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Hearst Magazines’ Chief Content Officer, Kate Lewis To Mr. Magazine™ : “Print Injects A Kind Of Authority And Expertise…” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview

February 11, 2019

“That’s what I thought. I’m ready for this. And I was excited. I had spent five years in digital; I was excited to be able to return to the media I had fallen in love with, which was print. That was the thing that defined my decision to become a magazine person in the first place. I had been a maniacal print obsessive for my whole childhood. And spending those years in digital really helped me have perspective on consumers and consumer behavior. That instant feedback that you get from digital is extraordinarily valuable, and I felt like that this would be a great chance to bring the things that I had learned there to bear on print and to see if we could help engagement and connectivity to readers in print as well.” Kate Lewis (On her reaction when she was first offered the position of chief content officer at Hearst Magazines)…

 

Hearst Magazines stands almost unrivaled in its array of successful and engaging magazine titles, both nationally and internationally. And no one does it better that Hearst when it comes to the marriage of print with digital. So, it stands to reason that the person who would be in charge of this massively engaging kingdom would have to be as inspiring and creatively expressive as the portfolio of content they reign over. And as connected to both print and digital as the company is.

Kate Lewis would be that professionally protective ruler of the kingdom, with her scepter in both the print and digital realms. Kate joined Hearst Magazines Digital Media in 2014 as vice president, content operations and editorial director, and was promoted to senior vice president in 2016. In her current role as chief content officer of Hearst Magazines, she directs content strategy for Hearst Magazine brands in print and digital, overseeing all editors in chief and digital directors in the U.S., and liaise with the company’s international network to maximize global content opportunities. In other words, Kate has a full plate and is enjoying the plentiful fare immensely.

On a recent trip to New York, I sat down with Kate and we talked about her palate for everything Hearst, and her vision for the brands that she oversees. While the number of titles she oversees may sometimes seem a bit overwhelming, she has a knack for seeing the positive in everything, the opportunities in challenges and the potential of each and every brand. That’s why her upbeat and energetic take on the creative and business side of the organization is so palpably filled with optimism and spot-on truth. And why Mr. Magazine™ thoroughly enjoyed this conversation.

I hope you do the same as you read along with Kate and myself as we discuss the success of Hearst Magazines and the future of magazines and magazine media. So, without further ado, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Kate Lewis, chief content officer, Hearst Magazines.

But first the sound-bites:

On whether she feels the industry has given up on connecting print to Generation Z and millennials:I don’t think that we’ve given up on them. I think discoverability with that generation is very hard. I grew up as a kid reading every magazine under the sun, because I walked by 15 newsstands on my way to school every day. They were very much in my face. And kids today, even if they do walk by a newsstand, of which there are very few, you have to go all the way to 55th and Third to find yours. And even if they are walking by a newsstand, they have their faces in their phones anyway. So, I don’t think giving up on them is the right phrase, because I think they have an appetite for this kind of content packaged in this way, but I think we have work to do around how they discover it.

On some tricks that she has in her bag to reach that particular audience:I think this is one of the things that we’re really thinking about with Cosmopolitan; Cosmo has now united print and digital under Jessica Pels and she should definitely be your next interview, she’s amazing. We have such a huge audience of readers for Cosmo in digital, she’s been thinking a lot about how do we use digital to help those readers to connect and understand that there is more from this brand, that you can get print from them. And I think it’s something that Brian Madden, who is our head of consumer marketing, is also really focused on.

On why she thinks the industry has done so much when it comes to bringing people from print to digital, as if it were a one-way street, but has not done as much in taking people from digital to print:I think both are hard, to be honest. I don’t know how much we have done, bringing people from print to digital. I think society has just moved there. I think we have as much Google, Facebook, Yahoo, AOL; all of those things in a day to thank for making people digital. But I don’t think we’ve done enough work and I think we need to so that we can remind people of print. And the fact that there’s a different way of receiving a different slant on this information that’s extremely rewarding. And to sell that to them through their phones.

On how a trusted medium, a trusted brand, can use information about the audience, which today seems very free, but at the same time protect the audience’s privacy:We do that now, because the content that we deliver to them digitally is not overly personalized and that’s true in what we print too. But I bet if you give us 10 years that readers will seek more personalized deliverables, so the people that I know, the characters that I’m interested in, the trends that I’m interested in, and the topics that I’m interested in; I would like for that to be curated for me by the brands that I trust. So, I bet overtime you will see us use that information in ways that are more productive for the reader.

On the power of the brand and what differentiates Harper’s Bazaar or Good Housekeeping from a blog or Facebook:We have learned a lot from bloggers in how we produce magazines, and I think we’ve learned a lot in terms of consumers wanting there to be voice in the things that they see and even in the way that things are packaged. You think about food blogs and consumers seem to like step-by-step, so there have been things we’ve learned from bloggers. But at the end of the day, there is a kind of expertise and authority and breadth of a brand like Good Housekeeping that is just really different from what a blogger is doing. For the most part, a blogger has a niche and they’re sticking to that niche; it’s parenting, cooking, autos, just whatever it is, and they’re delivering in depth their point of view and their point of view alone.

On whether she feels the legacy print business has surrendered a lot of  its brand power due to a fascination of this digital mistress it now has:I don’t think we’ve surrendered our power at all. The difference for me between influencers and media brands is that influencers have usually one platform on which they exist. So for example, if we put a YouTube star on Instagram or an Instagram star onsite, it doesn’t translate. They have a platform that is their natural habitat and that’s where they belong. A brand can traverse any platform. You can have a brand be executed across any of the places that we publish and be pretty darned successful in those places with the right ambition. So, I think that’s one way in which we are really different than influencers.

On how she goes through her day wearing so many brand’s hats as chief content officer:First and foremost, I am extremely lucky because the people who individually run these brands, they are the people. Travis Okulski, who runs Road & Track, I don’t need to know about cars, Travis knows about cars. But I can help Travis be a leader; I can help him be a strategist; I can help connect him to his peers. Even last night, we were back and forth on a story; I can edit with him, there’s so much I can offer him, but I can’t offer him car expertise. (Laughs) He’s teaching me. It’s been a slow process, I’m trying.

On whether we will see her fingerprints throughout all of the brands or each brand is going to continue to have its own identity:I really hope that’s the case. I worry about that a lot, and that’s such a good question, because I do strongly feel that in this moment of saturated media, being unique and having a distinction is the best thing you can do for a brand. So, I really do worry and fret about that a lot and some of the decisions that I have made here have been a reflection of that.

 On whether she is a believer in audience first:Yes, I am. That statement I need to credit to Kristine Brabson, who runs content strategy for us. She’s a genius. We often hear if you look at top-performing content that’s spiking on any given day; recently it was Adam Levine’s tank top because it was the Super Bowl. And you have to be really careful not to look at the things that spike or the things that are common denominators as being a reflection of what our brands are or being a reflection of what our audience loves. We must go audience first, but it has to be a mix of the things that are a daily habit for them, that gets them reading. We’re all talking about Adam Levine’s tank top, then we should write about it, if it’s within the wheelhouse of our brand.

On whether she feels her editors are still editing with the same rigor or has the rigor been diluted due to the speed and daily necessity of the content:I think we’re doing both. And I think that there are groups of people who excel at both. We had a features team in digital that could take, over the course of a year they would produce maybe six stories. Those people are as valuable as the person who is covering “This Is Us” and writing five stories every Tuesday, because they just watched the show. You really need to make sure, and this is why I would say that we lead with audience, you really need to make sure that you’re hitting every interest that a reader might have and that includes really carefully honed crafted multilayered content. And that includes the light touch.

On how they are utilizing data about their many audiences:I actually had a big editor’s meeting recently and we were talking about some of the ways that data works for us. And I think for the editors, data is not a new word, every year for the past five years has been the year of data for us. I think as a company, we’ve gotten far more extraordinary in the way that we produce it and make it accessible and make it a part of the daily life of people. But editors have always known how to hunt down the information that they need to help them decide what to write, how to write it, when to publish it, where to publish it. And all of those decisions have always been influenced by what our audience is doing on any given day and what the data tells us about that.

On her reaction when she was first offered the position of chief content officer:There were so many complicating factors, but what I thought was, I’m ready. That’s what I thought. I’m ready for this. And I was excited. I had spent five years in digital; I was excited to be able to return to the media I had fallen in love with, which was print. That was the thing that defined my decision to become a magazine person in the first place. I had been a maniacal print obsessive for my whole childhood.

On the biggest challenge she’s had to face:My biggest challenge honestly is the thing that you pointed to before, which is that there are so many brands, so excellent each in their own way, and I am just one human. So, how do I manage this incredibly big organization with all of these talented people that allows me to get smarter from just spending time with them. I hope that they get smarter from spending time with me too. Then, how do I build that connectivity and collaboration across the org. We’re doing good so far, but I definitely have not solved it. (Laughs)

On what she would hope to tell someone that she had accomplished as chief content officer in 2019:I want there to be a complete continuity between all of the creators in this building. I want everyone who is on the creative team in this building to let their ideas go where they may. And not be challenged by: I’m in this bucket, I work for this person, I think this way. But instead, to say: I have a great idea, now where can it live? And then to be able to call upon on all of the right people to help them do that. So, for me, it’s both the freedom to think of creation in any media, reaching the audience in any media, and then the ability to collaborate with the right people to make it happen.

On anything she’d like to add:The only thing I would add is that I hope one year from now that I feel like I’m having as much fun as I am right now. I think the environment in my editorial team is trepidatious, because we see what is happening to media companies  around us, but actually it’s full of joy. To me that’s extraordinarily important, that we delight in our work, because it shows up on the page. And you can really tell when you’re reading a magazine or a post, looking at an Instagram post, whatever it is, that the person who did it took pride in it and felt happy doing it. And that is really important to me.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her:We’ve always said that my tombstone is going to read “Enter Smiling.” And that is definitely my approach, which is that I look at challenges and opportunities with optimism. So, that’s what I would want tattooed on me.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home:Probably working. I’m so bad to admit that. I have two extraordinary kids, but they’re teenagers, so they have a ton of homework. And we have really fun dinners, but I’d say after dinner, you might find us all working.

On the biggest misconception she thinks people have about her:I feel like I’m such an open book, that I’m not sure how many misconceptions there are, but that’s maybe just what I think of my own delivery. The biggest misconception about me may be, it’s either one thing or the other, but they’re opposites. It would either be that I’m sophisticated or that I’m basic. And the truth is I’m a combination of both, so I feel like some people see me as being incredibly basic, because I really do understand that mass market audience in the U.S. and I really subscribe to it and I love trashy culture. Probably more than I should. My avatar in social media is Taylor Swift, she’s my favorite person on earth, even though I have never met her. But one can dream.

On what keeps her up at night:My to-do list; again, because I feel quite overwhelmed by the number of people that I want to touch base with and connect with every day. And quality. It goes back to that thing of do we still craft features the way we always did? I think that I have a team that is incredibly good at scale and I think that I have people on my team who are very good at quality. And how do you make sure when you have more people working on scale and less people working on quality that the quality has a voice and a seat at the table.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Kate Lewis, chief content officer, Hearst Magazines.

Samir Husni: I read your interview with WWD and I saw where your own son is an avid magazine reader, whether it’s Road & Track or Car and Driver. And I’m about to speak as an educator, someone who teaches 18-year-olds; do you feel that the industry has given up on Generation Z and millennials when it comes to print or is that a myth that no one knows how to correct?

Kate Lewis: I don’t think that we’ve given up on them. In fact, a couple of meetings ago I was talking to our editor of Seventeen, where we’re actually making some changes to what the next issue will be. With that brand we’re very focused on a single topic, a single theme, because I think that will speak to those girls in a more specific way.

But, you were saying this before, I think discoverability with that generation is very hard. I grew up as a kid reading every magazine under the sun, because I walked by 15 newsstands on my way to school every day. They were very much in my face. And kids today, even if they do walk by a newsstand, of which there are very few, you have to go all the way to 55thand Third to find yours. And even if they are walking by a newsstand, they have their faces in their phones anyway. So, I don’t think giving up on them is the right phrase, because I think they have an appetite for this kind of content packaged in this way, but I think we have work to do around how they discover it.

Samir Husni: Besides reinventing Seventeen, what are some other tricks that you have in your bag to try and reach out to that audience?

Kate Lewis: I think this is one of the things that we’re really thinking about with Cosmopolitan; Cosmo has now united print and digital under Jessica Pels and she should definitely be your next interview, she’s amazing. We have such a huge audience of readers for Cosmo in digital, she’s been thinking a lot about how do we use digital to help those readers to connect and understand that there is more from this brand, that you can get print from them. And I think it’s something that Brian Madden, who is our head of consumer marketing, is also really focused on.

Because the daily habit that we’ve established with our readers now is through digital. This is the potentially “new” newsstand. So, how do we turn that into a way to say, “Hey look, you can see us in different packages.” We’re good at getting people to move from following us on Instagram to YouTube to reading us onsite, so this is just another thing that we should try and connect with them on.

Samir Husni: You were quoted once, “We don’t judge the audience. We want to go where the audience is and not judge them.” Why do you think that the industry has done so much when it comes to bringing people from print to digital, as if it were a one-way street, but has not done as much in taking people from digital to print?  

Kate Lewis: I think both are hard, to be honest. I don’t know how much we have done, bringing people from print to digital. I think society has just moved there. I think we have as much Google, Facebook, Yahoo, AOL; all of those things in a day to thank for making people digital. But I don’t think we’ve done enough work and I think we need to so that we can remind people of print. And the fact that there’s a different way of receiving a different slant on this information that’s extremely rewarding. And to sell that to them through their phones.

Samir Husni: It seems today’s audience, in general, are less concerned about their privacy and are willing to give you more information than ever before. How can a trusted medium, a trusted brand, use that information about the audience, but at the same time protect their privacy?

Kate Lewis: We do that now, because the content that we deliver to them digitally is not overly personalized and that’s true in what we print too. But I bet if you give us 10 years that readers will seek more personalized deliverables, so the people that I know, the characters that I’m interested in, the trends that I’m interested in, and the topics that I’m interested in; I would like for that to be curated for me by the brands that I trust. So, I bet overtime you will see us use that information in ways that are more productive for the reader.

Samir Husni: Tell me a bit more about the power of the brand and what differentiates, let’s say, Harper’s Bazaar or Good Housekeeping from a blog or Facebook?

Kate Lewis: First, let me go back to how we now feel less sad about how we’re targeted. And I totally agree with that. But I think the one risk with that, and I think this is where printed magazines can help set us free in a way, is you’re often delivered digitally the thing that you already knew you wanted.

So, I know that I’m interested in new lights, but I find a billion new lights. And if I looked at one that had a white bulb, then I’m going to be shown all the lights with the white bulbs. But there is one with a red bulb, but I’ll never be shown that one. And the nice thing about print is that it does draft off consumer interest, but it also injects a kind of authority and expertise that helps me go somewhere I might not have gone. It helps bring inspiration. Digital delivery can often be extraordinarily targeted to the point where you are never exposed to new ideas. And I think print can allow people to be exposed to things they wouldn’t have known before.

Now, how do I think that Good Housekeeping is different than a blog? (Laughs) I don’t even know where to begin. We have learned a lot from bloggers in how we produce magazines, and I think we’ve learned a lot in terms of consumers wanting there to be voice in the things that they see and even in the way that things are packaged. You think about food blogs and consumers seem to like step-by-step, so there have been things we’ve learned from bloggers.

But at the end of the day, there is a kind of expertise and authority and breadth of a brand like Good Housekeeping that is just really different from what a blogger is doing. For the most part, a blogger has a niche and they’re sticking to that niche; it’s parenting, cooking, autos, just whatever it is, and they’re delivering in depth their point of view and their point of view alone.

And I think a brand like Good Housekeeping delivers an array of subjects about which they have an array of experts who have opinions that are vetted and have been honed over the years. I gives you a much bigger cornucopia of intelligence than you’re getting from a single blog. Both have value, but they’re strikingly different.

Samir Husni: Michael Clinton told me that somehow the business was mistaken in thinking that the bloggers were the influencers, when in reality the brands are the bigger influencers. And you’ve been in the business since the ‘90s, so do you feel that the print business as a whole, not just Hearst, the legacy print business has surrendered a lot of  its brand power due to a fascination of this digital mistress it now has?

Kate Lewis: I don’t think we’ve surrendered our power at all. The difference for me between influencers and media brands is that influencers have usually one platform on which they exist. So for example, if we put a YouTube star on Instagram or an Instagram star onsite, it doesn’t translate. They have a platform that is their natural habitat and that’s where they belong. A brand can traverse any platform. You can have a brand be executed across any of the places that we publish and be pretty darned successful in those places with the right ambition. So, I think that’s one way in which we are really different than influencers.

And I would say that the other way that we’re different is that influencers are often really admired by women, because they want to be them. So, I want to be Jane Doe because I look at her and I see her life and I want to be her. Brands are something that I am. I am an Elle woman; I am. I am in the tent; I am part of the club. And I don’t want to be an Elle woman because that’s not a human, it’s a thing, it’s a feeling, it’s a spirit; it’s a state of mind. And so I think that’s another way in which we differ.

Influencers are inspiring, I’m not besmirching them. They have motivated women to make purchasing decisions in all the ways that brands do, but I don’t want to be them. I want to be friends with them and I want to know them because I’m inspired by them. But with the brand, I can wake up in the morning and say, “Okay, I’m a Cosmo girl. That’s who I am.”

So, I think that’s a big difference between how influence is wielded from an influencers point of view and how influence is wielded from a brand point of view.  We do sometimes do the same things. We help them make decisions, but in really different ways. And I would like to think of our way as being super-inclusive.

Samir Husni: Between the platforms and between your job, you’ve been in this position now for almost six months. You’ve humanized the brands, as you referred to the Cosmo Woman or the Elle Woman, so how do you go through your day wearing so many brand’s hats? Are you the Popular Mechanics expert or the Seventeen Girl; are you the HGTV person?

Kate Lewis: First and foremost, I am extremely lucky because the people who individually run these brands, they are the people. Travis Okulski, who runs Road & Track, I don’t need to know about cars, Travis knows about cars. But I can help Travis be a leader; I can help him be a strategist; I can help connect him to his peers. Even last night, we were back and forth on a story; I can edit with him, there’s so much I can offer him, but I can’t offer him car expertise. (Laughs) He’s teaching me. It’s been a slow process, I’m trying.

In some ways I think I would be best-served in this job if I was actually none of the brands, that I don’t particularly identify with any of them more or less than the other. There are obviously ones that speak to me. I own a house, so all of the shelter brands are interesting to me. I am a woman, so all of the women’s brands are interesting to me. But so are all of the men’s brands, and so are all of the specialty brands.

My job is to help editorial leadership, which at this company is so excellent in its own category. Our editors in chief are the most impressive people I have ever worked with. They really understand their beats, and my job is to help them be excellent editors and excellent leaders. And so that frees me up from having category expertise across all of these many brands (Laughs), because I would be very much in trouble.

Samir Husni: And what about the brand dillusion? Will we see Kate’s fingerprints throughout all of the brands or each brand is going to continue to have its own identity? Good Housekeeping will never look like Food Network.

Kate Lewis: I really hope that’s the case. I worry about that a lot, and that’s such a good question, because I do strongly feel that in this moment of saturated media, being unique and having a distinction is the best thing you can do for a brand. So, I really do worry and fret about that a lot and some of the decisions that I have made here have been a reflection of that.

When I came, the shelter group had a bunch of shared teams and I split them back up, so now Elle Décor and House Beautiful and Veranda all have their unique teams. We did that on digital too; we kept the teams separate. I would rather have a small team. People should come to work here because they want to work at Veranda, or House Beautiful or Elle Decor. And so I’m looking for people who have that kind of passion and affinity for a brand to work on it, and hopefully that will help steer that brand to be its own unique execution.

Samir Husni: How do you translate that to your statement about you don’t judge the audience? Is it audience first, rather than platform first, rather than digital first, rather than print first? Are you a believer in audience first?

Kate Lewis: Yes, I am. That statement I need to credit to Kristine Brabson, who runs content strategy for us. She’s a genius. We often hear if you look at top-performing content that’s spiking on any given day; recently it was Adam Levine’s tank top because it was the Super Bowl. And if you think that’s what your audience is and that’s all you wrote about that day, and you look at our top-performing stories and there are five of them that are about Adam Levine’s tank top, you would think what a bunch of uninteresting content they produced today or how can Americans only care about his tank top? There’s so much in the world that we could be writing about.

And you have to be really careful not to look at the things that spike or the things that are common denominators as being a reflection of what our brands are or being a reflection of what our audience loves. We must go audience first, but it has to be a mix of the things that are a daily habit for them, that gets them reading. We’re all talking about Adam Levine’s tank top, then we should write about it, if it’s within the wheelhouse of our brand.

And then also to make sure that we infuse into every day, content that will surprise them and inspire them, take them to someplace new. So, that content mix feels really critical to me to keep our audiences engaged.

Samir Husni: Are you seeing any difference in your editors, where they used to have the luxury of producing a magazine once a month, now they have to create on a daily basis.

Kate Lewis: We’re all running around like crazy. (Laughs) For sure.

Samir Husni: But do you feel that you’re still editing with the same rigor or has the rigor been diluted due to the speed and daily necessity of the content?

Kate Lewis: I think we’re doing both. And I think that there are groups of people who excel at both. We had a features team in digital that could take, over the course of a year they would produce maybe six stories. Those people are as valuable as the person who is covering “This Is Us” and writing five stories every Tuesday, because they just watched the show. You really need to make sure, and this is why I would say that we lead with audience, you really need to make sure that you’re hitting every interest that a reader might have and that includes really carefully honed crafted multilayered content. And that includes the light touch.

Samir Husni: In this digital age where it’s much easier to collect the data about your audience, how are you benefiting from that? How are you using that data? When I asked Michael Clinton what would be the one word to define 2019, he said data. Last year it was audio; the year before it was video. Do you spend your time crunching data?

Kate Lewis: No. I actually had a big editor’s meeting recently and we were talking about some of the ways that data works for us. And I think for the editors, data is not a new word, every year for the past five years has been the year of data for us. I think as a company, we’ve gotten far more extraordinary in the way that we produce it and make it accessible and make it a part of the daily life of people. But editors have always known how to hunt down the information that they need to help them decide what to write, how to write it, when to publish it, where to publish it. And all of those decisions have always been influenced by what our audience is doing on any given day and what the data tells us about that.

There was a great example that our editor from Country Living dotcom, Michelle Profis, gave recently, which I may bungle, but basically she decided to go hard after “The Voice,” the TV show, this year. And they wrote a lot of content around it and it was very popular with her audience.

And they did so many polls in that content that they actually knew who the winner would be. It wasn’t even polls. What they did was related links. So, if you were reading a story that was about two contestants, at the bottom there would be: for more information on Contestant A, click here. For more information on Contestant B, click here. And they started to track who was going where and what it was, and they ended up knowing before it was over basically who was going to win.

And that kind of thing helps them have a content strategy. They obviously need to write more stories about the person who is the bigger hit. And it’s been interesting to see editors use data in those kinds of ways. It doesn’t change so much instinct about what people like. The first instinct was to go hard after “The Voice” this year, because they thought it would be a big season. That’s just a thing, and then you begin to understand how to craft that narrative in a way that will connect more deeply with people. And data helps to do that.

Samir Husni: Where do you find those people who still have that gut feeling?

Kate Lewis: I find them everywhere. I think the instinct of editors is the thing that makes them want to do this. Anyone who is applying for a job here already has that instinct, because they understand how media affects people and they have sort of a gut about it.

Samir Husni: When you were asked by WWD, you said that only in your dreams did you ever think you would be here, where you are today.

Kate Lewis: Yes.

Samir Husni: In the large span of being a magazine editor, you have had a short lifespan, you haven’t been in this business for 50 years or so before you achieved this position. If you can recall that moment when you were offered this job, what was your reaction?

Kate Lewis: There were so many complicating factors, but what I thought was, I’m ready. That’s what I thought. I’m ready for this. And I was excited. I had spent five years in digital; I was excited to be able to return to the media I had fallen in love with, which was print. That was the thing that defined my decision to become a magazine person in the first place. I had been a maniacal print obsessive for my whole childhood.

And spending those years in digital really helped me have perspective on consumers and consumer behavior. That instant feedback that you get from digital is extraordinarily valuable, and I felt like that this would be a great chance to bring the things that I had learned there to bear on print and to see if we could help engagement and connectivity to readers in print as well.

Samir Husni: What was the biggest challenge that you had to face and how did you overcome it?

Kate Lewis: I’m not sure I have overcome it yet. (Laughs) My biggest challenge honestly is the thing that you pointed to before, which is that there are so many brands, so excellent each in their own way, and I am just one human. So, how do I manage this incredibly big organization with all of these talented people that allows me to get smarter from just spending time with them. I hope that they get smarter from spending time with me too. Then, how do I build that connectivity and collaboration across the org. We’re doing good so far, but I definitely have not solved it. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: If you and I have this conversation a year from now, what would you hope to tell me that you had accomplished as chief content officer in 2019?

Kate Lewis: I want there to be a complete continuity between all of the creators in this building. I want everyone who is on the creative team in this building to let their ideas go where they may. And not be challenged by: I’m in this bucket, I work for this person, I think this way. But instead, to say: I have a great idea, now where can it live? And then to be able to call upon on all of the right people to help them do that. So, for me, it’s both the freedom to think of creation in any media, reaching the audience in any media, and then the ability to collaborate with the right people to make it happen.

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

Kate Lewis: The only thing I would add is that I hope one year from now that I feel like I’m having as much fun as I am right now. I think the environment in my editorial team is trepidatious, because we see what is happening to media companies  around us, but actually it’s full of joy. To me that’s extraordinarily important, that we delight in our work, because it shows up on the page. And you can really tell when you’re reading a magazine or a post, looking at an Instagram post, whatever it is, that the person who did it took pride in it and felt happy doing it. And that is really important to me.

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

Kate Lewis: We’ve always said that my tombstone is going to read “Enter Smiling.” And that is definitely my approach, which is that I look at challenges and opportunities with optimism. So, that’s what I would want tattooed on me.

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?

Kate Lewis: Probably working. I’m so bad to admit that. I have two extraordinary kids, but they’re teenagers, so they have a ton of homework. And we have really fun dinners, but I’d say after dinner, you might find us all working.

Samir Husni:  What’s the biggest misconception people have about you?

Kate Lewis: I feel like I’m such an open book, that I’m not sure how many misconceptions there are, but that’s maybe just what I think of my own delivery. The biggest misconception about me may be, it’s either one thing or the other, but they’re opposites. It would either be that I’m sophisticated or that I’m basic. And the truth is I’m a combination of both, so I feel like some people see me as being incredibly basic, because I really do understand that mass market audience in the U.S. and I really subscribe to it and I love trashy culture. Probably more than I should. My avatar in social media is Taylor Swift, she’s my favorite person on earth, even though I have never met her. But one can dream.

But on the other hand, as you know, I have this big fancy office and this big fancy job and I think that one assumes that to be in this position you have to be fairly sophisticated.

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

Kate Lewis: My to-do list; again, because I feel quite overwhelmed by the number of people that I want to touch base with and connect with every day. And quality. It goes back to that thing of do we still craft features the way we always did? I think that I have a team that is incredibly good at scale and I think that I have people on my team who are very good at quality. And how do you make sure when you have more people working on scale and less people working on quality that the quality has a voice and a seat at the table.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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