Spotlight on Marie Claire and Good Housekeeping

Students visit Hearst magazines
Students visit Good Housekeeping and talk with Editor-in-Chief Rosemary Ellis, (third from right, back row)

The skies were grey and rainy, but the mood inside the Hearst Tower was upbeat and optimistic as a lucky group of NYU Master of Science in Publishing students visited the dramatic, eco-friendly building. The message from two of Hearst’s powerful editors-in-chief was simple: Take risks, and don’t be afraid to do what you love.

During the visit, students toured the Hearst Tower, got a behind-the-scenes look at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute laboratories, and capped it off with chats with Rosemary Ellis, Editor-in-Chief of Good Housekeeping, and Joanna Coles, Editor-in-Chief of Marie Claire.   Students learned that the future is indeed looking bright for two of America’s leading women’s magazines.

As students sat transfixed in Good Housekeeping’s formal, antique-filled dining room, (which was preserved from the original Hearst building and has hosted numerous Presidents and First Ladies), they learned that the magazine, founded in 1885, is thriving under Ellis by maintaining tradition while embracing new practices.

“We think our readers will continue to value the printed magazine,” said Ellis. “They love to touch it and hold it and have the option of  taking a magazine to the gym or reading it in the bathtub.”

As one of the largest women’s magazines in the country, Good Housekeeping is read by one out of every five women in America. Ellis’ mother and family members subscribed to Good Housekeeping, so she felt right at home when she came over from Rodale’s Prevention in 2006.  However, she’s the first to admit that some of the streamlining changes she initially made  to improve the magazine’s navigation were too extreme.

“Readers wanted it all right there,” said Ellis. “They didn’t want to read a lot of magazines to get the information they needed. They wanted one, and they liked that magazine to have a broad range of topics.”

So Ellis “modernized” the magazine, putting back the broad range of content but organizing it into 10 concise sections, each beginning with the word “Good.” (Good Health, Good Buzz, Good Advice, etc.).  There’s even a special section upfront titled “Good Enough” that Ellis referred to as “CliffsNotes” for creating the perfect home.  The results of her revised redesign? The magazine enjoyed the best revenue in its entire history the following year.

“Ultimately, what’s most important to our readers is trust,” said Ellis,” And that is what we will continue to provide.

Trust is certainly a fitting word, especially with the  Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, established in 1909. Students were given a tour of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute (GHRI) by Sara Rad, the magazine’s Director of Brand Development. They learned of the importance and history behind the seal, a coveted designation for nearly any product on the market.

The Good Housekeeping Research Institute
The Good Housekeeping Research Institute

As Rad lead the way, students watched through clear laboratory windows as technicians examined everything from anti-aging cream (for an October issue) to luggage, refrigerators, food products and rain boots. (Many boots advertised as waterproof were not!) GHRI thoroughly examines all products advertised in the magazine; Good Housekeeping is so confident about these tests that they guarantee a two-year warranty on all products advertised in the magazine.

From a women’s magazine that instills trust to a fashion magazine that touts itself as “more than a pretty face.

The Marie Claire fashion closet
Inside the Marie Claire fashion closet

After speaking with Ellis, students hopped on Hearst’s hi-tech elevators and found themselves deep in Marie Claire’s fashion “closet” where they got an inside look at upcoming summer trends.  Editor-at-large Abigail Pesta walked students through the magazine’s offices, which were relatively empty due to London Fashion Week. Students were excited to sneak a peek at the beauty closet and the office of famed fashion editor, Nina Garcia.

Once students were finished admiring the Christian Louboutin shoes and the countless rows of OPI nail polish, they settled down in the conference room to meet with Editor-in-Chief Joanna Coles. With a background seeded in hard news journalism at the London Daily Telegraph and the Guardian, Coles, who came to Marie Claire in 2006, explained how she fulfills the magazine’s mission of being a fashion magazine with extraordinary depth. She and her staff of editors, including Pesta, are always on the lookout for stories of national and international importance, stories that give insight into human dramas large and small.

Students with Joanna Coles,
Students with Joanna Coles, Editor-in-Chief of Marie Claire, and Abigail Pesta, Editor-at-Large (seventh and eighth from left)

Perhaps the best moments of our time with Coles were her candid words of advice about getting ahead in the sometimes cutthroat world of media. “Talk to the people around you who are doing well, and do not get caught up in other’s dramas,” cautioned Coles. She also praised the power of networking and follow-up. Pesta agreed, noting that networking got her the job at Marie Claire. Pesta was an editor at Glamour when she and Coles met while serving on a panel of journalists at an event. About a year later, she wrote to Coles and mentioned getting a cup of coffee. Coles was in Milan at the time, and suggested that Pesta call when she returned.  Pesta got busy, didn’t make the call, and found out later that a job had come open at Marie Claire and that Coles was considering another candidate. Luckily in the end, Pesta got the job. “So remember,” Pesta laughed, “If the editor-in-chief agrees to meet you for a cuppa joe, you want to do that!”

Coles brought the ultimate exposure to the Marie Claire brand when she starred in the Style Network’s eight-episode series, “Running in Heels.” The show chronicled the experiences of three interns at Marie Claire, and received a significant amount of buzz and media coverage.  Coles’ former employer, the Guardian, even touted her as the Simon Cowell of fashion.


The Best View in New York City

While the meetings with both editors were chock full of powerful messages, the Hearst building itself made a lasting impact from the moment students walked through the doors. New York City’s first designated “green building,” the tower was built onto the original structure, constructed in 1928.  From the three-story waterfall in the atrium, to the open-air feel of the windowed structure, students immediately felt like they were in the presence of greatness, even before meeting with the editors. All in all, from the architecture to the architects of two of America’s top women’s magazines, it was an afternoon to remember.

by Jamie Hamburg


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