How This Former Teen Vogue Editor Is Shaking Things Up at Architectural Digest

Amy Astley on digital expansion and strong social


Specs
Who Amy Astley
Current gig Editor in chief, Architectural Digest
Previous gig Editor in chief, Teen Vogue
Age 49
Twitter @AmyTAstley

Adweek: The September issue of Architectural Digest—your first full issue—recently hit newsstands. Tell me about the process of putting that issue together and what changes you introduced.
Amy Astley: I did it very, very fast, in a matter of weeks, which isn't normally how you put together any September issue. But I think the issue gives you a sense of the fact that I'm looking for personality, energy, interesting spaces, interesting homes. I want fewer anonymous homes. I think that people are interested to know who's living a life in this house. And that's why I used that great Diana Vreeland quote in my editor's letter: "Few things are more fascinating than a peek into the private hours of how people live." I don't want the magazine to look like a real estate catalog, cold and staged. Like I keep saying, it's all about having a mix.

You shot Marc Jacobs' New York townhouse for the cover story. How did you pull that together so quickly?
I've been working in this industry for a long time, so I have deep personal connections and deep roots. Someone like Marc has a trust level with what I'm going to do, which is exactly what he told me. I told him I needed a big name in this issue, and he said, "I trust you." [His home] hadn't been photographed before. And he's thrilled with it. He's been promoting it on social media. For me, that's part of a bigger picture, too. I want to put people in the magazine who have their own social and digital footprints and will promote their story. I mean, when you look at this issue and you see Marc and Amanda Brooks and Giovanna [Battaglia], these are people with large social followings, and I know that when I work with them it's going to get shared in a bigger way.

The cover also features Jacobs' dog Neville and his Instagram handle. Is it safe to say that this is the first time there's ever been an Instagram handle on the cover of AD?
It is. In fact, the fact checkers and researchers here thought it was an error. And I said, "No, no, no, that's on purpose!" I think it gives a little sense of humor. It doesn't have to be so serious, you know. I think you're going to see a little more irreverence, a little more sense of fun [in AD]. People get intimidated when everything is so perfect.

You actually have a background in design, as a former editor at House & Garden, which a lot of people didn't know about until the announcement that you were going to AD. Have you stayed in touch with that industry?
It's amazing to come back into the design world, a world that I always loved, and yes, I always stayed friends with people and stayed informed and active in that world. But I consider myself a style journalist, so I could work at House & Garden, I could work at Vogue, I could work at Teen Vogue, I can work at AD because for me it's all about the mix of making a magazine. Food, fashion, flowers, architecture, I love all of it. So I feel I have range and that I can move around.  And I'm lucky that I've been able to because I think often in people's careers they get boxed in.

Coming from Teen Vogue, you're obviously very familiar with young magazine readers. Do you have plans to bring a younger audience into the mix at AD?
Look, every business is always looking to bring in a new generation, so of course we want to bring in younger people, but not in a way that alienates the existing readers. They're important to us. And AD is about the best houses; our tagline is: "The international design authority." So I don't have an interest in bringing in young people by showing, like, "cool cribs" or a house that isn't up to snuff. I think younger people should come in organically—and honestly, a younger person for a magazine like this could be a 35-year-old who's just starting to really look around their environment and say, "I need to upgrade." But really the opportunity for bringing in younger readers is online.

How are you changing the digital strategy to do that?
I'm looking at new verticals for the website, and I think among them we need to show what I call "living with style," or ways that you can live that don't require so much grandeur or such a big budget. Obviously the celebrity factor is an interesting one when you think about digital integration, but it has to be done in the right way. And we haven't even begun to really tap into video here. There's a lot of potential.

You mentioned Instagram already, but how about other social platforms?
There's a lot of growth for us in all those areas. I mean, Snapchat isn't an area that AD was very active in, but we should be. It's okay if you're there and like hardly anyone's really seeing it. You just have to keep doing it and build up. I think it's important to be on all the platforms. And you can make mistakes. It's digital. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work.

What are your plans for the magazine's flagship event, the AD100?
I'm looking at ways to really change that because it's very inside the trade right now, and it has to become less trade-centric. I think that the signature event for a magazine should be really buzzy and really a hot ticket. So if you look at the Oscars for Vanity Fair, Young Hollywood for Teen Vogue, Glamour Women of the Year, obviously Anna [Wintour]'s events whether it's the Met Ball or the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund, they all become meaningful outside of just a small core group and can be used more for entertainment and for a larger audience. And that's what we need to do. For me, it's about, opening it up. I would say that's probably the biggest theme across the whole entire AD product: More open and with more personality. 

Do you have anything in the works as far as e-commerce?
I think that we should do e-commerce, yes. I'm trying to figure out what it would look like for us—what makes sense for us, where we could be successful, where we could be different. I feel there's something there in terms of quite a luxurious play. There's a lot of trust around the AD name and the brand, so that's something that we can really leverage. I would rather do really great quality product, and I think that's what you expect from AD. Not sort of "cheap and cheerful," you know? And a lot of the best product out there is either to the trade or it's only available in Europe or it's on European websites and it's unwieldy, you know. We could really curate from that. I'm really excited about that. I just wish I had more hours in the day!

This story first appeared in the August 22, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.
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