WWD Media People: Kate Lewis, Hearst Chief Content Officer

Captured by Mark Mann/WWD

When Joanna Coles suddenly announced her departure this past fall from the chief content officer role she originated at Hearst this past fall, Kate Lewis, the Hearst senior vice president and editorial director,  immediately came to my mind as her successor. Three business days later, it was announced that Kate would ascend to the role. Now with a few months her belt, Kali Hays with WWD talked with Kate about the past, present and future of print and digital media. Below are my favorite highlights from the interview.

Slack message with one of my colleagues

On workload

“‘It’s good to remind yourself that your head is slightly above water — slightly.’”

Individually, we have to be careful with finding balance and avoiding burnout. This quote resonated with me as someone considers themself ambitious as I learn to embrace the question: Did I get done what I had to today or am I drowning with no sign of land in sight?

On standing out

“She also took obvious pleasure in recalling how she scored her first job out of college at Condé: A job fair where she walked into “a sea of black suits,” and immediately turned around to go buy a red suit, returning to get offers from Condé and ABC News, the only places she interviewed.”

One of my first bosses advised me on my last day at work to always keep the confidence I found while working there. “Not everyone is going to get you, and that’s okay.” Almost five years later, and I truly think it’s always better to stand out than to fit in.

Connecting with readers

“Are we helping them shop? Are we helping them think or solve problems? Are we inspiring them? What are we doing? And video, video is big…All of those puzzle pieces are about the emotional engagement and stickiness that readers have with our brands.”

“People are interested in lifestyle content, they’re interested in magazines that solve problems in their lives, whether those problems are what fancy dress to wear or how to clean your sink the best. They’re interested in culture and those interests will be consistent. I don’t know how the delivery mechanism will change — the distribution is the thing that has most radically evolved in my career, but the thing we make is still compelling to humans.”

Media relations and storytelling is becoming more difficult and rewarding by the day. Working in PR and serving as a partner to reporters is more important than ever. My filter to stay clear on when coming up with story ideas: Does it clearly and easily help readers solve a problem, enlighten them on a major issue or inspire them?

Tapping into a celeb’s stardom

“The Steve Carell cover for Esquire got hundreds of thousands of reads online — because he talked about “The Office.” It wasn’t for “Welcome to Marwyn,” his movie now, it’s because he has this iconic place. Editors have always seen a cover line backwards, but this will influence that even more. Like, if you’re looking for online reads, make sure you get the juicy nugget about the Internet sensation thing that that person was involved in.”

Sadly, celebs are losing some value for PR campaigns and securing earned coverage. While companies may want a celeb spokesperson to only push the campaign or product’s messaging, it’s important to find celebs that will instantly excite an outlet’s readers – which goes beyond the campaign.

Will future Gen Z and Gen A read print magazines

“I’m not sure we can say because Gen Z doesn’t have that behavior now [they never will], because magazines are fundamentally for people over 25. I think there’s a chance that generation may grow into consumption of it.”

I didn’t know Gen A even existed! I emailed Kali Hays to learn more, and she shared that Gen A stands for Generation Alpha, the current title for the generation after Gen Z. They are the children of Millennials and are currently 5-years-old and under.


I hope you enjoyed this post! Be bold and comment or interact with me on Twitter (@ATouchofBold) or Instagram (@ATouchofBold).


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