VOL. MMXIII..No. 208

In Conversation | Thought Leaders and Iconoclasts

The Glamourous Life: Cindi Leive on the Guts Behind Glamour Magazine

There are scores of fashion and lifestyle bibles to choose from but few remain as resilient as Glamour magazine — no easy feat in an age of dwindling ad pages and the voracious bloggers who continually eat into readerships with ease and low overhead.

 

And while Vogue continues to be the grande dame, Glamour is just as cheerfully accessible as it was in 1939, when it was called Glamour of Hollywood. Today, it boasts over 25 million readers worldwide, with editions in Russia, Brazil, Germany, South Africa, France and Poland.

 

Nevertheless, the casual magazine reader has evolved and increasingly, they’re interacting with their favorite media brands online rather than in print. With advertising budgets even more fractionalized than ever, that means the modern magazine editor is often the scapegoats when circulations plummet. In recent months there have been high stakes dramas played out at Condé Nast Traveller, Lucky and Martha Stewart, not to mention the saga of the Wall Street Journal’s WSJ and the New York Times’ T.

 

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glamour online

 

Jennifer Anniston graces the cover of Glamour’s September issue. Below, the magazine’s digital presence, which is updated several times a day. The site was nominated for a 2013 National Magazine Award.
As editor in chief of Glamour’s U.S. edition, Cindi Leive has managed to stay above the fray and do what she does best: deliver compelling content that connects with readers who don’t want to be talked down to, with honest advice and stories about women who seem just like you and me (say hello to the September issue’s Jennifer Anniston.) It’s magazine as gal-pal.

 

Leive began her career as an editorial assistant at Glamour, later becoming editor in chief of Self – another friendly, navel-gazing tome that continues to chart well. She returned to Glamour as deputy editor and helped reposition the brand in the eyes of both readers and advertisers. In her tenure, she raised the magazine’s circulation to its highest level, at 2.25 million. The magazine continues to earn the accolades of both Advertising Age and Adweek, while roping in a National Magazine Award for Magazine of the Year in 2010.

 

We spoke with her about the evolutionary female magazine reader, the growth of digital formats, and adapting to the challenges of editing an iconic brand like Glamour.

 

BERTRAND PELLEGRIN: How do you think the world of women’s magazines has changed since you first started in the business and what’s the challenge in an age when the role of a woman’s magazine itself has changed? 

 

 

CINDI LEIVE: Well, first, the whole world of magazines for anybody—women or men—has changed because of the media revolution. Print is part of the story now, not the whole story. We used to publish once a month; now we publish 120 times a day. That’s changed everything, mostly for the better. But beyond the basic digital revolution, I also think women readers have gotten savvier about magazines. They expect magazines to respond to them, their needs and their lives—they challenge us. I think that’s terrific.

 

 

What was your strategy in essentially repositioning the Glamour magazine brand? How do you think it’s different now?

 

 

I think every editor has to take a tough look at her brand every few years, but young women have changed so much over the last ten years that it’s especially important now. People process information visually these days, so it was important for visuals to become a more prominent part of both the magazine and the website. Also women have a more personal relationship with their brands now (they know, for instance, that the magazine is put together by real people in a real office in New York—and they want to know who those people are and what they think), so we showcase our own editors and their opinions more prominently. We’re characters in the magazine’s story.

 

Millenials are consistently characterized as self-evolved and self-absorbed. Do you think this is forcing magazine editors to change the style and substance of their magazines?

 

Millennials (who, by the way, are anybody under age 35 these days) are definitely interested in their own brands and their own personal satisfaction, but I wouldn’t say that makes them self-absorbed. It’s definitely on us to make sure that they get enough personal use out of each issue of the magazine. But then, it always was—I think women were always buying Glamour for its usefulness, not just say, entertainment.

 

Cindi_Leive-credit to Jennifer GraylockGetty Images

 

How would you define the modern editor in chief’s role today compared with say 10 or even 20 years ago?

 

First of all, we used to be print editors. Now we’re essentially running brands—print, web, video, TV, apps, and so on, and setting strategy for all of them. If you only love print then you shouldn’t be an editor in chief of most magazine brands today. Beyond that, we also work as ambassadors—putting ourselves out there publicly on the issues our readers care about. That doesn’t mean every editor needs to be on Twitter—I don’t think that’s true. But I do think readers want to see you as a human person with opinions. Information alone is useless these days, and successful brands have a point of view. That point of view should be the editor’s.

 

Social media and bloggers in particular has turned the ordinary person into an increasingly powerful influencers. Some say they are challenging the role of traditional women’s fashion magazines. Do you agree?
I don’t see it as a battle in any way shape or form. If social media allows my reader to connect with me and tell me what she thinks, it helps me make a better magazine—one SHE had a hand in influencing. That’s cool.

 

> Follow Cindi on twitter @cindi_lieve. Connect with Glamour @ www.glamour.com.

 

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