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Real Simple: Bucking The Trends Since Its Inception 18 Years Ago By Giving Readers A “Life Made Easier” – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Leslie Yazel, Editor In Chief & Daren Mazzucca, Vice President/Group Publisher…

October 25, 2018

“It’s our usefulness. We promise women that we’re going to help them get organized, get in control, and give them back time. We sold more issues, the August issue of Real Simple, on newsstands in 2018 than we did in 2017. And the cover line was “More Time for You.” And I really think that is what women are looking for; they feel busy, and life for women in 2018 is complex as it was when we launched, but maybe even more so now. And there’s something useful for women throughout this magazine. It’s an uplifting, positive message that we have for women.” Leslie Yazel…

Real Simple magazine has been a success and a unique trend-breaker from its inception. It adheres to a “simple” concept and a “simple” perspective, from its covers to its content. Simply put (pun intended), it’s “Life Made Easier,” just like its tagline testifies.

Leslie Yazel, editor in chief, and Daren Mazzucca, vice president/group publisher, are two people who love the brand and believe in its mission and purpose: serving its readers completely with straightforward and honest content, from the stories to the advertisements; content that helps readers live more simply and comfortably. I spoke with Daren and Leslie recently and we talked about those highly successful covers that tease and tempt without celebrities, sex, or great, gooey chocolate treats.

The conversation also included the highly promising and successful changes that have been wrought since Meredith’s acquisition and the bright future for the brand that both believe in. It was an interesting and enlightening discussion about a brand that bucked all the trends and continues to amaze and delight.

So, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with two of the forces-that-be at Real Simple magazine and find the pure joy that living the “simple” life brings as you follow along with Leslie Yazel and Daren Mazzucca.

But first the sound-bites:

On the secret sauce of Real Simple that keeps it going strong after almost 20 years (Leslie Yazel): It’s our usefulness. We promise women that we’re going to help them get organized, get in control, and give them back time. We sold more issues, the August issue of Real Simple, on newsstands in 2018 than we did in 2017. And the cover line was “More Time for You.” And I really think that is what women are looking for; they feel busy, and life for women in 2018 is complex as it was when we launched, but maybe even more so now. And there’s something useful for women throughout this magazine. It’s an uplifting, positive message that we have for women.

On whether Real Simple’s simplistic style in covers is its point of differentiation from the other women’s magazines (Leslie Yazel): We definitely try to make the print product an airy, restful, relaxing item where women can take a breath and they can make decisions. We have financial coverage, career coverage, home and food, and health coverage. Women can actually make decisions as they’re reading Real Simple because they’re getting that head space. I hear from women all of the time, their Real Simple comes and they set it aside for their “me time.” For when they have time to really look at it.

On whether Real Simple’s simplistic style in covers is its point of differentiation from the other women’s magazines (Daren Mazzucca): And that’s $5.99 on the cover, by the way, and that’s important. You study all of those magazines in the marketplace, you see the newsstand and how women’s shopping patterns are changing, and newsstand has been declining for most print magazines. Real Simple has been bucking that at $5.99 a cover. And I think marginally that’s also why we continue to get great presence and coverage at the retail checkout. They want products that sell through and out the door.

On their elevator pitch for selling Real Simple without celebrity covers (Leslie Yazel): I have thought about this a lot because I have worked at magazines with celebrities on the cover, and to me celebrity just limits the audience. People feel very differently about the same celebrity. I love Connie Britton, somebody else doesn’t love Connie Britton. Nicki Minaj is sexy and empowering, other people see her differently.

On their elevator pitch for selling Real Simple without celebrity covers (Daren Mazzucca): As you know, Living is not anchored in Martha Stewart; Martha is not always on their cover. And Real Simple always adheres to a beautiful, clean image. The tagline “Life Made Easier” has been on the magazine cover for 18 years. And it’s really that simple. I find myself using that word a lot more. I was in Minneapolis recently and we were talking about how often we refer to the word “simple,” “real simple” and it is just an honor to represent this brand as now part of the new Meredith Corporation.

On the biggest challenge that they’re facing today (Leslie Yazel): The drive to always be relevant. I come from a news background for half of my career, that 24-hour news cycle with newspapers, and the other half has been in magazines, and we’re constantly asking what does the reader want? I’m not a big ego editor who says, “I know what she wants.” We have great research at this brand. We do something called the “Problem Detector Study” that we’ve done for years and updated. And we’re doing a new version this year as well. We ask what are her issues, what are her problems, what is she worried about, what keeps her up at night? And we address that in every issue; we really use the research of our guide. It’s not just our digital partners that look at what’s scoring, we bring that reader to the print side too.

On the biggest challenge that they’re facing today (Daren Mazzucca): And from the business, sales and marketing perspective, the challenges that we’ve had has been arguing a vertical sales structure. Now having brand advocates, we connect with the clients and agency partners and bring together some highly customizable solutions. Our business has transformed over the last 10-plus years, we’re definitely more integrated than ever before, but clients don’t just historically give you six or seven run of book pages, they want to be aligned with the DNA of the content, so we work with our marketing team and we work with Leslie and her team to refine solutions for clients. And so those conversations take time and trust and we’re rebuilding those bridges to our advertising base for 2019.

On whether there any audience challenges, such as that “me time,” that cannot transfer from print to digital (Leslie Yazel): I think that women are coming to Real Simple on different platforms for different reasons. They come to us in print and that’s a break and relaxing; they come to us in digital and they’re usually taking action, they’re looking for something, whether it’s a recipe or a shortcut. And they could be looking to purchase; part of what’s been fun about becoming part of the Meredith Corporation is that with their Shop Nation acquisition, practically overnight they opened the Real Simple Shop online.

On whether there any audience challenges, such as that “me time,” that cannot transfer from print to digital (Daren Mazzucca): And Leslie sits right next to Heather Morgan Shott, our Digital Director, so these two ladies are in sync with each other. When we concept out a project or a initiative, they think through how it’s going to live in print and how it’s going to activate digitally. It’s some really great collaboration.

On whether they feel Real Simple is a hard formula to imitate despite its simplicity (Daren Mazzucca): I mentioned that I recently came back from Minneapolis and I challenged everyone, and there was a lot of head nodding in the room, if you strip our content apart and lay it down on a table with other women’s lifestyle service magazines, you can clearly delineate and distinguish what is Real Simple. From our texture, what you get with the paper; we’ve always had unique, special European paper that enhances the reading experience. There are some brands that try and copy pieces of what we do, but not the entire package of what we do.

On whether they feel Real Simple is a hard formula to imitate despite its simplicity (Leslie Yazel): That’s always a challenge for my editors. I always ask, but how can this be a story about Thanksgiving recipes that can only appear in Real Simple? How does it have our DNA? These are topics that other magazines cover, but the way that we cover them has to feel like that.

On whether the magazine is planned at least a year ahead (Leslie Yazel): We definitely theme ahead the issues and part of that is because the partners who are excited to work with us want to get a sense of when is the prime time for them to be a part of what we’re doing. So, this March we’re talking about doing a shopping issue for the first time ever, which with us is shopping smarter, spending your money wisely. We have a “Get it Done” issue in June and part of that is because you can do that across any sales vertical, but also because when I talk to women and when I look at our research, you always have these things hanging over your head that you want to finish before summer comes, because it’s so hard to get things done in the summer.

On whether the magazine is planned at least a year ahead (Daren Mazzucca): I’ve also seen socially and heard it from the field that people are reading our “Spring Cleaning” April issue right now in the fall, rereading, because they’re fall cleaning. I put it off in the spring and now I can do it in the fall. So, it’s still relevant.

On whether they believe 2019 will bring more mergers and/or acquisitions (Daren Mazzucca): Obviously, we have some of our brands that are up for sale. We announced publicly the sale of Time magazine brand, so I believe there will be some opportunities and I’m sure Tom Harty and Steve Lacy are looking at every opportunity, along with Jon (Werther) and Doug (Olson). But we have just absorbed and collaborated a lot and we want to make sure that we activate beautifully with our new portfolio. And I’m speaking for the two brands that I represent, but I know that’s an initiative for all of us. We need to make sure that we’re activating and driving topnotch revenue for the organization as the industry continues evolving and changing, hopefully, for the better.

On whether Leslie feels like she has weathered the storms of change (Leslie Yazel): You know, it’s interesting because I came here and it was Time Inc. and then when there was an announcement that Meredith was buying us, it was so much fun for me because I grew up in Des Moines, went to school in Des Moines, my entire immediate family all still live in Des Moines. And I had never worked for Meredith except once, when I was a child, I had a modeling job at Meredith and went to the beautiful building downtown and met the photographers and set designers. And they had these exciting jobs and they had lived in larger cities, and I thought gosh, maybe someday I’ll want to do one of these big creative jobs and live in a big city. So, I thought of all of that as I got the call on a Sunday saying that Meredith was buying Real Simple and the rest of the portfolio. So, I do feel like it’s been a fun, personal full circle for me.

On anything they’d like to add (Leslie Yazel): I’ve been able to take this really strong brand, and now we’re doing more than ever. Now, we have the Real Simple Shop and the Real Simple Home, and we have these great designers who come in, including Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent, these household names. And we have more on the horizon.

On anything they’d like to add (Daren Mazzucca): Leslie and I are still getting to know each other; it’s been a great relationship for the past six-plus months. And again, we’re just really trying to, from a sales and marketing perspective, harness all of these great pillars and initiatives. The Real Simple Home was a huge success, it was one of the first things we talked about when we first met. The great initiative of the team here in place before I arrived, while it was very successful, marketers are asking us where is the next one. And we’re working on 2.0 to be announced shortly. We’ll make sure you’re looped in for sure.

On the biggest misconception about each of them (Leslie Yazel): I’m an open book, this one is hard for me. I think people think that the job of an editor in chief is to make all of the decisions and carry around a big ego, and I think a lot of the key to the success of Real Simple is that I empower women and younger women on my team to let their voices be heard, to let their ideas rise. And we got numbers recently from MRI showing that we’re two and a half years younger in our audience than we were a year ago, and I feel like that’s because great ideas can come from anyone on my team, from our newest employees to our youngest editors. So, I think that being a consensus-taker has served the brand really well.

On the biggest misconception about each of them (Daren Mazzucca): Honestly, I feel blessed to be the business leader for this brand, but it’s really the great sales and marketing organization that does all of the heavy lifting. We often get appointed and put in positions to be leading, but it’s really the team that’s behind you, that’s out on the battlefield every day. I have a very talented team in place across the country and we have a great marketing team who are working closely with the editors. The little secret sauce is that I’m really just the bandleader and there are many others in the orchestra that make the beautiful music.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home (Leslie Yazel): My daughter is eight, so she’s at that age where she’s a complete bookworm, and my husband is the television editor at The New York Times, and so there’s a lot of TV being watched in our house. So, it’s usually one of those. But I do try to walk the walk; we have a whole section in the magazine called “Balance,” so I do unplug. Sometimes I come home, get my daughter and get back on the laptop, but I do try to take a break, because I think you can’t be creative unless you have some away time from work too.

On what keeps them each up at night (Leslie Yazel): I don’t see my family in Des Moines enough. And then also just, when I wake up it’s not the panic-wake-up, it’s sort of what’s going to happen with the next Real Simple Home, because this is the most exciting thing we’ve done. And I know that I keep coming back to it, but the truth is, if you can take nine designers, two organizers, a blank space and make something – I just want to pick the place.

On what keeps them each up at night (Daren Mazzucca): I sleep pretty well. At the end of the day, I’m exhausted. Just the opportunities ahead keeps me up a little bit. There are a lot of people to meet; we have folks who are being reintroduced to the magazine that hasn’t seen a seller represent the brand for the last two years, so we’re reintroducing and reconnecting. And there’s a lot to do, so we’re having fun with that. And that gets me up very early. (Laughs) I’m an early riser.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Leslie Yazel & Daren Mazzucca.

Samir Husni: You’re approaching almost the 20th anniversary of Real Simple magazine. It was launched in 2000, and back then all the critics said there was no way a women’s magazine would succeed with no celebrities on the cover, no sex, no chocolate; and yet almost 20 years later with a circulation of almost two million, you’re still going strong. What do you think the secret sauce is that makes Real Simple what it is today?

Leslie Yazel: It’s our usefulness. We promise women that we’re going to help them get organized, get in control, and give them back time. We sold more issues, the August issue of Real Simple, on newsstands in 2018 than we did in 2017. And the cover line was “More Time for You.” And I really think that is what women are looking for; they feel busy, and life for women in 2018 is complex as it was when we launched, but maybe even more so now. And there’s something useful for women throughout this magazine. It’s an uplifting, positive message that we have for women.

Samir Husni: The October issue has a photo of a door with a candle in front of it and some pumpkins beside it. That simplicity of the covers, is that your point of differentiation from the rest of the women’s magazines?

Leslie Yazel: We definitely try to make the print product an airy, restful, relaxing item where women can take a breath and they can make decisions. We have financial coverage, career coverage, home and food, and health coverage. Women can actually make decisions as they’re reading Real Simple because they’re getting that head space. I hear from women all of the time, their Real Simple comes and they set it aside for their “me time.” For when they have time to really look at it.

It’s a great promise we have to our partners that people value this print product and that they can take time with it. And we’re multiplatform, so if she’s searching for something on Google we want to own that FPO; we want to reach her on Facebook and other places where she is. But the print product is still a big part of what we’re doing and we’re not seeing that type of newsstand drop off that you hear about when people speak about the industry generally.

Daren Mazzucca: And that’s $5.99 on the cover, by the way, and that’s important. You study all of those magazines in the marketplace, you see the newsstand and how women’s shopping patterns are changing, and newsstand has been declining for most print magazines. Real Simple has been bucking that at $5.99 a cover. And I think marginally that’s also why we continue to get great presence and coverage at the retail checkout. They want products that sell through and out the door.

Samir Husni: Talking about selling and sales; Daren, you’ve sold magazines with celebrities and you’ve sold magazines without celebrities, what’s your elevator pitch for selling Real Simple with no celebrities and no sex on the cover?

Daren Mazzucca: Sure, let Leslie take that first, then I’ll jump in.

Leslie Yazel: I have thought about this a lot because I have worked at magazines with celebrities on the cover, and to me celebrity just limits the audience. People feel very differently about the same celebrity. I love Connie Britton, somebody else doesn’t love Connie Britton. Nicki Minaj is sexy and empowering, other people see her differently.

And so you’re always going to be dividing your audience, whereas I’m looking at these cover images; I’m trying to find something that is aspirational, but achievable, that has a relaxing vibe, that’s pretty and makes you curious and gives you ideas, so to me that’s much more powerful than a celebrity who might be loved or not loved, and who may have done something (Laughs) the week before you go on newsstand. There’s a lot of risk with celebrity covers.

Daren Mazzucca: As you know, Living is not anchored in Martha Stewart; Martha is not always on their cover. And Real Simple always adheres to a beautiful, clean image. The tagline “Life Made Easier” has been on the magazine cover for 18 years. And it’s really that simple. I find myself using that word a lot more. I was in Minneapolis recently and we were talking about how often we refer to the word “simple,” “real simple” and it is just an honor to represent this brand as now part of the new Meredith Corporation.

We knew many who were before us, both on the content and the business side, and it’s amazingly empowering to be the champion of the brand for this moment in 2018 as we turn the corner for 2019.

Leslie Yazel: And Daren, I think we both remember reading this right from the start, because I was the audience for this and loved it from the start. And you were working at competitive titles, and so it’s been fun for us to unite under a magazine that we’ve watched come to life.

Daren Mazzucca: Exactly.

Samir Husni: What is the biggest challenge that you’re facing today?

Leslie Yazel: The drive to always be relevant. I come from a news background for half of my career, that 24-hour news cycle with newspapers, and the other half has been in magazines, and we’re constantly asking what does the reader want? I’m not a big ego editor who says, “I know what she wants.” We have great research at this brand. We do something called the “Problem Detector Study” that we’ve done for years and updated. And we’re doing a new version this year as well. We ask what are her issues, what are her problems, what is she worried about, what keeps her up at night? And we address that in every issue; we really use the research of our guide. It’s not just our digital partners that look at what’s scoring, we bring that reader to the print side too.

Daren Mazzucca: And from the business, sales and marketing perspective, the challenges that we’ve had has been arguing a vertical sales structure. Now having brand advocates, we connect with the clients and agency partners and bring together some highly customizable solutions. Our business has transformed over the last 10-plus years, we’re definitely more integrated than ever before, but clients don’t just historically give you six or seven run of book pages, they want to be aligned with the DNA of the content, so we work with our marketing team and we work with Leslie and her team to refine solutions for clients. And so those conversations take time and trust and we’re rebuilding those bridges to our advertising base for 2019.

Samir Husni: Leslie, with your background in news and as you venture into the Amazon Jungle out there that’s called digital, do you feel that you can offer the same thing on digital that you can offer in print? You talked about the “me time” and the “welcome to cozy,” are there any challenges, such as those things, that you cannot transfer from print to digital?

Leslie Yazel: That’s a great question. I think that women are coming to Real Simple on different platforms for different reasons. They come to us in print and that’s a break and relaxing; they come to us in digital and they’re usually taking action, they’re looking for something, whether it’s a recipe or a shortcut. And they could be looking to purchase; part of what’s been fun about becoming part of the Meredith Corporation is that with their Shop Nation acquisition, practically overnight they opened the Real Simple Shop online. And so now women can come shop with us, we still have a section of the site called “Shop the Issue” if they saw something a while back that they wanted to buy.

And there’s even a broader range of things that they look for on social. They might want to know where Meghan Markle is going to get her maternity wear, there could be all sorts of different things. So we don’t try to say that we have to be exactly the same and used the same way on every platform. We do still want the same look and feel of the magazine, but I have great creative directors for that, so I’m lucky.

Daren Mazzucca: And Leslie sits right next to Heather Morgan Shott, our Digital Director, so these two ladies are in sync with each other. When we concept out a project or an initiative, they think through how it’s going to live in print and how it’s going to activate digitally. It’s some really great collaboration.

Leslie Yazel: The two teams always come together for our visual meetings. For example, for the print magazine we did a beautiful story where we shot a house in Nashville done by a designer that we work with, and then on the digital side we had a social editor do some video, talking about curb appeal, and added value. And when we combine like that, there’s a natural connection and just great stuff across multiplatform; we can tell one story in two or three different ways. It’s just part of being a modern brand.

Samir Husni: Do you feel that it’s such a simple, yet hard formula to imitate, that there are not too many Real Simple magazines out there in the marketplace? Or do you feel that a lot of people have tried to imitate it but failed?

Daren Mazzucca: I mentioned that I recently came back from Minneapolis and I challenged everyone, and there was a lot of head nodding in the room, if you strip our content apart and lay it down on a table with other women’s lifestyle service magazines, you can clearly delineate and distinguish what is Real Simple. From our texture; what you get with the paper, we’ve always had unique, special European paper that enhances the reading experience. There are some brands that try and copy pieces of what we do, but not the entire package of what we do.

Leslie Yazel: And that’s always a challenge for my editors. I always ask, but how can this be a story about Thanksgiving recipes that can only appear in Real Simple? How does it have our DNA? These are topics that other magazines cover, but the way that we cover them has to feel like that.

Samir Husni: Let me get inside the great mind of an editor; when you sit down to work, do you plan the entire year? October is “Welcome to Cozy,” November is “Holidays,” December is “50 Gifts Under $50,” how are you working in this day and age where, and to use a phrase from a former chief revenue officer of The Wall Street Journal, “People are puking information” all over the place?

Leslie Yazel: (Laughs) We definitely theme ahead the issues and part of that is because the partners who are excited to work with us want to get a sense of when is the prime time for them to be a part of what we’re doing. So, this March we’re talking about doing a shopping issue for the first time ever, which with us is shopping smarter, spending your money wisely. We have a “Get it Done” issue in June and part of that is because you can do that across any sales vertical, but also because when I talk to women and when I look at our research, you always have these things hanging over your head that you want to finish before summer comes, because it’s so hard to get things done in the summer.

So we always have that “Get it Done” issue, that franchise, to come out in June so that the reader gets it in May and she can maybe say, “Okay, finally I’m going to buy life insurance,” or whatever. “I’m going to finally paint the front door, so the front of the house looks beautiful.”

Daren Mazzucca: I’ve also seen socially and heard it from the field that people are reading our “Spring Cleaning” April issue right now in the fall, rereading, because they’re fall cleaning. I put it off in the spring and now I can do it in the fall. So, it’s still relevant.

Samir Husni: Technically in the United States, we now have two major publishing companies, Meredith and Hearst; do you believe that we’re going to see any more mergers and/or acquisitions in 2019, or 2019 will be a calm year moving forward?

Daren Mazzucca: Obviously, we have some of our brands that are up for sale. We announced publicly the sale of Time magazine brand, so I believe there will be some opportunities and I’m sure Tom Harty and Steve Lacy are looking at every opportunity, along with Jon (Werther) and Doug (Olson). But we have just absorbed and collaborated a lot and we want to make sure that we activate beautifully with our new portfolio. And I’m speaking for the two brands that I represent, but I know that’s an initiative for all of us. We need to make sure that we’re activating and driving topnotch revenue for the organization as the industry continues evolving and changing, hopefully, for the better.

Samir Husni: Leslie, do you feel like you’ve weathered the storm?

Leslie Yazel: (Laughs) You know, it’s interesting because I came here and it was Time Inc. and then when there was an announcement that Meredith was buying us, it was so much fun for me because I grew up in Des Moines, went to school in Des Moines, my entire immediate family all still live in Des Moines.

And I had never worked for Meredith except once, when I was a child, I had a modeling job at Meredith and went to the beautiful building downtown and met the photographers and set designers. And they had these exciting jobs and they had lived in larger cities, and I thought gosh, maybe someday I’ll want to do one of these big creative jobs and live in a big city. So, I thought of all of that as I got the call on a Sunday saying that Meredith was buying Real Simple and the rest of the portfolio. So, I do feel like it’s been a fun, personal full circle for me.

Samir Husni: Is there anything either of you would like to add?

Leslie Yazel: I’ve been able to take this really strong brand, and now we’re doing more than ever. Now, we have the Real Simple Shop and the Real Simple Home, and we have these great designers who come in, including Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent, these household names. And we have more on the horizon.

We started doing these great neighbor awards with the private social network, Nextdoor, and we celebrate people who are helping their neighbors. It’s a very divisive time in America and national conflicts are really complicated and we’ve been doubling-down on talking to people about how they can feel fulfilled and purposeful about doing things right in their own neighborhood. And we’ve gotten amazing responses from readers on that. So, that’s something important.

We’ve also had good response from the market and other partners on that who say this is a great space to be in; this is a great environment for us.

Daren Mazzucca: Leslie and I are still getting to know each other; it’s been a great relationship for the past six-plus months. And again, we’re just really trying to, from a sales and marketing perspective, harness all of these great pillars and initiatives. The Real Simple Home was a huge success, it was one of the first things we talked about when we first met. The great initiative of the team here in place before I arrived, while it was very successful, marketers are asking us where is the next one. And we’re working on 2.0 to be announced shortly. We’ll make sure you’re looped in for sure.

But even the Patriots and some of the other initiatives that this brand and Leslie and Pinterest coming to the editorial team to harness the power of Pinterest, we’re going to be using that as a marketing weapon in 2019 and fusing advertisers into that. So, we really have a lot to do and we’re very excited about the future for the brand.

Leslie Yazel: That Pinterest call was kind of funny when they called us and said that they wanted to be in our print product. And I was thinking how often does the Silicon Valley call and say that want to be in a print product? And that’s when we became their exclusive partner to launch Pinterest in the magazine and now Daren’s team is actually able to sell those, which is really fun for us.

Daren Mazzucca: Exactly.

Samir Husni: What do you think is the biggest misconception about you?

Leslie Yazel: Good question. I’m an open book, this one is hard for me. I think people think that the job of an editor in chief is to make all of the decisions and carry around a big ego, and I think a lot of the key to the success of Real Simple is that I empower women and younger women on my team to let their voices be heard, to let their ideas rise. And we got numbers recently from MRI showing that we’re two and a half years younger in our audience than we were a year ago, and I feel like that’s because great ideas can come from anyone on my team, from our newest employees to our youngest editors. So, I think that being a consensus-taker has served the brand really well.

Daren Mazzucca: Honestly, I feel blessed to be the business leader for this brand, but it’s really the great sales and marketing organization that does all of the heavy lifting. We often get appointed and put in positions to be leading, but it’s really the team that’s behind you, that’s out on the battlefield every day. I have a very talented team in place across the country and we have a great marketing team who are working closely with the editors. The little secret sauce is that I’m really just the bandleader and there are many others in the orchestra that make the beautiful music.

Leslie Yazel: I agree with that story too, but I would also say, people meet Daren and he’s this classic, awesome salesman, who can talk to anybody. Daren is an incredibly modern man to work with. He is working with a team of almost exclusively women, and there’s a lot of talk about respect in the workplace for women and I got really lucky. I tell Meredith, you gave me a gift with Daren because he really is a modern man and I am so appreciative.

Daren Mazzucca: Thank you.

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? How do you unwind?

Leslie Yazel: My daughter is eight, so she’s at that age where she’s a complete bookworm, and my husband is the television editor at The New York Times, and so there’s a lot of TV being watched in our house. So, it’s usually one of those. But I do try to walk the walk; we have a whole section in the magazine called “Balance,” so I do unplug. Sometimes I come home, get my daughter and get back on the laptop, but I do try to take a break, because I think you can’t be creative unless you have some away time from work too.

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

Leslie Yazel: I don’t see my family in Des Moines enough. And then also just, when I wake up it’s not the panic-wake-up, it’s sort of what’s going to happen with the next Real Simple Home, because this is the most exciting thing we’ve done. And I know that I keep coming back to it, but the truth is, if you can take nine designers, two organizers, a blank space and make something – I just want to pick the place.

Samir Husni: Daren, has anything changed about what keeps you up night since the last time we spoke or do you still sleep very well?

Daren Mazzucca: I sleep pretty well. At the end of the day, I’m exhausted. Just the opportunities ahead keeps me up a little bit. There are a lot of people to meet; we have folks who are being reintroduced to the magazine that hasn’t seen a seller represent the brand for the last two years, so we’re reintroducing and reconnecting. And there’s a lot to do, so we’re having fun with that. And that gets me up very early. (Laughs) I’m an early riser.

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

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