kim St. Clair Bodden: It does change, of course it does, but I would say for me personally I go back to the movie “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.” I am not going to make a “Sophie’s Choice;” I’m not going to make a distinction between someone who is my own child or an adopted child or my step-child; they’re all ours and at the end of the day it’s really not about them, it’s about the brand. And the brand is the thing that’s up there signing and we need to uphold that.

I don’t want to make a distinction; clearly, wholly-owned has a different relationship with our company than licensees do, but for me I try to remain non-biased and equal. It really doesn’t matter to me.

Samir Husni: Did Hearst lose any of its international titles? Did Cosmo and Esquire fold in some place internationally?

Kim St. Clair Bodden: Yes, of course it happens from time to time. But I have to say that we are, and I hate to say this because it sounds snotty, but we’re almost the biggest and the bestest around. We have the largest selling young women’s magazine in the world called Cosmo; Elle, even though it’s partnered with Lagardere; we have our own huge share, Bazaar is around the world; so yes, there has been some fallout, but I think it was because of economic challenges in certain parts of the world.

Samir Husni: Do you think those brands could continue to exist without the print component?

EsquireBWB Hong Kong Kim St. Clair Bodden: I think the brands are strong. As a long-time editor, I am very much attached to print. But I would say that my title over the past couple of years hasn’t been editorial director; it’s really been brand manager. I’m a brand steward and it’s about the brand. And I can see that in certain areas maybe print would provide better and in other areas maybe a digital-only aspect of that brand would exist.

And who knows what’s going to happen five years from now, because I don’t think anyone is an oracle and can figure out what’s going to happen five or ten years down the line.

But what I do think will happen is our brands will survive. They have survived for many, many years and there have been different iterations of them and we are continuing to explore new opportunities in print and digital. We have a digital-only in Nigeria at Cosmo Nigeria.com, it’s a Greenfield property that we have. We have digital-only in Scandinavia and in the Nordic countries. And we’re exploring other opportunities.

That said, we’re also exploring other opportunities in print and in other things as well. So we’re super excited about how our brands are doing.

Samir Husni: If you could choose a “wow” moment up until today, and I’m sure you’ve had many over the years, but if you had to pick only one that you could honestly say brought more excitement to yourself and to the brand; what would it be?

Kim St. Clair Bodden: That’s a tough one. You’re absolutely right: I have had a lot of “wow” moments through the years. To be honest, I have a “wow” moment every day. And sometimes that’s not a good thing. (Laughs)

But one of the “wow” moments that I’ve had was getting off the plane in Moscow in 1994 when we launched Cosmo in Russia. And that was wow for me because I had never been to Russia; it was a very different market, where there are only a few titles. There were no international titles and we launched Cosmo. So, we really changed the way that women were reading media and consuming content. That was an extremely exciting time for me and that definitely stands out in my mind.

Samir Husni: What has been a major stumbling block that you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?

Kim St. Clair Bodden: This may sound cheesy, but difficult times for me I’ve always taken as an opportunity to figure out how we can navigate through the problem. Editors have left; we have had to close magazines. We’ve dealt with horrible tsunamis and natural disasters where our companies have lost people. All of those times have been very difficult for us as a company, but we are partners and we value our partnerships and we will do whatever we need to in order to make that partnership grow.

I think any of those things that I just talked about have been on my mind, but I can’t think of any day that I’ve thought I just couldn’t go on. Editors have called me to talk. Part of my job is I’m sort of a psychologist, I guess. I’m a really good listener. Many of our editors will call me and say, “Kim, you know we only have 3.2 people on my team, what do we do? We can’t get the advertising that we need for this month, what do we do about that?” I sit and I listen. And then I try to pull from the thousands of stories that I have in my head, because the truth is, I’ve heard it all. We’re in so many places and there have been so many situations that thankfully, still today, I’m able to pull from the recesses of my mind and come up with something that is going to apply to one of the challenges that our partners or our editors have. And thankfully it helps them; I hope it has anyway.

Samir Husni: Do you look at every cover of all the magazines that you oversee and approve them?

Kim St. Clair Bodden: No, and I have to say that I don’t even have the word approve in my international dictionary. We’re partners and I would say that I’m a mentor and guidance counselor. I’m here as the expert of our brands that we publish internationally. I don’t micromanage or micro edit anyone, because the truth is, even if that were my job, I don’t really have the bandwidth here, we have so many titles.

Also the truth is that we’re often teaching some of the less experienced countries and editors how to fly on their own. So, we’re here as a support system. I have a whole team of people, editors who are here as support.

Yes, we get thousands and thousands of pages of content per week. I see thousands of covers, but I wouldn’t say that I approve them. I might say that one looks really great or this one looks great or what about this? How did this one do and we can think about how we can apply that to future issues? So, we have a very open dialogue with our editors and I think in the end it’s making them feel very comfortable to share their content, because one could say that everyone in the individual countries has not –here theory. How would you know, Kim, you’re not from Serbia or Bulgaria. But we are advocates of the brand and we share content and ideas. And I have to say that it’s reciprocal because we’re learning every day from our partners.

The short answer is no; I do not approve all of the covers. I see content and I help them with their content. My executive creative director works with all of the creative directors around the world; my fashion and entertainment director works with all the fashion and entertainment people around the world. We have brand managers for brand-specific magazines that are constantly looking at the covers and the editor’s pages. We have them translated so we can see what’s going on. Many of the people in my department speak many different languages, so we’re able to read and understand what the content is.

But as I said earlier; we’re in constant dialogue, so there’s never a feeling of “I’m approving them” because I don’t think that would work very well for the model that we have.

Samir Husni: What motivates you and gets you out of bed in the mornings?

Kim St. Clair Bodden: This interview for one. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

HBB India Kim St. Clair Bodden: No, my personality and my DNA has always been someone who sees the world as the glass half-full. And even though there’s stuff that goes on in the world, I feel that it is my duty and I have been given the right of life to be able to get up and go forward. And I have a very dear friend who left this world a few years ago whom you knew, Helen Gurley Brown, who told me very early on in our relationship: you need darling to hit the deck running. And that’s what I do every day.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Kim St. Clair Bodden: Ideas. Ideas keep me up at night. I have to say night is when I get my best ideas and the silly part of that is, and I think other people have probably said this; I am so tired at night that I get these ideas and I just need to write them down. By the time I get to the office in the mornings; I only remember maybe half of one.

But ideas keep me up at night and I also think the day keeps me up at night. I’m thinking about what happened that day and my kids. I have one son and my partner has three children, so all of our children together are young adults and I’m wondering what they’re doing; are they OK? You know, I’m a parent at work and I’m a parent at home. So, that keeps me up too.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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