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Getting In Shape (The Magazine): An Evolution That Began By Asking The Question Of The 37-Year-Old Brand: If Shape Was Launching Today, What Would It Look Like? The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Elizabeth Goodman-Artis, Editor In Chief, Shape Magazine…

April 12, 2018

“I felt like we could add more real women and their experiences. I really wanted to make it a more well-rounded experience. And the tagline we’re using is “Living the well-lived life,” something that’s a little more holistic and well-rounded, because we know that our audience is really engaged in this healthy, active lifestyle. And that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. And so, we wanted to give a more well-rounded mix and really get a sense of the experiences that women are having living this lifestyle. We wanted to kind of bubble that up in the magazine some more.” Elizabeth Goodman-Artis…

“I think the print magazine is the place where you can sit back, lean-in, and get excited about the content. And in the digital iterations, whether you’re desktop or mobile, however you’re interacting, that becomes more transactional, and I mean that in a good way. It’s very specific information, like guidance. And I think it appeals to different parts of your brain and different needs in the moment.” Elizabeth Goodman-Artis…

Shape Magazine has been a staple in the health and fitness magazine realm for 37 years. It has been the go-to source for women who lead an active lifestyle, focusing on the magazine’s five pillars of coverage, which according to Elizabeth Goodman-Artis, editor in chief of the brand is: beauty, fitness, health, style and nutrition.

With the May issue, the legacy brand has undergone what Elizabeth calls an evolution, rather than a reimagining. She said there has been a massive cultural shift that is redefining
what healthy living means to women today. And in her May editor’s letter, she shares with her readers the mission of this evolution. Here’s an excerpt:

“My mission for Shape is to reflect this shift—really reflect it. What you’ll see in the pages of this issue is the result of a pivotal moment in our evolution, one that started when I asked myself this question: If Shape was launching today, what would it look like? To start, it would have more voices and viewpoints from inspiring people who are living this well-lived life—distinctive women from diverse backgrounds, all with unique stories to tell and a dedication to living with authentic, health-focused style. The innovations don’t stop there.”

The legacy brand has expanded and evolved with a mix of content, as well as an elevated design aesthetic. Elizabeth adds that the redesign also offers a shift in tonality and features more diverse voices, including influencer and real women. Overall, the new Shape focuses on content for the holistic, healthy lifestyle of today’s woman: beauty and style advice that adapts to her busy life; ways to discover the joys of healthy and delicious eating; relatable tips for health and relationships; and innovative ways to keep her body strong and fit.

And Mr. Magazine is very happy with the evolution. Shape is as “shapely” as ever, with a few new curves added. So, join Mr. Magazine™ as we get into Shape with Elizabeth Goodman-Artis, editor in chief.

But first the sound-bites:

On Shape magazine’s redesign/reinvention after 37 years: I wouldn’t say that we reinvented it at all. I would say that we’ve evolved it. Honestly, what really precipitated this was I got a new, amazing creative director, he started in August, and he wanted to put his stamp on it and we felt like it was time for a design upgrade. So, it started with that. And I also felt that there were things that we were missing. We could add more voices; I felt like we could add more real women and their experiences. I really wanted to make it a more well-rounded experience. And the tagline we’re using is “Living the well-lived life,” something that’s a little more holistic and well-rounded, because we know that our audience is really engaged in this healthy, active lifestyle.

On whether the more holistic and healthy focus of the new redesign puts Shape in a different competitive set: It’s the same, absolutely the same. Again, it’s an evolution, I wouldn’t say that we’ve really changed the DNA of the brand at all. One of the things that I wanted to do was change the voice and the tonality a little bit, just to make it feel more modern. I think a good example is the way the magazine was packaged, like the actual names of the sections before, things like, Eat Right, Get Fit. They’re clear, they say it, they make sense, they’re direct, but I feel like they’re a little bit of a command to perform. And I wanted to change that tonality a little bit, and when you go through the May issue you’ll see that the sections all start with the verb “to be.” And that was very deliberate, because I wanted to invite the readers “to be” in the moment, to experience the content, and really make it their own.

On whether she thinks the audience has changed or evolved in that the way they interact with a print magazine is different today than maybe 10 years ago: Sure, absolutely. I think a print magazine is more of a lean-back and engaged experience, rather than a servicey, transactional experience. A good example is the way we’re doing fitness content now. One of the things that we’ve seen, in terms of digital, is that over one million readers have joined our video challenges in the last year. Our visitors to shape.com workout content has risen exponentially. And that’s your very functional fitness, your very transactional fitness, here’s exactly how you do this workout. And I think that’s the way audiences are engaging with that kind of content. They’re doing it on their phones. So, I felt like with the fitness content in the magazine, it was really important to create content that was more about experience and the science of exercise and the storytelling. You can lean back into it and get inspired and get excited about this kind of content.

On how her job as editor in chief has changed over the years: In terms of actual day-to-day workflow, I think we’re more efficient than we used to be. We have to be. Obviously, the industry is changing, the media world is changing; we all know what’s going on and I think there’s a level of focus that’s required today. Thinking back to 25 years ago, or whenever I started at Glamour magazine, it was 1993, there were a lot more people and we just don’t have those kinds of staff anymore, because it’s not efficient nor cost-effective. So, I think we have to be just really focused.

On what content means to her today: (Laughs) What a good question. I could go into a lot of different rabbit-holes. I think content is changing all of the time. It’s impossible to immediately summarize that. I think it depends on who you are, what you want and what you’re looking for. An audience who’s interested in healthy, active living wants information, but they also want connectivity and motivation. And they’ll get that with all of the new voices and points of view that we’re adding. I think that’s really important. Whatever your goals are, and those are personal to you, it takes a lot of mental strength and courage to live this lifestyle. So, I think that’s one of the biggest changes I’ve seen and one I wanted to bring to the magazine, more of that emotion, into everything that we do.

On if that’s the reason for the more holistic approach Shape is now taking: Sure, that’s one. There were many reasons. Honestly, what was great about what we did with Shape, the magazine before was great, and this is just an evolution. And there wasn’t pressure to do it. It was just that we felt and I felt it was time for it, for many different reasons. And as I said, I really wanted to equalize the content distribution.

On how she can make the content of the magazine more of an emotional experience: I’ll give you an example. Our new fitness section is called “Be Strong and Fit,” and we’re actually debuting a new column that we just didn’t have room for in the May issue because it was so packed with amazing new content, and also not for nothing, it was content that we thought was really working well, so we morphed some columns. The DNA is still Shape Magazine, it’s really about an evolution. It’s not a reimagining at all. But we’re adding a new column that I’m excited about called “Everyday Athletes.” What I wanted to do with this was really showcase real women who have gone out and they’ve accomplished something physical across the spectrum.

On how she sees the future mix of print and digital for Shape: Well, it’s what I’ve said already, that I think the print magazine is the place where you can sit back, lean-in, and get excited about the content. And in the digital iterations, whether you’re desktop or mobile, however you’re interacting, that becomes more transactional, and I mean that in a good way. It’s very specific information, like guidance. And I think it appeals to different parts of your brain and different needs in the moment.

On whether she expects editors to practice what they preach: I can’t speak for other editors. This is how I run the magazine and it’s my point of view. I am very practical. (Laughs) I think about the brand as a whole and work closely with our amazing digital director, Amanda Wolfe. And it’s really collaborative and I’m brainstorming with my really talented staff about what all of this means today. Getting into the media is the message kind of thing, which shows my journalism school experience studying Marshall McLuhan. (Laughs) I think it’s just being clear and focused about it. Like, how do magazines make sense in people’s lives today? And how are they using the print magazine iteration as opposed to the digital arms? It’s kind of being logical.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: She just wants to help.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: Right now you’d find me very unhappy because I’m living in a rental apartment while my house is being renovated. And it’s dragging on and I’m really sick of the apartment, but once I’m back in my house and happier, you’d probably find me cooking. I love to cook. I find it really relaxing and I’m really into trying new recipes. And I’m very excited about the new kitchen I will hopefully have in the next few months. So, chopping, and focusing on cooking gets me out of the day and it focuses my attention. So, you’d find me doing that and hanging out with my husband and my cats. I don’t have kids, I have cats. That’s how I unwind.

On what keeps her up at night: Honestly, I’m not somebody who wakes up a lot and tosses and turns and worries too much, because there is nothing you can do about anything in life in the middle of the night. I do have some pretty good techniques. Usually breathing techniques or meditative techniques to help me go back to sleep. But what keeps me up at night is what keeps anybody up, the unknown. It’s very general; I wouldn’t say there is anything specific. And nothing specific about media and state of things, because I feel like we’re all just kind of watching the evolution and I want to be along for the ride. I’m somebody who is very flexible and I try to pivot and go with the flow.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Elizabeth Goodman-Artis, editor in chief, Shape magazine.

Samir Husni: Shape is going to be bold, I hear.

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: Yes, we’re going to be bold.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the timing of this redesign. After 37 years, why now and why did you decide to reinvent Shape magazine?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: I wouldn’t say that we reinvented it at all. I would say that we’ve evolved it. Honestly, what really precipitated this was I got a new, amazing creative director, he started in August, and he wanted to put his stamp on it and we felt like it was time for a design upgrade. So, it started with that.

But honestly, I felt like it was time to redistribute our content in the sense that we weren’t giving the main five pillars of the things that we always cover, which is beauty, fitness, health, style and nutrition, we weren’t giving them all equal weight. There was too much emphasis in some places and not enough in the others. And I really wanted to just try and equalize the content in the magazine.

And I also felt that there were things that we were missing. We could add more voices; I felt like we could add more real women and their experiences. I really wanted to make it a more well-rounded experience. And the tagline we’re using is “Living the well-lived life,” something that’s a little more holistic and well-rounded, because we know that our audience is really engaged in this healthy, active lifestyle. And that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. And so, we wanted to give a more well-rounded mix and really get a sense of the experiences that women are having living this lifestyle. We wanted to kind of bubble that up in the magazine some more.

Samir Husni: That combination of the holistic and healthy lifestyle, does it put you in a different competitive set or it’s the same?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: It’s the same, absolutely the same. Again, it’s an evolution, I wouldn’t say that we’ve really changed the DNA of the brand at all. One of the things that I wanted to do was change the voice and the tonality a little bit, just to make it feel more modern. I think a good example is the way the magazine was packaged, like the actual names of the sections before, things like, Eat Right, Get Fit. They’re clear, they say it, they make sense, they’re direct, but I feel like they’re a little bit of a command to perform.

And I wanted to change that tonality a little bit, and when you go through the May issue you’ll see that the sections all start with the verb “to be.” And that was very deliberate, because I wanted to invite the readers “to be” in the moment, to experience the content, and really make it their own. I don’t want to dictate to our audience, but I want to give them the tools and ideas and information they need to craft their own well-lived life.

Samir Husni: You’ve started all the sections with “to be,” to be healthy, to be food-curious, to be fit, etc. Do you think the audience has changed or evolved in that the way they interact with a print magazine is different today than maybe 10 years ago?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: Sure, absolutely. I think a print magazine is more of a lean-back and engaged experience, rather than a servicey, transactional experience. A good example is the way we’re doing fitness content now. One of the things that we’ve seen, in terms of digital, is that over one million readers have joined our video challenges in the last year. Our visitors to shape.com workout content has risen exponentially. And that’s your very functional fitness, your very transactional fitness, here’s exactly how you do this workout. And I think that’s the way audiences are engaging with that kind of content. They’re doing it on their phones.

So, I felt like with the fitness content in the magazine, it was really important to create content that was more about experience and the science of exercise and the storytelling. You can lean back into it and get inspired and get excited about this kind of content. And then you can go to shape.com and get your nuts and bolts. I think it’s really about engaging with this content that’s all about healthy living, and getting excited about it. And really leaning into it, and then you can go to shape.com and get more specific, functional workouts and content.

Samir Husni: You’ve been in the magazine media business for 20 years, give or take. How do you feel things have changed over the years? Is life easier for you now as an editor in chief or is it more complicated? Tell me about the changes based on your experience.

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: In terms of actual day-to-day workflow, I think we’re more efficient than we used to be. We have to be. Obviously, the industry is changing, the media world is changing; we all know what’s going on and I think there’s a level of focus that’s required today. Thinking back to 25 years ago, or whenever I started at Glamour magazine, it was 1993, there were a lot more people and we just don’t have those kinds of staff anymore, because it’s not efficient nor cost-effective. So, I think we have to be just really focused.

There isn’t quite the time to spend days and weeks on one story, you have to move at a faster pace. Everybody is doing that, so I think that’s the biggest change. As an editor in chief, I would say that I owe it to my staff to make quick decisions and to have a clear vision for what I want, because we don’t have the time and the luxury to throw a lot of things at the wall and see what sticks.

I think with this evolution, I had a very clear vision, along with my creative director and my executive editor, of what we wanted this to look like. And then we gave the staff the blueprint and they were really excited about it. So, it was a very efficient, very focused process.

This summer we decided, when Noah (Dreier) came on, my creative director, we talked a lot about what we wanted to do with the brand and what we wanted it to look like. He came with so many great ideas. And speaking of my staff, I think you’ll see that we sort of beefed up our style content and that’s because we added a new fashion director, Brooke Ely Danielson, and she also came with so many great ideas and just a fresh approach to what style means today. And I was excited to get their ideas in the brand, so that was a big part of it.

Samir Husni: You’ve added the section “What Style Means Today.” My question to you is what does content mean today?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: (Laughs) What a good question. I could go into a lot of different rabbit-holes. I think content is changing all of the time. It’s impossible to immediately summarize that. I think it depends on who you are, what you want and what you’re looking for. An audience who’s interested in healthy, active living wants information, but they also want connectivity and motivation. And they’ll get that with all of the new voices and points of view that we’re adding. I think that’s really important.

Honestly, a good way to talk about the change, in terms of active, healthy living content, is I think it has gone from, in the last 10 or so years, just transactional and informative to more emotional. That’s the biggest sort of change that I’ve seen and wanted to incorporate into Shape now was the sense of emotion of this lifestyle, because it’s a very emotional experience. Whatever your goals are, and those are personal to you, it takes a lot of mental strength and courage to live this lifestyle. So, I think that’s one of the biggest changes I’ve seen and one I wanted to bring to the magazine, more of that emotion, into everything that we do.

Samir Husni: Is that the reason for the holistic approach?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: Sure, that’s one. There were many reasons. Honestly, what was great about what we did with Shape, the magazine before was great, and this is just an evolution. And there wasn’t pressure to do it. It was just that we felt and I felt it was time for it, for many different reasons. And as I said, I really wanted to equalize the content distribution.

A good example is our health section. I felt it was a little marginalized and that we could do more with it. Our audience is really interested in health beyond the numbers they get at their yearly doctor’s visit. This audience is really engaged with making sure of their health and I wanted to give that section a little more love. So, it was really about distributing our efforts equally among our five content pillars.

Samir Husni: As you move forward into the new evolution, and of course, you created the video series and the Shape Challenge that really brought a lot of audience experiences, I’m very intrigued by what you said about focusing on the more emotional link with the content. How can you make the content of the magazine more of an emotional experience, rather than the functional experience?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: I’ll give you an example. Our new fitness section is called “Be Strong and Fit,” and we’re actually debuting a new column that we just didn’t have room for in the May issue because it was so packed with amazing new content, and also not for nothing, it was content that we thought was really working well, so we morphed some columns. The DNA is still Shape Magazine, it’s really about an evolution. It’s not a reimagining at all.

But we’re adding a new column that I’m excited about called “Everyday Athletes.” What I wanted to do with this was really showcase real women who have gone out and they’ve accomplished something physical across the spectrum. So, the example I use is, I go to a gym called CrossFit South Brooklyn, I do CrossFit. And CrossFit is very, very hard. (Laughs) But what I love about it, the terminology that they use is, you can scale it. So, if you can’t do 50 pushups, do two. If you can’t do two, hold a plank for thirty seconds. At any skill level, you can do this kind of exercise.

One of the most inspiring things I’ve seen is, one of the trainers that I work with frequently, her name is Jess Fox, and one of her goals was to do a muscle-up, and that’s a very, very hard move. It’s like gymnastics, it requires hanging onto some rings, pulling yourself up and pushing upward until your arms are straight, so it requires a lot of strength. This was a goal she had for a long time and she worked at it in a myriad of ways. And now she can do it. I want to hear her story. So, in 200 words, what that felt like and kind of get inside her journey.

Likewise, I’d like to hear from a woman who tried her very first hot yoga class. Or her very first Pilates class, or her very first walking marathon, or triathlon. Athletic feats across the spectrum, but I want to get inside what that felt like. What the motivation, what they did, and how it felt on the other side. That’s what I mean by “Everyday Athletes.” Women across the spectrum of skill levels, abilities, and what motivated them and what it felt like. So, I think that’s a really good example of how, instead of telling you how to do a muscle-up, certainly it’s a very hard move and I wouldn’t recommend it to many people (Laughs), but if that’s your goal, that’s great. There are certainly a series of steps that you can take to learn how to do this move. You can break it down into the technical components of it, fine, that’s one way to approach it. But I also want to know what it feels like inside to have accomplished that. So, that’s a column that I’m really excited about. And it’s coming out in the June issue. I think that nicely encompasses what I mean by emotion and motivation, and the difference between that and the transactional experience.

Samir Husni: As you look into the future, and at the fact that publishers are making their print components “printier” and their brands “brandier,” and everyone is becoming Print Proud and Digital Smart, how do you see that combination of print and digital? People don’t talk anymore about Shape magazine, they talk about Shape the brand.

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: Yes, and it is a brand.

Samir Husni: So, how do you see that future mix?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: Well, it’s what I’ve said already, that I think the print magazine is the place where you can sit back, lean-in, and get excited about the content. And in the digital iterations, whether you’re desktop or mobile, however you’re interacting, that becomes more transactional, and I mean that in a good way. It’s very specific information, like guidance. And I think it appeals to different parts of your brain and different needs in the moment.

In terms of fitness content, and I don’t think anybody would argue with me, that I just don’t think looking at a magazine and getting directions on how to do a specific move, nobody is taking magazines to the gym to do that anymore. They’re using their phones. If they want to know exactly how to a 10-minute AMRAP workout, which means as many rounds as possible, or an ab challenge, it doesn’t make sense to waste pages in a magazine detailing line by line exactly how to do that. You’re going to get that online. So, that’s the big difference I see, especially with this brand.

Samir Husni: You’re practicing what you preach and you’re speaking from experience. Do you expect editors nowadays to practice what they preach or just sometimes?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: I can’t speak for other editors. This is how I run the magazine and it’s my point of view. I am very practical. (Laughs) I think about the brand as a whole and work closely with our amazing digital director, Amanda Wolfe. And it’s really collaborative and I’m brainstorming with my really talented staff about what all of this means today. Getting into the media is the message kind of thing, which shows my journalism school experience studying Marshall McLuhan. (Laughs) I think it’s just being clear and focused about it. Like, how do magazines make sense in people’s lives today? And how are they using the print magazine iteration as opposed to the digital arms? It’s kind of being logical.

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

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: She just wants to help.

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?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: Right now you’d find me very unhappy because I’m living in a rental apartment while my house is being renovated. And it’s dragging on and I’m really sick of the apartment, but once I’m back in my house and happier, you’d probably find me cooking. I love to cook. I find it really relaxing and I’m really into trying new recipes. And I’m very excited about the new kitchen I will hopefully have in the next few months. So, chopping, and focusing on cooking gets me out of the day and it focuses my attention. So, you’d find me doing that and hanging out with my husband and my cats. I don’t have kids, I have cats. That’s how I unwind.

Usually we pick one Netflix show to watch a night. I don’t like watching endless hours of TV, and flipping around. I like to have a plan for the night and I try to get to bed at a reasonable hour. It’s not that exciting. (Laughs)

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

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: Honestly, I’m not somebody who wakes up a lot and tosses and turns and worries too much, because there is nothing you can do about anything in life in the middle of the night. I do have some pretty good techniques. Usually breathing techniques or meditative techniques to help me go back to sleep. But what keeps me up at night is what keeps anybody up, the unknown. It’s very general; I wouldn’t say there is anything specific. And nothing specific about media and state of things, because I feel like we’re all just kind of watching the evolution and I want to be along for the ride. I’m somebody who is very flexible and I try to pivot and go with the flow.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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