Another new chapter has begun at Nylon, a magazine accustomed to behind-the-scenes changes. Editor-in-Chief and Chief Marketing Officer Michelle Lee departed the brand earlier this month, after just over a year at the publication, to take the top job at Condé Nast's Allure. A month earlier, the staff was surprised by a large round of layoffs — reportedly a third of the team. Speculation arose, as it often does for magazines aimed at younger audiences, that the brand would go all-digital.
However, Nylon's newly appointed EIC (and its former Deputy Editor) Melissa Giannini says the brand is still dedicated to print. "The magazine is the foundation of the company," she said. "I probably wouldn't have been appointed to be the editor-in-chief if [going digital] was the plan." According to the MPA, the average monthly print and digital edition audience decreased by 3.8 percent to 1.2 million in the first nine months of 2015 versus the same period in 2014. In addition, the company shuttered Nylon Guys in March. "Yes, our audience of millennials, they were raised on the Internet and they love the Internet obviously, but I think they also... really appreciate the work that goes into polishing a story, fact-checking and all these things that go into creating a print publication."
Giannini joined Nylon three years ago — after stints at Spin and Martha Stewart Living — when co-founders Marvin Scott Jarrett and Jaclynn Jarrett still owned the magazine. "I think when the new ownership took over (in May 2014), there was a desire to maintain what was special about [Nylon], but also just grow it," said Giannini. She said she didn't expect Lee to leave and therefore didn't expect to become editor-in-chief. "It was sort of a surprise but I think maybe the best thing for the company. Not to sound arrogant, but I've been with them for awhile now, I know the brand, I know the team," she said. "I think right now our strengths are fashion, beauty, music and culture and I think we cover those topics in a way that really resonates with our audience, so I don't want to make any sweeping changes."
During Lee's tenure, she founded an in-house creative agency called Nylon Studio, and while Giannini said that her role in relation to the agency is "is still being worked out," a spokesperson said the print and digital teams, the latter led by VP of Digital Leila Brillson, will be working "in tandem" at the studio arm of the brand.
Nylon.com has seen rapid growth in the past year, growing from 107,000 unique visitors in October 2014 to 3 million in October 2015, according to ComScore. "That's a big concentration for the entire company and the print team has been participating in that as well," said Giannini. The print and digital teams, about 30 employees in all, are not solely dedicated to either medium, and Brillson does not report to Giannini just as she didn't report to Lee.
The company has made several hires since the October layoffs, which saw the departure of the chief revenue officer and publisher, two fashion editors, two writers, a video producer and several advertising sales positions, according to WWD. A spokesperson said the company is actively hiring across all departments and so far has added a creative director for TV and video, a creative consultant for video, a digital account executive, a social media director and a digital editorial assistant.
"I feel like it's a really exciting time to be taking this on and there are, of course, challenges, but I'm really excited to do it," said Giannini, who says she follows readers to stay ahead of trends and checks the magazine's hashtags on social media to see readers' feedback. "I’m very hands on, partly out of necessity, just because we are a really efficient lean, mean machine," she said. Since joining Nylon, Giannini has written about one cover story per year (Lana Del Rey and Grimes are examples) and even though she plans to hire a senior level person to fulfill some of her former duties, she hopes to still edit when time allows. "I plan on still working with words and editing our cover story, maybe — not as much as I was."
In addition to publishing "deep dives on cultural phenomena," Giannini also wants to feature more personal or experiential essays and find ways to allow more readers to contribute. "What I loved about magazines growing up, like Sassy, that had reader produced issues — there was this ongoing conversation." And her dream cover for Nylon? "We probably won't get it, but I would love to feature the Obama girls," she said. "So if you're listening..."
Nylon's December 2015/January 2016 issue goes on sale Dec. 1.
Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated in the headline that print is "the top" priority at Nylon; rather, it is "a top" priority. An earlier version also incorrectly stated Giannini plans to hire a deputy editor; rather, she plans to hire a "senior-level" person to fulfill some of her former duties. An earlier version also incorrectly stated that Giannini worked at Slate; she worked at Spin. We also modified a description of how print and digital teams work at Nylon Studio: "in tandem" rather than "splitting duties."