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First Mover: Bill Phillips

The new Men's Health editor on learning to love the Web and how he's not like Dave Zinczenko

Photo: Elizabeth Lippman


Specs
Age 43
New gig Editor in chief, Men’s Health
Old gig Editor of MensHealth.com

What’s it like going over to a print magazine after editing the website for the past few years?
I was a print editor for 18 years, until 2009, and the tough transition was actually from print to digital because I didn’t have any understanding of how a website worked. Digital is a different mind-set, but you can learn a lot of great lessons. One is clarity in headlines and display. And selling a story’s benefit to the reader in the two-and-a-half milliseconds you have with them. Magazines could learn a lot from how Yahoo does the little teasers on their homepage.

Tell us about Men’s Health Live, the syndicated radio show you’re launching this month.
We’ll cover tons of useful stuff—fitness, health, nutrition, relationships, style advice. Some personalities from the magazine will be showing up on the show, from the Girl Next Door to Jim the Bartender. I think radiois underestimated in terms of getting the brand out there in front of the public.

You’re planning to stay in Emmaus, Pa., where Rodale is based. How will you keep up a media presence from there?
Our media appearances are probably at an all-time high. Men’s Health is ultimately about the reader and not about any one person on staff. We can all stand in to inform the reader.

Are you going to do a lot of TV like your predecessor Dave Zinczenko, who was a regular fixture on Good Morning America, did?
I did some TV at Popular Science, and I’m sure I’ll be doing more here. But I doubt I’ll be on every week. There are plenty of other people who are happy to be on TV and are good at it.

What do you want to bring to the magazine or the brand overall?
I’d like to see some humor come back to Men’s Health—I’d like it to be a little brighter, a little more fun, a little more surprising. We’ve got to get out of the mind-set of “We did that last month” or “That’s how we do it” and think about what’s best for the reader this month.

You were an ASME award finalist for your 2005 Men’s Health feature, “Hunting My Father’s Killer.” Did researching your father’s death play a big part in how you’re informed about your own health?
My father passed away in 1999. When I moved to Men’s Health, I became more cognizant of my own health and fitness. My father’s autopsy report said that the findings were consistent with Cadasil, an extremely rare genetic disorder. I decided not to get tested for it, because there’s no cure—if it’s something I can’t do anything about, what’s the point of knowing? But what I can do is live the healthiest life I can live. The month and a half when I wrote that story was a life-changing journey for me, and it ultimately led to where I am today.

Were you interested in your health before you came to Rodale?
I was at Popular Science. I was interested in cars and toys and Xbox.

What’s your own fitness regimen?
It’s not crazy. I don’t have two hours a day to work out. Lately I’ve been doing the Men’s Health Speed Shred DVD program. And I do my best to eat well, which is hard with two little girls who love McDonald’s and all kinds of other crap.

Have any vices?
Red wine. We all know it’s healthy for you in moderation. I straddle the line. 

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