Archive for the ‘Redesigns’ Category

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L’Officiel’s First-Ever Global Issue Launches To Focus Not On What Divides Us, But What Unites Us – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Contributing Global Chief Creative Officer, Stefano Tonchi…

October 6, 2020

“I think that change has been in the making for a long time. The fact that now we are also very connected to our local communities, but at the same time very open to the world, thanks to the digital revolution and the Internet; I think the change is here to stay. I don’t think anybody can think about going back to the magazines that preexisted before. I’m lucky in that I have always worked in very open-minded and inclusive environments, thinking about The New York Times Magazine and W. And now I want to bring that message into L’Officiel, without losing the Frenchness of the brand.” Stefano Tonchi…

For a century now, L’Officiel has served as an official voice of fashion, beginning as an elegant base for French Couture in Paris and evolving into a collection of international publications. The very first issue, in Fall 1921, was already in 3 languages—French, English, and Spanish, and today L’Officiel publishes 31 editions with distribution in 80 countries. L’Officiel’s social media footprint is 21 million followers, including new growth across Italy, France, and China, among other markets and on digital L’Officiel has 40 million total page views across its global network in 2020 (up 12% vs 2019). Fashion, both past and present has always been the deciding voice for the brand.

With the launch of its very first global issue, L’Officiel seeks to foster a constructive, respectful dialogue across cultures and continents, races and genders. And no one better to lead that dialogue that the brand’s Chief Creative Officer, Stefano Tonchi. As the former editor of W, Stefano forged ahead with diversity and inclusivity as staunchly as he did with good fashion. And he is the epitome of fashion, on both sides of the Atlantic.

I spoke with Stefano recently and we talked about this great new journey before him with L’Officiel and how he wants to create “a unique and global voice” that emphasizes its Eurocentric and French sensibility and point of view, but bring new audiences into the fold too. Such as Americans who want to find that global voice to speak to their communities. It’s an intriguing challenge that Stefano is more than up for.

So, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a man who knows good fashion and knows his way around that world, Stefano Tonchi, contributing global chief creative officer, L’Officiel.

But first the sound-bites:

On how he approached launching the very first global issue of L’Officiel, a brand that is known worldwide and that is 100 years old: First of all I did a little bit of research and tried to understand what the DNA of this brand is. How it was started and how it had been run by almost the same family for the last century. It has really always been a magazine focused on the industry of fashion and that was something that was very small and insular in the 1920s and the 1930s. It became a part of popular culture by the 1980s and the 1990s. And today it’s a very powerful part of the media, I would say, within communications. It’s a place that so many people are using to send political and social messages. So fashion is much more than just clothes, for sure. It’s always been, but today more than ever.

On his decision to have one black and one white on the cover of the first global issue of L’Officiel: I work with a creative director that has been in the communications and advertising industries; he is a very talented Brand-man, as I would call it. We also talked about a brand that doesn’t speak only to the U.S. market; it talks to many different markets. Places where the ratio issue is lived a different way. So, I wanted to bring a message of inclusivity and a message of elegance and calm. That’s why I thought to have two young talents, racially different, was the right message for this cover.

On the biggest challenge he’s had to face since coming to L’Officiel: When you start working with a brand that has a long history, somehow that history is very pleasant, but can be a real problem as well, because the past brings a lot of memories and a lot of stories, so you have to be considerate. It’s like when I went to work for Esquire, so many times I would think, when you have a brand with so much history, the past can become your enemy, because you can never be at that same level of that past.

On whether they will continue to publish L’Officiel in English: Yes. We are going to have the U.S. edition as a print product eight times per year, focusing on different themes. But it is a brand that believes in digital for every day too, so we have a website that is in the process of being redesigned and relaunched with a new digital director, Josh Glass. So that will be what we have in the U.S. And the same kind of structure will be in France and in Italy, where they will also have eight print issues per year. And most of the content of these issues is created in communion together. We have a lot of editorial meetings with the people in France and Italy.

On which role he thinks L’Officiel will play globally, an initiator or a reflector of culture and people: Probably in the U.S. more of an initiator, in terms of the American audience not being really used to consuming global content, especially when it doesn’t come from Los Angeles or New York. It doesn’t have the same resonance in their lives. Our audience is an audience that loves Paris, is interested in a certain kind of European lifestyle and point of view. So that’s what makes L’Officiel’s audience to begin with. But at the same time, we want to also tell stories that are relevant to people in the U.S., so you always have this balance between some continents that are more global and some that are more national.

On what he thinks the future holds for L’Officiel: I think the production of digital content will be increasing, geared toward digital communication. People are going to use and get more and more of their media information from their phones and from other digital outlets. So we will create more content with an integration also of product and messages from the advertisers in different ways. The relationship between editorial and advertisers is changing, that’s for sure.

On why he thinks a reader would pick up L’Officiel over another fashion brand: I think the reason to go to L’Officiel is because the audience wants to have a more global point of view, a more international point of view. For sure someone who is attracted by L’Officiel is already somebody who is looking at Europe, thinks about Paris and a very bordered cultural experience. Someone who thinks about Europe as a reference point and wants to incorporate that knowledge and news into their feeds.

On anything he’d like to add: Visually, I’ve tried to bring a certain kind of elegance and quietness to the design. I didn’t want to surprise too much. I really wanted to establish again this idea of something elegant, clean, understandable, common ground, and from there maybe start an innovation and a revolution.

On what keeps him up at night: These days I have a lot of problems sleeping, because I have to talk so much with Europe and China. China keeps me up because usually my meeting with the Chinese partners are at 4:00 a.m. because of the 12 or 13 hour time difference. It’s a time schedule problem.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Stefano Tonchi, chief creative officer, L’Officiel.

Samir Husni: As a content creator and curator, you’re now at a magazine that has a century under its belt. Next year L’Officiel will celebrate 100 years. How did you approach launching the very first global issue for this brand that’s known worldwide?

Joshua Glass, Stefano Tonchi, Anthony Cenname, photo by  Emily Soto

Stefano Tonchi: First of all I did a little bit of research and tried to understand what the DNA of this brand is. How it was started and how it had been run by almost the same family for the last century. It has really always been a magazine focused on the industry of fashion and that was something that was very small and insular in the 1920s and the 1930s. It became a part of popular culture by the 1980s and the 1990s. And today it’s a very powerful part of the media, I would say, within communications. It’s a place that so many people are using to send political and social messages. So fashion is much more than just clothes, for sure. It’s always been, but today more than ever.

I looked at that history and looked at how this brand, this publication, always wanted to be international. The first issue in 1921 was already in French, English and Spanish. So they always had the idea of talking with the world from Paris.

Now the magazine, especially in the last 20 years, has been expanding and opening outposts all over the world. Some are owned by the company and some are licenses. They are in Ukraine, in Turkey, China, Korea, Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. I think it will be in Chile very soon. So, they kept that kind of international vision.

I came in and I was asked to handle all of these different identities together that the magazine has developed over all of these years, especially internationally. And I’m trying to create for them a common ground and a common language, especially visually. But not colonizing from Paris or from New York, but really involving all the editors in this process. At least right now, the ones who are closer to me and that I can work with daily for the magazines that are totally owned by the holding. That means France, Italy, Brazil, the U.S. and a few others. And then talking to the other companies and the editors in chief in those countries.

So, for me, it’s very important to define global as almost a collaboration, as a common space to work in and not as creating content in Paris or New York, then distributing it on a global scale.

Samir Husni: We know that things are changing in the magazine world, and for the first time, in at least my history of tracking magazines, there is so much diversity in magazine covers. You name the magazine, from fashion to Bible study magazines, to sports; all of them have this amazing cover diversity. You had been doing a lot of that in W. In fact, W was probably one of the most diverse magazines when it was under your tenure. Why do you think the time is now for such diversity? Or do you think this is just a blip on the radar and everything will revert back once this pivotal moment in time ends?

Stefano Tonchi: I think that change has been in the making for a long time. The fact that now we are also very connected to our local communities, but at the same time very open to the world, thanks to the digital revolution and the Internet; I think the change is here to stay. I don’t think anybody can think about going back to the magazines that preexisted before. I’m lucky in that I have always worked in very open-minded and inclusive environments, thinking about The New York Times Magazine and W. And now I want to bring that message into L’Officiel, without losing the Frenchness of the brand.

It’s very easy sometimes to think about global as being something that is very bland with no identity. So, it’s like how can you create an identity that has a relevance in the local community as much as it has a global appeal? And that’s really the challenge.

Samir Husni: I see that for your first cover you went with two people, one black and one white. Can your share your thinking behind that decision for this first global issue?

Stefano Tonchi: I work with a creative director that has been in the communications and advertising industries; he is a very talented Brand-man, as I would call it. We also talked about a brand that doesn’t speak only to the U.S. market; it talks to many different markets. Places where the ratio issue is lived a different way. So, I wanted to bring a message of inclusivity and a message of elegance and calm. That’s why I thought to have two young talents, racially different, was the right message for this cover.

Samir Husni:  Since you took this position at L’Officiel, what has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it? Or has it been a walk in a rose garden for you?

Stefano Tonchi: When you start working with a brand that has a long history, somehow that history is very pleasant, but can be a real problem as well, because the past brings a lot of memories and a lot of stories, so you have to be considerate. It’s like when I went to work for Esquire, so many times I would think, when you have a brand with so much history, the past can become your enemy, because you can never be at that same level of that past.

So, a brand with 100 years of history, you have to kind of restart. It’s almost like you have to find a common ground from where you can erect a new building. So, the challenge has been to put together a new team. And I had really just started to think about what to do when we went into lockdown in most of the west. And it was really difficult to communicate and to try and hire people to do projects, talk to photographers remotely.

But we did it and I was surprised in a good way that we were able to put together this magazine totally remotely. I still have not seen a print issue. That is the first time in my life. I’ve seen only the digital reproduction. All the decisions were made onscreen. All the assignments were made onscreen and all the editing and all the photography. So, it was a very interesting process, because mentally we are used to first putting together the print issue and then distributing it digitally. This was like reverse print. We created something that was totally digital with a digital strategy behind it and then we will see the print version as almost like an added value. Something very special. Something that was the final result and came after.

The old idea of how to rethink a magazine has to do with having a digital strategy. We need to think in a way that isn’t about a monthly. I said that a long time ago at W. about how you have to move away from a monthly or weekly kind of publishing schedule.  We have to focus more on larger themes and create almost like platforms where you put together your content and you distribute it in different ways. L’Officiel has a platform for women’s wear, one for men, art, and one for entertainment. And they all live at the same time. They find moments when some of this content is published into an actual print product, but they all live more as platforms focused on specific thematics.

Samir Husni: Are you going to continue publishing L’Officiel in English?

Stefano Tonchi: Yes. We are going to have the U.S. edition as a print product eight times per year, focusing on different themes. But it is a brand that believes in digital for every day too, so we have a website that is in the process of being redesigned and relaunched with a new digital director, Josh Glass. So that will be what we have in the U.S.

And the same kind of structure will be in France and in Italy, where they will also have eight print issues per year. And most of the content of these issues is created in communion together. We have a lot of editorial meetings with the people in France and Italy. We put together a schedule of the stories we want in the issue and we use the resources where they are, so if we’re doing a story about a French designer, the French team will take care of it. If we’re doing a story about someone in the U.S., the American team will handle it. So we use our contributors all around the world.

It’s also a financial solution, in terms of one of the biggest problems for magazines that operate on a global scale is the duplicating of the resources, such as having two fashion directors, three editors in chief, two IT directors and so on. We are trying to use the best resources where they are. For L’Officiel, we have very strong digital and technical teams that are based in Italy. We have a very strong fashion and visual team based in Paris, casting director, fashion production. We have journalistic and pop culture features that are based in New York. So, we take the best from the company and try not to duplicate the jobs.

Samir Husni: You’ve always been a force for inclusion and glo-local, bringing the global to the local communities. Do you think the magazine audience at large, regardless of the platform, is going to find more of that mentality, that they are going to engage more with magazines like L’Officiel because it will reflect their own personalities or do you feel you will be more of an initiator than a reflector?

Stefano Tonchi: Probably in the U.S. more of an initiator, in terms of the American audience not being really used to consuming global content, especially when it doesn’t come from Los Angeles or New York. It doesn’t have the same resonance in their lives. Our audience is an audience that loves Paris, is interested in a certain kind of European lifestyle and point of view. So that’s what makes L’Officiel’s audience to begin with. But at the same time, we want to also tell stories that are relevant to people in the U.S., so you always have this balance between some continents that are more global and some that are more national.

In Europe, especially between France and Italy, there is much more of a community of cultural references, so there is a lot of content that they share. But they still have very specific features that are of that market. And don’t forget, everybody has a different language too.

Samir Husni: As you move forward and settle into this position, and hopefully the pandemic will be behind us, along with the elections, and as we move toward a new spring, what do you think the future holds for L’Officiel?

Stefano Tonchi: I think the production of digital content will be increasing, geared toward digital communication. People are going to use and get more and more of their media information from their phones and from other digital outlets. So we will create more content with an integration also of product and messages from the advertisers in different ways. The relationship between editorial and advertisers is changing, that’s for sure.

I think what is very interesting and what will be driving the future is how much can we know about our readers. Data managing is really one of the big issues here. We did a little bit of an  experiment in our own small world, our L’Officiel world. We created a portfolio with the most wanted accessories from the fashion season. We asked readers on Instagram 300 questions and we got 600,000 responses. The questions were like what kind of product do you like; what do you like from one brand and what do you not like from another brand. And we collected a lot of information that we read and analyzed. We put together a feature with the 12 greatest accessories for the season chosen by our readers.

So, it’s a combination of data, editorial choices, because don’t forget, the first selection is by the editors. I’m going to create a series of questions and that is already an editorial decision, what kind of questions. So, it’s not really user-generated content, it is editorial-generated content. But the users, the audience, have the opportunity to express their opinions. And then you have again the editors who are going to look through this material and analyze it, and then bring out things from the analytics, but also from the feelings behind it. So, it’s a combination of data and editorial knowledge. That’s what is interesting. How will we combine it? And that’s something that only a magazine brand can do.

Samir Husni: If you could give me only one reason a reader might pick up the print magazine, L’Officiel, or go to the website or the social media outlets you have out there, from an array of other fashion magazines and digital sites, what would that reason be? Why will they choose L’Officiel instead of another fashion brand?

Stefano Tonchi: I think the reason to go to L’Officiel is because the audience wants to have a more global point of view, a more international point of view. For sure someone who is attracted by L’Officiel is already somebody who is looking at Europe, thinks about Paris and a very bordered cultural experience. Someone who thinks about Europe as a reference point and wants to incorporate that knowledge and news into their feeds.

So, in a sense it’s a little less U.S. centric and more globally centric, but it’s also the new position that we have to take as Americans. I’m American and I think if America wants to play the game on a global scale, they have to start to listen to global voices. They can’t just dictate the conversation, that was the past. The future is going to be a dialogue with the rest of the world if America wants to talk about the global field in the future.

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

Stefano Tonchi: Visually, I’ve tried to bring a certain kind of elegance and quietness to the design. I didn’t want to surprise too much. I really wanted to establish again this idea of something elegant, clean, understandable, common ground, and from there maybe start an innovation and a revolution. But I think it’s nice when we can find that kind of visual common ground with understandable typography and images in  a language that explains what you’re looking at. We have sometimes been taking too much for granted. And I think it’s nice to step back before going too far, so we know where we are.

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

Stefano Tonchi: These days I have a lot of problems sleeping, because I have to talk so much with Europe and China. China keeps me up because usually my meeting with the Chinese partners are at 4:00 a.m. because of the 12 or 13 hour time difference. It’s a time schedule problem.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Redesigning A Legacy – The Nation Magazine Gets A Fresh New Print Look With Content That Goes Deeper & Richer – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With D.D. Guttenplan, Editor & Robert Best, Creative Director…

September 29, 2020

“I wanted something that was unabashedly in print. First of all, I don’t think print journalism is dead; I think it’s actually coming back and it’s coming back in a way that only print can do. And that isn’t breaking urgent news on paper; we do that, we break news every day. We publish between seven and 11 stories a day on The Nation dotcom. Ken Klippenstein had a story about DHS monitoring protestors, tapping protestor’s telephone calls and reporter’s telephone calls that led to questions being asked in Congress, so we break significant news all of the time. But that isn’t what people turn to the print Nation for.” D.D. Guttenplan…

“It wasn’t a look to begin with, it was more of a tone of voice. The Nation has and continues to have a very strong personality. And before, where the design was shouting just a little too much, the tone has been brought down to a more level voice where it’s not exasperating the voice of the editorial all of the time. Also, our illustrations and our photography can often be quite aggressive, so the design is trying to balance that so that it doesn’t always heighten the drama to the magazine.” Robert Best…

Founded by abolitionists in 1865, The Nation has chronicled the breadth and depth of political and cultural life from the debut of the telegraph to the rise of Twitter, serving as a critical, independent, and progressive voice in American journalism. D.D. Guttenplan is today’s editor and Robert Best, the brand’s creative director, and two of the people who helped redesign this legacy title.

Recently, I spoke to both gentlemen about the new design that has brought a fresh new change to the magazine. Don Guttenplan said that with this new upgrade, which will be showcased in the October 5/12, 2020 edition, they asked print readers what they wanted more of, their answers were clear: more investigative journalism, more political news unavailable elsewhere, and more analysis from The Nation’s distinctive progressive perspective. More great stories. More strong arguments. More fearless reporting. With more time between issues to enjoy each print edition of The Nation. So that’s what The Nation is going to deliver—twice a month, with 20 percent more pages in each issue (four of those will be special 64-page double issues) that offer even more room for vivid reporting, long-form analysis, and hard-hitting investigations.

The print redesign was handled in-house by The Nation’s enormously talented creative director, Robert Best, and it will inform a digital overhaul in 2021. The idea behind the redesigned logo, marking the broader redesign, was to retain the history of the magazine’s logo, while bringing it forward: The classic logo type is now layered with a clean modern red square, and there is a strong contrast echoing the past and marking the next chapter. The new look is bold, eye-catching, and leans to the left—all appropriate for The Nation.

And now I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with D.D. Guttenplan, editor and Robert Best, creative director, The Nation.

D.D. Guttenplan

But first the sound-bites:

On why the redesign and changes with The Nation now (D.D. Guttenplan): One of the things that I did when I took over was to take stock, and that means both looking at our journalism in terms of content and looking at everything we do, from how many pieces we publish a day on the web to what we’re putting in print. And I think I told you when we spoke last, when I first took over, that it was very important for me that we be clear on what we’re doing with print and what we’re doing with the web and what they are each for. And that they serve distinct purposes.

On what Robert Best was thinking when it came to a new design for a magazine with a more than 150-year-old history (Robert Best): It wasn’t a look to begin with, it was more of a tone of voice. The Nation has and continues to have a very strong personality. And before, where the design was shouting just a little too much, the tone has been brought down to a more level voice where it’s not exasperating the voice of the editorial all of the time. Also, our illustrations and our photography can often be quite aggressive, so the design is trying to balance that so that it doesn’t always heighten the drama to the magazine.

On their process or approach to the redesign (D.D. Guttenplan): Robert and I decided that we were going to do this and we discussed it with the business side and Katrina (vanden Heuvel), editorial director and publisher of The Nation, so everybody was onboard. Then we created a working group, a print redesign working group, which had people from editorial, but it also had people from business and circulation, We would meet regularly. Of course, that was still in the days when you could meet face to face.

Robert Best

On their process or approach to the redesign (Robert Best): I’ve been doing this a long time and I want to solve problems. And I want things to look the way they should look based on those problems getting solved. One of the problems with The Nation was the paper wasn’t the best paper, so part of the design solution has to be something that whitens the paper visually. And that is the use of darks and lights, the contrast that I’m creating throughout the design. From the front of the book, there is a very small dot pattern that’s, if you called it a one to 10 spectrum, it would be the one. And all the black bars and the heavy black type would be the 10. And that’s what gets that high contrast level, because we have a lot of text, but we still needed to be something that people want to approach.

On whether the all-cap “N” they took from the logo all the way to the inside pages was part of the visual magnet to stop a reader before keeping them on the page (Robert Best): As far as using it on the logo, they both sort of worked hand-in-hand in how they came to the issue. The logo was as you said history, and retaining that history, while sort of layering it onto this modernistic look of the red square, where it becomes something else, yet you remember where it came from. On the inside, the drop-caps were again sort of a…our colors are black and red obviously throughout the magazine, and that just sort of brings a modern quality to a drop-cap and is a good starting point.

On what role they feel journalism can play now in our world of division and the pandemic (D.D. Guttenplan): I don’t think it’s our job to offer people false hope and I also don’t think it’s our job to be Chicken Little; I think it’s our job to tell people the truth. And I suppose part of that is when you know what you’re talking about you don’t have to shout, so in that sense I very much appreciated Robert’s metaphor which he’s used throughout changing our tone of voice a bit. The Nation is not a consumer magazine, so we’re never going to write about the best pizza parlor in Chicago, but we may write about things you can do to make your vote actually count or this is what you can do to get involved on Election Day. We can give people useful information certainly. So, our role is to do that and to tell people the truth.

On the human being The Nation would be if it were suddenly struck with a magic wand that produced that person (D.D. Guttenplan): It’s not a he or she, it’s they. It’s always going to be a “they.” I think one of the things that makes The Nation different from any other magazine is our genuine openness to debate. It’s not that we’re necessarily contrary and provocateurs, we’re not here as the line, here is the correct thing to think. The Nation is one way to think about it, but within the progressive frame that we’re all committed to as a magazine. There are other ways to think about it, and here are some of them, so The Nation is never one person knocking on your door. It’s not me; it wasn’t Katrina before; it wasn’t Victor Navasky before that.

On whether they believe there is a good exchange of ideas in our country or it’s just everyone shouting at everyone else (D.D. Guttenplan): Everybody is clearly shouting everyone, that’s what Twitter is for. (Laughs) I feel like there are magazines that matter, and that’s becoming increasingly true during the pandemic because people are spending more time at home. One of the things that you can do at home is read. And we want to be part of that; we want to be a part of people’s intellectual lives. Part of the political life of the country as we have been for 155 years.

On anything they would like to add (Robert Best): It’s ideas and a new voice, like we talked about. And what we’re finding now as we finish up the second issue is finding a familiarity to that voice and knowing that it’s not going to stay the same. It will start moving left and right, and that’s an exciting time. It’s invigorating to have a certain sense of feeling a little off balance, because we’re not used to it. And that’s going to bring fresh ideas and content, so that we’re not resting on what we’re used to.

On what keeps them up at night (D.D. Guttenplan): What keeps me up at night is trying to find a way through this pandemic to keep The Nation relevant and keep my staff happy without being able to meet face to face. That has been a challenge. It’s a challenge for all of us, but it is what keeps me up at night. How to manage when we can’t actually be together in a room. Robert and I have very good rapport, so we were able to do this even though we were very far apart geographically.

On what keeps them up at night (Robert Best): What keeps me up at night – well, since Don is in England right now, it’s not the nights, it’s the mornings. (Laughs)

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with D.D. Guttenplan, editor and Robert Best, creative director, The Nation magazine.

Samir Husni: We know change is the only constant in journalism and the media business, but why change The Nation now?

D.D. Guttenplan: There are a couple of reasons. One of the things that I did when I took over was to take stock, and that means both looking at our journalism in terms of content and looking at everything we do, from how many pieces we publish a day on the web to what we’re putting in print. And I think I told you when we spoke last, when I first took over, that it was very important for me that we be clear on what we’re doing with print and what we’re doing with the web and what they are each for. And that they serve distinct purposes.

My view then was that our print magazine was not clear about why we were still in print; why we are on paper. What kind of experience do we want people to have and what kind of experience do our subscribers want? The second part of that equation, what kind of experience do our subscribers want is important, because those are the people at this point in our funding model, who pay our salaries. In other words, we could imagine a world in which The Nation was supported by supporters who donate because of the wonderful things we publish on the web and that would be a different model, but that isn’t the model we’re in. The model we’re in is where the bulk of our revenue comes from subscriptions. Not all of the subscriptions are print, but the majority of them are print.

So, I needed some time to find out from our print subscribers just what it was they wanted and that meant talking to our businesspeople, talking to circulation; designing a questionnaire, getting it out, getting responses. So part of this was I always felt that we needed to change but we weren’t able to change until we had data. And some of that data is what do our subscribers want.

When the data came back it was very clear what they wanted. And you probably know this already because you pay a lot of attention to magazines, but if you look at the cover of The Nation and then you look at the cover of, for example, The Atlantic or Harper’s, they are on slick paper and we are not. They’re on coated stock and we aren’t. The reason for that is because our readers have always been very clear, they want our money to go into the journalism. It’s not that they don’t care how it looks, they do care. I’m sure they appreciate good design as much as I do, or almost as much as I do, since I think I appreciate the design enormously. I certainly appreciate my good fortune in having a genius like Robert Best on staff, because we couldn’t have done this otherwise.

It’s very important that you know this was all done in-house. We did not go to some consultant and ask how can we look better? This was done under the lead of someone who has been working on designing, had his hands on our product for seven years. He is very deeply immersed in what we do.

Our subscribers said that what they wanted was stories with more impact; stories that could go deeper; stories that you’re happy to spend more time with; more investigative reporting; more in depth analysis, and they were at the very least not fussed about whether it came every week or every other week. Again, this wasn’t a thing that was widely noticed, but The Nation hasn’t published 52 issues a year in a very long time.

We had this rhythm of going biweekly in the summer, biweekly at Christmas, but I was also getting complaints from people saying they didn’t get their issue. Then I would go to circulation and ask what happened to that person’s issue and they would say they received their magazine, it’s just that we went biweekly. And they didn’t realize that and thought they had missed an issue.

So, there was this message that they wanted more; they wanted a bigger canvas. And they would be very happy to have more time to read what we were giving them. All of those things together led to this shift where we’re quite regular twice a month and predictable. And where there is more time between issues than there was some of the time, because some of the time we were already publishing on this schedule, but now we’re on this schedule all of the time. And now each issue is bigger, we added 20 percent length to each issue, so the features well got four extra pages, the front of the book section, which is editorials, comments, and short pieces got two pages; the books and the arts section got two extra pages, and we also have these four double issues, four times per year, of 64 pages. The next issue that comes out, the fall book issue will be one of those double issues and it will be 64 pages.

In terms of total  pages, published in the course of a year, there’s not that much change. And of course, that means we’re not actually saving much money doing this; we’re saving money on postage, but in terms of publishing costs it’s pretty much a wash. But we are able to go deeper and to give people more. What I wanted in that case was a design that people would be happier to spend more time with. I felt in my gut that our previous versions were done at a time when the Internet and social media were transforming journalism and leading a lot of people to think that it was dying.

I wanted something that was unabashedly in print. First of all, I don’t think print journalism is dead; I think it’s actually coming back and it’s coming back in a way that only print can do. And that isn’t breaking urgent news on paper; we do that, we break news every day. We publish between seven and 11 stories a day on The Nation dotcom. Ken Klippenstein had a story about DHS monitoring protestors, tapping protestor’s telephone calls and reporter’s telephone calls that led to questions being asked in Congress, so we break significant news all of the time. But that isn’t what people turn to the print Nation for.

It was thinking about what people turn to a print magazine for and what we need to change to meet those needs and desires and to create a product that people will be happy spending more time with. And hopefully be more happy to pay for. We want more subscribers.

Samir Husni: Robert, what was your thinking when it came to a new design for a magazine with more than a 150-year-old history? You don’t want to touch the DNA, yet you want to give it a new look. Was it just a new look or was it what Don said about taking a deeper dive into journalism and presenting it in a way that only print can do?

Robert Best: It wasn’t a look to begin with, it was more of a tone of voice. The Nation has and continues to have a very strong personality. And before, where the design was shouting just a little too much, the tone has been brought down to a more level voice where it’s not exasperating the voice of the editorial all of the time. Also, our illustrations and our photography can often be quite aggressive, so the design is trying to balance that so that it doesn’t always heighten the drama to the magazine.

Samir Husni: How did you use the data that was collected to see what readers wanted from a print magazine to create the new design? What was the process, the approach?

D.D. Guttenplan: Robert and I decided that we were going to do this and we discussed it with the business side and Katrina (vanden Heuvel), editorial director and publisher of The Nation, so everybody was onboard. Then we created a working group, a print redesign working group, which had people from editorial, but it also had people from business and circulation, We would meet regularly. Of course, that was still in the days when you could meet face to face.

The Nation has a very nice conference room, I miss it, with a view over 8th Avenue, and we would meet in there. Actually, in early February I got a couple of bulletin boards on legs and people would put up pages from magazines that they liked or things that they thought worked well.

So, we had those meetings and those meetings continued on Google Chat regularly even  after we closed our office on March 17. And the group was chaired very capably by Rose D’Amora who is our managing editor. Everybody had input and we came up with what was called a strategic document for the redesign. And that was what Robert and I steered by.

There’s an important point that I want to make. Very early in this process Robert made a distinction between a redecoration and a redesign and I’m going to let him explain it to you. Because of that distinction, we thought it was very important for people to talk about what they wanted the print magazine to do. What were our what’s? So we spent a lot of time in these meetings asking people what it was they wanted to see in the new version; what they wanted it to do. Not how they wanted it to look, but what kinds of things they wanted to create space for.

For example, we have a piece in this issue called “The Argument” where someone makes a strong polemical statement. That was one of the “what’s” that came out of these meetings. We have a thing in this issue called “The Leak” where Ken Klippenstein takes a document that has been leaked to him and he annotates it in a way that shows readers what is significant about this document. That was also one of the “what’s.”

But I think it’s very important that you hear from Robert because he is very eloquent about why he didn’t want us to talk about how it should look and the distinction between a redecoration and a redesign.

Robert Best: I’ve been doing this a long time and I want to solve problems. And I want things to look the way they should look based on those problems getting solved. One of the problems with The Nation was the paper wasn’t the best paper, so part of the design solution has to be something that whitens the paper visually. And that is the use of darks and lights, the contrast that I’m creating throughout the design. From the front of the book, there is a very small dot pattern that’s, if you called it a one to 10 spectrum, it would be the one. And all the black bars and the heavy black type would be the 10. And that’s what gets that high contrast level, because we have a lot of text, but we still needed to be something that people want to approach.

As far as the “what’s,” I really believe people want to feel familiar with the magazine; want to expect certain things, that when they go to it, they go to those things first. I was at New York Magazine for years and our research said that best bets, there were certain intelligencers, certain pages that people looked forward to. The features are the extra stuff, the things that they don’t expect, and that’s great.

Creating brands for the magazine that heightens the writers and heightens the series like “The Leak” will become something that when you mention it people will say, oh yes, that’s the piece that was in The Nation magazine. So we wanted brands that can be parts of conversations.

Samir Husni: I’ve noticed also from the all-cap “N,” you took that theme from the logo all the way to the inside pages, was that part of that visual magnet to stop a reader before keeping them on the page?

Robert Best: As far as using it on the logo, they both sort of worked hand-in-hand in how they came to the issue. The logo was as you said history, and retaining that history, while sort of layering it onto this modernistic look of the red square, where it becomes something else, yet you remember where it came from. On the inside, the drop-caps were again sort of a…our colors are black and red obviously throughout the magazine, and that just sort of brings a modern quality to a drop-cap and is a good starting point.

Samir Husni: Tell me more about the need in this day and age for the type of journalism The Nation offers. What role do you feel journalism can play now in our world of division and the pandemic?

D.D. Guttenplan: We live in a very polarized country and we live in very perilous times. If you think about what has been in the national conversation during the last week, we don’tknow whether we’re going to have a second wave of the pandemic that will be even worse than the first. We know that America has squandered a lot of the experience we could have had in the first wave, in terms of preparing. There is still not testing on demand, there’s still not adequate testing provisions, there is still not national provisions of PPE, there is no track and trace infrastructure in place; all the things that other countries have done, we haven’t done. So, we’re all living with uncertainty as to what is going to happen with our physical health now.

One of the things that occurred to me in March was we all have opinions about the Coronavirus, but you know what they say about opinions… everybody has one. So, I wanted someone who I knew would know what they were talking about, so I reached out to an epidemiologist, Gregg Gonsalves, who is at the Yale School of Public Health and who now writes a column for us every two weeks or so. But it’s online; I think he’s been in print once. But the pandemic is one big element of uncertainty.

Whether the results of the presidential election are going to be disputed, and we don’t know if there will be a peaceful transition of power that the Constitution takes for granted, but doesn’t actually guarantee. So, there is a lot of uncertainty.

I don’t think it’s our job to offer people false hope and I also don’t think it’s our job to be Chicken Little; I think it’s our job to tell people the truth. And I suppose part of that is when you know what you’re talking about you don’t have to shout, so in that sense I very much appreciated Robert’s metaphor which he’s used throughout changing our tone of voice a bit. But also nobody wants to spend two weeks with somebody shouting at them from their coffee table or from their kitchen table or from wherever you keep the things that you read and don’t throw away the same day. You don’t want the magazines shouting at you and you don’t want them to be so time-tied that they’re disposable. You want them to have things that you feel you’ve learned something from or that have made you think or have been useful for your life.

The Nation is not a consumer magazine, so we’re never going to write about the best pizza parlor in Chicago, but we may write about things you can do to make your vote actually count or this is what you can do to get involved on Election Day. We can give people useful information certainly.

So, our role is to do that and to tell people the truth. One of the things I wanted from the design and this is where I think Robert has succeeded brilliantly is I wanted our pages to be sticky. I wanted people flipping through it to think this is something they would want to read. And for them not to feel like the magazine was something that had already seen yet again. I mean, you want a certain amount of predictability, where people come to you for certain voices, our columnists are wonderful and we have a great rotation and an amazing diversity of voices, but in the rest of the magazine I want people to be able to be surprised. And I want there to be a variety of different kinds of sticky articles so that people will want to spend time with it, because that’s the thing, we’re all competing for readers’ time.

I feel like what print can do is it can give you a lean-back, time-to-think-about-it, explaining complexity, living with complexity depth that you can’t get from a screen.

D.D. Guttenplan

Samir Husni: If I could give you a magic wand to strike this new The Nation magazine with and a human being suddenly popped out, who would it be? Can you describe that person?

D.D. Guttenplan: It’s not a he or she, it’s they. It’s always going to be a “they.” I think one of the things that makes The Nation different from any other magazine is our genuine openness to debate. It’s not that we’re necessarily contrary and provocateurs, we’re not here as the line, here is the correct thing to think. The Nation is one way to think about it, but within the progressive frame that we’re all committed to as a magazine. There are other ways to think about it, and here are some of them, so The Nation is never one person knocking on your door. It’s not me; it wasn’t Katrina before; it wasn’t Victor Navasky before that.

The Nation is more like Christmas carolers coming to your door; it’s more of a group. And some people hate them, but some people like them and they usually sing more than one carol. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Robert, are you the leader of that Christmas caroling group? (Laughs)

Robert Best: (Laughs too) No, I’m in the back row.

Robert Best

Samir Husni: Do you feel we have a good exchange of ideas in the country or everybody is shouting at everyone else?

D.D. Guttenplan: Everybody is clearly shouting everyone, that’s what Twitter is for. (Laughs) I feel like there are magazines that matter, and that’s becoming increasingly true during the pandemic because people are spending more time at home. One of the things that you can do at home is read. And we want to be part of that; we want to be a part of people’s intellectual lives. Part of the political life of the country as we have been for 155 years.

And I also think that was Robert said is true; a tremendous amount of work and thought went into this first redesigned issue. But that’s just the first one. There’s a lot of modularity and flexibility so that we can move things around within a structure. One of the things that I think Robert is so brilliant at is using visual hierarchies to organize people’s reading experiences.

I used to use this word a lot with my staff, but I stopped because they started making fun of me, which is intentionality. But I think there is  a lot of intentionality in this design. It’s very considered. We have discovered the features of this new house that we’ve built and what we can do with it, and then we take that to our digital and we redesign that too. That will be the next phase, which will probably be about a year off. And getting to know the house will undoubtedly shape that. Digital is a different thing than print, so it will be its own thing. But we now have a visual vocabulary that we’ll want to carry over when we do the digital redesign.

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

D.D. Guttenplan: One of the things that Robert told me and the staff when we were starting this was that the difference between a redesign and a redecoration was that a redesign is driven by ideas. Robert, would you like to elaborate on that?

Robert Best: It’s ideas and a new voice, like we talked about. And what we’re finding now as we finish up the second issue is finding a familiarity to that voice and knowing that it’s not going to stay the same. It will start moving left and right, and that’s an exciting time. It’s invigorating to have a certain sense of feeling a little off balance, because we’re not used to it. And that’s going to bring fresh ideas and content, so that we’re not resting on what we’re used to. The redesign is just beginning, actually. And it will continue with good content, good thinking, excitement and enthusiasm.

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

D.D. Guttenplan: What keeps me up at night is trying to find a way through this pandemic to keep The Nation relevant and keep my staff happy without being able to meet face to face. That has been a challenge. It’s a challenge for all of us, but it is what keeps me up at night. How to manage when we can’t actually be together in a room. Robert and I have very good rapport, so we were able to do this even though we were very far apart geographically.

Maintaining that kind of rapport with every member of my editorial team takes a lot. And that’s what keeps me up at night. It used to be so easy in The Nation’s office. When I opened my door I could see Robert sitting at his desk. I could walk over and ask him what do you think about this or that? And that was true with everyone in the office. I might not be able to see them directly in my office, but I knew they were there. But now it’s harder.

Robert Best: I’d like to say that working with Katrina over the years, and now Don, these are two editors that have always trusted me and the entire staff. They trust us and let us have our own voice. And that makes for a really great place to work.

What keeps me up at night – well, since Don is in England right now, it’s not the nights, it’s the mornings. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

h1

Bella Magazine’s CEO & Editor In Chief, Vanessa Coppes, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “Print Is Important Because Print Makes Something Permanent.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

August 11, 2020

Publishing During A Pandemic 38

“It’s [Print] what our readers want from us. A magazine is a response to human behavior. Our reader is a reader that either walks into a bookstore or orders the publication online, which is what we’ve done over the past few months because of the pandemic.” Vanessa Coppes…

“Print is like nothing else. It’s like a great book. It’s literally nestling on a couch with a cup of coffee or some hot cocoa and your magazine. It’s learning about different people and places. Right now everything is aspirational; we’re not getting on planes for a while, but at least on the pages of Bella you can look through beautiful images of different parts of the country and the world and still stay connected to people, places and things.” Vanessa Coppes…

Vanessa Coppes is a social entrepreneur, an author, blogger, and now CEO and editor in chief of Bella Magazine. With the new tagline “Life Is Bella!” Vanessa is bringing more compassion, empathy and social relevance to the brand’s content. Bella Magazine is a national subscription- and newsstand-based lifestyle publication offering a curated guide to fashion, beauty, health, philanthropy, arts and culture, cuisine, celebrities, and entertainment. Unfortunately, with the pandemic, the newsstand distribution has been somewhat curtailed with Barnes & Noble unable to receive any new orders.

But with the same passion as her brand, that didn’t stop Vanessa. I spoke with Vanessa recently and we talked about how the magazine is being offered online and now has an apparel line associated with it, which has brought in any entirely new infusion of revenue and interest. With the monumental movement “Black Lives Matter” and the pandemic engulfing the world in a new normal that no one was even remotely ready for, Vanessa has taken the content of Bella to a new level, turning each themed issue into its own unique experience and bringing thoughtful stories to life within the magazine’s pages.

And now the 38th Mr. Magazine™ interview in the series of Publishing During A Pandemic with Vanessa Coppes, CEO and editor in chief, Bella Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On why she acquired Bella instead of starting her own brand from scratch: I have always loved telling stories and that creative process of connecting with a person. Maybe get them to share their story in a way that can help and support someone else in something that they may be going through. I had been working with the previous owners since its inception. We were friends and had connected. And when they decided to sell, I don’t even know what triggered, it was like a kneejerk reaction to jump on the opportunity because I have always been a very creative person and I just felt that maybe this was my time to tell these stories from my perspective. And hopefully help other people see the world as I see it, but not just as I see it, but as my team sees it.

On whether the combination of the pandemic and other milestone events that have happened since she took over Bella have hindered or helped her elevate the brand’s content: By nature, I am a very spiritual person. I operate from a place of spirituality and integrity; I pray a lot; I meditate; I practice yoga three times per week. So I come from that world of energy. And everything that goes into each issue is literally prayed about; it’s thought out; it’s meant to be intentional. So to your point, I knew in my gut that a lot had to change for this magazine to stay relevant.

On any challenges she has faced along the way during her magazine journey: The challenges are there when you see them as “challenges,” because my team has quite frankly learned to navigate, especially now during this pandemic and this racial divide that we’re in; we work from our hearts. We operate out of love and compassion. We want to tell stories of people who are doing amazing things, not just here, but in the world. And the support that we’ve received has been great, I have literally cried. I haven’t had to furlough or let go of anyone on my team. That’s a true testament of commitment on one part from each of them, but also love for what they do.

On why she thinks print is important to the Bella brand today: It’s what our readers want from us. A magazine is a response to human behavior. Our reader is a reader that either walks into a bookstore or orders the publication online, which is what we’ve done over the past few months because of the pandemic. Our distribution has changed a little bit; Barnes & Noble completely stopped receiving new orders, which was our distribution outlet.

On anything she’d like to add: One thing that people ask me is what’s in the future. We are, as I’m sure everyone is, taking it one day at a time with regards to the world and the times we’re living in. We’re super-proud and excited for the future, because regardless of what’s happening, we’re still here. People are still buying the publication, subscribing to it; we’re signing on new brand partners. It still has its place. And I think it’s because of those minor changes that we’ve made, content-wise.

On what keeps her up at night: The fate of our future because I am a hopeless optimist. I really do believe in compassion and empathy. I always pray that we all be a little kinder and a little more gracious to each other, because if we find ourselves in a difficult situation we would want to be afforded that same courtesy. Not to say I’m perfect, I’m far from it, but I think that we are all in need of a little bit more love and compassion and understanding from each other so that we can get ourselves out of this mess.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Vanessa Coppes, CEO and editor in chief, Bella Magazine.

Samir Husni: Why did you acquire Bella instead of starting your brand own from scratch and what’s your concept of Bella today?

Vanessa Coppes: I have always loved telling stories and that creative process of connecting with a person. Maybe get them to share their story in a way that can help and support someone else in something that they may be going through. I had been working with the previous owners since its inception. We were friends and had connected.

I remember receiving the first issue of Bella almost 10 years ago and I just loved it. You had trends, fashion and beauty, but there was always substance. And as a person of substance that I like to believe I am, I connected with the content. And so I definitely wanted to be involved. I had been writing since I was a young girl, and I actually came up with my column that I wrote for Bella almost seven years ago.

And when they decided to sell, I don’t even know what triggered, it was like a kneejerk reaction to jump on the opportunity because I have always been a very creative person and I just felt that maybe this was my time to tell these stories from my perspective. And hopefully help other people see the world as I see it, but not just as I see it, but as my team sees it.

I have a very diverse team and I don’t say that to peg myself into the trends of diversity and inclusion, I just really have a very diverse team. People from different cultures, different backgrounds, and it’s such a beautiful thing to have all of these creative people come together. Because at the end of the day each issue tells a story in itself and everything is connected one to the other. And I try not to disrupt anyone’s creative process, because as a creative person I know that always kills the process itself. Everybody is free to share their ideas and share their concepts and based on the theme of the issue, what comes out of it is truly phenomenal.

I think the biggest compliment that I’ve received, especially over the past year, is just how the magazine has elevated how the content has been elevated to really be reflective, not just of the team, but also of the times that we’re living in. I always felt like that was missing a little bit. There are so many fashion/beauty publications and when we decided to be in the space of lifestyle, I asked what does the Bella lifestyle actually look like? And it’s really trying to live a beautiful life from the inside and outside. The reality is not everyone looks the same. The world that we live in isn’t a reflection of size two models and blonde women. It’s an array of beautiful people who come in different shapes and sizes. So, let’s be reflective of that.

I even changed the tagline this year to be reflective of that. It’s “Life is Bella!” because life is beautiful when you decide to look at it from that lens.

Samir Husni: Since you took over the magazine, you’ve had to deal with the pandemic first and foremost, then along came the milestone movement of Black Lives Matter; do you think the gods are working with you or against you to elevate the content of Bella?

Vanessa Coppes: By nature, I am a very spiritual person. I operate from a place of spirituality and integrity; I pray a lot; I meditate; I practice yoga three times per week. So I come from that world of energy. And everything that goes into each issue is literally prayed about; it’s thought out; it’s meant to be intentional. So to your point, I knew in my gut that a lot had to change for this magazine to stay relevant.

I don’t want to say a lot in the sense of the covers themselves had to change, it was more the stories that we were focusing our attention on, so that they could be more reflective of the reality of the world that we are living in. In the beginning, one of our popular issues had always been the “Hollywood Issue,” which was the Jan./Feb. issue and things revolved around awards season. And I like the awards; I like the fashion, but that’s not really what I wanted to focus the content on, because it’s like the running joke, when we’re writing about beauty and fashion, it isn’t brain surgery. It’s fluff to a certain extent.

People that wanted to pick up the publication, especially after I took it over, were people that wanted to read about women who were building businesses, or the person in another country who was helping to feed the hungry; it was more human interest stories, fashion-conscious companies that were sourcing ethically or organically. Things again, made of substance. It all goes back to substance.

Again, I’ve always listened to the universe, have always been opened to receiving and allowing for this to take the form that it’s intended to take. My team, for the most part, operates from that same space. Again, the stories that we were telling were just reflective of what we were feeling and what was happening around us.

I also felt that it would be completely unethical on our part to not take a stand and to not be another voice to add to the movement of Black Lives Matter, with me myself being a person of color. I think I would have been denying part of my identity had I not done that.

The magazine has never been self-serving. We have weekly meetings editorially to dig through the topics that people really want to know about. What is of interest to our readers; what do people want to explore; what should we be expanding on? And that’s really want we’re focused on.

Quite honestly, the response has been truly a blessing, because as you know and everyone knows, magazines have completely shut down and have had to lay off a ton of workers. This whole working from home concept isn’t new to my team, because we’ve been doing it for years. So, we just adapted. Today I’m home because there’s no power in my office, which is 10 minutes from my house, but I go to my office because I have smaller children and I need the peace. (Laughs) But this isn’t new to the team.

No one really wants to know about the latest lipstick right now. However, we do want to know how people are cooking, how they’re working out from home, how they’re keeping their sanity. What are a few things that I can do to brighten up my mood, because it felt like Ground Hog Day every day for a while. We felt like we were living the same thing over and over.

I’m not going to lie, once the pandemic hit it was very difficult. We lost clients and I looked at my husband and asked him what did we get ourselves into with this? But I think that the way we adapted and responded to the crises was the true blessing. We found other ways to keep money coming in, which was we created an apparel line with the brand. Who knew that people wanted a T-shirt with the Bella logo on it? I knew, because I had been saying it for years. We put that plan into action and attached the philanthropic work that we’ve always done. I always like to think of myself as a social entrepreneur, where yes, we need to make money, but how is this impacting our helping another group of people.

So, we attached the apparel line to several causes and people got behind it. And honestly, that’s a reflection of the work that we’re doing to this day. I’ll sit somedays and say, we’re here. People clearly still want to read this. We’re producing and working content every single day. It has honestly been a blessing. So, yes, the gods have been working with us. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: The magazine industry is still, for the most part, lily-white. You’re one of the few people of color who actually own and produce a magazine that I know. Has it been a walk in a rose garden for you or have there been challenges along the way?

Vanessa Coppes: Here’s what I have found to be true from the moment I took over. Ultimately, the person at the top is the one that makes the decisions. We know this from other companies and businesses; it always comes from the top. And that is a responsibility that I don’t take lightly. Meaning I am the one who ultimately decides who’s going to be on the cover; who’s going to be featured; who’s going to be in the book. I have to say kudos to my team, who are all very opinionated and will speak up and speak out.

We did a really big campaign for Pride, which was something that hadn’t been done in the publication itself in past years, however I made it a point myself because I have team members who are a part of the LGBTQ community. And again, I felt it would be unethical for me to not hold space for them. I even told my team members that I wanted it to feel like their birthday every day that month, because I wanted them to feel celebrated for who they are.

That kind of compassion and humility has been what has driven me as a person and as editor in chief of this publication. I’m always the one to ask how something will impact our readers; what is the ultimate goal that we want to reach? What is it we’re trying to relay and what story are we trying to tell?

With the content we’re publishing, I always say that I want my nieces who are 11, 12 and 16, when they pick up this publication, I want them to be able to see themselves in the stories. And that’s very important, because I remember being 12 or 16 and wanting to starve myself because I couldn’t fit into what I saw in the publications.

But to your point, the challenges are there when you see them as “challenges,” because my team has quite frankly learned to navigate, especially now during this pandemic and this racial divide that we’re in; we work from our hearts. We operate out of love and compassion. We want to tell stories of people who are doing amazing things, not just here, but in the world. And the support that we’ve received has been great, I have literally cried. I haven’t had to furlough or let go of anyone on my team. That’s a true testament of commitment on one part from each of them, but also love for what they do.

These stories have to be told, because we also have responsibilities to our clients who are still onboard. But everyone has worked as a team and has vocalized. When an issue arises, my team are the first to state their opinions. So, it’s only a challenge if you view it as a challenge. We’ve been very adamant about trying to do the right thing at all times.

Samir Husni: While you’ve seen some magazines fold or decrease their frequencies, you continue to publish during the pandemic, every other month, a bimonthly frequency. Why do you think print is important to the Bella brand today?

Vanessa Coppes: It’s what our readers want from us. A magazine is a response to human behavior. Our reader is a reader that either walks into a bookstore or orders the publication online, which is what we’ve done over the past few months because of the pandemic. Our distribution has changed a little bit; Barnes & Noble completely stopped receiving new orders, which was our distribution outlet.

Print is important because print makes something permanent. And the acknowledgement that you receive from seeing your stories on a printed page is something that’s quite literally indescribable. It’s like getting to the top of the mountain. Before all of this, my first article in print I literally cried. It became real to me. It just felt like I had gotten to a part of where I wanted to go.

We have readers who have collected every copy of the magazine because each one is just very unique, especially this year. We’ve elevated even the paper that we print on, the quality has increased tremendously. I felt like since our distribution was not the same, our prices have gone up, people are willing to pay for it, therefore we have to give them something that they will continue to want to pay for. And I get texts and emails from people who tell me that each issue is better than the last. It’s really quite beautiful. And we’re very proud of that.

Print is like nothing else. It’s like a great book. It’s literally nestling on a couch with a cup of coffee or some hot cocoa and your magazine. It’s learning about different people and places. Right now everything is aspirational; we’re not getting on planes for a while, but at least on the pages of Bella you can look through beautiful images of different parts of the country and the world and still stay connected to people, places and things.

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

Vanessa Coppes: One thing that people ask me is what’s in the future. We are, as I’m sure everyone is, taking it one day at a time with regards to the world and the times we’re living in. We’re super-proud and excited for the future, because regardless of what’s happening, we’re still here. People are still buying the publication, subscribing to it; we’re signing on new brand partners. It still has its place. And I think it’s because of those minor changes that we’ve made, content-wise.

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

Vanessa Coppes: The fate of our future because I am a hopeless optimist. I really do believe in compassion and empathy. I always pray that we all be a little kinder and a little more gracious to each other, because if we find ourselves in a difficult situation we would want to be afforded that same courtesy. Not to say I’m perfect, I’m far from it, but I think that we are all in need of a little bit more love and compassion and understanding from each other so that we can get ourselves out of this mess.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Woman’s Day Magazine’s Content Director, Meaghan Murphy, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “Our Job Is To Be A Beacon Of Positivity.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

July 8, 2020

Publishing During A Pandemic (37)

“I wanted to make the magazine a destination celebration, a place where no holiday is left behind, from Taco Tuesday to Christmas, where we celebrate and find the joy in every single day of our lives. I know the magazine is called “Woman’s Day,” but I want us to think of it as “Woman’s Yay.” Everybody got very excited about that vision for the magazine. I mean, Woman’s Day was doing a ton of things right, but I really wanted to surface the joy and the happiness. What I said to the team was let’s just put everything through a fun filter, anything we’re doing let’s put it through that fun filter and make sure there’s joy, discovery and excitement and energy on every page.” … Meaghan Murphy

“We’re definitely finding the “Yay” across all platforms, but the print edition – when you see this first issue, it’s the kind of thing you’re going to want to put on your coffee table and by your bed. The images are beautiful and happy and it feels like a big sunshiny hug. It is a really bright, colorful, happy magazine. And I think people are really going to be excited about it. I’m very excited about it and I can’t wait to share it.” … Meaghan Murphy

High energy and upbeat. Two descriptions that fit the content director of Woman’s Day magazine to a perfect T. Meaghan Murphy has been at the helm of the brand since right before the pandemic hit, but she was executive editor at Good Housekeeping for years and has a very long and successful career in service journalism, such as her time as the deputy editor and fitness director of Self at Condé Nast.

I spoke with Meaghan recently and we talked about the infusion of joy and happiness that she and her team are bringing to the magazine. Woman’s Day is a legacy brand that has undergone a bit of a change and revitalization, all during a pandemic. But  Meaghan’s energetic and upbeat nature didn’t let a global pandemic stop her, she looked at it as a challenge that would hone the magazine and bring out all the talents her creative team and she had to make Woman’s Day even better.

And now the 37th Mr. Magazine™ interview in the series of Publishing During A Pandemic with Meaghan Murphy, content director, Woman’s Day.

But first the sound-bites:

On reinventing a magazine with the legacy of Woman’s Day during a pandemic: Maybe it’s the okayest of times. (Laughs) I’m going to take the middle road. It was incredibly challenging, but also incredibly fun.

On whether the reinvention started before or during the pandemic: It’s pretty surreal. I got the job right before quarantine, so I was just in the midst of wrapping my head around what Woman’s Day was and what I wanted it to be. I was putting together a team, and the next thing I knew I had my new art director and my new team. I hired someone virtually, from my kitchen table, as my deputy.

On how she approached her new team in that first Zoom meeting with her new ideas for the magazine: I think I just explained that I wanted to make the magazine a destination celebration, a place where no holiday is left behind, from Taco Tuesday to Christmas, where we celebrate and find the joy in every single day of our lives. Everybody got very excited about that vision for the magazine.

On the new message from the reinvented Woman’s Day to its readers and advertisers: I think the message is that there is joy and goodness in every day. And we want the good to be louder, especially in tough times. We want to give you tiny moments of celebration on a daily basis. We have a section of the magazine called the “Smile File” and it’s really based on national days. So, if it’s “National S’mores Day” we’re going to give you an epic new S’mores recipe.

 On what role she thinks print plays in helping people find escape and happiness: We’re definitely finding the “Yay” across all platforms, but the print edition – when you see this first issue, it’s the kind of thing you’re going to want to put on your coffee table and by your bed. The images are beautiful and happy and it feels like a big sunshiny hug. It is a really bright, colorful, happy magazine. And I think people are really going to be excited about it. I’m very excited about it and I can’t wait to share it.

On what role spirituality will play in the new vision for the magazine: It’s very interesting because one of the first things people asked me when I took on this position was if the Bible verse was going away? And I said why would it? It’s something that people love. We have a faith-based readership and it’s something they really care about. So, instead of putting a little Bible verse on the table of contents or by the masthead, I wanted us to really stand for it. Now is a time people really need to have faith more than ever.

On whether the last four months as she planned for this new issue during a pandemic was a walk in a rose garden or there were some challenges along the way: Yes, there were challenges. First of all, I have three kids, a nine, eight and six-year-old. My husband works full-time and I work full-time. We had no help for the first three months, our babysitter wasn’t able to come into the house, so trying to homeschool, build a new team, finish a book, I have a book coming out in February, doing my podcast; I was juggling three jobs and three homeschool educations.

On whether she thinks the changes the pandemic brought about will remain in place even when it’s behind us: It’s the new “new.” I love the scrappiness of it. I get such a jolt at how scrappy we’ve had to be. Our new cover with our fruit rainbow was created in a garage in the Poconos with fruit from a grocery delivery. And it’s epic.

On how Woman’s Day can bring that message of hope and joy to its readers during these troubling and uncertain times: I think we all have this natural negativity bias and you could watch the news all day and feel like crap all day. And I don’t think that’s healthy. We have to have time for that reality every day and then we need to have more time for the opposite of that for our mental health and our sanity. And I don’t think we need to feel guilty about also finding the joy and having fun, just looking at the flip side of all that stuff.

On anything she’s like to add: I’m super excited about the magazine. We have a small and amazing team. I also have a book coming out in February, which I’m really passionate about. It’s called “The Fully Charged Life” and it’s a radically simple guide to having endless energy and filling every day with Yay. And it’s based in positive psychology. It looks at the signs of  positive psychology within different charges of your life and it gives action-packed tips based on my 25 years as a service journalist in magazines.

On what keeps her up at night: One of my superpowers is a shut-off button. I have an ability to power down at the end of the day and just zone out. It might be because I move at a 150 MPH and just wear myself out, but I do think one of my superpowers is an ability to let it go; just to shut off. And then to pick back up the next morning. So, I don’t lose a lot of sleep.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Meaghan Murphy, editor in chief, Woman’s Day.

Samir Husni: We’re in the middle of a pandemic. Is this the best of times or the worst of times to reinvent a magazine, especially a magazine with a legacy such as Woman’s Day?

Meaghan Murphy: Maybe it’s the okayest of times. (Laughs) I’m going to take the middle road. It was incredibly challenging, but also incredibly fun.

Samir Husni: Did the reinvention start before or during the pandemic? Did you say, what the heck, I have a new job so let’s the start the magazine over from scratch?

Meaghan Murphy: It’s pretty surreal. I got the job right before quarantine, so I was just in the midst of wrapping my head around what Woman’s Day was and what I wanted it to be. I was putting together a team, and the next thing I knew I had my new art director and my new team. I hired someone virtually, from my kitchen table, as my deputy. So, it was a very crazy process. As magazine editors we’re used to throwing up inspiring visuals on the wall, but this was more Zoom calls. And we had the built-in excuse that if it failed, it was the pandemic. (Laughs)

I made this magazine from my kitchen table. I went into it pretty fearless, realizing that it was the most insane circumstances under which to take on a new job and to reinvent a legacy brand. So, I said what the heck, I have absolutely nothing to lose, it’s a crazy scenario.

Samir Husni: How did you approach your new team during that first Zoom meeting? New leader, new ideas – how did that go?

Meaghan Murphy: I think I just explained that I wanted to make the magazine a destination celebration, a place where no holiday is left behind, from Taco Tuesday to Christmas, where we celebrate and find the joy in every single day of our lives. I know the magazine is called “Woman’s Day,” but I want us to think of it as “Woman’s Yay.” Everybody got very excited about that vision for the magazine. I mean, Woman’s Day was doing a ton of things right, but I really wanted to surface the joy and the happiness. What I said to the team was let’s just put everything through a fun filter, anything we’re doing let’s put it through that fun filter and make sure there’s joy, discovery and excitement and energy on every page.

My team had already seen me dancing around the hallways as the executive editor of Good Housekeeping, so they knew my energy. And knew that I wanted to bring that energy to the magazine. Woman’s Day was doing a great job, but I wanted to give it a little lightning bolt zap and fully recharge it. That’s kind of what I’m known for.

Yay is my favorite word. I do something called the “Yay List” which is like a virtual gratitude item, asking people to find the good in everything. So, I wanted to bring that Yay to “Woman’s Yay.”

Samir Husni:  What is the new message from the reinvented Woman’s Day to your readers and advertisers?

Meaghan Murphy: I think the message is that there is joy and goodness in every day. And we want the good to be louder, especially in tough times. We want to give you tiny moments of celebration on a daily basis. We have a section of the magazine called the “Smile File” and it’s really based on national days. So, if it’s “National S’mores Day” we’re going to give you an epic new S’mores recipe. If it’s “National Swimming Pool Day” and we know you can’t get to a swimming pool, we’re going to give you the coolest sprinkler for your backyard to make that more fun.

On “National Junk Food Day” we’re going to ask you to match the celebrity to their favorite junk food. On “National Book Lover’s Day” we’re going to give you the ultimate beach reading list. It’s really about realizing that every day, every second, you have a choice to find the good and to celebrate life. We lead with love and we look at the world through that fun filter. And I really want Woman’s Day to be an escape for people. A place where you can go to feel happy and excited; to forget for a second everything that’s going on in the world and everything that could be bringing you down. To escape the news cycle.

Samir Husni: What role do you think print plays in helping people to escape and find that happiness and joy?

Meaghan Murphy: We’re definitely finding the “Yay” across all platforms, but the print edition – when you see this first issue, it’s the kind of thing you’re going to want to put on your coffee table and by your bed. The images are beautiful and happy and it feels like a big sunshiny hug. It is a really bright, colorful, happy magazine. And I think people are really going to be excited about it. I’m very excited about it and I can’t wait to share it.

Samir Husni: I’ve heard that you’re also adding a chief spiritual editor; there’s been a Bible verse by the masthead in every issue since the magazine started. What role will spirituality play in the new vision of the magazine?

Meaghan Murphy: It’s very interesting because one of the first things people asked me when I took on this position was if the Bible verse was going away? And I said why would it? It’s something that people love. We have a faith-based readership and it’s something they really care about. So, instead of putting a little Bible verse on the table of contents or by the masthead, I wanted us to really stand for it. Now is a time people really need to have faith more than ever.

So, I tapped my friend  Candace Cameron Bure, who is someone I’ve always admired for her strong faith and her commitment to her family. I told her that I would love to give her an opportunity every month to share a Bible passage that was meaningful to her and to talk about how it shaped her life, then invite other people into that conversation.

Some of the things that do incredibly well for us digitally are our Bible verses. Bible verses for hope in trying times; Bible verses for love. So, it was something that I felt was very important to stand for and to shine a light on. And to bring it further into the conversation versus a small Bible verse kind of buried in the front of the book. If this matters to our readers, I want to make it louder. Candace was honored and incredibly thrilled to be able to have this platform to speak about her faith because it is so important to her.

Samir Husni: Have the last four months, as you planned for this first new issue during a pandemic, been a walk in a rose garden for you or were there some challenges along the way?

Meaghan Murphy: Yes, there were challenges. First of all, I have three kids, a nine, eight and six-year-old. My husband works full-time and I work full-time. We had no help for the first three months, our babysitter wasn’t able to come into the house, so trying to homeschool, build a new team, finish a book, I have a book coming out in February, doing my podcast; I was juggling three jobs and three homeschool educations. My husband is amazing, he cooks dinner and that’s our secret sauce because I don’t do any cooking, but I will share great recipes in Woman’s Day for my husband to make.

So, there were endless challenges. It’s almost laughable. I’d think how did I do that? That was nuts! It’s really been a surreal trajectory, but I’m also really grateful for the new perspective. I realize that I don’t need to commute to the city five days a week to make a killer magazine. I think it will forever change the way that I work, even when we’re back in the Tower. I don’t see myself commuting five days a week. We’ve done an incredible job remotely. We’ve been a very nimble, small, but mighty team.

And I’m really grateful for the time I’ve gained with my family. Family dinners weren’t something that we were able to have every night before this, because I was commuting from the city, my husband was commuting home from Princeton. But now Taco Tuesday is a national holiday at Team Murphy house. Every Taco Tuesday since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve added a decoration, just other elements, to it. I have many sombreros for the night. We have taco napkins and plates; my daughter made garland. We made our own placemats. My kids are always saying when the pandemic is over, we can never walk away from Taco Tuesday again. And I say don’t worry we won’t.

It’s also sort of informal the way I’m making the magazines. In our recipe section “What’s For Dinner Tonight?” we still have the amazing 20-minute meals that you can put on the table, but we added an element that became incredibly important to me, with the eye-opening experience of the pandemic and the return to family. We have “Table Talk.” You’re eating with people and you’re engaging and communicating. It’s these moments of family and connection and engagement that are really going to get us all over these tough times.

Samir Husni: What are your expectations for the future? Do you think that the changes that the pandemic has brought about will remain in place even when it’s behind us?

Meaghan Murphy: So, it’s the new “new.” I love the scrappiness of it. I get such a jolt at how scrappy we’ve had to be. Our new cover with our fruit rainbow was created in a garage in the Poconos with fruit from a grocery delivery. And it’s epic.

I’m so proud of this magazine. We did it and we wouldn’t have gotten that same sense of accomplishment if it had been easy. When things are hard, it just makes it that much more awesome when you succeed. And we even changed the logo. It’s just so exciting. I can’t wait to frame it in my office. We looked back at the 1950s and some old iterations of Woman’s Day and did some of that.

And my favorite thing about the magazine is there are little moments of discovery on every page. You’ll notice a little flag that reads “Yay” on a watermelon. There are these little moments of joy throughout. My other favorite section is called “Hello, That’s Adorable.” It’s the wreath of the month on a front door. And because it’s a front door, every month it says “Knock, knock, we’ve got a joke for you.” And there’s a joke on the door. The wreath is a flamingo and we made it in quarantine and shot it somehow. And we asked what’s the opposite of a flamingo? A fla-ming-stop. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: How can Woman’s Day bring that message of hope and joy to your readers during these troubling and uncertain times?

Meaghan Murphy: I think we all have this natural negativity bias and you could watch the news all day and feel like crap all day. And I don’t think that’s healthy. We have to have time for that reality every day and then we need to have more time for the opposite of that for our mental health and our sanity. And I don’t think we need to feel guilty about also finding the joy and having fun, just looking at the flip side of all that stuff. There is a lot that sucks right now; there’s a lot that’s tough and hard. And if that’s all you dwell on and you just live in that place, you’re going to be miserable. And miserable people don’t change the world.

It’s okay to be positive and it’s okay to find moments of joy and to celebrate. Celebrations are good for our mental and physical health. We cannot allow ourselves to only be sucked into that negative vortex. It’s so easy to find the bad right now because the bad is so very loud. Our job is to be a beacon of positivity and to give people moments of reprieve from that.

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

Meaghan Murphy: I’m super excited about the magazine. We have a small and amazing team. I also have a book coming out in February, which I’m really passionate about. It’s called “The Fully Charged Life” and it’s a radically simple guide to having endless energy and filling every day with Yay. And it’s based in positive psychology. It looks at the signs of  positive psychology within different charges of your life and it gives action-packed tips based on my 25 years as a service journalist in magazines.

It all spring boarded from an article I wrote for Cosmo called “The Seven Secrets of Happiness” many years ago that finally flipped a switch for me that happiness is a choice and there are exercises and things that we can do to move toward happiness. That book and the tips and strategies in there have 100 percent informed everything that I’m doing with my team. When I’m coaching them through tough days and when we’re weathering some tough storms. It’s not easy to work remotely with everyone having different challenges. I’m using all those tips and strategies to do this. And it really does inform where Woman’s Day has come.

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

Meaghan Murphy: One of my superpowers is a shut-off button. I have an ability to power down at the end of the day and just zone out. It might be because I move at a 150 MPH and just wear myself out, but I do think one of my superpowers is an ability to let it go; just to shut off. And then to pick back up the next morning. So, I don’t lose a lot of sleep.

That’s not to say I don’t have worries during the day and I’m not fully aware of the challenges that life is bombarding us with right now, but I have found an ability to say it’s time to let go and recharge and pick it back up in the morning.  I sleep like a baby.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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The New Republic: The Legacy Brand Debuts A Redesign That Integrates Authority With Intellectual Playfulness – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Chris Lehman, Editor & Pentagram Design Firm Partner, Eddie Opara…

March 11, 2020

“With this redesign, what Eddie Opara and his team at Pentagram understood were the key, defining qualities of The New Republic as a media property. He has highlighted a sense of authority; a sense of intellectual playfulness, incisiveness, and broadly speaking, what The New Republic has represented over the past century-plus. And I do think because of the destabilizing points such as what you mentioned, fake and alternative news, there is a greater need than ever for publications that can speak to an intellectually engaged and politically positive audience with some wealth of experience, a commitment to politics as a form of ideas.”… Chris Lehman

“I knew of The New Republic previously and of course that it is 106-years-old. When we started looking at the magazine from a redesign perspective, it obviously had so much heritage. There were certain degrees of change over the course of time, as it moved from different publishers and owners. And at one particular point, multiple hands had worked on it and molded it into a design that didn’t salute to where it came from, from a visual standpoint or in its sense of global engagement. We wanted to go back through history, look at all the values that The New Republic held then and now, and make sure it aligned today with how we look toward the future.” … Eddie Opara

When it comes to legacy brands the 106-year-old magazine, The New Republic, certainly qualifies. Over the years the title has seen many incarnations, from progressiveness to conservatism to what it is today under the guidance of its editor Chris Lehmann, a reinvention of feisty political commentary that leans decidedly to the left.

With Chris celebrating a little over a year at the helm, and the magazine back in its place of political journalistic authority, it became obvious it was also time for a redesign of everything New Republic: the magazine, a new metered paywall for its website and  the launch of a politics-focused podcast. And when it came to the actual design of the redesign, Chris turned to Eddie Opara, a partner in the independent design firm, Pentagram, and a man who could see everything Chris had in mind visually for The New Republic. (TNR)

I spoke with Chris and Eddie recently and we talked about this new redesign and the web relaunch where they will be launching a series of online verticals that focus coverage on what’s going on today, from climate change to national politics and culture. And with a new logo, typography, layout, photography and illustrations, the brand has been given a complete and total facelift that offers readers a new view into the heritage that is The New Republic and the politics and subject matter going on in our world today.

So, without further ado, Mr. Magazine™ gives you Chris Lehmann, editor, The New Republic and Eddie Opara, Pentagram Design firm partner with a glimpse into the “new” The New Republic.

But first the sound-bites:

On the significant achievements Chris Lehmann feels he’s accomplished since becoming editor of The New Republic (Chris Lehmann): The obvious one is the redesign; the web relaunch, where we’re going to be launching a series of online verticals to focus coverage on what’s going on today, climate change, inequality and identity, national politics and culture. So, I’m very excited to see those online and up and running.

On what he feels is the role The New Republic plays in maintaining the necessity of journalism today (Chris Lehmann): With this redesign, what Eddie Opara and his team at Pentagram understood were the key, defining qualities of The New Republic as a media property. He has highlighted a sense of authority; a sense of intellectual playfulness, incisiveness, and broadly speaking, what The New Republic has represented over the past century-plus. And I do think because of the destabilizing points such as what you mentioned, fake and alternative news, there is a greater need than ever for publications that can speak to an intellectually engaged and politically positive audience with some wealth of experience, a commitment to politics as a form of ideas.

On what was the first thing Eddie Opara thought of when redesigning The New Republic (Eddie Opara): I knew of The New Republic previously and of course that it is 106-years-old. When we started looking at the magazine from a redesign perspective, it obviously had so much heritage. There were certain degrees of change over the course of time, as it moved from different publishers and owners. And at one particular point, multiple hands had worked on it and molded it into a design that didn’t salute to where it came from, from a visual standpoint or in its sense of global engagement. We wanted to go back through history, look at all the values that The New Republic held then and now, and make sure it aligned today with how we look toward the future.

On whether Chris Lehmann feels The New Republic would be considered the inflight magazine of Air Force One today as it has been in the past (Chris Lehmann): I think we have to start by electing a president who actually reads. I have lived and worked in Washington for two decades now, and the quest for maximum access in the sanctums of power can be a tough proposition. And the reasons for that is, not just at TNR, but journalism across the board in Washington made that point. Obviously, you do want access and you do want it to be from others who hold power and authority within Washington, but our politics is changing in a very fundamental way right now.

On whether the political content affected the new design of The New Republic or was the design based more on the historical legacy of the magazine (Eddie Opara): I think it’s both of those elements, it has to be both of them. I would say that it’s the values that are manifested within The New Republic that allowed it to develop, the visual framework that TNR can actually utilize, on a month to month basis. And it’s really important that a person like myself and the team are readers and digest info that is liberal orientated to see that this is a magazine that is elevated by its writing, and that offers a truer understanding of the American landscape politically.

On designing that first new cover (Eddie Opara): So, the choice of the cover was an editorial one, not viewed through the lens of our work as a branding and design house. But we had set a specific framework about the types of covers that we need to see over the course of the new design. So, from that the cover came from editorial, from Chris, and also Win, and the decision that the covers would be more forceful in what they are trying to say and more iconic in their approaches. They were always going to be engaging and dramatic, but there’s also this sort of wit as well and how to marry that at certain times.

On whether the new cover is the climax of pinpointing an idea in print (Chris Lehmann): I think as Eddie was saying earlier; it’s sort of a both/and proposition. The challenge in any redesign is to integrate the new visual identity that’s being put forward as an expression of the magazine’s sensibility and outlook. So I don’t see it as a climax per say, I see it as a very powerful welcome mat for the reader – here is a really strong set of arguments about the abysmal state of right wing politics in America, and the image very effectively captures that message and the treatment that Pentagram has put forward for the cover reinforce that message really effectively.

On whether the audience will see Pentagram’s footprints in all the formats of The New Republic (Chris Lehmann): Yes, I am happy to report  that you will. Eddie and his team have put together a really exciting… it’s still a work in progress, but the web redesign is going to be dynamic, visually really inviting to readers. We not only have the new nameplate on the cover, but we have a new logo which is the wordmark of the magazine’s acronym, which will replace the old ship, which we decided was ready to be mothballed. The Pentagram wordmark is going to be pretty much on everything, branded as The New Republic.

On how hard it was to design for all the platforms, from print to online to podcasts (Eddie Opara): You definitely have to have a team that is platform agnostic, that can leap from print matter to digital matter and back again. But as you know, these are two different spaces, and what we’ve tried to develop in the use of this typography, is that when you migrate them over the mediums, they will still work. Of course, you have to reconfigure them based on the context of the medium that you’re in, and you must make sure that it works fully loaded, and that it’s well-equipped to deal with the different mediums that you’re working across.

On whether Chris has any preconceived ideas about success with this new redesign (Chris Lehmann): (Laughs) It’s been my experience that if you start editing for an imagined constituency, your work will suffer. I think the same holds true on the visual side of things too. It’s important that you have the highest possible standards for yourself. And you know internally when you’ve achieved something worthy and when you’ve fallen short. The product should speak for itself. And I feel very strongly that it does.

On whether there is a role for an opinion publication to bring this country together or just enhance the divide (Chris Lehmann): I think those are questions that are or should be put to political campaigns – we are in the business of airing out intellectually honest arguments. There is a piece in this new issue that is making a straightforward case – it is a provocative case, but a case that the Republican party is a menace.  And we have to start thinking about ways to start over. And that’s not to say we are advocating that we abolish a conservative presence but this party has become, as we’ve seen – in the wake of impeachment, and in the daily news cycle – it has become a corrupt cult of personality that is dangerously lawless, that is unaccountable to basic separation of powers, provisions to curb authoritarian access in our democracy, so we have to put that argument out. Not for the sake of dividing the country or uniting the opposition, but for the sake of asking at a basic level, what is happening in our political order and how do we as engaged citizens address it honestly?

On how you take that journalistic mission and translate it onto the pages of a print publication or into pixels on a screen (Eddie Opara): It’s the idea of being visceral and provocative, but stating the truth. And being as transparent as possible. Coming back to the cover and being iconic and stating what’s there, and no more than what’s there, so people can react.

On anything they’d like to add (Chris Lehmann): It’s an exciting time to be doing the work we do at TNR. The stakes could not be higher, and I feel really gratified to be working with this team of amazing writers we put together, and to be working on a product that is, in visual terms, a really strong, elegant, platform for our central ideas that we’re putting out into public discourse. So, even though I’m a lobbying Democrat in Trump’s America and I am prone to long bouts of despair, I could not feel more engaged and excited by the work we’re doing at TNR.

On anything they’d like to add (Eddie Opara): We just posted a few images on Instagram just overnight from the redesign, and the reaction from the design community has been absolutely spot on. There’s one person in the comments that says “Oh hell yeah” – this is next level awesome.

On what keeps Chris up at night (Chris Lehmann): The typical family and house concerns. I mean, you know, all too obviously I am a political journalist who lives in Washington and cares deeply about liberal politics. So, the Democratic primaries keep me up at night, the politics of the Trump administration keep me up at night, the somewhat authoritarian leanings of William Barr keep me up at night. I could go on and on – I’m not getting a ton of sleep.

On what keeps Eddie up at night (Eddie Opara): In that vein, the manic aspects of the media, delivering information at every second. I have an “Eddie-ism,” as one of my mentees calls it: “Slow the fuck down.” We have to do that. We need to take a step back and look back at what we’re all trying to do and achieve here.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Chris Lehmann, editor and Eddie Opara, Pentagram Design firm partner, The New Republic.

Samir Husni: Not too long ago, we chatted about your plans for The New Republic and it doesn’t take a genius to see that part of the plan is starting to be unveiled as we look at the March issue and April on the online side. What would you consider your significant achievements since you became editor of The New Republic?

Chris Lehmann: The obvious one is the redesign; the web relaunch, where we’re going to be launching a series of online verticals to focus coverage on what’s going on today, climate change, inequality and identity, national politics and culture. So, I’m very excited to see those online and up and running.

The other achievement would be just keeping up with the insanity of the Trump era and the great unknowable beast called the Democratic Primary. (Laughs) Off the top of my head, that’s what I got.

Samir Husni: In this age of fake and alternative news, what role do you think a 100 + year-old opinion publication plays in maintaining the necessity of journalism today?

Chris Lehmann: With this redesign, what Eddie Opara and his team at Pentagram understood were the key, defining qualities of The New Republic as a media property. He has highlighted a sense of authority; a sense of intellectual playfulness, incisiveness, and broadly speaking, what The New Republic has represented over the past century-plus. And I do think because of the destabilizing points such as what you mentioned, fake and alternative news, there is a greater need than ever for publications that can speak to an intellectually engaged and politically positive audience with some wealth of experience, a commitment to politics as a form of ideas. I think the role we have to play is more vital than ever and I’m really happy that Pentagram understood that at the outset of this project and executed it artfully and powerfully.

Samir Husni: With the redesign, Eddie, when Win (McCormack – editor in chief) and Chris approached you with the idea of redesigning a century-plus-old publication, what was the first thing that came to your mind?

Eddie Opara: I knew of The New Republic previously and of course that it is 106-years-old. When we started looking at the magazine from a redesign perspective, it obviously had so much heritage. There were certain degrees of change over the course of time, as it moved from different publishers and owners. And at one particular point, multiple hands had worked on it and molded it into a design that didn’t salute to where it came from, from a visual standpoint or in its sense of global engagement. We wanted to go back through history, look at all the values that The New Republic held then and now, and make sure it aligned today with how we look toward the future.

Samir Husni: When I was in school my professors used to refer to The New Republic as the Air Force One Inflight publication. (Laughs) Do you imagine the new The New Republic being the Air Force One Inflight publication today?

 Chris Lehmann: I think we have to start by electing a president who actually reads. I have lived and worked in Washington for two decades now, and the quest for maximum access in the sanctums of power can be a tough proposition. And the reasons for that is, not just at TNR, but journalism across the board in Washington made that point. Obviously, you do want access and you do want it to be from others who hold power and authority within Washington, but our politics is changing in a very fundamental way right now. And it’s not the kind of support of political elites that it formerly was, so as journalists we have to recognize that fundamental fact and work within the audience constraints imposed by political journalism. You have to be mindful of those changes as you go forward.

Samir Husni: Eddie, when you look at the political content of The New Republic, did that impact or affect the design or the design was based more on the historical role The New Republic played?

Eddie Opara: I think it’s both of those elements, it has to be both of them. I would say that it’s the values that are manifested within The New Republic that allowed it to develop, the visual framework that TNR can actually utilize, on a month to month basis. And it’s really important that a person like myself and the team are readers and digest info that is liberal orientated to see that this is a magazine that is elevated by its writing, and that offers a truer understanding of the American landscape politically. And so, when designing you have to then say ok, this is written incredibly and is well crafted – it has authority and is an asset. How do we visually determine that authority? How do we bring that well-made craftsmanship back into the covers and pages that adorn this particular magazine?

And so that’s what we’re trying to do – we’re trying to align that. The elements were always there, but they were not as overtly visualized as they are now, and hopefully they will mature in the months to come.

Samir Husni: When you look at the first cover, the new design with the March issue, it’s definitely a very specific point of view. Was that helpful for you in designing that cover? Did it make it easier having a specific point of view immediately, or did you just reflect the editorial aspect of the magazine?

Eddie Opara: So, the choice of the cover was an editorial one, not viewed through the lens of our work as a branding and design house. But we had set a specific framework about the types of covers that we need to see over the course of the new design. So, from that the cover came from editorial, from Chris, and also Win, and the decision that the covers would be more forceful in what they are trying to say and more iconic in their approaches. They were always going to be engaging and dramatic, but there’s also this sort of wit as well and how to marry that at certain times.

So, when someone goes to a newsstand or a Barnes and Noble and they’re looking for  a political magazine, they see this as more of a presence than they had seen previously.

Chris Lehmann: One thing that stuck with me in one of our meetings – Eddie had said apropos of this idea of honing in on a singular, iconic image for the cover – that you in a general way were reconceiving the magazine cover as almost a poster. And that is a very effective way to think. It certainly helped us in making this choice for the March cover, and in going forward of asking ourselves “What is the single strongest image?” – and this is a cover package of three features – so it is a talent to take the voices of the argument of three very distinct writers and marshal them into a single image and I think it was a very beneficial discipline for us. It is a strong and arresting image and you don’t mistake it for something that is noncommittal, certainly.

Samir Husni: Chris, you said 10 months ago or so that you still believe that print is one of the natural and preferable mediums for ideas. Is this the climax of your ideas with the new cover: the Lincoln Memorial , the Confederate flag; is this the climax of pinpointing an idea in print?

Chris Lehmann: I think as Eddie was saying earlier; it’s sort of a both/and proposition. The challenge in any redesign is to integrate the new visual identity that’s being put forward as an expression of the magazine’s sensibility and outlook. So I don’t see it as a climax per say, I see it as a very powerful welcome mat for the reader – here is a really strong set of arguments about the abysmal state of right wing politics in America, and the image very effectively captures that message and the treatment that Pentagram has put forward for the cover reinforce that message really effectively.

Samir Husni: How are you going to take that fresh approach to typography, layout, photography and illustration to the new website, the podcast; will we see Pentagram’s footprints in all platforms?

Chris Lehmann: Yes, I am happy to report  that you will. Eddie and his team have put together a really exciting… it’s still a work in progress, but the web redesign is going to be dynamic, visually really inviting to readers. We not only have the new nameplate on the cover, but we have a new logo which is the wordmark of the magazine’s acronym, which will replace the old ship, which we decided was ready to be mothballed. The Pentagram wordmark is going to be pretty much on everything, branded as The New Republic.

Samir Husni: How is easy or hard is it to design for all platforms, from print to online to podcasts? You basically have to be platform agnostic, so that wherever and whenever people see it, they know this is The New Republic brand.

Eddie Opara: You definitely have to have a team that is platform agnostic, that can leap from print matter to digital matter and back again. But as you know, these are two different spaces, and what we’ve tried to develop in the use of this typography, is that when you migrate them over the mediums, they will still work. Of course, you have to reconfigure them based on the context of the medium that you’re in, and you must make sure that it works fully loaded, and that it’s well-equipped to deal with the different mediums that you’re working across.

That’s what we found across the board with TNR – it is visually consistent, and we know that print and online are entirely different in their structures, but our visual identity still works in the same way.

Samir Husni: Do you have a yardstick that measures success? Do you have any preconceived ideas, such as if you get 500 emails from subscribers and readers that the new design is great, you have achieved success? Or if you get 100 emails from people asking what have you done to their New Republic, you might take that as a no? 

Chris Lehmann: (Laughs) It’s been my experience that if you start editing for an imagined constituency, your work will suffer. I think the same holds true on the visual side of things too. It’s important that you have the highest possible standards for yourself. And you know internally when you’ve achieved something worthy and when you’ve fallen short. The product should speak for itself. And I feel very strongly that it does.

I understand that other users’ mileage may vary, but that is the nature of the business that we do. It’s a public business and I don’t dismiss criticism by any means, but after a very long collaborative effort with Pentagram I feel very strongly that this is a look and feel for a new The New Republic that is speaking in urgent ways to a new political moment.

Samir Husni: With this new political moment, do you feel this new The New Republic will increase or help divide our nation? Is there a role for an opinion publication to bring this country together or just enhance the divide?

Chris Lehmann: I think those are questions that are or should be put to political campaigns – we are in the business of airing out intellectually honest arguments. There is a piece in this new issue that is making a straightforward case – it is a provocative case, but a case that the Republican party is a menace.  And we have to start thinking about ways to start over. And that’s not to say we are advocating that we abolish a conservative presence but this party has become, as we’ve seen – in the wake of impeachment, and in the daily news cycle – it has become a corrupt cult of personality that is dangerously lawless, that is unaccountable to basic separation of powers, provisions to curb authoritarian access in our democracy, so we have to put that argument out. Not for the sake of dividing the country or uniting the opposition, but for the sake of asking at a basic level, what is happening in our political order and how do we as engaged citizens address it honestly? I always find discussions of journalistic vision or political agenda off-putting. The best summary of the mission of journalism in my mind, is George Seldes, who said the job of the journalist is “to tell the truth and run.”

Samir Husni: How do you take that journalistic mission and translate it onto the pages of a print publication or into pixels on a screen?

Chris Lehmann: That could make for a good cover actually.

Eddie Opara: It’s the idea of being visceral and provocative, but stating the truth. And being as transparent as possible. Coming back to the cover and being iconic and stating what’s there, and no more than what’s there, so people can react.

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

Chris Lehmann: It’s an exciting time to be doing the work we do at TNR. The stakes could not be higher, and I feel really gratified to be working with this team of amazing writers we put together, and to be working on a product that is, in visual terms, a really strong, elegant, platform for our central ideas that we’re putting out into public discourse. So, even though I’m a lobbying Democrat in Trump’s America and I am prone to long bouts of despair, I could not feel more engaged and excited by the work we’re doing at TNR.

Eddie Opara: We just posted a few images on Instagram just overnight from the redesign, and the reaction from the design community has been absolutely spot on. There’s one person in the comments that says “Oh hell yeah” – this is next level awesome.

And so, for designers or design lovers too,  it seems to be working.

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

Chris Lehmann: The typical family and house concerns. I mean, you know, all too obviously I am a political journalist who lives in Washington and cares deeply about liberal politics. So, the Democratic primaries keep me up at night, the politics of the Trump administration keep me up at night, the somewhat authoritarian leanings of William Barr keep me up at night. I could go on and on – I’m not getting a ton of sleep.

Eddie Opara: In that vein, the manic aspects of the media, delivering information at every second. I have an “Eddie-ism,” as one of my mentees calls it: “Slow the fuck down.” We have to do that. We need to take a step back and look back at what we’re all trying to do and achieve here.

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

 

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1843 Magazine: The Relaunch Of The Economist’s Bimonthly Lifestyle Magazine Reveals A Bold New Design To Tell Stories Of An Extraordinary World – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Rosie Blau, Editor In Chief, & Mark Beard, Publisher…

March 27, 2019

“The cover has been a big part of the discussion, obviously, about what we want to do as a magazine. For me, the goal to create the cover represented many different things that we were trying to do. My aim is that when you extend 1843 in whatever format, you find it surprising, it makes you smile and it leaves you with something that you want to share. It should be funny, but it should also be beautiful. And those are a lot of things to try and get into one place.” Rosie Blau…

“The relaunch is going to enable us to do two things and that is bolster reader revenue and advertising revenue. So, one thing that we are seeing is that both readers and advertisers are wanting to engage with audiences in a range of platforms and by relaunching 1843 on a number of platforms, we make those platforms available to advertisers and that will bolster advertising revenue. But also we make the content more engaging to readers too and they can read us where they want to read us.” Mark Beard…

The Economist announced the relaunch of its bimonthly lifestyle publication 1843, named for the year The Economist was founded. 1843 gives readers stories of an extraordinary world, with long-form narrative journalism a dominant feature, both in its print version and online. And as we all know, long-form narratives online are a no-no – or are they? Mr. Magazine™ loves a rebel, don’t you know. (Ole Miss pun intended)

I spoke with Editor in Chief, Rosie Blau and Publisher, Mark Beard recently and we talked about this taboo thing called long-form journalism online. Rosie explained that in 1843’s case, readers loved the meatier stories, the long-reads that keep them enthralled and begging for more. And with a redrawn logo and the tagline “Stories of an extraordinary world,” 1843 begins its new journey down a path that puts stories first and allows readers to be surprised and delighted by what they find along the way.

Mark explained that one of the excitements lay in the new incorporation of 1843’s app within The Economist’s app, and while the intricacies of the actual transfer of content was a bit hair-raising, it was well worth a few sleepless nights.

Rosie said the goal of the new design and compelling content was to make readers question assumptions and take a sideways look at the enduring stories of our age, with a bit of humor and irreverence. And Mark added that all of those great stories can now be enjoyed by even more readers since all editions of 1843 will be included in The Economist’s classic app.

And with a powerhouse like The Economist behind you, there is no way to go but up and all over the world. So, I hope that you enjoy this delightful interview with our friends from across the pond, Rosie Blau, editor in chief, and Mark Beard, publisher, 1843 magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On why the relaunch of 1843 is getting so much media attention: because of the refinement of James Wilson’s vision or because it’s part of The Economist (Rosie Blau): Obviously, we like to think that it’s a brilliant magazine that deserves the media attention in its own right, but it’s always wonderful to have the backing of a well-respected and already well-established and well-known brand behind us. So, we’re very lucky.

On why the relaunch of 1843 is getting so much media attention: because of the refinement of James Wilson’s vision or because it’s part of The Economist (Mark Beard): From the commercial perspective, it’s because we’ve kind of captured the mood in the sense of many publishers and that is, there is a need to change the business model and create content that readers and advertisers can engage with in different ways. And I think one of the reasons why we are seeing so much attention from the readers is that we are doing lots of that all in one go. So, publishers around the world are looking at how they can create film content and podcast content and they can place their content in digital environments like apps and online.

On the relaunch including the 1843 becoming bigger and more dominant on the cover and what they are trying to achieve with 1843 as a brand (Rosie Blau): The cover has been a big part of the discussion, obviously, about what we want to do as a magazine. For me, the goal to create the cover represented many different things that we were trying to do. My aim is that when you extend 1843 in whatever format, you find it surprising, it makes you smile and it leaves you with something that you want to share. It should be funny, but it should also be beautiful. And those are a lot of things to try and get into one place.

On whether she thinks the role of the magazine cover in this crowded information age has changed at all (Rosie Blau): I think it has changed because as you say it’s such a crowded market. But I think it’s also in that crowded market, as I said, there are these shorthand’s that we use to signal what we are. And so it’s difficult; interesting, but difficult, to signal that we’re something different. So, to me this is a move in that direction.

On the business model for 1843 (Mark Beard): The relaunch is going to enable us to do two things and that is bolster reader revenue and advertising revenue. So, one thing that we are seeing is that both readers and advertisers are wanting to engage with audiences in a range of platforms and by relaunching 1843 on a number of platforms, we make those platforms available to advertisers and that will bolster advertising revenue. But also we make the content more engaging to readers too and they can read us where they want to read us.

On whether her stories-first approach is similar to an audience-first approach (Rosie Blau): The thing about the stories-first approach is that the idea is there are really exciting things that we don’t tend to think about. And so for me, if I’m thinking what do the readers want or what do the audiences want, I don’t know that they know what they want. Part of the point is to challenge and surprise them, and it’s hard to think, okay, we know that this is something that they want, we know that they want more stories about hem lengths or whatever. So, I think what we’re trying to do is trust our intuition. For me, being a journalist is all about trusting your intuition, but there is something interesting here and let me find out more. And that’s really what we’re going with, kind of looking at these stories and thinking in what way can we push them and in what ways might we see them. So, that’s the stories-first approach.

On the genesis of the tagline: Stories Of An Extraordinary World (Rosie Blau): What that comes from, it was a very hard thing to come up with, and one of the other contenders was: Life, The Untold Story. What we feel we do best and what we really show in common with The Economist is this idea of challenging and posing and questioning assumptions. And our subject is “your world” and “your stories” and “the world that you experience.” And so my main aim is to be looking at the things that we take for granted, the things that we see around us, the issues of our day and the enduring issues of our time, and try and look at them in new and different ways.

On how it feels to be publisher of a global brand (Mark Beard): I’m obviously very proud to be publisher of 1843. It’s a job that I hoped I would get at some point in my career, so I’m very proud to have the role. One of my other roles at The Economist is I have past experience marketing for The Economist. And of course, The Economist is also global. So, I’m very used to operating in a global environment and the basics and challenges that come with that. And trying to benefit from being able to roll things out globally while understanding that there are local nuances to what you need to do to perform effectively around the world.

On the biggest challenge they have had to face (Mark Beard): One of the things that you’ll see if you were to open The Economist’s app today is that 1843 now sits within The Economist’s app, which enables many of our subscribers to The Economist to also benefit, read and engage with 1843 content. And that might look like a relatively simple process, a good strategy and relatively simple on the surface, but you can well imagine that working with the tech teams and the editorial teams to move content from one platform to another is not simple and that’s been challenging, but also rewarding because we’ve been told by a number of people that what we’re doing is cutting edge. And creating an app environment where our consumers can consume all of our content in one place is something that is added again, as I understand it.

On having a long read section on the web and whether she knows something others don’t when it comes to the thought that snippets of information are better-suited for the web (Rosie Blau): Do I know something that others don’t? Well, I don’t know, but what I do know is that with our content over recent years, the long reads are the things that people read most, read for longer, depending on how long they are. Our most popular stories are always our long reads. So for us, it’s a question of how we do more of it, not how we do less. And we actually find that the snippets often don’t do nearly as well, even things that we think might do well. So, our experience is that long reads do extremely well online and if we have the resources to do more of those, then we will.

On how she differentiates the long reads online from the long reads in print (Rosie Blau): Some of it is exactly the same and the features that we run in print also go online, and those are extremely popular typically and continue to be popular. But we don’t have a distinct form for long-form features online versus in print. There are a lot of things that we’re thinking about, different types of long reads that we might do for online only to help us be more timely, and things that work better for an online audience than in print, because we have quite a long delay even between going to press and coming out. But also, we only publish every two months, so there are things that we can do online, it offers us a chance to do things that we are excited about that we couldn’t do in print.

On whether he is selling the brand, the print magazine, the digital, or 1843, no matter the platform when he approaches advertisers (Mark Beard): We’re selling the content and the environment and an audience, of course. We have an extremely engaged audience. We are creating content and placing that content on the platform where we know they are grazing. We are able to offer incredible insight to advertisers as to who the audience is; we’re very clear that they are in the main existing Economist readers. We can describe exactly where they are, they are loyal subscribers.

On whether 1843 now has a different audience on digital than in print or it’s the same audience, or somewhat of a shared DNA (Mark Beard): We’ve been asked to describe a base for The Economist so let’s talk about those first, because a significant number of readers of 1843 are Economist subscribers. The subscribers who receive 1843, some of them are print subscribers and some are print plus digital subscribers, our bundle subscribers. And some of those people, of course, will be accessing 1843 content through the app, rather than from just receiving the print copy. And we do know that the make-up of our print plus digital subscribers is slightly different from our print only subscribers. You might imagine, for instance, that they’re younger and more digitally engaged. By making our content available on this range of platforms, we are able to tap into the different audience profiles of our subscribers to The Economist.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home (Mark Beard): You would probably find me walking my dog. I live a half an hour outside of London in a leafy green village. It’s a complete antidote and opposite of London. I generally come home from work and the first thing I do to relax is take our Border Terrier, Oakley, for a walk to clear my mind.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home (Rosie Blau): I usually hang out with my kids, they’re quite a good leveler in all things, they’re six and nine. We discuss their day and I tell them silly things about mine, but for me that’s a great way to come back to earth and think about the really important things in my life, which is my family.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her (Rosie Blau): Maybe the word interesting.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him (Mark Beard): Positivity.

On what keeps them up at night (Rosie Blau): It was quite stressful producing the final; getting there for this relaunch. And the weird thing for me was after it had gone to press, but before we had it, this kind of fear of what I hadn’t saw, these huge glaring errors that were so big that I hadn’t seen. That is what has most often been keeping me up at night recently. But thankfully, no glaring errors have been found yet. (Laughs)

On what keeps them up at night (Mark Beard): What has been keeping me up at night recently is the switchover of our digital platforms and namely the move from websites and apps to being incorporated into The Economist app, which as I said before, sounds like a simple job on the surface, but had lots of intricacies. Of course, we had a launch deadline to work toward and everyone was working to ensure a smooth transition of the app of 1843 appearing in The Economist app, which fortunately it did. But as you can imagine, there were a few sleepless nights before that.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Rosie Blau, editor in chief, and Mark Beard, publisher, 1843 magazine.

Samir Husni: It’s rare to see a magazine relaunch get as much attention as 1843. Is it because it’s The Economist or is it because you’re refining James Wilson’s vision of what a magazine was back then and what a magazine is today?

Rosie Blau: I’m not sure that we’re redesigning James Wilson’s vision, but we have continued to interpret it, of course. I think The Economist is obviously a very well-known and respected and loved brand and we’re part of that and we’re really delighted to be in the same wit and rigor and trustworthy independent journalism, but on very different subjects and in a very different mode.

Samir Husni: So, do you think that’s the reason? Let’s say you’re doing 1843 without The Economist and you decide to relaunch it, would you have received the same media attention, if nothing else?

Rosie Blau: Obviously, we like to think that it’s a brilliant magazine that deserves the media attention in its own right, but it’s always wonderful to have the backing of a well-respected and already well-established and well-known brand behind us. So, we’re very lucky.

Mark Beard: From the commercial perspective, it’s because we’ve kind of captured the mood in the sense of many publishers and that is, there is a need to change the business model and create content that readers and advertisers can engage with in different ways. And I think one of the reasons why we are seeing so much attention from the readers is that we are doing lots of that all in one go. So, publishers around the world are looking at how they can create film content and podcast content and they can place their content in digital environments like apps and online.

Of course, what you’re seeing from the reader is that we’re doing much of this at the same time, and we’re able to do that in many instances because we are part of The Economist Group and we can tap into all of the good things that our association with The Economist brings. And I think that is also a valid reason as to why there is quite a lot of attention on this event, because we’re doing this holistically in one go, when many of the publishers kind of did that tied into various different platforms one at a time.

Samir Husni: Tell me then, we moved from Intelligent Life and a tiny 1843 to a big, dominant 1843 on the cover, tell me about the progression and the thinking behind the relaunch and what you’re trying to achieve today as an 1843 brand.

Rosie Blau: The cover has been a big part of the discussion, obviously, about what we want to do as a magazine. For me, the goal to create the cover represented many different things that we were trying to do. My aim is that when you extend 1843 in whatever format, you find it surprising, it makes you smile and it leaves you with something that you want to share. It should be funny, but it should also be beautiful. And those are a lot of things to try and get into one place.

Previously, we have almost always run a person on the front of the magazine. And as you know from the magazine world, that tends to be shorthand in the magazine world for: this is a magazine for men or for women. So, I’m not ruling out the idea that we might put people on the cover in the future, we may well do that, but for me, I wanted to move away from something that instantly looked like a magazine for men or for women and instead have this message of: this is something super-interesting and funny and challenging.

Samir Husni: Do you think the role of the magazine cover in this crowded information age has changed at all?

Rosie Blau: I think it has changed because as you say it’s such a crowded market. But I think it’s also in that crowded market, as I said, there are these shorthand’s that we use to signal what we are. And so it’s difficult; interesting, but difficult, to signal that we’re something different. So, to me this is a move in that direction.

And then in terms of the size of the logo, the first thing that I wanted to do when I became editor was get rid of the white strip across the top of the previous incarnation of 1843, because I just hated it. (Laughs) And we had a lot of discussions about it and we kept coming up with different covers, though we very often would have, with the possible new covers or the new logos and all of that, the white strip every time and that was one thing that I was adamant about that I didn’t want.

Samir Husni: Mark, as you see this relaunch and as you see the changing landscape of even the magazine business model, The Economist has always been as much circulation-driven as advertising-driven. What’s your business model for 1843?

Mark Beard: The relaunch is going to enable us to do two things and that is bolster reader revenue and advertising revenue. So, one thing that we are seeing is that both readers and advertisers are wanting to engage with audiences in a range of platforms and by relaunching 1843 on a number of platforms, we make those platforms available to advertisers and that will bolster advertising revenue. But also we make the content more engaging to readers too and they can read us where they want to read us.

And that has two benefits: there will be more people reading 1843 and we expect more to subscribe to 1843, but what we also see is that in many instances 1843 is a kind of onramp and an entry point into the Group’s other products, so people may begin to subscribe to 1843, but then also move on to ultimately subscribe to The Economist. The idea behind the relaunch is to bolster both sides of the business, circulation and advertising revenue.

Samir Husni: And Rosie, you mentioned in one interview that you start with a stories-first approach. Almost all of the editors I’ve interviewed tell me they start with an audience-first approach. Is the stories-first approach similar to an audience-first approach?

Rosie Blau: I suppose so. What tends to happen if you discuss a story is sometimes, if you’re thinking about different ways to do a story, you reach the realization sometimes quickly, sometimes more slowly, that it’s not that interesting. And you don’t continue to be interested in it. So, in that sense, yes, I think we try and think about how attuned we are and how excited we are about stories, with a gauge for how we do them and what will work for our audience too.

The thing about the stories-first approach is that the idea is there are really exciting things that we don’t tend to think about. And so for me, if I’m thinking what do the readers want or what do the audiences want, I don’t know that they know what they want. Part of the point is to challenge and surprise them, and it’s hard to think, okay, we know that this is something that they want, we know that they want more stories about hem lengths or whatever. So, I think what we’re trying to do is trust our intuition. For me, being a journalist is all about trusting your intuition, but there is something interesting here and let me find out more. And that’s really what we’re going with, kind of looking at these stories and thinking in what way can we push them and in what ways might we see them. So, that’s the stories-first approach.

Samir Husni: Is that the genesis of the tagline: Stories Of An Extraordinary World?

Rosie Blau: What that comes from, it was a very hard thing to come up with, and one of the other contenders was: Life, The Untold Story. What we feel we do best and what we really show in common with The Economist is this idea of challenging and posing and questioning assumptions. And our subject is “your world” and “your stories” and “the world that you experience.” And so my main aim is to be looking at the things that we take for granted, the things that we see around us, the issues of our day and the enduring issues of our time, and try and look at them in new and different ways.

And I feel that sets incredibly well with the current news, which we are all subjected to a deluge of news and even news junkies, even those of us, and I include myself in those news junkies, we sometimes get sick of the constant breaking news, but also the fact that the world out there seems pretty scary and a worrying place, and like other Brits, I feel humiliated by my government right now. And so there’s a difference; it’s not saying go bury your head in the sand, but it’s saying there is an optimistic and incredibly positive side to the mess that lives around us. And I want us to see that extraordinariness. I want us to feel excited about understanding our own world better.

Samir Husni: Mark, how does it feel to be a publisher of a global publication? Yes, it is based in Britain; yes, it is also in the United States, but it’s available all over the world. Does that make you think twice when you wake up, thinking wow, this isn’t just a British publication, it’s a global publication?

Mark Beard: I’m obviously very proud to be publisher of 1843. It’s a job that I hoped I would get at some point in my career, so I’m very proud to have the role. One of my other roles at The Economist is I have past experience marketing for The Economist. And of course, The Economist is also global. So, I’m very used to operating in a global environment and the basics and challenges that come with that. And trying to benefit from being able to roll things out globally while understanding that there are local nuances to what you need to do to perform effectively around the world.

But yes, I’m extremely proud to be publisher of 1843. And more so at this point in time rather than any other; it’s such an exciting time for a publication and we’re transforming the business plan from top to bottom. We’ve looked at every single element of the commercial plan, from the brand positioning to the platforms that we want to be present on. And we’ve made conscious decisions for everything that we’ve done. I’m very proud, and the organization has been very supportive and patient and listened to what we believe and want to do. And they have supported Rosie’s vision, so yes, it’s a very exciting and thrilling time for us.

Samir Husni: And what has been the biggest challenge that you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

Mark Beard: To some extent we can talk about the digital platforms and as you know, since apps and websites have come into fruition for publishers there has been a want and a willingness on the part of publishers to set up individual websites and apps for each and every publication that is within their stable. And we were one of those publishers for a period of time, we embarked upon a journey of setting up individual platforms, those apps and websites for 1843. And one of the things that Rosie and I certainly believe is that we should be taking much greater advantage of The Economist’s audience. And because of that we have commercially gone on a journey to incorporate 1843 content into more of The Economist’s ecosystem.

So, one of the things that you’ll see if you were to open The Economist’s app today is that 1843 now sits within The Economist’s app, which enables many of our subscribers to The Economist to also benefit, read and engage with 1843 content. And that might look like a relatively simple process, a good strategy and relatively simple on the surface, but you can well imagine that working with the tech teams and the editorial teams to move content from one platform to another is not simple and that’s been challenging, but also rewarding because we’ve been told by a number of people that what we’re doing is cutting edge. And creating an app environment where our consumers can consume all of our content in one place is something that is added again, as I understand it.

Samir Husni: You have a long-read section on the web, on the digital side; does this go against the norm, where people just want snippets on the digital side and long reads in print? Are you swimming against the current or do you know something that other people don’t?

Rosie Blau: Do I know something that others don’t? Well, I don’t know, but what I do know is that with our content over recent years, the long reads are the things that people read most, read for longer, depending on how long they are. Our most popular stories are always our long reads. So for us, it’s a question of how we do more of it, not how we do less. And we actually find that the snippets often don’t do nearly as well, even things that we think might do well. So, our experience is that long reads do extremely well online and if we have the resources to do more of those, then we will.

Samir Husni: How are you going to differentiate that from the long-read in print? What’s your philosophy on giving print what print deserves and giving digital what digital deserves?

Rosie Blau: Some of it is exactly the same and the features that we run in print also go online, and those are extremely popular typically and continue to be popular. But we don’t have a distinct form for long-form features online versus in print. There are a lot of things that we’re thinking about, different types of long reads that we might do for online only to help us be more timely, and things that work better for an online audience than in print, because we have quite a long delay even between going to press and coming out. But also, we only publish every two months, so there are things that we can do online, it offers us a chance to do things that we are excited about that we couldn’t do in print.

To go back to the stories-first idea, the idea of telling personal stories and trying to sort of illuminate and question our assumptions from the ground-up and through individual narratives is something that we apply across all formats, so that’s what we think about when we think about online features too.

Samir Husni: Mark, do you do the same when you are selling? Are you selling the brand; are you selling the print magazine; are you selling digital; or you are selling 1843 regardless of the platform?

Mark Beard: We’re selling the content and the environment and an audience, of course. We have an extremely engaged audience. We are creating content and placing that content on the platform where we know they are grazing. We are able to offer incredible insight to advertisers as to who the audience is; we’re very clear that they are in the main existing Economist readers. We can describe exactly where they are, they are loyal subscribers.

So, on the whole we have a very compelling proposition I think, not only to readers but to advertisers in that if they want to reach a certain audience on a range of platforms, we are perfectly positioned now to do that. And I think that’s a compelling proposition to advertisers who are, in increasing numbers, when they’re talking to publishers like us, asking for responses to their advertising briefs. And they want us to go back with a multiplatform response. And in the past, a few years back, we could have gone back with a print-only response, but in many instances advertisers are now saying we want you to tell us how you can help us reach these audiences in a range of platforms. And I’m proud that we can now to do that.

Samir Husni: Are you finding out that you have a different audience on digital than in print or it’s the same audience, or there’s some kind of shared DNA between the print and digital audiences?

Mark Beard: We’ve been asked to describe a base for The Economist so let’s talk about those first, because a significant number of readers of 1843 are Economist subscribers. The subscribers who receive 1843, some of them are print subscribers and some are print plus digital subscribers, our bundle subscribers. And some of those people, of course, will be accessing 1843 content through the app, rather than from just receiving the print copy. And we do know that the make-up of our print plus digital subscribers is slightly different from our print only subscribers. You might imagine, for instance, that they’re younger and more digitally engaged. By making our content available on this range of platforms, we are able to tap into the different audience profiles of our subscribers to The Economist.

I should also say that 1843 is helpful for us when we are attracting more women and females to the Group, and we know they’re a greater number of readers for 1843. So, 1843 is also useful in that regard.

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?

Mark Beard: You would probably find me walking my dog. I live a half an hour outside of London in a leafy green village. It’s a complete antidote and opposite of London. I generally come home from work and the first thing I do to relax is take our Border Terrier, Oakley, for a walk to clear my mind.

Rosie Blau: I usually hang out with my kids, they’re quite a good leveler in all things, they’re six and nine. We discuss their day and I tell them silly things about mine, but for me that’s a great way to come back to earth and think about the really important things in my life, which is my family.

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

Rosie Blau: Maybe the word interesting.

Mark Beard: Positivity.

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

Rosie Blau: It was quite stressful producing the final; getting there for this relaunch. And the weird thing for me was after it had gone to press, but before we had it, this kind of fear of what I hadn’t saw, these huge glaring errors that were so big that I hadn’t seen. That is what has most often been keeping me up at night recently. But thankfully, no glaring errors have been found yet. (Laughs)

Mark Beard: What has been keeping me up at night recently is the switchover of our digital platforms and namely the move from websites and apps to being incorporated into The Economist app, which as I said before, sounds like a simple job on the surface, but had lots of intricacies. Of course, we had a launch deadline to work toward and everyone was working to ensure a smooth transition of the app of 1843 appearing in The Economist app, which fortunately it did. But as you can imagine, there were a few sleepless nights before that.

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

h1

GQ: Participation & Amplification – The New Era For All Things GQ – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Will Welch, Editor In Chief, GQ Magazine…

March 22, 2019

“I really believe that we have come out of the era of broad general interest being a place of power for magazines. So, instead of trying to be everything to everyone, I want to be really clear about what GQ does better than anyone else on earth and I want to focus on those things.” Will Welch…

“It’s really a balance, and the words that I would use are participation and amplification. One of the first things that I wanted to establish in a really strong way when I started this role was rebuilding a core community for GQ. And that means identifying all of these people in our world. And they’re writers, photographers, stylists, and actors; some of them are super-famous, some are not famous at all and may have more of a creative director role or a guy-behind-the-guy role. This is the community of core people, and not only should they be in the core pages of GQ, but they need to be our first readers and they need to be our community that we’re talking to every day.” Will Welch…

“I think that one thing that I’ve always loved, whether it’s an early interview with Kanye where he was talking about a particular uncle who had a stack of GQs in the living room that was his height, or some friends that have texted me pictures of each issue of GQ Style saved in chronological order on their shelf; I think with print we are leaving a different kind of record behind in that it is a documentation of a moment.” Will Welch…

There’s a new era at GQ and the man running the epoch is Will Welch. The dynamic, newly refreshed generation of the magazine has been honed and infused with a stylish new “anything goes” mentality. No more “wear this, but don’t wear that” prescriptions for a man’s closet, but more along the lines of fashion is an individual decision, so be yourself.

Will also believes the power of the general interest type magazine is gone and being more niche-driven is the answer to the profitability question. I spoke with Will recently and we talked about all of these new directions and the clear vision he has for GQ. From the creative community from which the magazine lives and breathes to the reader realizing that they are as much a part of the GQ world as the people between the pages, GQ has come alive with new ideas, new passions and a new perspective of individualism and creativity.

The multiplatform brand has distinctive content and powerful images across the spectrum and Will has innovated the thinking behind the engine of the magazine, while maintaining the authenticity it has earned over its many decades. To say GQ has come of age in this new era of magazine making would be an understatement, it has come of age within its own individual era of men’s fashion and style.

So, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with an editor in chief who is just as comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt as he is in an Italian suit, and makes them both look “GQ” fashionable, Will Welch, editor in chief, GQ magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On his vision for GQ under his leadership: I really believe that we have come out of the era of broad general interest being a place of power for magazines. So, instead of trying to be everything to everyone, I want to be really clear about what GQ does better than anyone else on earth and I want to focus on those things.

On whether with all of the changes he is implementing at GQ, the brand will be more of a reflector of what’s going on or an initiator of things moving forward: It’s really a balance, and the words that I would use are participation and amplification. One of the first things that I wanted to establish in a really strong way when I started this role was rebuilding a core community for GQ. And that means identifying all of these people in our world. And they’re writers, photographers, stylists, and actors; some of them are super-famous, some are not famous at all and may have more of a creative director role or a guy-behind-the-guy role. This is the community of core people, and not only should they be in the core pages of GQ, but they need to be our first readers and they need to be our community that we’re talking to every day.

On whether the changes he’s implementing are trying to bring back the “good-old days” where GQ was definitely different than Esquire: I am an almost completely forward-looking person, I would say. So, the moves that we’ve been making in this new era are not specifically inspired by the relationship between GQ and Esquire from the past. I have been at GQ since 2007, so I’ve been here a long time and have fully metabolized the history of the brand and what it stands for. But I also think that a brand as strong as GQ is incredibly flexible. And I feel completely empowered to really push it to a new place.

On the reinvention he did with GQ Style and whether he feels that magazine is a little bit different than GQ, and each one should have its own revolution: I think each will have its own revolution. I’ve definitely learned an incredible amount by the experience of launching GQ Style and the radical moves that I made and thinking about what the architecture of that magazine should be and what was possible in terms of the storytelling.

On whether he would rather have that one-on-one conversation with his readers, as though friends: The experience of being the editor in chief of the smaller spinoff title, GQ Style, it was an incredible experience, not just on a professional level, but also on a personal level, because I found that the more that I just allowed myself to be who I am, rather than trying to adopt any expectation or image of what an editor in chief or a Condé Nast editor in chief is supposed to look like, the more successful that we were.

On the biggest challenge or obstacle he’s had to overcome to get to the point he is today: In the early stages of GQ Style, with the first issue, I wanted to prove that it was its own magazine and could stand alone and that it had its own voice. And I was a little bit more calculating with the balance of stories in the first issue and was very methodical about what message that we would be sending to the industry and to our community and our readership, and to our potential readership. I was diagnosed with testicular cancer last year in late 2018, and that was an incredible witness test. It’s one thing to hold all of these beliefs and to hope that you’re living your life in a certain way, and then when you’re faced with a doctor telling you that you have cancer at age 37, although 37 is actually on the older side for that particular type of cancer, but I feel like a young vivacious man, and to be told that you have cancer, you definitely examine your life and ask yourself if you’re really practicing what you preach.

On anything he’d like to add: One thing that’s important is that we’re now in this time, especially with social media, which is just incredible, like Instagram is an incredibly intimate format. Podcasting is an incredibly intimate format. Instagram stories are amazingly intimate, you can watch people broadcast themselves waking up in the morning with their partner or with their pet; it’s just deeply intimate. And a title like GQ has to ask itself in this environment, the idea of GQ is this kind of vaunted, haloed thing, but what people want now is a little bit more down-to-earth, but at the same time with GQ, I don’t want to give up this authority that we’ve earned over the decades and the hard-earned gloss that we’ve also earned. So, how do you do both of those things and I think one way, there are many ways, but one way that I really believe in is, as you have identified, I’ve done it through personalizing some of the writing that I’ve been doing, as have many of the other writers and editors on the staff.

On whether he thinks the printed page leaves a different kind of impact: I think that one thing that I’ve always loved, whether it’s an early interview with Kanye where he was talking about a particular uncle who had a stack of GQs in the living room that was his height, or some friends that have texted me pictures of each issue of GQ Style saved in chronological order on their shelf; I think with print we are leaving a different kind of record behind in that it is a documentation of a moment.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him: There is a funny one, very low-key, it’s not a big one, but we’ve really been evolving the look and feel of the fashion in the pages and because with my first editor’s letter I was wearing jeans and untied shoes, and then I did this other interview about the future of the suit, and so people have been asking if GQ was turning away from the suit, (Laughs) because for years we’ve been the champions of the suit and I would just like to say that I’m wearing a suit right now; I was wearing a suit yesterday. Tomorrow, I don’t know, it may be a suit and it may not. We haven’t turned our back on the suit.

On what keeps him up at night: What keeps me up at night and the sort of next phase in this new era of GQ is really getting all of the things that we’re doing moving in the same direction. We’ve been working really hard together as a team to articulate exactly what this new vision is for GQ. And I think it’s already pretty dialed in print, because with print you have the opportunity to…each month it’s just blank pages, there is a stop and a start to building each issue.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Will Welch, editor in chief, GQ magazine.

Samir Husni: You write in your latest editorial that this is a new era for fashion; it’s like a freestyle. Tell me your vision for GQ under your leadership.

Will Welch: I really believe that we have come out of the era of broad general interest being a place of power for magazines. So, instead of trying to be everything to everyone, I want to be really clear about what GQ does better than anyone else on earth and I want to focus on those things.

And first among those is fashion with a focus on men. GQ has long been perceived as and really is the flagship of men’s fashion in America. And if you stop somebody on the street and ask them what GQ means to them, they’ll say men’s style. I think in a way we’re returning to that core and really imbuing the entire brand, everything we do and we do so many things now across all of our platforms, with this sense of taste and stylishness. That is really the foundation of everything we do.

And making sure that when people think about GQ it’s not just how to get dressed, but it’s how to be stylish in a way that is forward-thinking and progressive. So, I think that’s a part of it. And then one really important way that the landscape of how men dress has shifted is we’re in this “anything goes” era. We’re seeing dress codes go away; there was a lot of news made recently when Goldman Sachs announced that it was softening its dress code, going more business-casual.

And also, with the Internet, basically in the past when designers were creating clothes they would find an inspiration and they would go digging in libraries and watching old movies and going deep into archives to explore one throughline for their collections, and now it’s all at your fingertips online. So, we’re seeing where you could make a great case for the 1950s being back in style or the 1960s, ‘70s or ‘80s or even the ‘90s, so all of this is happening at once.

And I think when we see a seismic shift in the way people are dressing, it’s really important that GQ be configured in a way that has the right combination in responding to that and then leading the way forward. So, we’ve been making all sorts of changes to reflect the way that I see what’s going on in the style space. And that means we’re taking a little bit less of a “do this” or “don’t do that” approach, like buy these pants, not those pants; you want your suit to fit this way, not that way. So, in this environment where anything goes, we want to be this aspirational board of ideas almost, rather than this super-prescriptive do this, don’t do that finger-wagging. I just don’t think the modern audience responds to that.

To give you a more technical example of the way that’s working, we’ve really taken a lot of the traditional-style service journalism that has been a part of the pages of GQ and moved it to GQ dotcom, where we find our audience comes looking for it, because it’s the audience that wakes up every morning and checks GQ dotcom style section first who is looking for it there, but so are readers who are just searching and coming to GQ dotcom through Google.

So, in a way what we have is this magazine that is incredibly elevated and aspirational on this really beautiful, luxurious environment, and then you have some of that simple service that our readers have always wanted, which we’re still doing, but we’re bringing it to them on GQ dotcom.

Samir Husni: I have been looking at some copies of the original GQ, from the late 1950s and early 1960s, and one copy I have has President Kennedy on the cover. And the editor was just singing praises about what an honor it was to have the president of the United States, donning his suit with two buttons instead of three. There has always been a dual role with the magazine, on one hand it initiates things and on the other hand it reflects. As you approach the new GQ with all of the changes, and with having the multiplatform where you’ve moved service to dotcom; how do you see your role as editor, and the magazine as a brand? Will you be more of a reflector of what’s going on or an initiator of things moving forward?

Will Welch: It’s really a balance, and the words that I would use are participation and amplification. One of the first things that I wanted to establish in a really strong way when I started this role was rebuilding a core community for GQ. And that means identifying all of these people in our world. And they’re writers, photographers, stylists, and actors; some of them are super-famous, some are not famous at all and may have more of a creative director role or a guy-behind-the-guy role. This is the community of core people, and not only should they be in the core pages of GQ, but they need to be our first readers and they need to be our community that we’re talking to every day.

And we need them to feel like GQ is the magazine that truly gets it, like that’s “my” voice, that’s “my” magazine, that’s “my” outlet. We need to interact with them every day on Instagram; they’re texting me when a new issue comes out and telling me what they think about the cover. It was hugely important to me and one of the first things that we had to do, was to reestablish that connection to our creative community, who of course are very broadly influential in our world. In other words, the power of GQ radiates through them.

But they’re also doing all of this really interesting stuff themselves. And so rather than GQ’s pages reacting to what they’re doing or leaving them and saying that they’re following us; I see it as we’re participating in this community of creative, plugged in people who are doing interesting stuff in the style space and in the culture space. They’re political reporters and the best photographers in the world. So, we’re participating in a dialogue with them and creating content sometimes with them, but often about them as well.

And then we’re able, because GQ is this massive platform, as you said, it has this incredible history and we’ve really built authority and audience over the years, so then we’re able to take the best of what’s happening in this community that we’re a part of, and really amplify it. I think that’s a slightly different way of thinking about the role of GQ. But for me it was really the starting place; how do we rebuild this brand in this new era?

I have to say that so far it feels like it’s really been working. These very influential creative people who, like us, are just pouring themselves into this work every day, they’ve really been responding to what they’ve been doing. They’ve been writing for the magazine, shooting for the magazine, while other people have been featured in the magazine.

And when I’m onset with some of the people who we have put on the cover in these first few issues, who are these types of people, I find a moment when onset for the shoot to tell them that I’m interested in this not being a onetime transactional relationship, where we put them on the cover and they further their career or promote a new project they have going on, and we all just brush off our hands and move on when it’s done. Instead, how can this be an ongoing conversation and how can GQ be part of their world? When they have their next project, they call me again and we create something cool together.

So again, it’s about participation and amplification, instead of us just being this completely secondary source that is reacting or determining what is good and bad.

Samir Husni: The amazing thing to me, and I don’t know if it came to you subliminally or intentionally, but when Esquire launched GQ back in the fifties, they did their best to differentiate between the two magazines. And GQ was more of the fashion-driven title. Are you right now trying to bring back the “good-old days,” where GQ was definitely different than Esquire?

Will Welch: I am an almost completely forward-looking person, I would say. So, the moves that we’ve been making in this new era are not specifically inspired by the relationship between GQ and Esquire from the past. I have been at GQ since 2007, so I’ve been here a long time and have fully metabolized the history of the brand and what it stands for. But I also think that a brand as strong as GQ is incredibly flexible. And I feel completely empowered to really push it to a new place.

It’s kind of a both ends situation where, I’ve been here for quite a long time, obviously not since 1959 (Laughs), but I’ve been here for a long time and really do think that I know where we come from, and rather than feeling like I have to serve that or pay homage to it in some dutiful way, I really feel like that gives me the flexibility to push it someplace new. And to trust that I will be honoring the history of the brand by going with my gut instincts.

Samir Husni: And those gut instincts served you really well when you took over the helm of GQ Style and reinvented that magazine. Last time we spoke, it was more like a revolution, where you just destructed the whole magazine and got rid of some of the traditional things in the front and back of the book. Are we going to see something as revolutionary as that? Or is this Will-Style and you’re looking at it like GQ Style is a little bit different than GQ, and each one will have its own revolution?

Will Welch: I think each will have its own revolution. I’ve definitely learned an incredible amount by the experience of launching GQ Style and the radical moves that I made and thinking about what the architecture of that magazine should be and what was possible in terms of the storytelling.

But GQ Style also has a really unique format in that the advertisements, in addition to being oversized and printed on beautiful, thick paper, the advertisements are banked as spreads in the beginning of the magazine, and then you have some singles with the table of contents and the editor’s letter and that sort of thing. But then once the editorial pages proper begin, it’s just all double-paged spreads all the way to the end. And that was sort of a radical format that I received almost as a gift and then I really wanted to see where we could push it.

So, there were elements of experimentation, a lot of which I think were really exciting and successful in GQ Style that don’t apply in a one to one way to GQ, which has a little bit more of a traditional structure. There’s a front and middle of the book which has single-page ad adjacencies and then there’s a traditional feature well too.

But those structural differences aside, I have been challenging myself and the whole team here to really think about what is possible. These are blank pages that we’re given every month and we really get to do whatever we want with them.

I’ve been talking a lot about just trying to free ourselves of too much institutional memory, in terms of what print magazines are supposed to do, so that we can really look at each page and each story in a fresh way. And we’ve already been making a lot of the moves; my third issue as editor in chief, the April issue, came out recently and we put the cover online; it has J. Cole on the cover.

There have been quite a few moves that we’ve made to make it different and I think what I intended and what we’re finding so far in the reaction is that people are really noticing a difference, but I don’t think it’s in any way like unrecognizably GQ. We haven’t transformed it so much that large portions of our audience are confused or wondering what happened to it. (Laughs) But at the same time it seems like everybody notices the difference. So far I’ve just been thrilled that the reaction has been incredibly positive.

Samir Husni: We seem to be seeing a shift from the celebrity editors to more of the down-to-earth person editors. In your case, I’ve read some of your editorials in GQ Style, you get very personal, even discussing your battle with cancer. Are we seeing a transformation in the magazine business, would you rather have that one-on-one conversation with your readers, as though friends?

Will Welch: The experience of being the editor in chief of the smaller spinoff title, GQ Style, it was an incredible experience, not just on a professional level, but also on a personal level, because I found that the more that I just allowed myself to be who I am, rather than trying to adopt any expectation or image of what an editor in chief or a Condé Nast editor in chief is supposed to look like, the more successful that we were.

So, that applied to the stories that I would find, the covers that we went after, the way that I approached writing my editor’s letter, and the way that I interacted with my team. And then also with the way that I presented myself in a more public way to the world at large. And I just found that the more I trusted myself to be who I am in my gut, it was right. And I’ve done a lot of personal work over the years to try to align the person who I am in my head and my heart, in my family with my wife, to who I am when I show up at work and who I am if I do an interview or have my photo taken or hold a meeting; all of those things, I just really try to have all of those things be aligned. And I’ve found that as I’ve done that, not only do I just feel good about myself, but we also have been having success in the work.

So, it’s really just been a matter of gaining confidence and trust in myself that I don’t need to be anybody else’s idea of what the editor in chief of GQ should be. I just need to be myself. In a way, sure we’re a men’s fashion and style magazine and we’re a lifestyle magazine and we do these incredible reported features, and there are all of these proud histories and different throughlines for what GQ is about or what it is meant to accomplish, but to me it’s really about helping our readers to be their best selves. And I’ve been trying to do the same.

Samir Husni: Being yourself today, what do you think has been the biggest challenge or obstacle that you’ve had to overcome to reach this stage?

Will Welch: In the early stages of GQ Style, with the first issue, I wanted to prove that it was its own magazine and could stand alone and that it had its own voice. And I was a little bit more calculating with the balance of stories in the first issue and was very methodical about what message that we would be sending to the industry and to our community and our readership, and to our potential readership.

But over the course of making the first handful of issues, I just found that I didn’t need to be so calculating, I could just be more instinctive. There’s an editor that I hired, now he works on GQ and GQ Style and GQ dotcom, but I initially hired him to work on GQ Style and his name is Noah Johnson and he was the GQ Style senior editor throughout the course of the last few years of making that magazine. And he grew up in Troy, New York as a skateboarder, and he was bringing all of these amazing skate ideas, because the way I see style through the lens of music, he sees style through the lens of skateboarding in a lot of ways.

As I was finding that the more I let my best ideas just be what they were, as Noah started getting all of these skateboarding-related content into GQ Style, that stuff really took on a life of its own. So again, it’s not just about me, it’s about the staff as well. Just getting to be their best selves through the pages.

So, just that process was one thing, and then the other would be what you mentioned; I was diagnosed with testicular cancer last year in late 2018, and that was an incredible witness test. It’s one thing to hold all of these beliefs and to hope that you’re living your life in a certain way, and then when you’re faced with a doctor telling you that you have cancer at age 37, although 37 is actually on the older side for that particular type of cancer, but I feel like a young vivacious man, and to be told that you have cancer, you definitely examine your life and ask yourself if you’re really practicing what you preach. How square is the life I’m living with the life that I would like to think that I’m living? And when I asked those questions when faced with that experience, I was just filled with so much gratitude for what I felt like were the answers that came back.

So with those two experiences, one was like more of a slow building of self-confidence over a couple of years, the process of leading this little team and this little magazine called GQ Style, and the other one was being faced with what could have been a frightening moment and found that I was just so full of gratitude. I went into surgery and had a healthful prognosis and I’m very grateful for that as well. Those two experiences were nice benchmarks for me and have given me a lot of confidence going into this new role.

And the experience of sharing about it was really powerful. The decision to write my editor’s letter about the testicular cancer diagnosis; I was really unsure if I was going to regret that decision. But instead, it was quite the opposite. There was an incredible outpouring of love and support and some readers saying that they had gone through the same thing, or their moms had breast cancer; just every imaginable response. It all came flooding back when I put that out there and it was an incredibly rewarding experience and also just a testament to the power of the platform. You’ve been on this editor’s letter page at the front of an issue of GQ Style, if you say something meaningful to people this amazing dialogue will come out of it. It was remarkable.

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

Will Welch: One thing that’s important is that we’re now in this time, especially with social media, which is just incredible, like Instagram is an incredibly intimate format. Podcasting is an incredibly intimate format. Instagram stories are amazingly intimate, you can watch people broadcast themselves waking up in the morning with their partner or with their pet; it’s just deeply intimate.

And a title like GQ has to ask itself in this environment, the idea of GQ is this kind of vaunted, haloed thing, but what people want now is a little bit more down-to-earth, but at the same time with GQ, I don’t want to give up this authority that we’ve earned over the decades and the hard-earned gloss that we’ve also earned. So, how do you do both of those things and I think one way, there are many ways, but one way that I really believe in is, as you have identified, I’ve done it through personalizing some of the writing that I’ve been doing, as have many of the other writers and editors on the staff.

But we are also increasingly looking at GQ dotcom and our incredibly powerful social media platforms, and our absolutely, enormously thriving video platform, as opportunities to turn the staff and the way the brand is structured inside out a little bit and show some of the mechanisms and say this is a bunch of cool and talented, diverse men and women who are making an impact. GQ is not this glowing brand on a mountaintop; it’s made by cool people like you who really love this stuff and live and breathe it, whether that’s pop culture or politics, style or long-form journalism, eating, drinking, or travel. It’s really just put together by the hard work of some really interesting people.

And so we want to put those people forward and now we have all of these incredible pools to do that, specifically social media and video and occasionally the pages of the magazine. That’s something that we’ve been mindful of and I do think it’s a little bit different. It’s been evolving over the years. I remember first noticing Jane Magazine doing this. You really got the sense of this cool community of stylish girls who were making this magazine and the pages were really imbued with their voices, so that was kind of a predecessor of the way that we’re thinking now and we also have all of these cool pools to bring it to life.

Samir Husni: What you are introducing in print also is amazing. When I look at the couples that you publish, or the family, such as Simon Rasmussen, Marz Lovejoy, and their daughter, Nomi; do you feel that the impact a print page can have is different? I mean, this would be a fleeting moment on Instagram, but when you can hold it in the magazine, you’re still looking at it, but it’s tangible. How do you decide what goes into print and what goes on Instagram?

Will Welch: I think that one thing that I’ve always loved, whether it’s an early interview with Kanye where he was talking about a particular uncle who had a stack of GQs in the living room that was his height, or some friends that have texted me pictures of each issue of GQ Style saved in chronological order on their shelf; I think with print we are leaving a different kind of record behind in that it is a documentation of a moment.

One thing that I think is really fun about magazines in general is they’re not gone in a flash, but they don’t have the permanence of books either. In a way, you want to pick up a book and feel like it should be as relevant today as it was the day it was printed. A magazine is intended, I’ve called it in the past, it’s semi-permanent. It’s like the semi-permanent documentation. You want a magazine to feel urgent and timely and of the moment, but the stories should also be worth printing in a way that can stay on somebody’s shelf or in an archive.

So, it’s really a balance. I love the immediacy of social media; I love that my Instagram stories go away after 24 hours. They just evaporate. That is really exciting to me. If you’re interested in image making and editorial and all the things that I’m interested, that presents its own unique opportunity. What do I want to say with this image or this short video that’s broadcast out to my followers and then just goes away? That’s an awesome editorial opportunity. With a magazine, it’s only on sale for a month, but then it hangs around longer, that is its own incredible opportunity. And digital in one sense feels more fleeting, but you can Google any story that GQ has published in the last 12 to 15 years and find it on GQ dotcom right now and read it for free. So, there is also digital archiving going on. All of these dials are really fun to play with.

It’s exciting to me that you called out the fact that we’ve shot couples because I just love shooting couples. Basically what I’m looking for in our photographs is for them to strike you visually but also emotionally. And I feel like taking an intimate portrait or going to do a travel story with a couple and they’re not a couple that we have cast and put together for the trip, but they’re actually partners in life, you just get something interesting and dynamic and electric and intimate.

We published a photo of Simon Rasmussen, who is editor in chief of Office magazine and he does some styling for us, he is a really interesting stylist. He and his wife Marz Lovejoy, and their baby Nomi are in a picture together and Marz is breastfeeding Nomi. And it was a cool, young, stylish influential, exciting family in our New York fashion community, let’s put them in the pages of the magazine.

And again, I’ve really been thinking of these early issues as an active community building and that’s just one example. They’re an influential couple in the New York fashion community; Simon works with us, I got to know Marz just a little bit through seeing her and Simon out and about. I’m still getting to know them. I know Simon much better because we’ve done a bunch of shoots together, but they’re interesting people and I want them to think of GQ as an outlet for them and also hopefully it’s a magazine that they can’t wait to grab every month. And that they are super-engaged with what we’re doing online. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, so if a reader in Atlanta sees that cool community being established between GQ and Simon and other people like that, they can be a part of that too from Atlanta. That’s what we’re building.

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

Will Welch: There is a funny one, very low-key, it’s not a big one, but we’ve really been evolving the look and feel of the fashion in the pages and because with my first editor’s letter I was wearing jeans and untied shoes, and then I did this other interview about the future of the suit, and so people have been asking if GQ was turning away from the suit, (Laughs) because for years we’ve been the champions of the suit and I would just like to say that I’m wearing a suit right now; I was wearing a suit yesterday. Tomorrow, I don’t know, it may be a suit and it may not. We haven’t turned our back on the suit.

I’m just really interested in exploring all modes of men’s styles, some of them are super-conservative and some of them are super-progressive. So, that’s just one little thing that’s popped up in the last few weeks. Otherwise, I don’t know. I don’t feel misunderstood, I feel like the GQ community and the magazine industry and the fashion industry and the culture industries, music and Hollywood; I feel like people are still getting to know me. As I said, I started working at GQ in 2007 and really it’s been a slow evolution with me having a more public-facing role. I feel like me and the world are just getting to know each other; I don’t feel particularly misunderstood.

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

Will Welch: What keeps me up at night and the sort of next phase in this new era of GQ is really getting all of the things that we’re doing moving in the same direction. We’ve been working really hard together as a team to articulate exactly what this new vision is for GQ. And I think it’s already pretty dialed in print, because with print you have the opportunity to…each month it’s just blank pages, there is a stop and a start to building each issue.

But with GQ dotcom and our social feeds and our video channels, especially on YouTube, those are always on and they’re just churning and churning. And so to redirect any one of them, you can’t just do it overnight, it has to be a steady evolution. That is really what this next phase is. It’s making sure that all of those pieces, because we are a multi-tentacle brand. We push out so much really cool content everyday across all of these different platforms that we have at our disposal. And I just want to keep refining the vision and keep evolving what that vision means to each of those platforms, because I think you have to be really platform specific, even just within Instagram itself. Instagram stories are best at something that is incredibly different when you really get into it than what works on the Instagram main feed. But you have to think about each of those things as their own editorial idea.

To give you an example, what we do in the magazine is quite polished, but what thrives on Instagram’s stories, what’s exciting and gives you a thrill is something that’s really raw. So, how can this legacy Condé Nast fashion/style magazine that has always prided itself on incredible polish find a raw expression that is going to be in keeping with the environment of Instagram stories?

So, that is what the team and I talk about every day and we’ve already made huge strides, but I do think we have a ways to go still across GQ dotcom, video, social; each minute piece of each of those platforms, such as how can we be using Twitter in a more compelling way instead of just pushing out links. And we’re doing it; we’re doing it every day. I just want to keep refining.

That is the next phase in terms of the internal priorities. In the meantime, I feel like we’re off to the races with the broader vision and this idea of focusing on elevated stylishness. We’ll just keep going with that.

The other thing I would say is just keep having fun. I love this work; I love this role; I love this job; I love this title; I love my team. And I truly believe, and if it sounds a little bit like a Hallmark card, so be it, I don’t care, I truly believe that if we’re having fun making this stuff that our audience will have fun reading it, watching it, and engaging with it. That to me is the key. I am excited to come to work every morning and if the other people on the team feel that way too, I think people are going to be excited to wake up every morning and check out what we’ve been doing.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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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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House Beautiful Magazine Brings “Open House” To Its Pages, Beckoning One & All To Come Inside To Learn & Enjoy The Beauty And Importance Of Design – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Joanna Saltz, Editor In Chief…

December 14, 2018

“I am truly, staunchly against telling the same story on all platforms. There’s a reason that a video exists and we should use that platform to the best of its ability. But there is also a reason that print exists, and it should be all about beautiful and sumptuous photos, and it should be about great stories and great storytelling. The one and the other should influence each other, but never copy.” Joanna Saltz…

 “With House Beautiful, for me this brand has stayed around for so long because people trust it. They trust it and they believe in it, they know it has great taste, great advice and great service. And what I’d like to do with House Beautiful is show how that can really play out in a video space. Show great detail, show great artisanship, show amazing skill, but also great service. For me, House Beautiful can play beautifully on both platforms. I still care deeply about the print product, because that is the thing that invades people’s homes every month and I want to make sure that we earn that space in people’s houses. But I also feel like House Beautiful, taking that trust and building a brand on the digital side is going to be such an extraordinary adventure.” Joanna Saltz…

 

At more than 120 years old, House Beautiful magazine is an interior design staple in the world of home design. It is a well-trusted and treasured brand that people have turned to for design tips and inspirational ideas for generations. And it is still a growing and thriving publication that has a strong digital footprint as well, proving that print and digital together can certainly manifest as a force to be reckoned with.

Joanna Saltz is the editor in chief of both the print and digital faces of the brand. Hired originally as the  editorial director of the brand’s website, where she oversaw the development and relaunch of the site in June, she is now guiding the vision of all of its platforms and loving every minute of the exciting longevity of the legacy brand.

Joanna’s first print issue will be the January/February 2019 edition, which hits newsstands in early January. I spoke with Joanna recently and we talked about the new “Open House” concept of the brand that she has created and her new editors letter concept, where she had a roundtable with five designers, a talented group of people who spoke openly and honestly about the world of design and its importance.  Joanna said her vision for House Beautiful was a warm, welcoming place where all people were invited inside, not just the designer elite. And she added that the January/February issue will speak to how they are trying to create more intimacy within the pages, but also more actionable advice and learning.

It’s exciting times for the legacy brand and exciting times for its editor in chief. And now without further ado, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Joanna Saltz, editor in chief, House Beautiful.

But first the sound-bites:

On how it feels to be editor in chief of a brand more than 125 years old: I think the best word is overwhelming, but exciting. I feel an extraordinary responsibility to carry this brand forward. For so long House Beautiful has been a beacon of great design. Over the years it has launched great careers; it has reported on amazing trends; it’s really been the touchstone of interior design for so many people. And I would love for my chapter to speak to those real tent poles of this brand.

On whether she thinks digital has the same staying power as some of the print brands, such as House Beautiful, that has been around for generations: For me, it’s less about the medium and more about the relationship that you have with your audience. I have been a print editor for a long time; I was a print editor for 17 years and then I took over Delish. And what I wanted to create for Delish was, I wanted to make it a comforting, fun place for people to learn how to get to know food. I wanted to create recipes that felt engaging; I wanted to invite people in that didn’t fancy themselves chefs.With House Beautiful, for me this brand has stayed around for so long because people trust it. They trust it and they believe in it, they know it has great taste, great advice and great service. And what I’d like to do with House Beautiful is show how that can really play out in a video space. Show great detail, show great artisanship, show amazing skill, but also great service.

On what readers can anticipate from the Jan./Feb. issue, her first editorially led issue of House Beautiful: I want House Beautiful to be a place where great design ideas meet. And what I mean by that is, engaging interior designers  in conversation, getting advice from them, making people understand the importance of interior designers in this universe. You will see great, beautiful service. I think that there is a lot to be learned in the home design space right now. We assume a lot of knowledge in our reader, but frankly, I think there is a lot of bad information out there in the universe about what you should be investing in your home. About how furniture is made or what makes a great quality carpet or why you should spend a little bit more on X, Y, and Z.  You save a little bit here, but you could spend a little bit more here. So, you’ll see a lot more beautiful service come to life on the pages.

On her role as editor in this digital age: To be honest with you, for House Beautiful, I feel like my job is host, in that I am inviting people of all opinions, of all aesthetics, of all design styles and ideals, to come in and talk about what makes their point of view different, important, engaging, interesting, and adventurous, all of those things. House Beautiful will not, and should not be, Joanna Saltz’s ideas for how you should design your home. This is an open forum for great ideas and influencers.

 On her first Letter From the Editor: My editor’s letter, starting with the first issue, will be what I’m calling an Open House, which is a roundtable of me and five designers, designers who frankly have very different points of view, very different client bases, very different aesthetics, to talk about a topic. Our first issue, we talk about change and why it’s so scary, why it’s so loaded, why it’s so overwhelming to some people, but also how do you know it’s time to change. How do you know the change is the right move you made or how do you know you should change some things and not others?For me, hearing the conversation is so fascinating and is something that you don’t normally get  to see in interiors magazines. Again, because I truly believe that stories can travel farther than pictures. A story is something that I can share with you over the dinner table.

On how she is going to translate the print stories into digital: What I love about the different platforms is the way they tell the story differently. For me, the digital side comes to life through process or through craftsmanship; it comes to life through seeing spaces with a different sort of perspective. The example that I keep using is this extraordinary wallpaper company, Phillip Jeffries, and how they make this amazing grass cloth. It’s made in Japan and these men hand weave this grass literally into grass cloth. And then they lay it out, they dry it; they just have the whole process. And when you see it come to life on video, no form of print could show what this video can show. That said, print shows these pictures in the most beautiful and exceptional way, so you see this extraordinary video of this stuff coming together on the video and then you see the way it’s applied, the way an amazing interior designer applies it to someone’s bedroom, that to me is the connection of  the two.

On her biggest challenge: There are a few different challenges, I’ll be honest. The attention span is something to definitely be aware of. I left print three and a half to four years ago, and frankly, it’s not the same as it was. And that’s a very short while ago. (Laughs) But I feel like the reader has changed dramatically. And so even now, as I’m pulling together the House Beautiful issue, I can tell that display copy can’t be the same, that we have a different tolerance for the way that we need to invite people into the pages.So for me, one challenge is making sure that every page has an entry point and a way to draw people in. That’s something that is super important.

On whether she feels more at ease being over both print and digital or she enjoyed it more when she was just in charge of House Beautiful’s digital space: It’s easier to control a brand’s whole vision when you’re managing both platforms or all of the platforms. So, on the one hand I do feel like I can send a more unified, 360 degree message about the brand this way. I will say that I am building a fully integrated team and teaching the digital people print and teaching the print people digital is a very fun activity. (Laughs) If my boss is listening, it’s a very fun activity. It’s a great exercise in understanding the best of all of the platforms and using the best of both platforms on either side, I have to say.

On whether it was easy or hard to balance both print and digital: No, it was extremely hard. Actually, it’s funny because I used to think it was hard to go from print to digital, and that was the step I took from my former job to Delish. Day one of Delish was like, can someone tell me where the unique view is? Literally, I was walking around with that deer in the headlights look. Going back from digital to print, it’s almost harder, because certainly with print you have a finite amount of space, you need to make every inch of that page count; you have a lot more pressure engaging your audience, because as you said, things are very distracting. And you are in charge of directing the reader around the page; you as the editor are in charge of that.

On whether her brain finds itself splitting thought processes between House Beautiful and Delish: No, because the two are so different. But they’re so not different too. And a lot of people ask me about working on a food brand and how that positioned me to now work on a home design brand. And it’s funny, there was so much that we used with Delish that were tactile experiences, it was cheese pulls and we used fun music to draw people in and fun little sound-bites at the ends and the beginnings of the videos, but it was always about that experience that you have with food. Home design is no different and the tricks that we’ll need to use to draw people in will be different from Delish, but they’re still tricks. They’re still media tricks that we use to engage audience.

On anything she’d like to add: You asked me the most challenging thing; I think that another challenge is the stakes are higher now than they were when I started Delish. And with Delish, we had nothing. We started with nothing, it was like one million uniques. And we had no real brand identification in the universe and we had nothing to lose. With House Beautiful, this is 120 years of history, there are people who have been reading this magazine for 60 years plus. You have an industry that is so passionate and cares so deeply about the brands within it, but also about each other. And so for me, I just want to do right by all of that. I want House Beautiful to not just survive this shift in media, but to grow and thrive and be influenced, but also to influence. And I am super-excited to get my hands in there. And that’s what keeps me up at night to be honest.

On what she thinks is the biggest misconception people have about her: Well, assuming that people think about me, I think people relate my personal tastes to what my editorial output is. Certainly with Delish, I think everyone thought that I went home and ate cheese and took Jell-O shots all night. (Laughs) Not that there is anything wrong with that, I’m not judging. My editorial strengths lie in communication and service, and helping make difficult concepts easier. And so a lot of what I do here is curate, but also position the content for the audience, and to sometimes try to throw in a couple of things that might surprise and delight, but also try to teach them things, which is a lot of what I’ve been talking about. I think people would be surprised to learn that I care deeply about really healthy food and I don’t actually eat a lot of junk. I love ice cream and drink a lot of Diet Coke, those are my two vices.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: I think I want people to think of me as – what’s that phrase: don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness. That’s my mantra. And I think that Troy Young would agree with that statement. So much of what has made me successful, particularly in the Delish space, is just taking a chance, trying something new, trying to be as enterprising as possible, not really having any misconceptions or assumptions about how things are going to work out, be okay with failure, and thankfully I haven’t had to ask for forgiveness that much. (Laughs)

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: If you’re not catching me yelling at one of my kids, which my daughter brought a bottle of Slime into the living room recently and got it all over the couch, so if you’re not catching me yelling at one of my children, I have three, I love to make things. And it used to manifest itself in baking, I was really into baking for a long time, and I still am a baker, but of late I’ve been changing light fixtures in my bathroom (Laughs), and I made a side table for my living room the other day, and I turned this old pot that my grandmother left me into a planter. I like to get my hands dirty.

On what keeps her up at night: Honestly, I’m a born and bred and deeply rooted people-pleaser. I don’t like to let people down. And with my job here, I don’t want to let the people down who have signed on to join my mission, and I don’t want to let the audience down either. So, that keeps me up at night. Just making sure that I’m doing everything that I possibly can to not let all of the invested parties in this new adventure down.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Joanna Saltz, editor in chief, House Beautiful.

Samir Husni: How does it feel to be editor in chief of a brand that’s more than 120 years old?

Joanna Saltz: (Laughs) I think the best word is overwhelming, but exciting. I feel an extraordinary responsibility to carry this brand forward. For so long House Beautiful has been a beacon of great design. Over the years it has launched great careers; it has reported on amazing trends; it’s really been the touchstone of interior design for so many people. And I would love for my chapter to speak to those real tent poles of this brand. The pressure that I feel when I say it often is, “This is my chapter and I’m going to hold it for a little while and then, God willing, someday I’ll pass it along to someone else who will make it their own chapter.” But this brand has always really truly reflected what design is in the United States at that very moment. And I want to continue that tradition.

Samir Husni: And with your background mix of both digital and print, do you envision any digital brand ever being with us 125 years? Do you think digital has the same staying power as some of those print publications?

Joanna Saltz: For me, it’s less about the medium and more about the relationship that you have with your audience. I have been a print editor for a long time; I was a print editor for 17 years and then I took over Delish. And what I wanted to create for Delish was, I wanted to make it a comforting, fun place for people to learn how to get to know food. I wanted to create recipes that felt engaging; I wanted to invite people in that didn’t fancy themselves chefs.

And what I think I’ve done is create a brand that people feel connected to. They feel like they know who we are, they know what our mission is, they understand our perspective on food. And they want to visit us on all of the different platforms. They want to come to our site, they want to go to the Instagram and they want to see our stuff on YouTube.

With House Beautiful, for me this brand has stayed around for so long because people trust it. They trust it and they believe in it, they know it has great taste, great advice and great service. And what I’d like to do with House Beautiful is show how that can really play out in a video space. Show great detail, show great artisanship, show amazing skill, but also great service.

For me, House Beautiful can play beautifully on both platforms. I still care deeply about the print product, because that is the thing that invades people’s homes every month and I want to make sure that we earn that space in people’s houses. But I also feel like House Beautiful, taking that trust and building a brand on the digital side is going to be such an extraordinary adventure.

Samir Husni: If I’m reading page one of chapter one of your House Beautiful, what can I expect to see? The Jan./Feb is your first issue; what can we anticipate?

Joanna Saltz: I want House Beautiful to be a place where great design ideas meet. And what I mean by that is, engaging interior designers  in conversation, getting advice from them, making people understand the importance of interior designers in this universe. You will see great, beautiful service. I think that there is a lot to be learned in the home design space right now. We assume a lot of knowledge in our reader, but frankly, I think there is a lot of bad information out there in the universe about what you should be investing in your home. About how furniture is made or what makes a great quality carpet or why you should spend a little bit more on X, Y, and Z.  You save a little bit here, but you could spend a little bit more here. So, you’ll see a lot more beautiful service come to life on the pages.

But frankly, the thing that I’m most anxious and excited about is bringing intimacy to the pages. I love looking at interiors, but more than looking at interiors, I love hearing the stories behind those interiors. A lot of these interiors start from a place that a lot of us have connections to, they start with a change of a family life, they start with a move or it starts with a problem they need to solve. I have more kids now, I need to have more space. And that’s something that we can all relate to. So, I want to hear what those backstories are.

It’s funny, someone said to me that your relationship with your interior designer is one step below a therapist. And every time I say that story back to a designer, every designer is convinced they’re closer than a therapist. (Laughs) They believe they’re closer to being marriage counselors, so they’re extremely dialed in with their clients and they’re really working around their lives. And that’s something that me, as someone who just wants a beautiful home, that’s something that I can learn from. So, I want to hear those stories.

I heard two stories recently. One was an extraordinary story from a designer, who was creating a space for a woman who had 17 percent lung capacity. And the details that he was giving me about the kinds of work he was having to do around her life experience was so moving and that connection that he has to his client was so beautiful that whether or not you like that interior, that interior connects with every one of us on a thousand levels. And frankly, whether you can walk away from that story with an actual piece of information, you’ll walk away with a story that you want to tell.

I heard another one too; I was meeting with an extraordinary company recently and they were telling me about how they just built a closet for a blind woman and how it was all about the tactile experience of building the closet.

Now, this is not to say that every single story is going to pull on the heartstrings in that way, but when you hear the detailed information that goes into these design decisions, suddenly this offers an entry point for everyone to get in. I want House Beautiful’s doors to be wide open and I want people of all different walks of life to find solace on these pages, because I really do feel that design right now is at such a peak moment. Design is now what food was three or four years ago, we all want to talk about design.

And whether or not I approve of your taste or your design decisions, if you’re willing to talk to me about design, we’ll be good. We can have this conversation, we have an entry point in and now maybe we can teach you a few things or show you a few things that will surprise you or include you.

Samir Husni: How do you see yourself, as a storyteller, a creator, a curator; what’s your job as an editor in this digital age?

Joanna Saltz: To be honest with you, for House Beautiful, I feel like my job is host, in that I am inviting people of all opinions, of all aesthetics, of all design styles and ideals, to come in and talk about what makes their point of view different, important, engaging, interesting, and adventurous, all of those things. House Beautiful will not, and should not be, Joanna Saltz’s ideas for how you should design your home. This is an open forum for great ideas and influencers.

It’s important for me for this brand to include people, because to me design is not just for the creative elite; design is for everyone. And I feel extremely lucky to be able to show people, and give people access to things that maybe they wouldn’t have necessarily have had access to before.

Samir Husni: I heard that you’re doing something with your Letter From the Editor, that you’re putting your words into action. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Joanna Saltz: My editor’s letter, starting with the first issue, will be what I’m calling an Open House, which is a roundtable of me and five designers, designers who frankly have very different points of view, very different client bases, very different aesthetics, to talk about a topic. Our first issue, we talk about change and why it’s so scary, why it’s so loaded, why it’s so overwhelming to some people, but also how do you know it’s time to change. How do you know the change is the right move you made or how do you know you should change some things and not others?

For me, hearing the conversation is so fascinating and is something that you don’t normally get  to see in interiors magazines. Again, because I truly believe that stories can travel farther than pictures. A story is something that I can share with you over the dinner table. A photo, if I have it on my phone or if I have to describe it to you…but a story can engage people on every platform. So, if I can invite people in and get those stories out of them, then I feel like I will have done my job.

Samir Husni: And how are you going to translate those stories  outside of print, on the digital scale?

Joanna Saltz: What I love about the different platforms is the way they tell the story differently. For me, the digital side comes to life through process or through craftsmanship; it comes to life through seeing spaces with a different sort of perspective. The example that I keep using is this extraordinary wallpaper company, Phillip Jeffries, and how they make this amazing grass cloth. It’s made in Japan and these men hand weave this grass literally into grass cloth. And then they lay it out, they dry it; they just have the whole process. And when you see it come to life on video, no form of print could show what this video can show.

That said, print shows these pictures in the most beautiful and exceptional way, so you see this extraordinary video of this stuff coming together on the video and then you see the way it’s applied, the way an amazing interior designer applies it to someone’s bedroom, that to me is the connection of  the two. This is the storytelling here, you see the beautiful process. And the storytelling in the magazine is, and here’s how you put it into practice. That to me is how you tell the story.

I am truly, staunchly against telling the same story on all platforms. There’s a reason that a video exists and we should use that platform to the best of its ability. But there is also a reason that print exists, and it should be all about beautiful and sumptuous photos, and it should be about great stories and great storytelling. The one and the other should influence each other, but never copy.

Samir Husni: What do you think is your biggest challenge today? Is it your readers’ attention span, or is all just a walk in a rose garden for you?

Joanna Saltz: No, not at all. There are a few different challenges, I’ll be honest. The attention span is something to definitely be aware of. I left print three and a half to four years ago, and frankly, it’s not the same as it was. And that’s a very short while ago. (Laughs) But I feel like the reader has changed dramatically. And so even now, as I’m pulling together the House Beautiful issue, I can tell that display copy can’t be the same, that we have a different tolerance for the way that we need to invite people into the pages. So for me, one challenge is making sure that every page has an entry point and a way to draw people in. That’s something that is super important.

From a House Beautiful perspective, this brand has done an extraordinary job of speaking to designers and design files, people who are really knowledgeable and get a lot of inspiration from these pages. My challenge will be to continue to engage them with ideas and concepts and visuals that a design file would be surprised by. But also on the other side, engage a new audience of people who maybe didn’t feel super-comfortable dancing in House Beautiful before.

Opening those doors up, as I said before, to people who maybe have a little bit of an active interest in design, and maybe they come in here and see some things that make them feel comfortable and maybe see some things that make them feel overwhelmed, but all in the name of learning about what a good design is.

So, my challenge will really be to balance those two sides of the scale, and hopefully I think we can all learn something from design. I am always skeptical of people who don’t think they have something to learn. Knowledge to me is currency. And it’s the way I’ve driven myself through my career. I’ve taken lateral moves because I feel like the new job that I wanted to take on was teaching me something new and experiential. And I just believe that House Beautiful can be such a place of educating the consumer on a lot of levels, surprising people who have a lot of experience, but also just make it a warm, welcoming place for people who love design.

Samir Husni: Mentally speaking, do you feel more at ease being the editor in chief over both digital and print, or your fun days were when you were the digital person only and now you have the responsibility of both?

Joanna Saltz: It’s easier to control a brand’s whole vision when you’re managing both platforms or all of the platforms. So, on the one hand I do feel like I can send a more unified, 360 degree message about the brand this way. I will say that I am building a fully integrated team and teaching the digital people print and teaching the print people digital is a very fun activity. (Laughs) If my boss is listening, it’s a very fun activity. It’s a great exercise in understanding the best of all of the platforms and using the best of both platforms on either side, I have to say.

I do think that digital people generally know how to write headlines that engage audiences, print people are extraordinarily good at creating content with such depth and precision and beauty. And I think that both sides have a lot to learn from each other. And that is the one thing that we’re all coming together around. It’s creating amazing content and using the best of all of the platforms to create that content.

Samir Husni: Judging by your experience, was it an easy thing to do, balancing those two, or was it difficult?

Joanna Saltz: No, it was extremely hard. Actually, it’s funny because I used to think it was hard to go from print to digital, and that was the step I took from my former job to Delish. Day one of Delish was like, can someone tell me where the unique view is? Literally, I was walking around with that deer in the headlights look. Going back from digital to print, it’s almost harder, because certainly with print you have a finite amount of space, you need to make every inch of that page count; you have a lot more pressure engaging your audience, because as you said, things are very distracting. And you are in charge of directing the reader around the page; you as the editor are in charge of that.

On a phone or a computer screen, there’s one direction to go, it’s up and down and that’s it. On a page, there’s a million directions, a million ways that we can go, so teaching a digital editor to understand the real estate of a print page, the way your audience enters and exits a page, it’s a much more nuanced lesson. And frankly, I am kind of having to reteach myself in a lot of ways.

My experience at Seventeen taught me a lot about that, because in a lot of ways teenaged girls who were reading the magazine were reading a magazine for the first time, they were young. So, you were really sort of creating pages and stories where you were almost giving them a roadmap. Every story had to be a roadmap and you had to very clearly mark where to enter and then direct them where to go next. I think that experience has really helped me with this, because I think that digital editors are fantastic and digital editors at Hearst, they have special talents here. But crafting storytelling and crafting storytelling for the page is a challenge.

Samir Husni: Do you find yourself thinking about House Beautiful and then another part of your brain is thinking about Delish?

Joanna Saltz: No, because the two are so different. But they’re so not different too. And a lot of people ask me about working on a food brand and how that positioned me to now work on a home design brand. And it’s funny, there was so much that we used with Delish that were tactile experiences, it was cheese pulls and we used fun music to draw people in and fun little sound-bites at the ends and the beginnings of the videos, but it was always about that experience that you have with food. Home design is no different and the tricks that we’ll need to use to draw people in will be different from Delish, but they’re still tricks. They’re still media tricks that we use to engage audience.

And whether that’s through a gorgeous blanket or a rug or wallpaper or something, or through an amazingly funny and charming interior designer who has great responses, or through a beautiful story that touches your heart, we’re going to use all of those same touchstones through all of our different platforms, they’re just manifesting themselves differently. So, the brain is the same, it’s the execution and the output that’s really the difference. It just comes down to how you communicate with your audience.

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

Joanna Saltz: You asked me the most challenging thing; I think that another challenge is the stakes are higher now than they were when I started Delish. And with Delish, we had nothing. We started with nothing, it was like one million uniques. And we had no real brand identification in the universe and we had nothing to lose. With House Beautiful, this is 120 years of history, there are people who have been reading this magazine for 60 years plus. You have an industry that is so passionate and cares so deeply about the brands within it, but also about each other. And so for me, I just want to do right by all of that. I want House Beautiful to not just survive this shift in media, but to grow and thrive and be influenced, but also to influence. And I am super-excited to get my hands in there. And that’s what keeps me up at night to be honest.

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

Joanna Saltz: Well, assuming that people think about me, I think people relate my personal tastes to what my editorial output is. Certainly with Delish, I think everyone thought that I went home and ate cheese and took Jell-O shots all night. (Laughs) Not that there is anything wrong with that, I’m not judging. My editorial strengths lie in communication and service, and helping make difficult concepts easier. And so a lot of what I do here is curate, but also position the content for the audience, and to sometimes try to throw in a couple of things that might surprise and delight, but also try to teach them things, which is a lot of what I’ve been talking about.

I think people would be surprised to learn that I care deeply about really healthy food and I don’t actually eat a lot of junk. I love ice cream and drink a lot of Diet Coke, those are my two vices. But I don’t tend to eat all of the things you see on Delish all of the time. And certainly on the design side, I care deeply about quality in the home and spending money where I need to spend money there. So, I would say that the tastes they see on all of my different platforms directly correlate to my own personal tastes at home. I’m just a storyteller.

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

Joanna Saltz: I think I want people to think of me as – what’s that phrase: don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness. That’s my mantra. And I think that Troy Young would agree with that statement. So much of what has made me successful, particularly in the Delish space, is just taking a chance, trying something new, trying to be as enterprising as possible, not really having any misconceptions or assumptions about how things are going to work out, be okay with failure, and thankfully I haven’t had to ask for forgiveness that much. (Laughs)

Thankfully I work in an environment where that kind of entrepreneurship is extremely valued. I’ve always said this about Troy Young, that a lot of bosses say they want innovation, but are too afraid to take chances. And I would say that Troy is someone who appreciates people who are thinking outside of the box. He cultivates a culture of that here. He doesn’t want to know why something didn’t work out, he wants to know what your thought process was behind trying it in the first place. And I love that about working for him.

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?

Joanna Saltz: If you’re not catching me yelling at one of my kids, which my daughter brought a bottle of Slime into the living room recently and got it all over the couch, so if you’re not catching me yelling at one of my children, I have three, I love to make things. And it used to manifest itself in baking, I was really into baking for a long time, and I still am a baker, but of late I’ve been changing light fixtures in my bathroom (Laughs), and I made a side table for my living room the other day, and I turned this old pot that my grandmother left me into a planter. I like to get my hands dirty. I’m not a DIY’er, I would not say that about myself. I can see things in my head much clearer than anything ever turns out, but I like to tinker. So, if I’m not cooking, I’m making something.

Samir Husni: So, can we say through osmosis the pages of House Beautiful and Delish are coming alive through you? (Laughs)

Joanna Saltz: They’re coming through my hands. (Laughs too) And that is basically what’s happening. I have access to so much incredible stuff in this position, so many amazing design ideas, but even suddenly in that conversation that I had with the interior designers, one of them had said something amazing about how everybody’s rugs were too small, stop using small rugs. So, now I’m on this crazy hunt for bigger rugs. (Laughs) You’ll catch me running around the house making and doing and my husband rolling his eyes as though saying please stop turning the house upside down. And the designer is completely accurate, every rug in my house is too small.

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

Joanna Saltz: Honestly, I’m a born and bred and deeply rooted people-pleaser. I don’t like to let people down. And with my job here, I don’t want to let the people down who have signed on to join my mission, and I don’t want to let the audience down either. So, that keeps me up at night. Just making sure that I’m doing everything that I possibly can to not let all of the invested parties in this new adventure down.

I don’t sleep that well, and there have been quite a few nights where I’ve been thinking a lot of things through. It’s humbling to see the people who have taken a leap of faith to join me on both brands. It’s humbling to see the leap of faith that the executives of this company have taken with me. And I want the audience  to believe in me. And that’s something that I don’t stop thinking about truthfully.

 Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Men’s Health: Now A Hearst Legacy Brand That Still Has “Tons Of Useful Stuff,” But With A “Stronger, Faster, Better” Focus…The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Ronan Gardiner, VP/CRO/Publisher, & Richard Dorment, Editor In Chief, Men’s Health…

September 11, 2018


“I definitely do not. We just got the AAM (Alliance for Audited Media) report for the first six months of the year, I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of those reports; Men’s Health delivered against rate-base every month for the first six months of the year, our rate base is 1.8 million. MRI still puts us at 12 million readers in print. We are bringing new men, young men into our print subscriber family every day of the year. And while we’ve seen terrific growth online, which is really exciting, and we’ve seen terrific growth in social which is also really exciting, our print product remains incredibly vital, going back to that word again. And incredibly wanted and needed, and I think in many ways more relevant than ever.” Ronan Gardiner (on whether he can ever envision a day there will not be a print edition of Men’s Health)…

“When I say strong, faster, better, I don’t just mean that as far as goals for the reader, it’s really what the magazine is about. We’re hopefully a stronger brand; we’re faster at processing things and in delivering information and inspiration to our readers; and we’re just constantly trying to get better. We’re embodying the values of the brand, which is self-improvement.” Richard Dorment…

At 30 years of age, Men’s Health is speaking to more men across more platforms than ever before according to Ronan Gardiner, VP, Publishing Director & Chief Revenue Officer, and Richard Dorment, Editor in Chief. With 12 million readers in print, 8 million online, and 15 million across all social platforms, Men’s Health is a legacy brand that is still as vibrant and as relevant today as it was 30 years ago.

Now a Hearst publication, Men’s Health joins the brotherhood of men’s titles such as Esquire and Popular Mechanics which help to make Hearst the largest men’s publishing company in the country. And with a new home comes a brand new tagline for the brand, “Stronger, Faster, Better.” Richard has been editor in chief for almost five months and in that short period of time he has really wrapped his expertise as an editor (formerly at Wired and Esquire) around the evolvement of men in the 21st century. According to Rich, fitness, and health and wellness have never been more prevalent than in today’s changing male environment, hence the new tagline which epitomizes the “new” Men’s Health, where vitality is the core of the brand.

And Men’s Health veteran, Ronan Gardiner, could not be more attuned to his brand partner, totally simpatico with Richard’s vision. The two men have put forth combined efforts and are seeing the positivity of their work reflected in the growing strength of the brand: 63 new advertisers YTD, since moving to Hearst, including Tudor Watches, Missoni Fragrance, Timberland, Subaru, Hornitos, Knob Creek and Marriott, and more. The Auto (+165%), Footwear (+25%) and Food & Beverage (+8%) categories are all up in advertising YOY . The November 30th Anniversary issue will be up in advertising YOY, and the total number of men reached by Hearst across all brands, print and digital, speaks to almost half (45%) of American men.

All Mr. Magazine™ can say is Men’s Health seems to be A-Okay, no stress test needed. And with its cornerstone print product thriving, digital and social growing, the brand shows no signs of slowing down as it nears its 30th anniversary. And check newsstands as the October issue of the Stronger, Faster, Better Men’s Health hits today!

Kudos Men’s Health and enjoy your rosy cheeks and strong vitality as you ease gracefully toward your next milestone! And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Ronan Gardiner, VP/CRO/publisher and Richard Dorment, editor in chief.

But first the sound-bites:

On any differences at Men’s Health with the brand now being a Hearst publication instead of being owned by Rodale (Ronan Gardiner): I don’t think we could have found a more perfect home than Hearst for many, many different reasons. Number one, obviously with the acquisition of Rodale, Hearst now has a very serious health and wellness footprint that it didn’t have before. Number two, Hearst now delivers more men than any other publishing company. Adding Men’s Health to a portfolio that included Esquire, Popular Mechanics, Car and Driver, Road & Track, and then of course with Bicycling and Runner’s World delivery against men, Hearst now reaches more men than any other publishing company.

On how Richard Dorment sees his role as editor in chief today versus when he was at Wired and Esquire (Richard Dorment): I see myself in the same role that I’ve always had, as an advocate for the reader. To ask the questions, and to anticipate the questions that they’re going to be asking. To look for the issues that are going to be most important for them, to try and track down the stories that will move and excite them and inspire them. And to work with the best and smartest people I know to give them the information they need to improve their lives and become better versions of themselves.

On changing the tagline from “Tons of Useful Stuff” to “Stronger, Faster, Better” (Richard Dorment): There was absolutely nothing wrong with “Tons of Useful Stuff,” but one of the things that I have been talking a lot about with my staff is a single word: vitality. And it’s not just a goal that I think all of my readers have in mind, which is that they all want to be more vital versions of themselves, they want to be stronger, smarter, more enthusiastic; they want to be better friends and partners, better employees. Vitality is really their watchword. And I want the magazine to embody that value as well. I want it to embody the best virtues of vitality.

On whether Ronan plans on following the new tagline when it comes to attaining more ad revenue – stronger, faster, better (Ronan Gardiner): I certainly hope so. One thing that I can tell you is that in a very short amount of time Rich’s vision for the brand and the evolution of the brand, which you’re starting to see with the October issue, is being very positively received by the advertising community. Men’s Health needs very little introduction to most agencies and clients, but it’s really exciting to take a 30-year-old brand that is incredibly strong and incredibly vital and relevant and work with an editor in chief who believes that it can be even better; even more timely; even more useful; even more vital, back to that word vitality. This is a very exciting time. We’re kind of 30-years-young.

On what has been the most challenging moment Richard Dorment has had since coming onboard Men’s Health (Richard Dorment): Probably the biggest challenge is that it was sort of a trifecta, not only was I a first-time editor in chief at the brand, but I was a new editor at a publication that was also new to the company, so as I was trying to take stock of where we were as far as staffing and content, I was also trying to help ease and integrate Men’s Health into the broader Hearst ecosystem, which like every media company these days is constantly changing. I’ve been away from Hearst for two years and there’s a lot about it that’s changed since I’ve been here.

On his most pleasant moment (Richard Dorment): That’s a really good question. I’m really pleased with our October issue. I think many times there is a lot of pressure put on the “editor’s first issue,” which I think most people understand is defined loosely because most magazines change month to month. But with the October issue, it’s the first time that our new creative director, Jamie Prokell’s vision has been applied to the brand, thanks to the amazing work of my photo director, Jeanne Graves, my fitness director, Ebenezer Samuel, and my deputy editor, Ben Court, we have these great dynamic four shots of these amazing NFL players, which was very difficult logistically to pull off. We did it, and we did it brilliantly.

On which of the four NFL covers would be his favorite (Richard Dorment): Oh goodness. (Laughs) I do love them all and I love them all for different reasons. I think the Antonio Brown one with him diving to catch the ball is my favorite one, because one of the things that I really love in a magazine cover is movement and unexpected composition, and again, that sense of vitality; you want to feel like the person is alive and excited to be on the cover of Men’s Health. And I think that’s what you get with the Antonio Brown cover. It’s really arresting and beautiful and he was a great sport for jumping and diving across the sound stage like 15 times. (Laughs)

On whether these covers are a reflection of the “new Men’s Health” brand more than they are to sell copies on newsstands (Richard Dorment): One of the great things about Men’s Health, and I take very little credit for this because I am new to the gig, it is one of the few magazines that really does still have a strong newsstand game. We’re one of the top 10 sellers in the country on newsstands, I think we’re the only men’s book, the latest stats I saw, we’re the only men’s book that is in the top 10, so it’s important for us. It’s important for us from a revenue standpoint, that’s dollars out of people’s pockets and that’s real money for us, but also it is one of the gauges that I use to see how the brand is resonating, if only because again there is such strong engagement on the newsstand.

On whether they can envision a day when there is no printed edition of Men’s Health (Ronan Gardiner): I definitely do not. We just got the AAM (Alliance for Audited Media) report for the first six months of the year, I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of those reports; Men’s Health delivered against rate-base every month for the first six months of the year, our rate base is 1.8 million. MRI still puts us at 12 million readers in print. We are bringing new men, young men into our print subscriber family every day of the year. And while we’ve seen terrific growth online, which is really exciting, and we’ve seen terrific growth in social which is also really exciting, our print product remains incredibly vital, going back to that word again. And incredibly wanted and needed, and I think in many ways more relevant than ever.

On Hearst being the largest men’s magazine publishing company in the country (Ronan Gardiner): The total number of men reached by Hearst: across all brands, print and digital, Hearst now speaks to almost half (45%) of American men. And the beauty of that is that the duplication is so low, which means we’re able from an advertising perspective to put packages together for our clients that includes Esquire, that includes Popular Mechanics. I was in a meeting recently with my colleagues at Car and Driver and Road & Track, with a luxury automobile advertiser that is focusing on the health and wellness-minded consumer.

On what Richard and his wife thought when he got the job offer to be the new editor in chief of Men’s Health (Richard Dorment): I knew that it was, A: wonderful. (Laughs) It was a rather long process that transpired over the course of a few months. And it sort of went in multiple stages as these things tend to do, and because of that, my wife and I were able to have a lot of considered, deliberate conversation, as far as what our goals were in the family and what we wanted out of life and what we do with opportunities when they come up. We loved Colorado. If anybody has the opportunity to move there I cannot recommend it highly enough. We went skiing every weekend, we hiked, we rode bikes everywhere; it was awesome. We were all incredibly sad to leave, but this was such a great opportunity , particularly for a journalist who has spent most of his career in print.

On what Richard would hope to tell someone if they were having a conversation about Men’s Health a year from now (Richard Dorment): Well, I hope that I’ve contributed to the brand’s success, and have been an advocate for the readers. There’s obviously a lot of exciting changes happening here at Hearst, and however I can support our new leaders as they move the company forward; I’m just really happy to be here. And I’m really excited about the future of both Men’s Health and Hearst. As always, however I can help out and be of service, I’m there.

On whether there is any interaction between Men’s Health and Esquire and between Richard and Esquire’s editor in chief, Jay Fielden (Richard Dorment): Men’s Health and Esquire have this system in place at Hearst that we call hubbing. We share a copy and research department. And we share some fashion resources as well. So, because of that and because quite frankly we like each other a lot, I like Jay a whole lot, I’m speaking with he and his team constantly, and it’s a great pleasure to do that because they’re really smart, talented editors. A great benefit of being in a place like Hearst is you have those resources, both formerly and informally. And Jay is a great editor and he’s been nothing but supportive and helpful and a great asset to both me personally and to Men’s Health as a brand.

On anything they’d like to add (Richard Dorment): The only thing that I would say, and this is another reason that I was excited to join the brand, because of how much men’s lives have changed over the last five to ten years, particularly on the occasion of our 30th anniversary, there’s a lot of looking back. There’s a lot of looking at old issues, but there’s also a lot of looking back at the way we used to live and the way we used to think and talk about things like strength and fitness. That’s changing a lot.

On anything they’d like to add (Ronan Gardiner): I think that I would really just echo Richard’s sentiments. Health and wellness, wellbeing in general, is more of a focus for more people today than it ever has been. And Men’s Health’s mission is to give our readers the inspiration and the information they need to be the best men that they can be. And that’s an incredible proposition. And it’s a proposition that our clients are really excited about and want to be a part of.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home (Richard Dorment): I would say either trying to put my kids to sleep or chasing them back to bed after they come out asking for a glass of water or one of the hundreds of things they typically ask for, or Peloton because it helps me unwind and relax when I get home.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home (Ronan Gardiner): If you come to my home this evening I won’t be there because I will be running alongside the East River. Then I’ll go home and read a magazine.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him (Richard Dorment): Vitality. I hope that I can aspire and embody that value. That for me physically, mentally and socially is the goal every day.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him (Ronan Gardiner): Authenticity. Only because Rich took vitality. (Laughs)

On what keeps him up at night (Richard Dorment): To be totally honest, nothing professional. I think people who are in our business and have sort of ridden this rollercoaster over the last 5, 10, 15 years, if you weren’t comfortable being uncomfortable, you wouldn’t still be here. There’s obviously a lot of excitement, is one way to put it, in our line of work, and I made a conscious decision a long time ago that I was just going to focus on my work and not try to get hung up on what’s going to be happening in 18 or 24 months, because nobody knows. So, I worry about my kids and I worry about the state of the country and I worry about my 401K. But as far as work, I’ve hired some amazing people. There were some amazing people here before I started and it was a really strong brand. I just show up to work and do the best I can.

On what keeps him up at night (Ronan Gardiner): Today I live in the Union Square and so sirens and honking taxi cabs keep me up at night more than anything else. I sleep really well, Samir. (Laughs) Really well. Maybe because I work at the best magazine brand on the planet.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Richard Dorment, editor in chief, & Ronan Gardiner, VP/CRO/publisher, Men’s Health.

Samir Husni: Ronan, five years ago we spoke about Men’s Health and all that was taking place with the magazine and the digital platforms. Today it’s a new era for Men’s Health. Today it’s a Hearst publication instead of a Rodale publication. Are there any differences at the brand?

Ronan Gardiner: I don’t think we could have found a more perfect home than Hearst for many, many different reasons. Number one, obviously with the acquisition of Rodale, Hearst now has a very serious health and wellness footprint that it didn’t have before.

Number two, Hearst now delivers more men than any other publishing company. Adding Men’s Health to a portfolio that included Esquire, Popular Mechanics, Car and Driver, Road & Track, and then of course with Bicycling and Runner’s World delivery against men, Hearst now reaches more men than any other publishing company. So, two unique transformations, if you like, for Hearst overall.

But I think for Men’s Health it’s just incredibly gratifying to have found a company that is so committed to this brand and continuing to grow this brand and continuing to see this brand prosper. Hence the arrival of editors like Rich Dorment, and I’ll allow him to speak to some of the incredible hires that he’s added to an already really strong editorial team.

Samir Husni: How do you view your role as editor in chief of a magazine with over a million in circulation, with print and digital reach? Especially since you’ve been at Esquire before and at Wired; how are you using your skills as a storyteller? Is it any different with Men’s Health than Wired or Esquire? That moment you were offered the job; what did you think?

Richard Dorment: Just to give you a bit of background, part of the time that I was editing at Wired I lived in Denver and that was when I was interviewing for this job. The reason I was in Denver was because my wife and I and our three small children had decided to try a different way of life. So, I was sort of half out of the magazine world; I was still working at Wired, but I was really interested in exploring new opportunities when the Men’s Health gig came up and Hearst first approached me. And I can tell you that I certainly wouldn’t have moved back to New York and moved back full-body and full-steam into the magazine world if it had been another brand. I think Men’s health, just because of its reach and its credibility and its authority in this space, is without peer.

And given my particular background, both at Esquire and Wired, I think it makes a lot of sense, because at Esquire I spent 10 years reporting and writing and editing features on how manhood is changing and how our concepts, our perceptions and practices of masculinity are evolving and are becoming more elastic and expansive and how it’s a great thing for everybody.

When I was at Wired, my job was really to edit and write stories about change. My boss there at the time, Nick Thompson, used to say that Wired wasn’t a magazine about technology, it was a magazine about change, and he was absolutely right. It’s about how we look at change and embrace change and absorb change. So, I think when you combine those two things and you look at what’s happening in the world of men right now, Men’s Health is really the ideal place to explore those things and about the lives of men, and how we’re approaching things like fitness and wellness, health and strength and how that’s really changing.

The first question you asked, how I see my role; I see myself in the same role that I’ve always had, as an advocate for the reader. To ask the questions, and to anticipate the questions that they’re going to be asking. To look for the issues that are going to be most important for them, to try and track down the stories that will move and excite them and inspire them. And to work with the best and smartest people I know to give them the information they need to improve their lives and become better versions of themselves.

Samir Husni: With the October issue, I noticed that you changed the tagline from “Tons of Useful Stuff” to “Stronger, Faster, Better.”

Richard Dorment: Correct. (Laughs) There was absolutely nothing wrong with “Tons of Useful Stuff,” but one of the things that I have been talking a lot about with my staff is a single word: vitality. And it’s not just a goal that I think all of my readers have in mind, which is that they all want to be more vital versions of themselves, they want to be stronger, smarter, more enthusiastic; they want to be better friends and partners, better employees. Vitality is really their watchword. And I want the magazine to embody that value as well. I want it to embody the best virtues of vitality.

So, when I say strong, faster, better, I don’t just mean that as far as goals for the reader, it’s really what the magazine is about. We’re hopefully a stronger brand; we’re faster at processing things and in delivering information and inspiration to our readers; and we’re just constantly trying to get better. We’re embodying the values of the brand, which is self-improvement.

Samir Husni: And Ronan, are you going to use that new tagline “Stronger, Faster, Better” to get stronger ad revenue, faster ad revenue, and better ad revenue?

Ronan Gardiner: (Laughs) I certainly hope so. One thing that I can tell you is that in a very short amount of time Rich’s vision for the brand and the evolution of the brand, which you’re starting to see with the October issue, is being very positively received by the advertising community. Men’s Health needs very little introduction to most agencies and clients, but it’s really exciting to take a 30-year-old brand that is incredibly strong and incredibly vital and relevant and work with an editor in chief who believes that it can be even better; even more timely; even more useful; even more vital, back to that word vitality. This is a very exciting time. We’re kind of 30-years-young.

Samir Husni: Rich, you’ve only been on the job since April 15, so in those few months what has been the most challenging moment you’ve had and how did you overcome it?

Richard Dorment: Probably the biggest challenge is that it was sort of a trifecta, not only was I a first-time editor in chief at the brand, but I was a new editor at a publication that was also new to the company, so as I was trying to take stock of where we were as far as staffing and content, I was also trying to help ease and integrate Men’s Health into the broader Hearst ecosystem, which like every media company these days is constantly changing. I’ve been away from Hearst for two years and there’s a lot about it that’s changed since I’ve been here.

So, I think managing those two things simultaneously and really trying to make sure that Hearst and Men’s Health were working together as closely and effectively as possible, that was my main goal. And I believe most of that is behind us, we’re pretty much moved in. And we have most everything figured out.

Samir Husni: And what has been the most pleasant moment?

Richard Dorment: That’s a really good question. I’m really pleased with our October issue. I think many times there is a lot of pressure put on the “editor’s first issue,” which I think most people understand is defined loosely because most magazines change month to month.

But with the October issue, it’s the first time that our new creative director, Jamie Prokell’s vision has been applied to the brand, thanks to the amazing work of my photo director, Jeanne Graves, my fitness director, Ebenezer Samuel, and my deputy editor, Ben Court, we have these great dynamic four shots of these amazing NFL players, which was very difficult logistically to pull off. We did it, and we did it brilliantly. And given the resources that we got from our circulation department, as far as geo-targeting our distribution with newsstands, I think it’s really going to help, not only drive newsstand sales, but also to just reinforce this strong and vibrant brand.

So that for me, the first time I really saw those covers come to life, it was like in that moment I thought, this could work, this could be what I had always thought it could be.

Samir Husni: And if I put you on the spot and ask which of the four covers would be your choice if you spotted all four on the newsstand, which would you pick?

Richard Dorment: Oh goodness. (Laughs) I do love them all and I love them all for different reasons. I think the Antonio Brown one with him diving to catch the ball is my favorite one, because one of the things that I really love in a magazine cover is movement and unexpected composition, and again, that sense of vitality; you want to feel like the person is alive and excited to be on the cover of Men’s Health. And I think that’s what you get with the Antonio Brown cover. It’s really arresting and beautiful and he was a great sport for jumping and diving across the sound stage like 15 times. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Last time that I interviewed Adam Moss at New York Magazine, he told me that his idea when it comes to the cover is to no longer sell newsstand copies, but rather to reflect the brand. Do you see those covers as a reflection of the “new brand of Men’s Health?”

Richard Dorment: One of the great things about Men’s Health, and I take very little credit for this because I am new to the gig, it is one of the few magazines that really does still have a strong newsstand game. We’re one of the top 10 sellers in the country on newsstands, I think we’re the only men’s book, the latest stats I saw, we’re the only men’s book that is in the top 10, so it’s important for us. It’s important for us from a revenue standpoint, that’s dollars out of people’s pockets and that’s real money for us, but also it is one of the gauges that I use to see how the brand is resonating, if only because again there is such strong engagement on the newsstand.

Obviously, we face the same distribution challenges that everybody else does in the print market, but we’re still very much in the game. I think if we, like some of our competitors, were not selling nearly as much, I think we would put more thought into the “brand promotion” approach to covers, but we’re still trying to move units, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. It’s a part of the job that I really enjoy and I think when you get the right person who really embodies our values, I think it’s really rewarding for everybody.

Samir Husni: Ronan, one of the things that you told me five years ago when I asked you whether you could envision a day when there would be not be a Men’s Health in print, everything would be digital, and with the changes that are taking place at Hearst, I’m going to ask you the same question today, can you envision a time when there is no print edition of Men’s Health and everything is only digital?

Ronan Gardiner: I definitely do not. We just got the AAM (Alliance for Audited Media) report for the first six months of the year, I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of those reports; Men’s Health delivered against rate-base every month for the first six months of the year, our rate base is 1.8 million. MRI still puts us at 12 million readers in print. We are bringing new men, young men into our print subscriber family every day of the year. And while we’ve seen terrific growth online, which is really exciting, and we’ve seen terrific growth in social which is also really exciting, our print product remains incredibly vital, going back to that word again. And incredibly wanted and needed, and I think in many ways more relevant than ever.

Samir, you named Men’s Health, I believe, the most important launch of a quarter century. Right? After 25 years, you named us the most important launch of that 25 years.

Samir Husni: Yes.

Ronan Gardiner: And today as we speak, five years since we did that interview and many years since the first time we spoke, Men’s Health I believe is truly more relevant, more wanted and more needed today than it has ever been. There’s absolutely no question in my mind whatsoever.

Samir Husni: And you mentioned a point that I didn’t read a lot about, now Hearst, and I didn’t even think about it, but it’s the largest men’s magazine publishing company in the country.

Ronan Gardiner: By far. The total number of men reached by Hearst: across all brands, print and digital, Hearst now speaks to almost half (45%) of American men. And the beauty of that is that the duplication is so low, which means we’re able from an advertising perspective to put packages together for our clients that includes Esquire, that includes Popular Mechanics. I was in a meeting recently with my colleagues at Car and Driver and Road & Track, with a luxury automobile advertiser that is focusing on the health and wellness-minded consumer. So, the beauty of us being acquired by Hearst is the fact that there is such small duplication across the titles.

Samir Husni: Rich, you mentioned that you moved to Denver and that you are back in New York City because of the brand specifically, no other magazine would have brought you back. You said that you have three small children and your wife; what did you think when you received that phone call that you were the new editor in chief of Men’s Health?

Richard Dorment: I knew that it was, A: wonderful. (Laughs) It was a rather long process that transpired over the course of a few months. And it sort of went in multiple stages as these things tend to do, and because of that, my wife and I were able to have a lot of considered, deliberate conversation, as far as what our goals were in the family and what we wanted out of life and what we do with opportunities when they come up.

We loved Colorado. If anybody has the opportunity to move there I cannot recommend it highly enough. We went skiing every weekend, we hiked, we rode bikes everywhere; it was awesome. We were all incredibly sad to leave, but this was such a great opportunity , particularly for a journalist who has spent most of his career in print. A lot of my background is integrated; I worked for a while in digital only, but I’ve worked primarily in print. And there just aren’t a ton of these opportunities anymore. So, to be faced with one, particularly after I had sort of thought I had closed the door; I don’t necessarily believe in the universe telling you something, but it felt a little like that.

Again, we were sad to leave, but there was never a moment where we asked: are we going to take it? No, of course, I was going to take it.

Samir Husni: If we’re having this same conversation a year from now, after you’ve left your mark on Men’s Health; you’ve reinvented the brand, you’ve hired a group of talented folks to work with you, and you’ve created this stronger, faster, and better publication; where are you a year from now?

Richard Dorment: Well, I hope that I’ve contributed to the brand’s success, and have been an advocate for the readers. There’s obviously a lot of exciting changes happening here at Hearst, and however I can support our new leaders as they move the company forward; I’m just really happy to be here. And I’m really excited about the future of both Men’s Health and Hearst. As always, however I can help out and be of service, I’m there.

Samir Husni: And how’s the work going with you and Jay (Fielden), has there been any interaction taking place between Men’s Health and Esquire with Jay now being the editorial director?

Richard Dorment: Men’s Health and Esquire have this system in place at Hearst that we call hubbing. We share a copy and research department. And we share some fashion resources as well. So, because of that and because quite frankly we like each other a lot, I like Jay a whole lot, I’m speaking with he and his team constantly, and it’s a great pleasure to do that because they’re really smart, talented editors. A great benefit of being in a place like Hearst is you have those resources, both formerly and informally. And Jay is a great editor and he’s been nothing but supportive and helpful and a great asset to both me personally and to Men’s Health as a brand.

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

Richard Dorment: The only thing that I would say, and this is another reason that I was excited to join the brand, because of how much men’s lives have changed over the last five to ten years, particularly on the occasion of our 30th anniversary, there’s a lot of looking back. There’s a lot of looking at old issues, but there’s also a lot of looking back at the way we used to live and the way we used to think and talk about things like strength and fitness. That’s changing a lot.

I think women and women’s service publications are sort of out front, in typical fashion they’re ahead of us, but I think men are really catching up, as far as not only investing their time, but their resources and their energy into living better lives. They’re taking better care of themselves, they’re investing in their bodies and their wardrobes and their futures and careers. So, because of those changes happening on a society-wide level, I think Men’s Health is really optimized to take advantage of that. And it’s not like it’s a trend; it’s not like we just happened to do this one thing and it’s really in season now, but next season we’re going to be screwed. This train has left the station and we’re in charge.

And I think the more that we can reinforce our integrity and our authority in this space, and we can capitalize on those 30 years of trust that we’ve built with our readers, The better position will be to continue to take advantage of its growth and its interest in self-improvement and in living stronger, better and faster lives.

Samir Husni: Ronan, would you like to add anything?

Ronan Gardiner: I think that I would really just echo Richard’s sentiments. Health and wellness, wellbeing in general, is more of a focus for more people today than it ever has been. And Men’s Health’s mission is to give our readers the inspiration and the information they need to be the best men that they can be. And that’s an incredible proposition. And it’s a proposition that our clients are really excited about and want to be a part of.

When I started at Men’s Health 14 years ago, we would have to explain to a lot of advertisers why a health-minded audience mattered. Why a health-minded or focused audience could be their best consumers. We don’t need to do that today. I had a recent meeting with a luxury automobile advertiser; I had another recent lunch meeting with a luxury grooming advertiser; I ended that day with an upscale fashion advertiser. Every single one of whom wants to speak to this new generation of health-focused consumers because they truly are their best consumer. And Men’s Health delivers more of them than anybody else.

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?

Richard Dorment: I would say either trying to put my kids to sleep or chasing them back to bed after they come out asking for a glass of water or one of the hundreds of things they typically ask for, or Peloton because it helps me unwind and relax when I get home.

Ronan Gardiner: If you come to my home this evening I won’t be there because I will be running alongside the East River. Then I’ll go home and read a magazine.

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

Richard Dorment: Vitality. I hope that I can aspire and embody that value. That for me physically, mentally and socially is the goal every day.

Ronan Gardiner: Authenticity. Only because Rich took vitality. (Laughs)

Everyone laughs.

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

Richard Dorment: To be totally honest, nothing professional. I think people who are in our business and have sort of ridden this rollercoaster over the last 5, 10, 15 years, if you weren’t comfortable being uncomfortable, you wouldn’t still be here. There’s obviously a lot of excitement, is one way to put it, in our line of work, and I made a conscious decision a long time ago that I was just going to focus on my work and not try to get hung up on what’s going to be happening in 18 or 24 months, because nobody knows.

So, I worry about my kids and I worry about the state of the country and I worry about my 401K. But as far as work, I’ve hired some amazing people. There were some amazing people here before I started and it was a really strong brand. I just show up to work and do the best I can.

Ronan Gardiner: Today I live in the Union Square and so sirens and honking taxi cabs keep me up at night more than anything else. I sleep really well, Samir. (Laughs) Really well. Maybe because I work at the best magazine brand on the planet.

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

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