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Dr. Oz The Good Life: A Magazine That Lives Up To Its Namesakes’ Robust Reputation & The Woman Who Makes Sure That It Does – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Editor-In-Chief Jill Herzig

December 4, 2015

“Print is never going to go away. We already have a very, very healthy newsstand base and subscriber base. We’re over delivering on our audience, our advertisers, and we’ve broken into the Top 10 bestselling magazines on American newsstands. So, it’s clear that there’s a strong desire to see Dr. Oz’s brand represented in print. And that people like the version that we’re doing right now.” Jill Herzig

Picture 14 Wellness, recipes, fitness and beauty; Dr. Oz The Good Life is a magazine that was and is inspired by Dr. Mehmet Oz, the cardiothoracic surgeon, author and television personality who really needs no introduction anywhere in the country. He is a dynamic and charismatic individual who has become a mainstay favorite among audiences everywhere and in every medium, from television to magazines, by genuinely living and promoting his take on wellness and good health.

Jill Herzig is editor-in-chief of the magazine and brings her own style of zest and energy to the brand, complementing the living, breathing magazine progeny perfectly. Former editor-in-chief of Redbook since 2010, Jill joined Dr. Oz on his quest for nationwide good health and wellness in 2014, and hasn’t regretted it for a moment as she feels connected to his mission as she has no other throughout her magazine media career.

I spoke with Jill recently and we talked about her kindred spirit with the Oz’s, both Dr. and Mrs. and we discussed the future of the brand and the seemingly meant-to-be presence of the magazine among Dr. Oz’s many brand extensions.

It was an entertaining and informative conversation with a woman who truly believes in her brand’s calling and feels a passionate commission to further the cause.

So, I hope that you enjoy this meaningful look at a brand and a magazine that offers a wellness lifestyle experience that Mr. Magazine™ finds unique and extremely relevant to our health-conscious world of today. And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jill Herzig, Editor-In-Chief, Dr. Oz The Good Life.

But first, the sound-bites:


RBK080113_010 On the difference between editing a magazine with a celebrity affiliation versus one that doesn’t have that attachment:
The day-to-day is not terribly different, but Dr. Oz isn’t an ordinary celebrity. He’s a cardiothoracic surgeon and he’s been doing that for decades, long before anyone knew his name. He’s a mission-driven guy and it seems as though he works 24 hours a day trying to educate the public about their health and that’s what inspires all parts of this brand.

On the fact that the magazine cover at Dr. Oz The Good Life is not something she has to ponder over:
Well, I guess that is another obvious difference; I do know who is going to be on my cover every issue. (Laughs) But he’s not alone in December’s issue; we have him on with another celebrity, Giada de Laurentiis and we’ll be doing that again going forward.

On what her first reaction was when she was offered the job of editor-in-chief of Dr. Oz The Good Life:
I have to say, it was an instinctual yes for me. I knew basically the second the words came out of David Carey’s mouth; I knew that I wanted to take this job, which doesn’t do much for one’s negotiating powers. (Laughs) No, I was really excited and I loved the idea of the launch and I loved the idea of working with Dr. Oz.

On her relationship with Dr. Oz and his wife, Lisa:
Well, the relationship is a very easy one. In fact, it’s possible that the single easiest thing about this job is handling my relationship with the Oz’s. Lisa Oz is a great conduit to Dr. Oz and their family life, which is very important to him and to her as well. She’s a fantastic cook and very knowledgeable in her own right. And I just really like her as a person. We get along fantastically well.

On a major stumbling block that she’s had to face:
I can’t say that there has been a major stumbling block, other than simply having come onboard at the launch phase and putting together a staff from hardly anyone. I’m sure that our publisher Kristine Welker would tell you the same thing. It can be difficult to take over a legacy brand like Redbook, but you come in and the groundwork has already been laid, there’s a rich, deep history. When I came in here it was a pack of fabulous freelancers and some were arriving, some were leaving; it was a very tiny team and a high-pressure moment. But I wouldn’t call it a stumbling block. It was a big challenge.

On whether she feels a higher responsibility to the brand since there is a living, breathing progeny:
Oh, yes. I feel that responsibility and I think about it all the time. I’ve joked to Kristine that there’s no Dr. Marie Claire or no Dr. Harper’s Bazaar, but there is a Dr. Mehmet Oz. And he has dedicated his life to improving public health. It’s of the utmost importance to me that we protect his reputation, that we live up to his standards and that our reporting is deep and always quadruple-checked.

On how she plans the magazine issue to issue:
Honestly, the problem is that my mind is so crowded with ideas and my team brings a whole bucketful to every meeting. It’s about figuring out what’s the latest thing, yet it has to be based on completely solid science, and winding it down to the perfect match. The ideas come from everywhere. They come from all of our real lives and many of them come from Dr. Oz himself. Many of them come from Lisa and her experiences with her life. Even her mother-in-law, who apparently is a wizard at home remedies. We’re doing a piece right now on favorite family home remedies that are used in the Oz household all of the time.

Picture 13 On what’s next for the magazine and the brand as a whole and print’s place in that equation:
Digital and social have been growing at a really fast pace and we’re only two months into them. The numbers are still small, but the rate of growth is very impressive. I know that’s going to continue and will be more and more important to Dr. Oz The Good Life. The print is never going to go away. We already have a very, very healthy newsstand base and subscriber base. We’re over delivering on our audience, our advertisers, and we’ve broken into the Top 10 bestselling magazines on American newsstands. So, it’s clear that there’s a strong desire to see Dr. Oz’s brand represented in print. And that people like the version that we’re doing right now.

On what it is about Dr. Oz that makes him so successful for magazine covers:
I think that you can go back to his early appearances on The Oprah Show because that’s where it all began for him. He was uniquely able to explain to people how their bodies work. It’s a very rare doctor who has that communication skill. Sure, he’s charismatic and dynamic, but he’s an unbelievably gifted communicator and I think that’s really what differentiates him and makes him a star.

On whether she thinks specialty magazines are the future of print or there’s still room for mass appeal titles like Dr. Oz The Good Life:
I believe there’s lots of room for different kinds of print magazines, but certainly this concept brand of a healthy lifestyle has really hit home with the audience. They’ve been waiting for this and they love it.

On anything else she’d like to add:
I’m just feeling very optimistic when I look at our numbers and when I read the emails we get from the audience. They are so excited about this magazine. They are so smart and so engaged; I’ve really never worked for readers who display this level of intelligence and know-how. We have a whole page devoted to their smart ideas. I have the utmost respect for our audience and I’m so excited that they’re engaging on the level that they are.

On what keeps her up at night:
This is a personal thing, but I barely slept last night because Cindi Leive (editor-in-chief, Glamour) and I still go running just about every week and I was meeting her at 5:40 in the morning. (Laughs) Sometimes meeting Cindi for a jog will keep me up part of the night. And it certainly gets me out of bed in the mornings.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jill Herzig, Editor-In-Chief, Dr. Oz The Good Life.

Samir Husni: What’s the difference between editing a magazine like Redbook and editing a magazine that has a celebrity’s name in the title, such as Dr. Oz The Good Life? Is your job now the same as it was at Redbook?

Picture 12 Jill Herzig: Yes, it’s very much the same job. The day-to-day is not terribly different, but Dr. Oz isn’t an ordinary celebrity. He’s a cardiothoracic surgeon and he’s been doing that for decades, long before anyone knew his name. He’s a mission-driven guy and it seems as though he works 24 hours a day trying to educate the public about their health and that’s what inspires all parts of this brand. And it’s certainly what inspires the magazine.

Sure, the magazine that I worked at before had many reasons for being and it had a great and vibrant relationship with its readers, but the mission feels quite different. It’s personified by Dr. Oz, but now the whole staff has really absorbed the mission; we’re all dedicated to this concept that we’re creating a fun magazine, an inviting magazine, but above all, a life-saving magazine potentially.

Samir Husni: With Redbook, you had the hard job of selecting the cover subject every issue. But with Dr. Oz The Good Life, that’s pretty much done for you.

Jill Herzig: Well, I guess that is another obvious difference; I do know who is going to be on my cover every issue. (Laughs) But he’s not alone in December’s issue; we have him on with another celebrity, Giada de Laurentiis and we’ll be doing that again going forward, so you won’t always see Dr. Oz all by himself. But he’s a no-brainer for us as a cover star.

Samir Husni: Do you miss writing your “Letter from the Editor?”

Jill Herzig: A little; I do. But I think probably as our digital side grows, and it’s growing very quickly, there will be more opportunities for me to reach out and have a more direct contact with the reader.

Samir Husni: When you were first offered this job; can you recall the emotional reaction that you had? Did you take time and think it over or did you immediately say yes? What was your reaction?

Jill Herzig: I have to say, it was an instinctual yes for me. I knew basically the second the words came out of David Carey’s mouth; I knew that I wanted to take this job, which doesn’t do much for one’s negotiating powers. (Laughs) No, I was really excited and I loved the idea of the launch and I loved the idea of working with Dr. Oz. I immediately had thoughts about what we could do with the magazine. I was just totally onboard.

Samir Husni: Can you describe the relationship that you have with Dr. Oz and his wife?

Jill Herzig: Well, the relationship is a very easy one. In fact, it’s possible that the single easiest thing about this job is handling my relationship with the Oz’s. Lisa Oz is a great conduit to Dr. Oz and their family life, which is very important to him and to her as well. She’s a fantastic cook and very knowledgeable in her own right. And I just really like her as a person. We get along fantastically well.

And Dr. Oz, you’ve already heard me say, is a super-inspiring guy. You definitely feel his dedication and his intensity every minute that you’re with him. He pushes himself incredibly hard, but I will say that he pushes other people solely by inspiring them. You just want to live up to his example.

Both of them are such appreciative people. They really love the magazine and they work very hard when we need them to. And yet, they’re happy to give us independence so that we can do what we know how to do. So, I really can’t say enough about them for how joyful this collaboration has been.

Samir Husni: What has been the major stumbling block for you since becoming editor-in-chief of the magazine?

Jill Herzig: I can’t say that there has been a major stumbling block, other than simply having come onboard at the launch phase and putting together a staff from hardly anyone. I’m sure that our publisher Kristine Welker would tell you the same thing. It can be difficult to take over a legacy brand like Redbook, but you come in and the groundwork has already been laid, there’s a rich, deep history. You can push away from that history or you can incorporate it; you have a lot of different choices. The history is there like a foundation. And at Redbook, there was also a staff when I came in.

When I came in here it was a pack of fabulous freelancers and some were arriving, some were leaving; it was a very tiny team and a high-pressure moment. But I wouldn’t call it a stumbling block. It was a big challenge. It made for a less restful than usual summer. (Laughs) But we got through it and I love the team now. I love the group that we have. They’re different from any team I’ve ever worked with. They are people who are called to this magazine.

Samir Husni: Kristine told me that she had sold over 60 pages of ads for the first issue without even knowing the name of the magazine; just because it was a Dr. Oz magazine. Do you feel that responsibility? That you’re not only handling an ink on paper and pixels on a screen brand, but an actual living, breathing brand?

Jill Herzig: Oh, yes. I feel that responsibility and I think about it all the time. I’ve joked to Kristine that there’s no Dr. Marie Claire or no Dr. Harper’s Bazaar, but there is a Dr. Mehmet Oz. And he has dedicated his life to improving public health. It’s of the utmost importance to me that we protect his reputation, that we live up to his standards and that our reporting is deep and always quadruple-checked. And that we further his goals.

Samir Husni: I asked the editor of Rachael Ray Everyday what her biggest fear was and she said that she always wants Rachael to look both ways before she crosses the street. (Laughs)

Jill Herzig: (Laughs too). That’s funny.

Samir Husni: (Laughs again) Do you have similar feelings?

Picture 11 Jill Herzig: I’m very happy that our figurehead is possibly the healthiest human on the planet. It gives me some peace of mind every time I get together with him to see how fit and healthy he is.

Samir Husni: How often do your meetings with Dr. Oz take place? How often is Dr. Oz at the Hearst Tower and involved in those meetings?

Jill Herzig: He drops by really frequently. And I would say that sometimes I see him three times a week and then sometimes I’ll go a couple of weeks without seeing him, but hardly a day goes by that we don’t email.

Samir Husni: If I wanted to go inside your mind as a magazine maker; how do you plan the magazine issue to issue and how do you select what topics you’re going to cover this month or next month or the month after?

Jill Herzig: Honestly, the problem is that my mind is so crowded with ideas and my team brings a whole bucketful to every meeting. It’s about figuring out what’s the latest thing, yet it has to be based on completely solid science, and winding it down to the perfect match.

The ideas come from everywhere. They come from all of our real lives and many of them come from Dr. Oz himself. Many of them come from Lisa and her experiences with her life. Even her mother-in-law, who apparently is a wizard at home remedies. We’re doing a piece right now on favorite family home remedies that are used in the Oz household all of the time.

When I first took over the job I have to say that I had a wicked case of insomnia because I could not go to sleep for all of the ideas that were milling about in my head. I kept a little booklet next to my bed and I’d wake up and turn on the light or just pick up my phone and use that light so I wouldn’t wake up my husband, and I’d scribble something in the booklet. And then I’d go back to sleep and something else would pop into my head. Initially, I’d actually pick up the notebook at a certain point and put it downstairs in my bag in order to go to sleep, because I was just filled with ideas all of the time.

And now we’re in a flow. We have our columns pretty set and we have our features and the pasting of the book is pretty set, so it’s a little more orderly. And I do sleep a whole lot better.

But we’re constantly changing it as well. I’m really over the concept of doing a redesign every few years. As every issue evolves there are changes. We drop columns, we don’t worry about dropping those columns; we add columns and we don’t worry if we only keep them for a short while. We just go with it a little more loosely than I have before. And I think part of that comes from having grown this baby from a launch and knowing it from the beginning and that energy is so exciting that you don’t want to lose it. And we’re still doing that.

Samir Husni: As you continue to do that and evolve the magazine; I’ve heard some reports that Dr. Oz is also a firm believer in print and that print is part of the equation of his brand. So, as you move forward and add to the digital and grow your pixels on the screen; what role do you think that print will continue to play in this brand? He’s on TV; he’s everywhere, even in competitor’s magazines, he’s on the covers. What’s next for the magazine and for the brand as a whole?

Jill Herzig: Digital and social have been growing at a really fast pace and we’re only two months into them. The numbers are still small, but the rate of growth is very impressive. I know that’s going to continue and will be more and more important to Dr. Oz The Good Life.

The print is never going to go away. We already have a very, very healthy newsstand base and subscriber base. We’re over delivering on our audience, our advertisers, and we’ve broken into the Top 10 bestselling magazines on American newsstands. So, it’s clear that there’s a strong desire to see Dr. Oz’s brand represented in print. And that people like the version that we’re doing right now.

I do think that our creative content, a healthy lifestyle magazine, really lends itself to print. And because of that our print edition has a robust, nice, long lifespan to it. This is really important information and we make it luscious and beautiful and we make it fun and acceptable and we make it very, very clear. But we’re also presenting information that is not uncomplicated. It’s important stuff that people need to understand. And in certain cases, it has life-saving implications for our readers.

We’re giving them information that they’re going to take time to absorb and they do take time to absorb it. They’re going to want to keep these issues around because they know that it could help them or a loved one at some point down the road. They’re going to want to make these recipes for years to come. When you’re talking about a healthy lifestyle magazine it’s really meaningful for people to have this information. We’re not talking about celebrities; we’re not talking about fashion and beauty trends, those are delightful when they arrive in your mailbox or you pick them up at the newsstand, but they have a built-in expiration date, so you’re going to recycle that magazine when those trends have faded or that celebrity has been forgotten for a moment. Our magazine is a keeper.

Samir Husni: I have struggled for a comparison to the magazine’s namesake and all I can come up with is something one of my professors once said: if you put Robert Redford on the cover of any women’s magazine, it will sell. Today it’s Dr. Oz. What do you think made him the celebrity he is on magazine covers? Why does he sell so well?

Jill Herzig: I think that you can go back to his early appearances on The Oprah Show because that’s where it all began for him. He was uniquely able to explain to people how their bodies work. It’s a very rare doctor who has that communication skill. Sure, he’s charismatic and dynamic, but he’s an unbelievably gifted communicator and I think that’s really what differentiates him and makes him a star.

When he did the initial Oprah shows, he actually did an autopsy, harvested organs and put them in a cooler, got on a plane, flew to the Oprah show and used actual human organs to explain to that audience and to millions of viewers how their bodies work and why it was so important to keep those inner workings healthy. And the viewers went crazy for that. No one had ever taken the time or chosen that very visual way to communicate with them about their bodies. And he’s still doing that in the magazine. We’re still doing that.

Samir Husni: As an editor who’s very well-versed with the industry as a whole; do you see that degree of specialization (wellness and food in a magazine), do you think this is our future in print? Or do you think there’s still room for a mass appeal magazine, such as The Good Life, which is not a specialty, tiny magazine?

Jill Herzig: The wellness and healthy lifestyle area has been very niche for a long time. But I think what we’re bringing to the table has really grown up in the category. And we’re doing something very different with it.

And I believe there’s lots of room for different kinds of print magazines, but certainly this concept brand of a healthy lifestyle has really hit home with the audience. They’ve been waiting for this and they love it.

I’ve never seen a time when people are more concerned with health and wellness than they are right now. It is top of mind for every age category, every demographic, every socio-economic group. And I’m so grateful that shift has happened because in our country we’re seeing some serious health issues. Diabetes is raging out of control; obesity is a huge problem and we haven’t managed to make an appreciative dent in it, the average American woman now weighs what the average American man weighed in 1960. So, we’ve got issues. And I’m really happy to see such broad interest in health and wellness.

Samir Husni: Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Picture 10 Jill Herzig: I’m just feeling very optimistic when I look at our numbers and when I read the emails we get from the audience. They are so excited about this magazine. They are so smart and so engaged; I’ve really never worked for readers who display this level of intelligence and know-how. We have a whole page devoted to their smart ideas. I have the utmost respect for our audience and I’m so excited that they’re engaging on the level that they are.

In our most recent reader feedback survey, the scores were off the chart for this magazine, but the top-rated piece of content in the entire magazine was a six-page report that we did on inflammation in the body. It is not an uncomplicated topic. We made it as clear as we could; we reported the heck out of it. But this is a topic that readers really had to pull up a chair and sharpen a pencil and concentrate on it to understand. And 75% of them said that it was extremely interesting to them.

So, the notion that people don’t have the attention span and don’t have the intelligence and can’t stick with a long piece in print; I am not seeing that. I’m seeing readers who are thrilled to get deep interest, as long as we’re bringing them vital information about their health. So, we’re doing that in our magazine.

Samir Husni: That’s one thing that I told Ellen Levine; if we’re just content providers, then we would have been dead a long time ago. We’re experience makers. Today, if a magazine is not an experience, it’s going to be in trouble. And that’s why today you’re seeing a higher level when it comes to the attention span of the average American adult, which is now eight seconds, according to the latest research, one second more than a goldfish. (Laughs)

Jill Herzig: (Laughs too) I have to say that our readers do not have that ADD.

Samir Husni: That’s because you are creating a very good experience for them.

Jill Herzig: Well, thank you.

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

Jill Herzig: This is a personal thing, but I barely slept last night because Cindi Leive (editor-in-chief, Glamour) and I still go running just about every week and I was meeting her at 5:40 in the morning. (Laughs) Sometimes meeting Cindi for a jog will keep me up part of the night. And it certainly gets me out of bed in the mornings.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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