h1

People’s SVP & Publisher Cece Ryan To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “The Demand For People In Printed Form Will Always Be Strong…” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

March 11, 2021

“Then boom, the reader gets People magazine in her mailbox and she’s so happy it arrived. And it’s having a conversation every week with a best friend. There’s highs and lows, excitement and joy, there’s humor and amazing, rich photography. And having that relationship with the printed form will always be an important part of her life.” Cece Ryan…

“The People ROYALS quarterly that was launched (last week) will be a huge success…” Cece Ryan

It has been said that People is a cultural force. For 47 years, since its first issue date March 4, 1974, People magazine has provided celebrity and human interest conversations that are unmatched. The cover stories are often bold and electric in their depth, always intriguing and enrich lives with information and entertainment. And it’s the largest moneymaking magazine in the country, in both circulation and advertising.

Senior Vice President and publisher of this powerhouse brand is Cece Ryan. Cece was named SVP/Publisher of People in 2018 where she now directs integrated national sales across 360˚ platforms including print, digital, video and social. Cece is a seasoned media executive with experience at other Meredith properties including Real Simple, Media Networks Inc., and Cooking Light. Prior to joining People, she worked at USA Today.  

I spoke with Cece recently and we talked about this cultural force called People. The passion and the dedication she feels for the brand is evident in her voice. Cece feels the success of the brand is due to the connection it has with its readers which drives the consumer marketing revenue. The content is trusted and the storytelling is rich and goes deep. And People’s access is incomparable.

In the upcoming issue which hits newsstands this week, former First Lady Michelle Obama graces its cover and shares the bright sides to her year-plus of pandemic isolation with her husband, former President Barack Obama. And for the Royals enthusiast, there’s an eight-page story on Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah. Something for everyone. 

So please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Cece Ryan, SVP/Publisher, People. 

But first the sound-bites:

On why People continues to be the largest moneymaking magazine in the country: People continues to be the number one magazine and one of the top ten entertainment sites, and a huge revenue leader. And you’re right, it’s a huge responsibility in the industry and definitely within Meredith. But it’s a massive leader in its space because of the way in which it connects to people; it’s very basic.

On why other publications have never been able to follow People’s balancing of circulation and advertising revenue in its business model: I just don’t think other brands carry the weight and the power to connect with consumers and drive the consumer marketing revenue that People can. People represents 48 percent of all total subscriptions in the competitive set and more than 70 percent of all print subscriptions. They’re paying about $100 per year to get this magazine delivered to their mailbox every Friday. And I just don’t think other brands or other magazines have that connection with the consumer like People has from day one.

On the expansion of the brand’s different extensions: Throughout the years People has always focused on innovating behind the brand, and again, has always been driven by consumer’s insights. We want to be where she is, on whatever screen, platform, printed medium where she’s leaning in and leaning back to engage with the content. And again, through the insights and the data that we’re proud to have at Meredith, we know where she’s going to be and what really resonates with her. 

On whether she thinks the new magazine extension launched about the Royals will be a success: People ROYALS quarterly that was launched will be a huge success. Our digital vertical that we update all the time on People.com under Royals, plus the weekly edition of People, plus this ROYALS quarterly will be a great place for our royal enthusiasts to come and get the latest news.

On whether People can’t be defined as a weekly anymore because of its 24/7 status: It really is a daily to be honest, between the breaking news and the way we love to bring that news to marketers to leverage under the People brand. It is a 24/7 role, even though it is a weekly publication. We’re closing a magazine every week.

On what she tells her team when they’re selling the brand: I say to them sell the brand. And that’s everything from print to impressions to audio to events to partnerships in marketing ideas. They’re brand sellers and the brand is at the center of everything we do. When we go talk to marketers, they don’t want to have one conversation, they want to have a full spectrum of the brand and how we can help move their business forward. And those are the solutions we bring them. That’s the really fun and exciting part. 

On whether she differentiates between the roles of each extension or sees the brand as a whole: Clearly, each medium has a benefit and a power, but we really talk to the power and the success that you, a marketer or a customer has by leaning into the entire brand.

On how People dissects and uses the data they get from Meredith’s massive database: We really dissect and use the data according to whatever demographic somebody wants to tap into. But it’s really about celebrating all 96 million all the time. This is something that we have rich data behind, tons of insights, and obviously syndicated research to help us tell that story. But it is 96 million strong. And we seem to find her wherever she is.

On whether she thinks print is as strong today as it once was even during the pandemic: I think the demand for People  in a printed form will always be strong. And while numbers will always vary, especially during a pandemic, obviously most magazines were impacted on the newsstand, but those numbers are also coming back as retail and the world opens up. I do think that from a weekly cadence standpoint, no other brand, again based on our trust and our access and the relevancy, can tell that story in any less cadence.

On anything she’d like to add: Thank you for leaning into People. You’ve always been so supportive. I would just add that the power and the excitement and the position of People right now is just in an incredible place. And we’re really excited about what the future holds. We’re so glad that our insights and a lot of the research that we did on the consumer during the pandemic, every week we did a poll with her; we’re glad that we were there to understand how she was doing, what was important to her, what did she value, what would change her life.

On what makes her tick and click: I actually jump out of bed because I have a massive to-do list both professionally and personally. I’m also excited about what the day brings. There are a lot of conversations happening with amazing clients and customers, internal brainstorms in meetings that are fueling ideas and fueling solutions that are exciting. Every day is not a cakewalk, but that’s why they call it work.

On how she unwinds in the evenings: To be honest, now that the temperatures are getting a little bit nicer, I always try to go outside for some fresh air. Everyone is behind screens a lot and I think during this time of working remotely I’ve saved four hours of commuting time. I can also squeeze in some exercise in the mornings, which has been a wonderful habit.

On what keeps her up at night: I worry. I’m half Italian, half Irish, so I have that worry gene. I worry about being a great leader in a positive way. I want to always do a great job; I want to be there for my team. I want to make sure we’re thinking about the business as strategically as we can, tapping into every aspect and asset that Meredith has to help us fuel the success. So you’re constantly thinking.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Cece Ryan, SVP/Publisher, People. 

Samir Husni: People just celebrated 47 years, the first issue coming out on March 4, 1974. Many said that Henry Luce was probably turning over in his grave at the idea of publishing such a magazine, but of course  history tells us that People saved the entire empire and is now the largest moneymaking magazine in the country from both advertising and circulation. Tell me about being responsible for such an important brand. Why do you think People is such a powerhouse?

Cece Ryan: You’re right. Who would have believed that since 1974 the brand would just continue to thrive from Henry Luce’s vision to now. People continues to be the number one magazine and one of the top ten entertainment sites, and a huge revenue leader. And you’re right, it’s a huge responsibility in the industry and definitely within Meredith. But it’s a massive leader in its space because of the way in which it connects to people; it’s very basic. 

Our editor in chief, Dan Wakeford, does an incredible job connecting consumers to this brand and staying very close to them. And I think the way in which our storytelling is deep and it’s trusted and the access our team has to tell those stories and really get at the heart and soul of Americans, that’s what keeps the brand so strong and moving forward. 

From a marketer’s standpoint, they see the value in our Omni-channel, storytelling approach and the scale we bring. And hitting every demographic in such a strong way that they’re able to leverage all the brand assets to really drive their message to consumers. It’s an incredible brand. It’s a massive responsibility. But it’s also the best brand to represent in the industry.

Samir Husni: People has always had that balance between revenue from circulation and revenue from advertisers. Why do you think the imitators have never been able to follow People’s business model? Why isn’t it the norm rather than the exception?

Cece Ryan: I just don’t think other brands carry the weight and the power to connect with consumers and drive the consumer marketing revenue that People can. People represents 48 percent of all total subscriptions in the competitive set and more than 70 percent of all print subscriptions. They’re paying about $100 per year to get this magazine delivered to their mailbox every Friday. And I just don’t think other brands or other magazines have that connection with the consumer like People has from day one. 

And we will continue to have that connection through our deep insights and data. And it’s a perfect storm between the content, the storytelling, and the consumer marketing efforts our team puts out. And then obviously, on the ad side, the way in which marketers lean into the ideas, the partnerships and franchises. It is a perfect recipe for success.

Samir Husni: You took People from just a print entity to a multimedia, multiplatform brand, but you didn’t ignore print. In fact, you continue to launch new magazines like People ROYALS which came out recently. And I have seen a copy of People Health – so you’ve created a lot of B to B verticals also. Tell me more about that mix of print, digital, web, podcasts, all of the events; just the expansion of all the different brand extensions.

Cece Ryan: Throughout the years People has always focused on innovating behind the brand, and again, has always been driven by consumer’s insights. We want to be where she is, on whatever screen, platform, printed medium where she’s leaning in and leaning back to engage with the content. And again, through the insights and the data that we’re proud to have at Meredith, we know where she’s going to be and what really resonates with her. 

It’s the storytelling and the content. Where else can you get breaking news all the time, 24/7, whether it’s Royals or human interest or celebrity marriage, engagement, baby, break-up; People is at the epicenter of every conversation. And I think we’ve done an incredible job of being where she is and connecting her. 

And yes, the print is important and will always be here. Print is here to stay for People. And it is a core part of the brand assets. This year during a very uncertain time, no other brand is able to innovate and launch a TV show, a daily podcast, a new video offering, the way People can. The brand is incredibly powerful across all those Omni-channel aspects and together it’s the perfect environment for consumers to get their news and obviously for marketers to lean into as well. 

People Royals Spring 2021 issue 1 cover

Samir Husni: With the new magazine ROYALS just coming out among the extensions of the People brand, I’m sure you saw Keith Kelly’s piece about launching in the worst of times based on what is happening with the Royals. Do you think the masses who adore the Royals will impact the magazine or it’s too soon to tell?

Cece Ryan: The ROYALS quarterly that was launched will be a huge success. Our digital vertical that we update all the time on People.com under Royals, plus the weekly edition of People, plus this ROYALS quarterly will be a great place for our royal enthusiasts to come and get the latest news. Recently, we posted 38 stories about Oprah’s interview with Harry and Meghan, and this week with the issue coming out, it hits newsstands in New York and L.A. soon, and it will be in mailboxes and regular newsstands right after, we feature an eight-page story on Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah. 

The fact of the matter is yes, Kate’s on the cover, but Kate’s always going to be relevant, and this is really a premier, beautiful, premium product for the Royal enthusiast. It’s going to be a collector’s item like so many of our regular weekly magazines that feature the Royals are to so many enthusiasts. And we’re really proud of it. And I actually think it comes at the perfect time, not an awkward time at all. 

Samir Husni: You were at USA Today before People; you moved from a newspaper to a magazine. And you’ve been at other magazines as well. Is handling a weekly title, which is now 24/7, any different than say your job at Real Simple or any of the other monthly titles? Or because it is now 24/7, it can’t be defined as a weekly anymore?

Cece Ryan: It really is a daily to be honest, between the breaking news and the way we love to bring that news to marketers to leverage under the People brand. It is a 24/7 role, even though it is a weekly publication. We’re closing a magazine every week. We print on Friday and Monday nights, so that in itself has its own deadlines, and selling the digital and podcasts on a daily basis. It is one of those roles and for the entire team, who does an incredible job, it’s something that is in our DNA at this point. 

You have to just get up and hit the bell and know that there’s news and there’s excitement and momentum. And who wouldn’t love that opportunity? It has become a daily, huge responsibility, and something that’s not for the faint of heart. You have to have the get-up-and-go and the energy and the focus and dedication. And I put that all on my team; they’re just incredible and the best in the business to help continue the brand’s success on every platform at any hour of the day.

Samir Husni: When you meet with your team, virtually I assume these days, do you assign different platforms to sell to different people? Some sell print, some sell digital, some sell the podcasts? Or is it a big melting pot of everyone selling the People brand?

Cece Ryan: I say to them sell the brand. And that’s everything from print to impressions to audio to events to partnerships in marketing ideas. They’re brand sellers and the brand is at the center of everything we do. When we go talk to marketers, they don’t want to have one conversation, they want to have a full spectrum of the brand and how we can help move their business forward. And those are the solutions we bring them. That’s the really fun and exciting part. 

The marching orders will always be we’re going to do this together, an idea for every client, and let’s go continue to win. People has had huge success in every ad category by bringing unique ideas to clients. As brand leaders in the industry, clients, customers and marketers expect us to have the best ideas. And we’re really proud of the fact that with the power of the People brand behind us we can have those conversations. So it’s definitely an Omni-channel conversation, Omni-channel responsibility for everyone on the team. 

And across Meredith as well. We work with our corporate partners and our digital partners, so those are other really key areas and departments for us to collaborate with. And we’re communicating with them all the time to ensure success across the company. 

Samir Husni: Do you ever differentiate between platforms? This is the role of print; this is the role of podcasts? Or you’re more intrigued with the power of the brand as a whole?

Cece Ryan: Clearly, each medium has a benefit and a power, but we really talk to the power and the success that you, a marketer or a customer has by leaning into the entire brand. Something like our franchises, such as Beautiful which is coming out in April; it used to be called World’s Most Beautiful, now it’s the Beautiful franchise. That for someone to reach an audience of 96 million consumers, you want to then reach her and him across that footprint, both print and digital, but also audio, social, not just in one medium. So we really speak to the benefit of reaching the 96 million consumer footprint across every aspect of the brand. 

Samir Husni: Using that data, and Meredith has a powerful database, how do you dissect and digest that data to touch those 96 million consumers across all your platforms?

Cece Ryan: We really dissect and use the data according to whatever demographic somebody wants to tap into. But it’s really about celebrating all 96 million all the time. This is something that we have rich data behind, tons of insights, and obviously syndicated research to help us tell that story. But it is 96 million strong. And we seem to find her wherever she is. 

So whatever the next innovation is behind the brand, and there’s a lot more to come, we know we’ll find her there too. And it’s just about telling that story and giving her the information and content she wants wherever she is. But 96 million and growing is what we’re really focused on and excited about. 

Samir Husni: Do you think the demand for the print component of People is still as strong as it was three years ago and how has the pandemic impacted that demand?

Cece Ryan: I think the demand for People in a printed form will always be strong. And while numbers will always vary, especially during a pandemic, obviously most magazines were impacted on the newsstand, but those numbers are also coming back as retail and the world opens up. I do think that from a weekly cadence standpoint, no other brand, again based on our trust and our access and the relevancy, can tell that story in any less cadence. 

And I do think that it’s here to stay and we’re really so honored, because it’s an honor to have that magazine hit consumer’s mailboxes on a Friday. Because if you think about it, especially during the pandemic, it was like the friend who showed up to have a conversation with them. She’s on so many screens and she’s managing her kids in her home and trying to maintain her health and her well-being. 

Then boom, the reader gets People magazine in her mailbox and she’s so happy it arrived. And it’s having a conversation every week with a best friend. There’s highs and lows, excitement and joy, there’s humor and amazing, rich photography. And having that relationship with the printed form will always be an important part of her life. 

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

Cece Ryan: Thank you for leaning into People. You’ve always been so supportive. I would just add that the power and the excitement and the position of People right now is just in an incredible place. And we’re really excited about what the future holds. We’re so glad that our insights and a lot of the research that we did on the consumer during the pandemic, every week we did a poll with her; we’re glad that we were there to understand how she was doing, what was important to her, what did she value, what would change her life. 

PEOPLE is at the center of the conversation and we’re so excited to continue that dialogue wherever she is, on any platform. Whether it’s a new technology or a new partnership we’re really happy to be there. I love the power of the brand and what it can do for our marketers and customers.

Samir Husni: What makes you tick and click and motivates you to get out of bed in the mornings?

Cece Ryan: I actually jump out of bed because I have a massive to-do list both professionally and personally. I’m also excited about what the day brings. There are a lot of conversations happening with amazing clients and customers, internal brainstorms in meetings that are fueling ideas and fueling solutions that are exciting. Every day is not a cakewalk, but that’s why they call it work. 

We love this brand and we’re so excited about where it can go. It takes a lot of manpower; I’m one person in a pool of many that help the brand succeed. But it really comes back to the leadership at Meredith, which has been so amazing. And also my management team and my core sales, marketing, PR, production, business office. There are hundreds who lean into making this brand successful. So that’s what gets me up in the morning. Excited to take on the day and excited to just roll up my sleeves and everyone checks their ego at the door. It’s about hard work, but having fun. There are so many other people who are solving much bigger problems out there in the world, especially now, and this is an unbelievable position to be in. 

We just want to bring customers solutions that help move their business and help get this economy back on its feet and also give our readers and our users and our visitors something to get some joy out of. 

I’m also a mom of two college-aged daughters who are away at school, so of course that gets me up, because I worry. Are they okay? Are they safe today? Are they making good decisions? I feel very blessed to be in the position I’m in.

Samir Husni: How do you unwind in the evenings?

Cece Ryan: To be honest, now that the temperatures are getting a little bit nicer, I always try to go outside for some fresh air. Everyone is behind screens a lot and I think during this time of working remotely I’ve saved four hours of commuting time. I can also squeeze in some exercise in the mornings, which has been a wonderful habit. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you honestly that I watch People TV, our daily television show on our local Hartford station because it’s just the perfect ending to a day. To sit back with a glass of wine with my husband and watch People TV and see the brand from a different perspective. And then it’s back to doing chores around the house, making dinner and all that fun stuff. 

I love what I do and I love seeing the silver lining in this time, home. And again, I just feel very honored to be at this brand for many years  and it’s the people that has been such a fundamental piece of my tenure here and now being a part of Meredith Corporation has been incredible, with incredible leadership. And I can’t say that enough. It has been a wonderful experience. 

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

Cece Ryan: I worry. I’m half Italian, half Irish, so I have that worry gene. I worry about being a great leader in a positive way. I want to always do a great job; I want to be there for my team. I want to make sure we’re thinking about the business as strategically as we can, tapping into every aspect and asset that Meredith has to help us fuel the success. So you’re constantly thinking. 

Business will continue to improve, but in order to maintain that mindset of how do we continue to do great things, we stay fueled by passion to find solutions.

Samir Husni: Thank you. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: