Magazine Women on the Verge

With all the corner office shake-ups at magazine companies this summer, a time ends when two of its biggest players, Time Inc. and Hearst Magazines, were helmed by women—a lamentable fact, given that magazine readership is predominantly female. Which led us to wonder: Who will be the industry’s future female heavy hitters? We picked five—and this list is by no means inclusive—whose experience, impact and smarts make them worth watching.

Jeannine Shao Collins, evp, chief innovation officer, Meredith 360 As head of Meredith’s integrated marketing unit, Shao Collins sits on a unique perch in her company and, perhaps, the industry. The parent of Better Homes and Gardens, Parents and others, Meredith’s publishing group created the unit to capitalize on the shift in marketing dollars from traditional media-based to customized programs. As its leader, Shao Collins’ job is to address clients’ needs using the company’s many media and custom marketing assets.

It requires her to work well with the brands’ publishers and editors, but as a past publisher there, Shao Collins has cred with them. At 360, Shao Collins doubled the revenue in 2009 and tripled her client roster, helping earn her the distinction of Adweek’s Executive of the Year in 2009 and just last week, a promotion from svp. “A lot of people tout the Meredith model,” said Steve Bloom, svp, director of magazines, Zenithmedia. “They’re content-centric, not channel-driven. She’s been a driving force behind that.” Shao Collins also has the people skills such a job requires. Recently, she got a group of clients to join her in putting up new homes in New Orleans for Rebuilding Together, a Meredith cause. “It’s an experience none of us will ever forget,” she said. As publishers realize print ad pages are no longer their savior, someone with her experience will only grow in value.

Robin Domeniconi, svp, chief brand officer Elle Group When Hachette Filipacchi Media looked for a new chief brand officer of its flagship Elle, it went for someone with strong digital experience.

Domeniconi was vp, U.S. ad sales for marketing and publishing at Microsoft after nearly two decades in print, including stints running Time Inc. corporate sales and publishing Real Simple.

“Robin has a diverse background,” said Bonnie Barest, evp, group account director at MPG. “She was involved in publishing. She also embraced digital.”

She’ll have her work cut out for her as Elle has lost ground in ad pages since 2009, per PIB. She’s confident she has the right experience for Elle, though. “What I learned at Microsoft is how people interact with content and how to create ways for people to customize their content,” she said. “Now I can take that knowledge and content we have and offer it to the consumer in a way that can be interactive and customized.”

To wit, Elle’s new iPad app lets readers personalize their experience, and Domeniconi said spinoff apps are in the works.

Donna Kalajian Lagani, svp, publishing director, Cosmopolitan Kalajian Lagani was early in seeing the need to sell magazines as brands. When she joined the Hearst juggernaut in 1995, she saw a magazine that needed a feistier sales effort, and so the credo Fun Fearless Female was born.

“I saw this incredible brand that had been undermarketed,” she said. “So we launched Fun Fearless Female. It was a way to put [not only] a spin on the brand but also a name on the reader.”

Under her watch, Cosmo spawned other spinoffs and marketing stunts from a Sirius satellite radio show to Bikini Bash, which had hundreds of bikini-clad beach denizens spelling out the name of sponsor Nivea. All the while, the flagship is still going strong; it just raised its rate base, to 3 million from 2.9 million in January 2011. “She’s done a great job of keeping Cosmo relevant,” said Ildi Pap Conrad, U.S. director, print investment, OMD.

Connie Anne Phillips, publisher, InStyle After toiling at Condé Nast’s Vogue for 14 years, rising to managing director in 2008, Phillips got a chance to run her own show in 2009, when she jumped ship for InStyle. And she hasn’t disappointed.

InStyle has since become a more formidable rival to Vogue in the high-stakes fashion/beauty magazine field (helped, no doubt, by m.e. Ariel Foxman’s makeover). With her first September issue, she grew ad pages in one of the worst years in the annals of magazines. For first half 2010, InStyle passed Vogue in pages.

Phillips also has pumped up InStyle’s digital and events business. This fall, she launched an online popup boutique aimed at high-end advertisers. Her background may be fashion heavy, but Jane Deery, president, PGR Media, doesn’t see that limiting her: “If there were an opportunity outside the fashion arena, she has what it takes.”

Gina Sanders, president, CEO, Fairchild Fashion Group Condé Nast seems to have bigger things in store for Gina Sanders. She’s sold all kinds of magazines there, from Gourmet to Details to Lucky. Notably, she was launch publisher of Teen Vogue, a title that’s done surprisingly well in a category that has seen plenty of casualties. (And, she’s married into the Newhouse family; hubby  Steven Newhouse is a digital exec at the company.) In February, she was tapped to run Fairchild, the company’s B2B unit.

The move takes her away from the company’s high-profile consumer magazines but gives her broader business oversight. With B2B’s tough print prospects, she’ll be mainly focused on growing digital revenue and seeking partnerships with Condé Nast’s sexier (and historically separately run) consumer brands. “We’re very separate, but we are part of the same organization,” she said. “There is a way to work together for the common good on behalf of the company and advertisers.”

MPG’s Barest sees Sanders’ CEO role as priming her for “continual advancement.” But first, she’ll have to figure out how to transcend a challenged trade publishing model (not that we’d know anything about that).