A hundred-plus senior-level women’s magazine editors. Dinner at the Four Seasons. No fewer than three different wineglasses per place setting, all of which seemed to top themselves off every five minutes. Candid chat about the successes, challenges and triumphs facing senior-level editors at the nation’s most visible glossies. Gift bags bearing ionic blowdryers. Just some of what reminded us we dig our gig, while covering mediabistro.com’s 4th annual Dinner & Dis(Course) last night. Co-hosted by editors-in-chief Joanna Coles (Marie Claire), Rosemary Ellis (Good Housekeeping), Cindi Leive (Glamour), Janice Min (Us Weekly), Peggy Northrop (More), and mb founder and CEO Laurel Touby, it was basically the most encompassing women’s mag section of the newsstand you’ve ever seen, personified.
After a cocktail hour so packed that editors closest to the bar were passing wineglasses through the seven-person-deep crowd to pals on the periphery, we retired to the tables for the promised dinner and discourse. Topics of conversation ranged from work-life balance to how attendees’ own pubs were navigating and taking advantage of the Internet to serve up content in new ways.
Then, the evening’s hosts took to the stage as an expert EIC panel, so aside from some newsy bits we’ll get out of the way — Marie Claire‘s Web site will be relaunched at the end of March, according to Coles; Lindsay Lohan, bless her oft-hospitalized little heart, doesn’t move mags, according to Min; and Northrop’s looking to hire a Web site director — here are some choice snippets. They may have dipped into women’s mag speak as the conversation wore on but hey, it’s why we love ‘em and, perhaps one of the many reasons they are where they are:
Ellis, Leive, Northrop, Coles, Min, Touby
On what it took for them to become an editor-in-chief, and how they’d advise those angling for such a spot:
Northrop: The important thing was owning up that that was what I wanted to do — I wanted to be editor-in-chief. The real turning point for me came when I said to myself, ‘This is the job I want.’ Leive: Believe that you can do this. If you understand the reader, or a particular market well … if you feel that, looking at your magazine, that you know what it takes to reach them, there is no reason that it shouldn’t be you.
On the ‘Zinczenko-ization of the editor-in-chief role, or how much the need to function as a figurehead to help brand one’s magazine has changed the editor-in-chief’s role:
Ellis: I think [Zinczenko-ization] is a misnomer — female editors have been doing this (branding themselves as an extension of their magazines, appearing on TV and other platforms to represent their publications) for longer than (Men’s Health editor-in-chief) Dave Zinczenko has.
Do editors even edit anymore?
Leive: I think they better — if they neglect that, they pay the price! But, you do need to be the public face of your magazine. Northrop: That’s even true in hiring. I’m looking for people who can carry the message of the magazine into multiple mediums, I’m hiring people who — in addition to strong editorial skills — have TV experience, have radio experience.
How is your magazine dealing with the Web? Will it always exist in print in the future?
Coles: As a monthly magazine, you’re expected to produce a sort of uber-monthly, something that’s more luxurious. As long as people take baths, there will always be a monthly magazine. But, everyone on staff is expected to work on the Web site. Min: Our Web staff is seven people. The Web has absolutely changed how we do things — we are constantly refreshing Perez Hilton, Gawker — but there will continue to be a print magazine. Us packages celebrity news in a way that the Web can’t. I mean, I love Perez, but this is a guy who draws cocaine sprinkles falling out of celebrities’ noses and writes things like ‘sucks d*ck’ on pictures of celebs he wants to out. Northrop: The Internet definitely has people reading magazines differently. My 13-year-old daughter reads CosmoGirl with the magazine open in front of her, while she’s at her computer logging on to the magazine’s Web site at the same time; all while she’s chatting, she’s listening to music. But, magazines will stay because they are still portable, on-demand media… it’s just that people are more in touch with media than ever. Leive: I love this question (dramatically intoning, with a flourish-y hand gesture): ‘Is print dead? Discuss!’ There will always be the curl-up factor of women’s magazines. It’s like when the microwave came into use, people were saying regular ovens would be going out. Now, though, there’s this whole retro thing where people are wanting these traditional, old-school Viking stoves. The best thing, of course, is to be the one making the microwaves and the old-school Viking ovens. We’ll be on the Web and in print — as long as you’re getting them (readers) in both places, you’re well-situated. Ellis: Women are more goal-oriented, more task-oriented when they go to the Web. Magazines are for downtime, for relaxing time, which is not how women describe the time they spend on the Web. I think the key is: Do in the magazine what you can’t do on the Web and do online what you can’t do in the magazine.
What is the best or toughest part of the editor-in-chief job? How do you maintain work/life balance?
Ellis: The toughest part of the job is that there is no balance. Leive: The best part of the job is delving into what Glamour‘s job should be on the Web. What’s happening now with the Web means that it’s a time when editors-in-chief are learning new things. We’re saying, ‘I don’t know what to do here — let’s figure it out.’ This is a time of extreme, aerobic opportunity for entry-level and mid-level editors. Even the interns have something to teach us. It used to be that the Web job was someplace to put someone you didn’t know what to do with: ‘Oh, she’s not working out — let’s put her on the Web.’ That’s not the case anymore — these days, that Web editor is meeting with your CEO, she’s in on high-level meetings. Northrop: Balance is bunk! My best advice is: Marry a writer who’s willing to stay home with your children. Also, the secret to getting a guy to cook for you is to praise every effort of theirs in the kitchen, no matter what: ‘This is the most amazing oatmeal I’ve ever tasted!’