SPI Day One: Passion, Power Editors, and Russian Poetry

Zinczenko and Leive at NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute

I’d wager there’s at least one kid in every city who dreams of making it big in New York. While a fair few aspire to Broadway stardom, our kind imagines something slightly more bookish, although undoubtedly as enchanting.

Our kind is the readers, the writers, and the would-be editors and publishers. We grew up checking out too many books from the library, using our allowances at Barnes & Noble, staying up way past midnight to read the new Harry Potter book, and just generally spending hours (possibly days) with our faces buried in text. While for some, this process may have manifested itself in a less-pronounced fashion, 116 of us applied and were accepted to the Summer Publishing Institute at NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies. At SPI, as we call it, we’ve now found ourselves eagerly immersed in one of the most intense summers of our lives. On day one of the three-week magazine session (the three-week book session begins on June 25th), we listened as keynote speakers Cindi Leive, Editor-in-Chief of Glamour, and David Zinczenko, General Manager of Rodale, Inc.’s Healthy Living Group and Executive Vice President/Editor-in-Chief of Men’s Health, delivered their “Top Ten Truths About Magazine Publishing.” While assuring the group that working hard and sticking with it will eventually lead to success, Leive shared some less-than-glamorous stories about her experience as a summer intern for The Paris Review. She described the miseries of spending long hours in the New York Public Library fact-checking 25-consonant Russian names on microfilm (“I bet you guys don’t even know what that is,” she joked) for an issue on Russian poetry. Turning to her “Top Ten” list, she stressed that having a strong digital presence is key to a magazine’s success, and that business skills matter as much as creative ones for someone hoping to make it in the magazine world. As for the “crazy kooks” on publication staffs who are gifted at only one thing (like headline writing), Leive noted how important it is to have staffers who can execute an editorial project from start to finish. (To read Cindi Leive’s full Top Ten list, click here.)

Zinczenko, who is also the editorial director of Women’s Health, Prevention, and Organic Gardening, described his own arduous first job commuting hours a day to work for $6 an hour at Rolling Stone. He impressed upon us how necessary it is to find a position that you truly love, and his “Top Eleven” list (which elicited a “You’re such an overachiever!” from Leive) included truths like “Print isn’t dead; it’s just another option;” and “This is the best of times for writers” (because publishers and editors are no longer always necessary) and “This is the worst of times for writers” (because they’ll always complain). Both keynote speakers demonstrated their passion for magazines and their belief that it’s a great time to be entering the industry.

(l to r:) Moderator Moses and Panelists Hano, Moore and Thoreson at SPI

Adweek News Editor Lucia Moses moderated “New Faces, New Formats: What’s Next for Magazines as Multi-Platform Brands,” a discussion with panelists Declan Moore, President of Publishing and Digital Media at the National Geographic Society, Tyler Thoreson, VP of Men’s Editorial, Creative & Customer Experience at Gilt Groupe, and Gregg Hano, Chief Executive Officer at Bonnier’s Mag+. “A great editor has swagger,” said Thoreson, who heads Gilt.com, ParkAndBond.com, and soon-to-be-launched Du Jour magazine. Hano detailed his experience launching Popular Science on the iPad (which was consequently released on the same day as the first generation of iPads); Moore detailed how to inclusively alter and supplement both printed and digital material in respectively different versions of the same publication.

Guzman (far right) talks with students.

The day’s presentations came to a close with Pilar Guzman, VP & Editor-in-Chief of Martha Stewart Living, who recounted her experience launching the innovative parenting magazine Cookie. “There is nothing quite like launching a magazine,” she said, detailing the work that goes into cultivating a brand. Service is key, she explained. A brand has the capacity not only to give a voice and style to a demographic, but also to serve as a “good friend” to that audience, addressing controversial topics and broaching both lighthearted and serious issues.

All speakers seemed to unanimously agree–and so do we as we begin to curate our own publications–that content rules. This is true not only in the words read by consumers, but also in how a brand conveys its core mission and value. “The gift that we have as editors,” said Guzman, “is that we are storytellers.”

by Ariel Goldberg

Top Ten Things to Know about the State of Magazine Publishing
By Glamour‘s Editor-in-Chief Cindi Leive

  1. This is the best time to be a magazine editor.
  2. It’s not ALL about the magazine; you’re a brand.
  3. But it IS all about the magazine. Don’t ignore that!
  4. Learn from your other platforms. What goes on the web can immensely help the print product too, so listen to your reader’s comments and areas of online engagement.
  5. Real is better than fake. In this day and age of social media, readers crave transparency.
  6. Visual IQ matters, there’s no such thing as a “text” person.
  7. Your business skills matter as much as your writing skills. Everyone is a project manager.
  8. Time management matters. You will always be busy, so learn to cope.
  9. Getting your job in magazine publishing won’t be easy.
  10. But it WILL happen. Determination is the key ingredient.
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