“Obama said one of the greatest things about being President was that he could call almost anyone and they would pick up the phone,” noted Matt Bean, Editor-in-Chief of Men’s Health, during an MS in Publishing: Digital and Print Media industry visit to Rodale Inc. “And he could ask scientists, astronomers, and athletes: ‘How do you do what you do?’ I think we [at Men’s Health and Women’s Health] are in a very unique position of being able to do that ourselves because of the brands that we represent.”
How do the two magazines achieve such unique positioning? Amy Keller Laird, Editor-in-Chief of Women’s Health, explained that the way her team delivers content is what gives them a competitive advantage. For example, the eighteen minute TED Talks format inspired one of their franchised products, a DVD with eighteen-minute workouts. Says Keller Laird: “That is the perfect amount of time for people to absorb information. You go below or above that time and nobody is interested. Women’s Health‘s mission, she added, is to look at every aspect of core wellness and fitness information and present it “wrapped in a surprising package.”
This approach to innovative packaging also extends to the brand’s visual identity. Bob O’Connell, Senior Art Director of Women’s Health, described the magazine as the most exciting one he has ever worked on. “A big part of this magazine is thinking outside the box. We don’t want to look like any other magazine,” he noted.
Another impressive takeaway from Rodale was hearing the number of experts the Women’s Health and Men’s Health teams talk to, and the amount of research they undertake. For each story, both staffs go beyond just writing about the latest trends and studies. With all the competition from social media and other free online content, both publications want to give their readers the best information available about a topic. The editors don’t simply trust a study; they do their best to analyze the validity of the sample, the research methods, and the results. When working with experts, they take nothing at face value: “I harass more dermatologists than I should be allowed to,” joked Maura Lynch, Beauty and Lifestyle Director of Women’s Health. Still, she is dead serious about providing solid and useful information. Neither publication wants their consumers to waste their time on questionable health trends or advice, and that’s how they differentiate themselves from other content providers. With 66 international editions of the two magazines combined, they also urge their global partners to adopt the same rigor.
Bob O’Connell, Senior Art Director of Women’s Health (left), Maura Lynch, Beauty and Lifestyle Director of Women’s Health (center), and Amanda Woerner, Deputy Editor at Women’s Health (right), expand on how they contribute to the Women’s Health brand.
Engaging with readers is also key. “Social Media has become a huge part of what we do. We are publishing more than forty Facebook posts alone every day. That’s not even including Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Instagram Stories,” said Amanda Woerner, the Deputy Editor at Women’s Health. “We also have done a lot with video this year. Right now, we’re creating three totally produced, professional quality videos every single week for womenshealth.com. And on top of that, we’re producing two to three lesser quality videos: picture with text over it that runs as a video.” Such a strong video presence, she added, “helps us gain followers and improves the way our content gets pushed out.”
Despite the large amount of content the magazines publish online, Bean explained how hard it is to convert someone who is just coming to your site for a quick headline into a long-time fan. The connection, he said, is key: “I believe if you’re able to move someone and make a lasting impression on them, rather than just showing them another cat picture or a selfie fail, then you have greater chance of converting them into a repeat visitor.”
The Q&A session at Rodale helped us to understand what the teams at Men’s Health and Women’s Health do every day to succeed in their mission to educate men and women about health and wellness. “We are about improving your life,” said Bean. “Every last aspect of your life. It’s all about you.
“We press to be clever, we press to be surprising, we press to be relevant,” added Keller Laird. “Every story we ask Why now?”
As we headed out into the chilly November afternoon, we stopped to admire the Rodale inscription by the elevator: “Rodale: We inspire health, healing, happiness and love in the world. Starting with You.”
by Julia Heinkel