Archive for the ‘Redesigns’ Category

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Cosmopolitan’s Editor In Chief, Michele Promaulayko, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “It’s Great To Have A Brand That Lives Across Every Platform In Such A Robust Way.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

October 4, 2017

“But when Cosmo came calling, it was a combination of things. It was the most iconic, global, young women’s brand, and only four other people had sat in that seat, so of course I wanted it. I had so much affection for the brand, having spent years there. And yes, I did miss print, to be honest. I missed the ability to have the deeper storytelling, to have the lush visuals, to have time to digest things and to think about how you want to execute them.” Michele Promaulayko

When you’re THE magazine for women when they want to get an authoritative and unequivocal voice on sex, relationships, work, and anything else that has to do with their overall wellbeing and get that advice with a twinge of humor and sass, and you’ve been doing it since the mid-sixties when your editor in chief was the inimitable Helen Gurley Brown, why would you want to refresh that page of success?

Why? Well, because your current editor in chief is the inimitable Michele Promaulayko and while she totally agrees that nothing about Cosmopolitan is “broken,” there’s also nothing wrong with infusing a healthy dose of “newness, novelty, excitement, and more visuals” into the already extraordinary pot of deliciousness.

Cosmopolitan has always been a trendsetter, going back to the days of the spunky Ms. HGB. And nothing about that character trait has changed in the years since Helen. The magazine has evolved of course, but never changed from its cutting edge content that always pushes the envelope and provides its audience with the most current and captivating information.

Today, Cosmo is helmed by Michele Promaulayko, who knows a thing or two about the magazine, having been executive editor for eight years before joining Women’s Health as VP/editor in chief. She also served as the editor in chief of Yahoo Health, a digital-only entity, before coming back home to Cosmo.

I spoke with Michele recently and we talked about the retooling and refreshing of the highly successful and popular brand. Michele is excited about the refresh, because she believes disruption can be good when it comes to infusing a new energy into the magazine’s pages, bringing old friends new life and introducing new neighbors into the community so they can begin to add their own positivity and clarity to the equation. And finding innovative and creative ways to bring the print and digital components together communally is another faction that is proving to be successful for the magazine. With the November issue, readers will find new friends and old ones living in harmony between the magazine’s covers and enjoy the same humor and sauciness that has always been a part of its DNA.

So, sit back, grab your favorite beverage of choice (Rosé, if you’re anything like Cosmo’s delightful editor in chief) and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Michele Promaulayko, editor in chief, Cosmopolitan.

But first the sound-bites:

On why she felt the need for a refresh of Cosmopolitan in this day and age: In today’s world novelty and newness are rewarded, so I felt like it was time for a design refresh. I’m not calling it a redesign, because there are definitely some things that are carryovers from the former design; nothing was really broken. It was really just about infusing it with newness, novelty, excitement, and more visuals.

On why she believes Cosmo hasn’t faded like some of the other trendsetting magazines have over the years: I think it’s because Cosmo has a very honest relationship with its readers. From Helen’s day (Helen Gurley Brown), to my day, we talk openly with them about anything and everything. So, it’s a place where they can come for real talk, frank information on the things that matter to them most, and that’s never going to go out of style. The packaging, yes; we stay on trends; we tap into the zeitgeist, talking about current things. But at our core, our foundation is to help young women navigate in an increasingly confusing world, whether that’s their work-world or their relationship-world. And they know that we’re going to give it to them straight.

On whether she thinks that foundational concept is still as valid as ever or even more so today: I think it’s always been valid in certain conversations, be they about sex or women’s advancement in the workplace. Decades ago those were taboo topics that weren’t talked about openly, so it was important for Cosmo to do that then. And I think it’s just as, or more important, to have those conversations now.

On whether she feels more balanced working for a publication that has both a print and digital platform, rather than when she was editor of the digital-only Yahoo Health: That’s a great question. I left Women’s Health to go to Yahoo, because I really wanted to immerse myself in digital. Obviously, I was seeing consumer media habits. My own habits were becoming more and more digital and I really wanted to learn the ropes there, and it was a tremendous experience. Previously, I’d had 20 years of print experience. But when Cosmo came calling, it was a combination of things. It was the most iconic, global, young women’s brand, and only four other people had sat in that seat, so of course I wanted it. I had so much affection for the brand, having spent years there.

On who the magazine would turn into if struck with a magic wand that made it human: I’m not sure there’s just one person who would personify all of the strengths of Cosmopolitan. That would be a pretty amazing person and I’d like to meet them, because I sort of think of us as counselor, cheerleader, protector, and best friend. We have all of those roles in different areas of the magazine.

On the reaction she’s hoping for from the audience once they see the retooled and refreshed November issue of Cosmopolitan: I don’t have any hard and fast expectations. I solicited their feedback and I hope I get that. And I think it takes time for people to adjust to change and sometimes to even notice it. Some of the changes are extremely noticeable, but hopefully I will hear specific things back from readers.

On whether there is anything in Cosmo that ever makes her blush: No, it’s funny, it’s like a party game with my friends, let’s see if you can make Michele blush, because after all of the years I spent at Cosmo as the executive editor, and then coming back, it’s almost impossible. But now that I’ve said that, it’s like I’ve issued a challenge. (Laughs) Somebody is going to try really hard to embarrass me. But when it comes to these topics, not really.

On anything she’d like to add: Just that we’re all about the humor and the joy and the surprise. We live in a very serious world right now, politically serious, and serious in that we’re dealing with one natural disaster after another. And Cosmo is a place where, yes, we talk about issues, absolutely, but it’s also a place where we can provide levity and joy. And that’s very intentional on our part, and I am very proud of that.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: Maybe two X’s on a globe. (Laughs) Hugs to the world. The world could use more hugs, right? More love and more hugs. Cosmo is really about harmony. Harmony between the sexes; harmony and self-peace; feeling confident, and that’s one of the things that we try and instill in our readers. Maybe it’s just the word harmony.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: Well, one, you probably won’t catch me at home, because I go out a lot a night. I have a lot of dinners outside of my place. You’d be lucky if you tried to just stop by, an impromptu visit, and I was there. But if I was there, I probably wouldn’t be drinking, because I rarely drink alone. But I do like to drink with other people. And I might be binging on the latest Netflix thing, because I’m a big binger. And it doesn’t have to be Netflix, it can be anything. Right now, I’m binging Jessica Biel’s USA show called “The Sinner.”

On what keeps her up at night: What keeps me up at night isn’t one thing. And honestly, I’m a pretty good sleeper, so not too much keeps me up. I really love my life; I love all of the interesting things that I get to do and the places that I get to go, and the place that I live; just all of that. I think it’s just the challenges of maintaining that awesome level of experience, because it takes a lot. It takes a lot of work and a lot of energy. So, just knowing that I’m tending to everything well enough to keep it all going at the same level, or at an increased level.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Michele Promaulayko, editor in chief, Cosmopolitan.

Samir Husni: Why did you feel the need to retool and reengineer Cosmo in this day and age?

Michele Promaulayko: In today’s world novelty and newness are rewarded, so I felt like it was time for a design refresh. I’m not calling it a redesign, because there are definitely some things that are carryovers from the former design; nothing was really broken. It was really just about infusing it with newness, novelty, excitement, and more visuals. As our readers’ needs change and as trends change; as we spend more time with the audience; as we get tired of looking at the same pages ourselves (Laughs), it tells you that it’s time to put a sheen on it. So, that’s what we did and we had a lot of fun doing it.

And in doing it, we disrupted some long-held magazine tenants; for instance, having a TOC. We now have a one-page table of contents called “Get Into It,” and it really has all of the information a reader needs. It has the cover lines, so if you’re pulled in by a cover line, you can go to the page and find it. It has the section heads; you can find the wellness section; you can find the beauty section, so it provides the navigation a reader might want without seeing three pages of cute captions that nobody reads. I felt like that was an old carryover that we editors reflexively use in our magazine and I just didn’t feel like we needed it anymore.

Samir Husni: One of my recent class lectures was on the six magazines that in the last decade have been trendsetters: Cosmopolitan, Playboy, MS., The Advocate, Ebony, and Rolling Stone. Why do you think Cosmo over the years never faded like the other five have?

Michele Promaulayko: Great question, and thank you for including Cosmopolitan in that short-list. I think it’s because Cosmo has a very honest relationship with its readers. From Helen’s day (Helen Gurley Brown), to my day, we talk openly with them about anything and everything. So, it’s a place where they can come for real talk, frank information on the things that matter to them most, and that’s never going to go out of style. The packaging, yes; we stay on trends; we tap into the zeitgeist, talking about current things. But at our core, our foundation is to help young women navigate in an increasingly confusing world, whether that’s their work-world or their relationship-world. And they know that we’re going to give it to them straight. It’s not going to be a bunch of platitudes about how wonderful everything is all of the time.

We obviously have a lot of fun in the magazine and that’s another part of the brand’s DNA that I wanted to sort of reinstitute a little bit, but the primary thing is that we have this really candid conversation with readers. And they know that they can’t get that anywhere else.

Samir Husni: Do you feel that foundational concept is still valid today or even more so than it was in the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s?

Michele Promaulayko: I think it’s always been valid in certain conversations, be they about sex or women’s advancement in the workplace. Decades ago those were taboo topics that weren’t talked about openly, so it was important for Cosmo to do that then. And I think it’s just as, or more important, to have those conversations now.

Young women have a much more confusing set of circumstances to deal with, even if you just distill the dating scene. It’s so different now than it used to be. It’s so confusing. We live in this app-driven dating world, which has really depersonalized the process. We hear from young women all of the time about these pen pal relationships with guys that they meet online and they have conversations with them, but then they never actually meet up. And there’s so much frustration and confusion, and when they do meet up, they’re so used to having these digital conversations, they just sort of look at each other and ask, “What do we do now?” (Laughs)

That’s the extreme version of it, but something as simple as dating has gotten so confusing and complex. So, I think our ability to have that kind of straight talk with them about that or anything else is critical now.

Samir Husni: I coined a phrase for what you’re describing, I call it “Isolated Connectivity.” We feel we’re so connected, yet we’re more isolated than ever.

Michele Promaulayko: Exactly. And that’s the sad reality; we have more ability to connect and more channels to connect through, however, we are more isolated. And I’ll tell you a funny anecdote.

This summer I went to Greece with a friend; we visited a couple of islands. And I was on this tiny satellite island called Antiparos, and I was at this bar/restaurant, beach club and I looked over and saw a guy that lives two doors down from me in my apartment building in Manhattan. And I had never really spoken to him; I recognized him, but I had never had a conversation with him and we live two doors down from each other. And now I’m on this little Greek island and I thought I was seeing things, but I hadn’t had that much Rosé; I’d had a little, but not that much. (Laughs) I wasn’t hallucinating.

So, I walked over to him and introduced myself. He was like me, he couldn’t believe we’d ran into each other there, it was weird. We get back to New York and he slips a note under my door that simply read, “Wow, that was weird. Let’s grab a drink; hope you had a great trip.” I posted the note on my Instagram and Facebook, and it blew up. It broke the Internet. I got more engagement, more comments, and more likes that on anything else I had posted.

And it was simply because people saw that; and by the way, it’s not a romantic storyline, he’s gay, we’re not going to get married, but the people who were seeing this note and hearing the story of how I met my now-neighbor on a little island in Greece, were so enthralled with the idea of this meet-cute story, this romantic storyline, because we’re so devoid of that. I actually write about this in my next editor’s letter in the November issue, because we have a lot of dating content and I wanted to make a point about how illuminating that was for me. It shows how desperate and hungry people are for a sort of retrograde meeting. To your point, that just goes to show that the isolated connectivity is there.

Samir Husni: How are you utilizing the print Cosmo and the digital Cosmo? You have both in your background; you were the editor in chief of Women’s Health and then you were editor in chief of Yahoo Health, which was digital-only. Are you more balanced within yourself now, having a print brand that’s also digital, rather than just digital only?

Michele Promaulayko: That’s a great question. I left Women’s Health to go to Yahoo, because I really wanted to immerse myself in digital. Obviously, I was seeing consumer media habits. My own habits were becoming more and more digital and I really wanted to learn the ropes there, and it was a tremendous experience. Previously, I’d had 20 years of print experience.

But when Cosmo came calling, it was a combination of things. It was the most iconic, global, young women’s brand, and only four other people had sat in that seat, so of course I wanted it. I had so much affection for the brand, having spent years there. And yes, I did miss print, to be honest. I missed the ability to have the deeper storytelling, to have the lush visuals, to have time to digest things and to think about how you want to execute them.

So, of course, it’s great to have a brand that lives across every platform in such a robust way. All of the social platforms; all of the digital platforms; live events; TV shows, and a super-healthy print brand. All things considered, yes, it was the dream job.

The difference being that as a monthly magazine, we have to think about how we play to those strengths. And we clearly can’t capitalize on news the way Cosmopolitan.com can, but what we can do is take a timely story, because we still try to be timely, we don’t want to be evergreen. We’re not looking to do things this year that could appear in the magazine next year, or could have appeared last year, we want it to be timely.

So, we take something that’s happening in the zeitgeist and we try and assess whether it’s going to have a long enough shelf life for us to talk and write about it, and then also exploit some aspect of the story that a digital site isn’t going to take the time to get into. So, really, using newsy things as a hook to get into what it might mean for the reader. And how it applies to their life in a way that’s not just reporting on the news, but going deeper.

Samir Husni: One of Cosmo’s attributes since its founding has been the magazine’s ability to create a friendly relationship with its audience. That being said, if you had a magic wand that could instantaneously turn the magazine into a human being with one strike, who would that person be?

Michele Promaulayko: (Laughs) I’m not sure there’s just one person who would personify all of the strengths of Cosmopolitan. That would be a pretty amazing person and I’d like to meet them, because I sort of think of us as counselor, cheerleader, protector, and best friend. We have all of those roles in different areas of the magazine.

We’re like a best friend, you can talk honestly with us and we’re going to give it to you straight, and we’re going to make you laugh. We’re going to warn you if there’s things out there in the world, whether it’s health wise or potential dating pitfalls, or even bigger dangers; we’re going to protect you from that and warn you so that you’re going into everything with eyes open. And we’re going to champion the things that you do that are so great, and bolster you and tell you that you can do it. And we’re going to give you the authoritative advice that we have the ability to give, that your best friend can’t because they don’t have the expertise at their fingertips.
So, I don’t really think one person could possibly embody that, which is why you need a magazine like Cosmopolitan, because even if you have a village at your disposal, you may not have all of those things.

Samir Husni: Looking at the November issue, I read your letter from the editor, and I saw your signature, the two X’s and Michele. And then when I flipped to page 154, I see a list of symbols and what they are supposed to mean.

Michele Promaulayko: (Laughs) Oh no, are you dissecting my scribbles?

Samir Husni: And it read that two X-crosses means pent-up frustration about something. What are you frustrated about, Michele? (Laughs)

Michele Promaulayko: (Laughs again) No, Samir, those are crosses and mine were X’s; they’re not the same thing. Mine just means hugs. Hugs, Michele, that’s really what it means.

Samir Husni: Once your audience sees this retooling, this fresh look with the November issue, the double covers; what is the reaction you hope to get?

Michele Promaulayko: I don’t have any hard and fast expectations. I solicited their feedback and I hope I get that. And I think it takes time for people to adjust to change and sometimes to even notice it. Some of the changes are extremely noticeable, but hopefully I will hear specific things back from readers. But the decisions we made to change things were made based on what’s happening in the world and on things we were hearing anyway. So, it’s not like we just pulled them out of thin air. They’re grounded in what we know to be the most useful and exciting execution.

To that point, readers tell us that they want order and organization. They want a clear architecture, so they know where they are in the magazine. And we did that. But at the same time they want to be surprised, so they want to know where they are and they want some kind of formula to that, but they also want those moments of serendipity; wow, I can’t believe they did that! So, we’ve allowed room for that.

And with the TOC, I just felt like it was two extra pages that weren’t working as hard as they needed to work and that we could dedicate those to something more exciting. So, we boiled that down to one page that gives them everything that they need to find the stories that they want to find.

Another thing that we did was change the health section to wellness. I have a background in that, and wellness really speaks to the 360 approach that we take to health. So, it’s mental health, nutrition, fitness, sexual health, emotional health; it’s the whole thing that contributes to your wellbeing. And we wanted to reflect that in the name. And we also did this “One-Move Workout,” which is a great workout in only one move, and who wouldn’t want that?

And that’s the point. They’re not coming to Cosmo for a full workout, they’re going to other brands or they’re going to Cosmopolitan.com, but what we can do is provide this really graphic visual that they can then take a picture of or tear it out and bring it to the gym or the hotel and have something healthy and useful. And that’s what we want to be.

We also started our “Gyno Report” because Cosmo should own sexual health. Again, it’s a place where we can be authoritative and honest, so I wanted to provide a place where we could talk about the latest and most important sexual and reproductive health issues.

And we have some really strong, bold visual pages; some of the beauty pages; one of the workouts that I just talked about, and also “Cosmo Bites,” and that’s because we’re dealing with a readership that’s addicted to images. And we wanted to give them these really grabby, bold images, that in some cases also contain service, like the beauty photos that still have service, but they’re not text heavy. And I think you need that kind of difference in pacing. You need some longer reads, some really visual things, things that are easy to digest.

And we also wanted to strengthen the companionship between different factions of the brand. We wanted to have things in common with Cosmopolitan.com, so they’re doing the Workout as well. Cosmo Bites is something that they do; Cheap Thrills, the sort of budget beauty page is something that we’re both going to be doing.

We’re increasing that relationship between the digital and the print sides of the brand. And we’re also deepening the companionship between your device and the print version. In other words, you might snap a picture of your One-Move Workout, so you’re using your device at the same time you’re reading the print version.

Those are some of the changes. And then we added a section called “Too Funny.” We absolutely know that humor is a huge reason that people come to Cosmo; it’s always been a part of the brand’s DNA. There have always been Laugh Out Loud cover lines and the Confessions and the Dates From Hell, and those are some of our readers’ favorite things. They love it. So, we corralled them all into one section called “Too Funny.”

Samir Husni: The entire refreshing of the book is extremely well-packaged.

Michele Promaulayko: Thank you.

Samir Husni: Is there anything in Cosmo that makes you blush?

Michele Promaulayko: No, it’s funny, it’s like a party game with my friends, let’s see if you can make Michele blush, because after all of the years I spent at Cosmo as the executive editor, and then coming back, it’s almost impossible. But now that I’ve said that, it’s like I’ve issued a challenge. (Laughs) Somebody is going to try really hard to embarrass me. But when it comes to these topics, not really.

In fact, I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Grub Street Diet, but New York Magazine gets different people, authors and actresses, writers and editors, to do sort of a food diary. And they asked me to do it and it came out recently. In there, you talk about what you’re eating all day, but you also talk about other things. And I was saying that I grabbed a certain food and went to a cover line meeting with my creative director and we always decide that we’re not done until we’re laughing or one of us is blushing. And I said it’s usually not me. It’s usually my creative director. (Laughs)

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

Michele Promaulayko: Just that we’re all about the humor and the joy and the surprise. We live in a very serious world right now, politically serious, and serious in that we’re dealing with one natural disaster after another. And Cosmo is a place where, yes, we talk about issues, absolutely, but it’s also a place where we can provide levity and joy. And that’s very intentional on our part, and I am very proud of that.

And also, just talking about the climate politically. There’s such a division between the sexes and I really feel like Cosmo has always appreciated men who appreciate women, in that we have an opportunity to unify the sexes, and that’s another mission of mine. We all have to be in this together, so those are important things.

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

Michele Promaulayko: Maybe two X’s on a globe. (Laughs) Hugs to the world. The world could use more hugs, right? More love and more hugs. Cosmo is really about harmony. Harmony between the sexes; harmony and self-peace; feeling confident, and that’s one of the things that we try and instill in our readers. Maybe it’s just the word harmony.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of Rosé, and I’ll be specific since I know you like Rosé; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else?

Michele Promaulayko: Well, one, you probably won’t catch me at home, because I go out a lot a night. I have a lot of dinners outside of my place. You’d be lucky if you tried to just stop by, an impromptu visit, and I was there. But if I was there, I probably wouldn’t be drinking, because I rarely drink alone. But I do like to drink with other people.

And I might be binging on the latest Netflix thing, because I’m a big binger. And it doesn’t have to be Netflix, it can be anything. Right now, I’m binging Jessica Biel’s USA show called “The Sinner.” And I don’t know if I can ever go back to waiting for one episode after another to come out, because I like watching them back-to-back. I go into a feeding frenzy. So, if you happen to catch me at home, when I’m not out to dinner, I’ll probably be chilling on my couch, binging on the latest show that I’m obsessed with.

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

Michele Promaulayko: The sirens that roar down my street in New York. Truthfully, the only thing that could keep me up is just worrying about the wellbeing of my family. That’s the only thing. I have parents who are getting older. But if it’s a question aimed at the challenges of the industry, that would be a different answer.

What keeps me up at night isn’t one thing. And honestly, I’m a pretty good sleeper, so not too much keeps me up. I really love my life; I love all of the interesting things that I get to do and the places that I get to go, and the place that I live; just all of that. I think it’s just the challenges of maintaining that awesome level of experience, because it takes a lot. It takes a lot of work and a lot of energy. So, just knowing that I’m tending to everything well enough to keep it all going at the same level, or at an increased level.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Martha Stewart Living: A Recipe For Magazine Success — Stay Authentic To Your Namesake & Pure To Your Audience – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Elizabeth Graves, Editor In Chief & Daren Mazzucca, VP/Publisher…

September 28, 2017

“I think we’ve always been offering different, so we have to continue offering different. When Martha speaks about being authentic, it’s when we’re creating original ideas. As editors, we’ve always turned the lens outward, but also had it inside about what we editors were excited about. Yes, we live in a world with trends, but we don’t always follow trends. There are plenty of wonderful magazines that will tell you what’s in fashion and food; what’s in fashion to wear. Our unique differentiating point has always been that we’re looking to the things that inspire us, excite us, and they don’t have to be trends.” Elizabeth Graves…

“We’ve actually enjoyed two years of great advertising growth since the brand has been a part of the Meredith group, from food, packaged goods, appliances; really across the board category growth. I believe there are still opportunities in 2018 to push the envelope with electronics and more. Luxury and beauty, those are areas that we’re focusing in on as well. Meredith has done well, and Martha Stewart has been leading a lot of that push.” Daren Mazzucca…

Martha Stewart Living is reveling in its continued energy and commitment to its audience with a brand new redesign that refreshes the already notable brand. The October issue’s cover features Martha herself in the perfect Autumn setting, complete with burnished colors and pumpkins and gourds. The redesign’s cover line is subtly powerful in its statement that “Fall is Fun.” And expresses in no uncertain terms that so is the magazine.

Elizabeth Graves is editor in chief and Daren Mazzucca, VP/publisher of this signature brand that is one of the many great titles under the Meredith umbrella. Elizabeth has been on Martha’s team for quite a while, having served as editor in chief of Martha Stewart Weddings and an editor at Blueprint magazine, before coming to Martha Stewart Living, where she oversees the editorial and visual content.

Daren Mazzucca joined Meredith in 2010, and today is responsible for advertising sales for both Martha Stewart Living and Martha Stewart Weddings and their related business operations.

I spoke with Elizabeth and Daren recently and we talked about the woman, the magazine, and the brand – Martha Stewart. The passion these two people have for all three is fairly palpable. Their vision is clear and strong, following Martha’s own belief that remaining authentic and vital to your audience is fundamental, and that evolvement breeds new energies.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with two people who know what their brand stands for, and more importantly, who their brand belongs to – its audience…Elizabeth Graves, editor in chief & Daren Mazzucca, VP/publisher, Martha Stewart Living.

But first the sound-bites:

On the many different screen-to-print brands under Meredith’s umbrella and whether they ever feel as though some of their competition is coming from inside (Elizabeth Graves): From our sister publications? I don’t think so. I think we’re all different in different ways. Martha’s book sort of launched her and got her started on TV, and then of course the magazine, because she is just very prolific in content and had a lot to say every month. Then came Martha Stewart Living. Martha has really inspired a lot of people. There’s room in the world for many points of view and Meredith has a stable of lots of really talented and great people behind wonderful publications.

On the business side of having so many great brands under one roof (Daren Mazzucca): From a business point of view, actually it’s a good collaboration, because if a marketer is trying to reach women 25 – 49, all of our sister titles perform well against those targets and we usually excel. And that’s why we’re happy to report some good sales performance for our brands.

On the key to their successful relationship with Martha Stewart and the brand (Elizabeth Graves): The content has always been good, but one of the challenges in the business was MSLO (Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia) itself was a small company. And to have a company like Meredith come along and help us with covering the production costs, and then getting partnered with Daren, who I have gotten along with since day one; I think we have such an affinity for the brand and a respect for Martha, Daren works wonderfully with her, and I know Martha enjoys and respects him so much, it’s been great. So far, so good.

On the key to their successful relationship with Martha Stewart and the brand (Daren Mazzucca): I’ve said this a few times, and you’ve noticed before I started at Midwest Living, and I worked at Better Homes and Gardens; I say that I have one of the best jobs here at Meredith Corporation representing the Martha Stewart brand , working with Elizabeth Graves, and of course working with Martha Stewart, because we’re taking this 27-year-old print brand and really bringing it forward with corporate marketing efforts behind us.

On Martha Stewart herself being on the October issue’s cover and whether that will continue for other covers (Elizabeth Graves): It just seemed like the right thing to do. It was an image that we loved, and I think we’re always looking at what’s going to be our best cover and she was our best cover. There isn’t a “no Martha rule” for the cover; there never has been. It just seemed to really make sense for it, and it was our favorite one, to be honest.

On Martha Stewart herself being on the October issue’s cover and whether that will continue for other covers (Daren Mazzucca): I would also just say, and it’s Elizabeth’s decision, of course, along with Martha Stewart about what images go on the cover of the magazine, but to her point, it made sense. We don’t have a mandate that she’s going to appear in every issue moving forward. But Martha’s hot right now. She’s more cross-platform than ever before and we’re going to capitalize on her renewed popularity.

On what Martha Stewart Living is offering different from other women’s service magazines (Elizabeth Graves): I think we’ve always been offering different, so we have to continue offering different. When Martha speaks about being authentic, it’s when we’re creating original ideas. As editors, we’ve always turned the lens outward, but also had it inside about what we editors were excited about. Yes, we live in a world with trends, but we don’t always follow trends. There are plenty of wonderful magazines that will tell you what’s in fashion and food; what’s in fashion to wear. Our unique differentiating point has always been that we’re looking to the things that inspire us, excite us, and they don’t have to be trends.

On whether her role as editor in chief today is easier or harder as it is ever-changing in this digital age (Elizabeth Graves): I feel very happy to be in this role; I love this job and I’ve loved this magazine from day one. I was an editor in chief of Martha Stewart Weddings for six years before this one, so my role as editor has changed dramatically in that sense. But the world is changing too, and you have to evolve with it. So, yes, is it more challenging – well, we’re always up for a challenge.

On how the business role has evolved (Daren Mazzucca): We just hosted some clients for a tour and a lunch of Martha’s studios and test kitchens, and we were talking about the genesis behind the beef and mushroom meatballs in the October issue. They’re absolutely delicious. As people tend to try and eat healthier and stay with high proteins, but also intermix vegetables, this recipe really is a perfect blend, if you will, of great taste and the unique use of meat and mushrooms. In the food category, that’s some of the things that we’re doing in pushing the envelope. And at the end of the lunch, someone asked Martha what her next cooking would be, and she said that she wanted to learn Japanese cooking. So, she’s constantly learning herself, and she challenges Elizabeth and the editorial team to push the envelope for the brand. And we just follow that from the business side and leverage it.

On how often they talk to Martha (Daren Mazzucca): I speak to Martha probably once or twice a week, either electronically or on the phone. And I see her probably every seven to 10 days in person.

On how often they talk to Martha (Elizabeth Graves): I would say it’s the same for me. There can be a week where I talk to her every day. I never feel out of touch with her. And I physically meet with her as well. There’s just so much to get to.

On how involved Martha Stewart is with the editorial content of the magazine (Elizabeth Graves): I always talk to her about it. Whether it’s new themes for the issue; she’s always full of ideas. I take her to the book and we talk about her column; we talk about the cover; it’s as it has been since day one, she’s very collaborative in her spirit. She’ll call me up when she’s excited about three story ideas.

On any obstacles they’ve had to learn to overcome (Elizabeth Graves): Of course. When you’re working in any collaborative environment, especially with people who want to excel and are creative, there is always push-pull. My approach is always kind of like, may the best argument win. (Laughs) And sometimes I’m passionate and I want to lay down for it, but it’s usually may the best argument win when it comes to surveying our audience and making sure that the content hits all of the notes that we want it to. I guess there are always challenges, but I never see that as a bad thing.

On who the magazine would turn into if struck with a magic wand that made it human – Martha Stewart (Elizabeth Graves): I think it’s Martha and friends. I think there are a lot of people coming out of the magazine now. Our audiences have very big relationships with our editors, they know who Sarah Carey is; they know who Greg Lofts is; they have a relationship with our home editor or Kevin Sharkey, who is always with Martha. There are a lot of people who are Martha in many ways.

On why they felt a redesign of the brand was needed (Elizabeth Graves): It’s by far not a broken brand, and I think one of the things that Daren and I really gave thought to when we began working as a team almost two years ago, was that this is a magazine that has a great audience and is very healthy. But what we’ve always done is evolve. And one of the things that has attracted people to this brand is that we’re always striving to stay ahead and to continue to inspire people. So, I don’t think you can take the tactic of just letting things be and hoping you’ll continue to get the same effect doing the same thing all of the time.

On whether new advertisers have come onboard since the redesign (Daren Mazzucca): Yes, we’ve actually enjoyed two years of great advertising growth since the brand has been a part of the Meredith group, from food, packaged goods, appliances; really across the board category growth. I believe there are still opportunities in 2018 to push the envelope with electronics and more.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him (Daren Mazzucca): For me it would be work smart, have fun, and make money. In that order. (Laughs) It’s a mantra of sorts.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her (Elizabeth Graves): That’s a hard one. I think above all, be kind. No matter what.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home (Elizabeth Graves): It could be all of the above, but you would definitely be greeted by my young son, James, who might make you play with his trains because I play with trains every night. And definitely cooking, and being with my family. They’re one thing I definitely love coming home to every night.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home (Daren Mazzucca): I may have told you this before; I have five beautiful children, so when I’m home I love to unwind with them. Some of them are in college, so we Facetime and we chat socially, and that’s where I spend my greatest moments. It keeps me highly motivated when I return to the office.

On what keeps them up at night (Elizabeth Graves): When I drink coffee after 3:00 p.m. (Laughs)

On what keeps them up at night (Daren Mazzucca): What keeps me up at night is really staying current in this cross-platform world that we live in. We have to be knowledgeable in print, digital, social, and there’s a lot to learn and it keeps us motivated and that’s what keeps me up at night.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Elizabeth Graves, editor in chief, & Daren Mazzucca, VP/publisher, Martha Stewart Living.

Samir Husni: Martha Stewart was one of the first brands that came from the screen to print 28 years ago, before it became a trend in publishing. And today, within the same company there is Rachael Ray, allrecipes.com has become a magazine, The Magnolia Journal, which is the Chip and Joanna Gaines’ brand that also came from the screen to print; how does it feel for the both of you to be working for the same company with all of these great brands? Does it feel as though you have inside competition?

Elizabeth Graves: From our sister publications? I don’t think so. I think we’re all different in different ways. Martha’s book sort of launched her and got her started on TV, and then of course the magazine, because she is just very prolific in content and had a lot to say every month. Then came Martha Stewart Living. Martha has really inspired a lot of people. There’s room in the world for many points of view and Meredith has a stable of lots of really talented and great people behind wonderful publications.

Daren Mazzucca: I agree.

Samir Husni: And from a business point of view, Daren?

Daren Mazzucca: From a business point of view, actually it’s a good collaboration, because if a marketer is trying to reach women 25 – 49, all of our sister titles perform well against those targets and we usually excel. And that’s why we’re happy to report some good sales performance for our brands.

Samir Husni: The eternal question that everybody keeps asking is until the Martha Stewart brand came over to Meredith, it had a few rocky relationships; a few editors in chief; a few publishers; what makes your relationship, the two of you, with Martha Stewart, work? There is a simpatico between you, everything is calmer, fresher; she’s back on the cover this month; what’s the key for your successful relationship with her?

Elizabeth Graves: I’ve worked with Martha since 2005, on a number of different publications. When I took over the editor’s position almost two years ago, it’s not that I think I was that much more brilliant than the people in front of me, it was quite different than that. There has been talented editors, as you point out, and great publishers behind it.

The content has always been good, but one of the challenges in the business was MSLO (Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia) itself was a small company. And to have a company like Meredith come along and help us with covering the production costs, and then getting partnered with Daren, who I have gotten along with since day one; I think we have such an affinity for the brand and a respect for Martha, Daren works wonderfully with her, and I know Martha enjoys and respects him so much, it’s been great. So far, so good.

And we’re a good team and we have a lot of fun doing what we do. The brand, Martha Stewart Living, is a fun one. It’s all of the things that people who work on it are naturally into. There’s a lot of great excitement for it and we’ve been having a good time doing it.

Daren Mazzucca: I’ve said this a few times, and you’ve noticed before I started at Midwest Living, and I worked at Better Homes and Gardens; I say that I have one of the best jobs here at Meredith Corporation representing the Martha Stewart brand , working with Elizabeth Graves, and of course working with Martha Stewart, because we’re taking this 27-year-old print brand and really bringing it forward with corporate marketing efforts behind us.

When we develop a Martha Stewart integrated program for an advertiser, we can scale that if they want to have additional reach. We can add our sister titles in, like Better Homes and Gardens or Shape Magazine. The idea might initiate with the great content leader here at our brand, but we can scale them across the Meredith portfolio. I absolutely adore this brand. We were competitors many years ago when she started it, and it’s wonderful and refreshing to be leading it now.

Samir Husni: As you’re leading the brand, I’ve noticed that you’ve brought back Martha to the cover. Is that going to be a recurring theme, with her on every cover, or was this just something you’re doing for October?

Elizabeth Graves: It just seemed like the right thing to do. It was an image that we loved, and I think we’re always looking at what’s going to be our best cover and she was our best cover. There isn’t a “no Martha rule” for the cover; there never has been. It just seemed to really make sense for it, and it was our favorite one, to be honest.

We really just loved it and it felt right, because when we were looking at refreshing the magazine, my whole process for being on this brand has been to look back at what made us great in the beginning, and keep reimagining that. Keep evolving it. And she’s still very much a part of this; this is Martha Stewart Living. It goes full circle for me to have her on the cover for the redesign.

Daren Mazzucca: I would also just say, and it’s Elizabeth’s decision, of course, along with Martha Stewart about what images go on the cover of the magazine, but to her point, it made sense. We don’t have a mandate that she’s going to appear in every issue moving forward. But Martha’s hot right now. She’s more cross-platform than ever before and we’re going to capitalize on her renewed popularity.

Samir Husni: As we talk about that renewed popularity, I read Martha’s quote in the current issue of Forbes Magazine, where she’s talking about being authentic and being vital for your audience. How are we seeing this new genre of women’s service magazines competing with the legacy ones? Elizabeth, from an editorial point of view, what are you offering different?

Elizabeth Graves: I think we’ve always been offering different, so we have to continue offering different. When Martha speaks about being authentic, it’s when we’re creating original ideas. As editors, we’ve always turned the lens outward, but also had it inside about what we editors were excited about. Yes, we live in a world with trends, but we don’t always follow trends. There are plenty of wonderful magazines that will tell you what’s in fashion and food; what’s in fashion to wear. Our unique differentiating point has always been that we’re looking to the things that inspire us, excite us, and they don’t have to be trends.

Samir Husni: Daren just mentioned that he has the best job at Meredith, and his job became much easier because he can use the competitive set within the company. Elizabeth, is your job as editor in chief easier or harder as the role these days is ever-changing?

Elizabeth Graves: I feel very happy to be in this role; I love this job and I’ve loved this magazine from day one. I was an editor in chief of Martha Stewart Weddings for six years before this one, so my role as editor has changed dramatically in that sense. But the world is changing too, and you have to evolve with it. So, yes, is it more challenging – well, we’re always up for a challenge.

I do feel very lucky that I come to work and I’m very inspired by everyone I work with, and inspired by Martha. The content we cover is fun for me. I’m in meetings and find myself thinking that I want to cook that recipe we’re talking about tonight, so it’s things that I use and that I do. Yes, the business has its challenges, but I feel very lucky to be a part of Meredith and have a lot of help and support on that front. And we also work with a great, talented team of editors who come up with great ideas every day.

Samir Husni: And from a business perspective, Daren?

Daren Mazzucca: Well, you mentioned the October issue, and we just hosted some clients for a tour and a lunch of Martha’s studios and test kitchens, and we were talking about the genesis behind the beef and mushroom meatballs in the October issue. They’re absolutely delicious. As people tend to try and eat healthier and stay with high proteins, but also intermix vegetables, this recipe really is a perfect blend, if you will, of great taste and the unique use of meat and mushrooms.

In the food category, that’s some of the things that we’re doing in pushing the envelope. And at the end of the lunch, someone asked Martha what her next cooking would be, and she said that she wanted to learn Japanese cooking. So, she’s constantly learning herself, and she challenges Elizabeth and the editorial team to push the envelope for the brand. And we just follow that from the business side and leverage it, because usually the advertisers, whether it be a spice manufacturer or others, they’re also on the same pulse right behind us, so it’s a beautiful thing.

Samir Husni: How often do you talk with Martha? Is it daily or weekly? Both on the editorial and advertising side.

Daren Mazzucca: I speak to Martha probably once or twice a week, either electronically or on the phone. And I see her probably every seven to 10 days in person.

Elizabeth Graves: I would say it’s the same for me. There can be a week where I talk to her every day. I never feel out of touch with her. And I physically meet with her as well. There’s just so much to get to.

Daren Mazzucca: We take her out on a lot of sales calls too. Elizabeth and I had her in Chicago last year, and we’ve taken her to Detroit to see startups, to align with our “American Made” initiative, which is very important to Martha and to the brand.

Readers want to know about entrepreneurs as they consider their own careers, so we’ve taken Martha out. We’ve also brought her to clients, such as General Motors Corporation and others. We spend a lot of time with her. I often say we have dual citizenship; we’re Meredith employees in representing the Martha Stewart brand, but we have full access to her offices and our test kitchens are located in their studios and address location.

Samir Husni: Elizabeth, how involved is she in the editorial content of the magazine?

Elizabeth Graves: I always talk to her about it. Whether it’s new themes for the issue; she’s always full of ideas. I take her to the book and we talk about her column; we talk about the cover; it’s as it has been since day one, she’s very collaborative in her spirit. She’ll call me up when she’s excited about three story ideas. She generally gets excited about things, and I think she gets us excited about covering them, because usually what we try to do with every story is learn something. So, when she’s wanting to learn about the next thing, that excitement is infectious. And it often turns into a great story.

Daren Mazzucca: I’ll add one comment here. Elizabeth mentioned her tenure with Martha Stewart, both on Weddings and she originally worked on the Blueprint brand as editor, so she has Martha Stewart DNA in her blood and I think Martha trusts her and her vision, and the editorial vision of the team to lay out what we’re going to produce content-wise moving forward.

Samir Husni: Even the best-matched DNA, every now and then they have struggles or difficulties. Has it been a total walk in a rose garden or have there been obstacles you’ve had to learn to overcome?

Elizabeth Graves: Of course. When you’re working in any collaborative environment, especially with people who want to excel and are creative, there is always push-pull. My approach is always kind of like, may the best argument win. (Laughs) And sometimes I’m passionate and I want to lay down for it, but it’s usually may the best argument win when it comes to surveying our audience and making sure that the content hits all of the notes that we want it to. I guess there are always challenges, but I never see that as a bad thing.

Sometimes you can go into a story meeting and I’ve worked with some of the most talented creative directors and I think when people are all pushing for a story to be its very best, it usually gets better.

Daren Mazzucca: I agree.

Elizabeth Graves: I like that idea of swimming in a fast heat, because if everyone is swimming fast, you usually swim fast yourself.

Daren Mazzucca: I’ve seen this happen, Samir, I’ve seen the idea, as Elizabeth mentioned, start with Martha and then our editors make it better. I’ve seen the ideas come from our marketing department and then Elizabeth and the content team make them better, and that’s good. Sometimes you really have to look at things from a different perspective to make it a stronger, better, more compelling story. We’ve had a really good go with Martha for these past two and a half years we’ve been together.

Samir Husni: If I give you a magic wand and you strike the magazine with it, and a human being takes its place, who would that be? Martha Stewart coming out from the pages, or maybe her distant cousin?

Elizabeth Graves: I think it’s Martha and friends. I think there are a lot of people coming out of the magazine now. Our audiences have very big relationships with our editors, they know who Sarah Carey is; they know who Greg Lofts is; they have a relationship with our home editor or Kevin Sharkey, who is always with Martha. There are a lot of people who are Martha in many ways.

And I think our editors live the Martha life. We really join in the pursuit of a life made better, in terms of making our own homes better, our cooking better. So, I think you see a lot of “we” are Martha coming out of the Martha brand now. I would say it’s Martha and friends.

Samir Husni: Why the refresh of the brand?

Elizabeth Graves: It’s by far not a broken brand, and I think one of the things that Daren and I really gave thought to when we began working as a team almost two years ago, was that this is a magazine that has a great audience and is very healthy. But what we’ve always done is evolve. And one of the things that has attracted people to this brand is that we’re always striving to stay ahead and to continue to inspire people. So, I don’t think you can take the tactic of just letting things be and hoping you’ll continue to get the same effect doing the same thing all of the time.

We know that our audience is full of highly-achieving women, and they want to be pushed. They want to open up that magazine and have an experience. They still expect to see new photographers and beautiful images, so that’s where we started. Let’s reorganize it first; let’s refresh it; and then let’s redesign it. And do it in a way that is very true to our DNA. And it continues to really ignite readers too.

Since I started reading the magazine in high school, it was my mother’s magazine, Martha has always made me want to do things. And I think we have to keep that energy going. We have loyal readers who have been with us for nearly 27 years now, and we want to talk to our new audience, it’s so fun to see new readers discover Martha, but we also want to appeal to the people we’ve had for a long time. So, it’s been a lot of fun, and the art team, with our design director, Jaspal Riyait; they just knocked it out of the park with the redesign. It really feels right and we’ve gotten a great response already.

Samir Husni: Daren, are you getting new advertisers that were not onboard before the redesign?

Daren Mazzucca: Yes, we’ve actually enjoyed two years of great advertising growth since the brand has been a part of the Meredith group, from food, packaged goods, appliances; really across the board category growth. I believe there are still opportunities in 2018 to push the envelope with electronics and more. Luxury and beauty, those are areas that we’re focusing in on as well. Meredith has done well, and Martha Stewart has been leading a lot of that push.

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

Daren Mazzucca: For me it would be work smart, have fun, and make money. In that order. (Laughs) It’s a mantra of sorts.

Elizabeth Graves: That’s a hard one. I think above all, be kind. No matter what.

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 Graves: It could be all of the above, but you would definitely be greeted by my young son, James, who might make you play with his trains because I play with trains every night. And definitely cooking, and being with my family. They’re one thing I definitely love coming home to every night.

Samir Husni: And Daren?

Daren Mazzucca: I may have told you this before; I have five beautiful children, so when I’m home I love to unwind with them. Some of them are in college, so we Facetime and we chat socially, and that’s where I spend my greatest moments. It keeps me highly motivated when I return to the office.

Samir Husni: What keeps you both up at night?

Elizabeth Graves: When I drink coffee after 3:00 p.m. (Laughs)

Daren Mazzucca: What keeps me up at night is really staying current in this cross-platform world that we live in. We have to be knowledgeable in print, digital, social, and there’s a lot to learn and it keeps us motivated and that’s what keeps me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Parents Magazine & Its Editor In Chief, Liz Vaccariello, Both Offering Inspiring Storytelling & A Quieter Editorial Experience In This Manic Digital Age – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Liz Vaccariello…

August 17, 2017

“When she’s (the consumer) reading the magazine, she needs a much quieter editorial experience. It needs to be more inspiring. And she has more time. She wants to take more of an emotional journey, rather than be hit over the head with all sorts of practical advice and alarming statistics and stories.” Liz Vaccariello…

“I feel like that’s the power of magazines; it’s the power to tell a story in a unique way. Video tells a story; social media can tell a story, but the print story, the way pictures, words, headlines and the pacing of the magazine take you on a journey, that’s a much different kind of experience.” Liz Vaccariello…

With the recent redesign of Parents Magazine under the direction and leadership of Parents Editor in Chief Liz Vaccariello, the brand known for its credibility and stalwart trustworthiness, has been at the forefront of media these days, and its editor interviewed about the redesign many times over.

So, in true Mr. Magazine™ fashion, I decided to do something entirely different, and mention the redesign minimally, focusing instead on something that both Parents Magazine and its editor in chief have in common: storytelling.

Liz Vaccariello comes home to Meredith (she served as executive editor at Meredith’s Fitness for seven years) after several very successful positions with other titles, most recently as chief content officer and editor in chief for Reader’s Digest. Her storytelling drives her belief in the power of magazines, and the value of the journey they take you on.

I spoke with Liz recently and we talked about the role of print in this most digital age. She was adamant; when someone is reading a magazine, they’re seeking a different type of experience than digital can provide. They’re questing, as Liz put it, for a “quieter editorial experience” and inspiration. That’s very hard to find in the busy, noisy, notification-filled world that roams online.

And while the redesign of Parents Magazine is important and a value unto itself, what fills the pages of those designs, the stories, are always icing on the designer’s cake. So, come with me and experience the passion of a storyteller, a woman who believes magazines have the magical power of telling stories in the most unique of ways, and someone who knew from the sixth grade what her life’s journey would be, a wordsmith, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Liz Vaccariello, editor in chief, Parents Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On why she feels the Parents brand needs a printed magazine in this digital age: The answer to that question is also the answer to why we did a redesign. In this digital age, the mom and dad, but mainly the mom, is on her phone and she’s on her social media, or she’s Googling or querying the solution to a problem. She might be on a Facebook page where she’s feeling a little less-than or judged, for example. When she finally puts down that phone, our research tells us that is when she is engaging with the magazine. It’s her me-time.

On being a storyteller first: I feel like that’s the power of magazines; it’s the power to tell a story in a unique way. Video tells a story; social media can tell a story, but the print story, the way pictures, words, headlines and the pacing of the magazine take you on a journey, that’s a much different kind of experience. And my love for storytelling is one of the first things that I wanted to bring to this team and ask them, many of whom have been here for decades or more; how do we tap into, not only a mother’s exhaustion, but her exhilaration?

On what’s different for her as an editor for Parents Magazine as opposed to other magazines she has edited, such as Reader’s Digest: What’s different about this role is that it speaks to a very unique and constantly moving readership. And that’s mothers. So, I had to immerse myself into millennial moms, and the world they were coming from. Aesthetically, who are the influencers? Also, verbally. What are the phrases that they’re using? What’s the language that they’re using? And culturally. This is a time where mothers are rejecting the mom-shaming or the guilt trips that used to be put on other mothers.

On her reaction when she was offered the job of editor in chief of Parents Magazine: My first reaction was utter shock. And I will tell you the reason why was because Parents Magazine, under my predecessor, was very strong and healthy, highly respected and admired. So, I never in a zillion years thought that this would be an opportunity for me. So, it was shock that I was talking about this suite of Parenting brands.

On the biggest stumbling block that faced her: The biggest stumbling block? I don’t know; it was a pretty seamless transition. I was surprised and delighted to find that almost every single person on my team was enthusiastic about taking a shift in direction and tone. People who had been here decades were some of the most enthusiastic participants in the early research and rethink that we did. So, really delight and surprise at how positive people were to do something new and fresh with the magazine. I wouldn’t call it a stumbling block; I’d probably call it my biggest surprise.

On why she felt the need for a change in the magazine when it was already strong and healthy: You change because your audience changes. The brand didn’t change, nor did what the audience needs from a parenting magazine change. But the generation coming into your space is different from the one that was entering your subscriber file five or ten years ago. They’re speaking a different language. Instead of helicopter parents, they’re the sons and daughters of helicopter parents. So, they’re looking at behavior in a different way. They’re looking at discipline in a different way. They are more interested in hearing from other moms and dads just like them.

On anything she’d like to add: This role is unique in that I am running; I am hands-on-editor-and-chiefing (laughs) the biggest magazine, and the biggest part of the business. But I also get to think beyond the magazine and the magazine’s core general brand and think about Latina parents, one out of every four babies born in this country is born to an Hispanic parent. So, Parents Latina is growing very quickly. And it’s fun to turn my attention to that demographic and see what we can do to interpret this voice and this information for them.

On why there are more line extensions from main titles in the Hispanic market than in the African American market: That’s a really interesting question. In the case of parenting, and I’ll answer in my space in particular, something unique happens when a second generation Latina in the United States becomes a mom. She doesn’t necessarily think of her Latina identity in the forefront of her mind until that moment she has a baby. And then suddenly she’s thinking more about her heritage and it becomes much more important to her. She wants to have one foot back in that culture.

On a memory or memories that she reflects on in her role as editor in chief and main storyteller of Parents Magazine: I often return to a moment in sixth grade when I was doing homework in my bedroom. I remember writing a book report about something and I was sitting at my desk with my pencil and paper. I remember looking at a sentence and thinking that I wanted to change the sentence, so I took another piece of paper and put it next to the first and began to change the words around in the sentence and reading it out loud and listening to the changing rhythms. And then deciding on the perfect way I wanted to say that sentence and putting it back on the paper.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: (Laughs) Mom to Sophia and Olivia. Sophia and Olivia’s mama; that’s my most important job. I think that’s why I get so excited and lit up about my job, because I get to help mommies and daddies and I know how much fun that is and how helpful that can be when you’re a mom. If we can help someone with the stories that we tell; make her laugh or feel better, or do something more efficiently, that’s wonderful. I’m in a good place and I have one of the best jobs in America.

On what keeps her up at night: We’re always concerned about the decline in print advertising. Meredith has a wonderful story about how the growth in digital advertising has far outpaced our small declines in print advertising. But, it doesn’t keep me up at night, because I just got back from a road trip with my publisher, Steven Grune, and I have to tell you, it made me proud to be a Meredith employee because I’m showing this redesign, and I’ve done a lot of road trips over the years for various companies and with various publishers. But when Meredith comes to town, and it speaks highly of Meredith and of Steve Grune and the Parents brand, but when we come to town 30 people show up and they want to hear what’s new with Meredith and with Parents Magazine. So, that speaks highly of our position in the marketplace.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Liz Vaccariello, editor in chief, Parents Magazine.

Samir Husni: Since the redesign of Parents Magazine, you’ve given quite a few interviews about that, so for this interview I thought I’d ask you something a bit different. In this digital age, why do you think the Parents brand needs a print magazine?

Liz Vaccariello: The answer to that question is also the answer to why we did a redesign. In this digital age, the mom and dad, but mainly the mom, is on her phone and she’s on her social media, or she’s Googling or querying the solution to a problem. She might be on a Facebook page where she’s feeling a little less-than or judged, for example. When she finally puts down that phone, our research tells us that is when she is engaging with the magazine. It’s her me-time.

We did a digital focus group where we had subscribers send in video tapes and show us precisely where in the house they kept their Parents Magazines. It was next to the big, comfy chair, or on their nightstands, or next to the bathtub.

So, when she’s reading the magazine, she needs a much quieter editorial experience. It needs to be more inspiring. And she has more time. She wants to take more of an emotional journey, rather than be hit over the head with all sorts of practical advice and alarming statistics and stories.

Samir Husni: The first thing that comes to mind when I read about you or think about you is storyteller.

Liz Vaccariello: Thank you. I feel like that’s the power of magazines; it’s the power to tell a story in a unique way. Video tells a story; social media can tell a story, but the print story, the way pictures, words, headlines and the pacing of the magazine take you on a journey, that’s a much different kind of experience.

And my love for storytelling is one of the first things that I wanted to bring to this team and ask them, many of whom have been here for decades or more; how do we tap into, not only a mother’s exhaustion, but her exhilaration? How do we tap into nostalgia when it comes to being a mom? Then suddenly, you’re nostalgic for your childhood, for example. There’s so much humor that goes with being a parent. And oftentimes, failing to be a perfect parent. Let’s be able to laugh at ourselves.

You can see in the new magazine, we have very short stories, some are longer, but there are little ways to tell those emotional stories in a way that feels like a complete and authentic life.

Samir Husni: Did you have to make any adjustments when you came to Meredith from Reader’s Digest, Prevention, Reminisce? All these magazines that you’ve edited; what’s different about Parents Magazine?

Liz Vaccariello: What’s different about this role is that it speaks to a very unique and constantly moving readership. And that’s mothers. So, I had to immerse myself into millennial moms, and the world they were coming from. Aesthetically, who are the influencers? Also, verbally. What are the phrases that they’re using? What’s the language that they’re using? And culturally. This is a time where mothers are rejecting the mom-shaming or the guilt trips that used to be put on other mothers.

So, I had to do a lot of research into “what is meaningful right now for this millennial, and even coming up soon, Gen Z mom?” And that was unique. You still want to tell good stories, but you also want to speak in a way that is familiar to your audience so that they get you.

Samir Husni: A little less than a year ago, you and I were talking and this job was in the making. And no matter how much I tried, you wouldn’t tell me the name of the magazine. (Laughs)

Liz Vaccariello: (Laughs too).

Samir Husni: Can you describe that moment when you were offered this job as editor in chief of Parents Magazine? What was your first reaction?

Liz Vaccariello: My first reaction was utter shock. And I will tell you the reason why was because Parents Magazine, under my predecessor, was very strong and healthy, highly respected and admired. So, I never in a zillion years thought that this would be an opportunity for me. So, it was shock that I was talking about this suite of Parenting brands.

The magazine; the business was very, very healthy heading into the redesign. Our MRI, our household income, they were both high. We’d experienced a boost of 3.3 percent in household income. So, there was nothing at all broken about the magazine. The fact that my predecessor was leaving was a shock. That was my absolute first reaction.

And then my second one was just feeling my heart swell, because I love to lead brands that touch people’s hearts. You always want to improve people’s lives, but I loved Reader’s Digest because it spoke to positivity and hope. And an oasis of optimism in a world of snark. And with Parents, when you think about optimism and hope, and happiness and meaning, very few things rival being a parent. So, this really hit my sweet spot of service and soul.

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

Liz Vaccariello: The biggest stumbling block? I don’t know; it was a pretty seamless transition. I was surprised and delighted to find that almost every single person on my team was enthusiastic about taking a shift in direction and tone. People who had been here decades were some of the most enthusiastic participants in the early research and rethink that we did. So, really delight and surprise at how positive people were to do something new and fresh with the magazine. I wouldn’t call it a stumbling block; I’d probably call it my biggest surprise.

Normally, when you come in, the new editor in chief will often bring in their new photo director, their new assistant, their new creative director, and I didn’t do any of that. I found that the team here was filled with superstars. Agnethe Glatved, who did the redesign with me, has been with the magazine eight years, and this is her third refresh of the magazine. When you have that level of talent, they’re able to pivot and embrace change. It was a nice experience.

Samir Husni: Let me go inside your great magazine maker mind, you come to a magazine that is doing well, there was nothing wrong with it; why change?

Liz Vaccariello: You change because your audience changes. The brand didn’t change, nor did what the audience needs from a parenting magazine change. But the generation coming into your space is different from the one that was entering your subscriber file five or ten years ago. They’re speaking a different language. Instead of helicopter parents, they’re the sons and daughters of helicopter parents. So, they’re looking at behavior in a different way. They’re looking at discipline in a different way. They are more interested in hearing from other moms and dads just like them.

For 90+ years, Parents Magazine has stood on the shoulders of its credibility. We’ve always done partnerships with the American Academy of Pediatrics. Every word and picture in Parents Magazine had a reputation for being absolutely trustworthy and credible. So, this generation of reader not only expects that kind of creds from our pages, they want that enhanced by what other parents are doing.

They want to know what the experts say, they want to know that trampolines are dangerous; the American Academy of Pediatrics warns parents against having any kind of trampolines in the backyard. But they also want to make their own decisions. Maybe to them the benefit of family exercise and the hours spent jumping on the safest trampoline they can get is worth the mild risk that somebody might twist an ankle. So, what are other parents doing? And how do they justify having a trampoline? So, you need to add how other people in their world are interpreting the news and the guidelines.

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

Liz Vaccariello: I think it’s interesting. We call it the Meredith Parents Network, and Parents Magazine is the jewel in the crown of the Network. And by far, the largest of the magazines, but it also includes Fit Pregnancy and Baby, FamilyFun Magazine, Parents Latina and Ser Padres.

This role is unique in that I am running; I am hands-on-editor-and-chiefing (laughs) the biggest magazine, and the biggest part of the business. But I also get to think beyond the magazine and the magazine’s core general brand and think about Latina parents, one out of every four babies born in this country is born to an Hispanic parent. So, Parents Latina is growing very quickly. And it’s fun to turn my attention to that demographic and see what we can do to interpret this voice and this information for them.

And then think about the baby space and the pregnancy space, and what kind of digital products; what apps; what magazines can we offer the pregnant mom or the wanting-to-be pregnant woman. So, there is always something new; the business is constantly evolving and shifting. It’s a bigger job in that I get to do a lot of fun things, in addition to editing the one magazine.

Samir Husni: Why have we seen more line extensions in the Hispanic market than we have in the African American markets when it comes to the main titles?

Liz Vaccariello: That’s a really interesting question. In the case of parenting, and I’ll answer in my space in particular, something unique happens when a second generation Latina in the United States becomes a mom. She doesn’t necessarily think of her Latina identity in the forefront of her mind until that moment she has a baby.

And then suddenly she’s thinking more about her heritage and it becomes much more important to her. She wants to have one foot back in that culture. And it’s important that her child be perhaps bilingual and understand the Spanish language. Maybe she doesn’t know it, so she wants to learn it too. So, the cultural touchpoints become very important to her in the parenting space. That’s why in my network Parents Latina made sense.

Samir Husni: What memories from your own childhood do you reflect on in your role as editor in chief and head storyteller of a parenting magazine?

Liz Vaccariello: I often return to a moment in sixth grade when I was doing homework in my bedroom. I remember writing a book report about something and I was sitting at my desk with my pencil and paper. I remember looking at a sentence and thinking that I wanted to change the sentence, so I took another piece of paper and put it next to the first and began to change the words around in the sentence and reading it out loud and listening to the changing rhythms. And then deciding on the perfect way I wanted to say that sentence and putting it back on the paper.

In that moment, there was a knock on my bedroom door and in walked my dad. He said you’re up late, you must be doing homework. He had come in to say goodnight. And I remember saying to him that I had just decided that I wanted to be a writer. I remember that moment and the idea of creating a story and telling it in a rhythmic, pleasing way. And working with the words. The words acting like a puzzle. So, I always remember my father being a witness to that pivotal moment in my life.

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

Liz Vaccariello: (Laughs) Mom to Sophia and Olivia. Sophia and Olivia’s mama; that’s my most important job. I think that’s why I get so excited and lit up about my job, because I get to help mommies and daddies and I know how much fun that is and how helpful that can be when you’re a mom. If we can help someone with the stories that we tell; make her laugh or feel better, or do something more efficiently, that’s wonderful. I’m in a good place and I have one of the best jobs in America.

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

Liz Vaccariello: We’re always concerned about the decline in print advertising. Meredith has a wonderful story about how the growth in digital advertising has far outpaced our small declines in print advertising. But, it doesn’t keep me up at night, because I just got back from a road trip with my publisher, Steven Grune, and I have to tell you, it made me proud to be a Meredith employee because I’m showing this redesign, and I’ve done a lot of road trips over the years for various companies and with various publishers. But when Meredith comes to town, it speaks highly of Meredith and of Steve Grune and the Parents brand, but when we come to town 30 people show up and they want to hear what’s new with Meredith and with Parents Magazine. So, that speaks highly of our position in the marketplace. And also of Steve. Our September issue is nice and thick; our October issue is even thicker, so it’s looking really good. I’m actually sleeping quite well. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Horse & Rider Magazine Brings Its Sister Titles Into The Same Stall – Creating A Larger, More Dynamic Stable For Them All – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Horse & Rider Editor, Jennifer Paulson…

July 24, 2017

“I think they will continue to coexist. Honestly though, print is the only thing people still pay for. (Laughs) There’s an authenticity and a trust factor there; a real relationship. They come to us knowing that we have the information that they need, instead of Googling it and maybe getting some unreliable source. I really feel like they come to us and they still pay for the magazine. And advertisers still pay for the inner magazine, because there is a lot of value to that print publication. I think the digital aspect is obviously very important, but I believe it will continue to live side-by-side with print. I don’t like reading a magazine on my tablet. It’s not the same experience. You don’t get to look at and enjoy the beautiful designs that the art director has worked so hard to put together, as well as the experience of the content. So, I think print is here to stay for sure.” Jennifer Paulson (on whether she believes print and digital will continue to coexist)…

Active Interest Media is known for its uniquely, community-driven magazine environment. From its marine group of titles to its equine publications, AIM is all about the targeted reader, that fact is obvious.

That’s why when Horse & Rider magazine opened its pages and welcomed sister titles, American Cowboy and The Trail Rider, into its fold, the redesign and expansion became more of an opportunity than a misfortune. According to Jennifer Paulson, editor at Horse & Rider, it just made sense to bring these groups together into one magazine, because for most horse enthusiasts, the animals aren’t just a lifestyle, they are their lives.

I spoke with Jen recently and we talked about this “western life” that Horse & Rider is now embracing with a more rounded view of Western heritage and the scope of events and content that envelop it. With the addition of many of American Cowboy and The Trail Rider magazine’s contributors and editors, Horse & Rider is ready to inspire and educate readers with new and broader features that will come from the added viewpoints of the other titles. As Jen put it, it was an opportunity that was considered very thoughtfully. And with mostly positive reader feedback, it appears to be working.

So, I hope that you enjoy this interesting look into the equine life and the magazines that support and promote it, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jennifer Paulson, editor, Horse & Life magazine.

But first, the sound-bites:

On combining the three titles of Horse & Rider, American Cowboy and Trail Rider all together into one magazine, Horse & Rider: It just makes sense to bring these groups together to offer all of this information in one spot, because we’re all in this together with horse ownership and our western life, because for most of us horses are not a lifestyle, they’re our lives. It’s not like a tennis racket that you go and play tennis one day and you wake up the next morning and say, “I don’t think I’m going to play tennis anymore.” There’s a lot more of an investment with a horse.

On whether she believes print and digital will continue to coexist or that print is on its way out: I think they will continue to coexist. Honestly though, print is still the only thing people still pay for. (Laughs) There’s an authenticity and a trust factor there; a real relationship. They come to us knowing that we have the information that they need, instead of Googling it and maybe getting some unreliable source.

On whether a day in her professional life could be described as a smooth trail ride or a bumpy road: I wouldn’t call them bumps; I think there are great opportunities every day that keeps my job exciting and also to learn different skills. Of course, I write a lot of the content in the magazine and I shoot a lot of the photography. But I also have an assistant editor who I mentor, and I get to do a lot with her, and help her along with her career as others did for me. So, it is a lot of different hats these days.

On which hat, out of all of the ones she wears as editor, is her favorite: I do enjoy them all, but most of the time the photography is my favorite. It may not be what I’m the best at, but it’s my favorite because I get to be out in the barn or in the arena or at a horse show, and with people who are as infatuated with these horses as I am. And we get to share that passion and talk about them. And they get to tell me all about their horses and some really great stories about their lives with the horses. Experiencing that is probably my favorite thing.

On choosing the cover image: We do cover testing for every issue through AIM’s research department. We usually have two or three images, plus we have a whole roster of different cover lines that are put together and sent out by email. We also do a Facebook post to ask our audience what they prefer. And that helps us determine that cover image.

On whether she’s noticed any evolvement with the other equine titles in the marketplace: Looking at other titles, some things that I’ve noticed, if you look at what the AQHA (American Quarter Horse Association) is doing with their magazines, they’re going deeper into their niches, and really defining those audiences and separating them out. And that’s because now they’re producing the Quarter Horse Journal, but they also have the Ranch Horse Journal , the Performance Horse Journal , and I think they’re going to have a racing journal a couple of times a year too.

On how she would like the magazine’s readers to view the newly combined publication: I think there are ways to inspire our readers within the pages of the magazine. And there are ways to educate them. All horse owners want to take better care of their horses. It’s much like being a parent; you want to make sure that you’re doing the right things for them. There is some instructional content and some advice, but there is also inspiration and fun. We have a great department in the front of the book called “Saddle Chat,” where our readers can really participate in the magazine and become a part of it, and share their stories. And that could even inspire broader feature ideas.

On the moment of conception for the redesign and when she saw it as an opportunity: There were multiple factors that came into it. I first became aware of it as an opportunity in November and just started coming up with ideas of ways it could work. There was a very thoughtful process where we asked, “Could this work?” It wasn’t something that necessarily needed to be forced. You could call it an arranged marriage, I guess, but we wanted to make the union to have some love in it too. (Laughs)

On whether she feels readers are more attached to horse titles than with other special interest magazines: Readers do become attached to columnists and editors in magazines who share their insights in columns and their ideas. And we meet our readers when we’re out and about at events and different places. So, I do believe there’s a friendship between the reader and the editor and the contributors of the magazine.

On whether they’ve received any reaction from readers, either positive or negative, since the redesign: We’ve had quite a bit. We just heard from our circulation department that the retention is higher than what we expected, because in many things like this you expect a little bit of fallout and for people to cancel. But it was tracking higher for retention than what was expected. We have heard from some readers who are upset, but they want to give us a chance to see if we manage to get it right for them.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: If you came to my house in the evening, this time of year, I probably wouldn’t be at home. I’d be at the barn. My kids are learning how to ride, so that’s our evening life right now. But I do read a lot of magazines, and I do enjoy a glass of wine after the kids go to bed.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her:
I would want people to recognize that I’m really passionate about the horse industry. And I work very hard for it, and want to see it be something that continues, so that my kids will always have it in their lives.

On what keeps her up at night: Advertisers. (Laughs) Deadlines and advertisers.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jennifer Paulson, editor, Horse & Rider magazine.

Samir Husni: When I read your editorial for the July issue of Horse & Rider, with its new look and more pages, you write that you’re bringing not only Horse & Rider, but American Cowboy and Trail Rider magazine all into one. What message are you trying to send to your readers? Are you telling them that business is tough, so you’re combining three magazines together, or are you saying that this is a great opportunity to upscale and enlarge Horse & Rider? How do you view the merging of all three titles from an editor’s point of view?

Jennifer Paulson: From an editorial point of view the message is that we’re able to give them more. Between these three groups of people, you have that western horse life that I talk about in the column too. And so, it just makes sense to bring these groups together to offer all of this information in one spot, because we’re all in this together with horse ownership and our western life, because for most of us horses are not a lifestyle, they’re our lives. It’s not like a tennis racket that you go and play tennis one day and you wake up the next morning and say, “I don’t think I’m going to play tennis anymore.” There’s a lot more of an investment with a horse.

So, the idea of your horse life and bringing all of it together makes sense. The original core Horse & Rider reader did pro ride as well as compete, so bringing those pro rider readers over to enhance that trail riding content is great. And also, most of the time if we’re going on vacation or somewhere else, we’re centering that around a western event or a western destination of some kind, because that’s our whole life and what we’re most interested in. So, bringing the other two groups in with Horse & Rider helps us to augment the content we can offer in the magazine. And honestly, boosts the size of the magazine so that we can all share one space.

Samir Husni: Some people might say that what you’re doing, combining the three titles, is yet more proof that print is in decline or print is this or that. Do you agree that we’re losing that core print cornerstone to the digital sphere, or do you think the two platforms will continue to coexist?

Jennifer Paulson: I think they will continue to coexist. Honestly though, print is the only thing people still pay for. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Jennifer Paulson: There’s an authenticity and a trust factor there; a real relationship. They come to us knowing that we have the information that they need, instead of Googling it and maybe getting some unreliable source. I really feel like they come to us and they still pay for the magazine. And advertisers still pay for the inner magazine, because there is a lot of value to that print publication.

I think the digital aspect is obviously very important, but I believe it will continue to live side-by-side with print. I don’t like reading a magazine on my tablet. It’s not the same experience. You don’t get to look at and enjoy the beautiful designs that the art director has worked so hard to put together, as well as the experience of the content. So, I think print is here to stay for sure.

Samir Husni: As an editor, your role today has changed so much. You’re now part curator, part creator and part marketer. Describe for me a day-in-the-life of Jen. Is it like taking a nice relaxing ride on your horse, or are there many bumps along your daily trail?

Jennifer Paulson: I wouldn’t call them bumps; I think there are great opportunities every day that keeps my job exciting and also to learn different skills. Of course, I write a lot of the content in the magazine and I shoot a lot of the photography. But I also have an assistant editor who I mentor, and I get to do a lot with her, and help her along with her career as others did for me.

I get to work with our senior editor, Jenny Meyer, who has been with Horse & Rider for a very long time and has a lot of magazine experience. I get to collaborate with our art director, Adam Purvis, on design and he has a lot of great experience too. He came from the Paint Horse Journal and worked with Darrell Dodds there before coming to Horse & Rider, which has been around 10 years now.

And then I work with our digital team on our website. My assistant editor and I work together on our social media. We have a lot of fun on Instagram; that’s a fun spot right now, we can kind of show behind the scenes of our photo shoots and what we’re doing in the office. And then Facebook is a bit more serious; we give our readers content that’s timely and relevant to them at that moment.

There has also been a lot of marketing right now with this new product. So, obviously there’s a big push behind that. And lots of work with newsstands on figuring out how to bolster sales, if there’s a way to do that. So, it is a lot of different hats these days. It could be seen as bumps in the road, I suppose, but I see it as an opportunity to keep things interesting and to broaden my skillset and hopefully become even better at what I do.

Samir Husni: From all of these different hats that you wear, which one do you enjoy most? The writing; the photography; the marketing; or do you love them all?

Jennifer Paulson: I do enjoy them all, but most of the time the photography is my favorite. It may not be what I’m the best at, but it’s my favorite because I get to be out in the barn or in the arena or at a horse show, and with people who are as infatuated with these horses as I am. And we get to share that passion and talk about them. And they get to tell me all about their horses and some really great stories about their lives with the horses. Experiencing that is probably my favorite thing.


Samir Husni: Being also one of the visual people, one of the photographers; do you do something specific with the cover image that leads the reader directly to that cover story?

Jennifer Paulson: We do cover testing for every issue through AIM’s research department. We usually have two or three images, plus we have a whole roster of different cover lines that are put together and sent out by email. We also do a Facebook post to ask our audience what they prefer. And that helps us determine that cover image.

To me; we know that newsstand is maybe not what it used to be, but we have the newsstand of our readers’ coffee tables, so they probably have multiple Horse titles, maybe they have multiples of different kinds of magazines, different things that they’re looking at. But we want to stand out on their coffee table or their kitchen counter as something they would want to read first.

Samir Husni: As you look at the entire equine category as a whole and the titles that are out there, from a reader’s point of view, have you seen any evolvement with any of those titles? Or do they appear to be struggling just like most of the industry today?

Jennifer Paulson: Looking at other titles, some things that I’ve noticed, if you look at what the AQHA (American Quarter Horse Association) is doing with their magazines, they’re going deeper into their niches, and really defining those audiences and separating them out. And that’s because now they’re producing the Quarter Horse Journal, but they also have the Ranch Horse Journal , the Performance Horse Journal , and I think they’re going to have a racing journal a couple of times a year too.

So, I think you’re seeing those types of places going a little bit more into their niches, as opposed to what we’ve done, which is try to expand the tent and invite everyone in to find their place. I think it’s just a different way of looking at things, but they are going deeper into their own individual niches. What we’ve done is really something different. I guess we’ll see if it’s successful, But I think it’s innovative compared to what’s going on elsewhere.

Samir Husni: You’ve coined this new phrase: Today’s Western horse life, and you were very adamant in your editorial to express that it’s a life, not a lifestyle. What message do you want your readers to receive from this new expression? Do you want them to view the magazine as a manual for their Western horse life?

Jennifer Paulson: No, I don’t think that’s the case. I think there are ways to inspire our readers within the pages of the magazine. And there are ways to educate them. All horse owners want to take better care of their horses. It’s much like being a parent; you want to make sure that you’re doing the right things for them. There is some instructional content and some advice, but there is also inspiration and fun. We have a great department in the front of the book called “Saddle Chat,” where our readers can really participate in the magazine and become a part of it, and share their stories. And that could even inspire broader feature ideas.

We want it to be their magazine and we’re taking all of their feedback very seriously. And when you do something like this, it’s an evolutionary process. We’ll figure out what works and what maybe needs to be tweaked, and come up with new ideas as we go along too. We really want the readers to feel like that we’re in this horse life with them, and we want to hear from them and we want to be sure that we’re giving them what they’re looking for. I think it’s really important that we be a voice for them.

Samir Husni: When was that moment of conception for the redesign? Was it when American Cowboy and Trail Rider folded or was it before that? When did you get the idea for this opportunity?

Jennifer Paulson: There were multiple factors that came into it. I first became aware of it as an opportunity in November and just started coming up with ideas of ways it could work. There was a very thoughtful process where we asked, “Could this work?” It wasn’t something that necessarily needed to be forced. You could call it an arranged marriage, I guess, but we wanted to make the union to have some love in it too. (Laughs)

We just sat down and tried to figure out the pieces that really went together from each of the audiences. And we know there are a portion of American Cowboy readers who don’t own horses and maybe this won’t be their magazine anymore, but maybe it will. We hope it will. We hope that they find interesting content here. We did a lot of research between the three audiences and we tried to figure out the best mix. So, I think we were really thoughtful about bringing them together. It wasn’t just a smashup.

Samir Husni: With the issue that I received, there was a letter from Tom Kaufman, who talked about the silver lining when bringing the three magazines together. Do you feel, especially in the equine business, that there is this affinity between the readers and the editors more than with other special interest magazines? Because in the letter to readers, he mentions editor Bob Welch and many others that were associated with American Cowboy. Or do you think there is just something special about horse titles?

Jennifer Paulson: I think maybe it’s a little of both. Readers do become attached to columnists and editors in magazines who share their insights in columns and their ideas. And we meet our readers when we’re out and about at events and different places. So, I do believe there’s a friendship between the reader and the editor and the contributors of the magazine.

But I don’t ever want to discount that relationship with the horse; that’s so important. And it brings out something in people that maybe they wouldn’t have otherwise. That relationship with the horse is extremely important, therefore the relationship with the magazine is equally important.

Samir Husni: In this age of instant communication with the reader, what has been the reaction so far? Have you received positive feedback from your readers, or negative feedback? Have you gotten any reactions from your readers at all?

Jennifer Paulson: We’ve had quite a bit. We just heard from our circulation department that the retention is higher than what we expected, because in many things like this you expect a little bit of fallout and for people to cancel. But it was tracking higher for retention than what was expected. We have heard from some readers who are upset, but they want to give us a chance to see if we manage to get it right for them. We’ve heard from a few people who are really angry and have cancelled their subscriptions, but as I said, only a few. But we’ve heard more comments from people who are really happy with it.

And there have been some who were really skeptical when they got the letter that they wouldn’t be receiving The Trail Rider or American Cowboy anymore. And they were skeptical and did not want to like it. But when they got it and looked through it, they really liked it. And they’re excited to see what we come up with in the future. So, there has been more of that type of reaction, where they’re a bit surprised that they actually like it.

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; on your iPad; watching TV; or something else?

Jennifer Paulson: Are the kids in bed or not? (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Jennifer Paulson: If you came to my house in the evening, this time of year, I probably wouldn’t be at home. I’d be at the barn. My kids are learning how to ride, so that’s our evening life right now. But I do read a lot of magazines, and I do enjoy a glass of wine after the kids go to bed. Or I could be on social media seeing what else is happening in the industry, such as right now we have a big event going on in Oklahoma City, the National Reining Horse Association Derby, and I’m following along with what’s going on there when I’m at home in the evenings.

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

Jennifer Paulson: I would want people to recognize that I’m really passionate about the horse industry. And I work very hard for it, and want to see it be something that continues, so that my kids will always have it in their lives.

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

Jennifer Paulson: Advertisers. (Laughs) Deadlines and advertisers.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Bloomberg Businessweek: A Rejuvenated Magazine Capturing An Audience Pursuing Quality Over Quantity – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Megan Murphy, Editor, Bloomberg Businessweek…

June 21, 2017

“With Businessweek, there’s no question that we skew, and we’re always going to skew, towards capturing people who are pursuing quality over quantity, people who are going to prefer to look for more intensive analysis, insight and value to add, than you can get from just a commoditized news platform.” Megan Murphy…

Bloomberg Businessweek has been around for the last 88 years. And yes, some of those years it existed without the Bloomberg attachment. The brand has covered the companies, people, and products that have shaped and reshaped the world’s economy. But evolvement in the 21st century is a given. While our world has become more instantaneous, more urgent, and in more need than ever for a clear and concise, authoritative voice out there, Businessweek is reinventing itself to meet those needs.

Megan Murphy has been at the editor’s helm for around seven months now, having previously been a Financial Times reporter and the journalist who ran Bloomberg’s Washington, D.C., bureau during the election. In her most recent editor’s letter, Megan stated that, “More than ever, Businessweek readers need journalism to be more authoritative, more urgent, and more indispensable. We need to take you to where today’s events will be tomorrow’s trends. And we need to do more to help you to cut through the noise to better understand the dynamics that are disrupting the way we work and live.”

Mr. Magazine™ agrees. In all the chaos and melee that surrounds us, news and information that is indispensable is definitely most welcomed. I spoke with Megan recently and we talked about the new relaunch and her ideas and thoughts for Businessweek’s future. Megan is passionate about news, politics, finance and business; everything that her brand deems important as well. So, it’s a match made in magazine heaven, or at least Mr. Magazine™ thinks so.

Megan Murphy, Editor, Bloomberg Businessweek, Photo by Lori Hoffman/Bloomberg.

Her editor’s letter promises a magazine, with sharper storytelling, cleaner and more consistent design, and richer graphics and photography. And on the digital front, there is a suite of digital products you can access wherever you are and whenever you need them, including a redesigned app, “Daily IQ,” which is an email newsletter delivering analysis and insight from senior Bloomberg Businessweek editors worldwide directly to your inbox each afternoon; and a revamped vertical on Bloomberg.com, with fresh stories, a sleeker design, and easier navigation.

Who says you can’t find compelling stories and provocative design among exceptionally precise, important journalism? Certainly not Mr. Magazine™, because I do believe I’ve found it in the new Businessweek. So, I hope you enjoy the equally compelling interview with its editor, Megan Murphy.

But first, the sound-bites:

On where she thinks magazine media is heading: I think the biggest shift is really just the bifurcation of taste and habit that has been radically transformed by consumption habits. Here’s the thing, social media has been a great disruptor, but people also forget, in terms of where people go for immediate news, that we increasingly live in a TV society as well. So much of what you see playing out in Washington or Westminster or Hong Kong is dominated by what used to be called the twenty-four-hour news cycle, which now is almost like the one-hour-thirty-minute news cycle. That is really great for TV and why you see continued strength in TV, but also why you see print mediums really struggling; obviously magazine brands struggling at some point, but also newspapers as well. I’m an ex-newspaper hack for a long time.

On whether she is overwhelmed by her role as editor of Businessweek, with all of Bloomberg’s many platforms: When I first took over Businessweek as the editor, I had been the Washington Bureau chief—obviously, a tumultuous campaign—and one of the big things I was really clear about from the start, and I’m glad in retrospect now, seven months later that I was, is Businessweek always needs to have a clear lane within the broader Bloomberg enterprise. And when I came in, the other point I tried to make was, we don’t want to compete at all, or cannibalize at all, with our existing platforms. We want to be complimentary and do what we can to surface all of the great journalism that’s being done at Bloomberg, but we have to be distinct and separate from them.

On why she thinks that even though times have changed within the world of journalism, the actual reporting hasn’t: I know, it drives me crazy. Just to go into background, about five years ago I created a product at the Financial Times called “Fast FT,” because what I believe passionately is that you can actually add value within the first five minutes. It’s just that more people aren’t doing it. So at Fast FT that’s what we were really trying to do, add value immediately. Instead of just reporting what everybody already knows at length.

On the specialness of the six to eight issues digital subscribers get of the printed magazine: As the editor of Businessweek, I think one of the amazing things about Businessweek is that I learn so much, especially about topics I’d fancied myself very knowing on. I think, if we surface that content, if we patch it in the right way and we get it to people—that’s what some of the special issues are designed to do about these issues that we feel really passionately about—that’s why we do them. That’s why, for digital access, we’re giving them to them.

On how her own personality figured into the new redesign of Businessweek: When I came in, they wanted to redesign. Time has moved on. We live in incredibly different times then when Bloomberg first acquired Businessweek during the first year of the Obama presidency. We face challenges unlike we’ve known in foreign policy, in economic populism, in very disruptive trends that are really changing the way people live, the way they retire, the way they care for their families, the way they project their own personal and national identity, so I try to stay in lanes and empower the people. They knew that they wanted to take this product to be a cleaner, simpler, more robust design that would allow the quality of our journalism to shine through. I pretty much got out of the way and let the experts take the reins on that and do it.

On if someone gave her a magic wand that could humanize Businessweek, both the print and digital versions, who would that person be: The recent cover of the book is Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple. And do you know why I think he is the perfect manifestation of what you just described? It’s because he is, and I’d actually never met him; he is a deeply thoughtful human being. And we had a deeply thoughtful, substantive discussion.

On whether she feels they’re on the top of the mountain with the new redesign: In terms of the book, we’ve done a really good job of cracking at least most of that. And I think now it’s about execution. Obviously, it’s always going to be about content and what we get and how we do it. But in terms of directionally knowing where we’re going and how we want it to look, I’m looking at the current issue now and it looks so amazing. And we’re so excited about it.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly to her home one evening after work: I have been wanting to write a book for a long time about people and YouTube. And the sort of weird communities that exist around YouTube, because I’ve heard of this one community, and there are a lot of strange communities on YouTube, but this one is about people who film themselves at garage sales looking for very unique things, such as baseball cards or old video games, things like that.

On the words or phrase that she would want tattooed on her brain to keep with her forever: One thing that is already tattooed on my brain, and I’ve said this before, but I’m quite competitive, and when I was growing up my dad had this favorite phrase that he would always say: show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.

On what keeps her up at night: What keeps me up at night is the same thing that keeps so many people, I think, up at night, which is not political polarization; not a decline of civility; not any of these disruptive trends. But it is the biggest, I think, disruptive trend of all that we’ll look back and say was the unifying factor. And it’s that we do have this increasing divide between the elite, or the perceived elite, and everybody else.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Megan Murphy, editor, Bloomberg Businessweek.


Samir Husni: In the middle of all of the instant changes that are taking place in our industry, now it’s no longer just mobile, it’s voice first. And for the last 10 years, we’ve heard everything from the tablet is taking over, to mobile, to voice—so, where do you think we are really heading and how are you adapting to all of these changes?

Megan Murphy: I think one of the most profound changes in our industry—and when I say our industry, I might be talking about journalism more broadly, is that okay?

Samir Husni: Definitely.

Megan Murphy: I think the biggest shift is really just the bifurcation of taste and habit that has been radically transformed by consumption habits. Here’s the thing, social media has been a great disruptor, but people also forget, in terms of where people go for immediate news, that we increasingly live in a TV society as well. So much of what you see playing out in Washington or Westminster or Hong Kong is dominated by what used to be called the twenty-four-hour news cycle, which now is almost like the one-hour-thirty-minute news cycle. That is really great for TV and why you see continued strength in TV, but also why you see print mediums really struggling; obviously magazine brands struggling at some point, but also newspapers as well. I’m an ex-newspaper hack for a long time.

With Businessweek, there’s no question that we skew, and we’re always going to skew, towards capturing people who are pursuing quality over quantity, people who are going to prefer to look for more intensive analysis, insight and value to add, than you can get from just a commoditized news platform.

That being said, I don’t think you can be relevant in 2017 unless you address consumption habits of people by trying to go to the mediums where they’re consuming journalism. That means on mobile, on tablet—through social, in terms of how we effectively mobilize our audience through social—on TV, on the radio. I feel for us the responsiveness is making more people aware of how quality a publication our content is on more platforms; so keeping that commitment to excellence and quality in everything we do, trying to get that out to as many people as we can to actually see it, and, at the same time, being more responsive in a thoughtful, considered, shall we say Businessweek way, as things happen and develop. [We do it in a way] where we can really carve out and develop out a lane for us that we see consumers and readers responding to.

Samir Husni: When you look at your big network of 2,700 writers, correspondents, and staffers all over the world, are you overwhelmed by your role? And how do you curate all of that and then distill them to say, “Okay, this is going to be on the app, this is going to be on mobile, and this is going to be for the magazine.”

Megan Murphy: That’s a great question and this answer may get a little long, but I’m still going to bring it out. When I first took over Businessweek as the editor, I had been the Washington Bureau chief—obviously, a tumultuous campaign—and one of the big things I was really clear about from the start, and I’m glad in retrospect now, seven months later that I was, is Businessweek always needs to have a clear lane within the broader Bloomberg enterprise. So, you’re exactly right, in that we have 2,700 journalists and analysts in 120 countries around the world; we’ve got a whole TV network, we’ve got various premium products, various sort of analytical premier products like Business Intelligence; we’ve got our editorial site; we’ve got our radio station. We have invested so much in our editorial operations over the years. It truly can be overwhelming when you think about it.

I run a very important part of that enterprise, we think, because it is consumer facing and it’s such a well-known brand, and has been around for so long, and is known for its excellence. But it’s also, people-wise, relatively small.

And when I came in, the other point I tried to make was, we don’t want to compete at all, or cannibalize at all, with our existing platforms. We want to be complimentary and do what we can to surface all of the great journalism that’s being done at Bloomberg, but we have to be distinct and separate from them. We have Bloomberg.com; we have a separate consumer app; we have the Terminal, which is an amazing product. So, we were very ruthless, I would say, about making sure that we had had a very clear sense of mission and purpose about what we’re doing.

So, taking all of that into this question, let’s use an example, as we’re talking right now, we’ve got Whole Foods and Amazon merging, and I was onset when the story broke. My thing now is going back to the journalists and saying to, not a Businessweek reporter, but actually a Bloomberg editor, who is the head of global business, and saying, ‘I want to know everything that you’re going to do on this deal.’ But Businessweek is never going to write “Amazon Just Acquired Whole Foods for $13.7 Billion,” because that editor knew that immediately. Anybody who is at all interested in the sector knew it already.

What I need to think about now for Businessweek and my audience, is what are they going to want to know about this deal, not immediately when it happened, but maybe in a hour or two? What’s counterintuitive? Who are the players behind it? What is this going to mean for the rest of the industry? What does this mean for the trajectory of Amazon? More importantly, the trajectory for other supermarkets, other grocers in the sector?

Again, everybody can see the immediate share-price reaction, but what I want to know is what’s going to really push me to think differently about what Jeff Bezos’ strategy was, or about what Wal-Mart is going to do to respond to this?

So, that’s what I do as the editor of Businessweek, which is an incredibly fortunate position, and I’m a business and finance, news junkie. I always have been. I’ve been a business reporter all of my life, except for my stint in politics. So, that’s what I really want to think about for my consumer, my reader; what are they looking to Businessweek to value-add to a deal that really will be an industry changer. And how can I harness those 2,700 journalists in 120 countries, this time we’re looking at a lot of them domestically and internationally, to say, ‘What are you guys looking at that we can combine on; that we may take and curate for our app, that’s going to push this story in a direction that’s more than what everybody knew five minutes ago?

Samir Husni: What you said is just common sense, yet why haven’t the newspaper people and some of the media people changed their way of reporting?

Megan Murphy: I know, it drives me crazy. Just to go into background, about five years ago I created a product at the Financial Times called “Fast FT,” because what I believe passionately is that you can actually add value within the first five minutes. It’s just that more people aren’t doing it. So at Fast FT that’s what we were really trying to do, add value immediately. Instead of just reporting what everybody already knows at length.

I’ve been surprised by the lag in our industry about moving to that type of quicker analysis takes, and being not so heavy on what’s already known and out there. Social is so dominant, and as I said earlier, TV is so dominant too in the “what’s happening” space.

And I do think that as professionals, we really need to push ourselves harder when we are asking people to invest their time and more than 140 characters. We need to be giving them content that’s worth more than 140 characters. (Laughs) And I don’t think that everybody is quite there yet.

Samir Husni: I tell my students, “What’s in it for me?” It’s as simple as that.

Megan Murphy: Why would I give you my eyeballs? Why would I give you my time?

Samir Husni: Exactly. Now, as you move forward; I’ve noticed that if people just subscribe to the digital, they still get six to eight special issues of the printed magazine. Can you explain those six to eight issues? What’s so special about them?

Megan Murphy: We still breakout the year ahead, and what we call our “Franchise Issues” here, so, I can’t tell you some of them, because they’ve changed since I’ve come in. Businessweek has been an incredibly fun list editorial, in terms of changing direction, but we’ve also put it at the center of our events strategy at Bloomberg. Frankly, we have been underleveraged at Bloomberg on events. I’m not saying that as like a PR person; I’m just saying as a journalist, events can be a platform to really service your journalism again to other people to get exposure.

So, when we think about franchises and these special issues, those are usually franchises that are tied into broader events that we really want to use as showcase events. For example, we’ve had a franchise called “The Year Ahead,” which has traditionally been one of our blowout issues where we really step back, draw on some of our analysts, and say, “Okay, really think hard about what this coming year is going to look like.” We use their projections across business, finance, ecology, the economy, to really build a cool magazine around those projections. That’s one of those special issues that we’ll be keeping.

Some of the other franchises are changing a little bit, some that we haven’t announced yet. We have a special issue coming up that’s focused around jobs. It goes directly to what we were just talking about, “What’s in it for me?” I do believe that so much of journalism now—and I’m a passionate, passionate advocate for fantastic, investigative reporting and long form—but I also believe that you have to have a way that makes people invest their time.
One way to do that is to do special issues where you say to them, “Look, everybody is talking about bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. Everyone’s talking about technology disrupting the workforce. Everyone’s talking about ‘Are robots going to be doing my job?’ not just in America but around the world. Okay, let’s really talk about this and let’s blow it out and give you twenty pages that really look at this, at the disruptive workforce, where the future of the work force is going, why manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back, why everybody’s probably going to be more in the service sector, what’s going on with Asia in terms of China, Japan, and the knock on in Southeast Asia, why do we still have a persistent wage gap, [etc.]. Let’s really look at these issues, go in depth.”

I think when you make that value prop to people and you say, “Give me thirty minutes. Give me five minutes on your mobile at first. Give me twenty minutes at night. Give me an hour on the weekend.” If I can get people to do that with Businessweek content, that is great. I do think that is the way, directionally, we want our readers to experience and consume our content. If you are really interested in the subject, and I think everybody is, we’re going to give you a package of articles that are going to make you think differently. Maybe it’s going to confirm some of the things you thought, but it’s also going to really push you to think “Okay, I know a lot more about this landscape than I ever thought I would.”

As the editor of Businessweek, I think one of the amazing things about Businessweek is that I learn so much, especially about topics I’d fancied myself very knowing on. I think, if we surface that content, if we patch it in the right way and we get it to people—that’s what some of the special issues are designed to do about these issues that we feel really passionately about—that’s why we do them. That’s why, for digital access, we’re giving them to them.

Samir Husni: As I hear you talking, I can feel your passion to the subject matter you’re covering and working with. How did your own personality and background factor into the redesign that took six months in the making, especially after Businessweek was relaunched as Bloomberg Businessweek. There was a lot of talk about the design and the whole aspect of the magazine. How did all of that factor in this new redesign?

Megan Murphy: I feel incredibly grateful and lucky in the sense that I am a journalist. I love the content. Of course, I love breaking news, but I love even more when I can tell you that something you thought you knew isn’t really true. Just to use an example: In our recent issue, we’ve got a story on exposure of female workers in technology companies in South Korea and how, as of recently in 2015, they have been exposed to toxic chemicals during the chip making process, something that should’ve been eradicated twenty-five years ago. That journalist has spent years working on that. We’ve got a story on Western Union. The thing I love about that story is you think you know what Western Union does? Guess again. It’s surprising. It’s an amazing corporate profile.

I’m so proud of some of the journalism in the front of the book—all of the journalism in the front of the book. But we’ve also done stand-out graphics. I am a journalist. I am a content person, and I think everybody knew that about me when I came in. The flip side of that is, I let the people who are experts about design, about photography, about art direction—of which we literally have many of the best in the industry—I want to empower them to take responsibility for the design direction of this magazine. That is what they did.

When I came in, they wanted to redesign. Time has moved on. We live in incredibly different times then when Bloomberg first acquired Businessweek during the first year of the Obama presidency. We face challenges unlike we’ve known in foreign policy, in economic populism, in very disruptive trends that are really changing the way people live, the way they retire, the way they care for their families, the way they project their own personal and national identity, so I try to stay in lanes and empower the people. They knew that they wanted to take this product to be a cleaner, simpler, more robust design that would allow the quality of our journalism to shine through. I pretty much got out of the way and let the experts take the reins on that and do it. (Laughs)

Of course, there are certain things that I like that are reflected, but what Rob Vargas, our creative director, and Clinton Cargill, the director of photography here; what they have done is exactly what I wanted and 100 times more. And I’m so grateful and proud of them, in taking responsibility and ownership of the book and putting it on themselves to develop a product which we always say that we wanted it to come out to market and have people say that it was so much better.

Yes, the design is cleaner, but it’s also better, in terms of showcasing the stories and the content that we really want to get out to people. And at the end of the day, Businessweek will always be about fantastic design, but it’s also about fantastic business journalism. Fantastic journalism about technology; fantastic journalism about politics, and we want people to know that and they hit out of the park with the redesign, as far as I’m concerned.

Samir Husni: If I gave you a magic wand that allowed you the power to humanize Businessweek; those pixels on the screen and that ink on paper, who would that person actually be?

Megan Murphy: The recent cover of the book is Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple. And do you know why I think he is the perfect manifestation of what you just described? It’s because he is, and I’d actually never met him; he is a deeply thoughtful human being. And we had a deeply thoughtful, substantive discussion. In fact, I did an interview with Obama a year ago, and he reminded me of that interview, in the sense of, many times when you talk to corporate leaders, I’ve been in this business a long time, and even if they give the impression that they’re really engaging with you and telling you what they really think, many of them are so studied that it’s actually just PR statements repeated in a false folksy way. And what really struck me about Tim was his genuineness and humanity; his passion in ways that I didn’t expect, his passion about music, about Steve Jobs, and the Apple legacy being very separate from his own.

And I think there are things that he talked and said that were totally unexpected and surprising, engaging and thought-provoking, and that go far beyond Apple, but more about America’s place in the world.

And that is what we seek to do every week at Businessweek. To give you the substance beyond what you think you knew, or the headlines, or where you think directionally things are traveling. In that sense, putting totally aside whether or not people agree with him and what he’s saying, in terms of conveying substance, genuineness and surfacing ideas, I thought it was a really interesting discussion.

Samir Husni: What’s next? Are you on top of the mountain now, after the redesign?

Megan Murphy: In terms of the book, we’ve done a really good job of cracking at least most of that. And I think now it’s about execution. Obviously, it’s always going to be about content and what we get and how we do it. But in terms of directionally knowing where we’re going and how we want it to look, I’m looking at the current issue now and it looks so amazing. And we’re so excited about it.

But digitally; when you layer this on the digital products, the app, the new vertical, and with the newsletter, which I will be personally writing next issue, it’s a lot of stuff. First of all, we’re not even in the footholds. I actually used to be a mountain climber; I would climb Mt. McKinley and Denali, and I would always think, before you get to Denali there’s like 100 miles of no population and very tall mountains, and that’s where we are. It’s like this is work; this is hard work. It’s hard work to create journalistic excellence; it’s hard work to create design excellence; and it’s hard work to create and sustain this much of a product relaunch, in terms of ethos, mission, brand and design.

It is going to continue to require work every single day, and creativity, innovation, and teamwork. So, I wish we were at the top of the mountain, but all I know is that this crew is strapped in and they have shown, every time I thought we were all going to collapse during what was a frankly grueling time, they always rose to the occasion. And they always just wowed me. I always say that I was along for the ride with some of the most talented people that I’ve ever worked with. And I think that’s going to continue to be the case. Maybe later in the summer, when we have more great issues to look at, we’ll feel that we’re halfway up the mountain. (Laughs) I am so pleased at how the rollout has gone, but there’s so much more work to be done.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly to your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Are you on your iPad, watching TV, having a glass of wine, reading a book, or something else?

Megan Murphy: I have been wanting to write a book for a long time about people and YouTube. And the sort of weird communities that exist around YouTube, because I’ve heard of this one community, and there are a lot of strange communities on YouTube, but this one is about people who film themselves at garage sales looking for very unique things, such as baseball cards or old video games, things like that.

There are certain characters that I identify with; I am just fascinated by how communities form in modern society and how even now through social media platforms, your weird little obsessions can become something that 10,000 people watch, such as filming yourself going to garage sales looking for video games. To me that’s a fascinating thing about how communities form, so you would likely find me with a glass of wine, probably watching YouTube videos about this subject. So, that’s a weird one, but it’s true. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: If there was one thing that you’d want tattooed on your brain, something that would be with you forever, what would it be?

Megan Murphy: One thing that is already tattooed on my brain, and I’ve said this before, but I’m quite competitive, and when I was growing up my dad had this favorite phrase that he would always say: show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.

Samir Husni: (Laughs)

Megan Murphy: So, that’s the permanent tattoo that’s on my brain. I could never get it out.

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

Megan Murphy: What keeps me up at night is the same thing that keeps so many people, I think, up at night, which is not political polarization; not a decline of civility; not any of these disruptive trends. But it is the biggest, I think, disruptive trend of all that we’ll look back and say was the unifying factor.

And it’s that we do have this increasing divide between the elite, or the perceived elite, and everybody else. And for me, that is the most worrisome; the most dangerous; the most underreported, on a global sense; and the most potentially catastrophic element of both Western Democracies and in places like China and Japan. Until we can find a way where globalization, either true or perception-wise, does lift all boats. That we can have people begin to think that the political class is not elite, but relevant to their daily lives.

Where people feel that the decisions being taken in centers of government actually are going to make their lives better. That there representatives are working for them and that we don’t have a capitalist society or a corrupt society, like other places in the world that just strips and cleans off the world for the elite. Where things talked about have real world impact and people believe that. Until we start moving that way as a society again, where people feel truly vested in the decisions made in the corridors of companies and the corridors of Westminster and the corridors of Washington, we are in for a really big problem if this continues to go in the other direction. So, I spend a lot of time thinking about that topic, and whether media is a part of the problem or part of the solution. And I try to be part of the solution.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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FourTwoNine: Cracking The 429 Code In Luxury Men’s Magazines – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Maer Roshan, Editor In Chief/Chief Content Officer & Richard Klein, Publisher/Chief Creative Officer, FourTwoNine Magazine…

May 16, 2017

“When people say print is dead, I just think that’s idiotic. Print stays relevant in the sense that it needs to provide an aesthetic, sensory and tactile experience that the web can’t. You ought to use print to display gorgeous photography or a deeper read, where you’re not hunched over your cell phone reading. I just read recently that e-books are plummeting, while printed books are really doing amazingly well. And I think what we’re going to see with magazines is similar. I don’t think the newsy magazines, like Time, are going to do very well in this Internet age. But if your magazine is about a more leisurely, substantial read, or about the imagery; you can have great imagery, but on the web it just doesn’t hit you in the same way, you know? In the same way that vinyl and books are back, I think magazines will definitely have a place.” Maer Roshan

“People like something tangible. The magazine is quarterly right now, and it definitely feels like a coffee table book, but back to the reverse engineering of media; we’re also very focused on our website as well. While we started out as a social network, we’re now a print magazine; a huge event company, in June alone, we’re doing 18 events; and then of course, our digital. Maer is running the contents of the website as well.” Richard Klein

You say 007, folks say James Bond. You say 429, folks-in-the-know say the very successful website, dot429, the online network for LGBT professionals, a brand that also manifested itself through the pages of an ink on paper magazine, aptly named FourTwoNine. But where did the name originates from, well, you don’t have to look further than the dialing pad on your phone. Four is for G, Two is for A, and Nine is for Y. Four Two Nine = GAY. However, the magazine focuses on a myriad of topics, from politics to fashion, and touts itself as much more than just a gay-based magazine. According to publisher, Richard Klein, it’s a men’s title and a brand that aims itself at people of all genders.

Editor in chief, Maer Roshan, who has known success at such high-profile titles as Talk, Radar, and Vanity Fair, hopped onboard with Richard and agrees that FourTwoNine is definitely a differentiator among the LGBT magazine communities.

I spoke with Maer and Richard recently and we talked about the factors that make FourTwoNine a game changer when it comes to content, design and audience engagement within the gay magazine space. It was an often fun-filled conversation, but also a very informative glimpse into what each of them think a gay magazine should be. And according to Maer, it’s most definitely not supposed to be earnest, dull, or predictable.

So, without further ado, enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with the powers behind FourTwoNine Magazine, Maer Roshan and Richard Klein.

But first the sound-bites:

On how FourTwoNine is different than other gay media (Richard Klein):

Richard Klein, publisher and creative director, FourTwoNIne magazine

We’re a small brand, but we’re growing. We don’t really brand ourselves necessarily as a completely gay magazine. We have taken more of a sense that within this landscape right now, there really are no brands, in terms of gender. We see ourselves as more of a men’s title.

On how FourTwoNine is different than the many other magazines that Maer Roshan has worked at or started (Maer Roshan): I think in the universe of gay magazines right now; when Richard said that we’re not trying to brand ourselves as gay, I think what makes FourTwoNine Magazine a gay magazine is its sensibility more than its entire content. We did a piece on Adam Schiff, and it’s not exactly a gay story. It has interest to gay people; he happens to be a congressman from West Hollywood, but it wasn’t told from a particularly gay perspective. But it’s within our world, so it made sense.

On how the magazine seems aimed at a very upscale audience (Richard Klein): The magazine was born from Dot429, which was the professional website/social network. When we started that, which was over five years ago now, it was aimed at a very affluent audience within the LGBT community. Really, the professionals. Brands like Cartier, Lexus and Cadillac have longed to really reach this community and demographic, and we are producing a product that they feel comfortable within. There isn’t a lot out there that they’re able to reach this audience with.

On what Maer thinks and says about the magazine at the end of the day (Maer Roshan): Every day it’s going to be something different. I want something that stands on its own and that people will look at and not just say it’s a good “gay” magazine, but they’ll say FourTwoNine is a great magazine, period. And that’s actually enthusing, because a lot of friends of mine who are not gay, but in the media business, subscribe to the magazine and read it and then get back to me. And the fact that it’s them and they have something to relate to, that’s pretty cool to me. As Richard was talking about; we’re aiming for a high demographic, in the sense that we have a culturally aware audience.

On whether they feel there is still room for print in this digital age (Maer Roshan):

Maer Roshan, editor in chief, FourTwoNine magazine.

For sure. And you know, I went and did The Fix after Radar, which we sold, and it has done very well. It’s like the biggest recovery website in the world now. Obviously, Radar Online, we’ve worked really hard on, and it’s huge now. And then I work with Tina (Brown) and Women in the World for the Times. So, I love what you can do digitally and it gives you a lot of room for things that you couldn’t do in print. But, when people say print is dead, I just think that’s idiotic. Print stays relevant in the sense that it needs to provide an aesthetic, sensory and tactile experience that the web can’t. You ought to use print to display gorgeous photography or a deeper read, where you’re not hunched over your cell phone reading.

On whether they feel there is still room for print in this digital age (Richard Klein): People like something tangible. The magazine s quarterly right now, and it definitely feels like a coffee table book, but back to the reverse engineering of media; we’re also very focused on our website as well. While we started out as a social network, we’re now a print magazine; a huge event company, in June alone, we’re doing 18 events; and then of course, our digital.

On how Richard balances his roles as both publisher and chief creative officer (Richard Klein): I studied architecture and graphic design as well. When I launched Surface magazine; I launched it as the creative director, but I think in publishing, when you are a staff of a dozen, or less than 20 people, everybody wears a lot of different hats. Maer and I were in New York recently, visiting a number of different partners and advertisers, and focused very much on the business side of things. We both have a clear vision of what the aesthetic of the brand should be; what image-makers we want to work with.

On the strategy behind the multiple covers of the same issue (Maer Roshan): It’s a general interest magazine in some ways, which is a rarity. It’s obviously a gay magazine, but under that umbrella, we cover fashion; we cover personalities, and many other topics. And what that allows us to do is to showcase different elements of what we’re doing to the different audiences that we have.

On whether Maer believes the journal-like, high cover-priced magazines can overtake the industry (Maer Roshan): I’m glad that you just said that, because there’s one point that I’ve been wanting to make as well, which is, and this is something that I think makes us new and from just looking at other magazines that are like that, the ones that charge a lot of money, and stay longer on the newsstand or are a coffee table magazine, those are not very vital, up-to-date, or in the moment. A lot of times, their content could be from last year and you wouldn’t know, because it’s kind of vague and not trying to keep up with the moment.

On the comparison of FourTwoNine to Monocle (Richard Klein): Monocle is such an iconic brand today, and you mention Monocle to somebody and they know exactly who the reader is and where the magazine fits in the landscape. And I think that’s really important for what we’re doing too. And while we’re a print magazine and events and the website; we’re really creating this brand. And when someone picks it up or we talk about FourTwoNine, we know who we are.

On the origins of the name FourTwoNine for the magazine (Richard Klein): The number 429 on the telephone keypad spells GAY. So, when we launched the social network, we wanted to create a name that wasn’t hitting you over the head, but it was kind of like a handshake, if you will.

On anything either of them would like to add (Richard Klein): I think the only thing that we really didn’t touch on is the West Coast sensibility.

On anything either of them would like to add (Maer Roshan): Oh, thanks. You know me, I’ve been an East Coast boy for many years, and then I moved to the West, along with a lot of other people. Back in the day, you would have gone to L.A. and thought of it as kind of a second-rate version of New York, but that has changed. Particularly with the political energies; the cultural energy, there has been a big shift westward.

On what either of them would be doing if someone showed up at their house unexpectedly one evening (Maer Roshan): That’s an interesting question; I would be working. (Laughs) Funny enough, recently, I was on my way home and I drove by this theatre here; the Director’s Guild, and I wondered what was going on there. As it turned out, that was where James Comey was supposed to speak. And so I called one of our reporters and told him that he had to get there, because that was where he was supposed to be. So, we both found our way into this place.

On what either of them would be doing if someone showed up at their house unexpectedly one evening (Richard Klein): I moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco a year and a half ago. And I’m exploring the city almost every night. But as I said, we do a ton of events. And there’s always something going on in Los Angeles. We have a really close relationship with Soho House. There’s seems to always be an event or a talk going on at Soho House. A friend of mine just launched a gallery; a kind of popup gallery at her loft. There is literally always a major event going on in Los Angeles. It’s a lot of friends and things are popping up all over the place here.

On what keeps them up at night (Richard Klein): There are a lot of things that keep me up at night. (Laughs) If you’re asking what my worries are; we are holding this with a very careful team. We’re kind of in the throe of that, while we’re starting to see really great traction. It’s still quite a bit of work. But we’re keeping at it. And then just the issue of how to keep us alive. But, as I said, we’re getting it and it’s going well.

On what keeps them up at night (Maer Roshan): Donald Trump. (Laughs) That’s about it. But I wake up every morning excited about being a journalist, so for that, I guess I should thank him.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Maer Roshan, editor in chief/chief content office & Richard Klein, publisher/chief creative officer, FourTwoNine Magazine.

Samir Husni: Richard, since you’re more of the publisher and chief creative officer, which is somewhat of a rarity in the magazine business; if someone were to ask you how you differentiated FourTwoNine from all of the other gay media out there today, what would you say?

Richard Klein: It has changed quite a bit. We’re a small brand, but we’re growing. We don’t really brand ourselves necessarily as a completely gay magazine. We have taken more of a sense that within this landscape right now, there really are no brands, in terms of gender. We see ourselves as more of a men’s title.

Samir Husni: Maer, you’ve edited several magazines, whether as top editor or in starting your own. How do you differentiate? If someone asked you: you’re the editor of FourTwoNine, how is that different from anything else you’ve done; what would you say?

Maer Roshan: That’s a good question. One of the first magazines that I started right after college was a gay weekly in New York, called NYQ, and it was right in the midst of the AIDS crisis. Eventually, it was sold to Time Inc.

But what made me interested in doing this (FourTwoNine) was how much the gay landscape has changed since I did NYQ. And just the definition of how gay people fit into society and what gay culture means has changed dramatically.

Basically, I know how to do a very limited amount of things. I like making new stuff and pushing the envelope a little bit. And adjusting culture and good writing. So, we try to do the same thing in every magazine, and in that way things haven’t changed.

But I think in the universe of gay magazines right now; when Richard said that we’re not trying to brand ourselves as gay, I think what makes FourTwoNine Magazine a gay magazine is its sensibility more than its entire content. We did a piece on Adam Schiff, and it’s not exactly a gay story. It has interest to gay people; he happens to be a congressman from West Hollywood, but it wasn’t told from a particularly gay perspective. But it’s within our world, so it made sense. And we’ve had a great response. We’re one of the earliest people to cover him in that way.

You mix that with some of the other stories that we’ve done, especially when applying a sensibility, and I think that things now are more political for gay people that it’s been in a while. But it defines itself less just as being gay; it’s part of a larger movement.

One of the things that has always amazed me about a lot of gay magazines is that gay culture is humorous and fun, and kind of pushing the envelope. And gay magazines tend to be so earnest and dull. (Laughs) A while back someone had talked to me about doing Logo, the gay network, and they asked me what Logo should be like. And I said Logo should be Bravo, so it’s not ostensibly a gay network. And if we were to put magazines in that way, we would go to a Bravo model over a Logo model, which is earnest and dry…

Samir Husni: (Laughs)

Maer Roshan: …if that gives you some idea.

Samir Husni: Richard, in addition to the great editorial content; even looking at the ads, it seems like you’re aiming at a very upscale audience. Is that by choice or is that another point of differentiation? You’re not a mass magazine, or like you said; you’re not a big major brand, but at the same time, you’re aiming high.

Richard Klein: The magazine was born from Dot429, which was the professional website/social network. When we started that, which was over five years ago now, it was aimed at a very affluent audience within the LGBT community. Really, the professionals. As we built that network, and started speaking to the membership of the network and to partner that with the way we sort of differentiated ourselves from brands like the dating sites that were out there and the hook-up sites, and some of the magazines that aren’t with us any longer, such as “Instinct” or “Next,” that kind of syllabus in the gay landscape.

So, brands like Cartier, Lexus and Cadillac have longed to really reach this community and demographic, and we are producing a product that they feel comfortable within. There isn’t a lot out there that they’re able to reach this audience with.

Samir Husni: Maer, I noticed that you’ve assembled quite a team, from your East Coast editor, Hal (Rubenstein), to all the others working and writing for the magazine; at the end of the day, what do you think and say about the magazine?

Maer Roshan: Every day it’s going to be something different. I want something that stands on its own and that people will look at and not just say it’s a good “gay” magazine, but they’ll say FourTwoNine is a great magazine, period. And that’s actually enthusing, because a lot of friends of mine who are not gay, but in the media business, subscribe to the magazine and read it and then get back to me. And the fact that it’s them and they have something to relate to, that’s pretty cool to me. As Richard was talking about; we’re aiming for a high demographic, in the sense that we have a culturally aware audience.

But I also hate pretentiousness, you know? One of the things that I’d talked to Richard about when he asked me to come over here was, when I think about what the purpose of the magazine is I think “Vanity Fair” meets “Vice.” It has great reporting and great production values and great writing. It’s edgier and pushes the envelope and has its finger on the pulse of culture.

Samir Husni: Maer, you’ve worked at some very high profile titles, whether it’s Talk or Radar, which you started. And then we came to a point where everyone was saying print is dead, we’re folding our print edition and going online. Yet, FourTwoNine is almost reverse engineering; it started as a website and now it’s a print magazine. Do you feel that there’s still room for print in today’s digital age?

Maer Roshan: For sure. And you know, I went and did The Fix after Radar, which we sold, and it has done very well. It’s like the biggest recovery website in the world now. Obviously, Radar Online, we’ve worked really hard on, and it’s huge now. And then I work with Tina (Brown) and Women in the World for the Times. So, I love what you can do digitally and it gives you a lot of room for things that you couldn’t do in print.

But, when people say print is dead, I just think that’s idiotic. Print stays relevant in the sense that it needs to provide an aesthetic, sensory and tactile experience that the web can’t. You ought to use print to display gorgeous photography or a deeper read, where you’re not hunched over your cell phone reading. I just read recently that e-books are plummeting, while printed books are really doing amazingly well. And I think what we’re going to see with magazines is similar. I don’t think the newsy magazines, like Time, are going to do very well in this Internet age. But if your magazine is about a more leisurely, substantial read, or about the imagery; you can have great imagery, but on the web it just doesn’t hit you in the same way, you know? In the same way that vinyl and books are back, I think magazines will definitely have a place.

Richard Klein: People like something tangible. The magazine is quarterly right now, and it definitely feels like a coffee table book, but back to the reverse engineering of media; we’re also very focused on our website as well. While we started out as a social network, we’re now a print magazine; a huge event company, in June alone, we’re doing 18 events; and then of course, our digital. Maer is running the contents of the website as well.

Maer Roshan: I don’t think you could have a media property these days and not have web and print and events and all that stuff. The days where you could just have one of those things are over. All of those things play into each other and they’re vitally important . All of these different elements work together and are important in building a community, which we’re trying to do, but also building an ad-base and a web engine base too.

Samir Husni: I started as a graphic designer, even when I was in high school, before I left Lebanon. That was my whole work before I went to college, and now I work more on the business side. How do you balance your roles? Do you work both sides of the brain when you’re the publisher and the chief creative officer? Do you have to change hats or does it just come naturally to you?

Richard Klein: I studied architecture and graphic design as well. When I launched Surface magazine; I launched it as the creative director, but I think in publishing, when you are a staff of a dozen, or less than 20 people, everybody wears a lot of different hats. Maer and I were in New York recently, visiting a number of different partners and advertisers, and focused very much on the business side of things. We both have a clear vision of what the aesthetic of the brand should be; what image-makers we want to work with. While it’s left-lane, right-lane in one sense, they both go hand-in-hand and are very much a brand ambassador to FourTwoNine.

Samir Husni: In the case of the print magazine, I noticed that with the first issue you had different covers; with the second issue, you had three covers that you edited. What’s the strategy behind the multiple covers of the same issue?

Maer Roshan: It’s a general interest magazine in some ways, which is a rarity. It’s obviously a gay magazine, but under that umbrella, we cover fashion; we cover personalities, and many other topics. And what that allows us to do is to showcase different elements of what we’re doing to the different audiences that we have. It’s all tied together by sensibility and point of view, but there are some people who are really interested in one thing and some who are interested in another, so we try and showcase different elements within the magazine that will hopefully resonate with different audiences.

Samir Husni: There is a lot of buzz around these new types of magazines that look like a journal, but read like a magazine. They have the high cover price and the connectivity with the audience; can those types of magazines overtake the industry?

Maer Roshan: I’m glad that you just said that, because there’s one point that I’ve been wanting to make as well, which is, and this is something that I think makes us new, and from just looking at other magazines that are like that, the ones that charge a lot of money and stay longer on the newsstand or are a coffee table magazine, those are not very vital, up-to-date, or in the moment. A lot of times, their content could be from last year and you wouldn’t know, because it’s kind of vague and not trying to keep up with the moment.

And if you look through our issue, we’re as up-to-date as possible. And part of that is because we keep our deadlines really, really late, before we go to press, precisely because we want to stay in the moment. It gives you this rare combination of really good production values and coffee table quality, but most of the content is vital and makes news. Looking at newsstands, which I obviously did a lot before starting this venture, there’s not a lot of magazines that provide both of those things. And that’s what made me interested in this project.

Samir Husni: When I picked up Issue #9 and then Issue #10, the magazine that comes to mind more than anything else is Monocle. I don’t know whether it’s the combination of glossy and matte paper or the design; am I way off here?

Maer Roshan: I could see where you would say that. What you should look at as maybe a better example is Monitor. I like Monocle a lot; it’s very packaged and glib. I’m hoping that we’re less that. When I hold Monocle, I love what it says about me, but I’m not sure that I would be an avid reader of the magazine. Does that make any sense?

Samir Husni: Yes.

Richard Klein: “Monocle” is such an iconic brand today, and you mention Monocle to somebody and they know exactly who the reader is and where the magazine fits in the landscape. And I think that’s really important for what we’re doing too. And while we’re a print magazine and events and the website; we’re really creating this brand. And when someone picks it up or we talk about FourTwoNine, we know who we are.

Maer Roshan: “Monocle” also seems a bit earnest to me at times. I think that we take a little bit more liberties and that’s because of our content and our audience. We have a little bit more of a point of view. But it’s beautiful and very well-conceived and put together. And it’s a compliment for you to compare us to it.

Samir Husni: To me, Maer, FourTwoNine is one of the best magazines that you have created so far.

Maer Roshan: Thank you.

Samir Husni: Richard, what is the origin of the name FourTwoNine? It isn’t the area code.

Richard Klein: The number 429 on the telephone keypad spells GAY. So, when we launched the social network, we wanted to create a name that wasn’t hitting you over the head, but it was kind of like a handshake, if you will.

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

Maer Roshan: I think we covered everything; the combination of things that we’re doing. The fact that it’s not just in one sphere, it’s all these different spheres at once.

Richard Klein: I think the only thing that we really didn’t touch on is the West Coast sensibility.

Maer Roshan: Oh, thanks. You know me, I’ve been an East Coast boy for many years, and then I moved to the West, along with a lot of other people. Back in the day, you would have gone to L.A. and thought of it as kind of a second-rate version of New York, but that has changed. Particularly with the political energies; the cultural energy, there has been a big shift westward.

And while we’re a national magazine, I kind of look at it like when I was in New York, working for “Talk” or “Vanity Fair.” You covered the nation, but it was from a distinct New York/East Coast sensibility. It’s kind of amazing to me how few magazines are like this, are rooted in the West Coast ideas and values, but cover the world from that. It’s not really a regional magazine, but takes the best of what the cultures are doing on this coast and magnifies it in coverage and everything else.

Samir Husni: If I showed up at either of your houses unexpectedly one evening after work, what would I find you doing; reading a book; watching TV; cooking; having a glass of wine; or something else?

Maer Roshan: That’s an interesting question; I would be working. (Laughs) Funny enough, recently, I was on my way home and I drove by this theatre here; the Director’s Guild, and I wondered what was going on there. As it turned out, that was where James Comey was supposed to speak. And so I called one of our reporters and told him that he had to get there, because that was where he was supposed to be. So, we both found our way into this place. (Laughs) Most of the reporters were waiting outside, but we were saying that we might possibly want to join the FBI, so they ended up letting us in and then I got kicked out. (Laughs again) They checked my ID. But my reporter went in and I think we were one of the only people to be reporting from the actual location of where James Comey was supposed to be. And it’s on our website now.

I go out with friends and try to keep up with the culture, because that’s my job, but also because I love it. A lot of it goes into the things that excite me, and that ends up making me a good editor, I think. Curiosity brings a lot of different stuff. I try to keep up with all the appointments, television, things like that. I still read books, because I’m old school that way. And I hang out with friends.

Richard Klein: I moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco a year and a half ago. And I’m exploring the city almost every night. But as I said, we do a ton of events. And there’s always something going on in Los Angeles. We have a really close relationship with Soho House. There’s seems to always be an event or a talk going on at Soho House. A friend of mine just launched a gallery; a kind of popup gallery at her loft. There is literally always a major event going on in Los Angeles. It’s a lot of friends and things are popping up all over the place here.

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

Richard Klein: There are a lot of things that keep me up at night. (Laughs) If you’re asking what my worries are; we are holding this with a very careful team. We’re kind of in the throe of that, while we’re starting to see really great traction. It’s still quite a bit of work. But we’re keeping at it. And then just the issue of how to keep us alive. But, as I said, we’re getting it and it’s going well.

Maer Roshan: Donald Trump. (Laughs) That’s about it. But I wake up every morning excited about being a journalist, so for that, I guess I should thank him.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Esquire Magazine: Reanimating Traditions For The 21st Century And Setting A Course For New Seas In A World Where Being Fashionable Isn’t Just About What You Wear – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Jay Fielden, Editor In Chief, Esquire Magazine…

March 6, 2017

march-newsstand-cover“I feel we should be publishing fiction. And I doubted that when I first got here, but I know in my heart that’s something that is very important to Esquire. In the same way that appetites come and go, trends come and go, rules about what you should and shouldn’t do with magazines come and go; I don’t think that we should let go of certain things that maybe didn’t work so well 15 years ago that could work again, depending on how you do it, how you frame it and what the look and feel of that thing is. And that’s what’s exciting to me. To realize that you can reanimate traditions as long as you’re clever enough to give it new life. And that’s what we spend a lot of our time doing.” Jay Fielden…

“I really think that we need the push and pull of female voices and editors, filling the magazine with that kind of tension that makes it really interesting and makes the reader ask what’s going on here, this is fascinating and I’m really engrossed by what the magazine is thinking. Tom Wolfe described it back in 1972 as the editors of Esquire hanging upside-down from the ceiling. There’s something to that; it’s very Wolfian, but I think it’s accurate. You get a vision of something that’s fun and funny, a bit cabaret-like; I want people to not only have fun when they look at the magazine, but to know that we’re having fun.” Jay Fielden…

For most of its illustrious life, Esquire magazine has always been the handbook for men who wanted to be “fashionable.” Since it drew its first breath in 1933, the publication has set the bar for men’s magazines, from literary giants who clamored to be featured between its covers; to the nattiest dressed and most dashing men who ever stepped off the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, the magazine hit the heart of manhood dead center.

Today, it’s the 21st century and being fashionable involves much more than a perfectly-cut Armani suit, although that is still a part of what Esquire’s DNA is all about. But other aspects, even past facets of the magazine, such as literary prose and fiction, are something that Editor in Chief, Jay Fielden wants to bring back to the newly reimagined Esquire, which hit newsstands this month. The new Esquire features a full redesign, including a larger trim size and a new logo, which was inspired by Esquire’s classic era, but recut to give it a feel for today.

Since the tragic fire a few years ago, where Jay and his family lost just about everything material, Jay said that he had discovered there were many, many things more important than his lifestyle, first and foremost, his family, but also not being afraid to take risks when it came to life. And that aversion to timidity also includes his role as Esquire’s editor in chief. Having an upstart sensibility, as he put it, and a fearlessness to take on new and exciting contemporary themes, while paying honor to the “Golden Age” of Esquire is something that he’s introduced and plans on continuing to showcase as he takes the magazine to another “age.” The one that utilizes the legacy of the magazine to create, what journalist, Tom Wolfe once described when talking about Esquire as that “hang upside-down from the ceiling” sense of surprise, excitement and delight.

And speaking of delight, Mr. Magazine™ was delighted himself that Jay had past ties with Oxford, Miss. where Mr. Magazine™ lives and works, as Jay’s family lived in Memphis, and his father actually resided in Oxford for a while. It is a small world, after all!

And now, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a man who is both dynamically in charge and humbly fearless about it, Jay Fielden, editor in chief, Esquire magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

ESBOn why he thinks people care about yesterday when it comes to magazine content, rather than just the present: That’s a great question and a complicated one, I think, because many things come to mind when I think about that. And certainly, first of all, there aren’t that many magazines where that’s the case. There are probably two or three that people seem to have a very vivid sense of what was and can even associate specific stories, writers, cover subjects, photographers to that period. And once someone is able to do that, you know they’re not just reaching at an abstract notion of tone or something that used to exist. And I think that’s very true. And one reason is because it’s a very unusual thing for a magazine to be decade in and decade out as consistently good at being relevant to its readers and to the culture of the world as Esquire has been.

On how he, as an editor, acts as creator and curator of all of the information that’s out there as he introduces the new Esquire to the market: Well, you’re always learning and I think that’s definitely key. Each magazine that I’ve been at, in a certain way, I’ve been prepared to take it over. And I don’t mean that in a boastful way, but I’ve also had to change my habits and reorient the way that I spend my time and think about all of the things you’re asking me. (Laughs) How are we going to digest so much information that’s out there? How am I going to create a staff in which we are able to divide things up and make sure that we all have a very clear sense of what we think the pillars of interest are in the magazine, so that we’re absolutely not missing anything when it comes to those things.

On who would be standing before him if he struck Esquire with a magic wand that could instantly turn the magazine into a human being: That’s an interesting question. I was once watching an interview that Charlie Rose did with Quentin Tarantino from the late ‘90s, around the time of “Pulp Fiction” and Charlie Rose asked the inevitable question: Who is the viewer that you have in mind when you make your movies, and Tarantino said, it’s me. (Laughs again) He added that he knew other people would see the movie, but he had to start with himself first. And I believe that’s very true. When I got this job there were a number of people that I was very close to, people who have been mentors in the past, people I had worked with at The New Yorker or at Condé Nast, or other places, or people who just knew me, they said just make sure that you trust your instincts. So, yes, if Esquire became a person, it has to be me.

On how the tragic fire where he almost lost all of his material belongings impacted him as an editor: There are moments where I would hate to see that happen again, but I think it gave me a kind of resilience and something to rely on. If I get into a moment where I’m not pushing myself hard enough or saying that something might not lead to the right place if I do that, or that might not be great for my job; I’m just really immediately able to remember that moment and say, that’s not the way that I want to be living my life and that’s not the way that I want to be editing a magazine. I want to be as fearless as I can be about it, and as much of an upstart that you can be. Don’t ever fall back into the comfort of trying to hold onto your possessions for the sake of that alone.

On is most intriguing experience so far in his career: Esquire is the crown. This one demands all of the different things I learned over the years and now know. It brings out everything I ever thought of studying and thinking about when I was at The New Yorker. It brings out all of the visual design, and tastes of the kind of questions that I learned to ask at Men’s Vogue. It requires the kind of ambidextrous editing that I learned at Town & Country. With Esquire, I don’t feel like there’s some part of me that isn’t fully engaged.

On how Esquire has always found balance for its male and female readers: It’s certainly a men’s magazine, but I realized very quickly, when we look back at that Golden Age, to me it didn’t have such a male identity that it would have been placed next to Playboy. And I don’t just mean because it didn’t have nudity; it didn’t feel chauvinist or Don Draper-ish, you know? It still had people like Nora Ephron, Joan Didion and Joy Williams writing for the magazine. The fact that it was one of the great literary magazines going, along with The New Yorker, allowed it to create a whole community of writers and voices, and therefore I think that the readers mirrored the diversity of that community too.

Esquire-cover April 1967On whether there will be another cover like the 1967 on of the “Holy Kennedy’s,” only featuring the “Holy Trumps”: I think you’re going to see some things that feels very animated by that spirit, but doesn’t seem as though it’s slavishly trying to recreate the past. The reason that we look back at those covers too is because of what they feel like; it’s not because of what they were actually about, but what they feel like. What they suggest and the creativity of them. And again, kind of like this “hang upside-down from the ceiling” sense of who created them.

On the cover image being an actual idea and story in itself: It’s not just about making the guy look good and having a handsome picture. And that’s hard to do too. I’m not looking down on that, because believe me, that can be very hard to do. But that’s just what you might call the lazy man’s approach to a magazine cover. It’s not breaking the mold. We’re living in a moment where the newsstand is not what it once was, so that’s all the more reason to break the mold again.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly at his home one evening: Fighting, for sure; I have three kids. (Laughs) I like to cook, so if I get home early enough I can blow off steam if I need to by cooking. That seems to get my mind onto one particular thing that blocks out all of the rest, and it’s very enjoyable. Of course, I’m pulled into everything that my kids are doing; I have a 14-year-old boy, two girls who are 11 and 8, so there is lots of violin practice and too many video games to fight about. And there is always a nice glass of wine, that’s for sure.

On what keeps him up at night: I’ll wake up in a sweat thinking, I haven’t dealt with the literary part of it, or the fiction, or the memoir piece; the profiles; the practical part of the magazine that will appeal to people wanting to know how to live a better life, whether it’s health or money or psychological advantages that you can have in your work. Esquire has done all of that and it’s also a magazine that is filled with pictures, so it’s a lot of plates spinning in the air, and whenever one of those plates falls off and crashes to the ground that’s when I wake up.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jay Fielden, editor in chief, Esquire.

Samir Husni: You just reinvented Esquire for the 21st century man and woman.

Jay Fielden: Yes.

Samir Husni: People always refer to the early years of Esquire as the “Golden Age,” why do you think readers care about yesterday rather than just now?

ESQ030117CoverGateFold_SUBS.pdfJay Fielden: That’s a great question and a complicated one, I think, because many things come to mind when I think about that. And certainly, first of all, there aren’t that many magazines where that’s the case. There are probably two or three that people seem to have a very vivid sense of what was and can even associate specific stories, writers, cover subjects, photographers to that period. And once someone is able to do that, you know they’re not just reaching at an abstract notion of tone or something that used to exist. And I think that’s very true.

And one reason is because it’s a very unusual thing for a magazine to be decade in and decade out as consistently good at being relevant to its readers and to the culture of the world as Esquire has been. And when you refer to the “Golden Age,” and I assume you mean the ‘60s and glances at the ‘30s and ‘40s, when Fitzgerald or Hemingway were in there; I think there is a tremendous interest in nostalgia right now and especially nostalgia of a kind that doesn’t simply feel that it’s for its own sake.

For instance, we’re considering how we might use the archives more and more, and I think that there’s a real legitimate argument to be made that if you can go back and pluck out pieces written 20 or 30 years ago that somehow bear directly on something that’s going on now, something that almost feels like it’s a forerunner to what is happening in the world today, then there’s a reason that we can maybe republish those pieces in the magazine.

It’s just an interesting moment, and one that wouldn’t have been considered at one time by any magazine, to republish something, but now there are so many other forms of media that do exactly that sort of thing. And when they give it the proper frame, it seems to work. And we want to investigate that, because I sense as you do, that there is tremendous interest in what Esquire has done and in what it’s doing.

Samir Husni: I was reading an article recently from an Esquire issue dated 1967 about a transsexual person who was in the army; so these topics that are timely today have been around for a long time.

Jay Fielden: Yes, some of these issues have always been around, but today feel like they’ve been amped up, such as what form is a women’s movement taking right now; what form is a men’s movement taking? The issue of gender orientation; the intense flare-ups in race relations; the obvious, tremendous friction, circus-like atmosphere in Washington, so many of these things feel like they were the topics of the era that would be called the “Golden Age” of Esquire, such as the issue from 1967 that you mentioned about a transsexual in the army.

It’s interesting to go back and look at what they had to say about those things then at a moment where we’re going through a lot of the reanimations of those ideas in such an intense way right now.

Samir Husni: From looking at a picture of you that has you in your office, you strike me as an editor who reads.

Jay Fielden: (Laughs) I’m glad that comes across. Yes, I do read. In fact, I wish that I could read even more. I often feel guilty for having a television set at home.

Samir Husni: (Laughs too). If I could go inside your brain, inside the mind of a great magazine maker, you hear people say that we are bombarded by information today; how do you act as the creator and curator of all of that information as you introduce the new Esquire?

Jay Fielden: Well, you’re always learning and I think that’s definitely key. Each magazine that I’ve been at, in a certain way, I’ve been prepared to take it over. And I don’t mean that in a boastful way, but I’ve also had to change my habits and reorient the way that I spend my time and think about all of the things you’re asking me. (Laughs) How are we going to digest so much information that’s out there? How am I going to create a staff in which we are able to divide things up and make sure that we all have a very clear sense of what we think the pillars of interest are in the magazine, so that we’re absolutely not missing anything when it comes to those things.

But this being a general interest magazine, really read very widely and deeply, we’re always looking for that next, fresh theme of story ideas, profile ideas and reporting ideas that will give the magazine that feeling of surprise, delight and animation.

It’s a great question, and how do I do it? I do it with the team, for sure. We all have to bear that burden together; there’s no way one person can sift through all of the stuff that’s out there. In some ways, maybe it’s a counterintuitive thing, you have to limit, to a certain extent, the pure garden-hose variety of information that comes into your life, so that you can sometimes shut that off and go down a rabbit hole or two.

I was having this thought the other day; I’m definitely a person who reads a number of newspapers every day, but lately I’ve been wondering is that really the best way to stimulate my creativity? Is that old habit something that makes me feel like I’m up-to-date or like I’ve checked that box that day, but is it really leading me to the kind of consequential, unusual stories that I really crave for Esquire to contain? Each of those habits that you form, those things that have given you gold in the past, may not be the things giving you gold anymore. We’re definitely living in a moment when, and as much as I love and respect The New York Times and enjoy, for the most part, reading it, it’s not the only place to go for a great story idea, or a glance at something that might lead to a story idea.

I’m also always on the hunt for that other source of information site, magazine, literary journal, or personality that will give me a new look at a landscape I may have not been looking at before.

Samir Husni: If I handed you a magic wand that could instantly turn Esquire into a living, breathing human being and you struck the magazine with that wand, who would immediately be standing before you? Instead of a magazine in my mailbox, I would have a person show up at my door to create that conversation. Would it be Jay Fielden?

Jay Fielden: (Laughs) That’s an interesting question. I was once watching an interview that Charlie Rose did with Quentin Tarantino from the late ‘90s, around the time of “Pulp Fiction” and Charlie Rose asked the inevitable question: Who is the viewer that you have in mind when you make your movies, and Tarantino said, it’s me. (Laughs again) He added that he knew other people would see the movie, but he had to start with himself first.

And I believe that’s very true. When I got this job there were a number of people that I was very close to, people who have been mentors in the past, people I had worked with at The New Yorker or at Condé Nast, or other places, or people who just knew me, they said just make sure that you trust your instincts. You have the instincts, so make sure you don’t get swayed by someone who thinks they know better. Now, I don’t mean that I do not collaborate with a lot of people or that I don’t listen to other people, but I think you do have to kind of live or die according to your own instincts, and if you do die, you want to be able to look back and say, I followed the instinct that I felt was right. At that point, you can’t blame it on anyone but yourself. So, yes, if Esquire became a person, it has to be me.

There’s a quote I like from Churchill when he stepped back into his office at the beginning of World War II that goes: “I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial…” And I feel like that for sure. I don’t know if it’s destiny (Laughs), but I feel like things that I’ve done have built a road all the way to the chair that I’m now sitting in. There are days that I have to remind myself, go in there and follow what it is you feel is the right thing to do, the right tone to take, the right kinds of pieces to put in the magazine.

For instance, I feel we should be publishing fiction. And I doubted that when I first got here, but I know in my heart that’s something that is very important to Esquire. In the same way that appetites come and go, trends come and go, rules about what you should and shouldn’t do with magazines come and go; I don’t think that we should let go of certain things that maybe didn’t work so well 15 years ago that could work again, depending on how you do it, how you frame it and what the look and feel of that thing is. And that’s what’s exciting to me. To realize that you can reanimate traditions as long as you’re clever enough to give it new life. And that’s what we spend a lot of our time doing.

Samir Husni: I was reading some background about you and I read about the tragic fire where you almost lost everything; all your material belongings. How did that impact you as an editor?

Jay Fielden: I have to make the point that was right after the most intense part of the financial crisis too, so there was a feeling of just not knowing what was going to happen in whatever industry you might be in, especially magazines, they felt very frozen and fragile. And I wondered would I ever go back to a magazine. It was a scary moment, and not having a job at a time when you go through an experience like losing a house and the things in it; you’re obviously thinking about how long can we get by without a job (Laughs), and you’re looking at your bank account.

And then suddenly you go into this mode of rebuilding a house and it’s almost the opposite of that. The insurance company is handing you checks and you’re looking at buying things again, wallpaper, sofas; things that two months ago you felt like you would need to be selling in order to keep going if you didn’t have a job. So, it was a very whip-saw moment to go through and I think what it really taught me was to not fall so in love with your lifestyle that you will do anything to maintain it, rather than take on the risks of the things that you really want to pursue. If I could live without my house and my things, as long as I have my family and that everybody survived, which is the key, I now know that I can survive without those things.

There are moments where I would hate to see that happen again, but I think it gave me a kind of resilience and something to rely on. If I get into a moment where I’m not pushing myself hard enough or saying that something might not lead to the right place if I do that, or that might not be great for my job; I’m just really immediately able to remember that moment and say, that’s not the way that I want to be living my life and that’s not the way that I want to be editing a magazine. I want to be as fearless as I can be about it, and as much of an upstart that you can be. Don’t ever fall back into the comfort of trying to hold onto your possessions for the sake of that alone.

Samir Husni: You’ve been editor in chief now for three major magazines, Men’s Vogue, Town & Country and now Esquire, and forgive me if I’m leaving any out, but those are the three that come to mind. So far, what has been the most intriguing moment in your career; launching a new magazine like Men’s Vogue, or reinventing Town & Country, or reinventing Esquire?

Jay Fielden: They’ve all been fascinating. Certainly, this has taken everything I’ve got, and it continues to. In that way, the level of satisfaction in editing Esquire is off the charts, and grows each day.

When it came to Men’s Vogue, obviously the experience of working with Anna (Wintour) and figuring out what the men’s version of a magazine as famous and as iconic as Vogue and so associated with women, would be. It was fascinating and fun and a great looking magazine that I’m very proud of. It’s where I learned so much about the world of style and the worldliness and level of taste that is so represented by Vogue. That was an exciting and great experience.

And Town & Country was probably great and exciting because it was so unexpected. I don’t know that I ever considered Men’s Vogue would lead to Town & Country. I always knew if I was at Men’s Vogue, there might be Esquire and some others; I was in that pool. And I thought of Esquire many times. As much as I liked what I was doing, I couldn’t help but think about a magazine with the iconic status of Esquire.

But then I went to Town & Country and I deeply loved that experience too, because I do have some strange ability to, or at least the experience of having been at a women’s magazine, that I could kind of create a hybrid book. And Town & Country is intrinsically that kind of thing. It leans female, but it’s got a male sensibility to it. That was very exciting and great, and being able to go into a rarefied world, that yet is full of a lot of interesting stories about how the American establishment works, meaning powerful, moneyed people who control a lot more than you might at first imagine; it was a great experience.

But Esquire is the crown. This one demands all of the different things I learned over the years and now know. It brings out everything I ever thought of studying and thinking about when I was at The New Yorker. It brings out all of the visual design, and tastes of the kind of questions that I learned to ask at Men’s Vogue. It requires the kind of ambidextrous editing that I learned at Town & Country. With Esquire, I don’t feel like there’s some part of me that isn’t fully engaged.

Samir Husni: How do you continue to balance Esquire for your male and female readers?

Jay Fielden: It’s certainly a men’s magazine, but I realized very quickly, when we look back at that Golden Age, to me it didn’t have such a male identity that it would have been placed next to Playboy. And I don’t just mean because it didn’t have nudity; it didn’t feel chauvinist or Don Draper-ish, you know? It still had people like Nora Ephron, Joan Didion and Joy Williams writing for the magazine. The fact that it was one of the great literary magazines going, along with The New Yorker, it created a whole community of writers and voices, and therefore I think that the readers mirrored the diversity of that community too. And that included diversity in the writers, in terms of black, white, etc.

That to me is a great strength that is timeless, especially in a moment like now. It seems to me that it’s backward-looking to want to be too reflective of one gender. To the point that I think even that one gender might get a little freaked out. (Laughs) It might make them feel like they’re in an isolation chamber. I just think it’s more fun and interesting, and it’s more of a reflection of how we all live our lives. Certainly, I’m not going to do pieces about couture for women; the fashion will be largely for men’s fashion. Will there sometimes be women who are in those shoots and might be wearing clothes, yes. And when they are, I think the level of what those women would be wearing should be as knowledgeable as what the men have on.

I really think that we need the push and pull of female voices and editors, filling the magazine with that kind of tension that makes it really interesting and makes the reader ask what’s going on here, this is fascinating and I’m really engrossed by what the magazine is thinking. Tom Wolfe described it back in 1972 as the editors of Esquire hanging upside-down from the ceiling. There’s something to that; it’s very Wolfian, but I think it’s accurate. You get a vision of something that’s fun and funny, a bit cabaret-like; I want people to not only have fun when they look at the magazine, but to know that we’re having fun.

One of my greatest challenges is, in a weird way, being able to answer a question honestly, which I get all the time, “Are you having fun?” I think when you first take over a magazine; I don’t know how much fun you’re having, to be honest with you. (Laughs) It’s a lot of work, and you’re worried about being worthy of the work you’ve been given. So, fun is a hard thing to find, but I had lunch with Frank Bennack right after I got the job, and he gave me a very good piece of advice, which was, you have to find a way to have fun. If you don’t have fun, it will show up in the magazine. And I think he was very right about that.

You have to get to a point where, yes, at the beginning, you go through staff changes and redesigns and you look for new writers and deal with the hair-raising experience of not knowing how much to assign for the next issue, which we’re still kind of in that mode to a certain extent. There’s a lot of stuff that’s just dyspeptic about the process, but I think right now, having gotten that March issue out and having the redesign out there, and with starting to get a sense for the number of writers and photographers that we have, finding out who our people are and who the family is, and reconnecting with some of the very important voices of the past to feel that depth of knowledge, well, it feels like fun now. And the more fun it is, the more fun the magazine will be. And that’s a great feeling.

Samir Husni: Since you’re having so much fun, do you think we’ll ever see a cover like the one in 1967 with the “Holy Kennedy’s” by Gore Vidal? Will we see the “Holy Trumps?”

Jay Fielden: (Laughs) I think you’re going to see some things that feels very animated by that spirit, but doesn’t seem as though it’s slavishly trying to recreate the past. The reason that we look back at those covers too is because of what they feel like; it’s not because of what they were actually about, but what they feel like. What they suggest and the creativity of them. And again, kind of like this “hang upside-down from the ceiling” sense of who created them.

And they’re also original and charming, and they’re sharp, witty and ironic. And I think all of those things very much have to live in the magazine today. Not to say that they haven’t been, in one form or another, but to bring them sharply together and to have the guts to push the covers, yes, I want to go back to what I said about what the fire taught me. Not to be timid, but to be completely strong about pushing the limits of what it is we should do, and to take real risks.

I don’t know if you saw the Pharrell Williams cover that we did of him holding the balloon. I think that cover has that feeling, a slight melancholy wit to it. It’s an unusual cover. But this is a “glossy” magazine, we take pictures of guys and they’re usually wearing clothes that we’ve put on them, so there is a kind of hangover that it always has to be a hot celebrity and that guy has to be a craggy, great-looking hunk, and then dust off your hands and move to the center of the book. I think there’s plenty of reason to do stuff like that, it’s valuable, especially when you pick the right guys who have something going on. But, like the Corden cover, you just need to get guys who are also from a different walk of life and who can represent something different. And then do something different with them that just isn’t an earnest attempt at taking a beautiful picture of someone.

Samir Husni: That’s what I felt with the new Esquire; the cover image is a story by itself.

Jay Fielden: Yes, it’s an idea. It’s not just about making the guy look good and having a handsome picture. And that’s hard to do too. I’m not looking down on that, because believe me, that can be very hard to do. But that’s just what you might call the lazy man’s approach to a magazine cover. It’s not breaking the mold. We’re living in a moment where the newsstand is not what it once was, so that’s all the more reason to break the mold again.

Samir Husni: If I showed up at your home unexpectedly one evening, what would I find you doing; having a glass of wine; reading a book; watching TV; biking; or something else?

Jay Fielden: Fighting, for sure; I have three kids. (Laughs) I like to cook, so if I get home early enough I can blow off steam if I need to by cooking. That seems to get my mind onto one particular thing that blocks out all of the rest, and it’s very enjoyable. Of course, I’m pulled into everything that my kids are doing; I have a 14-year-old boy, two girls who are 11 and 8, so there is lots of violin practice and too many video games to fight about. And there is always a nice glass of wine, that’s for sure.

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

Jay Fielden: I would say the overall goal of being worthy of the mission. I know that sounds very earnest, but I mean it in the sense of being hyper aware of the editors who have sat in this chair before, from Harold Hayes to David Granger, and the personal stamp that they put on the magazine.

And yet, as I said at the very beginning, it was held to this Uber standard and has been able to hold onto all the strands that make Esquire what it is today, and make it relevant in its own time and place. That keeps me up, in the sense that I’ll say, yes, I’ve got this part kind of settled. I know what these four pieces about this particular subject are and yes, I’m going to feel good about that, because the next issue is going to stand up its tent pole and not fall down.

Of course, I’ll wake up in a sweat thinking, I haven’t dealt with the literary part of it, or the fiction, or the memoir piece; the profiles; the practical part of the magazine that will appeal to people wanting to know how to live a better life, whether it’s health or money or psychological advantages that you can have in your work. Esquire has done all of that and it’s also a magazine that is filled with pictures, so it’s a lot of plates spinning in the air, and whenever one of those plates falls off and crashes to the ground that’s when I wake up.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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