Jess Cagle Chats About His New Gig at People

On learning to love the newsstand again and replacing ASME rules with common sense

Time Inc. today plucked Jess Cagle from Entertainment Weekly to be the new editor of its crown jewel, People. He succeeds Larry Hackett, who had the job for eight years. Cagle, 48, chatted with Adweek about his new role. Here’s our transcript, lightly edited.

People is the brand that keeps Time Inc. afloat, but it's not as strong as it used to be. Where does it fit in today’s crowded market for celebrity news?

People still owns celebrity in that it is the most trusted brand. That is really important, and that has to be maintained. So you own celebrity by doing that. But there are new products we can offer. That’s the future. There are videos, other sites…

You’re going to keep a hand in EW with the editorial director title. Does that mean there’ll be a closer working relationship between the two brands?

I think there’s a way to harness the power of those brands for advertisers. EW, there is no more beloved brand in Hollywood. Are there editorial initiatives that we can do together? But I have to be very careful. They’re very different brands.

EW sells fewer than 30,000 copies each week on the newsstand, whereas newsstand is critical to People. Do you see that as a liability?

I was at People for seven years, so I was very invested in newsstand sales. I will have to put my newsstand hat back on. I don’t know that you can reverse the newsstand decline. However, newsstand is incredibly important, especially for People. I will go from being not that concerned about newsstand to very concerned about newsstand. I think I can do it; I just think I’ve got to be focused on it.

What will the spinoff of Time Inc. later this year mean for People?

What’s exciting is, I think it will be more investment in People. They just announced they’re changing the paper stock. It certainly is a sign Time Inc. is committed to the brand.

Your take on the new corporate structure that has editors reporting to the business side?

I’m OK with it. I miss Martha [Nelson], because she was a great friend and boss. But I report to David Geithner, who is one of the greatest people in the world. I have a dotted line to Norm Pearlstine. They say maintaining our trust with readers is the most important thing. Does that mean sometimes you don’t replace ASME rules with common sense? I’m all on board with that. Sometimes, there was a lot of talk of, will ASME allow that. Sponsored content pushes the boundaries, but the audience knows what’s an advertisement and what’s not.

Get any advice from Larry about the new job?

I remember when I took over EW and Larry Hackett and Jim Kelly gave me this piece of paper with 19 things to remember. Like when you’re in a meeting, don’t ever be the first person to talk. Don't ever yell at anyone in front of a group of people. It was really good advice.