Q&A: Hearst Magazines’ New Chief Content Officer Kate Lewis Wants to Focus on Improving Collaboration

She will succeed Joanna Coles in the position

Kate Lewis is the company's second chief content officer.
Hearst Corporation, Paul Luthringer

Kate Lewis has been named chief content officer at Hearst Magazines, only the second person to be named to the position. The appointment comes days after Joanna Coles confirmed that she would be departing the company.

Lewis first joined Hearst Magazines Digital Media in 2014 as vice president, content operations and editorial director and was promoted to senior vice president two years later.

“Hearst Magazines stands today unrivaled in its collection of successful print and digital brands,” said Hearst President and CEO Steven R. Swartz in a statement. “With her strong background in both worlds, Kate is ideally suited to help our editors and producers take their products to the next level of excellence by finding new ways to collaborate.”

Under Lewis, monthly unique visitors more than tripled across the portfolio of Hearst Magazines Digital Media, according to Hearst’s announcement.

Before Hearst, Lewis was senior vice president and editorial director at Say Media, held senior executive roles at Condé Nast and was managing editor of Self for 10 years.

Coles tweeted that she was “thrilled” for Lewis and the top team at Hearst, who “have so much magic to give in the content space.”

Here’s what Lews said we can expect to see from the company with her in the role:

Adweek: Notably, both you and Troy Young rose through the ranks at Hearst Magazines Digital Media. How do you think this perspective, in particular, will help you in this new position?
Kate Lewis: The one thing to note that, for almost 20 years, I was a print editor, so in some ways, digital was the newer experience for me. I feel really quite excited about taking the new things I’ve learned and helping to spread them through the whole editorial core.

There’s a real hunger for all the editors to be involved in all the platforms that we serve the audiences on. I come from this print perspective to learning digital and I hope we have this collaboration between the print and digital teams going forward.

Is collaboration going to be something you’re focusing on?
I’m better on a team than on my own. It’s sort of a tent pole of how magazines work, and how magazines always function. You can’t have content without copy, you can’t have art without designers, team behavior is inherent to magazine creation and I’m eager to continue that as part of our DNA.

You have a range of titles, including those you recently took on in the Rodale acquisition (including Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Runner’s World), what do you think of the current portfolio of titles?
I love how diverse it is, we’re really heavy in fashion which is great for magazines since the visual feeling is so critical to how people enjoy us. [We write about everything, from how] to have a more effective home life in Good Housekeeping to how to run a more effective mile in Runner’s World. And a lot of our brands have been increasingly part of the news beat.

Young recently emphasized how print is still important to the company. Do you share that same sentiment?
Absolutely. In some ways now, we are a content company and we have this tremendous advantage that we can then distribute those things across many different platforms from Pinterest to Instagram, and all of them play a role. Print continues to play a special role because it’s the chance we have to create an event out of what we’re publishing and launching.

Any plans to revamp or change any of the print magazines in particular?
No, I’m just going to bask in this moment, then the work begins.

You were just named to the position, but can you give us any insight as to what your goals will be, say within the next six months?
Trying to tie the teams together in a more collaborative way feels important to me. You will see a focus in all the media, whether it’s video, words or photo on trying to deepen and enrich storytelling and really going after that as a way of connecting to people. A little more focus on that.

Joanna Coles was the first person to take on this position. What are some of the challenges and opportunities that come out of starting without a handful of predecessors?
I’m sure this job will be different for me than it [was] for her. That’s what the job is. I think that’s how I see it. Nothing is scripted in media right now, and that to me feels incredibly exciting.