That was quick.
Although Joanna Coles on Friday was negotiating her exit from Hearst, according to The New York Post, it appears she’s already packed up her treadmill desk, china tea set and all-cotton pajamas and gone. Her e-mail has been shut down and she posted a short video to her Instagram account, walking at said treadmill desk, and metaphorically out of her role as chief content officer.
Coles mentioned the many miles she’s spent walking at her desk, through the “peaks and valleys” presented during her time at Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan and as chief content officer since 2016 — but confirmed that she is stepping down before literally doing so from her desk.
“My route is being recalculated,” Coles said in the brief video. “It’s time for a new adventure.”
Coles added that she’s going to take some time off “and play some tennis,” but that she will be back with “news” some time this fall.
A Hearst spokeswoman spoke well of Coles, saying she is “an innovator, a connector and an inspired editor,” but made clear that it was she who decided to leave.
“She’s made the decision to start a new adventure, and we thank her for her creativity and many contributions and wish her the very best.”
So it sounds like Coles already has a new gig lined up. Could it be a bigger role in television? She was onscreen for the short lived reality show “So Cosmo” and, more recently, behind the scenes as an executive producer on “The Bold Type,” which is based on her time at Cosmopolitan and has been well received. (The latter had her doing more than a typical producer’s share of press for.) She’s also on the board of Snap Inc. and consumer-facing tech platforms have shown an interest in stars of traditional media — Eva Chen hopped from leading defunct Lucky magazine to Instagram and Derek Blasberg recently decamped from a number of roving editor roles to YouTube. It’s possible that she’s jumping to another high-profile role in print media, but opportunities there are only getting fewer, and the reiteration of “new” in her statement and Hearst’s makes that seem unlikely.
So Anna — as in Wintour — is staying, but Joanna is out. Clearly the rumor mill was wrong.
Even if there is another job on the horizon, it’s worth noting that Coles’ exit from Hearst comes shortly after Troy Young was selected to succeed David Carey as senior vice president of Hearst and president of the magazines division by chief executive officer Steven Swartz. Had Coles been promoted to magazines president, she would have been only the third woman in the group’s 16-member executive lineup. The current two are Eve Burton, chief legal officer, and Debi Chirichella, chief financial officer.
Big promotions always make some waves and industry chatter has already started around whether Michael Clinton, another Hearst veteran who’s been president of marketing since 2010 and publishing director at the magazines division since 2001, could be the next out the door. This is the second time someone else has gotten the top magazine job at Hearst during Clinton’s internally lauded tenure, but on Monday he put talk of his exit to bed. “I’m looking forward to continuing to evolve our business together,” Clinton said of working with Young, whom he’s worked with since Young joined Hearst in 2013.
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