EXCLUSIVE: Us Weekly Vice President and CRO Vicci Rose on David Pecker, Her New EIC and Branded Content

Her first interview since the American Media, Inc. ownership change

Vicci Rose has been with Us Weekly for a long time. Her tenure as publisher predates the arrival of the World Wide Web and encompassed the celebrated editorial runs of both Janice Min and Bonnie Fuller.

The American Media, Inc. (AMI) phase of her career has only just begun. But already, Rose, who now holds the titles of vice president and chief revenue officer, has high praise for the man who has replaced Rolling Stone Media’s Jann Wenner. “David Pecker is not only a visionary, but one of the greatest champions of the media industry in my lifetime,” she tells Fishbowl. “I have never worked with someone with his passion for this business and understanding of both the audience served and advertisers in equal measure.”

“David is willing to invest where he sees a clear path to the ROI. He has been extremely supportive in the transition and we are committed to exceeding his high expectations.”

That’s high praise. Above is Fishbowl’s exclusive first look at the cover of this week’s June 19 issue, the latest print footprint of Rose’s work with new editor in chief James Heidenry. The latter came up through the AMI ranks, overseeing Star and OK! magazines before adding Us. Once again, Rose, after all these years, is full of enthusiasm for her new charge.

“As both Bonnie and Janice respectively did, James “gets” that today personality and perspective play an even greater role than it did in the past under our celebrity editors,” Rose says. “Back when Bonnie and Janice were respectively at the helm, Us Weekly had one main competitor. Today, we have thousands of competitors for our audiences’ share of mind–coming at us from every angle, every medium and the newest technology.”

“James is his own man with his own unique zeitgeist at a very different time in our business,” she adds. “He is similarly clear in his vision for what differentiates Us Weekly and the role that authenticity and currency play in the hierarchy of needs of discerning consumers.”

There have been reports, most notably by New York Post columnist Keith J. Kelly, of the emotional toll inflicted on both remaining and exiting Us Weekly employees by the recent, extended ownership transition. But Rose disputes the tenor of those items, admitting that while transitioning a large media business is never easy, it has been done as smoothly as possible.

“From the start David, [chief content officer] Dylan [Howard] and the team of senior executives at AMI were committed to minimizing the disruption and making the process as seamless as possible,” she notes. “Despite a protracted timetable, Us Weekly’s staff remained focused, passionate and productive throughout. I have come to realize how fortunate I am to work with such a dedicated and resilient group of professionals.”

Internally, and for a long time now, Rose and her colleagues have lovingly referred to the Us Weekly community as a “tribe.” One that now comes to the digital side of the publication through new channels. “Around 30% of our site traffic comes from social media,” Rose reveals. “Us Weekly’s social media footprint is 7 million strong and growing naturally. Further, as we have always been an exciting visual brand thriving on new images and exclusive photos, our Instagram following has doubled to 2.1 million followers in the past year. Dylan’s personal commitment to Us Weekly increasing its daily-post output is also helping further capitalize upon the existing momentum in social channels.”

In terms of advertiser inflow during the Rolling Stone Media era versus these nascent AMI days, Rose suggests that the marketplace has become desensitized to media-outlet ownership changes. A landscape where disruption and parent company shifting are constantly afoot means that personal relationships with advertisers are more key than ever.