About a week ago now I attended a talk run by the entrepreneur’s society at my university. Let’s not beat around the bush: I didn’t go because I have some mind-bending start up company idea. I went because the talk was being given by Anna Jones: Newcastle University alumni, and now CEO of Hearst Magazines UK. And free magazines were there for the taking.
Anna & Hearst Magazines UK
Having graduated in 1997 Anna had returned to basically take us on a jog down memory lane, covering her experiences in the magazine industry. A jog I was more than happy to go on. I won’t lie: as I am currently reading The Vagenda by Holly Baxter and Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, I had mixed feelings on listening to someone so high up in the magazine industry. Since my sixth form days I have nursed the ambition to one day work at Women’s Health, one of Hearst’s publications- but having read about the magazine industry’s approach to women, about how as the authors of The Vagenda point out (and rightly so) that magazines such as Cosmo (another Hearst publication) present women with conflicting messages, I had begun to question whether working in such a magazine (because I’ve noticed Women’s Health is heading more and more down this route) was the right decision for me. To add to the confusion Anna was actually absolutely lovely. And extremely down to earth. …
Anna spoke of her own challenges in reaching the top: bullying managers, sexism in the work place…but was keen to point out that it has lead her to realise what kind of manager she aims to be- along with a steely resilience. When many thought the magazine industry was going under, Anna pushed Hearst into a new era, realising ‘more than the fame of our magazines’ was needed to generate reader interest. As a result Hearst launched a new logo and focused on their growth strategy, branching out into the digital and events management market. They have 550 journalists (experts in fashion, food, technology, and home articles), and these writers account for a quarter of all magazine pages written on the market. The magazine reaches 1 in 4 adults in the UK, and 1 in 3 women. Hearst UK sell 19 magazine brands, with 60 million magazines sold each year, and 800 000 subscribers. Clearly, being part of Hearst is a huge deal. A particularly interesting point Anna made was about Hearst’s goal to move people from ‘monthly to moments’, catering to the growing interest and reliance in technology. No longer is a monthly glossy enough: we want updates to our smart phones, tablets, macs, and apples very hour.
But lets move on from the statistics, and instead to Anna’s own attitude regarding the work place. Below I’m going to give you what I felt were her best pieces of advice, but first we’ll turn to something that I hope will see the face of the magazines under Anna’s care change in the years to come….
Anna is a huge advocate for female empowerment, having two daughters herself. Being an 80’s child she pointed out that it was a ‘different world back in the 1980s’, but though we are now in 2015 she was sad to say that also ‘very little has changed in that time’. As such the Empowering Women initiative was launched the year Anna was made CEO. Being half Danish female leaders are nothing unusual to Anna, but female leaders in the UK (you may have noticed) are sadly lacking. The Empowering Women initiative runs across all magazines, providing ‘practical info from practical sources’. Anna was also eager to point out that this movement needs men’s input too, and aims to ‘celebrate men contributing to equality’. In 2016 Hearst UK will be taking this further, launching a campaign to celebrate role models for women from all walks of life. Personally, I cannot wait to see this. I also hope that this is the beginning of a new approach to women from the likes of Cosmo, and Women’s Health. I understand that magazines need to generate revenue- it’s how they are going to survive the digital age. But placing an article on how “You’re Perfect Just The Way You Are”, next to a “Lose 7lb in 7 Days!” piece, followed by the advertisement it was all leading up to (from a corporation only after your money) on “How To Be Your Sexiest You Yet” is not empowering. It’s downright confusing. I’m also hoping that the tips on “How to Drive Him Wild!” will be dropped too: surely a publication focused on female empowerment should be talking about how the female can get the most enjoyment out of sex? I know part of a magazine’s appeal is to have some shocking and raunchy articles in there, but wouldn’t it be shocking to see something that focuses on what a woman actually wants in the Cosmo Sex and Love section? Or an article that celebrates body confidence having some of the middle ground in there? Some women who aren’t “curvy” or “skinny”, but in the middle too? Because in all the body confidence and acceptance movement I feel the middle ground can be forgotten. Anyway, I do have high hopes for these magazines after meeting Anna, because she certainly made me feel both inspired and empowered. Which brings me neatly to my favourite part: the inspirational tit-bits I picked up at the talk- you’ll have noticed some scattered around this post already, but I saved the best until last…