Happy Birthday, InStyle: Twenty and Terrific

InStyle Managing Editor Ariel Foxman (center) with M.S. in Publishing: Digital & Print Media students
InStyle Managing Editor Ariel Foxman (center) with M.S. in Publishing: Digital & Print Media students

“Consumer behavior is changing,” was the message given to students by editors of InStyle as the magazine gets ready to celebrate its 20th anniversary in September. “The world thinks print is slowly dying, but that’s not our day-to-day reality,” said Ariel Foxman, Managing Editor of InStyle, part of Time Inc., one of the largest branded media companies in the world. While InStyle editors make sure to meet the demands of the digital world, the print edition is performing well. In fact, the brand recently published its largest September and March issues ever.

It was a positive message for students to hear during one of our regular industry visits sponsored by the NYU-SCPS M.S. in Publishing: Digital & Print Media program. Students met with Foxman; Angela Matusik, Executive Editor, Digital; and Lavinel Savu, Assistant Managing Editor, to discuss the evolution of the highly successful celebrity and fashion magazine with 16 international editions.

Foxman began his talk by taking us through his career trajectory from an editorial summer intern at SPIN while he was a student at Harvard University to his current position. Along the way, he worked at Details, The New Yorker, and InStyle, before leaving to launch Cargo, Condé Nast’s men’s shopping magazine, which later folded. He rejoined Time Inc. in 2006 and was named InStyle’s first male managing editor in 2008, at age 34.

We then learned more about InStyle’s formula for successWhen the magazine published its first issue in 1994, it branded itself as a magazine about the private lives of public people. “Barbra Streisand at Home” was the launch issue cover story. It was a first in the fashion magazine world where at that time models, not celebrities, were the norm on covers. “It was a very different kind of magazine,” said Foxman. “The question of ‘What are you wearing?’ didn’t exist. The question of ‘Who are you wearing?’ didn’t exist.”

As consumers responded more and more to the celebrity content, the editors listened. InStyle was the first magazine to regularly feature fashions from the red carpet. “It’s hard to imagine a world where showing celebrities was a novelty,” said Foxman. “But 20 years ago nobody was covering this.”

After Foxman headed off to discuss an upcoming photo shoot, Matusik, who is in charge of all things digital at InStyle, gave us a virtual tour of the magazine’s just-relaunched website. She pointed out the emphasis on social media sharing and bringing the gorgeous photography of the print edition to life on the digital screen. “More and more, viewers respond to images,” said Matusik. “Because of Pinterest and Instagram, people are moving toward visually-driven sites.”

After our website tour, it was time to head to the inner sanctum, the “wall room,” that looks like a real-life Pinterest board. Lavinel Savu, who helps oversee all page makeup and final ad placement for the magazine, was our guide. We gazed in amazement at the small printouts of each page of the next issue of InStyle covering the walls from floor to ceiling, in page order.

“This is where all the editorial and advertising pages are put up over a two- to three-week period,” explained Savu. “It’s like a huge puzzle.” Savu, who also teaches four courses in the NYU M.S. in Publishing Digital and Print Media program, explained to us how the editors take into account specific requests from advertisers and make sure that the difference between editorial content and advertising is clear to readers.

Dazzled by our inside peek at the next issue, we then headed to the magazine’s “fashion closet” where merchandise for photo shoots is stored and assembled for editing by the editors. And editors are very involved with the products they recommend to readers. “We do lots of test-drives,” said Savu. For example, before InStyle featured a piece on jeans, editors wore hundreds of pairs to get a better sense of their fit and feel.

The last stop was the Time Inc. photo studio. There were no models in the studio at the time, but spring clothing was styled and ready to be photographed. By having its own internal digital studio, Time Inc. saves on outside studio space and is better able to manage all aspects of the shoot, such as making sure the colors of the products translate accurately to the printed page or screen.

“We photograph products to look beautiful on the edit page and inspire readers to experiment with style,” says Savu. “The digital studio makes sure that the images also clearly represent the exact colors and physical attributes of the actual items, whether it’s a pink lipstick or a red stiletto.”

By the end of the day, students were able to see firsthand how each department worked together to create both print and digital products, and how editors now play multiple roles in the 24/7 pulse of the magazine world. “You need to know it all now,” said Matusik. “There’s no such thing as an editor who is not a marketer these days. You need to know print and digital. Very few can only do one or the other.”

by Jaclyn P. Gallucci

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