Archive for the ‘Redesigns’ Category

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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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NewBeauty Magazine: A Relaunch That Highlights Editorial Integrity & Authority, While Cultivating More Than Just A Millennial Audience – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Agnes Chapski, President, NewBeauty…

July 27, 2018

“It’s a huge population and a very affluent audience. They actually have more spendable income and more money. In the beauty space, it’s completely underserved, so when you think about it, to me, it’s an amazing opportunity to speak to women who are hungry to have this kind of information. No one is really intelligently speaking to them, so that is a strong business reason.” Agnes Chapski On Why Baby Boomers & Gen Xer’s Are So Important To NewBeauty…

NewBeauty has been described as the definitive authority on all things beauty, and has the tagline to prove it. As a brand that believes in content that is 100 percent dedicated to beauty, from the scientific to cutting edge, NewBeauty has carved a unique niche for itself in the beauty space. And while the scientifically-driven approach to beauty that founding editor Yolanda Yoh Bucher created is still very much present, new Editor in Chief, Emily Dougherty and President of the company, Agnes Chapski, decided that a bit of tweaking was in order. So, along with the design vision of Creative Director, Dean Sebring, the team has raised the bar even more to include not only the scientific, but a palpable new emphasis on fun and personal storytelling.

And it’s inspiringly beautiful – as the beauty content of the title demands. I spoke with Agnes recently and we talked about the present and the future of the brand – and not just the magazine. With a focus on the Omni-channel development of the entire brand, Agnes has the goal of further diversifying and developing the brands existing revenue streams and initiating even more. And with her experience, Agnes was publisher and chief revenue officer of Allure for nine years prior to joining NewBeauty, there is no doubt that she can handle the job and her goals. And while the millennial audience is always important, Agnes isn’t avoiding the baby boomers and the GenX generations either. Recognizing the potential that lies within that group, she is determined to speak to all women, no matter their age. Just another sign that she has a firm grasp on the helm of this strong brand.

So, grab a nice glass of your drink of choice and join me as we take a stroll down the lanes of beauty with a woman who is excited about the multiplatform of her brand and can’t wait to lay the foundation (pun intended) for all the great things to come, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Agnes Chapski, president, NewBeauty.

But first the sound-bites:

On reinventing the magazine to have not only the science behind its content, but also the heart: I’ve been at Sandow now for about nine months and it was really important to relaunch the magazine for multiple reasons. A big part of it was finding the right editor in chief, finding Emily; obviously that was the first step. But when I think about NewBeauty and all of the assets that we have, we really are an Omni channel. We have so many other media assets, but also businesses that are surrounding the brand, but to me the magazine is really the foundation; it’s our most visible asset. And that editorial integrity and authority is extremely relevant, especially in today’s media landscape where for many other companies that has not been the priority. We truly believe, especially in the beauty space, that credibility matters to women.

On what she’s doing to ensure that NewBeauty doesn’t disappear from advertisers’ radar: I’m going to answer this question in two parts. Number one, we’re not solely reliant on advertising revenue in our organization. Our founder, Adam Sandow, always looked at business first and what I mean by that is, there are a lot of things that he created around the NewBeauty brand that are profitable and not reliant on advertising. So, it’s creating relationships and trying to be full-beauty solution providers to our clients versus just trying to attract advertising dollars from them. Advertising is an important revenue stream, but it’s not what we’re completely reliant on.

On what has been the most pleasant surprise for her since becoming president of NewBeauty:
I like that it’s really spread out, that we can go to clients and offer multiple solutions. We can talk to big clients and it would be one conversation, and we can talk to small, emerging brands and it would be a completely different conversation. But with both, we’re helping them to attach to the right customer and are offering them ways to accelerate their businesses. And that’s what’s interesting to me, going in as a brand consultant rather than just one that’s trying to sell someone something.

On whether there have been any stumbling blocks during the relaunch or it’s been a walk in a rose garden:
(Laughs) Nothing is a walk in a rose garden. I don’t really look at things too much as stumbling blocks; instead, it’s how do we fix this or how do we make it better? I look at things like that as fun, business challenges and as what keeps things interesting and challenging. Nothing is ever perfect, nor should it be, this is a constantly evolving and changing business, so it’s fun to be able to get ahead of it and adapt and to always be thinking differently. For those of us who have been in this industry for a long time and have stayed in it, you have to be that in order to be successful.

On what she would like to say one year from now that she had achieved and what goals met: I don’t think you should ever feel that you’ve met your goals; you should just start to create new ones as you go along. And yes, you can checkmark off certain goals and certain benchmarks, but what we wanted to accomplish here is the foundation where we make sure this is a really strong brand from every one of our assets. So, the magazine being relaunched is one part of that.

On why baby boomers and GenX audiences are so important to NewBeauty, while other magazines cultivate the millennial audience:
Why it’s important to us is because of exactly what you said. It’s a huge population and a very affluent audience. They actually have more spendable income and more money. In the beauty space, it’s completely underserved, so when you think about it, to me, it’s an amazing opportunity to speak to women who are hungry to have this kind of information. No one is really intelligently speaking to them, so that is a strong business reason.

On some constants that she believes should never change in the magazine business: I think there’s always going to be a strong demand for really good, credible content. And to me, in magazines, if you’re not doing that, what’s the point? It doesn’t matter whatever genre you’re in, you should be concerned about content. It shouldn’t be homogenized, it shouldn’t be built for one and played out across other brands. It should be respectful of the consumer and who you’re trying to serve. To me, that’s foundationally why magazines are so powerful as well. Good magazines are powerful. And consumers will respond to that. That’s a constant that has to happen.

On what drives her to get up in the morning and head for the office: That’s a good question. A lot of things drive me. Number one, I would say that always working on something that you really believe in, and I’m sure a lot of people say that, but it really is true. If you don’t have a passion for it and you don’t really believe in it and you don’t love it, it’s pretty hard to get up and go to the office.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home:
I have two young boys, so I don’t know if I really relax when I get home. (Laughs) It’s almost like a whole other job starts, but we do family time and cooking is a big part of it. Just being in our home together as a family, when we all come back from our various activities during the day. But that is relaxing to me, even though it is a bit of chaos. (Laughs again).

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her:
It would go back to what I said a minute ago, which is that I do great teams and cultures and people want to work with me and on my team.

On what keeps her up at night: Nothing. I sleep so well. I work so hard each day and I don’t bring it home. When I’m at home, I’m about my family and I sleep really well. Work is challenges, it’s not things that keep me up.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Agnes Chapski, president, NewBeauty magazine.

Samir Husni: You have a brand new, reinvented, reengineered NewBeauty magazine and as Emily Dougherty, editor in chief, told WWD, in addition to the science there is now a heart for the magazine. As president of NewBeauty, can you expand a little on that?

Agnes Chapski: I’ve been at Sandow now for about nine months and it was really important to relaunch the magazine for multiple reasons. A big part of it was finding the right editor in chief, finding Emily; obviously that was the first step. But when I think about NewBeauty and all of the assets that we have, we really are an Omni channel. We have so many other media assets, but also businesses that are surrounding the brand, but to me the magazine is really the foundation; it’s our most visible asset. And that editorial integrity and authority is extremely relevant, especially in today’s media landscape where for many other companies that has not been the priority. We truly believe, especially in the beauty space, that credibility matters to women.

So, magazines have, at least for our properties, the deepest consumer engagement. MPA came out with some new data that I was reading and was fascinated with, the things that they’re looking at, and they said that on average women spend 51 minutes with magazines. I looked at where NewBeauty is and our women actually spend 90 minutes with every NewBeauty issue. I thought the MPA number was pretty impressive, but the NewBeauty numbers were almost twice that.

And that’s really where everything starts, with our magazine, and that is our core consumer. And our goal with her is to really create this holistic beauty experience, and Emily spoke to this. We want to inspire them as much as we want to inform them, and it’s the best place to really create that emotional connection. And then from there, as we engage her and push her and move her to our other media platforms, such as our web, our videos, social and our other businesses like our sampling business, TestTube and all of that, those are important pieces of our business, but the strength of them comes from that magazine consumer.

Samir Husni: Your background is in the beauty sector, you were at Allure for years. And as we look at the business side and the advertising revenue that’s shrinking at most magazines, do you feel that the beauty category is more protected than any other sector, in terms of the advertising revenue? And what are you doing to ensure that the beauty category isn’t going to disappear from the advertising revenue radar?

Agnes Chapski: I’m going to answer this question in two parts. Number one, we’re not solely reliant on advertising revenue in our organization. Our founder, Adam Sandow, always looked at business first and what I mean by that is, there are a lot of things that he created around the NewBeauty brand that are profitable and not reliant on advertising. So, it’s creating relationships and trying to be full-beauty solution providers to our clients versus just trying to attract advertising dollars from them. Advertising is an important revenue stream, but it’s not what we’re completely reliant on.

The other piece of that is also our circulation. If you look at our business model, our circulation is profitable. I’ve never worked in an organization where circulation has been profitable, it’s actually a drain on the P&L. We’re newsstand-driven, we charge $10 per copy and our subs are not discounted comparatively to the way the industry standard has been, where you’re pretty much giving the magazine away. So, we’re very conscious of making sure that we create a value around the product that we’re serving to our customers and that they pay for that and everything we do; every business line, not just the magazine.

And then the beauty piece of it is, I think this is one of the most vibrant categories out there. I have worked in many different areas in my career and the most interesting was when I came to Allure and got to work 100 percent in the beauty category. And if you think about the changes that have happened in this industry in the past 15 years, it’s incredible. The idea that all of these brands are emerging and they have the ability to push themselves out in a way where consumers are really in command of what it is they want and need. It has allowed so many different players in the beauty space to enter into it. And I find that fascinating and I think it’s going to continue to grow stronger. Women are so intrigued with what’s out there and finding and discovering solutions for their beauty.

The other thing that’s always really intriguing too about NewBeauty is, and I mentioned it earlier, it really is a full, holistic experience. Where Allure was more driven by traditional beauty, and what I mean by that is NewBeauty also tackles cosmetic enhancements and doctors, our expertise is driven from a more serious place. So yes, we want to inspire and we have amazing, beautiful content on beauty, but we also take a more serious approach to it as well. We always talk about inspiring and informing and having more credible information for women. It covers a much more holistic landscape than anything that’s out there in the marketplace.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant surprise since you became president of NewBeauty?

Agnes Chapski: I like that it’s really spread out, that we can go to clients and offer multiple solutions. We can talk to big clients and it would be one conversation, and we can talk to small, emerging brands and it would be a completely different conversation. But with both, we’re helping them to attach to the right customer and are offering them ways to accelerate their businesses. And that’s what’s interesting to me, going in as a brand consultant rather than just one that’s trying to sell someone something.

Samir Husni: Have there been any stumbling blocks or has it been a walk in a rose garden for you?

Agnes Chapski: (Laughs) Nothing is a walk in a rose garden. I don’t really look at things too much as stumbling blocks; instead, it’s how do we fix this or how do we make it better? I look at things like that as fun, business challenges and as what keeps things interesting and challenging. Nothing is ever perfect, nor should it be, this is a constantly evolving and changing business, so it’s fun to be able to get ahead of it and adapt and to always be thinking differently. For those of us who have been in this industry for a long time and have stayed in it, you have to be that in order to be successful.

Samir Husni: If you and I are talking about NewBeauty one year from now, what would you like to tell me that you have achieved and what goals met?

Agnes Chapski: I don’t think you should ever feel that you’ve met your goals; you should just start to create new ones as you go along. And yes, you can checkmark off certain goals and certain benchmarks, but what we wanted to accomplish here is the foundation where we make sure this is a really strong brand from every one of our assets. So, the magazine being relaunched is one part of that.

We’ll be focusing on our digital assets in Q-4. In the fall, we’re relaunching our TestTube, which is our sampling subscription business and you’ll see that we have a new platform for that. We’ve already relaunched our awards business and credentialing and there will be more to come on that. We have plans to launch a few new initiatives that I can’t talk about yet. So, we’re constantly thinking toward what’s next, while shoring up everything that we have in our arsenal and making sure that we have the best products out there and that they’re all up to our standard, which is a premium consumer experience.

I guess a year from now, if I could checkmark off all of the assets that I inherited to work with and they are all in the right place, then I would be very happy as we start to launch new initiatives.

Samir Husni: One of the things that you’ve done is not to shy away from reaching the non-millennials, people who are older: the baby boomers and GenX. Why do you think people in the magazine business, I don’t want to say ignored, but you hear more of them talking about millennials, yet common sense will tell you that baby boomers and GenX have more money to spend, and there are as many of them as millennials. Why do you think that audience that you’re after now has been avoided by others for so long?

Agnes Chapski: Why it’s important to us is because of exactly what you said. It’s a huge population and a very affluent audience. They actually have more spendable income and more money. In the beauty space, it’s completely underserved, so when you think about it, to me, it’s an amazing opportunity to speak to women who are hungry to have this kind of information. No one is really intelligently speaking to them, so that is a strong business reason.

Why are other companies not embracing this audience? I think you’d probably have to ask them, but in my opinion, they don’t see that possibly the marketing dollars are there to support going after this older market segment. I disagree with that. I think they’re really smart marketers who have possibly gone the millennial route and have found that doesn’t work for some of the brands. For the brands they should know who they’re producing the products for and what age group makes sense and speak to them. And be proud of that. I’m of that age segment and I’ll spend a lot of money in that sector. I don’t want to be ignored.

Samir Husni: Change is the only constant in the magazine business these days, but there are some constants that I believe should never change, no matter the evolvements that are taking place. You’re a seasoned publisher, now president; what are some constants that you believe should never change in the magazine business?

Agnes Chapski: I think there’s always going to be a strong demand for really good, credible content. And to me, in magazines, if you’re not doing that, what’s the point? It doesn’t matter whatever genre you’re in, you should be concerned about content. It shouldn’t be homogenized, it shouldn’t be built for one and played out across other brands. It should be respectful of the consumer and who you’re trying to serve. To me, that’s foundationally why magazines are so powerful as well. Good magazines are powerful. And consumers will respond to that. That’s a constant that has to happen.

And the change is, I think, being flexible and nimble. It’s nice to work at a company that’s entrepreneurial. We can go out and try things and if we fail, okay, then we’ll try something else. We’re not beholden to a corporate-type structure that doesn’t allow for flexibility. And I think brands will survive if they can remain nimble in the marketplace, so that’s the business piece of it.

Samir Husni: What excites you and motivates you to get up in the morning and head for the office? What drives you?

Agnes Chapski: That’s a good question. A lot of things drive me. Number one, I would say that always working on something that you really believe in, and I’m sure a lot of people say that, but it really is true. If you don’t have a passion for it and you don’t really believe in it and you don’t love it, it’s pretty hard to get up and go to the office.

But the other really critical piece of it to me and it’s something that I hope I’ll be remembered for, is that I take a lot of pride in putting together and building great teams and cultures, and places where people come to and want to work. We care about each other, it sounds sort of cliché, but we work really hard and we are constantly striving to perform at a really high level, but in the context of a culture that supports that. And I’ve always built these microcosms within even bigger organizations and have built these amazing teams and cultures. And that makes you want to get up and do the best work that you possibly do. So, I think those two in combination are what gets me going.

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?

Agnes Chapski: I have two young boys, so I don’t know if I really relax when I get home. (Laughs) It’s almost like a whole other job starts, but we do family time and cooking is a big part of it. Just being in our home together as a family, when we all come back from our various activities during the day. But that is relaxing to me, even though it is a bit of chaos. (Laughs again).

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

Agnes Chapski: It would go back to what I said a minute ago, which is that I do great teams and cultures and people want to work with me and on my team.

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

Agnes Chapski: Nothing. I sleep so well. I work so hard each day and I don’t bring it home. When I’m at home, I’m about my family and I sleep really well. Work is challenges, it’s not things that keep me up.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Jo Packham: A Self-Proclaimed Woman Of Ideas With One Goal In Mind: Help and Create – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Jo Packham, Creator/Editor In Chief, Where Women Create, Where Women Cook, Where Women Create Work, & What Women Create Magazines…

June 1, 2018

“I’m a traditional print girl. I was in book publishing for 30 years. When that ended and I got the opportunity to do the magazines; I don’t even go on Instagram. I don’t answer my phone; I hate anything technological. I really love paper and print. I wouldn’t have even considered anything else.” Jo Packham (On why she chose print over digital for her brand)…

Jo Packham believes we all have a story to tell and she also believes it is her job to give a venue to those ideas; hence, the four titles that she created and formerly published (three of them anyway) with Stampington & Company by her side. But today is a new day, and a new title. No longer is she affiliated with the giant crafting publisher. Today, she is following through with her own vision, through her partnership with Disticor, and she has decided there is more to tell than just “where,” we also need to know “what.”

I spoke with Jo recently and I must say, it was one of the most delightful conversations I have ever had. Jo is as passionate about her magazines as she is her readers and contributors. We talked about that passion, which was something that ignited and brought forth her latest title “What Women Create.”

Jo believes that the stories within the pages of her magazines should all express individuality and the rawness that makes them unique. That’s the main reason there is no heavy editing with contributors’ offerings, just mainly spelling. And she likes it that way.

Since parting company with Stampington & Company, where she had had a long-running relationship, Jo is now feeling unencumbered by guidelines and predisposed aesthetics, and is enjoying spreading her wings a bit. And while she is grateful for everything she shared with Stampington, she is also excited by the future’s possibilities. Even though she says (her words, not mine) who knows what’s going to happen with a 70-year-old, self-proclaimed idea woman. If Mr. Magazine™ could offer his opinion here (and why not, it is my blog after all), I’d say 70 is the new 50 and that is just the right age for Jo Packham and her latest endeavors.

So, I hope that you enjoy this very lively conversation with a woman whose youth is apparently eternal, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jo Packham, creator and editor in chief of all the “Where Women Create,” “Where Women Cook,” “Where Women Create Work,” and her latest, “What Women Create.”

But first the sound-bites:

On how she got her start in magazines: I worked really, really hard and I have been very, very blessed. I think it happened because my entire career has been about surrounding myself with really creative, successful women. I always wanted to be an artist; I grew up wanting to be an artist, and I’m a horrible artist. My 7th grade art teacher told me I should do something else.

On combining food and crafts with her magazines: In the early days what I had to do was go to the crafters and the creative people, because they have fabulous kitchens and they like to cook, they don’t consider themselves foodies, but because they’re so creative they like to cook. So, we would feature five of them with really beautiful kitchens and then we would feature five of the top food bloggers and foodies in the country and focus on their food. And it kind of became more of a cooking magazine than a “where” magazine, it just morphed into that. But we still try to include some kitchens and other kinds of things, but that’s the way it started.

On how she would describe herself today: I think I’m creative in my own way in that I can bring people together, because there are a lot of publishers and a lot of agents who I think are driven by money, so I believe I am a creator and a gatherer; I think I inspire people. I don’t know, I work hard. (Laughs) I don’t know what I am. I’m just the person behind the scenes who wants you to have the opportunity that maybe I can help you get.

On how she says that she wants to be behind the scenes, yet her name is on the cover of all of her magazines: It’s on the covers of the old ones too. And the reason I did that is for the first time in my 40-year career when I went to work for Stampington, and when we launched Where Women Create at Stampington, it was an atmosphere of distrust for large corporations. And even I didn’t know in those days that Stampington was a big company; I had no idea how big they were. So, I felt if I put my name on the cover that the people who we featured and the people who were our readers would understand that it was a single woman doing the job and making it happen instead of a big corporation, so that they would trust me more and look at us through a different perspective.

On whether she’s had any stumbling blocks to face or it’s all been a walk in a rose garden: Oh, a million stumbling blocks. It’s so not easy. It’s always what you don’t expect. You’re sailing along and something happens that’s totally out of your control, and it’s that telephone call in the middle of the night that you dread your whole life. And I’ve gotten mine. I’ve lost everything. I completely lost everything and had to start from scratch, that was 10 years ago. I lost everything.

On whether she feels like she’s now in a safe end with her new deal with Disticor: I don’t believe in a safe end. I think the world is so fragile and everything we do is so fragile that I’ve got the best gig of all time. When people talk about living the dream, this is it. It’s not easy; I’m working myself to death, but it’s living the dream. But I also know that I could wake up in the morning and Barnes & Noble could go bankrupt and there could be no more distributor for the magazines and we would be done.

On whether anyone ever questions her sanity because she is publishing four print magazines with high cover prices in this digital age: Oh, yes. We just started the Disticor partnership last November and I had never met them and they flew out here to meet me. We had dinner in my studio and I had a chef here. We cooked a private dinner for them and they told me that they had just decided to do this. I told them that I didn’t believe in contracts, but my ex-husband said I had to have one and they said that was great. And I asked them how long the contract should be for, and Mike, who is the president of Disticor, said 10 years. And I just started laughing and he said, what the hell? And I said I am 70-years-old, you’ll have an 80-year-old editor in chief. No one wants an 80-year-old editor in chief. (Laughs) So, I told him that we’d start with three years.

On why she chose print and not a digital-only entity: I’m a traditional print girl. I was in book publishing for 30 years. When that ended and I got the opportunity to do the magazines; I don’t even go on Instagram. I don’t answer my phone; I hate anything technological. I really love paper and print. I wouldn’t have even considered anything else.

On her new publication What Women Create: When I got the opportunity to work with Disticor, they told me that I could do whatever I wanted. And I said, really? And they said, sure. So, we started with the three that we knew, but then we were preparing the first issue of “Create” and “What” came up at the table and it’s brilliant. And it’s not a how-to magazine; it’s just a beautiful pictorial anthology of the passion and the inspiration. It’s meant to be the story of the women who create; it’s behind-the-scenes on how they do what they do. It’s not a step-by-step. And it’s such a great partner with “Create.”

On whether the magazines, in human form, are her: I hope so. I would hope so. I would hope that I embody the passion and inspiration of all of us, that I’m a good representative and I will be cognizant of who they are and what they do and never take advantage of them. And always represent them in the best way. So, I would hope so.

On anything that scares her with this new venture: (Laughs) Everything scares me. I have these constant panic attacks, because I feel responsible. People have trusted me with their stories. Once, somebody said to me, all we do is produce junk mail because they buy our magazines and then they throw them away. And I said that’s not what I do. I give these people the opportunity to tell their stories in their own words, the way they want, without edits. We don’t change it; we don’t give any guidelines. It is their opportunity to have a magazine for just a minute to tell the world what they want the world to know.

On whether she feels she’s publishing inexpensive books, but expensive magazines: They are, and it’s because we don’t sell advertising. We’re a newsstand model, so we have to make our money somewhere and printing is more expensive, photographers are more expensive, and shipping them is crazy. When I ship one magazine to Europe it’s $27 and some cents. So, it’s not that we’re making more money on the backend on this end, it’s just that we’re producing a really beautiful, collectible piece. Because when they’re not done in seasons and they don’t do holidays, it’s not that you ever throw them away, unless you’re cleaning out your closet. You can save them as an inspiring piece of literature to go to just like a book.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: You would find me going through magazines. (Laughs) Right now on my dining room table I probably have 50 of the latest magazines from all over the world, trying to see who is doing what and what I love. So, you would definitely find me reading magazines.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: That I gave people the opportunity to do something that they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do otherwise.

On what keeps her up at night: (Laughs) Being 70. I have all of these thoughts: what if I can’t remember anymore, or what if I can’t go up the stairs anymore. That scares me to death.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jo Packham, creator/editor in chief, Where Women Create, Where Women Cook, Where Women Create Work, & What Women Create magazines.

Samir Husni: You’re the publisher and creator of not one, not two, not even three, but four magazines, all at the same time. Tell me how you got started.

Jo Packham: I worked really, really hard and I have been very, very blessed. I think it happened because my entire career has been about surrounding myself with really creative, successful women. I always wanted to be an artist; I grew up wanting to be an artist, and I’m a horrible artist. My 7th grade art teacher told me I should do something else.

And so I thought, you know what, I love it so much that early on, 40 years ago, I decided to publish cross-stitch books and I owned a small yarn and thread store. When cross-stitch was getting really popular, I decided to publish cross-stitch books, and I couldn’t do it myself, so I would just work with other women and surround myself with them and be the person who published them.

I would do the part of their creative life that they didn’t want to do, because they want to be creative, right? They didn’t want to deal with the publishing and write the stories, they didn’t want to get all the backend done, and things like that. I don’t really have very much of an ego and I was really happy to promote them and just be the person behind the scenes. I feel like a bus driver sometimes. I just get everybody on the bus and I get everybody where they need to go and then I get everybody off the bus and then I fill the bus up again.

It just led from one thing to another. It hasn’t been easy, and I’ve had some really dramatic failures in my career, but when you surround yourself with women who are so inspiring, they always have a new idea. And they always pick you back up and they always need someone like me behind the scenes. So, that’s the role that I love and that I took on, and that’s how I got where I am. It’s because of them, it really is.

Samir Husni: You combine both crafts and food; tell me about that mix. You have the food magazine, the craft magazine, and then you have the “What” magazine. (Laughs)

Jo Packham: (Laughs too). That’s really a funny story. When we started we had “Where Women Create” and it was all about the studios and everybody loved it and it’s really popular. I was not a foodie, but what happened was I was in the Texas Hill Country photographing Robin Brown and John Gray’s home, they own a company called Magnolia Pearl.

We were on a photo shoot and we got there one morning at around 6:00 a.m. and Robin’s guilty pleasure, and she lives way out in the country, her guilty pleasure was every morning a woman would come from Fredericksburg, Texas and bring in all fresh fruits and vegetables, and she was her cook for the day, her sous chef, if you will, and she would prepare all of these fresh fruits and vegetables. So Robin, because she’s a creative, had the most beautiful kitchen I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

So, when we walked in that morning and there was that entire array of fresh fruits and vegetables on the cabinet, I said we needed to publish where women cut. And when I first started it, I really thought it would be about the kitchen, just like it was about the studios. But I stayed an extra four days, photographed the kitchen, did all of the cooking, and I thought, I don’t know any foodies, so I should contact the top 10 food bloggers in the country.

I found out who they were, wrote them all a letter, said I would love to feature each of them in the magazine, they all said great, and I told them that we’d come and do a photo shoot in their kitchen, and they said yeah, no, that’s not going to happen because they were all about the food and not about the kitchen.

So, in the early days what I had to do was go to the crafters and the creative people, because they have fabulous kitchens and they like to cook, they don’t consider themselves foodies, but because they’re so creative they like to cook. So, we would feature five of them with really beautiful kitchens and then we would feature five of the top food bloggers and foodies in the country and focus on their food. And it kind of became more of a cooking magazine than a “where” magazine, it just morphed into that. But we still try to include some kitchens and other kinds of things, but that’s the way it started.

I had to go buy my first set of pots and pans. Since I was starting the magazine, I went into my kitchen, took all of my paintbrushes and all of my tools out of my silverware drawers, and all of my paintbrushes out of my cabinets and went and bought a complete set of silverware and a whole new set of pots and pans so that I would feel a little more like I could walk the walk and talk the talk.

Samir Husni: What do you consider yourself; a creator? I see “created by Jo” on each one of the four magazines. Or a curator? Someone who reaches out to all of these bloggers and creative people. If you had to describe Jo today, what would be some of the adjectives that come to mind?

Jo Packham: I think I’m creative in my own way in that I can bring people together, because there are a lot of publishers and a lot of agents who I think are driven by money, so I believe I am a creator and a gatherer; I think I inspire people. I don’t know, I work hard. (Laughs) I don’t know what I am. I’m just the person behind the scenes who wants you to have the opportunity that maybe I can help you get.

I’m a philanthropist, because I really want to sell a million magazines; I really do. But if I sell a million magazines; we always feature two really famous people in the magazine because they sell magazines, but then we feature 10 that no one has ever heard of, because if we can give them an opportunity to make their dreams come true sincerely, then that’s what sells more magazines that pays my bills and it’s a win/win situation for everyone.

Samir Husni: You say that you want to be behind the scenes, yet your name is on the cover of all four of the new magazines.

Jo Packham: It’s on the covers of the old ones too. And the reason I did that is for the first time in my 40-year career when I went to work for Stampington, and when we launched Where Women Create at Stampington, it was an atmosphere of distrust for large corporations. And even I didn’t know in those days that Stampington was a big company; I had no idea how big they were. So, I felt if I put my name on the cover that the people who we featured and the people who were our readers would understand that it was a single woman doing the job and making it happen instead of a big corporation, so that they would trust me more and look at us through a different perspective.

And the only reason I put my name on the second ones, with this new publisher, is because he absolutely insisted. And Barnes & Noble and Costco said Jo’s name has to be on the cover and I said that’s ridiculous. People don’t buy these magazines because of me, they buy these magazines because of the stories inside, but they felt like with my name on the cover that people would be assured that there was no advertising and that the stories would be sincere. And that it’s the same model. The first 30 years of my career, no one knew who I was; my name was never anywhere. Ever.

Samir Husni: Now your name is everywhere. Did it feel like a walk in a rose garden or were there some stumbling blocks you had to overcome?

Jo Packham: Oh, a million stumbling blocks. It’s so not easy. It’s always what you don’t expect. You’re sailing along and something happens that’s totally out of your control, and it’s that telephone call in the middle of the night that you dread your whole life. And I’ve gotten mine. I’ve lost everything. I completely lost everything and had to start from scratch, that was 10 years ago. I lost everything.

The story between Stampington and I is crazy and then the one between Disticor and I is even crazier. So, I’ve been at the top and I’ve been at the bottom. I’m great at cocktail parties; I have a lot of stories. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: So, today, do feel like you’re sailing smoothly, leaving what happened behind you? Does the new deal with Disticor make you feel as though you’re finally in a safe end?

Jo Packham: I don’t believe in a safe end. I think the world is so fragile and everything we do is so fragile that I’ve got the best gig of all time. When people talk about living the dream, this is it. It’s not easy; I’m working myself to death, but it’s living the dream. But I also know that I could wake up in the morning and Barnes & Noble could go bankrupt and there could be no more distributor for the magazines and we would be done.

So, I never plan on that kind of thing. I enjoy what I have. I used to plan on it in my younger days, but now I’m just very grateful and very thankful for what I have today and I work very hard for it. And if I wake up in the morning and it’s still there, I’m grateful tomorrow too. But I’m 70 years old, so who knows, right? Geez, I could fall down the stairs. (Laughs) It is what it is.

Samir Husni: At those cocktail parties, when you’re sharing your ups and downs, does anyone ever question your sanity because you’re publishing four print magazines with very high cover prices in this digital age?

Jo Packham: Oh, yes. We just started the Disticor partnership last November and I had never met them and they flew out here to meet me. We had dinner in my studio and I had a chef here. We cooked a private dinner for them and they told me that they had just decided to do this. I told them that I didn’t believe in contracts, but my ex-husband said I had to have one and they said that was great. And I asked them how long the contract should be for, and John Lafranier, who is the president of Disticor, said 10 years. And I just started laughing and he said, what the hell? And I said I am 70-years-old, you’ll have an 80-year-old editor in chief. No one wants an 80-year-old editor in chief. (Laughs) So, I told him that we’d start with three years.

But when I tell those stories and I’m at cocktail parties, people do look at me, because all of their lifetime friends in their communities are retired and traveling, doing all of those kinds of things, and I’m working 18 hours per day. And I ask myself whether I could retire and if that would be a good idea, but then I think, no, I’ll do this as long as I can. Just enjoy it. I love my job.

Samir Husni: Why did you decide to publish print? Why not just a blog or a digital magazine?

Jo Packham: I’m a traditional print girl. I was in book publishing for 30 years. When that ended and I got the opportunity to do the magazines; I don’t even go on Instagram. I don’t answer my phone; I hate anything technological. I really love paper and print. I wouldn’t have even considered anything else.

When things got really bad and I lost the first company, I lost my house and everything, I got a job at Starbucks. I was going to work at Starbucks. (Laughs) I thought that was a good alternative; they had really good benefits. And they would send you to school. (Laughs again) But it never even occurred to me to do anything but print.

Samir Husni: You’ve redesigned all of the magazines, you gave them a new fresh look. And you’ve added one new title that you didn’t publish with Stampington before. Tell me about What Women Create.

Jo Packham: When I went to work with Stampington, Kellene (Giloff, founder and president) was extremely generous with me, but even though What Women Create was my brand and my concept, I was still part of the Stampington Group. So, I had to adhere to their guidelines and their aesthetics and what Kellene wanted. And she’s very secure in that and likes that. She would never let me branch out on my own. And I certainly appreciate that. It’s hard to have two brands under one umbrella.

But I’m an idea girl, right? I have a million ideas. And I would present them and Kellene is really conservative and she has 36 of her own magazines, so she didn’t need any more of mine. (Laughs) So, the reason the whole thing happened was because Where Women Cook was just out of her wheelhouse. She’s a craft person, and so she was going to cancel Cook. And even though I am not a foodie, Cook is one of my favorites.

When I got the opportunity to work with Disticor, they told me that I could do whatever I wanted. And I said, really? And they said, sure. So, we started with the three that we knew, but then we were preparing the first issue of “Create” and “What” came up at the table and it’s brilliant. And it’s not a how-to magazine; it’s just a beautiful pictorial anthology of the passion and the inspiration. It’s meant to be the story of the women who create; it’s behind-the-scenes on how they do what they do. It’s not a step-by-step. And it’s such a great partner with “Create.”

“Create” has been on the market for 10 years and I believe that everything has a shelf life. I’m not sure if we haven’t started the shelf life over with the new, reimagined “Create,” so maybe we can start counting again. But I felt like for security, for retirement, if I ever do (Laughs), that I needed something new and fresh, and a different take on it. And I thought “What” was the perfect partner. And I called Disticor on the phone and asked them what they thought about “What.” And they said that I should absolutely do it. So, I did.

Samir Husni: When I flip through the pages of the four titles, the relaunched and the new one, I can see you in the pages of the magazines. Your passion, your craft, your touch, is there. If I give you a magic wand that could make the pages come to life and you strike the magazines with it, and suddenly a human being appears. Will that be you?

Jo Packham: I hope so. I would hope so. I would hope that I embody the passion and inspiration of all of us, that I’m a good representative and I will be cognizant of who they are and what they do and never take advantage of them. And always represent them in the best way. So, I would hope so.

Samir Husni: Is there anything that scares you with this new venture?

Jo Packham: (Laughs) Everything scares me. I have these constant panic attacks, because I feel responsible. People have trusted me with their stories. Once, somebody said to me, all we do is produce junk mail because they buy our magazines and then they throw them away. And I said that’s not what I do. I give these people the opportunity to tell their stories in their own words, the way they want, without edits. We don’t change it; we don’t give any guidelines. It is their opportunity to have a magazine for just a minute to tell the world what they want the world to know.

So, I feel responsible for that. And that scares me because they’re trusting me with their dreams and their heartaches and their pasts. I think that’s why the magazines are so personal, because they write their own stories, I don’t have editors. We do correct spelling, because I think that’s important. People write the way they speak. I speak in long runoff sentences and that’s the way I write. And I don’t want some editor making it sound like copy that you can find in any issue of the magazine that’s edited. I want everyone to be totally different. It’s like you’re sitting at the kitchen table learning about somebody new. And if they speak in broken English, they should write in broken English. That way we really know who they are and they really have the opportunity to tell their story.

Samir Husni: Do you feel that you’re publishing inexpensive books, but expensive magazines? Your magazines look and feel like a book, but inexpensive compared to hardbacks, but expensive compared to magazines.

Jo Packham: They are, and it’s because we don’t sell advertising. We’re a newsstand model, so we have to make our money somewhere and printing is more expensive, photographers are more expensive, and shipping them is crazy. When I ship one magazine to Europe it’s $27 and some cents. So, it’s not that we’re making more money on the backend on this end, it’s just that we’re producing a really beautiful, collectible piece. Because when they’re not done in seasons and they don’t do holidays, it’s not that you ever throw them away, unless you’re cleaning out your closet. You can save them as an inspiring piece of literature to go to just like a book.

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?

Jo Packham: You would find me going through magazines. (Laughs) Right now on my dining room table I probably have 50 of the latest magazines from all over the world, trying to see who is doing what and what I love. So, you would definitely find me reading magazines.

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

Jo Packham: That I gave people the opportunity to do something that they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do otherwise.

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

Jo Packham: (Laughs) Being 70. I have all of these thoughts: what if I can’t remember anymore, or what if I can’t go up the stairs anymore. That scares me to death.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Getting In Shape (The Magazine): An Evolution That Began By Asking The Question Of The 37-Year-Old Brand: If Shape Was Launching Today, What Would It Look Like? The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Elizabeth Goodman-Artis, Editor In Chief, Shape Magazine…

April 12, 2018

“I felt like we could add more real women and their experiences. I really wanted to make it a more well-rounded experience. And the tagline we’re using is “Living the well-lived life,” something that’s a little more holistic and well-rounded, because we know that our audience is really engaged in this healthy, active lifestyle. And that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. And so, we wanted to give a more well-rounded mix and really get a sense of the experiences that women are having living this lifestyle. We wanted to kind of bubble that up in the magazine some more.” Elizabeth Goodman-Artis…

“I think the print magazine is the place where you can sit back, lean-in, and get excited about the content. And in the digital iterations, whether you’re desktop or mobile, however you’re interacting, that becomes more transactional, and I mean that in a good way. It’s very specific information, like guidance. And I think it appeals to different parts of your brain and different needs in the moment.” Elizabeth Goodman-Artis…

Shape Magazine has been a staple in the health and fitness magazine realm for 37 years. It has been the go-to source for women who lead an active lifestyle, focusing on the magazine’s five pillars of coverage, which according to Elizabeth Goodman-Artis, editor in chief of the brand is: beauty, fitness, health, style and nutrition.

With the May issue, the legacy brand has undergone what Elizabeth calls an evolution, rather than a reimagining. She said there has been a massive cultural shift that is redefining
what healthy living means to women today. And in her May editor’s letter, she shares with her readers the mission of this evolution. Here’s an excerpt:

“My mission for Shape is to reflect this shift—really reflect it. What you’ll see in the pages of this issue is the result of a pivotal moment in our evolution, one that started when I asked myself this question: If Shape was launching today, what would it look like? To start, it would have more voices and viewpoints from inspiring people who are living this well-lived life—distinctive women from diverse backgrounds, all with unique stories to tell and a dedication to living with authentic, health-focused style. The innovations don’t stop there.”

The legacy brand has expanded and evolved with a mix of content, as well as an elevated design aesthetic. Elizabeth adds that the redesign also offers a shift in tonality and features more diverse voices, including influencer and real women. Overall, the new Shape focuses on content for the holistic, healthy lifestyle of today’s woman: beauty and style advice that adapts to her busy life; ways to discover the joys of healthy and delicious eating; relatable tips for health and relationships; and innovative ways to keep her body strong and fit.

And Mr. Magazine is very happy with the evolution. Shape is as “shapely” as ever, with a few new curves added. So, join Mr. Magazine™ as we get into Shape with Elizabeth Goodman-Artis, editor in chief.

But first the sound-bites:

On Shape magazine’s redesign/reinvention after 37 years: I wouldn’t say that we reinvented it at all. I would say that we’ve evolved it. Honestly, what really precipitated this was I got a new, amazing creative director, he started in August, and he wanted to put his stamp on it and we felt like it was time for a design upgrade. So, it started with that. And I also felt that there were things that we were missing. We could add more voices; I felt like we could add more real women and their experiences. I really wanted to make it a more well-rounded experience. And the tagline we’re using is “Living the well-lived life,” something that’s a little more holistic and well-rounded, because we know that our audience is really engaged in this healthy, active lifestyle.

On whether the more holistic and healthy focus of the new redesign puts Shape in a different competitive set: It’s the same, absolutely the same. Again, it’s an evolution, I wouldn’t say that we’ve really changed the DNA of the brand at all. One of the things that I wanted to do was change the voice and the tonality a little bit, just to make it feel more modern. I think a good example is the way the magazine was packaged, like the actual names of the sections before, things like, Eat Right, Get Fit. They’re clear, they say it, they make sense, they’re direct, but I feel like they’re a little bit of a command to perform. And I wanted to change that tonality a little bit, and when you go through the May issue you’ll see that the sections all start with the verb “to be.” And that was very deliberate, because I wanted to invite the readers “to be” in the moment, to experience the content, and really make it their own.

On whether she thinks the audience has changed or evolved in that the way they interact with a print magazine is different today than maybe 10 years ago: Sure, absolutely. I think a print magazine is more of a lean-back and engaged experience, rather than a servicey, transactional experience. A good example is the way we’re doing fitness content now. One of the things that we’ve seen, in terms of digital, is that over one million readers have joined our video challenges in the last year. Our visitors to shape.com workout content has risen exponentially. And that’s your very functional fitness, your very transactional fitness, here’s exactly how you do this workout. And I think that’s the way audiences are engaging with that kind of content. They’re doing it on their phones. So, I felt like with the fitness content in the magazine, it was really important to create content that was more about experience and the science of exercise and the storytelling. You can lean back into it and get inspired and get excited about this kind of content.

On how her job as editor in chief has changed over the years: In terms of actual day-to-day workflow, I think we’re more efficient than we used to be. We have to be. Obviously, the industry is changing, the media world is changing; we all know what’s going on and I think there’s a level of focus that’s required today. Thinking back to 25 years ago, or whenever I started at Glamour magazine, it was 1993, there were a lot more people and we just don’t have those kinds of staff anymore, because it’s not efficient nor cost-effective. So, I think we have to be just really focused.

On what content means to her today: (Laughs) What a good question. I could go into a lot of different rabbit-holes. I think content is changing all of the time. It’s impossible to immediately summarize that. I think it depends on who you are, what you want and what you’re looking for. An audience who’s interested in healthy, active living wants information, but they also want connectivity and motivation. And they’ll get that with all of the new voices and points of view that we’re adding. I think that’s really important. Whatever your goals are, and those are personal to you, it takes a lot of mental strength and courage to live this lifestyle. So, I think that’s one of the biggest changes I’ve seen and one I wanted to bring to the magazine, more of that emotion, into everything that we do.

On if that’s the reason for the more holistic approach Shape is now taking: Sure, that’s one. There were many reasons. Honestly, what was great about what we did with Shape, the magazine before was great, and this is just an evolution. And there wasn’t pressure to do it. It was just that we felt and I felt it was time for it, for many different reasons. And as I said, I really wanted to equalize the content distribution.

On how she can make the content of the magazine more of an emotional experience: I’ll give you an example. Our new fitness section is called “Be Strong and Fit,” and we’re actually debuting a new column that we just didn’t have room for in the May issue because it was so packed with amazing new content, and also not for nothing, it was content that we thought was really working well, so we morphed some columns. The DNA is still Shape Magazine, it’s really about an evolution. It’s not a reimagining at all. But we’re adding a new column that I’m excited about called “Everyday Athletes.” What I wanted to do with this was really showcase real women who have gone out and they’ve accomplished something physical across the spectrum.

On how she sees the future mix of print and digital for Shape: Well, it’s what I’ve said already, that I think the print magazine is the place where you can sit back, lean-in, and get excited about the content. And in the digital iterations, whether you’re desktop or mobile, however you’re interacting, that becomes more transactional, and I mean that in a good way. It’s very specific information, like guidance. And I think it appeals to different parts of your brain and different needs in the moment.

On whether she expects editors to practice what they preach: I can’t speak for other editors. This is how I run the magazine and it’s my point of view. I am very practical. (Laughs) I think about the brand as a whole and work closely with our amazing digital director, Amanda Wolfe. And it’s really collaborative and I’m brainstorming with my really talented staff about what all of this means today. Getting into the media is the message kind of thing, which shows my journalism school experience studying Marshall McLuhan. (Laughs) I think it’s just being clear and focused about it. Like, how do magazines make sense in people’s lives today? And how are they using the print magazine iteration as opposed to the digital arms? It’s kind of being logical.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: She just wants to help.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: Right now you’d find me very unhappy because I’m living in a rental apartment while my house is being renovated. And it’s dragging on and I’m really sick of the apartment, but once I’m back in my house and happier, you’d probably find me cooking. I love to cook. I find it really relaxing and I’m really into trying new recipes. And I’m very excited about the new kitchen I will hopefully have in the next few months. So, chopping, and focusing on cooking gets me out of the day and it focuses my attention. So, you’d find me doing that and hanging out with my husband and my cats. I don’t have kids, I have cats. That’s how I unwind.

On what keeps her up at night: Honestly, I’m not somebody who wakes up a lot and tosses and turns and worries too much, because there is nothing you can do about anything in life in the middle of the night. I do have some pretty good techniques. Usually breathing techniques or meditative techniques to help me go back to sleep. But what keeps me up at night is what keeps anybody up, the unknown. It’s very general; I wouldn’t say there is anything specific. And nothing specific about media and state of things, because I feel like we’re all just kind of watching the evolution and I want to be along for the ride. I’m somebody who is very flexible and I try to pivot and go with the flow.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Elizabeth Goodman-Artis, editor in chief, Shape magazine.

Samir Husni: Shape is going to be bold, I hear.

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: Yes, we’re going to be bold.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the timing of this redesign. After 37 years, why now and why did you decide to reinvent Shape magazine?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: I wouldn’t say that we reinvented it at all. I would say that we’ve evolved it. Honestly, what really precipitated this was I got a new, amazing creative director, he started in August, and he wanted to put his stamp on it and we felt like it was time for a design upgrade. So, it started with that.

But honestly, I felt like it was time to redistribute our content in the sense that we weren’t giving the main five pillars of the things that we always cover, which is beauty, fitness, health, style and nutrition, we weren’t giving them all equal weight. There was too much emphasis in some places and not enough in the others. And I really wanted to just try and equalize the content in the magazine.

And I also felt that there were things that we were missing. We could add more voices; I felt like we could add more real women and their experiences. I really wanted to make it a more well-rounded experience. And the tagline we’re using is “Living the well-lived life,” something that’s a little more holistic and well-rounded, because we know that our audience is really engaged in this healthy, active lifestyle. And that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. And so, we wanted to give a more well-rounded mix and really get a sense of the experiences that women are having living this lifestyle. We wanted to kind of bubble that up in the magazine some more.

Samir Husni: That combination of the holistic and healthy lifestyle, does it put you in a different competitive set or it’s the same?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: It’s the same, absolutely the same. Again, it’s an evolution, I wouldn’t say that we’ve really changed the DNA of the brand at all. One of the things that I wanted to do was change the voice and the tonality a little bit, just to make it feel more modern. I think a good example is the way the magazine was packaged, like the actual names of the sections before, things like, Eat Right, Get Fit. They’re clear, they say it, they make sense, they’re direct, but I feel like they’re a little bit of a command to perform.

And I wanted to change that tonality a little bit, and when you go through the May issue you’ll see that the sections all start with the verb “to be.” And that was very deliberate, because I wanted to invite the readers “to be” in the moment, to experience the content, and really make it their own. I don’t want to dictate to our audience, but I want to give them the tools and ideas and information they need to craft their own well-lived life.

Samir Husni: You’ve started all the sections with “to be,” to be healthy, to be food-curious, to be fit, etc. Do you think the audience has changed or evolved in that the way they interact with a print magazine is different today than maybe 10 years ago?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: Sure, absolutely. I think a print magazine is more of a lean-back and engaged experience, rather than a servicey, transactional experience. A good example is the way we’re doing fitness content now. One of the things that we’ve seen, in terms of digital, is that over one million readers have joined our video challenges in the last year. Our visitors to shape.com workout content has risen exponentially. And that’s your very functional fitness, your very transactional fitness, here’s exactly how you do this workout. And I think that’s the way audiences are engaging with that kind of content. They’re doing it on their phones.

So, I felt like with the fitness content in the magazine, it was really important to create content that was more about experience and the science of exercise and the storytelling. You can lean back into it and get inspired and get excited about this kind of content. And then you can go to shape.com and get your nuts and bolts. I think it’s really about engaging with this content that’s all about healthy living, and getting excited about it. And really leaning into it, and then you can go to shape.com and get more specific, functional workouts and content.

Samir Husni: You’ve been in the magazine media business for 20 years, give or take. How do you feel things have changed over the years? Is life easier for you now as an editor in chief or is it more complicated? Tell me about the changes based on your experience.

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: In terms of actual day-to-day workflow, I think we’re more efficient than we used to be. We have to be. Obviously, the industry is changing, the media world is changing; we all know what’s going on and I think there’s a level of focus that’s required today. Thinking back to 25 years ago, or whenever I started at Glamour magazine, it was 1993, there were a lot more people and we just don’t have those kinds of staff anymore, because it’s not efficient nor cost-effective. So, I think we have to be just really focused.

There isn’t quite the time to spend days and weeks on one story, you have to move at a faster pace. Everybody is doing that, so I think that’s the biggest change. As an editor in chief, I would say that I owe it to my staff to make quick decisions and to have a clear vision for what I want, because we don’t have the time and the luxury to throw a lot of things at the wall and see what sticks.

I think with this evolution, I had a very clear vision, along with my creative director and my executive editor, of what we wanted this to look like. And then we gave the staff the blueprint and they were really excited about it. So, it was a very efficient, very focused process.

This summer we decided, when Noah (Dreier) came on, my creative director, we talked a lot about what we wanted to do with the brand and what we wanted it to look like. He came with so many great ideas. And speaking of my staff, I think you’ll see that we sort of beefed up our style content and that’s because we added a new fashion director, Brooke Ely Danielson, and she also came with so many great ideas and just a fresh approach to what style means today. And I was excited to get their ideas in the brand, so that was a big part of it.

Samir Husni: You’ve added the section “What Style Means Today.” My question to you is what does content mean today?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: (Laughs) What a good question. I could go into a lot of different rabbit-holes. I think content is changing all of the time. It’s impossible to immediately summarize that. I think it depends on who you are, what you want and what you’re looking for. An audience who’s interested in healthy, active living wants information, but they also want connectivity and motivation. And they’ll get that with all of the new voices and points of view that we’re adding. I think that’s really important.

Honestly, a good way to talk about the change, in terms of active, healthy living content, is I think it has gone from, in the last 10 or so years, just transactional and informative to more emotional. That’s the biggest sort of change that I’ve seen and wanted to incorporate into Shape now was the sense of emotion of this lifestyle, because it’s a very emotional experience. Whatever your goals are, and those are personal to you, it takes a lot of mental strength and courage to live this lifestyle. So, I think that’s one of the biggest changes I’ve seen and one I wanted to bring to the magazine, more of that emotion, into everything that we do.

Samir Husni: Is that the reason for the holistic approach?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: Sure, that’s one. There were many reasons. Honestly, what was great about what we did with Shape, the magazine before was great, and this is just an evolution. And there wasn’t pressure to do it. It was just that we felt and I felt it was time for it, for many different reasons. And as I said, I really wanted to equalize the content distribution.

A good example is our health section. I felt it was a little marginalized and that we could do more with it. Our audience is really interested in health beyond the numbers they get at their yearly doctor’s visit. This audience is really engaged with making sure of their health and I wanted to give that section a little more love. So, it was really about distributing our efforts equally among our five content pillars.

Samir Husni: As you move forward into the new evolution, and of course, you created the video series and the Shape Challenge that really brought a lot of audience experiences, I’m very intrigued by what you said about focusing on the more emotional link with the content. How can you make the content of the magazine more of an emotional experience, rather than the functional experience?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: I’ll give you an example. Our new fitness section is called “Be Strong and Fit,” and we’re actually debuting a new column that we just didn’t have room for in the May issue because it was so packed with amazing new content, and also not for nothing, it was content that we thought was really working well, so we morphed some columns. The DNA is still Shape Magazine, it’s really about an evolution. It’s not a reimagining at all.

But we’re adding a new column that I’m excited about called “Everyday Athletes.” What I wanted to do with this was really showcase real women who have gone out and they’ve accomplished something physical across the spectrum. So, the example I use is, I go to a gym called CrossFit South Brooklyn, I do CrossFit. And CrossFit is very, very hard. (Laughs) But what I love about it, the terminology that they use is, you can scale it. So, if you can’t do 50 pushups, do two. If you can’t do two, hold a plank for thirty seconds. At any skill level, you can do this kind of exercise.

One of the most inspiring things I’ve seen is, one of the trainers that I work with frequently, her name is Jess Fox, and one of her goals was to do a muscle-up, and that’s a very, very hard move. It’s like gymnastics, it requires hanging onto some rings, pulling yourself up and pushing upward until your arms are straight, so it requires a lot of strength. This was a goal she had for a long time and she worked at it in a myriad of ways. And now she can do it. I want to hear her story. So, in 200 words, what that felt like and kind of get inside her journey.

Likewise, I’d like to hear from a woman who tried her very first hot yoga class. Or her very first Pilates class, or her very first walking marathon, or triathlon. Athletic feats across the spectrum, but I want to get inside what that felt like. What the motivation, what they did, and how it felt on the other side. That’s what I mean by “Everyday Athletes.” Women across the spectrum of skill levels, abilities, and what motivated them and what it felt like. So, I think that’s a really good example of how, instead of telling you how to do a muscle-up, certainly it’s a very hard move and I wouldn’t recommend it to many people (Laughs), but if that’s your goal, that’s great. There are certainly a series of steps that you can take to learn how to do this move. You can break it down into the technical components of it, fine, that’s one way to approach it. But I also want to know what it feels like inside to have accomplished that. So, that’s a column that I’m really excited about. And it’s coming out in the June issue. I think that nicely encompasses what I mean by emotion and motivation, and the difference between that and the transactional experience.

Samir Husni: As you look into the future, and at the fact that publishers are making their print components “printier” and their brands “brandier,” and everyone is becoming Print Proud and Digital Smart, how do you see that combination of print and digital? People don’t talk anymore about Shape magazine, they talk about Shape the brand.

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: Yes, and it is a brand.

Samir Husni: So, how do you see that future mix?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: Well, it’s what I’ve said already, that I think the print magazine is the place where you can sit back, lean-in, and get excited about the content. And in the digital iterations, whether you’re desktop or mobile, however you’re interacting, that becomes more transactional, and I mean that in a good way. It’s very specific information, like guidance. And I think it appeals to different parts of your brain and different needs in the moment.

In terms of fitness content, and I don’t think anybody would argue with me, that I just don’t think looking at a magazine and getting directions on how to do a specific move, nobody is taking magazines to the gym to do that anymore. They’re using their phones. If they want to know exactly how to a 10-minute AMRAP workout, which means as many rounds as possible, or an ab challenge, it doesn’t make sense to waste pages in a magazine detailing line by line exactly how to do that. You’re going to get that online. So, that’s the big difference I see, especially with this brand.

Samir Husni: You’re practicing what you preach and you’re speaking from experience. Do you expect editors nowadays to practice what they preach or just sometimes?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: I can’t speak for other editors. This is how I run the magazine and it’s my point of view. I am very practical. (Laughs) I think about the brand as a whole and work closely with our amazing digital director, Amanda Wolfe. And it’s really collaborative and I’m brainstorming with my really talented staff about what all of this means today. Getting into the media is the message kind of thing, which shows my journalism school experience studying Marshall McLuhan. (Laughs) I think it’s just being clear and focused about it. Like, how do magazines make sense in people’s lives today? And how are they using the print magazine iteration as opposed to the digital arms? It’s kind of being logical.

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

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: She just wants to help.

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?

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: Right now you’d find me very unhappy because I’m living in a rental apartment while my house is being renovated. And it’s dragging on and I’m really sick of the apartment, but once I’m back in my house and happier, you’d probably find me cooking. I love to cook. I find it really relaxing and I’m really into trying new recipes. And I’m very excited about the new kitchen I will hopefully have in the next few months. So, chopping, and focusing on cooking gets me out of the day and it focuses my attention. So, you’d find me doing that and hanging out with my husband and my cats. I don’t have kids, I have cats. That’s how I unwind.

Usually we pick one Netflix show to watch a night. I don’t like watching endless hours of TV, and flipping around. I like to have a plan for the night and I try to get to bed at a reasonable hour. It’s not that exciting. (Laughs)

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

Elizabeth Goodman-Artis: Honestly, I’m not somebody who wakes up a lot and tosses and turns and worries too much, because there is nothing you can do about anything in life in the middle of the night. I do have some pretty good techniques. Usually breathing techniques or meditative techniques to help me go back to sleep. But what keeps me up at night is what keeps anybody up, the unknown. It’s very general; I wouldn’t say there is anything specific. And nothing specific about media and state of things, because I feel like we’re all just kind of watching the evolution and I want to be along for the ride. I’m somebody who is very flexible and I try to pivot and go with the flow.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

W Magazine: Putting The Magic Back In Magazines – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Stefano Tonchi, Editor In Chief, W Magazine…

March 26, 2018

“I think for the generation before our parents, receiving magazines was a joy. People could not wait to get it, to have it, to read it; to own it.” Stefano Tonchi…

“There was joy because it was their way of knowing what was going on. And it was this fantastic, magic object. So, let’s put back the magic in magazines.” Stefano Tonchi…

“Digital is not everything. Digital is not going to kill or be a substitute for magazines. But magazines have to find a different way to be perceived and distributed.” Stefano Tonchi…

There is no denying that W magazine is a magical thing. The photography is brilliant and the typography and oversized format draws it into that world of collectibles as easily as a Fabergé egg would entice a collector of Romanov family history. But with the latest redesign and new presentation efforts propelled forward by the magazine’s editor in chief, Stefano Tonchi, the publication has become fine art, with each issue its own unique thematic piece.

I spoke with Stefano recently for a charming conversation about all of the changes that have been implemented at W to give the magazine an even more “keep it forever” flavor. Stefano is a man as passionate about his brand as anyone I have ever talked to. From the collector’s box that was designed to hold all of 2018’s issues, to the iconic broadsheet print format that he resurrected for special moments throughout the year, such as the “Best Performances” edition that was distributed during Golden Globes week, W magazine is on the cutting edge of what print today needs to be to stay innovative, relevant and addictive in this digital age we live in.

And as Stefano said himself, “Digital is not everything. Digital is not going to kill or be a substitute for magazines. But magazines have to find a different way to be perceived and distributed.”

Mr. Magazine™ couldn’t have said it better himself.

And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Stefano Tonchi, editor in chief, W magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On how W is making print printier: For print, we said let’s slow down and really go deeply into the idea of collectible. Making print collectible. So, we got a better paper stock, we went to 150 grams, which is quite an investment. And we changed the cover stock, I added this glossy finishing for the logo and part of the covers. And we redesigned the magazine completely, so you saw the two issues; they’re really like thematic. We call them volumes because we don’t want to be tied to the article calendar, because there is no reason anymore for that. I felt that when you do print, you don’t need any more to be monthly or bimonthly, or whatever is the frequency, you have to be out when you have an interesting point of view. And also you need an interesting size, because you don’t want to see this magazine as like a little pamphlet. (Laughs) It’s kind of like motivating the audience. You want something that is substantial. So, we went to this new schedule of eight volumes, so we’re trying, as I said, to act instead of react, so I didn’t look at it as a reduction in the frequency, but really as a change of strategy.

On commissioning a collector’s box for the volumes: The idea was finding out how we could make people understand that they should keep the magazine and collect it. So, we decided we should create a box, and every year we would create a different box with a different artist.

On the collector’s box being sold out: We only created so many in quantity and they went very fast. You know, I think print has not changed in so long that we really need to rethink print. What is a print product? What should it look like? And how do we deliver it to people? If we declare that we’re a premium, luxury product; it has to look like a luxury product. It has to be on nice paper, wrapped and presented in a certain way.

On W’s three D philosophy: discovery, diversity and disruption: Discovery is part of the DNA of the brand. We keep discovering new talent; we put the best and most talented people on our covers and give them their first exposure. Greta Gerwig was one of our first covers and she was so thankful that she collaborated with us doing the kind of movie-stills project we did. And diversity, again, that is something that we have pursued. Something W was doing even before my time here. I think I added maybe some layers to it. And also diversity has become such an important part of today’s conversation.

On a luxury product such as W magazine having diversity as one of its cornerstones: I think it’s a responsibility. You said luxury; I think luxury products more and more need to have an added value. You buy something because it means something, it’s not just an object. You’re buying also what that company stands for. And because your customers are educated, they do understand that. They like, say buying from a company that is behind a museum or a political statement or will spend that kind of money in promoting causes. It becomes part of really the idea of luxury, that sense of responsibility.

On the third D – disruption: Disruption is doing things like the collector’s box, the print; changing the frequency completely or the ideal frequency, I would call that disruption. (Laughs) And to kind of surprise and be very unconventional. Look at the way we’ve been treating the movie industry in our Golden Globe coverage. Last year, we had two women kissing, two guys embracing; we created all of these ideas of couples and it was all about embracing diversity, and they were more than just pretty pictures. There was always a bit of an agenda or some kind of disruption in celebrity photography or celebrity coverage, in a certain way I think.

On bringing back the broadsheet to W magazine: That was another idea, to go against the current, to take something that is so old and kind of forgotten and say the broadsheet, that’s how the magazine was how W actually started. Between 1971 and 1992, it was just a broadsheet, a supplement to WWD, the lifestyle premium of WWD. So, we felt like again, let’s do something that’s totally different and goes against the current. People are doing so much digital that we said let’s take this content and print it on a broadsheet, the oldest thing possible.

On whether all of the changes have been a walk in a rose garden for W: I think we are living in a very difficult time of transition. All publishing companies are suffering so much. And for some, change has come very fast and late. But I think everybody is going through what people used to call “growing pains,” but are now “changing pains,” because we know we need to change, but nobody knows exactly how.

On whether this is the best of times for him: This has been an interesting New Year, because I’m very proud of what W is now. When I arrived six years ago, maybe there were too many people and too much waste, but today we are really small, and it’s nice to work with a small group of people who really feel and love the product. I think we all feel like we love doing the W that we’re putting out. We’re proud of it and we feel like it is what we want it to be. We feel very lucky that we can put out a magazine that still represents our vision.

On anything he’d like to add: What I wish is that we will be able to really find a new way to distribute print magazines. I think we need to, altogether as an industry, understand that the world has changed, there are no more newsstands; a lot of the things cannot be measured the way that they used to be. At the same time, digital is not everything. Digital is not going to kill or be a substitute for magazines. But magazines have to find a different way to be perceived and distributed.

On what keeps him up at night: I sleep very good. I have had some difficult moments, because business is not easy, but I’m not worried about how to do the magazine; I’m more concerned with what to put in the magazine. How to find this new way to present the idea of magazines? I think it’s more of what is a magazine today; that’s the question we have to answer.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Stefano Tonchi, editor in chief, W magazine.

Samir Husni: First of all, congratulations on winning an Ellie award.

Stefano Tonchi: Thank you, that was a nice surprise.

Samir Husni: You and I have talked in the past about how W magazine is making print “printier.”

Stefano Tonchi: Yes, and what we talked about one year ago is what we are delivering. Last summer, I really thought a lot about how to make things happen, and the company really wanted a specific plan. And the plan became to act and not just react. So, with digital, we have to be faster, and we went with social first, and we’re doing so much with our Instagram. Instagram is really the language that W uses the most, because out of all the social media it is the one that’s most visual. And we’re a visual magazine and I think about Instagram as sort of our daily magazine.

We just put out something that’s very fun that I would love for you to look at; it’s like a horoscope. There are 12 of them, but very sophisticated. It’s a way to show fashion and beauty in a different way for a generation who gets their magazines basically straight from the phone.

We’re also launching something new called “Instazine” that is almost like an extension of Instagram stories, so it’s more about storytelling; more like creating content from the images, because what I find very shortcoming and frustrating, coming from print and making magazines, is that on digital you use and you leave images without the content around them. There is very little storytelling in a certain way. And that’s what we do with magazines, we tell stories and we put a story next to another story and that’s how you build your identity as a publication. A lot of what is on digital gets used as a single item and sometimes you don’t even know where it comes from or who paid for it.

So, with digital, it’s fast, fast, fast. And for print, we said let’s slow down and really go deeply into the idea of collectible. Making print collectible. So, we got a better paper stock, we went to 150 grams, which is quite an investment. And we changed the cover stock, I added this glossy finishing for the logo and part of the covers.

And we redesigned the magazine completely, so you saw the two issues; they’re really like thematic. We call them volumes because we don’t want to be tied to the article calendar, because there is no reason anymore for that. We are all kind of daily magazines, through Instagram, through the social media and the website. You are producing news every day. That’s what I think every magazine brand is today, a daily.

So, I felt that when you do print, you don’t need any more to be monthly or bimonthly, or whatever is the frequency, you have to be out when you have an interesting point of view. And also you need an interesting size, because you don’t want to see this magazine as like a little pamphlet. (Laughs) It’s kind of like motivating the audience. You want something that is substantial. So, we went to this new schedule of eight volumes, so we’re trying, as I said, to act instead of react, so I didn’t look at it as a reduction in the frequency, but really as a change of strategy.

Samir Husni: And you believe in this strategy so much that you’ve commissioned a collector’s box.

Stefano Tonchi: Yes, because the idea was finding out how we could make people understand that they should keep the magazine and collect it. So, we decided we should create a box, and every year we would create a different box with a different artist. The first person who came to mind was Barbara Kruger and she didn’t have time then, but she will do it later, because I love Barbara. She did my first cover here at W, one of the first covers, the one with Kim Kardashian; the all about “me” cover, before the selfie. She was ahead of the times.

So, when Barbara couldn’t do it, we asked Ugo Rondinone and he did this beautiful box, and we’re trying to make the same eight stripes of his target painting.

Samir Husni: But the box is sold out, I understand.

Stefano Tonchi: Yes, because we only created so many in quantity and they went very fast. You know, I think print has not changed in so long that we really need to rethink print. What is a print product? What should it look like? And how do we deliver it to people? If we declare that we’re a premium, luxury product; it has to look like a luxury product. It has to be on nice paper, wrapped and presented in a certain way.

What would you think if you got home and on your doorstep there was this skinny, cheap-papered, in a plastic bag magazine? How could you call that a luxury product? I think magazines should become more expensive when you want them and also be delivered the way they do with the Net-A-Porter product. I think for the generation before our parents, receiving magazines was a joy. People could not wait to get it, to have it, to read it; to own it.

Samir Husni: You’ve built your entire W philosophy now around the three D’s: discovery, diversity and disruption.

Stefano Tonchi: Exactly.

Samir Husni: Can we talk about those three D’s?

Stefano Tonchi: Sure. Discovery is part of the DNA of the brand. We keep discovering new talent; we put the best and most talented people on our covers and give them their first exposure. Greta Gerwig was one of our first covers and she was so thankful that she collaborated with us doing the kind of movie-stills project we did.

We also discover talented photographers. We have an issue, Volume Three, that is, basically, cover to cover, all about discovery. A lot of new photographers; Ethan James Green, we were the first time that he shot covers, he did a man and a woman for the cover, just a lot of new people. And really discovering stories, that’s part of what we do.

And I’m lucky enough that the magazine can take many more risks than other publications, because it is our audience who expects to be surprised somehow. And they can deal with surprises; they come to W for discoveries. I think if you’re more of a mainstream publication, it’s more difficult.

And diversity, again, that is something that we have pursued. Something W was doing even before my time here. I think I added maybe some layers to it. And also diversity has become such an important part of today’s conversation. And the next issue, Volume Three, it’s all about it, because it’s our dual-gender issue. This year in particular, it’s all about life gender fluidity and bringing this new idea of gender without stereotypes to the forefront, that’s what it is. It’s not even about sexual orientation; it’s really about taking down stereotypes.

Samir Husni: When people hear the word luxury, it’s rare that the word diversity comes next. It’s intriguing enough that a luxury magazine such as W has diversity as one of its cornerstones.

Stefano Tonchi: I think it’s a responsibility. You said luxury; I think luxury products more and more need to have an added value. You buy something because it means something, it’s not just an object. You’re buying also what that company stands for. And because your customers are educated, they do understand that. They like, say buying from a company that is behind a museum or a political statement or will spend that kind of money in promoting causes. It becomes part of really the idea of luxury, that sense of responsibility.

And the customers look for that and they notice it. When you’re there and you’re trying to decide whether to buy this bag or that bag and both are luxury products, I think people take into consideration whether the company is actively responsible or not, or goes along with their principals about a subject, such as sustainability. Or their principals on gender equality or the company has been investing so much in women’s rights. Or the company is behind great artistic commitments, in terms of what they’re associated with. So, then what you buy is associated with those causes. With a magazine, you kind of have to take a position, because your readers want to associate with the causes that you’re behind.

Samir Husni: And you’re third D, disruption?

Stefano Tonchi: Disruption is doing things like the collector’s box, the print; changing the frequency completely or the ideal frequency, I would call that disruption. (Laughs) And to kind of surprise and be very unconventional. Look at the way we’ve been treating the movie industry in our Golden Globe coverage. Last year, we had two women kissing, two guys embracing; we created all of these ideas of couples and it was all about embracing diversity, and they were more than just pretty pictures. There was always a bit of an agenda or some kind of disruption in celebrity photography or celebrity coverage, in a certain way I think.

When you call in some film director to work with, to create some fashion portfolios, it’s innovation; it is rapture, I think. When you ask an artist to do a cover or to collaborate with a celebrity to make something special. To me, that’s disruption, because it breaks the way things have been done so far.

Samir Husni: Also, part of that disruption, this year at the Golden Globes, you brought back the broadsheet W.

Stefano Tonchi: That was another idea, to go against the current, to take something that is so old and kind of forgotten and say the broadsheet, that’s how the magazine was how W actually started. Between 1971 and 1992, it was just a broadsheet, a supplement to WWD, the lifestyle premium of WWD. So, we felt like again, let’s do something that’s totally different and goes against the current. People are doing so much digital that we said let’s take this content and print it on a broadsheet, the oldest thing possible.

Samir Husni: Has all of this been a walk in a rose garden for you? Everything you’re telling me, I can tell you are very passionate about.

Stefano Tonchi: I think we are living in a very difficult time of transition. All publishing companies are suffering so much. And for some, change has come very fast and late. But I think everybody is going through what people used to call “growing pains,” but are now “changing pains,” because we know we need to change, but nobody knows exactly how.

I have gotten a lot of support from the executives here at Condé Nast, like Bob (Sauerberg), and Anna (Wintour) have been very supportive. I think they were very impressed because we try and deliver what we talk about. We deliver it financially, that’s important, but we also deliver it as a product. Each issue should have some reason to be collected, every issue so far has its own specific graphic and photography identity, and there’s a common idea that runs through the issue. So, they’re unique products in that sense. And that’s what makes them collectible.

The first issue was about the movie industry in a certain way and about fashion. And there was also this idea of handcraft, all of the typography in the well was handwritten. So, there was this real touchy and feely aspect. Like the touch of a human hand, it was really a message that I wanted to put in that issue.

The second issue had this idea of collaboration, where we were inspired by movie posters and the three covers became like three movie posters. Every single story had an opening that was a movie poster.

Volume Three is about identity and we were inspired very much by ID cards, but the design and the graphic design of the issue is about the idea of ID tags. Almost like stickers that you wear to say who you are, because it is about gender identity.

We think about the issues almost like books, in a certain way. And we try to tell stories that have a little bit more of a reason to be preserved and told. They don’t have an expiration date.

Samir Husni: Between the Instazine and W, Instagram and all of your travels, is this the best of times for Stefano?

Stefano Tonchi: This has been an interesting New Year, because I’m very proud of what W is now. When I arrived six years ago, maybe there were too many people and too much waste, but today we are really small, and it’s nice to work with a small group of people who really feel and love the product. I think we all feel like we love doing the W that we’re putting out. We’re proud of it and we feel like it is what we want it to be. We feel very lucky that we can put out a magazine that still represents our vision.

Samir Husni: And it’s well-executed and gorgeous.

Stefano Tonchi: Thank you. I know you see a lot of them. And you read a lot of them. We don’t pretend to be The New Yorker or anything else, but I think we do well with our own mission.

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

Stefano Tonchi: What I wish is that we will be able to really find a new way to distribute print magazines. I think we need to, altogether as an industry, understand that the world has changed, there are no more newsstands; a lot of the things cannot be measured the way that they used to be. At the same time, digital is not everything. Digital is not going to kill or be a substitute for magazines. But magazines have to find a different way to be perceived and distributed. And we have to help. The box is kind of a way to say, let’s produce things that can go into the box. Let’s produce things that you want to keep. That’s the idea.

Samir Husni: And as you said earlier, when our parents would receive magazines in the mail, it was a joy and there was value.

Stefano Tonchi: Yes, there was joy because it was their way of knowing what was going on. And it was this fantastic, magic object. So, let’s put back the magic in magazines.

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

Stefano Tonchi: I sleep very good. I have had some difficult moments, because business is not easy, but I’m not worried about how to do the magazine; I’m more concerned with what to put in the magazine. How to find this new way to present the idea of magazines? I think it’s more of what is a magazine today; that’s the question we have to answer.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Food & Wine Magazine: Celebrating 40 Years With A Fresh New Approach To The Deliciously Appetizing Content – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Hunter Lewis, Editor In Chief…

March 1, 2018

“I think you create for audience first and platform first, so the intention for this issue was to celebrate print for print’s sake, and to celebrate how print as a medium can frame photography. So, absolutely, this is a celebration of print and we’ll continue to embrace and celebrate print as this year evolves. In this age of multiplatform brands, you have to honor print and you have to celebrate print, because it is very much the opposite of Google. When people are typing in a recipe or an ingredient they’re looking for, they’re trying to solve a problem. When people are coming to print, sure, they’re looking for dinner tonight, but they’re also looking for points of discovery. And they’re looking for an escape and to lose themselves and to learn. And that’s what a magazine in the print format can do best.” Hunter Lewis…

Food & Wine has been tantalizing us with delicious recipes, decadently robust wines, cooking tips, restaurant reviews, and some of the best chefs around and those that are up and coming, for 40 years now. And with its 40th anniversary this year, Editor in Chief, Hunter Lewis, has a few delicacies up his sleeve when it comes to a fresh new approach for the legacy brand and for all of us eaters and drinkers out here who love the magazine and the brand.

I spoke with Hunter recently and we talked about the March issue, which is dedicated to honoring and celebrating food photography and its creators, and is dubbed “The Photography Issue.” According to Hunter, it’s also a testament to print and how the medium can frame photography beautifully. So, while the March issue celebrates food in all its framed glory, it’s also a celebration of the ink on paper that complements those glorious frames so wonderfully.

Hunter is leading two of the country’s top food magazines, Food & Wine and Cooking Light. And while the two are both epicurean delights, Hunter said they’re also totally different when it comes to focus, which makes his job as editor in chief of both of them a tremendous amount of fun. So, as Hunter gives credit where credit is due, his teams in both New York and in Food & Wine’s newest home, Birmingham, the brand continues to flourish and spread its culinary and wine-wonderful wings. It’s a tale of two cities, maybe, but mostly it’s a tale of one great brand, celebrating 40 years of excellence.

And now, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Hunter Lewis, editor in chief, Food & Wine magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On being the editor in chief of both Cooking Light and now Food & Wine and how he shuffles the two titles: Frankly, I’m still learning how to shuffle the two. Certainly, Cooking Light is now a well-oiled machine and so I’ve been spending a lot more time behind the scenes with Food & Wine over the past few months as we staff up and as we have created the base of our operations here in Birmingham. We have an awesome team here and in New York, so it’s really about learning how to communicate in two cities and how to create and collaborate with the team.

On creating in two different cities and whether that makes for the best of times or the worst of times: No, it’s to our advantage. In regards to our New York City-based talent, I want to iterate strong the team is. When we moved some of our editors and staff and the base of operations to Birmingham, we were strategic about keeping a core group of editors in New York City to maintain our presence there and proximity to the digital edit team, the Food & Wine test kitchen, and the sales, marketing, and events teams. The power of the new Food & Wine is that we’re in two cities. We’ve got our finger on the pulse of the new and the next via New York, and in Birmingham, we shop, cook, and entertain more like our readers. Tapping into both will create a product that better serves sophisticated food and drink consumers everywhere.

On the 40th anniversary of Food & Wine, the March photography issue, and his vision for the title moving forward: We are very fortunate in that this is the 40th anniversary year and we’re going to take advantage of that and celebrate that. And so we’ve keyed this year and this March issue with the 40 photos that changed the way we eat. You’ll see a story in the April/Spring wine issue, which is 40 wines that changed the way we drink, and you’ll see this in the way that we cover recipes in the future. So, we’re playing with the number 40 to create big, impactful lists that can run across both print and Food & Wine dotcom and generate evergreen traffic. So, it’s really about maximizing the moment four decades into this awesome brand.

On whether he can imagine a Food & Wine issue like March’s without a print component: I think you create for audience first and platform first, so the intention for this issue was to celebrate print for print’s sake, and to celebrate how print as a medium can frame photography. So, absolutely, this is a celebration of print and we’ll continue to embrace and celebrate print as this year evolves. In this age of multiplatform brands, you have to honor print and you have to celebrate print, because it is very much the opposite of Google. When people are typing in a recipe or an ingredient they’re looking for, they’re trying to solve a problem. When people are coming to print, sure, they’re looking for dinner tonight, but they’re also looking for points of discovery.

On why he decided to start the 40th celebration with the March photo issue: I think it starts with wanting to do something different and wanting to make a statement to our readers that we’re heading in a different direction, And if you think about the covers in particular, using a cover to make a visual statement in a way that expands beyond your print readership, something that is a branding of the magazine, but also something that is highly social and shareable and that looks really good on Instagram and can be shared to more and more people.

On whether the March issue was a walk in a rose garden to create or there were some challenges along the way: This issue was a total blast, because we threw out a lot of conventions and departments for just this one special issue, and made it more about the process of creation and more about the process of shooting and cooking in the moment. And that’s why Eric Wolfinger was our guest editor for this edition, because he does that very well. And I write about that in the editor’s letter. Eric came down for a week and we all collaborated together and we kicked it off with a meal at my house, where we cooked together and shot some photos.

On whether he thinks food is the new sex when it comes to the fact that food magazines are the largest category in the marketplace today, compared to the 1980s when sex magazines were the largest: Food is certainly very sensual, but I think what it really speaks to is the rise of interest in the American food culture. And how many people out there love food and how many people out there are finding different entry points into cooking dinner or eating out. I think it speaks to the rise of our drink culture. So, it’s absolutely about a national hunger for more information about food.

On the food culture in America today: Look at the ingredients on the American supermarket shelf. Look at the quality of our restaurants. Look at the quality of our chefs, and look at what’s happening on television. Look at Instagram as a medium and how we consume food through social media. There’s been this explosion in the past four years, so it makes sense that there would be more publications, be they digital, social, video-first or print, than ever before.

On the wine culture in America today: I think we’re in a new era. And that’s going to be part of the new Food & Wine, of building on the expertise and the DNA of Food & Wine, of expanding Executive Editor Ray Isle’s role at Food & Wine. And to really capture and to cover and hold a mirror up to this new modern wine culture. We’re moving past the snobbery around wine and realizing that it’s not about how much you know, it’s not about being exclusive; it’s more about bringing wine to the center of the table and building experiences and stories around it.

On a litmus test for either magazine when it comes to content: If you look at it, about 85 percent of Cooking Light is recipes and our mission at Cooking Light is to empower people to cook more at home for good health. So we’re absolutely looking at potential content, and looking at Cooking Light on every platform, through the lens of what healthy means now. When it comes to Food & Wine, we can go as broad or as narrow as we want. The brand name gives us an amazing license to go deep on any topic. And that’s a lot of fun.

On when he has time to edit with everything that’s going on around him with the brand and all its platforms: Well, the editing is the most fun part. You make time for that. That used to be one of the central duties and now it’s gravy. So, you enjoy the gravy when it comes.

On what he enjoys the most as an editor: What I enjoy the most as an editor is recruiting a team, helping to shape the team, finding out what makes people tick, working with them to get the best work out of them, and then shifting into second and third gears with that team and really finding out what we can do together. And I think the words creativity and collaboration, as we figure out what we can do together, is the most important thing. We’re just now shifting into second gear as a team with the new Food & Wine, and I’m really thrilled about what we can do together down the road.

On whether he still hears any negative comments about Food & Wine moving to Birmingham: Not lately. It’s still bubbles up here and there on social media. I spent eight years in New York and some of that was working in restaurants and some of that was working food media. I know what it’s like to create food media in New York. I’ve spent about five and half years here in Birmingham, and I can tell you that it’s an advantage doing this in Birmingham. And I think the naysayers are thinking too provincially about the media bubble that is New York. We have the best of New York at 225 Liberty Street and we have the best in Birmingham.

On his favorite food: My favorite food is whatever is at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning. And thankfully, spring in Alabama is coming and what I’m looking forward to most is strawberries, asparagus, and rhubarb. I just got a call from my fish guy up the road and he said that the shad roe is starting to come in. So, that means spring is coming and that’s what I’m most excited about right now.

On his favorite wine: My favorite wine is probably the one I most recently had for dinner. And that’s one of the things I’m most excited about with Food & Wine; I get a daily education from Ray Isle. My favorite wine this week, because it changes every week, is an Etna Rosso from Valenti Winery, Norma Opera V. Bellini.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Hunter Lewis, editor in chief, Food & Wine magazine.

Samir Husni: You’re now the editor in chief of Food & Wine and the editor in chief of Cooking Light, does that cause any conflict for your brain, deciding what goes where? How do you shuffle the two? Or is it easy because they’re two separate entities?

Hunter Lewis: Frankly, I’m still learning how to shuffle the two. Certainly, Cooking Light is now a well-oiled machine and so I’ve been spending a lot more time behind the scenes with Food & Wine over the past few months as we staff up and as we have created the base of our operations here in Birmingham. We have an awesome team here and in New York, so it’s really about learning how to communicate in two cities and how to create and collaborate with the team.

Samir Husni: Since you mentioned collaborating in two cities, is it like a “Tale of Two Cities” a “Tale of Two Magazines?” Is it the best of times or is it the worst of times?

Hunter Lewis: No, it’s to our advantage. In regards to our New York City-based talent, I want to iterate strong the team is. When we moved some of our editors and staff and the base of operations to Birmingham, we were strategic about keeping a core group of editors in New York City to maintain our presence there and proximity to the digital edit team, the Food & Wine test kitchen, and the sales, marketing, and events teams. These talented editors include Melanie Hansche, our new deputy editor, executive wine editor Ray Isle, restaurant editor Jordana Rothman, associate restaurant editor Elyse Inamine, and culinary director Justin Chapple, along with digital director Danica Lo, senior engagement director Meg Clark, and deputy digital editor Alison Speigel and their team.

The power of the new Food & Wine is that we’re in two cities. We’ve got our finger on the pulse of the new and the next via New York, and in Birmingham, we shop, cook, and entertain more like our readers. Tapping into both will create a product that better serves sophisticated food and drink consumers everywhere.

Samir Husni: As you look at Food & Wine specifically, as we are now in March, which is the 40th anniversary of when the magazine was born as an insert in Playboy magazine back in 1978, what can we expect for this 40th anniversary year? Is the photo issue, the March photography issue, is that a hint of things to come; is it a change in direction? What’s your vision for Food & Wine moving forward?

Hunter Lewis: We are very fortunate in that this is the 40th anniversary year and we’re going to take advantage of that and celebrate that. And so we’ve keyed this year and this March issue with the 40 photos that changed the way we eat. You’ll see a story in the April/Spring wine issue, which is 40 wines that changed the way we drink, and you’ll see this in the way that we cover recipes in the future. So, we’re playing with the number 40 to create big, impactful lists that can run across both print and Food & Wine dotcom and generate evergreen traffic. So, it’s really about maximizing the moment four decades into this awesome brand.

So, this is not the anniversary issue per se, that will come with the September issue, where we’ll celebrate the 40th anniversary in a big and bold way, but more than anything this issue is a celebration of photography and food photography. And absolutely it marks a change in the visual direction of the brand.

Samir Husni: Can you imagine or do you think it’s possible to do what you’ve done with the March photography issue without a print component, if the magazine was digital-only? Can you bring that same food-for-the-eye impact with pixels on a screen or is this where you think print still plays a crucial role?

Hunter Lewis: I think you create for audience first and platform first, so the intention for this issue was to celebrate print for print’s sake, and to celebrate how print as a medium can frame photography. So, absolutely, this is a celebration of print and we’ll continue to embrace and celebrate print as this year evolves. In this age of multiplatform brands, you have to honor print and you have to celebrate print, because it is very much the opposite of Google. When people are typing in a recipe or an ingredient they’re looking for, they’re trying to solve a problem. When people are coming to print, sure, they’re looking for dinner tonight, but they’re also looking for points of discovery. And they’re looking for an escape and to lose themselves and to learn. And that’s what a magazine in the print format can do best.

Samir Husni: Why did you decide to start this 40th celebration with the photo issue?

Hunter Lewis: I think it starts with wanting to do something different and wanting to make a statement to our readers that we’re heading in a different direction, And if you think about the covers in particular, using a cover to make a visual statement in a way that expands beyond your print readership, something that is a branding of the magazine, but also something that is highly social and shareable and that looks really good on Instagram and can be shared to more and more people.

And also, when it comes to the photography, I’ve been in this business for about 10 years now and I got into the business through the kitchen door, when I ran the test kitchen at Saveur. And in those 10 years, I’ve had the great opportunity to work with dozens of incredible photographers and food stylists, prop stylists recipe testers and developers. The aim for this issue was to honor them and to celebrate the work that they do, as we celebrated the best of food photography. So, this issue is very much a tribute to those makers, to those creators.

Samir Husni: Was creating this issue a walk in a rose garden or there were some challenges or opportunities along the way?

Hunter Lewis: This issue was a total blast, because we threw out a lot of conventions and departments for just this one special issue, and made it more about the process of creation and more about the process of shooting and cooking in the moment. And that’s why Eric Wolfinger was our guest editor for this edition, because he does that very well. And I write about that in the editor’s letter. Eric came down for a week and we all collaborated together and we kicked it off with a meal at my house, where we cooked together and shot some photos.

And I think that helped set the tone to say, look, this is not all about shot counts and creative briefs and emails, and making 100 different plans ahead, let’s also build in some moments here and some time and flexibility to catch some magic. When it comes to shooting food, you can say you’re going to shoot these six shots and you can say that you’re going to do them at these different angles and you’re going to use these different props and backgrounds, but until you get that food on set and that food is alive, you don’t quite know how it’s going to act. You don’t quite know what the best angle is going to be.

So, part of the point of this issue was to say that while of course we have deadlines and of course we have to plan ahead, let’s just relax for a week, let’s chill out, and let’s tell a story through the lens in a fun way.

Samir Husni: And needless to say, I’m not telling you anything that you don’t know, but food magazines have become the largest category of magazines on the marketplace. If we look back at the ’80s, sex magazines were the largest category of magazines on the marketplace. Now it’s food. Do you feel that food is the sex of the 21st century?

Hunter Lewis: Food is certainly very sensual, but I think what it really speaks to is the rise of interest in the American food culture. And how many people out there love food and how many people out there are finding different entry points into cooking dinner or eating out. I think it speaks to the rise of our drink culture. So, it’s absolutely about a national hunger for more information about food.

Samir Husni: Can you expand a little on the food and drink culture in America today? And since you have a magazine that covers both food and wine, how are you striking that balance and making sure that the DNA of the magazine is different than what’s out there?

Hunter Lewis: If you look at 40 years ago, it took the Batterberrys, the founders of the magazine, about three years to create Food & Wine, and the final push was to convince Hugh Hefner to publish it as an insert in 1978. Hefner himself was by no means a gourmand, but he understood the rise of this epicurean set, this audience, and smartly decided to help the Batterberrys publish. So, you’ve got 40 years, four decades.

And look at the ingredients on the American supermarket shelf. Look at the quality of our restaurants. Look at the quality of our chefs, and look at what’s happening on television. Look at Instagram as a medium and how we consume food through social media. There’s been this explosion in the past four years, so it makes sense that there would be more publications, be they digital, social, video-first or print, than ever before.

Samir Husni: What about the wine part; the wine culture?

Hunter Lewis: I think we’re in a new era. And that’s going to be part of the new Food & Wine, of building on the expertise and the DNA of Food & Wine, of expanding Executive Editor Ray Isle’s role at Food & Wine. And to really capture and to cover and hold a mirror up to this new modern wine culture. We’re moving past the snobbery around wine and realizing that it’s not about how much you know, it’s not about being exclusive; it’s more about bringing wine to the center of the table and building experiences and stories around it.

A good example of this is we sent Ray Isle to four different bottle shops around the country and he sold hundreds of bottles as an undercover wine salesperson. He got to know what these consumers were looking for in a better way and he got to teach them along the way. I think he learned as much as he taught. And that’s something different, that’s something different that we did, that we hadn’t done before. It’s listening more for what the consumer is asking or looking for and delivering them that information in a premium way. And that will be in an upcoming issue.

Samir Husni: Getting inside the head of Hunter Lewis; do you have any kind of litmus test for content when it comes to either magazine, Food & Wine or Cooking Light? How do you deal with that?

Hunter Lewis: If you look at it, about 85 percent of Cooking Light is recipes and our mission at Cooking Light is to empower people to cook more at home for good health. So we’re absolutely looking at potential content, and looking at Cooking Light on every platform, through the lens of what healthy means now. When it comes to Food & Wine, we can go as broad or as narrow as we want. The brand name gives us an amazing license to go deep on any topic. And that’s a lot of fun.

What’s great about Food & Wine right now is that the brand DNA is strong. We’ve got a ton of opportunity. We’ve got the 40th anniversary to celebrate; we’ve got a redesign coming up that will refresh the look of the brand. We have Restaurants of the Year, which is a major franchise for us and that’s coming out in the May issue. We have the 30 year anniversary of Best New Chefs, which is coming out this summer. And we also have the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen coming up, and our first-ever festival in Venice, Italy. So, what this is all about this year is really capitalizing on every opportunity and maximizing the potential of every franchise in every anniversary moment to build the brand.

And then as we go, make the print product more fun and more easy to use. Bring food and drink a bit more to the center of the brand. And celebrate the joy of cooking and the joy of being at the table.

Samir Husni: With everything that’s going on, the move from being a magazine to being a brand that exists everywhere, on all of the platforms, when do you have time to edit?

Hunter Lewis: Well, the editing is the most fun part. You make time for that. That used to be one of the central duties and now it’s gravy. So, you enjoy the gravy when it comes.

Samir Husni: Is the “gravy” still your favorite part? Or are you enjoying the events, the digital, the print, as much as everything else?

Hunter Lewis: What I enjoy the most as an editor is recruiting a team, helping to shape the team, finding out what makes people tick, working with them to get the best work out of them, and then shifting into second and third gears with that team and really finding out what we can do together. And I think the words creativity and collaboration, as we figure out what we can do together, is the most important thing. We’re just now shifting into second gear as a team with the new Food & Wine, and I’m really thrilled about what we can do together down the road.

Whereas the Cooking Light team; I’ve been with that team for three and a half years, I know what they can do. I know when we need to apply more pressure or put our foot on the gas, and I know when we might need to take our foot off the gas a little bit. And so I think that team sync and that group sync is such a major part of the job, because what makes a really good product is a really good team. And it sounds obvious, but if that team is emanating a sense of joy; if that team is emanating a sense of passion for the subject matter, then you’re going to see that and you’re going to feel that on the page. You’re going to see and feel that on the screen. You’re going to see that through the videos. And that’s important and that’s what we’re working on and what we’ve been working on for the past few months.

Getting back to where the brand is going, where Food & Wine is going, as much as we’re focusing on creativity and collaboration, we’re also focusing on the words service and hospitality. As somebody who has worked in restaurants and as the editor of a brand, it complements restaurants to have unique relationships with chefs, unlike any other food brand. I understand that we’re not a restaurant, but how can we deliver better service to our customers, meaning how can every page have some kind of takeaway or some kind of tip that will make our audience become a better cook or pour a better wine or be a better host at a dinner party or be a better guest at a dinner party?

And when it comes to the hospitality, how do we make our customers feel in that interchange? As we’re delivering service, is there a sense of warmth? And that sense of warmth and that hospitality, combined with better service, is what will broaden our audience and keep them coming back for more. With Food & Wine, I very much look at it like serving your customers with warmth and hospitality.

Samir Husni: When the magazine moved to Birmingham, there was a tornado of media coverage, many of which wondered what the powers-that-be were doing to Food & Wine. Do you hear anymore comments like that about Food & Wine being based in Birmingham, Ala. or that’s history?

Hunter Lewis: Not lately. It’s still bubbles up here and there on social media. I spent eight years in New York and some of that was working in restaurants and some of that was working food media. I know what it’s like to create food media in New York. I’ve spent about five and half years here in Birmingham, and I can tell you that it’s an advantage doing this in Birmingham. And I think the naysayers are thinking too provincially about the media bubble that is New York. We have the best of New York at 225 Liberty Street and we have the best in Birmingham.

What I am thrilled about right now is tapping into both studios and that one larger staff. And I think it’s to our advantage. We are now much closer to the sophisticated food and drink consumer than we ever have been as a brand.

Samir Husni: What’s Hunter’s favorite food?

Hunter Lewis: My favorite food is whatever is at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning. And thankfully, spring in Alabama is coming and what I’m looking forward to most is strawberries, asparagus, and rhubarb. I just got a call from my fish guy up the road and he said that the shad roe is starting to come in. So, that means spring is coming and that’s what I’m most excited about right now.

Samir Husni: What’s your favorite wine?

Hunter Lewis: My favorite wine is probably the one I most recently had for dinner. And that’s one of the things I’m most excited about with Food & Wine; I get a daily education from Ray Isle. My favorite wine this week, because it changes every week, is an Etna Rosso from Valenti Winery, Norma Opera V. Bellini.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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