Redbook EIC Meredith Rollins Talks About How the Mag Has Evolved for Its New Millennial Audience

These readers prefer humor and fashion to slow-cooker recipes


 

Photo: Alfred Maskeroni

 Specs
New gig Editor in chief, Redbook
Old gig Executive editor, Redbook
Age 43

Redbook was one of the original Seven Sisters. Does that make it hard to combat the perception that Redbook is an old-fashioned women’s service magazine?
Redbook was always the younger sibling of the Seven Sisters, excuse the pun. I don’t think we’ve really been a women’s service magazine for a long time; it’s been a while since we did things like “how to buy the right washing machine” or “slow cooker suppers.” Now, I feel like we’re talking to a totally new generation of women. The stuff that they respond to has a sense of humor and some reality, which you don’t really get in the more classic women’s service magazines, historically speaking.

How do you target millennial readers? How are they different from, say, Gen X women in terms of the content they’re looking for?
What’s great about these new Redbook readers is that they embrace the mess and the chaos. They don’t want or need everything to be perfect; it’s unrealistic. So for me, our voice is key: It has to be authentic and funny and relatable. Of course we still focus on major social issues and tell beautiful, emotional stories, but the balance of the magazine is fun and voicey, which our readers really love.

Last year’s redesign of Redbook saw a much bigger focus on fashion and beauty. How do you differentiate yourself from other women’s style magazines?
The fashion and beauty stuff obviously rates really well—that’s why we made the change last year—and I don’t think there’s another magazine that does it quite the way that we do. A lot of style magazines still have that exclusionary feel. We have plus-size finds throughout the fashion section, not just as a single page in the magazine. Another thing that’s been historically important to Redbook is great writing, and that’s something that I want to continue. We have Andrew Solomon; Lisa Miller, who writes for New York magazine; Susan Dominus from The New York Times Magazine. Redbook isn’t just about things to buy. There’s real depth to it as well.

You recently hired a new creative director, Kirby Rodriguez, with whom you had previously worked at W magazine. Do you think we’ll be seeing more high fashion?
What I love about Kirby is his ability to mix something really accessible with something very elegant. We get an incredibly high amount of social referrals from Pinterest, which to me says that our readers love a beautiful image. That said, we’re never going to have a fashion shoot with a 16-year-old model wearing $2,000 hot pants standing next to a yak on a cliff. That’s not how people live. But we’re going to give you a beautiful outfit, and maybe some of it is slightly higher-end—like a Coach bag—but with Gap shorts.

A lot of women’s magazines, including Redbook, have launched apps to make their pages “shoppable.” Are readers actually using this technology?
I don’t think anyone’s found the magic bullet yet. Our app, the Shop Redbook app, has been pretty popular. Also, earlier this year, we did a series of online slideshows in partnership with Macy’s, and they were incredibly successful.

What’s been the biggest perk of being editor in chief so far?
I did my first big ad sales trip a few weeks ago, with our associate publisher Wendi Cassuto, to Chicago, which is where I’m from. We [went] to places like Kraft, Quaker, P&G, and I was talking to women on the agency or client side, and they love Redbook and they are actual readers. For me, having the experience of being back in my hometown with people who are our readers, whose opinions I respect, that by far was the best perk. And Wendi let me get whatever I wanted from the Hudson News store at the airport, so that was awesome.