InStyle’s Publisher: Branded Content and the Affluent Consumer Is Our Winning Formula

The roster of media mavens, moguls and boldface names spotted today at Michael's.

DianeClehaneLunch_FeaturedDespite the dreary weather — Will the sun ever come out again? — Michael’s was jam-packed with plenty of the usual suspects and the random Hollywood hotshot (Harvey Weinstein) and celebrity (actress Judith Ivey). I was glad my date, InStyle’s smart and personable publisher, Patrick Connors arrived a full fifteen minutes early. Patrick had a lot to say about all the exciting and innovative initiatives in the hopper at the Time Inc. title and the early start gave me a chance to soak up every word before the inevitable din took over the dining room.

Dorinda Medley and Diane Clehane
Diane Clehane and Patrick Connors

I first met Patrick in this very room (where else?) when he joined me for a ‘Lunch’ a few years back with Galvanized Brands’ David Zinczenko. At the time, Patrick was svp and publisher at Men’s Fitness (where, coincidentally, he started his career) working with Dave to relaunch the title as a lifestyle brand. Let’s just say things turned out pretty well for all concerned. Patrick quadrupled profitability within his first 16 months on the job and went on to increase the digital business by 150 percent.

In August of last year, Patrick was tapped as publisher for InStyle. In this role, he heads up sales and marketing across all platforms, in addition to developing new growth opportunities and revenue streams alongside longtime editorial director Ariel Foxman. Having worked at Condé Nast as associate publisher of Glamour and Details, this is Patrick’s first tour of duty at Time Inc. “They really respect the consumer,” he told me. Just the other day Patrick and Ariel helmed a joint presentation on “the future of the brand” for CEO Joe Ripp and the company’s board of directors. The symbiotic relationship of InStyle’s editor and publisher has been critical to the overall success of the brand. “The [publishing] culture has changed,” Patrick said between bites of chicken paillard. “We have to be in each other business every day. In order to connect to the consumer, we have to have an understanding of each other’s business. It’s a collabortation.”

As a longtime fan of the title (I still have the very first issue with Barbra Streisand on the cover) I told Patrick I liked the luxe new look of the magazine, which was unveiled with the March issue. The first redesign in eight years included the introduction of “bespoke” typeface dubbed ‘Luce’ font in honor of Henry Luce. “InStyle’s font had been copied ten times over,” said Patrick.  “The new font elevates the brand but we didn’t change the content.” But there were additions. “We learned the consumer loved [our] sections so we added ‘The Get’ and ‘The Guide.'” One thing that didn’t change was the trim size. The powers that be opted to increase the paper stock instead. “[Our reader] is an affluent woman who likes luxury, our product has to feel luxurious, not flimsy when she’s holding it.” Obviously, it’s working. “We’re the number one selling brand on the newsstand. We sell more than 97 percent [of the magazines] out there.”

In the race to reach — and keep — the all-important fashion and beauty shopper with money to spend on her favorite brands, InStyle is miles ahead of its competitive set with more women with a household income of over $100k than all the other fashion books, including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and even Vanity Fair. “The InStyle Collection” — the digital iteration of the brand — reaches 11.7 million uniques every month. Here’s the statistic that really made me sit up and take note: Every month each reader purchases an average of seven items solely from InStyle’s ads — more than any other competitor.

All of this is catnip to advertisers who, in addition to keeping their print programs [pages are unchanged versus last year] are flocking to digital programs. The reason why? “There is only 6 percent duplication between our print and digital user. They’re psychographically similar, but it’s a different consumer,” Patrick told me.

One of the biggest areas of growth is in branded content. Thanks to the new “amazing” InStyle Studios located in Time Inc.’s downtown offices, editorial and advertising teams are better able to work together to keep pace with increased advertiser demand. Patrick told me 40 percent of the digital revenue is from native content developed at InStyle Studios.  “Advertisers want custom content. The question is: How do we incorporate advertising in content in a way the consumer is interested in? It’s all about balance. It’s not just slapping a logo on something. It’s about integrating product and the right messaging.”

The focus in print has always been on fashion and beauty while, which produces 100 posts of original content every day, encompasses the broad spectrum of lifestyle content. “It’s all about living a super stylish life.” Regardless of the platform, everything InStyle does is delivered through the lens of the aspirational yet accessible celebrity. In two weeks, the site will launch an InStyle Weddings vertical, with a “beefed-up” editorial team who will produce 50 pieces of original content for the launch and deliver 30 new postings daily. Also coming: Lip Service, which will feature “the voice of celebrities and influencers” with messages of empowerment and encouragement to connect to the site’s female fans. In September, a new video series, Lifestyles of the Super Stylish, will offer readers an up close look at celebrities and other brand-appropriate personalities and incorporate advertisers’ products. All of this, said Patrick, plays to InStyle’s strengths. “Balancing luxury and reach is a very hard game to play that few brands can do. InStyle is just like Louis Vuitton and Chanel in that regard. We can increase out scope and not lose the luxury [of the brand.]”

Aligning the brand with Hollywood events has also proven successful. The magazine’s Golden Globes Party is one of the hottest tickets during award season. “It’s really a time when celebrities come to be with their friends and be themselves,” said Patrick, who went to his first one this past January. He showed me a slick sell piece touting last year’s inaugural InStyle Awards, which were held last October at The Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow (who won the ‘Style Icon Award’) to Kim Kardashian West turned out for the swanky affair. “It was the first time the museum had partnered with a media brand,” he said, adding that the museum was interested in leveraging the brand’s “Hollywood” connection. Patrick told me that when planning the event, the editors wanted to reach beyond celebrating the A-listers and include the people who worked tirelessly to turn mere mortals into stars. “People think Jennifer Aniston just rolls out of bed and shows up looking beautiful on the red carpet when it reality, there is a team of people who work with her. Because of social media, our readers, especially millennials, are really interested in the behind-the-scenes people.” It’s no wonder with the 2 billion impressions generated from the event, the team at InStyle is hard at work on this year’s ceremony.

Ah, millennials. I just can’t seem to have ‘Lunch’ with anyone in media without discussing this idiosyncratic, often elusive consumer. At InStyle, the strategy to reach and engage millennial is very clear. “For them, it starts with social media. That’s how they engage with the brand first. They’re big on experiential because then they can document it on social media.”As you might expect, video plays a major role for this digitally-obsessed consumer. “Social, our Facebook Live where people tune into watch video live and the luxury content we’re developing are our three video strategies.” But Patrick is careful to note that InStyle isn’t hung up on age. “Our customer is not so much defined by age. We found our content has to be relevant for all ages.”

“You have to be everywhere and open to change,” said Patrick as we finished up our coffee. “It’s about flexibility. You can’t dictate to the consumer, you have to go where she is.”  That also extends to his own job description. “I’m not a publisher of a magazine, I’m the publisher of a brand. There’s so much opportunity. I couldn’t be happier. It’s a time of change and at Time Inc., they’re changes for the better.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Mickey Ateyeh with actress Judith Ivey and friends

2. Eva Mohr

3. Penske Media vice chair Gerry Byrne

4. Agent Ed Victor

5. Harvey Weinstein presiding over a table of folks we didn’t recognize. Anyone?

6. Andrew Stein

7. Two of my favorite sole men: Footwear News’ Michael Atmore and Manolo Blahnik’s George Malkemus

8. Judy Price

10. Gillian Tett

11. Bill Stanton

12. Cosmetic World’s George Ledes and Christine Schott Ledes

14. Wayne Kabak and Larry Kudlow

15. Nick Loeb, yes Sofia Vergara’s ex.

16. Cece Cord

17. Digital  Place Based Ad Association CEO Barry Frey

18. LAK PR CEO Lisa Linden, who was nice enough to introduce me to noted food systems expert Karen Karp. The gals were celebrating Karen’s upcoming marriage to her business partner Dick Batten.  Congrats!

20. Francesca Bean

21. The Wall Street Journal’s Teri Agins and Patrick Murphy

23. Tech guru Shelly Palmer

24. Bob Tobin

25. Jim Casella

27. Patrick Connors and yours truly

Faces in the crowd: Bravolebrity Caroline Stanbury who, so we’re told, celebrated her 40th birthday with a 70s-themed blow out earlier this week in London (She is one of stars of Bravo’s Ladies of London, one of my guiltiest of guilty pleasures). I would have loved to chat with her, but she looked like she was on mission on her way back to the Garden Room. Cheerio!

Diane Clehane is a FishbowlNY contributor. Follow her on Twitter @DianeClehane. Send comments and corrections on this column to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.