Why Hollywood is ‘Freaking Out’ Over a Redesigned More

lunch at michaelsIn an effort to stave off cabin fever, we slogged our way into Michael’s today during what is sure to be an all-too-brief intermission between snow storms. It was a bit quieter than the regular Wednesday scene, but there were still plenty of the usual suspects on hand. Showtime’s Matt Blank, David Zinczenko and Gerry Byrne were all in attendance. They know there’s a lot of business to be done between bites of a Cobb salad no matter what The New York Times says.

Jeannine Shao Collins, Diane Clehane and Lesley Jane Seymour

Jeannine Shao Collins, Diane Clehane and Lesley Jane Seymour

I was joined today by More’s editor-in-chief Lesley Jane Seymour and publisher Jeannine Shao Collins, thanks to our mutual friend Cynthia Lewis, who arranged for us to dish about the magazine’s stunning redesign, which was unveiled with the February issue. Seymour describes the changes as a “little facelift” in her editor’s letter, a parlance her core fortysomething readers can clearly relate to. “A lot of magazines are doing redesigns these days to get a better audience,” Seymour told me. “We did a redesign for the reader we already have.” More has clearly upped the sleek chic factor in keeping with the sophisticated tastes — and pocketbooks — of its upscale readers. Here’s a fun fact that took me by surprise: More’s median household income ($112,000) is higher than Vogue’s and nearly double that of Harper’s Bazaar. “Vogue is aspirational. We’re the magazine with the readers who can afford this stuff,” said Seymour. Exhibit A: Seymour relayed a story about a reader who bought a $28,000 John Hardy ring straight out of the pages of an issue several months ago. This month, an oversized agate ring by Catherine Prevost surrounded by diamonds prompted an impassioned email from another jewelry-obsessed reader, determined to make the pricey bauble her own just days after the issue hit the newsstands. Very good news for advertisers like Assael (on the back cover) and NetJets — who chose More for their first-ever ad in a women’s magazine.

As someone who has read More from the very beginning, I asked Seymour about the magazine’s shift away from its emphasis on editorial for women over forty, to one that is less specific on the issue of age. “It was revolutionary when we started with it, but the model has changed,” she explained. “Now women over forty run the joint.” And while fortysomethings comprise the biggest segment of More‘s readers, Seymour laughingly recounted a common conversation she has whenever she makes an appearance on behalf of the magazine. “Women are constantly coming up to me and saying, I know I’m not supposed to read your magazine — I’m in my thirties — but I love it.” Seymour explained who the magazine is actually for: “More is for the woman who already knows who she is and what she wants. We’re not for the twentysomethings.”

One of the things those discerning women want, said Seymour, is a magazine that is “a raft in the middle of the ocean — something relaxing — it’s not a flipper magazine.” Shao Collins, who moved over from a corporate position in May to take the reigns on the business side, offered an interesting take on why that’s so important for a successful women’s magazine today. “Print is really the last form of uninterrupted media. That’s why it’s never going away.”

In order to create a more enticing editorial environment, the first order of business was cutting down the clutter. “A few years ago the mindset was jam as much as you can into a magazine to give readers more for their money. Our readers don’t need to see a page with twenty handbags on it,” said Seymour. “We’re going to show them one great bag and tell them why we love it. Our readers want to learn something on every page.” But don’t look for anything ‘101’ here — “We’re the master class.”

And it was important, said Shao Collins, to drive home that point aesthetically. I’d say mission accomplished. The new More is much slicker than its previous iteration. Everything from its larger trim size, upgraded paper stock and heavily stylized beauty photography gives the book a much more upscale, luxurious feel. This is a lifestyle book for women with money to spend, not a service book. I also love the new, more assertive, clean typeface used in More’s logo. February cover star Drew Barrymore, as photographed by Ellen von Unwerth, looks the best I’ve seen her look in ages. “Hollywood is freaking out,” Seymour told me. “Celebrities are chasing us down and people are coming to us that weren’t (doing that) before.”

There’s plenty of the requisite fashion and beauty coverage, although Seymour insists: “I don’t want to be just another fashion-beauty magazine.” The EIC has increased the lifestyle pages, with a new front-of-book “Best of the Best” section, spotlighting luxury goods. She’s also expanded travel coverage (this month there’s an insider’s guide to Paris written by a former Paris Vogue editor), added a tech column. The February issue also features interviews with Orange is the New Black author Piper Kerman and “Selma” director Ava DuVernay. One thing that will not change is “the smart editorial,” which includes in-depth reporting on major news stories, like this month’s searing report on campus rape, which chronicles several survivors’ lives decades after their attack.

Shao Collins talked about an interesting slate of events planned for this year, which includes a developing program with some of the countries’ “elite” universities and alumni clubs including Duke (Seymour’s alma mater). More will be sponsoring The Bright Conference held next month at Columbia University, which will tackle the future of women and work and is “in talks” with Harvard Business School and MIT. “This is right in our wheelhouse and a great new way to align ourselves with smart, fabulous women,” Seymour said. The magazine is also continuing its highly successful yearly trip to the Mirval spa, where readers plunk down $3,200 (not including airfare!) for a four-day sojourn to relax and talk about reinvention with More editors and contributors.

Well aware this is no time to try to be all things to all people, Meredith cut the magazine’s rate base from 1.3 million to 750,000 and did away with all promotional subscription offers. For “women of style and substance” $15 seems a small price to pay to get more of More than ever before.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Former LA Dodgers’ owner Frank McCourt and a squadron of suits

2. Lesley Jane Seymour, Jeannine Shao Collins, Cynthia Lewis and yours truly

3. David Zinczenko and Steve Siesser of Lowenstein Sandler LLP

4. Jack Kliger and Mitch Rosenthal

5. Showtime’s Matt Blank and WCBS anchor Maurice DuBois. Matt, you were right about “The Affair” — we’re glad we hung in there!

6. The Wall Street Journal’s Kristina O’Neill with, so we’re told, Julia Roberts’ publicist Marcy Engelman

7. Dujour’s Jason Binn with Cornelia Guest and another gal we didn’t recognize

8. New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia and an elegant blonde lady

9. Penske Media’s Vice Chair Gerry Byrne and Jane Hanson

11. Mickey Ateyeh and designer Dana Bronfman

12. Ronald Dozoretz

14. Town & Country’s EIC Jay Fielden and the magazine’s resident wine expert, novelist Jay McInerney

16. United Stations Radio Network’s Nick Verbitsky

17. Judy Price

18. Producer Francine LeFrak

20. Chanel’s Barbara Cirkva

21. Tech guru Shelly Palmer

22. Robin Lewis

24. Jim Smith

25. PR maestro Tom Goodman with sports PR guy Al Abrams

26.  The Wall Street Journal’s Anthony Cenname

27. Bonnie Stone of Women in Need

We’ll be off next week — probably buried under a snow bank somewhere in Connecticut — see you back at Michael’s in two weeks.

Diane Clehane is a FishbowlNY contributor. Follow her on Twitter @DianeClehane. Send comments and corrections on this column to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.


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