Zhou confirmed to WWD on Monday that he will be joining Trends Media, which owns the Chinese editions of Cosmopolitan, Esquire and Harper’s Bazaar, as chief content officer. He will also become the editor in chief of Esquire China on Feb. 1.
Both of these roles are currently held by Feng Wang, former editor in chief of GQ China. He is rumored to be working on the launch of the Chinese edition of V magazine. Wang could not be reached for comment at press time.
At Elle Men, Zhou will be succeeded by He Ye, who was previously the title’s director of watches and jewelry, according to a WeChat post published by Hearst Media China on Monday.
Zhou’s move follows a series of masthead changes at Hearst China in recent months. Last November, Nicole Xue, editor in chief of Elle China, left the publication after three years. Veteran fashion editor Sun Zhe succeeded Xue in November.
Also known by his nickname Assange online, Zhou was first appointed to the role of editorial director of Elle Men at the age of 31. Before joining Hearst, Zhou served as the head of social media content at Trends Media. Zhou launched his career as a journalist at the local news outlet Sohu and later became the newsroom director at the Chinese edition of Bloomberg Businessweek.
Tasked to rebrand Elle Men as a “mentally sexy” publication, Zhou focused on broadening the scope of coverage and spearheaded a social media revamp, which included the acquisition of the WeChat account Wezeit, a risky move for legacy fashion publications at the time.
Dubbed the “Chinese version of Buzzfeed,” Wezeit had more than 400,000 followers at the time of the acquisition. Zhou rebranded the Wezeit account as “Ellemen Youth,” an online sister publication to Elle Men.
“When ‘Lolita’ and ‘Catcher in the Rye’ first came out, the public said it was too vulgar, but any innovation is always a disruption to the status quo. It is a painful process,” Zhou explained his motive to local media at the time.
“Elle Men needs to find a new cohort of readers. That means we have to develop a new editing technique,” Zhou said.