SPI Day One: “Don’t Follow, Lead”

Hearst's Michael Clinton speaking at the NYU Summer Publishing Institute
Hearst’s Michael Clinton speaking at the NYU Summer Publishing Institute

“This is your future I’m about to talk about,” Michael Clinton, President of Marketing and Publishing Director for Hearst Magazines, said to a group of 122 eager and excited recent college graduates hoping to break into New York’s publishing industry. What followed was just one part of a day full of inspiration and direction from three industry professionals speaking at the opening of NYU’s 2014 Summer Publishing Institute.

Clinton spoke about some of Hearst’s successful magazine launches in the past several years, including HGTV Magazine, Food Network Magazine, and the recently launched Dr. Oz The Good Life. “The launching of new magazine titles speaks to the vitality of the medium and the need and desire of magazine readers for new titles at the newsstand,” he said. In addition to affirming his belief that print magazines still have a major place in our society, Clinton emphasized the importance of thinking horizontally and honing the necessary skills to work within the multiple platforms that magazines now occupy: print, digital, online, and mobile. “Land on all of them,” he advised as his audience took notes on every piece of advice thrown at them.

Pilar Guzmán, Editor-in-Chief of Condé Nast Traveler, had already emphasized this idea earlier in the day during her keynote speech. “We have to be able to pivot as content makers,” said Guzmán, who was brought on at Traveler less than a year ago and has completely redesigned and rebranded the magazine. She previously served as Editor-in-Chief of Martha Stewart Living, and also launched the parenting title Cookie in 2005.

Pilar Guzman of Condé Nast Traveler talks to students at SPI.
Pilar Guzmán of Condé Nast Traveler talks to students at SPI.

During her presentation titled “Content is still king,” Guzmán shared her various forms of online inspiration for Traveler, from stunning and exotic Instagram feeds to addictive travel blogs. She spoke about how the digital age has made everyone master photographers of their own lives and adventures, which compels magazines to seek the same level of authenticity. “Traditional media companies need to adopt best practices of digital-native businesses, both in editorial and advertising,” Guzmán said, presenting statistics for various online-only media companies ranging from The Huffington Post to Viralnova. “We borrow best practices from each other,” she reiterated.

Jon Gluck of Vogue helps students understand the anatomy of a magazine.
Jon Gluck of Vogue helps students understand the anatomy of a magazine.

The information presented by Guzmán, Clinton, and the day’s third speaker—Jon Gluck, Managing Editor of Vogue—was of great importance and interest to the SPI students. We not only seek to work in the publishing industry, but will also spend the next three weeks developing prototypes for hypothetical magazine brand launches—on multiple platforms, of course. Gluck explained to us the anatomy of a magazine and the importance of all the components, print and digital. Echoing a theme of the day, Gluck noted: “Each publication is going to find which platform works best for them. People will always love hearing stories, even though the mode will change.” He encouraged the students to go with their guts about what is great and to be creative: “Follow Steve Jobs’ model… give people what you know they’ll want,” Gluck said. “Don’t follow. Lead.”

At the end of a long first day, Gluck’s entreaty motivated those tired SPI students to dive head-first into their launch projects, filled with excitement to learn more about the magazine industry.

by Maggie Burch

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