Thursday 27 July 2017

Watch: 'I don’t want to leave print but I’m not stupid' - How Cosmopolitan's new editor is changing the magazine landscape

Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

The content created on a website is very different to what you create in print but 'defensive' media professionals need to work with tech in order to survive, according to Cosmopolitan Editor-in-Chief Farrah Storr.

"When I took on Cosmo in late 2015, there were a number of challenges. The print team were working across print and digital – there was a feeling you could working across both," she told independent.ie.

"I don’t believe in that – I think what you create on a website is very different to what you create in print."

Despite facing a print culture who saw digital as a competitor rather than a collaborator, Ms Storr has managed to make Cosmo visible across a range of online social platforms since her appointment in late 2015.

In just over a year, her efforts have returned Cosmopolitan to the coveted number one best selling women's magazine slot in the UK for the first time in 17 years.

"I think the whole print industry were a bit defensive about what they did. Editors – me included – think everything we do is brilliant – we think we all should deserve a Pulitzer Prize, she said.

"We looked at tech companies like Tinder and Snapchat for a long time and saw them as the competition. That’s been a danger because they have won the numbers game and you cannot compete with giants like those."

Ms Storr said that there becomes a point where the industry which 'does great content' and the industry that 'speaks to half the population' need to start doing business together.

"That’s difficult for a lot of print people to get their head. They believe that it looks like you’re defecting in some way but you’re not defecting, what you’re doing is innovating," she said.

"I don’t want to leave print but I’m not stupid to think that if we did the magazine in isolation, we’d be here in 10 or 20 years. If we work with tech companies, we have a chance of being there." 

Read more: DMX: speakers from Lego, Cosmo and Atom take to the floor 

Ms Storr opened her keynote speech at Ireland's largest marketing conference with a tale about how her mother used to religiously buy the glossy magazine.

 "I grew up in an inner city suburb outside Manchester with skyscrapers of Cosmopolitans lying around the house,"  she told the crowd at DMX at the Aviva Stadium.

 "The shopkeeper would hold on to a copy for my Mum and she would come home and devour the magazine. She got all her fashion and beauty advice from Cosmo. I don't really want to think about it but she probably got all her sex advice from it too."

But with a magazine that has stood the test of time as long as Cosmopolitan has, staying relevant and up-to-date with the needs of the readers is essential. After 20 years of working in magazines, Ms Storr said she never believed in a voice that a magazine has.

"Having a voice behind a magazine is very different to having a spirit behind one. Our spirit was always ‘fun fearless female’, now our strapline is ‘I am Cosmopolitan’," she said.

"It’s naive to think that a magazine voice will appeal to everyone. I have writers who range from 40 to early 20s and I give them a showcase, their faces are in the magazine every month. I really want young women to find a voice who resonates with them."

Ms Storr said she wouldn't have succeeded so far in her career if it wasn't for her 'enlightened' journalist husband who 'does all the cooking and cleaning'.

Read more: Intel's most senior woman was homeless at 18 - now she's fixing tech's gender problem

While applauding many of the events that are being carried out globally for International Women's Day, Ms Storr said that women have to be careful not to alienate men.

"Feminism is really about equality and working together. Our readers love men," she told independent.ie.

"And one of the reasons I took out the naked centrefold in Cosmo was that you can’t say ‘I don’t want to be objectified’ if you then objectify other people yourself. You need to be careful of that hypocrisy.

Unsurprisingly, Ms Storr has tried to recruit men to the magazine since joining Cosmopolitan. "We are actually a largely female organisation and one of my big things is I really don’t believe in any same sex offices. I think it’s corrosive, I’ve worked in all female offices which are toxic and I know people who have worked in all male offices who would say it’s toxic in a different way.

Throughout my career I’ve had some brilliant male mentors, I’ve had some brilliant female mentors too; it’s about working together. If you want to have progress you have to have both sexes in the room."

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