For the editor-in-chief of Good Housekeeping the day job is defined by balancing the demands of business imperative and reader expectation with the weighty honour of nurturing the “crown jewel of the Hearst business”.
Tell me how you got started.
“I got my very first job as a sub editor on Computer Weekly. The only reason I got my job was because I was paid less than anybody else in the entire company. It’s quite hard to earn serious money as a journalist but that’s not why people do it. It’s about story telling.
“I learned a huge amount as deputy editor on Woman and Home magazine.
“From there a job came up at Prima. They told me on my first day: ‘You’ve got 18 months to turn it around’. I’m proud of the fact that I completely turned around the circulation.”
“We see our role as helping audiences get the most out of life. That is our purpose – to be a beacon of positivity in a challenging world.“
Was it always the plan to end up here?
“My dream was always Good Housekeeping. To be on this brand is an absolute privilege – a combination of a privilege and a huge responsibility.”
This year must have been hard.
“The market has never been tougher really and the industry’s changing so rapidly. We’ve had a really great year in terms of subscriptions, but the newsstand market is about 15% down.
“I’m lucky that I work on a title that’s still very well loved. It’s the biggest lifestyle magazine in the UK. We are still selling about 430,000 copies a month and about 50% of that is subscriptions.”
Will digital media threaten print?
“We are at a point where the market is changing dramatically. Digital journalism has to be part of your suite of skills now. There have definitely been some opportunities and I’m lucky I work for a business that has really capitalised on that.”
“The readers of the magazine tend to be largely the 45 plus market. Obviously as a brand, it’s not a very good strategy, just servicing that market for the future, so we have a big website. That’s bringing a lot of people to the brand who aren’t necessarily the print audience. We peaked last year at just over 6 million.”
How do you retain a loyal subscriber at the same time as engaging a new reader?
“I now almost see them distinctly. I worry far less now about putting something on the website that’s in the magazine because I don’t think the same people are seeing it.
“What we know is there’s real loyalty to a print product whereas digital users are more promiscuous. The other thing that’s quite interesting is that 18% of our digital audience are men.”
Is brand growth just about good journalism?
“It’s business – we have to make money. You’ve got to be everywhere now just to survive. You’d be amazed at what I have to spend some of my time doing. We are constantly looking to build what we call our ecosystems.
“You’ll be familiar with our [Good Housekeeping Institute] accreditation. We will test products and services and if they pass our benchmarks, they can take accreditation.
“And we’re now looking at getting into licensing. You’ll be able to buy a Good Housekeeping sofa come the autumn. It isn’t really what you think you go into journalism to do.”
“It’s business – we have to make money.”
There must be a tension in balancing the different demands of your role at Good Housekeeping.
“It’s the crown jewel for the Hearst business because it’s a hundred-year-old brand. You meddle with it at your peril really. Partly, I’m entrusted to run it as a business for Hearst and then also equally, I’m there to serve an audience – the people that really matter to me.
“I reply to every single reader email I get – if somebody’s got something to say to me, I want to hear from them. At the moment travel content seems to be a trigger point for people. I have to run travel because we have a lot of commercial partners who pay for advertising.”
Was bringing three lifestyle titles together as a group also a business decision?
“Magazines adapt to survive and become leaner. Every title in the old days would have had a great big team. I have an editor on Red and an editor on Prima who report to me. They’ve got very tiny teams and they source content from content hubs. So, it’s one team servicing three brands. It makes sense for business.”
“I reply to every single reader email I get – if somebody’s got something to say to me, I want to hear from them.”
What’s your pandemic been like?
“As a journalist you think: ‘This is what we trained for’. Being a journalist at a time when it’s really challenging is fun! We have a role and it’s different to newspapers which report the news. We see our role as helping audiences get the most out of life. That is our purpose – to be a beacon of positivity in a challenging world.”