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Rachael Ray Every Day’s New Editor In Chief, Lauren Iannotti, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “My Goal Is To Elevate All Of Our Numbers, Get All Of Our Numbers Up Without Neglecting The Care And Feeding Of Our Beautiful Print Magazine.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

October 10, 2017

“We’ll still always delight in producing the print magazine. I want to bring the print magazine’s voice into 2018 feeling modern and cool, and very much like Rachael. She’s a cool woman and she’s doing lots of awesome stuff, and I want to make sure that we’re representing that well in the magazine.” Lauren Iannotti…

Rachael Ray Every Day has been offering its readers delicious recipes, home and décor advice, travel tips, beauty and fashion trends, and shopping tricks that are aimed at saving its audience time and money since its launch in 2005. Today, the magazine is owned by Meredith and has a planned new aesthetic, one which will take it modernly into 2018 and beyond. There’s also a new captain at the helm just in time to lead the redesign and to put her own stamp onto the already winning brand. Of course, Lauren Iannotti is no stranger to the brand, having served as executive editor for the magazine for over a year now.

I spoke with Lauren recently and we talked about her new role as editor in chief/content director of the Rachael Ray brand, including the print and digital platforms. While Lauren learns to juggle and balance her new responsibilities with the magazine, which has a rate base of 1.7 million, she says that she is more than up for the challenge and defines her leadership modus operandi as a “hustler,” but she is also a visionary with very definite plans for the brand’s future, such as expanding its social footprint and its audience. And with the budding relationship she is forming with its namesake, and the respect and genuine admiration she feels for Rachael Ray, the two women together should be unstoppable. Having a successful company like Meredith behind them both can’t hurt either. Rachel Ray Every Day is apt to reach new heights, or more importantly, new audiences.

And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Lauren Iannotti, editor in chief/content director, Rachael Ray Every Day.

But first the sound-bites:

On whether she feels overwhelmed by the added responsibilities that come with being named editor in chief: I’m not overwhelmed at all. Maybe overwhelmed a bit by the schedule, I’ll admit, but not overwhelmed by the work. It’s what I’ve been doing for 20 years in different ways, and so my aim is true when it comes to the actual content. At the very beginning when it was happening, because it was somewhat unexpected, it was a bit daunting. But then when I started doing it, very happily, my predecessor looped me in on so much of what she was doing that I was very much involved in a lot of the decision-making and the redesign that we were working on.

On whether she has felt any internal competition between the editors and chief at Meredith since there is an abundance of big titles under their umbrella: It’s so funny that you’d ask that; what I have felt is incredible support. It’s almost weird. As soon as the transition began, I started to hear from folks all over the company. I’m actually friends with some of the editors in chief here already, so they were reaching out to offer their help with whatever I might need. Whenever you work at a big company, every company kind of has its own unique culture. We have our quirks and our ways and navigating that has been so much easier than it might have been, thanks to the support of all of these other editors.

On how, in this day and age, she can be print proud and digital smart: Print proud and digital smart, that’s interesting. And we’re still quite a print-forward brand. My goal is to elevate all of our numbers, get all of our numbers up without neglecting the care and feeding of our beautiful print magazine. I think social is going to be a very big focus for us and for me, and video, I’m not breaking any ground there, all magazines want to be doing a lot of digital video.

On who she is doing what she does as editor in chief for: herself, the publisher, the reader: I’m doing this for the reader. What I’ve always loved about working in magazines, working in the media, working for these content brands, is that we’re improving people’s lives. We entertain and inform them; we’re giving them something that is quality, and I think, especially in this day and age when they’re seeing a lot of gunk, they still know that there are certain brands that mean quality. We’re one of them; Meredith makes high-quality brands.

On how the editor in chief role plays out when you’re in that position at a celebrity-driven title: It’s totally a two-way street. Rachael is really receptive. I have been getting to know her personally over the last month, because I didn’t have tons of interaction with her when I was executive editor. And she’s super-supportive and bursting with ideas, so it definitely goes both ways. We talk regularly and we text a lot. We email a lot too. Whatever communication works best for what we’re trying to accomplish. And we also have in-person meetings a lot.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: You would probably find me rolling on the floor with a ten year old and a two year old. There’s probably a glass of wine somewhere, but we can’t keep it too close because it would spill on the carpet. My schedule has really prevented me from doing it, but let’s say it’s on the weekend, you would find me in the kitchen, definitely drinking a glass of wine, and cooking something, usually pasta, for my family when I can. So, it’s the kids and the food.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: She’s good at what she does, and she’s good to people. Kindness and excellence are what I try to go for always.

On what keeps her up at night: I can tell you what doesn’t keep me up. I’m not worried about content. I think people still seek out great content, so these legacy brands will be fine as long as they keep doing the great work that people expect from them. What keeps me up at night could be anything from climate change to what’s happening in Myanmar to what’s happening in this country. It could be a hurricane or it could be a mass shooting, one of the several that happens every day in this country. I think there is plenty out there in the world to worry about and it doesn’t go away, and Facebook is constantly reminding me of that.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Lauren Iannotti, editor in chief, Rachael Ray Every Day.

Samir Husni: This is your first editor in chief position; you’ve been an executive editor at both Rachael Ray and at Brides, but now you’re in charge of a 1.7 million circulation magazine, probably with about five million readers, and you also have a celebrity’s name attached to the magazine; how does all of this feel? Are you overwhelmed or do you feel right at home?

Lauren Iannotti: I’m not overwhelmed at all. Maybe overwhelmed a bit by the schedule, I’ll admit, but not overwhelmed by the work. It’s what I’ve been doing for 20 years in different ways, and so my aim is true when it comes to the actual content. But yes, the juggling of responsibilities; the suddenly going from having one boss to five or six now (Laughs)…But it’s what I love to do and really exciting, and it’s fun.

At the very beginning when it was happening, because it was somewhat unexpected, it was a bit daunting. But then when I started doing it, very happily, my predecessor looped me in on so much of what she was doing that I was very much involved in a lot of the decision-making and the redesign that we were working on. So, in a sense, it was just keeping on doing what I had been doing when it came to the content. All of the corporate stuff, I’m learning, and that’s the part that’s slightly daunting.

As far as working with a celebrity, I’m extremely fortunate that I get to work with the coolest personality in the world, basically. Every time I talk to her, we find more common ground and more similarities between us. And I like what she’s about. I’ve had a blast for the last year or so working here and the more I’ve come to know the brand and to understand our namesake, the more gleeful I am that I get to do this for a living.

Samir Husni: You’re surrounded at Meredith with big titles and namesake titles; do you feel any internal competition between the editors in chief?

Lauren Iannotti: It’s so funny that you’d ask that; what I have felt is incredible support. It’s almost weird. As soon as the transition began, I started to hear from folks all over the company. I’m actually friends with some of the editors in chief here already, so they were reaching out to offer their help with whatever I might need. Whenever you work at a big company, every company kind of has its own unique culture. We have our quirks and our ways and navigating that has been so much easier than it might have been, thanks to the support of all of these other editors.

We have some editors like Cheryl Brown, who stepped up recently and has just gone through what I am going through, the learning curve stuff. Other editors that I’ve known for years, like Elizabeth Graves at Martha Stewart Living, they’re friends and offer just great support. The you have Liz Vaccariello, who’s running this massive Parents brand and offering resources. We’ve had some open head counts, so I’ve been trying to hire people at the same time, and Liz has been asking what I need and loaning us photo researchers and others.

And on the corporate level, they wanted this to work out; they wanted to support me and make this work, and I have felt that. It’s a win-win for everybody if I can step up and keep this brand great and make it even better. But I do feel intense support from the other editors and the company to take this role and succeed with it. I feel that they all really want me to succeed.

And I love it. I’m having so much fun. What we do is such a joy, and it’s a very changed landscape obviously, and there are different pressures. There is a lot more juggling, and being an editor in chief is different than it used to be. It’s no longer saying that you’ve arrived, put your feet up, hire some people, take some lunches, and have a good time. Not that it was ever that easy, but it’s definitely a lot more of a hustle. And I’m good for that. That’s my game.

Samir Husni: As a hustler, you’re overseeing the print edition and the digital; in this day and age, how can you be print proud and digital smart?

Lauren Iannotti: Print proud and digital smart, that’s interesting. And we’re still quite a print-forward brand. My goal is to elevate all of our numbers, get all of our numbers up without neglecting the care and feeding of our beautiful print magazine. I think social is going to be a very big focus for us and for me, and video, I’m not breaking any ground there, all magazines want to be doing a lot of digital video.

Everyone in the industry is feeling these challenges. I am, again, psyched to feel the tap of wisdom from my peers and of this corporation, and that has been navigating the challenges and opportunities of the industry really well. And leading the way with their sound decisions, so I’m certainly going to be taking their lead. But my goal is to definitely push hard into social, in ways that we haven’t yet. Although, we do have very respectable numbers on social; I just want to get them up even higher. And to be where our readers are seeking us; make sure that we’re on the platforms where they look for us on, or our kind of content on, so we can serve them where they’re looking for us and where they need us.

But we’ll still always delight in producing the print magazine. I want to bring the print magazine’s voice into 2018 feeling modern and cool, and very much like Rachael. She’s a cool woman and she’s doing lots of awesome stuff, and I want to make sure that we’re representing that well in the magazine. And I want to maintain our very strong audience, but I also want to gain new audiences as well, those who may not be aware of all of the cool and interesting things Rachael has been up to.

Samir Husni: You mentioned that you have five bosses now (Laughs), but who do you consider your number one boss?

Lauren Iannotti: (Laughs) That was a bit of hyperbole; technically, I do have only one boss; I report to our publisher.

Samir Husni: True, but when you get up in the morning and look in the mirror before heading out, maybe you tell yourself, I’m doing this for…is it the publisher; the reader; is it for yourself?

Lauren Iannotti: I’m doing this for the reader. What I’ve always loved about working in magazines, working in the media, working for these content brands, is that we’re improving people’s lives. We entertain and inform them; we’re giving them something that is quality, and I think, especially in this day and age when they’re seeing a lot of gunk, they still know that there are certain brands that mean quality. We’re one of them; Meredith makes high-quality brands. With all the noise out there, we make good stuff. We’re trying to improve people’s lives, especially women’s lives, because that’s the bulk of our audience at this company.

When I wake up in the morning, I think how fortunate I am to get to do this. And I think has Carey (Carey Witmer, executive VP/group publisher) emailed me yet (Laughs), because we’re in constant contact, and I think, when do I get to see Rachael again, because I’m psyched that I get to go down to her studio and work with her, and talk about making cool stuff. And I think how psyched I am to have the greatest team in magazines working with me. Our food team is just a bunch of geniuses, they translate Rachael’s vision so beautifully when it comes to food. And then our lifestyle; we’ve just exploded our lifestyle section and tripled it. Our lifestyle editor, Danielle Blundell, is just magnificent. She has the perfect eye and she’s a hustler too, and she’s just making great pages for us, so I think of all of these people when I get up.

But mostly, I think of the reader. I want people to want to open this magazine. I want them to want to buy it, and I want them to want to open it. We’ve been working on modernizing the aesthetic and making it feel less kitchy and more cool, beautiful and delicious.

Samir Husni: Is it a two-way street with Rachael; she brings ideas to you and you take ideas to her? How does it work when you’re editor in chief of a celebrity-driven title?

Lauren Iannotti: It’s totally a two-way street. Rachael is really receptive. I have been getting to know her personally over the last month, because I didn’t have tons of interaction with her when I was executive editor. And she’s super-supportive and bursting with ideas, so it definitely goes both ways. We talk regularly and we text a lot. We email a lot too. Whatever communication works best for what we’re trying to accomplish. And we also have in-person meetings a lot.

That collaboration is so much fun to me, in that she’s so supportive of the Rachael Ray Every Day brand, the magazine and the digital. She loves this brand, and she’s very protective of her own brand. She wants to make sure that she’s well-represented, as she should.

So, we work closely together. She really is an idea’s person. It’s fun to watch that work. She is also very off-the-cuff; she isn’t a teleprompter type. Something may be on the tip of her tongue and it comes out, so that authenticity, that realness, is so appealing and makes the job so much fun. We just redesigned, and I’ve worked at titles before that were redesigned, and they start the redesign process with “what does our brand mean,” and they have to have a brainstorm about what readers think their magazine actually means. So, we would start from the very beginning with “we don’t really know” and “what’s our tagline mean,” “should we explain it to people.”

At Rachael Ray Every Day, we have such a solid brand that it was never in doubt what we stood for. It was never a “start from scratch.” It was “how do we take this awesome brand that we know is great and make it fresh and modern, maintain our readership we already have, and expand our readership into new audiences.” So, we were really lucky to have that, and through the whole redesign process it felt like that. Our aim was true; when our consulting creative director would give us options, it was simple, that one. And we really benefit from that, and I think that’s all because Rachael Ray knows her brand. And they’ve done a bang-up job of protecting her brand and making sure that it’s well-represented on all fronts. It’s a pleasure to work on this brand, because it’s so clear and so good.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else?

Lauren Iannotti: You would probably find me rolling on the floor with a ten year old and a two year old. There’s probably a glass of wine somewhere, but we can’t keep it too close because it would spill on the carpet. My schedule has really prevented me from doing it, but let’s say it’s on the weekend, you would find me in the kitchen, definitely drinking a glass of wine, and cooking something, usually pasta, for my family when I can. So, it’s the kids and the food.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Lauren Iannotti: She’s good at what she does, and she’s good to people. Kindness and excellence are what I try to go for always.

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

Lauren Iannotti: What doesn’t? (Laughs) Do people sleep these days?

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Lauren Iannotti: I can tell you what doesn’t keep me up. I’m not worried about content. I think people still seek out great content, so these legacy brands will be fine as long as they keep doing the great work that people expect from them. What keeps me up at night could be anything from climate change to what’s happening in Myanmar to what’s happening in this country. It could be a hurricane or it could be a mass shooting, one of the several that happens every day in this country. I think there is plenty out there in the world to worry about and it doesn’t go away, and Facebook is constantly reminding me of that. And I thank Facebook for that.

I just feel lucky that I get to do something that in some ways improves those things and that our namesake is a very charitable person and is very focused on what’s going on in the world. But in other ways, the brand brings me moments that can take my mind off of things, and that’s what I hope we do for our readers.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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