Cosmo Knows How to Get Under their Readers’ Skin

The challenge was set in October of 2018. Newly-named editor-in-chief Cosmopolitan Jessica Pels was given the mandate to “accelerate the young women’s title into a multi-platform destination geared towards the next generation of readers,” notes Caysey Welton writing in Folio:.

Pels’ previous role as digital director for the brand gave her a sound start, yet she looked to the print magazine for inspiration in how to achieve the new goals.

“We’re practical about people coming to our page and what they’re looking for when they get there,” Pels told Welton in an interview. “Our site used to be built with a reverse-chronological feed, but the data showed us that the majority of our traffic doesn’t come to the homepage. We’ve known that for ages. So we reworked it to be more leisurely, surfacing more of our highlight experiences. I’m really loving the design.”

This leisurely discovery style takes a nod from how we read and engage with a magazine, rather than a content blog, and it makes absolute sense for a title like Cosmo.

Pels called on her “ninja team” in special ops products to create this highly interactive digital experience.

“Our first call was with the special ops ‘ninja team,’ and we worked with them for months and had a ton of in-depth conversations about what we wanted to do,” Pels explained. “We wanted an experience that was chic and elevated and didn’t distract from the story itself, but at the same time was fun.”

At the heart of the changes lies the brand’s data … Pels calls in their “window into our readers.”

“I believe that connectivity to our audience is our secret sauce,” she continues. “It’s the thing that matters most. We talk about our reader just as much as we talk about the content we make for our reader, and we always lead the conversation with data.”

From their daily audience polls (yep, daily) they know things like how many in their audience are quarantined with a significant other or alone; with parents or other family; or with roommates/friends. Knowing the reality of daily life for their mainly Millennial and Gen Z audience helps them create a product that truly resonates, not just theoretically but in real-time.

This knowledge, this first-party user data, makes it easier to do what they exist to do: sell more magazines.

“The last thing I want to mention about leveraging other channels is that we have a text-to-subscribe program for the magazine to make it easier to get print,” she notes. “Print magazines are the original no-contact delivery. It feels like a better time than ever to get a treat in your mailbox every month. The subscription process hasn’t always been easy, so we developed a way to let readers subscribe by texting.”

Well done, Cosmo, for diving in to really learn about your audience… and giving them what they need.