New editor-in-chief brings a clear focus: “It’s all about the reader.”
When Matt Bean started as an associate editor for Men’s Health, the digital revolution was in its early stages. He grew with the technology and was in charge of digital product development when he left Rodale in 2012 to work at Time Inc.
He’s back, now as editor-in-chief of the popular men’s title, according to Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni. And he’s having a ball.
“Journalism is an obscenely cool business because you get to focus on things you love if you play it right. And you get to learn day in and day out,” he told Husni in an interview.
When asked what he plans to change now that he’s head of editorial, Bean was clear on his strategic mandate.
“There’s such great brand equity that you can’t hope to change any of that,” Bean told Husni. “What you can do is evolve the magazine packaging; try to come up with new ways to communicate with the reader on the newsstand. And convert those first-time readers into subscribers or multiple-issue customers. To me, that’s the real goal here.”
As a former digital products developer, it might be a stretch to come back to print, but for Bean it makes absolute sense when you consider print’s role in a multi-channel experience.
“I believe in the global brand. I think the most exceptional brands exist on all platforms and have permission from their readers to really expand that relationship. That includes the Essence Festivals, for example, which is a fantastic idea,” he notes, proving that people, not platform, is what a good media brand cares about.
“But the magazine occupies a special place in our hearts and our culture. That is absolutely undeniable. Magazines have been, and I believe always will be, a vibrant and powerful spotlight in our society for what matters most. And it all comes down to scarcity. There are only so many pages in a magazine and there are only so many issues in a year, so that contract with the reader that what we’re putting in there matters most to them right now. You’re never going to run out of pixels on a website, so that scarcity is simply not part of the medium.
“One of the reasons that I’m so bullish on this period in history for magazines and for Men’s Health, is men have never really, say in the past 200 hundreds, undergone such a radical transformation in the way that we perceive ourselves and the way we are perceived. And I think part of improving every aspect of a man’s life is that conversation about the role of a man in the world today.”
While he didn’t use the exact words, clearly Bean understands and embraces the critical audience-first approach to publishing, and the importance of engaging across channels. And he truly gets the idea of the physicality of a print product.
“I just bought a Mig welder and I’ve been welding furniture and trying to really get into the craft of it. I kind of feel so much of what we do digitally lacks an end product that can really be experienced physically and tangibly and there’s a deep satisfaction in being able to step away from a project and point to it and say I made that.”
Watch for his fingerprints on the issue starting in the spring.