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So I used to have quite the girl crush on Chelsea Handler (hilarious, clever and oh-so inappropriate), but now my tastes have matured and moved to these two emulating-worthy women: MaryAnn Bekkedahl, EVP/Group Publisher, Rodale and Jill Seelig, VP/Publisher, O, The Oprah Magazine.

Coming from a background in the creative/content-generating side of advertising, I admit to having had a somewhat snooty view on advertising sales.  After listening to these two women present, my views may have shifted to more of a “wow, I would love to be her in 10-15 years”.

Maryann BekkedahlMaryAnn Bekkedahl first got my attention when discussing the seven “media franchises” she’s in charge of, aka magazines (Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Prevention…).  But, in this age, they are much more than just magazines and have evolved into brand empires.  I have understanding and respect for brands more so than sales (sales people always have an agenda), but seeing how they’re so intricately connected had me at the edge of my seat.

“The Role of the Publisher” as Bekkedahl depicted really has control and responsibility for the brand/magazine.  The Publishing team is composed of the Publisher, with the Research, Marketing, Sales, Business Management/Production and PR teams reporting up.  I could do that- I want to do that; be the business side of publishing.

In fact, the Sales force is what really appealed to me among those divisions.  Dad always told me I should be in sales since I can convince people to buy things (he’s the perfect example, you should have seen my white convertible!), but I held such a negative stereotype I couldn’t move past.  Bekkedahl shot that stereotype out of the water as I found myself drawn to her earnestness and humor, thinking maybe I could do advertising sales after all…

Jill SeeligJill Seelig was the last speaker at the end of yet another long digital day, and I was seeing all sorts of pleasant images in my head instead of the screen (manicure, massage, wine… you get the picture).  She really got my attention (and adoration) by opening up her “Multi-platform Marketing to the Advertiser- the 360 Strategy” with the line:

Print is not dead; it is here to stay.

Seelig went on to support this statement with stats stating that magazines are the #1 medium of engagement, and there is an interdependency between print and digital.  Magazines contribute to the effectiveness of advertising when added to the media mix; and she should know, since she launched “O” as part of the Oprah Winfrey media empire.

Moving up through the ranks of ad sales in Self and Vanity Fair, Seelig helped instigate “O”‘s immediate success in 2000.  She presented a case study of Intel’s partnership with “O” and showed the magazine’s ability to make a (boring) technical brand be more human and emotional to her female readers.  She seems to be living the “O” tagline: “Live Your Best Life.”

Also, as a side-note, all the high profile people we’ve heard from have been very attractive and in good shape – is the magazine industry shallow; do they not have time to eat, hence the toned-ness; or do these people just happen to age well?!  None look old enough to hold their titles and have the experience they share!

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Today in class we spent two hours listening to the cutest pregnant woman give a two-hour talk about the launch of a new magazine.  Not just any magazine launch, but a new title that became successful in the midst of this recession, and the incredibly talented pregnant woman was responsible for this miraculous achievement.

Premiere Edition

Premiere Edition

Food Network Magazine is the title, and Maile Carpenter is the EIC who has managed to surpass the original estimate of 400,000 views to an astonishing 900,000 with only three issues having been published!

Coming from the successful launch of the Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine, Carpenter managed to find a hole in the already crowded cooking magazine market.  She was able to do this quickly with, what she notes, is Food Network Magazine’s major point of difference: It comes with a built in network of celebrities, from Rachael Ray herself, the Iron Chef, Guy Fieri, Paula Deen and more, along with their popular personalities, brand recognition and established trust and loyalty.

While this magazine is in partnership with The Food Network, it is not biased toward the show and its merchandise.  Carpenter and her small staff go behind the scenes and to write as if the TV station weren’t included in the name, such as the well-received article “Secrets of the Iron Chef” (appreciated by fans as well as the crew).  More than 100 recipes at all levels are in every edition, and while there is content available on foodnetwork.com, the companion magazine site is still under construction.

This “pop culture approach to food” has already been much more popular than original estimates, and after hearing Carpenter speak realize I am going to subscribe to this magazine as well (add it to my list, along with Esquire… Don’t think I can afford all these!), for the recipes as well as support of an admired talent.  To subscribe yourself to what I promise will deliver delicious recipes and mouth-watering food shots (Carpenter promises none of the spray glue tricks I was used to in advertising!), click here.

Additional thanks to the panelists in “Building a Brand: a Wheel with Multiple Spokes”:

  • Bill Stump, VP, Digital, Rodale: Made me excited about his/Rodale’s tactics of allowing inexperienced employees to generate videos for websites such as Men’s Health.  Emphasized to those of us entering the job market to attempt any task you’re given.
  • Gail Horwood, SVP Digital Programming & Strategy, Martha Stewart Omnimedia: I wonder how much personal impact Stewart has on her brand, but they are all quite successful.  Shared the secret that the craft section is most popular.  I believe it, there are directions to make a really cute message board in the June edition of Martha Stewart Living.
  • Frank Lalli, EIC, International and Magazine Development, Reader’s Digest Association; ED, Purpose Driven Communication: Reminds that you are your own brand. Spoke about launching the magazine/360 approach to Pastor Rick Warren’s A Purpose Driven Life.  For Bible Studiers, obviously I’m not in the target.  Did get the chance to ask him why Reader’s Digest changed their cover design years ago from the Table of Contents and made it look just like every other magazine- he said the team thought it needed updating, while I thought it lost its identity and individuality.
  • James Jacovides, VP, Licensing & Syndication, Time Inc.: If you have any questions, ask him I think he thinks he knows everything.  In reality, he is very smart and he works for a very successful company and he knows it and isn’t afraid to share.  He discussed how magazines go international and the different methods Time Inc. uses to ensure an immediate profit.
  • Jaimee Zanzinger, Deputy Editor, Real Simple:  I personally like Real Simple, though it hasn’t helped me de-clutter my life.  Zanzinger spoke about their commitment to helping make an easy reading experience, from short articles to the included book mark and pictures that help tell the story.  Interesting to note, the photos in Real Simple are styled after every article is written, not scrap art.  Must be incredibly expensive for the shoots and talent, but the effort comes through in print.

Off to my first NYC party!!! Some launch for some music reality show from what my friend with the tix told me.  Concept sounds like it may be lacking, but I could use a few free drinks after these long days.  Woohoo.

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