The future of the magazine business lies with innovators like these—the young men and women who are creating engaging content, forging new revenue streams and harnessing the latest in digital opportunity. As the industry gathers this week in New York for the annual American Magazine Media 360° Conference, we introduce The New Publishers.
Stuart Brockington, Here Media
Helping Marriott portray LGBT people in an ambitious print, digital and experiential marketing campaign took every bit of strategic savvy on the part of Stuart Brockington, 36, Here Media's senior integrated advertising director. Brockington sells print and digital for the LGBT community's leading magazine brands, Out and The Advocate, which enjoyed a collective 42 percent upsurge in integrated ad revenue last year. (The brands' total audience is now about 80 percent digital, 20 percent print.) Marriott's #LoveTravels partnership nailed a marketing sweet spot, according to Brockington. "It delivered the inclusion message at precisely the right time, when LGBT employment rights, protections and marriage equality were shaping national conversations," he says. The result: more than 536,000 social media mentions and 25 million media impressions. —Joan Voight
John Campbell, National Geographic
Talk about an enviable position for a heritage magazine brand. National Geographic boasts 99 percent brand awareness, not to mention an "unending amount of assets," notes John Campbell, 34, U.S. publisher and vp of global partnerships. But figuring out how to integrate sponsors is a daily challenge. "Everything starts with the storytelling and the editorial," he says. "Then we make sure we work with the right partners to tell the right stories that our users want." One program: #EmiratesViewFromAbove, through which some 20,000 readers submitted their own aerial photography. Via Your Shot, readers uploaded some 6 million travel and adventure pics and did photo assignments for advertisers like Lexus, Fidelity and Johnnie Walker. Next up: Readers will go boots on the ground with Nat Geo photojournalists. Three no-stone-unturned blogs—Onward, Digital Nomad and Urban Insider—helped Campbell break digital records in 2014, when he landed Red Bull, Goldman Sachs and Jeep. Digital last year accounted for 31 percent of total revenue, up from 25 percent in 2013, according to Campbell, "and we only see that growing." —T.L. Stanley
Robert Capps, Wired
From Memento to the Dark Knight trilogy, Christopher Nolan's films can seriously mess with your head—and as a superfan, Robert Capps eagerly hops down the rabbit hole with each new release. Capps, 42, head of editorial at Condé Nast's Wired, wanted to take readers along for the ride with 2014's year-end issue, pegged to Nolan's sci-fi adventure, Interstellar. Capps reimagined the magazine from cover to cover after Nolan agreed to be guest editor. "We said, 'Let's throw everything out—let's reinvent this magazine from the ground up,'" the editor says. Rather than the usual sections, it featured "dimensions" that became "more wooly and complex" as readers waded through, he relates. Among the highlights: an original Nolan comic and a discussion about astrophysics. Though Bill Gates and J.J. Abrams had been guest editors in the past, Capps and his team had never done anything quite this ambitious. "It showed us the power of letting things get a little weird," says Capps, who last year also launched Wired x Design, a creative powwow at California's Skywalker Ranch that became an instant hit. "It proved that we should keep trying things out of our comfort zone." —T.L.S.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic
Ta-Nehisi Coates wasn't trying to land on late-night television or launch himself on the lecture circuit when he penned the 16,000-word piece "The Case for Reparations." But both have become a reality since his now-famous feature appeared on the cover of last June's issue of The Atlantic. "I knew it was a radical argument to make," says the national correspondent, 39, "but I didn't think much about the reaction. I was just following my own curiosity on the subject." Coates has appeared on numerous programs, including The Colbert Report, Real Time With Bill Maher and MSNBC, while juggling a standing-room-only national speaking tour about race in America. The June issue of The Atlantic, with its stark, provocative cover, sold 60 percent more at newsstands than its 2013 counterpart, while Coates' piece delivered record traffic for The Atlantic's site. Coates had been digging into segregation, discrimination and racist housing policies for years, saying that the country needs to understand these problems before it can heal the past and correct current injustice. He plans to keep the discussion alive with another book this fall. "It's important to ask the deep questions," he says, "and see just how far all our country's great rhetoric extends." —T.L.S.
Darhil Crooks, The Atlantic
An all-type cover can be a risk for any magazine. But Darhil Crooks felt like Ta-Nehisi Coates' attention-grabbing piece in The Atlantic last June, "The Case for Reparations," deserved a cover equally as bold. As creative director, Crooks, 36, was tasked with distilling the 16,000-word piece into a single image. He ended up creating a numbers-based list of racial injustices ("250 years of slavery," "90 years of Jim Crow"), culminating in the thought-provoking line: "Until we reckon with the compounding moral debts of our ancestors, America will never be whole." It's one of Crooks' many successful attempts to stop people in their tracks and keep the magazine at the center of the buzz. "We're trying to be as impactful as possible," explains Crooks, who also championed movie-style trailers online promoting Atlantic content. "We have 10 issues a year and we're making a brand statement every month." —T.L.S.
Eric Johnson, Bon Appétit & Epicurious, The Food Innovation Group
"Food is having a moment," notes Eric Johnson, 38, associate publisher of Condé Nast's Bon Appetit & Epicurious, The Food Innovation Group. But how best to engage in-the-know consumers and attract top partners in an environment as fiercely competitive as any Bravo reality show? The answer for Johnson was the relaunch of Bon Appétit, with pop culture and lifestyle topics taking a seat next to proteins and carbs, and readying a re-do of Epicurious as the Web's recipe-centric "ultimate food resource." Johnson helped form the Food Innovation Group to sell ads across the two brands that reach 79 million consumers. He also shook the dust off signature event Vegas Uncork'd and co-created buzzworthy, ad-supported programs like Feast or Fashion, Dinner and a DJ and Bon Appétit Presents Grub Crawl. The brand's total audience grew 36 percent in December 2014 year over year. "People are using food as a social currency," he says. "We need to be relevant, see the white space and keep bringing points of difference to market." —T.L.S.
Shelly Johnson, Architectural Digest
If Lowe's hadn't come up with it first, Shelly Johnson might well have adopted the tagline "Let's build something together" as her own at Condé Nast's Architectural Digest. And for Johnson, 34, executive director of integrated marketing and digital strategy, it is "build" in the literal sense. Working with client Delta and style maven Thom Filicia, Johnson and her team created a series of outdoor terraces at New York's JFK and Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airports—think luxe living rooms with runway views. For Lincoln, Johnson took over an abandoned cul-de-sac in San Francisco, helping transform it into a community park. Another project, a five-city architectural tour of public and private spaces, gave Cadillac the chance to promote its Escalade to a select audience. These programs, featuring custom content, video and social elements, are at the heart of Johnson's mission to take partnerships beyond traditional media with one-of-a-kind ideas, some of which may "take a lot of courage" for an advertiser, she says, but yield incredible dividends. "We're showing that we don't just cover design—we can create great design with clients," she says. "We're making a permanent mark in the landscape." —T.L.S.
Joyann King, Harper’s Bazaar
As the editor of HarpersBazaar.com and its e-commerce component ShopBazaar.com, Joyann King, 32, faces the daunting task of translating an iconic luxury fashion brand for a digital audience. So far, she has been more than successful in that mission. This past December was the site's most heavily trafficked month ever, with 6.5 million unique visitors—a 340 percent increase YOY. Meanwhile, Harper's Bazaar also reigns as the top magazine brand on Pinterest with nearly 4.5 million followers. (Accomplishments such as these led Adweek to select Harper's Bazaar as Magazine of the Year on the 2014 Hot List.) "The biggest challenge is being loyal to the magazine's heritage while staying relevant in the digital space," says King, who has overseen Bazaar.com for the last four-and-a-half years. "Through experimentation, trusting my gut, always maintaining Bazaar's taste level and a true love for the brand, I believe our site is a real reflection of what the fashionable woman craves to read online daily," she says. —Emma Bazilian
Jill Meenaghan, Hearst Men’s Group & Nick Van Sicklen, Time Inc.
Jill Meenaghan, Hearst Men's Group
Men who have arrived are the prime target of the Hearst Men's Group and the focus of its associate publisher, group marketing director Jill Meenaghan. And cookie-cutter programs just won't cut it for brands looking to reach this often hard-to-crack demo. "We need to create something 100 percent individual to that particular advertiser that only we can do," says the exec, 41, who has shepherded programs for the group's Esquire, Popular Mechanics, Car and Driver and Road & Track, reaching a combined 19 million consumers. A partnership with Hearst sibling Elle, "Decoding the Opposite Sex," was sponsored by Givenchy. (The topic of their next project: marriage.) Meanwhile, Popular Mechanics explored the DIY and maker movement with the Toyota-sponsored series "The Inventionaries." Those and other custom programs for the likes of General Motors, Chrysler and Mini make for what Meenaghan calls "a new day of collaboration, in the best sense." —T.L.S.
Nick Van Sicklen, Time Inc.
Many legacy publishers like to talk about employing a startup culture, but Nick Van Sicklen, 32, vp of digital sales at Time Inc., is walking the walk, using a lean, tightly integrated team to grow digital revenue by one-third last year. Along with a range of custom digital ad executions, Van Sicklen also played a key role in launching two millennial-targeted sites: Ikea-sponsored The Snug, which debuted Jan. 12 and aggregates DIY content from Time's lifestyle titles, and food and wine destination FWx last March. "Small groups inside Time Inc. get ideas off the ground quickly, then we tap the power of scale to promote them," says Van Sicklen, a former professional soccer player. "The Time family of brands is an engine of 104 million unique monthly views pushing our programs forward." When Van Sicklen joined the company in late 2013, he activated a 25-member, in-house digital ad agency for InStyle, Real Simple, Travel+Leisure, Food & Wine, Sunset, Coastal Living and Departures. It created custom farm-to-table content for Food & Wine, backed by Miracle-Gro. Another highlight: the Infiniti-sponsored Global Lookbook, covering food and culture in Buenos Aires, Bangkok and other global destinations. "Digital used to be perceived as a tactic," notes Van Sicklen. "Now it's an ideas business that actually drives print." —J.V.
Ian Orefice, Time Inc. & Callie Schweitzer, Time Inc.
Ian Orefice, Time Inc.
As the executive producer of Time Inc.'s News and Sports Group, Ian Orefice oversees video programming and production for brands including Sports Illustrated, Time and Fortune. Since Time Inc. launched its full-service video arm, Orefice, 30, has helped build the company's first daily live show, SI Now, as well as high-profile, long-form content like SI's Emmy-nominated series Underdogs. Orefice also serves as an executive producer for Time's Red Border Films. "The video industry is in a transformative era right now, and each day we are working to create content that makes an impact," says Orefice. "From live programming to television series to award-winning documentaries, we now have an incredibly passionate and talented team that was built from scratch." —E.B.
Callie Schweitzer, Time Inc.
At 26, Callie Schweitzer has already built a resumé any media professional three times her age would be lucky to have. Since graduating from USC's Annenberg School in 2011, Schweitzer has worked as the deputy publisher of Talking Points Memo and head of marketing at Vox Media, appeared three times on Forbes' annual 30 Under 30 list and been included in Time's 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2013. Now, as editorial director of audience strategy for all of Time Inc., publisher of titles including Time, People and Sports Illustrated, her responsibilities include overseeing traffic, audience engagement, social media and new product initiatives at both the brand and corporate level. She helped to double the traffic of Time.com to a record 50.2 million monthly unique visitors in 2014 while growing the magazine's social following to 28 million and counting. So what's next for Schweitzer? "The next big challenge for all media organizations will be around continuing to earn people's attention," she says. "When you have a spare 30 seconds and you open your phone, who are you going to turn to first? We want that to be a Time Inc. brand." —E.B.
Alexis Wall, Allure
Since 1996, Allure's Best of Beauty Awards have been a highly anticipated event for any cosmetics junkie worth her weight in Nars. Likewise, any brand with the good fortune to win the award knows it can count on a sizable boost in consumer awareness. But it wasn't until 2010, when Allure business director Alexis Wall spearheaded the launch of the Best of Beauty Seal Licensing business, that the Condé Nast magazine began to truly leverage the award's power. Wall, who won Condé Nast Marketer of the Year honors for her efforts, collaborates with the sales and editorial departments as well as outside partners like Bloomingdale's to help grow revenue from the seal business, which is up 400 percent since launch. The Allure seal is now recognized by 67 percent of female consumers and provides an average 9 percent sales uplift for the marketers and the products that feature it. "Our primary goal overall is elevating our brand to build audience and revenue," says Wall. "And nothing does that like the Best of Beauty Seal." —E.B.
Amanda Wolfe, Fitness
It's a good thing Amanda Wolfe does a lot of cardio. She needed all the stamina she could get after being tapped as senior digital director at Meredith's Fitness magazine last spring, just as the publication was reconfiguring its digital identity top to bottom. A 10-year veteran of the publisher, Wolfe, 31, was at the center of Fitness' website relaunch. Social sharing is now simpler, boosting engagement by more than double YOY. And Wolfe shepherded the pub's mobile-first approach. Noting more than 50 percent of Fitness' audience connects with the brand while on the go, Wolfe says, "Our reader wants healthy recipes while she's at the store. She wants to watch workouts, find out about the latest Paleo diet." Meredith continues to roll out native ad products like Buzz, with custom video on the horizon, and Wolfe will expand her duties as the company incorporates its new acquisition, American Media's Shape magazine, into its portfolio. —T.L.S.
Amy Odell, Cosmopolitan
With a CV that includes founding New York magazine's fashion blog The Cut and launching BuzzFeed's first style vertical, Amy Odell is a true digital native. Just ask Troy Young, the president of Hearst Magazines Digital Media, who brought in Odell as editor of Cosmopolitan.com in 2013. Odell, 29, is responsible for transforming the iconic magazine's digital arm from a repository of sex tips to a must-visit site for savvy millennial women. The site now features a greater emphasis on journalism about serious topics, among them abortion rights and gun control, alongside celebrity news and style coverage delivered in a voice that's less gossipy and more "your best feminist friend." Under Odell, Cosmopolitan.com has also begun to make a name for itself in the political arena. Ahead of the 2014 midterms, the editor led the launch of the #CosmoVotes campaign, including candidate endorsements, expanded political reporting and a social media push aimed at raising awareness around the elections. —E.B.