A news reporter walks into a magazine publishing house
What do bike locks, chicken piccata, and coach purses have in common?
All are photographed, written about, and published in magazine form in a 44-floor glass building in Manhattan: Hearst Tower.
Kathryn and I woke up at 6 a.m. to get spots in a tour of Hearst Tower, home of magazines like Marie Claire, Popular Mechanics, and House Beautiful. Hearst Corporation owns 20 magazines in the U.S. as well as cable networks, newspapers and real estate. It also has an exciting escalator fountain entryway in its lobby.
Eliot Kaplan, the executive director of talent acquisition at Hearst magazine, gave us a tour of the many floors of Hearst tower. Fun facts: Cosmopolitan is on the top floor because it makes the most money and Seventeen magazine is located on the 17th floor…for obvious reasons.
Good Housekeeping magazine involves more than a writing and marketing team. A testing team analyzes products advertised in the magazine and gives them a “Good Housekeeping” seal of insurance. If a product breaks or a consumer is unsatisfied, Good Housekeeping will refund it. A shame-case marks infamous products that were once given the Good Housekeeping seal that turned out to be not-so good products, like diet snacks that made the user gain weight and flammable children’s Halloween costumes (would NOT like to know the story behind that one). Pillows, towels, and mixers are all tested in Hearst tower. There’s even a room with climate controls that runs tests on both refrigerators and anti-frizz gels for hair.
While Good Housekeeping was lovely, a more age-appropriate tour was waiting for us on the 34th floor. Marie Claire, a magazine for 20-30 year olds, was filled with clothing, bulletin boards of fashion samples, and…20-30 year old employees!
I found the young age of the employees to be both encouraging and upsetting. Encouraging because it meant that the industry doesn’t require 50 years of freelancing to land a permanent job. Terrifying because the editors informed us that every employee has had many internships before entering the field. Try not to panic.
We talked with the Fashion Features Editor, Katie Connor, and Executive Editor, Riza Cruz. They were interested in learning about our education, interests and experiences, which I found very encouraging. However, when talking about their own journey into the journalism world, they both used words like fortunately, luckily and miraculously to describe how they landed jobs. These words were not so comforting. Many times landing a job seems to depend on who you know. The importance of networking is something I’ll definitely take away from this conference.
Whoever believes magazines are dying needs to talk to the publisher of Teen Vogue, Jason Wagenheim. While many magazines were folding a few years ago, Teen Vogue was one of two magazines with a teenager audience to survive the plague.
Jason shared how magazines can utilize business models other than the subscriber, newsstand, advertiser. TeenVogue embraced the onset of mobile phones and internet to draw in their teenage audience. They have a presence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They have apps like teenvogue me girl which allows girls to dress models and get ratings for how well their outfits match. Jason said this app reached 600,000 downloads after the first week! Additionally, pages in the magazines can be scanned by iphones to get special features not included in print.
Back to School Saturday, or #BTSS, was an event Jason hoped would become comparable to Black Friday. By soliciting stores to have discounted prices on August 11, 2012, and encouraging readers to go shopping and hashtagging, BTSS was a success for both advertisers and the magazine. As Jason said, “We invented a holiday. I haven’t felt like this since Jesus created Easter.”
News reporters make the best magazine writers
If you want to argue with that subheading, talk to Mark Mayfield, former reporter for USA Today and editor of several magazines. Mayfield showed how the skills of accuracy and getting work in on a deadline are highly valued in the magazine world.
Mayfield compared magazine writing to feature writing in newspapers. However, instead of sticking solely to facts, writers get to tell the story with more space and more voice.
To be successful in the magazine industry, Mayfield recommends finding one topic you love and learning as much as you can about it. A lot of magazine writing today is done by freelancers rather than a hired staff. To get a feature published, writers should send in a cover letter explaining what you want to write about and why you would be good at writing this particular story as well as several published writing clips.