W's latest print issue.

While the pandemic hit many publishers of all shapes and sizes hard, oversized fashion magazine W in particular has been on a rollercoaster this year. With the bottom dropping out of the luxury market as former owner Future Media’s chief executive officer Marc Lotenberg put it to The New York Times, he made the decision early on to pause print and furlough magazine staff. Shortly afterward, he put the title up for sale and a gaggle of celebrity investors — including Karlie Kloss, Kaia Gerber and Lewis Hamilton — came to its rescue, in partnership with Bustle Digital Group, which manages certain operations.

Now more than nine months after the pandemic began, the company is operating as W Media, staff are back at work and it has just resumed print, with editor in chief Sara Moonves telling WWD she feels “in a great place.” 

Looking to 2021, her focus is to beef up the title’s digital arm, a goal that has become even more important to W during the pandemic, and to help her in her mission she has hired Elle’s Katie Connor as executive digital director, a new role.

“I think we’re ending the year very strong. I’m so excited about this new company. I think it’s the perfect home for W and I think we have so many good things in the works,” Moonves continued. Growing the site is really a big goal for us in 2021 and Katie is the perfect person to lead us to do just that. We’re so thrilled to have her as part of the W team and it couldn’t come at a better time for us.”

At Hearst-owned Elle, she led its digital team for the past year and a half and is credited with boosting its audience. Indeed, data from the Alliance for Audited Media found that while many titles struggled in 2020, Elle’s total audience growth across print and digital increased by 15 percent to 20 million in the first nine months of the year.

She was previously its deputy editor on the print side of the publication under editor in chief Nina Garcia and before joining Elle, she was deputy editor at Cosmopolitan and fashion features editor at Marie Claire, also Hearst brands.

As part of her strategy of boosting W’s traffic (Comscore’s figures showed page views were down 80 percent in October compared to a year earlier), she’ll be focusing on the redesign of its web site ahead of its February relaunch, which will visually look much more like W than it has in the past, according to Moonves. She’ll also work closely with Alex Ben-Gurion, W’s visuals and content director who oversees video, on expanding that platform.

While digital is a big priority, print is still just as important, Moonves stressed. She plans to publish six issues in 2021, compared with eight in 2019, but more than four in 2020. Its New Originals issue, published in November, was the first put out by W Media and the first magazine it produced entirely during the quarantine.

“I think that for W we obviously rely on our fashion shoots so much so there were definitely challenges but Alex Ben-Gurion has been incredible in figuring out how we navigate this time and I think we have figured it out,” said Moonves. “I’m knocking on wood as we say this, but every day there’s a new challenge with this pandemic and our number-one priority is making sure our staff and contributors are safe. We’re doing things differently absolutely, but I think we found new and creative ways to work.”

As for advertising, she confirmed that it is picking up.

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