Celebrity Titles in an Age of Disruption – a Husni Interview

Disruption – for most of it that word has a ring of angst to it. We brace ourselves for it, insure our homes, lives, and businesses against it, and struggle to find ways around it. But for Christine Guilfoyle, Senior VP of Meredith’s Women’s Group, that’s the wrong way to view this inevitable fact of life – and publishing.

Guilfoyle recently spoke to Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni about what’s different now in her work at Meredith Publishing, where she’s worked since 2005 on celebrity brands like The Magnolia Journal, Rachael Ray Every Day and Martha Stewart Living.

“Today versus 2005 when Rachael launched; here’s the thing, every single thing is different, from one year to the next, from one assignment to the next and it really has more to do with the industry than it has to do with the platform and the work, the content that you represent,” Guilfoyle explains. “The media industry, the traditional publishing industry, is in complete and utter disruption. And as you and I have talked about many times, I embrace that. I think it’s exciting.”

As consumer trust is shifting away from mass-market brands and favoring a more personal relationship with companies, Guilfoyle realizes there’s a balancing act at play here.

“I think that editorial integration in celebrity brands is more delicate [that in mass-market titles],” she explains. “I don’t want to say more challenging, I think it’s more delicate because again, it’s about the consumer. You have to make sure that the integration is authentic to the consumer. And I don’t know that agencies and/or clients fully understand intellectually the relationship that the content and the consumer have and the level of authenticity around the integration.”

Clearly, she does, as her success in this field shows. And to her, it’s personal.

“From a personal standpoint, I have been a Martha Stewart Living brand evangelist for a long time,” Guilfoyle tells Husni. “She is someone who I have personally admired, and over the course of my career, have voraciously tear sheeted and I couldn’t be more honored to get to work with a woman who continues to evolve, embrace technology and reinvent and/or reinvigorate not only herself but her brand. And I feel humbled to have that opportunity.”

Is it possible to find mass-market size success in the age of the micro-consumer? It is, and Guilfoyle has found the secret sauce. As we see so often today – in businesses of any size, style or shape – it comes down to an authentic connection with one’s audience.

“I think that the brand has always been incredibly powerful with consumers,” she continues. “The vitality with the consumer is not necessarily in our industry what gets celebrated, it’s the vitality with the advertiser, and that kind of dims the light on the consumer involvement.”

As more publishers realize the power of the audience-first approach, this continues to change for the positive. That’s good news for publishers, good news for the readers, and good news for the advertisers too, who are now in front of a more trusting, engaged readership. It’s working, and we see it every day.