Why Are So Many Editors Leaving Magazines for Retail Brands?

Yesterday, WWD reported that Anamaria Wilson, the fashion features director at Harper’s Bazaar, would be leaving her post at the magazine to join Michael Kors as senior vice president of global corporate communications. Wilson is something of a veteran in the publishing industry, building her career over the past twenty years at such prestigious titles as WWD, W Magazine and, of course, Harper's Bazaar, so her recent move to Kors is somewhat unexpected--and it's definitely a change of pace. But Wilson isn't alone: Several big-name editors have recently made the jump from editorial to brands. NYLON's Faran Krentcil is now at Clarins and Shopbop; New York Mag's Jenny Kang is now at J. Crew; GQ's Sean Hotchkiss is also now at J.Crew; Glamour's Jenny Feldman is now at Amazon; Lucky's Jen Ford is now at Kate Spade; Marie Claire's Taylor Tomasi Hill is now at Moda Operandi; and the list goes on. So what's going on? Why are all these editorial-minded individuals leaving publishing to work for retail brands?
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Hayley Phelan
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Yesterday, WWD reported that Anamaria Wilson, the fashion features director at Harper’s Bazaar, would be leaving her post at the magazine to join Michael Kors as senior vice president of global corporate communications. Wilson is something of a veteran in the publishing industry, building her career over the past twenty years at such prestigious titles as WWD, W Magazine and, of course, Harper's Bazaar, so her recent move to Kors is somewhat unexpected--and it's definitely a change of pace. But Wilson isn't alone: Several big-name editors have recently made the jump from editorial to brands. NYLON's Faran Krentcil is now at Clarins and Shopbop; New York Mag's Jenny Kang is now at J. Crew; GQ's Sean Hotchkiss is also now at J.Crew; Glamour's Jenny Feldman is now at Amazon; Lucky's Jen Ford is now at Kate Spade; Marie Claire's Taylor Tomasi Hill is now at Moda Operandi; and the list goes on. So what's going on? Why are all these editorial-minded individuals leaving publishing to work for retail brands?
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Yesterday,

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So, making the leap from magazines to brands isn't, well, that much of a leap at all. Of course, there are some differences--resources (and by that we mean money, lots of it) being chief among them.

"The obvious reason [why people are making the switch] is that brands tend have more resources [than magazines]," Krentcil said. "So there's certainly the financial reward."

But money isn't the only incentive.

"I think there's also something really exciting about building a voice from the ground up," Krentcil said. "It's something that's both really easy and really hard because you're taking one medium [retail] and turning it into another [editorial]."

"You get to see the full picture [when working at a brand]," Feldman said. "At magazines, you are selling the products in the way you write about them and photograph them, but then sending your readers into stores and websites to buy. When you work at a retail business like Amazon, you get to complete the circle with your customers. It’s given me a true understanding of the business of fashion, end to end."

But why hire editors who have no experience on the brand side?

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Why are brands hiring individuals with editorial experience, as opposed to say, copy-writing or advertising experience? Wouldn't an individual with experience in PR or brand strategy be a better candidate?

Increasingly, the answer is no.

When brands first began edging their way into editorial content a few years ago, they may have initially approached it like one big advertorial. But today's consumer is far too savvy for that. No one wants to have a sales pitch crammed down their throat when reading a blog.

"I think brands are still figuring out how to successfully do blogs," Urban Outfitter's Editorial Art Director Kate Williams said. "I think in the beginning (talking '07 here), brands were kind of aghast at spending time and money on something that wasn't immediately going to make that money back, hence the treating of content as extended sales copy. But now a lot of brands have realized that content is a huge part of building a relationship with your customers and getting them to stick around for a while."

"Editorial is of great importance at MYHABIT so we can tell compelling stories about the designers we carry on the site and communicate to our customers about our brands," Feldman said.

So, now, in addition to being on brand, content needs to be interesting, genuine and organic. And editorial experience is exactly the kind of skillset that's needed to create that kind of content.

"This type of role isn't so much about product, placement or getting press exclusives, it's more about thinking: What is the world saying about our clothes? And what do we want to say the world with our clothes? What would that conversation look like? It's about creating that dialogue," Krentcil said. "And that is very similar to what goes on in an edit meeting."

"I think working at a magazine gives you a wide-ranging perspective on the state of the industry, and what else is out there creatively," Sean Hotchkiss said. "That's a huge asset to an individual brand."

Retail brands have certainly created more opportunities (and more importantly, heftier salaries) for those in the editorial industry, but where does that leave more traditional editorial vehicles like magazines and websites? Will brands increasingly lure away the publishing industry's best and brightest with the promise of a bigger paycheck?

Maybe. But one thing is clear: The two are not mutually exclusive anymore.

Kretncil likened the recent migration to brands to the migration that took place a few years ago when editors in the traditional print world made the switch to digital. "Five years ago, when Fashionista started [where Faran was first editor] I can't tell you how many people told me 'You're never going to be able to go back to magazines [after working in digital.]'"

"But clearly that wasn't true."

The point is that now editorial content can exist in all sorts of iterations--digitally, in print, on Twitter, Instagram, and yes, on a brand's website. The mediums may change but if it's a good story, people will want to read it--regardless of where it's published.