Mr. Magazine™ gives his Seal of Approval as Good Housekeeping reinvents a brand that has been trusted for generations using an idea and a phrase coined in the offices of their very own mint: service of discovery. Mr. Magazine™ talks with Editor in Chief Rosemary Ellis and Senior Vice President, Chief Revenue Officer, Pat Haegele about the innovative and much-researched notion that promises to take the magazine to new heights.

GOOD HOUSEKEEPING“It’s what’s most at risk with online. It’s what online cannot do; tell you what you didn’t ask for, but that you really want to know,” Rosemary Ellis said.

Think about that idea for a moment. It’s what online cannot do; tell you what you didn’t ask for, but that you really want to know. When you sit down in front of your computer, how often does interesting and relevant information automatically appear before your eyes?

The word never comes to mind.

Rosemary Ellis, Editor in Chief of Good Housekeeping and Pat Haegele, Senior Vice President, Chief Revenue Officer of the magazine, have discovered that magazines must provide something that the web cannot: a service of discovery. While any information Google or other search engines out there can provide you with must first be something you’re on the hunt for anyway, magazines, on the other hand, can discover things that you never knew you wanted to know. That’s an exciting premise for a reinvention. And for a staple like Good Housekeeping, any redesign planned better have an exciting premise.

The two farseeing captains at GH’s helm certainly did their homework before attempting to rock this boat, considering they’re guiding a ship and not a mere vessel. It’s a heady feeling when you research your audience extensively, when you almost infiltrate their gray matter, and find out that your more than on the right track – you’re spot-on and actually letting your customer redefine a magazine that’s been around for more than a 125 years.

Now that’s putting your customer, that audience-of-one, first. Kudos to Rosemary and Pat, and everyone at Good Housekeeping. Mr. Magazine™ gives all of you his Seal of Approval.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy Mr. Magazine’s™ interview with Rosemary Ellis and Pat Haegele of Good Housekeeping. It’s sure to garner your Seal of Approval too.

But first the sound-bites and then the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Good Housekeeping’s Rosemary Ellis and Pat Haegele.

The Sound-bites:

On how you reinvent a leading magazine like Good Housekeeping: The short answer is: very carefully. The longer answer is that we started with the readers and that’s, I think, the key.

On whether the reinvention was necessary? Advertisers follow readers and so I think having the research and going to market, saying that we spent the time and resources to really talk to consumers, and then going to prototype, going back to prototype again, and then listening to consumers again, that’s what the advertisers found very engaging, to actually hear what consumers had to say.

On how, in this digital age, Good Housekeeping is integrating: Well, we’re integrating more closely than ever. We do editorial planning meetings every month for every section of the magazine, which our key web editors attend. They are specific, detailed planning meetings and we have to do this – we want to do this – because I don’t think you can put out a good magazine by whipping it out at the last minute, then changing everything.

On how they would describe the magazine and the reinvention one year from now: The year I slept the least in my life. It’s incredibly exciting. When I came here I was worried that the magazine was so mass that frankly, I was worried about having to do the lowest common denominator content and that has proven to be so untrue. It’s a really vibrant, really responsive audience. In most redesigns, half the audience never even notices there’s been a change because they’re really not paying attention. But they really noticed this time and they were paying attention, because they’re invested in the brand.  

TOFAnd now for the lightly edited transcript for the Mr. Magazine™ Interveiw with Rosemary Ellis and Pat Haegele:

Samir Husni: You’re commanding this huge ship…this isn’t just a lifeboat, and you’ve reinvented the ship. It’s taken some time and you’ve tested it before you changed the logo…

Rosemary Ellis: Yes, the logo was just the beginning.

Samir Husni:  So how do you reinvent a major magazine? It’s a big entity in the marketplace.

Rosemary Ellis: The short answer is: very carefully. The longer answer is that we started with the readers and that’s, I think, the key. We started by doing research, well over a year ago now. We went out across the country and went into four markets, talking to three sets of women: loyal subscribers who read the magazine, with a mix of women who bought it regularly from the newsstand, next, we talked to prospects who buy magazines from our competitive set, but not us, and we also talked to lapsed subscribers. For the majority of that focus group they didn’t know that they were talking to Good Housekeeping. We were just asking them about their lives and about magazines, about websites, apps, tablets, and how they use them, what they wished they had and didn’t,  and what they think they have too much of. And for the last portion of the focus group, we drilled them and talked about Good Housekeeping. I hadn’t had that kind of research since I had come here. I’d been here, at that point, not quite six years. I changed the magazine and the design a lot when I came, and that was more on a gut feeling, and being fortunate enough to be the target reader. We had done some Seal research, but we hadn’t really done any brand research. David Carey was generous enough, and I think smart enough, to see and agree with me that we really needed to do that. So we started by doing our homework. Then we followed up those focus groups with a much larger online survey that several thousand women across the country participated in, and used the focus groups to, of course, guide the questions. To look at how women are living their lives, what they want from a magazine, what they don’t want from a magazine, how they use a magazine, and specifically, how they feel about Good Housekeeping. So armed with that research our brain-trust team here sat down and we basically ripped apart every page of the magazine, including the pages that we really liked, and pages that we knew reader’s really liked, to look at, not just what we were putting on the pages, but how we were building the magazine. We completely reorganized it in a way that is antithetical to classic magazine design, but that we thinks works much better for a magazine like Good Housekeeping. Good Housekeeping is super-horizontal. When I first came here I thought it covered too much. But in fact, what I now know is that’s why readers come to it. Women who are married and have kids, who work, who volunteer in their communities, they’re super busy and they don’t have time to read 3 or 4 magazines. They come to this magazine because we cover anti-aging beauty, nutrition news, beautifully entertaining stories, gorgeous fashion stories and relationship pieces. And they like that breadth and that’s why they come to us. So, instead of having a big feature well, in which a serious health piece is next to a fashion story, that’s next to a food story, it makes more since for a vertical, but not for something like us. So instead we’ve created, basically seven mini magazines for all the content. From Institute testing to the shorts, to news pieces, to the big heavy features, are divided strictly by content area. So if you love the food you can go right to that. If you know you want to read the short story first, or read the book reviews, you can go right to that. It’s not sprinkled throughout the magazine.

GOOD LIFESamir Husni: And Pat, from a marketing point of view, was that reinvention necessary? Was it in answer to the marketplace or just to the readers?

Pat Haegele: Advertisers follow readers and so I think having the research and going to market, saying that we spent the time and resources to really talk to consumers, and then going to prototype, going back to prototype again, and then listening to consumers again, that’s what the advertisers found very engaging, to actually hear what consumers had to say. Then delivering to consumers on what we promised to deliver them in terms of the content. What advertisers also really liked to see is the fact that we enhanced the deliverables of the Seal and the Institute. The Seal is on the cover now and in the seven sections that Rosemary has designed the magazine as, five of those sections have an Institute test that’s synonymous with that section. For example, if it looks good, then it’s going to be the nail polish test. So, what they’re seeing and what is our unique selling proposition are the Seal and the Institute and now that’s even more visibly on the forefront of everything that we’re doing. So we’re delivering on that in a bigger, better way.

Rosemary Ellis: One thing that was so interesting about going up to these focus groups initially is that we saw for, even women in their early twenties, even women who did not associate themselves with the magazine at all; the Seal was very resonant with everybody. People who were not loyal subscribers, people who had never picked up the magazine, still had very strong, almost protective feelings about the Seal and what you could and couldn’t do with it. Everybody knows the Good Housekeeping Seal and everybody has, basically, inferred it as a status of best of breed; they don’t know specifically what it means, they don’t know that it’s basically a money back guarantee, and when they find that out, they’re really blown away, but they do know it means that something is good. And they trust it. So this research underscored what we knew, which was at Good Housekeeping we own trust and we own authority. But what we also found out with the research that we did, and with actually some follow-up research that Pat’s team did, was that women have begun to really miss having fun. When the recession hit several years ago, they decided not to take a vacation, they started nesting, clipping more coupons, or just doing whatever it meant for them to cut back. According to research, they’ve now been doing it for four years. And they’re pretty sick of it. They want to have more fun. A number of these women talked about how they felt they’d simply forgotten how to have fun, and fun as a magazine attribute came up again and again. What we had to interpret was what fun meant in terms of Good Housekeeping, which is not obviously what the same thing means in other brands. And also the elephant in the room was: what does service mean in the age of the Internet? Because 20-30 years ago Good Housekeeping would publish on un-coded stock a huge pulp guide to anything on the way. You would never do that now, because you can Google anything. For example, if you want to know all about diabetes, today you would just Google it. We were doing this before, but we’ve ramped it way up. We coined a phrase: service of discovery, which means a great piece of information that you would never Google, because you don’t even know you need to know it.

Pat Haegele: For example, in our March issue, if you put a stick of chalk in your silver drawer, it will keep it from tarnishing. One of those things you didn’t know you needed to know. Now the reader can go back to bringing her silver out to use it, instead of being bothered about having to clean it each time. And because we have the Institute, and we do nothing but test products and talk to consumers each day, we’re regularly finding opportunities like that we can write about and the competition isn’t. So that service of discovery is fun to the reader, but it also elevates our unique selling proposition to another level. Because if we’re giving her service that she can Google tomorrow, then we’ve missed her and the opportunity to really provide something others can’t.

LOOK GOODSamir Husni: One of the things that I have written about is it’s important today to create a product that is necessary, sufficient and relevant. If I’m reading Good Housekeeping, I don’t need to go to the web to finish my experience.

Rosemary Ellis: Or if you do, you’re going to the web for something print can’t possibly deliver.

Samir Husni: So how are you integrating?

Rosemary Ellis: Well, we’re integrating more closely than ever. We do editorial planning meetings every month for every section of the magazine, which our key web editors attend. They are specific, detailed planning meetings and we have to do this – we want to do this – because I don’t think you can put out a good magazine by whipping it out at the last minute, then changing everything. I think that’s a work style that’s often more about the editor’s ego than the quality of the work, especially with Institute testing, which obviously no one else can do. That is one of our most sustainable differentiators. Nobody else has this wonderful staff and the set of tools (that Good Housekeeping has) at their disposal, so it is something that can’t be replicated, certainly not for free. And we have that and the Seal. In terms of visuals, you’ll see, as you look through the magazine, we really wanted to visually elevate the Seal in the magazine. You’ll see us using the oval shape in different places and we’ll use the typeface from the Seal in lots of places too. I don’t expect the reader to necessarily say, “Oh, that’s the Seal typeface” or “Look, they’ve used the Seal star there,” but just underscoring it again and again that the Seal and the brand are one in the same is very important. And in terms of fun, it’s not just the content being the thing that’s useful to know, but also something fun to know and fun to share. Visually, the idea of fun is really important. We’re using bigger graphics, using more photographs and a lot of color. So, after we got this original research and Pat did the additional research and we came back and started ripping apart the magazine, we created a 90 page prototype, almost a full magazine. Then we went back out early last Spring, around May, to the same four markets and talked, not to the same people, but the same groups of people. They had half an hour with the prototype and two color Post-it notes so that they could mark what they liked and didn’t like. We also had a fantastic moderator; he was one of the best I had ever worked with, who did both sets of these groups. We showed them the prototype and they came and they talked about it for a couple of hours. First, we went to Raleigh and it was very positive. Across all three groups, it was very, very positive, and I thought, this is great. But I’m Southern and they’re Southern. Maybe they’re just being nice. There wasn’t a problem of an overbearing personality, I mean, the moderator was great, he was screening for that and controlling that, and I said to myself, I’m going to wait until we get to Northern Westchester and Chicago and Denver to see. And in the second group, which was in Northern Westchester, so suburban New York, we had a very different group of women. I was sitting next to Petula, who’s our fantastic head of research here, and she is a woman who will never, ever use an exclamation point. She’s a researcher, she’s all business, and she’s very straight and doesn’t get excited about anything. She doesn’t get upset easily, and she’s just very low-key. We had been sitting there listening for about twenty minutes to the first group, which were prospects, they weren’t even Good Housekeeping readers, and she finally leaned over to me and whispered, “This is good.”  And I said, “Yeah, it is.” And she whispered back, “No, no, I haven’t ever seen anything like this. It’s really good.” And I thought, well, if Petula says I’ve never seen anything like this, then this is really good. In fact, that response was the same response in all four of the markets. We did them for two weeks and at the end of the first week we came back and tweaked a few small things that we thought weren’t working as well and people were confused by. And at the end of the second week, the response was even more positive. So focus groups are not the world, but it was a very good indicator that we had hit the target that we wanted. And what they kept talking about was how they loved the color, how it was fun. The word fun kept coming up and was a brand attribute that we had not gotten before that we did get very consistently this time. And this often happens in focus groups, I think, when people really look at something and say, “Oh, I really like this. This is for me.” This had happened to me before in other magazine focus groups, but I’d never seen such a forcefully positive response and it was really gratifying since we killed ourselves on it.

FEEL GOODSamir Husni: Was it your gut reaction that convinced you that you were doing the right thing with the changes? Or was it a result of the focus groups, or a combination of the two?

Rosemary Ellis: No, I think we all here felt really good about it. And with everything we went through, it’s not like we said, “I want to change this one page,” and we decided and said that’s great. I mean, we went through many, many generations.”

Pat Haegele: I can confirm that for advertisers. When we took the finished prototype out to advertisers to show them and their reaction was so outstanding, I mean to a point where just the look in their eyes when they looked at the magazine, it was just truly superior. And we have some preliminary research already coming back from the subscriber as well as from the new reader who’s picking us up on the newsstand and what’s interesting is that the subscriber didn’t want us to change anything, so as Petula would say to you, “As long as she is likes it, that’s good.” But 88% of them noticed that it was new and over 80% of them really, really liked the changes. So to get a subscriber to say that, when they didn’t want anything new, well, we knew we were on to something good. And now we’re getting research from the new reader on the newsstand and 97% of these new readers, mind you, it isn’t conclusive yet, said when we asked them what they thought of the magazine, they said it’s just for them. And we said, “OK that works.” So this is what we’re now out in the market showing advertisers and saying this has been the reaction from both the subscriber and the newsstand reader.

Rosemary Ellis: But who is this subscriber anyway? I mean, we have 21 million women who read our magazine every month. The objective was to keep her and be able to attract a new reader; a younger mom who thought the magazine wasn’t for her, but who now knows it is. But we needed to get her into the magazine, and once we got her in, she really liked the magazine. She’s sees it as something that’s speaking directly to her.

GOOD COMPANYSamir Husni: So if you wanted to use a tagline now to identify Good Housekeeping, what would it be?

Rosemary Ellis: You know, we’ve debated that immensely, and here’s the thing, it’s really complex. The audience is so broad; we have more readers between the ages of 18-34 than most magazines that target that age group. And we also have several million women in their forties and several million in their fifties. So when you try to boil it down and fit that audience into too small a box, you do yourself a disservice. But something that was true before and is still true: they certainly want to have more fun. When I was at TIME Inc., more than ten years ago, we did research on how magazines compared to the web and digital, and to women it is still true, that when they go online they tend to be more task-oriented. They are shopping for a birthday present; they are looking up diabetes because their mother was just diagnosed and they’re writing emails or texting because they’re meeting their kids after soccer practice. It’s not that they don’t enjoy it, but it’s task-oriented. When they read a magazine they do it for fun. And they use words like downtime and me-time. And that is still true, for women of all ages. We of course asked who had tablets and what they used them for, and across the board what I observed, in both Good Housekeeping readers versus non-Good Housekeeping readers, was that they tend to use their tablets for things like celebrity weeklies. They tend to want to hold on to their print magazines and there were subscribers in their thirties who had paid for Good Housekeeping on the iPad said that they liked it, but then went back to their print subscription. This was very surprising to me. And this is in three different markets and three different women, two in their thirties and one was 42. And when they started talking about it, they all started saying this, “I just missed holding a magazine.” One woman said, “You know, I like to cut things out, and I know I can clip on my computer and save it, but I like to cut it out.” And another woman said, “I like putting it down and coming back two days later and it’s on the same page. I like being able to take it into the bathtub and I like being able to take it to the beach. So, you know, I’m an editor and I edit content. Will it always be on paper? Maybe, maybe not. But this surprised me. It surprised me that there were thirty year olds who said I paid $25 for my iPad subscription and I can look at it when I travel, but my favorite thing is to pick up and hold the print magazine.

GOOD HOUSESamir Husni: Yes. It’s a completely different experience. When I get someone to come and speak to the students, they are floored when they hear these eighteen year olds say they still love to read their favorite magazine in print. They get their news on their iPhones, but at the end of the day, holding an actual magazine is still their favorite experience.

Rosemary Ellis: I love the iPad because my paper stock is the same as Architectural Digest, right? For me it’s a good thing. I know what they mean, because I’m a magazine lover too.

Pat Haegele: And talking about service of discovery, I also think that news and content is discoverable as well. And on the iPad you have the tendency to go to what you think you want to know as opposed to what you might discover. It’s sort of like reading The New York Times on Sunday and what you didn’t even know you were going to discover, you did.

Rosemary Ellis: That’s sort of the tragedy of, or the loss of online targeted news.

Pat Haegele: Yes, you make your world narrower, I think.

GOOD FOODSamir Husni: When I consult with newspapers I tell them, you have to give your reader what they want, not what they need. Because if you give them what they want, they will find what they need as they are flipping the pages. That’s where the surprises come from.

Rosemary Ellis: And The New York Times does that very well.

Samir Husni: Oh yes, they do. And I am a firm believer that as long as we have human beings, we’re going to have print. That experience and that showmanship, that ownership, are vital. From the day we are born our fists are tight; we want to own something. And if all of your belongings or stuff is on an iPad or whatever new tablet you might own, you have nothing to show off. We love that sense of showmanship and that sense of membership.

Rosemary Ellis: Exactly. And as far as the digital concerning Good Housekeeping, we re-launched the website a year ago in September, and added some great features, especially a product channel, which is Hockey-Sticked-Up. It gets a lot of page views. Institute does a blog, different people write it and it’s very highly read. And for the first time we enabled limited e-commerce on products that we had tested, we just passed it through to make it convenient for people. And that has done really well. And when we restructured the magazine, we also restructured how we put the magazine together, because now the visuals are really so important. They were always important, but they sometimes drive the bus now. So we involved the art department even earlier and it’s a very collaborative effort. I mean, we have such a fantastic group of people working at Good Housekeeping and the art department is incredibly collaborative, which is not always the case. And the web team is very collaborative and what that means is that we spend more time in meetings than any of us would like, but we all spend a lot of time together and we work this stuff out at the beginning. The web ideas aren’t tacked on after the story comes in and the artist decides that we have one too many sidebars to fit in the magazine and we say, “Oh, well, put that on the web.” It’s the opposite of that now. The web editor is at the meeting, and in fact, even before the meeting where they present to me what they want to do. And contributing ideas and asking questions and explaining what will or won’t work online and what we should do instead or what could be a social media, Facebook poll that we could do and would enhance a story. And so it’s much more organic from all the different mediums now to story and content creation.

GOODE READSSamir Husni: I’m fascinated with your new term: service of discovery. Explain a little bit. I mean, this is like a major shift in women’s service magazines. So tell me more about it.

Rosemary Ellis: What I say to both my digital and my print staffs, and of course, they blur more and more with print editors working on digital things and web editors working on print, is I say, do online what you can’t do in print, and do in print what you can’t do online. And if you major in that, then both products will be successful. Aesthetically, there are things that you can do in a print magazine that simply do not translate online. They’re not as beautiful or accessible. But there’s a depth of content, and now this is especially gray with say, Institute testing, and a depth of detail with things like data base cross-referencing and things like that you can do. So if you want to know a lot more about something, you can do a deep, deep dive. Something I could never deliver in print. And even if I could, I wouldn’t because if you’re not in the market for a French-door refrigerator, then I’ve just wasted twenty pages outlining them all. I can do that on the web. It’s not effortless, but we have all the data, we’ve done all the testing. So much of the Institute work that we do used to end up on the cutting room floor because, of course, in a magazine we can only list the top three to five products out of the thirty-two we test, or the fifty-seven. Then we can only put in a little bit of our testing results. It’s really just the headlines. But online you can look and see. The one that ranked 7th, which wasn’t even in the magazine, ranked 7th because it didn’t have these three features. It performed just fine, but it didn’t have these three features that most people want. But that’s not even important to you. So you’re going to spend half as much money because that’s perfect for you. And you can find it online and you can buy it online. That’s a different kind of service of discovery that you can only do online. Finding out that a scuff on your floor you can get up by grabbing a tennis ball and rubbing it, that’s fun and it’s useful. So in little things like that, sort of double-duty ideas, you find fun. And it’s also cocktail party conversation and fun to say. “Hey, did you know that you can light your candle with a piece of uncooked spaghetti?” It’s just a fun thing to know. In small things and in larger things, it’s what is going away in journalism. It’s what’s most at risk with online. It’s what online cannot do; tell you what you didn’t ask for, but that you really want to know. So my job as an editor and all the Good Housekeeping staff’s job as editors, and designers and web editors, are to be six steps ahead of our audience. What do they want to know that they don’t even know to ask?

Pat Haegele: I think another aspect of that too is when we talk about service of discovery, part of what we heard in the research, by the way we reach more moms than any other women’s magazine in the country, is she doesn’t want to be spoken to as a mom first, which I thought was very interesting. Because in the service field it’s about moms being moms first and that’s not what she wanted. She wanted us to speak to her about herself first and the discoverable parts are the things like the good list that Rosemary does every month that’s products that we’ve researched through editors and sometimes through the Institute. There are products just for her. We say, “Go get this for you. It’s $40 or less and sometimes it’s free. But we say this is your oxygen mask because she actually used that term in focus groups. You need to give me the oxygen mask first because then I’ll help the child next to me. I’m going to be that much better of a mom and a gatekeeper once I take care of me first. And she was very clarifying with that.

Rosemary Ellis: What was so interesting to me were these women who were saying, I don’t really want parenting content, or very small doses of it, I want all this other stuff, were the same women who were describing Good Housekeeping as the perfect magazine for moms.

Pat Haegele: So it’s moms as we know them today. I was fascinated by the research as well that she was very comfortable saying what she needed. If we had done this research ten years ago, she may have not said that as freely because she was concerned about not putting everything else first. And that’s discoverable as well.

Samir Husni: If I come meet with you next year, same time, and ask you how do you evaluate this last year?

Rosemary Ellis: The year I slept the least in my life. It’s incredibly exciting. I grew up with Good Housekeeping. My mother subscribed to it for fifty years, my piano teacher read it, my pediatrician read it and it’s sort of in my blood. And I love working here. I love this audience. When I came here I was worried that the magazine was so mass that frankly, I was worried about having to do the lowest common denominator content and that has proven to be so untrue. It’s a really vibrant, really responsive audience. In most redesigns, half the audience never even notices there’s been a change because they’re really not paying attention. But they really noticed this time and they were paying attention, because they’re invested in the brand. They like it and they trust it. So those are the people who really pilot the change. What I want to make sure that I’m doing is in whatever way I’m able to communicate with them that it’s multiple lines of communication and that I’m always listening. And that also I can step back and say that I know from this group of women from having done all this research and from living and breathing the brand, the magazine and the website, day in and day out, that I understand when I hit upon something that they haven’t asked for, I know that they’re going to want it. That’s my job. It’s like, let the research feed your gut, but ultimately if you don’t have good gut instincts, you’re not going to be a good editor.

Pat Haegele: What’s interesting is that in 2009 we celebrated the 100th birthday of the Seal. At that time we introduced the green Good Housekeeping Seal, which research will tell you, it’s the most recognized green emblem in the marketplace today and it has the halo of the Seal. Then in 2010 it was the 125th anniversary of the magazine; so what do you do after that? You have the 100th birthday of the Seal, the 125th anniversary of the magazine, well in 2012 we made a strategic decision that it was time to do a really deep dive into consumer’s minds. In the past, and Rosemary and I have said this, when you have 21 million readers, your first notion is – do no harm, well, our decision this time was really take the research to conclusion to do as good as we could do. And that is the sensation from going from the 100th birthday of the Seal, the 125th anniversary of the magazine, to a really knowledgeable basis of who this consumer is as they’re moving into the future and giving her the deliverables that she’s looking for. And so that would be my takeaway of next year. Having done that and hearing what she has to say, now what? Now what’s next?

Samir Husni: Thank you.

The Flair of Fashion, Style and Design Redefines the New Reimagined Redbook. Mr. Magazine’s™ Interview with Editor Jill Herzig and Publisher Mary Morgan.

REDBOOKThe reinvention of Redbook brings fashion, style and design to the forefront, serving the woman in her 30s and 40s who seeks to shop smartly and artfully. The magazine’s editor in chief, Jill Herzig, brings this vision to fruition along with publisher/chief revenue office, Mary Morgan. The two women are proving that a brand can be redefined and redesigned to reinvigorate the masses. Proving also that when you listen to your customers and give them what they want, they do find what they need. So sit back, enjoy, and take notes on how to please your audience of one and incite your magazine to new heights of vibrancy. But first the sound bites, then the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Redbook’s Jill Herzig and Mary Morgan.

Sound bites:


On the reinvention of Redbook: In consumer feedback when we tested every issue, we kept getting this same message, which was that readers were very interested in style and considered Redbook a style guide to fashion and beauty.

On the woman Redbook sees as its targeted reader: The Redbook reader? I feel very strongly that we shouldn’t put an age to her. I think the magazine is ageless at this point. But if I had to, I would say that she’s a woman in her 30s and 40s and she can be from any town in America.

On why in a digital age Redbook is still investing in print: It’s called the inspiration moment. And that’s what magazines do. If we ask women in our shopping study what really inspires you; do you get these ideas for shopping from television, from digital, or from blogs, magazines still rank number one.

On expectations where Redbook will be one year from now: Well, what I hope is that Redbook has converted a whole new kind of audience and that we are satisfying the audience we already had in ways she never knew we could.





TOFSamir Husni: Tell me, what’s the thinking behind reinventing Redbook, both editorially and business wise?

Jill Herzig: The thinking came together and meshed and really began to click for the both of us in the middle of the summer. Mary will tell you about the research that she was doing, but what I had found from the beginning of my first makeover of the brand, which was around three years ago, was that I had created a shopping section called Fifty Under Fifty and we basically took these wonderfully-priced pieces and then we photographed them like they were the crown jewels. We put them in the most beautiful light and got great photographers and talked about them as if they were the ultimate treats. And it gave the reader this feeling that anything she wanted in life was within reach.

Mary Morgan: Within two issues, Jill had manufacturers saying that they were going to lower their price point to $49.95 to make sure they got their items included in that section. It was such a lush environment to shop for these products in.

Jill Herzig: And it made all the difference in the world. The magazine had had many reasonably priced things in it, but putting them, as Mary said, in this lush environment made a huge difference. And it immediately was the number one rated thing in every issue of the magazine. That was a signal and then in consumer feedback when we tested every issue, we kept getting this same message, which was that readers were very interested in style and considered Redbook a style guide to fashion and beauty. And that didn’t surprise me, but it seemed to me that there was a tremendous amount of enthusiasm among our readers around fashion and beauty. And I had the perceived wisdom that Redbook should be a general interest women’s magazine. We had increased our fashion and beauty content to 30% of the bulk, but in accordance with that perceived wisdom, it should just be a part of a very big whole. It suddenly seemed with Mary’s research and some additional research that we did that we should actually up the content to 50% fashion and beauty, give them more of what they were craving, and also approach it from a completely unique and different perspective, to be the big-tent-everyone-is-welcomed, real women’s fashion and beauty magazine.

Mary Morgan: It’s really amazing. As Jill is doing all this insight work with her readers, and she’s launching this new section Fifty Under Fifty, which ranks month after month number one, maybe it would drift to number two, we had gone on market. We love these bigger consumer insight research projects, we had done one last spring almost a year ago called Shop Talk, looking at not only how our readers perceived Jill’s pages, but really what’s happening in the marketplace. And when we gathered that data and took it back and shared it with Jill, what she was seeing from readers, the style revolution that’s happened in this country, from fast fashion, fast fashion being things like Joe Fresh and Uniqlo, and then you have this amazing intersection where runway is meeting mainstream like Missoni at Target; all these designer collaborations that are out there. These are super high-end designers and suddenly it’s out there and it explodes. At Kohl’s and Target’s, all this has really revolutionized the way women in this country think about style and design. It has made everything accessible and I think it has broadened for our readers what fashion means today. We’re seeing this on the consumer insight, so when we asked these women what do you think Redbook does best and they answer: we love the style pages; we realized all of these things, the data and the reader comments, were all sort of coming together at the same time. We had one of those V-8 moments where we went, “Oh my Gosh! Wow!”

Samir Husni: Was this reinvention easier than the one you did three years ago?

Jill Herzig: Yes, it was definitely easier. It was driven by something I was seeing in our readers’ response to the magazine. It was something that I was seeing out there in stores everywhere, and the message was just so clear about which way to go. I felt like the road signs were all pointing in the same direction. Redesigns are never easy. We didn’t hire a big outside design firm; we did it almost entirely in house. So what keeps me up at night? Hmm. At this point, I feel so much calmer with this. It just feels right and it feels like all the hurdles that we encountered along the way, well, we got through them. We figured it out. We figured out all the puzzles. The cover was the biggest puzzle. But I think we cracked it.

TEAM REDSamir Husni: Who is this woman you’re after?

Jill Herzig: The Redbook reader? I feel very strongly that we shouldn’t put an age to her. I think the magazine is ageless at this point. But if I had to, I would say that she’s a woman in her 30s and 40s and she can be from any town in America. We’re not an East Coast, West Coast kind of magazine; we’re heavily distributed across the country. We’re one of the few magazines that have a real strong hold in the middle of the country. And she wants to look great and she also loves a great deal. And both of those things owe possible thanks to what Mary was talking about, thanks to that revolution.

Mary Morgan: That’s where that revolution has come in.

Jill Herzig: It used to be that most women thought that great style was the playground of really wealthy women. Wealthy women like models, celebrities, socialites, and that access to that kind of style was limited. But what has happened with this change in retail is that the barn doors are wide opened. Anyone has access to great style now. But you do need a guide. And that’s what they are looking for in Redbook. And that’s the role we are now moving into. There really isn’t, when you look at the fashion and beauty magazines out there, one that can be your guide to reality-based fashion and beauty, in other words, stuff that will fit your real life, real body and real budget. It’s just not out there. There are magazines that say they do high and low, but really what they do is high and a whole lot higher. And those magazines are super fun fantasy fodder for most women, but we wanted to be an on-the-ground, we-go-shopping-with-you, personal-shopper, personal-stylist-for-her type magazine. That’s the service that we’re delivering.

Samir Husni: If I give you a magic wand and you strike the new magazine with it; what kind of human being would appear before you?

Jill Herzig: I know exactly what she’s like because we did a survey. We asked our readers about their shopping habits: I know exactly how many times a month she goes shopping, how much she spends on a purse, a pair of shoes, a pair of jeans, a dress, a skirt, jewelry; I know what she considers the normal price she will pay for those items and what her splurge price is. And the amazing thing that emerged for us when we looked at those responses was that she will pay more for a splurge bag or a splurge pair of jeans than any of the other women service buyers, which is what you might have expected. She will also pay more for those jeans or that bag than a young woman lifestyles reader, or a young woman fashion book reader. So she’s a spender, actually. And she’s willing to treat herself, God knows she deserves it. I’m excited.

RED BODYSamir Husni: But my question, if you could turn this ink on paper into a person, who’s going to meet that reader? If your magazine is human, who is going to walk up and greet your reader?

Jill Herzig: She’s a thirty-eight-year-old woman who may have a couple of kids, she’s certainly busy, she probably works, she loves to get a manicure and a pedicure, she has spent, in her life, $80 on a pair of jeans and didn’t regret it, she wore them and they made her feel confident every time and like a million bucks. She carries a great bag, she is online trolling for her fabulous deals and she also knows how to wait out a sale.

Mary Morgan: Speaking of that point, it’s so incredible that not that many years ago the currency was to say, “Oh, this is a lovely handbag, yes I spent…” Now the currency is, “Do you know what I got it for? How did I find it?” and all of the tools, all those mobile and text sites that will allow us to do that, all of the designer collaborations and the fast fashion, this real deal retail that’s going on, makes the smart shopper say, “I didn’t spend that. I got that for a great price.”

Jill Herzig: Most people would assume that the only women passionate about style are women in their 20s. But interestingly enough, the reason we have Lauren Conrad on our cover and the reason she was excited about doing the cover, is that it turns out her best customer at Kohl’s is in her 30s and 40s. So nobody is serving that woman who is interested in style. There are magazines like People Style Watch that’s very much for the woman in her 20s or even in her teens that is fashion obsessed and is shopping and looking online all the time for the next buy. But that’s a very trendy consumer. She’s buying disposable fashion almost and she is hugely connected to celebrity for them. If a celebrity is wearing it, that’s what incites her to buy with very little sense of, “this would be great for my life and I deserve it.’

Mary Morgan: I think what Jill really found out with this research of her reader was that style really doesn’t have an expiration date. It’s not like we wake up at 30 and go, “Oh yeah, I’m so over it.” If your daughter is lining up at H&M at 20, she’ll still be doing it at 43, wanting that particular look.

Jill Herzig: And her mom is probably standing right there next to her.

Samir Husni: Or standing at Target waiting for all the Missoni things.

Jill Herzig: Exactly. But that’s not geared toward women just in their 20s at all. I mean that line did so well because it sold to women in their 30s and 40s and above. We are kind of age agnostic. I don’t assign this to one particular age, but I do feel that the white space for Redbook is for women in their 30s and 40s. There’s no one else serving them in the style arena.

Samir Husni: Why then, in this digital age, are you still investing in print? Refreshing and rebranding the magazine?

Jill Herzig: You know, I have to say that I think the retail revolution that we’re talking about is an awesome thing for women and it’s also an overwhelming thing for them. It all comes at you in a tidal wave. You walk into these stores and you think, how do I shop all this stuff. Look at these racks. You hear about a capsule collection and three days later you can’t get the color or the size you want because it’s sold out. So you really do need a navigator through this universe and that’s the role we play. It’s never been more important to have an editor on your side. And that’s what we’re doing; we’re carefully, carefully editing a huge influx of cool style at great prices. We’re telling her this is where the quality is, this is what will look good on you, this is what goes with what, and this is what’s worth buying. And that, I think, makes our role more important than ever. It doesn’t mean though that our website is not following suit and coming right along with us. And we also have a partnership that makes shopping from your mobile phone much simpler. So we’re definitely going into this from a tight angle.

Mary Morgan: Going back to what we were discussing earlier, the evolution of magazines as a product and as a category; if we look at what really drives to purchase, whether it’s the purchase funnel or even when you Google something to research it before you buy, there’s that moment of truth that is talked about. But there’s another moment before that: it’s called the inspiration moment. And that’s what magazines do. If we ask women in our shopping study what really inspires you; do you get these ideas for shopping from television, from digital, or from blogs, magazines still rank number one. That’s where the juice starts, with an idea. I get inspired. Then I might go to Google to research it and see where I can buy it. Or I might go to some other access. But it’s really that moment of inspiration that I think magazines deliver and I am confident that they as a category will never go away. Nothing inspires like magazines.

Samir Husni: That’s one thing that we are seeing with the catalog companies. When they stopped printing their catalogs their business started going down.

Jill Herzig: Also, when you read a magazine, it’s a moment when you are very relaxed. Some people, I guess read catalogs the same way. But it’s a moment when the reader says to herself, you know, I’m just going to take ten minutes for myself. And if you don’t overwhelm the reader, but instead guide her and curate with great taste and be really in tune with her that makes those ten minutes the best ten minutes of her day.

Samir Husni: So should we change your title to Curator in Chief?

Jill Herzig: It’s not a terrible idea. Another point of difference for us is that we know when to stop shopping. We know when to say, “OK, after 50% of this wonderful time you the reader spend with Redbook talking about fashion and beauty, there’s going to be a moment when you’re going to stop all that. And then we’re going to talk about other things that matter to you. With a magazine like InStyle or People Style Watch, cover to cover, it’s essentially fashion and beauty. That’s not the case with Redbook. We talk about your health, fitness, life experiences, we have emotionally resonant reads and those will always be important to our reader.

Mary Morgan: And even having the essays within the beauty and fashion section is such a point of distinction. You know, Jill talked about not wanting to lose that voice, that personality. And I believe that’s what magazines are, they’re personalities. When you walk up to the newsstand and you’re drawn to one versus another. When Time and Newsweek both competed, why does one hand go here versus there? And I think having that voice and personality is so critical that’s why Jill was adamant about not having it removed from the fashion and beauty pages. It makes us so different from those other magazines.

Samir Husni: Can you ever get that voice and personality on your iPad?

Jill Herzig: I don’t emotionally connect with guilt; it’s not going to happen.

Mary Morgan: That’s a wonderful question. You know, we talk about all the things we can enable, from video to pop-ups, so yes, when I see the tablet edition we can film video and Jill can pop up and she can be there, but I think there’s something about the written word. When I read the written word, I get a chance to interpret and translate for myself. It’s a personal, very intimate process. Video, I don’t think, has the same moment. And again, I think that’s where, like you talked about your grandson wanting to read a book, it’s a personal, intimate experience with the written word. It’s really unique to magazines.

Jill Herzig: I can’t wait for what the next five years are going to bring. There is going to be a really interesting blossoming of what magazines do on tablet devices. When you talk about bringing these kinds of wonderful, emotionally connecting stories into the picture; you can certainly read them and have that great written word experience that Mary’s talking about when you’re reading on your tablet. Then to add video to it to make it a richer experience could really be extraordinary. And I think that we’re going to have a whole lot of fun.

RED AT HOMESamir Husni: Do you think it’s going to be the same reader who’s going to enjoy the tablet? Or are we going to be recruiting new readers?

Jill Herzig: I think it’s going to be a combination. I think you’re going to get some people migrating, some people reading on device and in print, and some people reading solely on their devices.

Samir Husni: I mean, David (Carey) mentioned last week in his speech that they’re finding out women are more at ease with reading on the mini iPad.

Mary Morgan: It’s so portable.

Jill Herzig: Yes, that is a wonderful device.

Samir Husni: It’s amazing when we think that 3 years ago we did not have something called iPad and where we are now.

Mary Morgan: I think that’s a great example of trying to predict the future. We think of how incredibly deep the adaptation for the iPad or tablet is. But that adaptation is such a skyrocketing thing that it makes you realize that the sky’s the limit in terms of potential. It’s like Jill’s point: what will we be doing in the tablet edition is you’ll click on something and suddenly the J.C. Penney line will come to life. And I think that’s the one thing we really wanted in this app that we’re launching with this. We’re thrilled to be the first U.S. magazine to fully enable every single page – every page. The one big bugaboo I had about some people’s apps was there were only certain pages that were enabled. No, if you really want to make this a great customer experience, it should be every page. So what Eye Capture does, and this is a free app that you can download, is to enable every single page. The fact that I can take this page, snap it, and every one of them is separated into its own little icon where I can save it to my favorites, or post it to social media, or I can shop for it immediately. That is how women got to that inspiration.

Jill Herzig: And it’s such a fun thing. Like this cute Easter egg nail color. You think to yourself, OK, I am reading this on the subway or somewhere, I can take a picture of it and immediately buy it and it can be delivered to my door three days later. I don’t have to think about it, I don’t have to keep it in my mind. I just love that at the exact moment that we’re debuting this new idea of Redbook we have the perfect partner to make the easier shopping come to life. So we do this every single month and when we have a steal, we basically show the reader what is absolutely the best get of the month. And we’re careful to kick the tires for the reader, to take the detail shots to show you that the construction is really good. We really and truly drag this dress all over our office, showing when shooting it that people tried it on and it was hanging in one person’s office and it was hanging in another person’s office. And it was no worse for wear after three weeks in our office, after having been used and abused by our editors. So we did these detail shots to show you why it’s such a shockingly great buy at $60 besides just being gorgeous. If I saw this I would want to pick up my phone and buy it the second I saw it. And that’s what you can do. And that’s Eye Capture.

RED FASHIONSamir Husni: Since we are getting more and more into this e-commerce business, what’s in it for Redbook if somebody orders this dress?

Mary Morgan: Well, first and foremost, it’s reader/consumer satisfaction. The more we make her love the seamless and super, super easy process, she’s happier with Redbook, so that’s a friend for life. And eventually, yes, what we need is a fairly deep ubiquitous adaptation. My goal is that every woman in America would use Eye Capture, that way we would really get some numbers that are pretty significant. Then we could start building a custom program that I can’t talk to you about just yet, but picture this, one very large retailer, one very large manufacturer, and we put them together and say every time you shoot these products, automatically you’re going to be directed not to any other retailer, but to this particular retailer. I can do gift purchases, I can do push messages, I can look at a data swap and see what they are really responding to. And that starts to build some really meaningful relationships.

Samir Husni: And is that making your job easier or harder?

Mary Morgan: Well, technology makes our jobs much harder. Eons ago editors and marketers just needed to know about the printed page and that was it, they were good to go. Now they need to know about blogs and mobile, digital and tablets. But I think it makes it easier because now you can definitively demonstrate how deeply the relationship is between our reader and these pages. Some people might ask, “Well do they care that she’s putting a dress in her office?” Well, yes they care. They care with their pocketbooks and they care with their mobile phones. And I think that’s a very powerful message.

Jill Herzig: One of the things that we found when we did Fifty Under Fifty was that we had to really check on inventory because the items we featured sold out very, very quickly. And that’s a friend for life when they make a purchase based on something you’ve put in the magazine and it comes and they love it. They love the retailer and they love that you turned them on to this item. So it is a relationship builder and I expect that Eye Capture will only intensify the strength of that bond. It should be a good thing.

RED LIFESamir Husni: So if we sit here a year from now, what would you tell me? What is your expectation a year from now after you’ve done all of this?

Jill Herzig: Well, what I hope is that Redbook has converted a whole new kind of audience and that we are satisfying the audience we already had in ways she never knew we could. And that we’ve also converted a whole new group of people who were looking for a personal stylist and personal shopper in magazine form and find that they have it.

Samir Husni: And my last question what keeps you up at night?

Jill Herzig: I would joke that after redesign, nothing could keep me up at night. There is a serious sleep deficit that needs to be accounted for.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

The Man Behind FLAUNT Magazine: Luis Barajas’ Love Affair with Magazines. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview.

To paraphrase an old saying, behind every great magazine there is a great person. Well, behind the most interactive printed magazine FLAUNT (see my tour inside the pages of the magazine here) is a great man: FLAUNT’s co-founder and editor in chief of the magazine Luis Barajas. I reached out to Luis via Skype and conducted an interview with him about his love affair with magazines, the story of FLAUNT, the creative designs behind the magazine, the ideas behind the covers of FLAUNT, the genesis of the denim issue, the future and of course, what keeps him up at night.

Enjoy this Mr. Magazine’s™ flaunt, and lightly edited, interview with Luis Barajas, co-founder and editor in chief of FLAUNT magazine:

The Mr. Magazine™ (Samir Husni) Interview: Vicki Wellington, Publisher, Food Network Magazine

Vicki Wellington does not have to twitch her nose to bewitch you. The publisher of the Food Network Magazine, for whom Darren/Larry and the men at the ad agency from Bewitched were her “role model” growing up, is flying high with the most successful and hottest new magazine since 2009. Unlike Samantha, Wellington does not need a flying broom or a magic carpet to engage her customers with the hottest magazine on the marketplace today. All she needs is to feed the addiction of the American public to “food” and “celebrities.” Add a dash of pixels on a screen (make that a lot of screens) and a pinch of ink on paper (make that a lot of papers) and the result will be the Food Network Magazine –– led by the hottest, passionate and energetic magazine top chef Vicki Wellington.

The smile never departs from Vicki’s face. You could feel the vibrating energy radiating from her every time she mentions the magazine, the Food Network, the customers, the advertisers, the company and above all “her lean and very able staff.” To say she loves her job will be an understatement. She is as affectionate talking about the magazine and her job as her customers are affectionate about the magazine and the network behind it. It is a story of success second to none in today’s magazine world. It is a hot, hot, hot magazine and, of course, magazine publisher.

The Mr. Magazine™ (Samir Husni) Interview: David Carey, President, Hearst Magazines

David Carey is the eternal optimist. The president of Hearst Magazines has his fingers on the pulse of the magazine industry. His prescription for an industry’s cure was outlined in his New Year’s letter to Hearst employees in which he stressed the need and importance of both the ink on paper and the pixels on the screen new magazine media business model.

I had the opportunity to visit with Mr. Carey last week in his office on the 43rd Floor of the Hearst Tower on 8th Ave. in New York City. After a brief chat on the status of industry in general and Hearst in particular, David was generous enough to share with me on tape some of his ideas and practices regarding the magazine industry now and in the future. I asked David what keeps him up at night and his answer surprised me as I am sure will surprise some of you, if not all of you interview readers and watchers everywhere.

Click on the video below to watch the interview. If you like to read the transcript, click here.

Mr. Magazine™ Interviews: The Future of the Printed Word in a Digital Age

The Magazine Innovation Center at The University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism hosted the ACT 2 Experience last October. We asked 17 media experts who attended the ACT2 Experience their opinions about the future of the printed word in a digital age. Click on the link below to listen to the experts’ answer to the question “What is the future of the printed word in a digital age?”