The August issue of InStyle, which rolls out on Tuesday, is devoted to “Badass Women.”
The franchise, which originated as a page in the magazine, has been blown out to become the theme of the August issue and features Serena Williams on the cover. Profiles include Andrea Mitchell, Monica Lewinsky and Aly Reisman, as well as a list of 50 women who the editors have deemed “badasses.”
“I was like, I’m going to get at this fraught time we’re in by profiling the women who are making things better. And who are consistent and just get things done,” said editor in chief Laura Brown. “My whole point is that badasses keep going.”
A video series that ties into the franchise,will be out later this summer. “It wasn’t like ‘what’s our women’s platform?’ I don’t think like that. I kind of just lurch into good ideas,” she said. Additionally, the magazine announced two new hires: The Coveteur’s Laurel Pantin will come on as fashion features director and Laura Norkin has been hired as deputy editor of the web site.
To promote the new issue, Brown and publisher Laura Frerer-Schmidt, whose role expanded to include oversight of InStyle to her portfolio following Meredith’s March acquisition — and ensuing reorganization — of Time Inc. titles, spoke about the issue’s theme, e-commerce, and returning to a brand-first strategy.
Below are excerpts from the conversation.
On the Meredith acquisition:
“Print is the root of the tree. Meredith understands that. As an editor who has been here through very tough times at Time Inc., I am so happy they are here. I can’t even tell you,” Brown said. Both Frerer-Schmidt and Brown praised their new Midwestern bosses for being straightforward and nice. “It sounds like we are blowing smoke, but it’s true,” Brown said.
Still, they acknowledged that the merger, which included an announcement that the company will lay off 1,200 employees over the course of the year and sell off four titles, wasn’t all smooth.
“Now, it’s two very large groups coming together so it takes a little time to turn all the ships around and make sure that we are all rowing the same direction,” Frerer-Schmidt said.
“Shipping and rowing, but not drowning,” Brown exclaimed.
On returning to brands rather than grouping verticals together by category:
“Meredith is smart enough to know that the only reason we have that scale, that consistent audience base, is because of our brands. So they brought us back to brand leads,” Frerer-Schmidt said. “We are moving toward the brand leads again so that we can have partnerships with our advertisers and the brands we work with every day on editorial, because it’s basically the same groups that benefit them.”
“Thank god,” Brown said, of the return to brand leads. “Say I grabbed your arm with emotion in my face.”
“Verticalization does not, in my opinion, succeed. And it doesn’t succeed in Meredith’s opinion because you have people selling across brands and you don’t have the voice of each brand. You have to have the belief in the brand and the language of the brand. It would be like me editing six magazines. Time Inc. really suffered from that,” Brown continued.
“One of the biggest businesses for e-commerce against a publishing and digital and media house. Time Inc. had brands that could drive that even further for Meredith, which is one of the reasons they purchased Time Inc. It’s for total audience scale, it’s for natural fit between the women’s brands. But it’s also because they recognize the potential of e-commerce, for both editorial and advertising,” Frerer-Schmidt said.