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Health Magazine’s Editor In Chief Amy Conway To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “Being On The Cover Of A Magazine Is Still A Really Powerful Thing… It’s A Permanent Thing… It’s A Beautiful Object… It’s A Living Entity… And There’s No Substitute For That.” – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

February 20, 2019

“The magazine is a different experience. Each issue of the magazine is just a beautifully curated product that stands on its own, so we craft our lineups for every issue to feel cohesive and interesting, to be this great mix of information that will stand the test of time.” Amy Conway (On the difference between finding answers on Google and the magazine)…

“When we reach out to them, we ask them to be on the cover and being on the cover of a magazine is still a really powerful thing for people. So yes, in terms of that, being on the cover of a magazine, there is no substitute for that. It’s a permanent thing, so to speak, that you’re creating. And it’s a beautiful object. It’s a living entity, and there is no substitute for that.” Amy Conway (On when they reach out to people about being on the cover of the magazine, do they specify it’s for the printed magazine)…

Health magazine has been a trusted authority in wellness for almost forty years. The January/February issue marks the debut of an updated design with a cleaner look and bolder typography. Editor in Chief Amy Conway has led the brand’s creative team to provide the magazine’s audience with inspiring and empowering information that speaks to the way people think about wellness today, and the redesign is an offshoot of that, her belief in the way health and wellness are reflected in today’s society: clean, simple, fresh, and modern.

I spoke with Amy recently and we talked about the redesign and the infusion of streamlined simplicity that it gave the magazine. Amy defined Health as the handbook for living well in every way. She added that the magazine was staying true to its roots in giving readers smart, science-backed health content they can trust. And with the redesign, that same trusted content is showcased in a much fresher and more modern design.

Amy’s belief in the power of the printed cover is also deep. The cover of the magazine is a powerful tool and Amy believes it still holds the key to credibility and that there is no substitution for that credibility. The cover of the magazine still holds permanence and integrity as nothing else does.

So, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Amy Conway, editor in chief of Health magazine. It’s a refreshing conversation that will have you seeking good “Health” at the newsstands.

But first the sound-bites:

On her first few months at Health magazine: It’s definitely been an evolution since I got here. What I always tell people is that I was a subscriber to Health and a fan of the magazine before I was the editor. I love working out and I’m very interested in food and nutrition and in living well longer. So, I am a reader. Lucky for me, this is really a dream job for me. And again, as a reader of the magazine, I knew when I came on that this brand had a lot of talented people creating great content. It’s really solid, trusted information, this magazine has been around, and people really rely on it. But at the same time, I knew that I wanted to refresh it, both visually and in terms of the tone. So, that’s what we’ve been working on for the last several months.

On how her job as an editor today has evolved or changed over the years: To be an editor you have to be curious and you have to be thinking all the time about what’s happening in our industry, about what our readers want, and you have to be really, really agile. It’s a very dynamic environment. Certain things stay the same. You mentioned that I used to work for Martha Stewart Weddings in particular, right before I came over here, and the two brands might seem really different, but in fact they’re both about quality, authority, and authenticity. So, there are qualities that you can bring, values that are a part of you professionally that you can really bring to any brand and any job once you’ve been in this industry for a while.

On some of the changes she has seen taking place in the health and wellness magazine category: People are just very interested in taking care of themselves, but the shift that I’m really interested in is this idea of health infusing your entire life. And that’s something that we’re bringing to the magazine. Positivity, the sense of motivation, and we’re really empowering our readers to take good care of themselves.

On the value proposition for people to pick up a copy of Health magazine rather than Googling something: If they’re Googling something they have a specific concern and they’re going to find information on it online. And they’ll most likely end up on health.com, which is great because we have a ton of amazing content there. So, we don’t need people to stop doing that. Instead, the magazine is a different experience. Each issue of the magazine is just a beautifully curated product that stands on its own, so we craft our lineups for every issue to feel cohesive and interesting, to be this great mix of information that will stand the test of time.

On whether she tries to do things differently than other health and wellness magazines in the marketplace, such as Women’s Health or Shape: It used to be a much more crowded marketplace in this area, and many areas in our industry. Our publisher always says that there’s been a little bit of a natural selection that’s happened, so the magazines that you just mentioned are the big ones in this area. And of course Shape is one of our sister brands, they sit right next to us here at Meredith. The thing that’s nice is that because there are fewer brands out there, there’s really room for all of us. There are certain things that we cover where there will be overlap. Sometimes I’ll read those magazines and discover that we were going to do that same topic, but then we pivot and do something a little bit different.

On her unique selling proposition when it comes to Health magazine: Health is the handbook for living well in every way. We are staying true to our roots in giving readers smart, science-backed health content they can trust, whether about physical or mental health, fitness, beauty, or food and nutrition. We geek out over the details and love going deep into topics. We don’t just tell you WHAT to buy, we tell you WHY. So if we say a certain beauty product should be in your arsenal, we explain how it works.

On why today she thinks we see health magazines for men or women, but we don’t really have anything for both anymore: I think a lot of the health concerns are different for men and women, and frankly as I’m sure you know, this is a business and the advertisers are definitely going to be different for men and women. So, from a practical standpoint, that’s the way it is. And there’s a lot of content in our magazine; you can do a lot of mental health, emotional health, and relationship health that could be that a man would find interesting. And certainly I’m sure that men are picking up the magazine as well when they see it in their house, But yes, you do need to target a little bit, both from an editorial standpoint and a business standpoint.

On whether she has a specific reader in mind when she assigns articles or stories: We are creating content for a woman who is an adult; she’s not a kid, she’s probably in her 30s, 40s, or 50s and so that’s a pretty big range, there are going to be certain commonalities in that area. But we are creating content that should be applicable and of interest to women in that range. So, when we’re thinking about articles, and that’s the fun part of the job, there are so many different, amazing things that we can cover. We’ll sometimes get excited about something and think well that’s probably a bit too narrow or that’s not going to appeal to everyone, so we try to come up with story ideas and packages that are going to appeal to, again, this woman who is looking for information that will help her live her life now and as she gets older and looks at these different stages in her life.

On whether she ever hits a stumbling block where ideas are scarce: Definitely not. We wish we had more and more pages. There is an infinite number of topics that we can cover, and literally one of the most challenging parts of the job is editing down all of the things that we are excited about here at Health, editing them down to fit into an issue of the magazine.

On what she would hope to tell someone that she had accomplished at Health in 2019: I would say that we would have created a year’s worth of beautiful magazines; the cover is something that we’re really focusing on, of course, it’s a “welcome to the magazine” for every issue. So, we would have created a year’s worth of beautiful magazines with really enticing covers, working with amazing subjects for those covers and great creative teams, photographers as well, to really set the tone that we’re looking for with Health. And the magazine would be robust; we’d be getting great feedback from readers and advertisers, and we’d really be a part of the conversation out there in a big way, in terms of the health and wellness space.

On what she thinks the role of the cover is today, and is that role different today than it was when she first started in the industry: Covers definitely used to be more of a selling vehicle, you needed to scream at readers on the cover to stand out on the newsstand. And it’s a little bit different now for Health. When we’re looking at our covers, for us, we want to stand out by being a little bit quieter and when we were thinking about January/February, the first cover of the redesign, it has Connie Britton on the cover, we were really thinking of it almost as if it were a poster. And we wanted it to look beautiful on its own. We feel like that’s what’s going to make it stand out, and that’s what’s going to make people happy to have it in their home.

On whether that description of the cover fits the majority of magazines today or just Health: I was just speaking about Health, but I do think it’s pretty incredible what we’re seeing in covers out there. People are being less formulaic and they’re looking more to catch your attention with something different and something interesting. So, it’s really fun to look at the newsstand and see what people are doing, because I think a lot of the formulas are going out the window. Their old conventional wisdom, the rules that you were supposed to follow, people are breaking those rules all of the time. And it’s really fun to see.

On whether she thinks the power of print is that you can’t get that same emotional reaction from humans if they just see it or read it online: I do think there is something very special about print and holding a magazine in your hand and looking at these beautiful pictures of her, but certainly you can get an emotional reaction from reading something online as well. They’re different experiences, but what I think is exciting about the time where we are right now, is that there are so many different ways to reach a reader. The fact is when you have a strong brand you can reach your reader in many different ways. You have print and digital; you have social, and there are just new things coming all the time. You just have to have a strong brand and then you can reach your reader in all the places where they are.

On when she reaches out to people to be on the cover, if they ask is it for the cover of the magazine, or does it matter to them if it’s print or digital: When we reach out to them, we ask them to be on the cover and being on the cover of a magazine is still a really powerful thing for people. So yes, in terms of that, being on the cover of a magazine, there is no substitute for that. It’s a permanent thing, so to speak, that you’re creating. And it’s a beautiful object. It’s a living entity, and there is no substitute for that.

On anything she’d like to add: With the redesign, we wanted to give the magazine a much fresher, cleaner, and modern feeling, which really reflects the way people feel about health and wellness today. Our design team is amazing and they worked to give the magazine a cleaner, more streamlined and simple design. It’s inviting and a little bit more elevated. So, we really redesigned the magazine from the covers right on through.

On what grade she would give the redesign project if she were a professor grading a class project: I have to give us an A, but I will say there’s always room for improvement. You do the redesign issue, and anyone who’s worked at a magazine knows this, you do the redesign, it feels like you’re working so hard on this one issue and then you can breathe for about a second and then you’re working on the next one. And you can always make it better. The redesign is not an endpoint, it’s a beginning. And then you have to keep going from there.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: This question of yours, Samir, I always think of as: what’s your mantra? And that’s the language that we use over here at Health. So, I would say be kind, work hard, appreciate the little things, and hug your kids.

On what keeps her up at night: Sleep is something that I am absolutely working on. I’m trying to sleep more and sleep better, that’s definitely a goal of mine. It’s a work in progress, the sleep thing.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Amy Conway, editor in chief, Health magazine.

Samir Husni: It’s been a little over six months since you took over Health magazine, has it been like a walk in a rose garden for you? Describe your first few months at Health.

Amy Conway: It’s definitely been an evolution since I got here. What I always tell people is that I was a subscriber to Health and a fan of the magazine before I was the editor. I love working out and I’m very interested in food and nutrition and in living well longer. So, I am a reader. Lucky for me, this is really a dream job for me. And again, as a reader of the magazine, I knew when I came on that this brand had a lot of talented people creating great content. It’s really solid, trusted information, this magazine has been around, and people really rely on it. But at the same time, I knew that I wanted to refresh it, both visually and in terms of the tone. So, that’s what we’ve been working on for the last several months.

The first couple of issues that I worked on; there were a few little tweaks that I made, but really things had been in progress already and I kind of just went with that for a couple of issues. But then we started working in earnest on the January/February issue, where we did the redesign and a bit of a refresh of the brand overall. So, that’s what we were working on and now we’re well underway with that. It’s been fun and it’s been hard work and both of those things are continuing.

Samir Husni: Before Health, you were the editor of a wedding magazine and editor of Martha Stewart’s books; if someone asked you what qualifies a person to be an editor today, compared to five or ten years ago, what would you tell them? How has your job evolved or changed over the years?

Amy Conway: To be an editor you have to be curious and you have to be thinking all the time about what’s happening in our industry, about what our readers want, and you have to be really, really agile. It’s a very dynamic environment. Certain things stay the same. You mentioned that I used to work for Martha Stewart Weddings in particular, right before I came over here, and the two brands might seem really different, but in fact they’re both about quality, authority, and authenticity. So, there are qualities that you can bring, values that are a part of you professionally that you can really bring to any brand and any job once you’ve been in this industry for a while.

Samir Husni: As you look at the industry, specifically the health and wellness category, being an avid reader, a marathon runner and an exercise enthusiast; what are some of the major changes that you see taking place in the health and wellness magazine category?

Amy Conway: The health and wellness world is really exploding right now. People are so interested in taking good care of themselves, which is amazing. And some sort of poke fun at it a little bit, because certainly having specific workout clothes or gear or going to certain classes is a bit of a new status symbol. So, you could make fun of that a little bit, but at the same time, if going to a great yoga class becomes a status symbol, that’s a lot more positive than some things that people could be doing.

People are just very interested in taking care of themselves, but the shift that I’m really interested in is this idea of health infusing your entire life. And that’s something that we’re bringing to the magazine. Positivity, the sense of motivation, and we’re really empowering our readers to take good care of themselves.

It wasn’t too long ago that when people thought about health and particularly media and the stories that were out there, it was about quick fixes and about losing five pounds in a week, and it’s really not about that. For me, what we’re trying to do is just help women be the very best that they can be, to reach their own goals that they want to set. We’re not going to tell them exactly what they should do, we’re going to give them ideas and we’re going to give them inspiration and they should feel really good and strong and empowered after reading our magazine, and have it be a positive experience. And then use it to make the changes that they want to make in their own lives.

So, we’re not going to tell them what’s wrong with them, we’re going to tell them how to be the best person that they want to be for themselves. To live well, to feel good, to eat well, and to just bring all of these positive changes about in their lives.

Samir Husni: In a digital age, where the first thing a lot of people do is Google if they have a question about something, how do you show them the importance of Health magazine, whether in print or digital? What is the value proposition for people to pick up a copy of Health magazine rather than Googling something?

Amy Conway: If they’re Googling something they have a specific concern and they’re going to find information on it online. And they’ll most likely end up on health.com, which is great because we have a ton of amazing content there. So, we don’t need people to stop doing that. Instead, the magazine is a different experience. Each issue of the magazine is just a beautifully curated product that stands on its own, so we craft our lineups for every issue to feel cohesive and interesting, to be this great mix of information that will stand the test of time.

So, when you come to our magazine, you’re going to be surprised and delighted we hope by what you find in each issue. You’re going to be informed, inspired and you’ll find things that are relevant to your life because we know our reader and what she wants. And again, it’s a different experience. You’re going to go online and search for something more likely and you’ll come to us and you’ll get this mix that we’ve created for you and hopefully feel that it really enhances your life.

Samir Husni: Being a health enthusiast and an avid reader of Health even before you were the editor, when you’re looking at the entire health and wellness magazine spectrum out there, do you feel you need to do things differently? For example, Health magazine needs to do this differently that Women’s Health or Shape or other magazines in the same category? How do you conceive your new issues of Health and do you take into consideration what’s already on the marketplace?

Amy Conway: It used to be a much more crowded marketplace in this area, and many areas in our industry. Our publisher always says that there’s been a little bit of a natural selection that’s happened, so the magazines that you just mentioned are the big ones in this area. And of course Shape is one of our sister brands, they sit right next to us here at Meredith. The thing that’s nice is that because there are fewer brands out there, there’s really room for all of us. There are certain things that we cover where there will be overlap. Sometimes I’ll read those magazines and discover that we were going to do that same topic, but then we pivot and do something a little bit different.

There are certain topics that we definitely have in common, but we each have our own vibe, so I feel like a reader could read all three of us, or could just come to one of us. There is room for all of us out there right now.

Samir Husni: But for you, how do you decide on that point of differentiation? What is your unique selling proposition?

Amy Conway: Health is the handbook for living well in every way. We are staying true to our roots in giving readers smart, science-backed health content they can trust, whether about physical or mental health, fitness, beauty, or food and nutrition. We geek out over the details and love going deep into topics. We don’t just tell you WHAT to buy, we tell you WHY. So if we say a certain beauty product should be in your arsenal, we explain how it works.

Some of the other brands out there go deeper into fashion and lifestyle, and that works for them. But we keep it more focused on what women—largely in their 30s to 50s—can do to feel and look great as they move into and out of different life stages, to live better, longer.

We want all women to feel welcomed by our brand. Inclusivity is important. Real, relatable advice is crucial–no false promises or unattainable goals. No more rock hard abs! Health means many things, and it comes in many shapes and sizes. All are welcome.

Samir Husni: At one stage when Health magazine was American Health, or actually it was a competitor before they merged, American Health magazine was published for both men and women. Why do you think today we see health magazines for men or women, but we don’t really have anything for both anymore?

Amy Conway: I think a lot of the health concerns are different for men and women, and frankly as I’m sure you know, this is a business and the advertisers are definitely going to be different for men and women. So, from a practical standpoint, that’s the way it is. And there’s a lot of content in our magazine; you can do a lot of mental health, emotional health, and relationship health that could be that a man would find interesting. And certainly I’m sure that men are picking up the magazine as well when they see it in their house, But yes, you do need to target a little bit, both from an editorial standpoint and a business standpoint.

Samir Husni: As you mentioned targeting, health is as general interest as it can be. As you are assigning stories, assigning articles, do you have a specific reader in mind? Do you think in terms of Amy is a reader and she’s 35-years-old and loves working out, or do you cast a wider net?

Amy Conway: We are creating content for a woman who is an adult; she’s not a kid, she’s probably in her 30s, 40s, or 50s and so that’s a pretty big range, there are going to be certain commonalities in that area. But we are creating content that should be applicable and of interest to women in that range. So, when we’re thinking about articles, and that’s the fun part of the job, there are so many different, amazing things that we can cover. We’ll sometimes get excited about something and think well that’s probably a bit too narrow or that’s not going to appeal to everyone, so we try to come up with story ideas and packages that are going to appeal to, again, this woman who is looking for information that will help her live her life now and as she gets older and looks at these different stages in her life.

Samir Husni: Do you ever hit a stumbling block where you seem to be running out of ideas?

Amy Conway: Definitely not. We wish we had more and more pages. There is an infinite number of topics that we can cover, and literally one of the most challenging parts of the job is editing down all of the things that we are excited about here at Health, editing them down to fit into an issue of the magazine.

And our website is really incredible and of course they can cover a much broader group of topics; they can cover a lot of newsy things. We have a great team on the web as well, so there’s great info there, some things that we can’t cover in the magazine because they’re just too specific, but they can do them online and they may perform really well there.

Samir Husni: If you and I are chatting a year from now, what would you hope to tell me that you had accomplished at Health in 2019 and how happy are you with that accomplishment?

Amy Conway: I would say that we would have created a year’s worth of beautiful magazines; the cover is something that we’re really focusing on, of course, it’s a “welcome to the magazine” for every issue. So, we would have created a year’s worth of beautiful magazines with really enticing covers, working with amazing subjects for those covers and great creative teams, photographers as well, to really set the tone that we’re looking for with Health. And the magazine would be robust; we’d be getting great feedback from readers and advertisers, and we’d really be a part of the conversation out there in a big way, in terms of the health and wellness space.

Samir Husni: You mentioned the cover, and I’m giving a speech soon about the role of covers in today’s magazine media landscape. What do you think the role of the cover is today, and is that role different today than it was when you first started in the industry?

Amy Conway: Covers definitely used to be more of a selling vehicle, you needed to scream at readers on the cover to stand out on the newsstand. And it’s a little bit different now for Health. When we’re looking at our covers, for us, we want to stand out by being a little bit quieter and when we were thinking about January/February, the first cover of the redesign, it has Connie Britton on the cover, we were really thinking of it almost as if it were a poster. And we wanted it to look beautiful on its own. We feel like that’s what’s going to make it stand out, and that’s what’s going to make people happy to have it in their home. So, we’re going for something a little bit simpler and we want to sell it in that way, instead of really screaming at our reader with cover lines.

Samir Husni: Do you think that description of the cover fits the majority of magazines today, or specifically just Health?

Amy Conway: I was just speaking about Health, but I do think it’s pretty incredible what we’re seeing in covers out there. People are being less formulaic and they’re looking more to catch your attention with something different and something interesting. So, it’s really fun to look at the newsstand and see what people are doing, because I think a lot of the formulas are going out the window. Their old conventional wisdom, the rules that you were supposed to follow, people are breaking those rules all of the time. And it’s really fun to see.

Our March issue is on sale now. And we have Shannen Doherty on the cover and that was really interesting because she is obviously someone people are interested in, in general as an actress, but she also has a real health story to tell. She had breast cancer, she’s now in remission, and she just went through reconstructive surgery. So, she gave us this beautiful, really open, really raw interview, and that’s something that definitely sets this issue apart in a really special way. To see someone who is a personality who people know and want to read about, but she actually had something very powerful and resonant to share with us about Health.

Samir Husni: Do you think that is the power of print, that you can’t get that same reaction from humans if they just see it or read it online?

Amy Conway: I do think there is something very special about print and holding a magazine in your hand and looking at these beautiful pictures of her, but certainly you can get an emotional reaction from reading something online as well. They’re different experiences, but what I think is exciting about the time where we are right now, is that there are so many different ways to reach a reader. The fact is when you have a strong brand you can reach your reader in many different ways. You have print and digital; you have social, and there are just new things coming all the time. You just have to have a strong brand and then you can reach your reader in all the places where they are.

Samir Husni: When you reach out to those people to be on the cover, do they ask is this for the cover of the magazine, or does it matter?

Amy Conway: When we reach out to them, we ask them to be on the cover and being on the cover of a magazine is still a really powerful thing for people. So yes, in terms of that, being on the cover of a magazine, there is no substitute for that. It’s a permanent thing, so to speak, that you’re creating. And it’s a beautiful object. It’s a living entity, and there is no substitute for that.

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

Amy Conway: With the redesign, we wanted to give the magazine a much fresher, cleaner, and modern feeling, which really reflects the way people feel about health and wellness today. Our design team is amazing and they worked to give the magazine a cleaner, more streamlined and simple design. It’s inviting and a little bit more elevated. So, we really redesigned the magazine from the covers right on through.

Samir Husni: So, you’re a professor, Amy, and you’re going to grade this project. What grade would you give it, an A, B+, an A-, a C?

Amy Conway: I have to give us an A, but I will say there’s always room for improvement. You do the redesign issue, and anyone who’s worked at a magazine knows this, you do the redesign, it feels like you’re working so hard on this one issue and then you can breathe for about a second and then you’re working on the next one. And you can always make it better. The redesign is not an endpoint, it’s a beginning. And then you have to keep going from there. They’re always evolving, always changing, and you can always keep improving.

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

Amy Conway: This question of yours, Samir, I always think of as: what’s your mantra? And that’s the language that we use over here at Health. So, I would say be kind, work hard, appreciate the little things, and hug your kids.

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

Amy Conway: I have absolutely no idea how to answer that one. But now I’m intrigued. I may have to pull my colleagues aside and figure that one out. But I hope that I’m pretty much just myself with people, so I don’t think in those terms, but now you’ve really got me thinking.

Samir Husni: Last time you and I talked, you were the editor in chief of Martha Stewart Weddings and now you’re at Health; so, are you sleeping better or is there something keeping you up at night?

Amy Conway: (Laughs) Sleep is something that I am absolutely working on. I’m trying to sleep more and sleep better, that’s definitely a goal of mine. It’s a work in progress, the sleep thing.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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