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Men’s Health: Redefining Today’s Health & Wellness For All Men – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Richard Dorment, Editor In Chief…

November 13, 2020

“We’re inclusive in that anybody who cares about health and wellness, who wants to find out ways they can strengthen their body, their mind, their life; anyone who wants to find out how they can succeed physically, emotionally, socially, they should be able to see some part of themselves reflected in the content that we create across all of our platforms.” Richard Dorment…

“It’s expansive in the sense that we’re always looking to add new audience numbers, those who may not have necessarily seen themselves before  or who maybe thought that Men’s Health was not a  magazine for them. We want to make sure that they understand that we are.” Richard Dorment…

Richard Dorment, editor in chief, Men’s Health magazine

Men’s Health is the world’s largest men’s magazine brand, with multiple editions around the globe. The magazine covers a broad spectrum of men’s lifestyle topics such as fitness, nutrition, fashion, and sexuality. Richard Dorment is the editor in chief of Men’s Health, and oversees all editorial content across its print, web, social, and video platforms in the U.S.

I spoke with Richard recently and we talked about this global voice that is proud of its diversity and inclusion of all men, and vows moving forward to be even more open and welcoming to different cultures everywhere. According to Richard, the watch words for Men’s Health are inclusive, expansive and optimistic. And making sure that the audience understands that while change is inevitable, change can also benefit them if they understand and optimize themselves for it. Something Men’s Health strives to help them do as it redefines today’s health and wellness for all men.

So now, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Richard Dorment, editor in chief, Men’s Health. 

But first the sound-bites:

On how Men’s Health is adapting to the changes in today’s magazine publishing environment: I think we’re doing okay. We’re about eight months into this bold, new experiment in producing all types of magazine media. And I think we’re doing okay. Like everybody, we had a very steep learning curve as we tried to figure out how to put out a monthly print publication and figure out how to collaborate as a team remotely. But I think we had a few things going for us that maybe some other brands didn’t.

On how easy or hard it was to execute many of the changes while working remotely: It’s hard to speak in relative terms because we’ve never done this before. We’ve never had a lot of these things, especially happening all at once. I will say that what made it easier was Men’s Health has a tremendous team of editors, writers and designers who are really good people, so that really helps. But they’re also really good at their jobs, so I think that also made it easier.

On how big of a responsibility he feels is to retain the current audience, while cultivating new audiences: That’s a really good questions. It’s not something that I spend a lot of time thinking about. I don’t really think about scale. And maybe I should, but the honest answer is, and I use these words at least 12 times a day so they may sound canned, which they sort of are but I’ve been using them for a long time and they are inclusive, expansive and optimistic. Those are the watch words of Men’s Health.

On someone who feels the diversity in the magazine is very one-sided and does not reflect the white reader anymore: That makes me very sad. I hate to lose audience members for any reason. But I think it’s incredibly important, particularly after the events that happened this past summer, which only enhanced what a lot of us already knew and were trying to accomplish and record, that we really make sure that when we are addressing our audience that we’re addressing all of our audience.

On how he makes the decision that something is for ink on paper, something else is for the web, and something else for social media: That’s probably the trickiest part of my job right now. In part because of the print component. We work with a three month lead time at least and it’s very hard to see around corners right now. It’s always been hard to see around corners for a monthly print magazine. Some people were better at it than others, but now it’s next to impossible, because I still don’t know who’s going to be president next year. I don’t know when there’s going to be a vaccine. I don’t know if people who are reading future us in March are going to be under some sort of lockdown. I just don’t know. And I don’t think anybody does. 

On how he can ensure that if someone has the questions, Men’s Health is there to provide the answers, rather than some unknown entity telling them what to do: We think a lot about what’s called a EAT score, which is expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. So that’s the acronym that we think of when we are thinking of creating content that people can trust. How do we anticipate and meet those expectations when it comes to a search? We have the Men’s Health advisory board, which is filled with dozens of world-renowned experts who are the best at what they do. And we make sure they’re front and center of every story that we do, because we have science-backed, expert-recommended content. 

On how Men’s Health’s global network of communication works: Like most brands with a global presence, there is a patchwork of relationships, some of them are wholly-owned by the Hearst Corporation, some of them are licensed out, it really depends. But I think the overall relationship is that we’re aware of what the other brands are doing. They typically take more from us than we do from them, but we are constantly in search of content that would work for us. Then we can incorporate it into what we do.

On a typical day in his professional life: My day is filled, like  a lot of people, with Zoom meetings and I try to carve out some time to be thoughtful and creative. That’s really the hardest part for me, finding that time to be creative and letting my mind wander and discover new things, just because I feel like we’re all so busy and stressed and we’re distracted by everything. So, that’s the biggest challenge for me. 

On whether he is seeing fatigue from so much screen time, since his team is not able to get together in person and collaborate: I don’t know if it’s fatigue, because I still think people are really energized and focused, but I think it’s much harder in an intensely collaborative medium like magazines. I think the reason why a lot of us got into magazines in the first place as opposed to writing full-time, which is an incredibly isolated experience, I think all of us in magazine media got into this because it’s so intensely collaborative. You cannot make a magazine by yourself. You cannot edit a magazine story or publish it by yourself. So I think a lot of us are missing that sense of human contact, that spontaneity, that serendipity, which comes from in-person collaboration.

On what makes him tick and click during the day: The initial gut thing that I want to say is success, but when I see things working, like when I get a great story and I’m reading a great draft or seeing great images or we see that a story we published online is really resonating with the audience or a video is really performing well on YouTube, that motivates me to keep going.

On anything he’d like to add: I’m really grateful that I get to work at a place like Men’s Health. It’s more relevant and more necessary than ever because of everything that’s happening in the world, not just with the global pandemic, but with the social justice movement, with the ongoing evolution in our understanding of male/female relationships that really started in earnest three years ago with the beginning of the Me Too Movement.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: Reading helps me unwind, for sure. I try to stay off-screen after 8:00 p.m. for both physical and mental reasons, it’s better to be off of them. So, yes, I’ve been reading a lot lately. And that has helped to focus and ground me a little bit, particularly since our bedtime ritual with three kids lasts like six and half hours. So by the time I’m actually done I’m kind of like a squeezed-out sponge. At that point I just need to feel a little bit more grounded and clear-eyed and clear-headed and reading certainly does that for me.

On what keeps him up at night: The state of our country, to be honest. Like a lot of people, most people maybe, the sense of division and mistrust and rancor is really upsetting to me, particularly someone who tries to be optimistic and tries to be expansive and inclusive and see the best in people and in the world. And I don’t see that reflected in a lot of headlines, at least in what I see as headlines in social media content. But again, that’s not necessarily real life.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Richard Dorment, editor in chief, Men’s Health. 

Samir Husni: You write in your November column in Men’s Health that those people who can adapt to change will excel and succeed. How well are you adapting to change in this magazine publishing environment that’s taking place today? 

Richard Dorment: I think we’re doing okay. We’re about eight months into this bold, new experiment in producing all types of magazine media. And I think we’re doing okay. Like everybody, we had a very steep learning curve as we tried to figure out how to put out a monthly print publication and figure out how to collaborate as a team remotely. But I think we had a few things going for us that maybe some other brands didn’t. 

First of all, we are a fully integrated team as far as print, digital, video and social. All of our platforms are working hand in glove. So, we were really able to hit the ground running and pitch in wherever needed, all of us doing everything as we were previously. 

Also, we’ve been pretty good with technology from the get-go, as far as using Zoom and Slack as production tools. We have some staff who works full-time from Pennsylvania, so it was sort of second nature to us in certain respects. So, I think there were a few things that we had going for us. And more importantly, we knew that we needed to change really quickly. 

As a health and wellness publication, particularly back in March at the dawn of this global pandemic, our audience was really turning to us for clear, reliable, actual information that they could use to weather these extreme changes in pretty much every aspect of their lives. So, we knew that we needed to come up with a way to give them those answers, both in an internal production way and in a journalistic editorial way. 

It’s been challenging and thrilling. I think it’s worked or it’s working. As I said in that letter, the ultimate performance skill right now, as far as high performance, is the ability to adapt to change. 

Samir Husni: As you are adapting to change, in your September letter to the readers, you talked about expanding the definition of health or redefining health as it impacts everything. And as we all know, we didn’t only have the Coronavirus, we had the social changes and the social injustices. How was taking all of that remotely, without having your team sitting down with you, how easy or hard was it to begin executing those changes?

Richard Dorment: It’s hard to speak in relative terms because we’ve never done this before. We’ve never had a lot of these things, especially happening all at once. I will say that what made it easier was Men’s Health has a tremendous team of editors, writers and designers who are really good people, so that really helps. But they’re also really good at their jobs, so I think that also made it easier. 

Because of how we positioned our brand editorially over the past two and a half years since I started, where we were really focusing on health at a 360 degree proposition, the whole body, whole mind, whole life. And because we had been so deeply entrenched in that thinking, we were ready to execute and to report on and inform about all of those aspects. 

So, yes, you have a global pandemic over here and you have hard science, Coronavirus-related news that we had to cover. Mental health, obviously, it was a huge concern for our audience right now, they’re feeling isolated and overwhelmed, anxious and angry, all of these things that they need help processing and understanding. Perhaps, they didn’t have the vocabulary, particularly with men, or the awareness to talk about this before.

Then with life, it’s like where do you begin? Whether it’s working from home, working out from home, socializing, parenting, partnering, all of these things are radically different than they were 10 months ago. So because we were already well positioned to report on all of those things, we were already doing that before 2020, we were really able to put our backs into the coverage in 2020 and I think it has paid off so far. 

Samir Husni: Men’s Health being the largest circulated men’s magazine that we have in the world now, how big of a responsibility do you feel is on your shoulders to retain the current audience, while cultivating new audiences? Can big become bigger? 

Richard Dorment: That’s a really good questions. It’s not something that I spend a lot of time thinking about. I don’t really think about scale. And maybe I should, but the honest answer is, and I use these words at least 12 times a day so they may sound canned, which they sort of are but I’ve been using them for a long time and they are inclusive, expansive and optimistic. Those are the watch words of Men’s Health. 

We’re inclusive in that anybody who cares about health and wellness, who wants to find out ways they can strengthen their body, their mind, their life; anyone who wants to find out how they can succeed physically, emotionally, socially, they should be able to see some part of themselves reflected in the content that we create across all of our platforms.

It’s expansive in the sense that we’re always looking to add new audience numbers, those who may not have necessarily seen themselves before  or who maybe thought that Men’s Health was not a  magazine for them. We want to make sure that they understand that we are. 

And optimistic, I think that’s the whole ballgame, because I think particularly these days there is so much divisiveness. There’s a lot of bad news in the air and you don’t necessarily want to be delusional or Pollyannaish, but at the same time you want to make sure that our audience understands that a lot of the change is inevitable, but a lot of the change could also benefit them if they understand and optimize themselves for it. 

I’m feeling really good about the work that we’re doing and we have a lot more to do, particularly on the inclusiveness front, but we’re very much on the right path for the journey I believe. 

Samir Husni: I received an email from a journalist that I know and he told me he does not see himself reflected in Men’s Health anymore and he is cancelling his subscription once it runs out. He is Caucasian and has been a subscriber to the magazine for many years. He feels the diversity in the magazine is very one-sided and does not reflect the white reader anymore. What would you say to him?

Richard Dorment: That makes me very sad. I hate to lose audience members for any reason. But I think it’s incredibly important, particularly after the events that happened this past summer, which only enhanced what a lot of us already knew and were trying to accomplish and record, that we really make sure that when we are addressing our audience that we’re addressing all of our audience. 

And that when there are parts of our audience whose specific concerns and specific challenges, particularly in the health sphere, are not being addressed by the mainstream media and are not being prioritized by national health policy, it’s really important for us to be advocates for them. The fact that we weren’t doing it before fell squarely on me, but in 2020 and moving forward that will not be the case anymore. As I said in one of my editor’s letter, we cannot claim to be advocates for men’s health if we are not advocates specifically for the health of all of our audience and that’s Black, Indigenous, Latina, Asian and others. We really have to be foresworn and faithful advocates for everybody. 

It bums me out that maybe there are some white readers who don’t see themselves in the conversation, but I think they can still benefit from that knowledge. And from understanding what their fellow Americans are going through, particularly when it comes to things like the devastatingly disproportionate life expectancy of Black men, the elevated risk of cancer, all of these things, it’s really important that we’re aware of them so that we can fix them together. And if some folks are not willing or able to have those conversations or be a part of that conversation, be part of that change, that striving toward being better, faster, stronger, then there’s nothing I can do about that. But at the end of the day, I certainly don’t regret the conversations. The only thing I regret is that we weren’t able to do more sooner.

Samir Husni: As you’re looking at all of the platforms that Men’s Health is available on, how do you make the decision that something is for ink on paper, something else is for the web, and something else for social media? Is it easy for you and your team to decide?

Richard Dorment: That’s probably the trickiest part of my job right now. In part because of the print component. We work with a three month lead time at least and it’s very hard to see around corners right now. It’s always been hard to see around corners for a monthly print magazine. Some people were better at it than others, but now it’s next to impossible, because I still don’t know who’s going to be president next year. I don’t know when there’s going to be a vaccine. I don’t know if people who are reading future us in March are going to be under some sort of lockdown. I just don’t know. And I don’t think anybody does. 

The best that we can do is really try to focus on people’s lived experiences and anticipate what they may be thinking about and dealing with as best we can during that time. So when printed, it’s really just using our imaginations and using whatever signals we can, either through historical data or what we had done before that succeeded, to create a print product that will be vital and relevant for an audience come March or April. 

For web content, for site content specifically, we’re always thinking about what type of story this is. Is it a certain story, because again, I think the tricky part about being a digital content creator right now is finding an audience. We’re all fighting tooth and nail for the 24 hours in everybody’s way and their attention. So, you really have to have a plan for finding that audience. 

Before we commission any story we always think about how the audience will find the story, because we’re not in the business of creating content that no one is going to find. It’s not a good business at all; it’s not a good editorial model. Are they going to find it through search? Is this something that we know they’re interested in by analyzing the data or analytics? That’s one type of story.

Is it a social story? Is this something someone will consume in their social state and want to share with their friends and get a conversation going? Or is it a newsletter story, which tends to be longer reads, something that people put aside for the weekend when they have more time. These are all the considerations that we take into account when we are thinking about greenlighting digital content. 

There are different things we think about for each platform. I didn’t even touch on video, which is a growing animal. It’s not a gut thing at all. I sort of wish, no I don’t know that I wish I was one of those ‘80s magazine editors who put their finger up in the air and sort of guessed which way the wind was blowing. There is not a lot of gut instinct going on here at all. We try to be deliberate as we considerate it with the known and the unknown.

Samir Husni: Today, we are bombarded by information. And in my circle people are always saying, just Google it or do this search or that. How can you ensure that if someone had the questions, Men’s Health is there to provide the answers, rather than some unknown entity telling them to do this or that?

Richard Dorment: I can get really geeky into the science of search right now, particularly the way we think the Google algorithms work. But Men’s Health is what’s called a “Your Money, Your Life” publication, YMYL. And we’re held to a different standard than most other types of content that’s circulated on the web. And that’s because we deal with Your Life and Your Health. That’s really something that Google, to their great credit, takes into account when they are recommended a ranking content on a search. 

We think a lot about what’s called an EAT score, which is expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. So that’s the acronym that we think of when we are thinking of creating content that people can trust. How do we anticipate and meet those expectations when it comes to a search? We have the Men’s Health advisory board, which is filled with dozens of world-renowned experts who are the best at what they do. And we make sure they’re front and center of every story that we do, because we have science-backed, expert-recommended content. 

We also stay away from unsubstantiated claims. We stay away from a lot of the junk science that’s circulating both on social media and on search engines. Because of that, we tend to be rewarded by the Google algorithms. So, the more that we can lean into our heritage and our legacy as an expert-backed brand, the better chances we have of people finding our content, particularly through search channels.

Samir Husni: How do you utilize that network of Men’s Health all over the world? Are you always the feeder or always the sender, or you’re also the receiver? How does that network of communication work? 

Richard Dorment: Like most brands with a global presence, there is a patchwork of relationships, some of them are wholly-owned by the Hearst Corporation, some of them are licensed out, it really depends. But I think the overall relationship is that we’re aware of what the other brands are doing. They typically take more from us than we do from them, but we are constantly in search of content that would work for us. Then we can incorporate it into what we do. 

It’s important to remember though that American audiences aren’t British audiences, or any other audience that would be our international counterparts. We have to be constant of the fact that the American audience has certain curiosities with certain interests that maybe aren’t shared. We’re not going to do stories on rugby players here necessarily, not because we don’t  love rugby, but it’s not really an American sport. It’s little, sort of cultural differences like that that differentiate whether or not we would pick up their content and vice versa. 

Samir Husni: What is a typical day for you, editor in chief of the world’s largest men’s magazine? How busy are you?

Richard Dorment: I’m pretty busy, but I’m also a parent of three children under the age of 10, and a partner of a very hardworking lawyer. And a person who is living in lockdown, we’re sort of quasi-restricted. So, it’s a lot, but it’s never really off. I enjoy telling this story, a few weeks ago I was finally able to carve out some time where I could get away, I hadn’t taken a vacation all year. When in 2020 is a good time to take a vacation, right? (Laughs) And where would you even go?

But I found a silent meditation retreat in Upstate New York. There was no real website and I found it through a friend. For three days it would have been totally quiet. I wouldn’t have spoken, I wouldn’t have been spoken to. There would have been 15 minutes of screen time at night where I could have checked in on emergency things. But that was really it, and I was so excited. From a mental and social point of view, I needed a break from the world. Stop the world I want to get off. 

Two days before I was supposed to go there was a COVID scare at one of my kid’s schools and because it was the first one of the year I think the school, to their great credit, was very aggressive in trying to contain it. So, the kids couldn’t go to school and because of that our babysitter couldn’t come in. It just sort of went to hell very quickly. I couldn’t go and put off my silent meditation retreat, because you can’t really plan anything right now. So, that’s an example of where my headspace is now. The idea of three days of silence is like a rocking good time for me. 

My day is filled, like  a lot of people, with Zoom meetings and I try to carve out some time to be thoughtful and creative. That’s really the hardest part for me, finding that time to be creative and letting my mind wander and discover new things, just because I feel like we’re all so busy and stressed and we’re distracted by everything. So, that’s the biggest challenge for me.

I have a great team. They are some of the best and smartest people that I’ve ever worked with. I have a lot of great support from my colleagues and my bosses, so we’re making it work. As we are still unsure about whether things are going back to “normal,” the old cliché rings true, that the only way out is through, so we’re all just getting through it. And that’s the best we can do right now. 

Samir Husni: Are you seeing fatigue from so much screen time, since you’re not able to get together in person and collaborate?

Richard Dorment: I don’t know if it’s fatigue, because I still think people are really energized and focused, but I think it’s much harder in an intensely collaborative medium like magazines. I think the reason why a lot of us got into magazines in the first place as opposed to writing full-time, which is an incredibly isolated experience, I think all of us in magazine media got into this because it’s so intensely collaborative. You cannot make a magazine by yourself. You cannot edit a magazine story or publish it by yourself. So I think a lot of us are missing that sense of human contact, that spontaneity, that serendipity, which comes from in-person collaboration. 

We’re doing great without it, but I think it’s harder without it. I do think people miss it. And as we look to 2021 and as we’re trying to be creative and bold and ambitious with our plan, particularly for the first half of the year, I can only speak for myself, but it is a little bit more challenging to feel the juices flowing when you’re not sure of anything. I have a dollhouse behind me in my office right now, so it’s a little trickier. (Laughs) But I am fiercely optimistic about 2021 anyway.

Samir Husni: Once you get out of the bed, what makes you tick and click during the day?

Richard Dorment: The initial gut thing that I want to say is success, but when I see things working, like when I get a great story and I’m reading a great draft or seeing great images or we see that a story we published online is really resonating with the audience or a video is really performing well on YouTube, that motivates me to keep going. 

Like what we’re doing is working and resonating with an audience, particularly when it comes to data returns, where people only care about traffic, I think there is a debate you can have there about whether or not that’s healthy. For me when I see what we’re doing is resonating with the audience or I can anticipate what we’re doing is going to resonate with the audience, whether again, it’s a first draft or images, that’s really exciting to me. 

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

Richard Dorment: I’m really grateful that I get to work at a place like Men’s Health. It’s more relevant and more necessary than ever because of everything that’s happening in the world, not just with the global pandemic, but with the social justice movement, with the ongoing evolution in our understanding of male/female relationships that really started in earnest three years ago with the beginning of the Me Too Movement. 

I think a brand like ours with the authority that we bring, the sense of empathy and accessibility that we bring, I’m really proud to work for a brand that’s trying to, not just be a part of, but is leading these conversations. If we’re helping move these conversations forward, if we’re helping inspire and inform every generation of men, from 18 to 80-year-olds, then I think that’s enough to get me out of bed every morning. I’m really proud of the work that we’re doing and the success we’ve had this year, in particular. And I am really optimistic for where we’re going in the New Year.

Samir Husni: Let’s assume there’s no COVID-19 and I show 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?

Richard Dorment: Reading helps me unwind, for sure. I try to stay off-screen after 8:00 p.m. for both physical and mental reasons, it’s better to be off of them. So, yes, I’ve been reading a lot lately. And that has helped to focus and ground me a little bit, particularly since our bedtime ritual with three kids lasts like six and half hours. So by the time I’m actually done I’m kind of like a squeezed-out sponge. At that point I just need to feel a little bit more grounded and clear-eyed and clear-headed and reading certainly does that for me. 

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

Richard Dorment: The state of our country, to be honest. Like a lot of people, most people maybe, the sense of division and mistrust and rancor is really upsetting to me, particularly someone who tries to be optimistic and tries to be expansive and inclusive and see the best in people and in the world. And I don’t see that reflected in a lot of headlines, at least in what I see as headlines in social media content. But again, that’s not necessarily real life.

Middle of the night thoughts are sort of infamously not rational, so that’s where my head is at. What are we doing in the country with the people and how can we do better. 

Samir Husni: Thank you

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