If we learned anything in 2015, it was that the death of print media has been greatly exaggerated.
This year, magazines were responsible for bringing us some of the biggest moments in popular culture, from Vanity Fair’s unforgettable Caitlyn Jenner reveal to New York’s powerful account of the Bill Cosby rape accusers to People’s moving story of a woman’s decision to end her own life. In addition to their editorial achievements, this year’s Hot List winners also proved that they’re more than just magazines by embracing of-the-moment platforms, partnerships and advertiser collaborations to engage with new audiences.
The New Yorker 37.6%
Bloomberg Businessweek 8.7%
Hottest Thought Leader
Two years ago, many of New York's dedicated readers bemoaned the title's decision to go biweekly as the beginning of the end for the iconic magazine. As it turned out, nothing could be further from the truth. The nearly five-decade-old title remains as essential as ever, publishing headline-making cover stories (like its feature on the Bill Cosby accusers), expanding its network of must-read blogs (which attract an audience of 23 million UVs each month, driving digital ad growth of 10 percent this year) and even venturing into live events with the Vulture Festival.
The New Yorker 47.4%
The Atlantic 9.8%
Hottest Lifestyle Magazine
While The Wall Street Journal itself might not be considered a bastion of high fashion, the newspaper's luxury lifestyle spinoff, WSJ. Magazine, has managed to cement itself as a must-read among the style cognoscenti. Now in its fifth year, its annual Innovator Awards have become one of the hottest tickets in town, honoring influencers as varied as Miuccia Prada, Angelina Jolie and Karl Ove Knausgaard.
WSJ. Magazine 38.4%
Town & Country 27.4%
Real Simple 13.9%
Hottest Food Magazine
As part of Condé Nast's Food Innovation Group, Bon Appétit is certainly living up to the name. This year, the magazine engaged in several high-profile partnerships with brands like Samsung (which included the magazine's first-ever sponsored cover, a two-season video series and in-book editorial partnership) and AmazonFresh (for which Bon Appétit created multiple branded storefronts). Total readership grew nearly 33 percent, while its mobile audience doubled.
Cooking Light 34.0%
Food & Wine 30.5%
Bon Appetit 21.0%
Hottest Travel Magazine
Travel + Leisure
The once-sleepy travel category is booming once again, and Time Inc.'s Travel + Leisure is the latest magazine to make a splash. This past April, the brand underwent a head-to-toe makeover that resulted in a more stylish, of-the-moment print product and a newly vibrant digital presence that produces quality content at a rapid pace. Both advertisers and readers love the changes: Ad pages are up 11 percent through September, and total audience has risen nearly 12 percent.
Travel + Leisure 34.0%
Town & Country Travel 26.6%
Condé Nast Traveler 24.6%
Hottest Home Magazine
Now going on five consecutive years of sustained ad page growth, Architectural Digest is clearly a dominant force in the shelter set. And it's not just print where AD is seeing success. Following its recent refresh, ArchitecturalDigest.com has become one of the top 10 fastest-growing magazine websites, while the brand's digital revenue is expected to double this year. The brand's annual Architectural Digest Home Design Show, currently in its 14th year, also had its most profitable year ever, attracting more than 40,000 attendees.
Architectural Digest 36.3%
House Beautiful 7.8%
Hottest Fashion Magazine
From its stunning covers to innovative advertising partnerships to engaging editorial pieces, Harper's Bazaar is a fashion magazine that has it all. In a year when the fashion category saw ad pages remain nearly flat, Bazaar's own pages grew 14 percent, while its digital traffic surged 171 percent. Bazaar is also a Pinterest powerhouse, boasting 4.6 million followers as the No. 1 magazine brand on the platform. Add to that new initiatives like the magazine's shopping-focused Harper supplement and Bazaar's continued investment in e-commerce, and you have a truly banner year.
Hottest Women’s Magazine
Still think of Redbook as a run-of-the-mill women's service magazine? Think again. Under the leadership of editor Meredith Rollins, the 113-year-old brand has gotten a major infusion of youthful energy, resulting in a vibrant mix of beauty, fashion, lifestyle and more. The magazine also earns kudos for its willingness to take risks. This past September, rather than running a tried-and-true celeb cover, Redbook chose to feature the winners of its Dove-sponsored Real Women Style Awards on its cover, drawing applause from women's media outlets across the country.
Woman's Day 36.8%
Hottest Health/Fitness Magazine – Women
Now celebrating its 10th birthday, Women's Health is feeling the power of smart cross-brand integrations. Through multiplatform partnerships with sponsors (like Degree), sibling titles (Men's Health) and even outside magazine brands (Domino), Women's Health has created hundreds of million of press impressions. Where the brand has really shone, though, is in expanding its audience through TV. Over the past year, Women's Health partnered with NBC's Today show to launch its annual Next Fitness Star competition, produced segments on The Doctors for National Women's Health Week and launched new series Sweat Inc. on Spike TV, among other initiatives.
Women's Health 58.6%
Hottest Men’s Magazine
Condé Nast's flagship men's brand is on a serious hot streak this year. In print, the GQ Style supplement has proved a newsstand hit and will see its publishing schedule increase to four times next year. On the digital side, GQ.com got a relaunch that led to its traffic doubling in just a few months, while ad viewability jumped more than 90 percent in slideshows. Meanwhile, extensions like the NBA All-Star party, Armani-sponsored Grammy's party and an invitation-only New York club called The Gent give consumers a chance to engage with the brand even more deeply.
Hottest Health/Fitness Magazine – Men
It's no secret that the newsstand can be a pretty disastrous place for magazine brands at the moment. But for Men's Fitness, which is still feeling the effects of its successful luxury-focused 2013 relaunch, that only makes the brand's recent performance—up 26 percent in single-copy sales in the first half of the year—all the more impressive.
Men's Health 50.4%
Men's Fitness 48.3%
Hottest Car Magazine
Car and Driver
In a category where readership is down almost across the board, Car and Driver stands out as the sole title to see its audience increase. The magazine, which celebrates its 60th birthday this year, is also continuing to find success on the ad side, achieving double-digit ad growth for two consecutive years thanks to partnerships with automakers including Mercedes-Benz, Acura, Toyota and Chevrolet.
Car and Driver 49.0%
Motor Trend 17.5%
Road & Track 14.3%
Hottest Sports Magazine
Proving that a legacy brand doesn't necessarily have to act like one, Sports Illustrated has spent the past year making bold moves to reach a broader—and younger—audience. Video continues to be a major focus, from live digital shows to the new Sports Illustrated Films documentary series. (In fact, more than 20 percent of SI.com visitors are now video viewers.) 2015 also brought the acquisition of the FanSided sports network, which boasts a large millennial audience, and the launch of SI Play, a new business targeting youth sports.
Golf Digest 37.6%
Sports Illustrated 35.8%
ESPN the Magazine 10.5%
Hottest Celebrity/Entertainment Magazine
This year, People continued to prove why it deserves its title as the grand dame of celebrity weeklies. From major editorial scoops (including its coverage of the death of Brittany Maynard, which scored Time Inc.'s largest digital audience ever) to e-commerce deals (like its shoppable Joyus videos) to social media partnerships (such as its Snapchat Discover channel), the brand continues to lead the pack in innovation on every level.
National Enquirer 32.7%
Us Weekly 30.5%
Hottest Business Magazine
As a leader in the sponsored content space, Forbes continues to reap the benefits from its boundary-pushing BrandVoice platform—its partners now make up nearly 35 percent of Forbes' total ad revenues. The brand's conference business is booming, too, with U.S. YOY revenues up 26 percent through the 3Q, and will continue to expand into 2016 with the introduction of the first global 30 Under 30 event.
Hottest Kids/Teen Magazine
It might be Vogue's little sister, but Teen Vogue consistently proves that it can truly hold its own within Condé Nast. On top of being a major social player, the brand is making a name for itself in the live events space, partnering with Simon Malls on its third Back-to-School Saturdays initiative this year that reached teens across the country. Overall, Teen Vogue's audience has grown by 8 percent—a real feat for a brand targeting the most fickle of consumers.
Teen Vogue 26.1%
Sports Illustrated Kids 19.0%
Hottest Reborn Magazine
Travel + Leisure
Travel + Leisure 30.7%
The New York Times Magazine 10.2%
Hottest Magazine on Social Media
While Playboy has been in the headlines recently for dropping nudity from its pages, the brand's website actually underwent its own toned-down makeover in August 2014. It proved to be a genius move. Not only has traffic boomed, but so has social sharing, thanks to the Facebook-friendliness of the new content. Playboy now boasts the second-largest Facebook following of any magazine brand, fourth-largest Instagram audience and sixth-largest social audience overall.
Women's Health 35.5%
The New Yorker 34.4%
Hottest Magazine in Digital
As the digital arm of Hearst's flagship brand, Cosmopolitan.com sets the standard among women's magazines. Boasting its own dedicated digital newsroom (whose office is appropriately called Club Cosmo), Cosmopolitan.com rivals any pure-play digital site when it comes to producing click-worthy content at a breakneck pace, with nearly 16 million average monthly uniques in 2015. But its quality is what sets it apart—on any given day, you might find an in-depth piece on abortion rights sharing space with a smart pop-culture analysis.
The New Yorker 54.5%
Rodale's Organic Life
Featuring a wide mix of content ranging from food and homekeeping to travel and spirituality (and even an updated farmer's almanac), Rodale's Organic Life—formerly known as Organic Gardening—is a novel magazine brand in a crowded industry. At barely 6 months old, the new title, led by former Saveur editor James Oseland, has even launched its own live event: the Farm2Fork Festival, which took place (of course) in Brooklyn and was sponsored (quite fittingly) by Subaru.
Beekman 1802 Almanac 51.9%
My Wedding 44.4%
Rodale's Organic Life 1.6%
Hottest Design/Photography Magazine
When it comes to stunning imagery, few magazine brands can hold a candle to W. Under the direction of editor in chief Stefano Tonchi, W continues to be one of the few big fashion magazines that truly takes risks with its cover subjects, whether that means betting on an up-and-coming talent like Alicia Vikander, featuring a timeless icon like Jane Fonda or completely transforming a Hollywood A-lister like Jessica Chastain. Twice a year, the magazine provides an extra dose of eye candy with its blockbuster Art Issue supplement.
Conde Nast Traveler 18.4%
Hottest Magazine Cover
New Yorker - Charlie Hedbo Massacre 50.4%
Marie Claire - Miley Cyrus 21.1%
Vanity Fair - Caitlyn Jenner 13.5%
This story first appeared in the Nov. 30 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.
Check out the rest of this year's Hot List honorees:
Media Visionary: Roger Ailes
Magazine Executive of the Year: Troy Young
Magazine Editor of the Year: Graydon Carter
Hottest TV Shows and Networks of 2015
TV Executive of the Year: Bonnie Hammer
TV Producer of the Year: Greg Berlanti
Hottest Digital Brands of 2015
Digital Executive of the Year: Evan Spiegel
Digital Editor of the Year: Joe Yanerella