12 Media Innovators Who Are Defining a New Generation of Content

Meet the Creative 100 honorees elevating print, audio and more

Samin Nosrat turned her passion for food, education and gatherings into the hit book and show Salt Fat Acid Heat. Courtesy of Netflix

Always changing but also mired in its traditions, media can be a bafflingly difficult industry to work in, and true innovation requires a tireless level of passion and dedication.

As part of Adweek’s Creative 100 for 2019, we’re honoring some of the authors, editors, executives and visionaries who have brilliantly navigated the rocky shoals of modern media and, along the way, created some of today’s hottest properties online and IRL.

Katherine Power and Hillary Kerr

Co-founders, Who What Wear

Photo: Justin Coit

Power and Kerr, former editors at Elle, launched Who What Wear as a daily newsletter in 2006 and have since grown the media company substantially, with offices today in L.A., Minnesota, New York City and London. Their Clique Brands, which includes Who What Wear, Who What Wear Beauty and wellness vertical The Thirty, target millennial and Gen Z women.

While Power oversees the company’s business, Kerr leads editorial creativity. The editorial team itself has grown to include 46 full-time staffers, with an emphasis on making their areas of coverage more accessible and inclusive. “When it comes to wellness, oftentimes, it can be very ‘fancy white lady,’ and we are really trying to democratize wellness and really bring different perspectives and price points to that conversation,” Kerr says.

The company has deep ties with Target, having developed a ready-to-wear line from Who What Wear and formed a partnership with the retailer to develop an athleisure line, JoyLab. Clique Brands has brought in almost $28 million in funding from investors that include Amazon, Greycroft Partners and BDMI. Next, the pair are looking to expand a fashion and accessories line internationally.

“Our strength has been sticking to what we’re great at and not diverting from it,” Power says. “There have been so many trends over the past 13 years, from flash sales to aggregating all your traffic under one domain—we’ve looked at them all and stuck to our roots of being very focused on making style look accessible and guiding users through trend discovery and purchases.”
Sara Jerde

John Henry

Host, Viceland’s Hustle

Photo: Levi Walton/Viceland

Hustle. It’s the name of Henry’s show on Viceland, but it’s also his personal philosophy.

“Some people think about hustle and they think that means overwork yourself to death,” Henry says. “But that’s not how I see it. To me, hustle just means aspiring towards what you see for yourself.”

Henry’s life has been defined by his hustle. He started his first business—an on-demand dry-cleaning service for the film industry—after dropping out of school at 18. Before he would have graduated college, he sold that business and turned his focus towards uplifting other entrepreneurs.

“Becoming an entrepreneur was the most creative thing I had ever done, I left the traditional path and took a chance,” he says. “Creativity taps every part of your being. It’s mental, physical and emotional.”

Developed by executive producers Alicia Keys and chef Marcus Samuelsson, Hustle sends Henry to the streets of New York to help small business owners grow. Henry is also a partner at Harlem Capital, a diversity-focused early stage venture capital firm focused on the same sector as his Viceland show.

“When I’m looking for companies to invest in,” he says, “two of the main things I want to see are hustle and creativity.”
Mitch Reames

Paul Martinez

Ecd, Meredith

Photo: Alex Scimecca

When Martinez joined Fortune Magazine at the beginning of 2016, one of the first things he did was take over a conference room and start creating a vision board for the magazine’s print redesign. His vision took over the entire room. Eventually his work would even include redesigning Fortune’s logo, only the 10th time it had been changed in the magazine’s 86-year history.

But redesigning isn’t new to Martinez. Before joining Fortune, he redesigned and relaunched brands such as Maxim, Marie Claire, and Men’s Journal as the creative director.

With a diverse portfolio that includes fashion, business and food, he’s spent the past year, as executive creative director at Meredith, redesigning both Travel + Leisure and Departures.

For Travel + Leisure’s redesign, Martinez worked to elevate the magazine with a more modern look. With fewer, yet larger, photos, the magazine has more room to breathe. He also decided to make everything but the photographs black and white. “We use some of the best photographers from around the world,” Martinez says. “The decision to put the photography up front gives the reader a chance to really immerse themselves into the visuals.”

Martinez has brought his out-of-the-box thinking not just to magazines, but also to website design, animation, typography, video and branding. “’Try everything’ is the best advice I could give to anyone in the creative field,” he says.

“He can look at one photo and build a beautiful story around it,” says Jacqueline Gifford, editor in chief of Travel + Leisure, “and then go back at the final second to add just one final, subtle touch, to make it even better.”
Kacy Burdette

Samin Nosrat

Author and host, Salt Fat Acid Heat

Photo courtesy of Netflix

Nosrat is a refreshingly cheerful amalgam of many things—celebrated chef, author and regular columnist for The New York Times Magazine, just to name a few. But at her core, Nosrat is an exceptional, inspirational and patient teacher.

“My skill is sort of seeing something and translating it for people,” she tells Adweek. “I wanted to reach, empower, and encourage home cooks.”

For proof of her success in this mission, look no further than Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Nosrat’s cookbook-turned-popular Netflix docuseries. For four highly informative episodes, the culinary scholar traveled the world in order to thoroughly break down the four basic elements cooking, exploring their cultural origins as well as how we can incorporate those ancient lessons into our modernized cuisine.

Her commitment to making the art of cooking more accessible feels quietly revolutionary, avoiding overly complex technique in order to turn a potentially intimidating act into a communal event. It all stems from a profound belief that Nosrat holds dear: “The food is almost peripheral to the act of gathering around the table. People think: ‘Oh, well I don’t have fancy plates. I don’t have tablecloths, I don’t have a table, so I can’t have people over.’ That’s not what’s important. What’s important is getting together.”
Shannon Miller

Josh Schollmeyer

Founder and editor in chief, MEL

Photo: Bradley Meinz

Friends thought Schollmeyer had come unhinged when he took a job several years ago at the nascent MEL magazine, an independent editorial project launched by Dollar Shave Club about a year before the razor subscription service was acquired by Unilver.

“I told people I was hoping to build a 21st century Esquire,” Schollmeyer says. “And they said: ‘From the cheap razor company? Don’t think so.’”

In short order, Schollmeyer put his ambitious plan into action, growing MEL into a critically lauded site with nearly 2.5 million unique monthly visitors. He calls it “an investigation into modern masculinity” and a male counterpart to publications he admires like Jezebel, The Cut and Broadly.

"I told people I was hoping to build a 21st century Esquire. And they said: ‘From the cheap razor company? Don’t think so.'"
Josh Schollmeyer, editor in chief, MEL

“I felt like men’s lifestyle content was badly in need of re-imagining,” says Schollmeyer, a legacy media veteran who created a SFW version of Playboy on Kinja and co-produced a feature doc on Roger Ebert called Life Itself.

He knows for certain what MEL isn’t: a place that’s fixated on sports cars and single-barrel Scotch—or a branded-content mouthpiece for Dollar Shave Club.

Its content, including investigative deep dives and an upcoming quarterly print pub based on “the archetypal guy,” will continue to evolve, finding its own way to talk about abortion, immigration and other hot-button issues, asking where masculinity is going and “embracing the messiness with an intelligent rigor.”
T.L. Stanley

Doug McGray and Chas Edwards

Co-founders, Pop-Up Magazine Productions

Photo: Jake Stangel

McGray and Edwards have always had a fondness for storytelling—McGray, as a longtime reporter, and Edwards as a longtime media executive.

Coming together, the two have rethought what a reader’s relationship to a magazine could look like and launched an in-person event, called Pop-Up Magazine. The ticketed show includes themed performances that draw parallels to what you might find in a magazine and reimagined ways of reaching that audience with advertising.

“We were really inspired by the idea of a classic general interest magazine, the metaphorical magazine,” McGray says. It started as a hobby but has quickly grown, now selling out performances at its stops throughout the country. In all, the show is being performed to 45,000 people a year.

Next, they’ll continue to tackle big topics during the show’s performances that advance the production’s journalism further. “We will continue to push the creative ambition of the show,” Edwards says.
—Sara Jerde

Chris Gayomali

Site editor, GQ

Photo: Matt Martin

“It’s media in 2019, and you’ve got to do everything. Which makes it the best challenge.”

That’s how Gayomali summarizes his current roles with GQ, which include overseeing content across the magazine’s website while still writing and editing.

Through this interwoven role, Gayomali has helped prioritize garnering a diverse array of contributors to enhance GQ’s platform, making sure the brand is covering what modern-day masculinity looks like from all angles and incorporating more voices on the website to make “masculinity better and more inclusive.”

“When so much of it is toxic and bad and gross,” Gayomali says of topics centered on men, “we see an opportunity to reach men in a unique point of their lives, a rare position that we don’t take lightly.”
—Sara Jerde

Stella Bugbee

President and editor in chief, The Cut

Photo: Heather Hazzan

Bugbee was first tasked with overhauling New York magazine’s fashion-oriented website into a “multi-dimensional” destination eight years ago. Since then, The Cut has elbowed its way to the top, maintaining a unique voice in an otherwise cluttered media landscape and expanding its reach in diverse revenue streams like you might see with a standalone publishing company.

Under Bugbee, the brand has grown that reach into podcasting, events, a T-shirt line, reimagining the content as a digital magazine, as well as publishing fiction. Some of those initiatives, in part, led Adweek to name The Cut Website of the Year in 2018 and recognize its nonfiction reporting chops.

Through it all, The Cut has maintained its unique voice covering topics that are especially important to women, particularly though the #MeToo era, a place on the Internet that Bubgee doesn’t plan on giving up as the country heads into the 2020 election.

“I’ve just been carving out a space for women to hear ourselves speak,” Bugbee says, “not necessarily dictating what that conversation is all the time, but giving us a space to have those conversations is really important to me.”
—Sara Jerde

Jody Avirgan

Host and senior producer, 30 for 30 podcast, ESPN

Photo via ESPN Images

As the host and producer of ESPN’s 30 for 30 podcast—the audio arm of the award-winning sports documentary series—Avirgan was tasked with taking the renowned visual storytelling of 30 for 30 and shifting gears.

“ESPN tossed me the keys to a Lamborghini and told me not to drive into a ditch."
Jody Avirgan, 30 for 30 podcast host

This story first appeared in the June 10, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.