Magazine Brand-Building: DOs and DON’Ts

Cindi Leive, Editor-in-Chief of Glamour, speaking at NYU's Summer Publishing Institute

“One of our readers actually broke her toe when she dropped our [September 2010] issue!” It was the biggest issue in twenty years, explained Cindi Leive, Editor-in-Chief of Glamour. “So, we sent the reader a Zappos gift certificate to expedite her healing process.”

This humorous anecdote was just one of many wonderful moments during the keynote speech kicking off the magazine session of The Summer Publishing Institute at NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies. Leive and William Wackermann, EVP & Group Publisher of Glamour, Details, W, and Bon Appétit, assured the 103 recent college graduates attending 33rd annual  Summer Publishing Institute that print is still the main source of revenue, though brand extensions such as partnerships, conferences, events and, of course, tablet editions and apps all build the bottom line.  While speaking about a partnership that Glamour.com built with www.match.com, Wackermann  exclaimed: “Single ladies, make sure you get to Glamour!” The students chuckled, and the editor and publisher continued speaking about how they have successfully turned Glamour into a multi-platform brand.Today, as readers we are migrating toward new technology;  Leive assured us that Glamour’s presence is major and long-lasting in the tablet market. While acknowledging that print will continue to be successful, the amazing and exciting new technology on e-readers truly “makes our issues come to life for our readers,” she said. We all watched in amazement as Leive showed us the June 2011 issue of Glamour on an e-reader with Olivia Wilde, the celebrity on the cover,  actually speaking to the reader and urging her to open the magazine. Wackermann then excitedly told us: “Tablets present great marketing opportunities. We are not limited and confined anymore by a single page of paper. Now, consumers can not only view, they can also shop!”

Condé Nast Group Publisher William Wackermann gives some important DOs and DON'Ts.

For his final remarks, Wackermann presented the “DOs” and “DON’Ts” of magazine branding. In terms of the “DOs,” Wackermann urged us future publishers to:

– “Do hire staff with skills you never thought about three years ago.”

– “Do conquer your own time management skills.”

– “Do remember project management.”

– “Do love what you do.”

And in terms of the “DON’Ts,” Wackermann advised:

– “Don’t be afraid to say you were wrong.”

– “Don’t edit online as you do in print.”

– “Don’t forget that reader trust is still paramount.”

Following up on that theme, Leive concluded by telling us: “Now, more than ever, you need to be willing to do whatever you are asked to do [in the magazine business], and love what you do.”

Overall, both speakers inspired the SPI students to view every magazine as an individual brand empire  powered by social interactions and inspired ideas.

Panel moderator Sacks (far left) with Bennett, van Ogtrop, Benditt and Hano

The afternoon panel, titled “New Faces, New Formats,” moderated by Bo Sacks of the widely-read eponymous digital newsletter and owner of Precision Media Group, discussed how magazines have become multi-platform brands with the addition of apps, e-readers, online events and other digital media. To begin, Gregg Hano, VP & Group Publisher of the Technology Group for Bonnier Corp., the publisher of Popular Science, among other magazines, noted  that “Magazine publishing is alive and well!” He also remarked: “Don’t think of a magazine as paper.  Think in terms of brands, content, audiences and communities. If you do that, you’ll be in the right area.”

Fellow panelist Kristin van Ogtrop, Editor-in-Chief of Real Simple, echoed the sentiment that reader trust is paramount. She stressed the emphasis of her publication being “the cautious tale” because her readers are not as eager to move immediately to digital. (Real Simple readers are known to have a unique and close relationship with the brand and relish their experience with the physical magazine.) Next, John Benditt, Editor-in-Chief of Nomad Editions, a digital-only magazine brand, exclaimed, “Digital magazines have revolutionized the way we read and inspire our everyday lives through the power of digital words.”

James Bennet, Editor of The Atlantic, concluded the panel discussion by emphasizing the mission of a magazine to be valuable to its readers. Since The Atlantic’s inception, the mission statement has remained the same: “The Atlantic will be the organ of no party or clique, but will honestly endeavor to be the exponent of … the American idea.”

In this amazing panel, the panelists agreed that the magazine industry is still defined by the importance of each brand’s unique voice and relationship with its audience.

by William Mendelson

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