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The Mr. Magazine™ interview: "For us the information chain begins with the magazine," says Martha Stewart Weddings' editor-in-chief

“As you know, across all different kinds of areas our industry is definitely changing and we know that our audience gets her ideas, inspiration and information from so many different sources, so we make sure as a brand that we’re giving her information both digitally and in all the ways that she needs it. But, in terms of the magazine, she still definitely needs that as well.” - Amy Conway

 

Mr. Magazine Interview ()

 

Weddings are a blessing and oftentimes also a “stressing.” The bride and groom are anxious to have that perfect circle of love moment, all the while trying to deal with also getting that perfect dress, perfect ring, perfect bouquet, and perfect – everything. That’s when they turn to that perfect magazine that can help them do all of that with as less stress as possible.

Enter Martha Stewart Weddings. Martha Stewart Weddings was launched as an annual publication in 1994, and was expanded to quarterly in 1999. So longevity is certainly something the magazine knows about, proof positive that its handling the job of stress relief quite nicely. From the beautiful printed pages to its savvy website, Martha Stewart Weddings is carrying the mantra Print Proud Digital Smart to the extreme Mr. Magazine™ likes to see happen.

Amy Conway is editor-in-chief of the magazine and has been with the Martha Stewart brands for many years, holding a bevy of senior roles within the company. I spoke with Amy recently and we talked about the brand and how she thinks the magazine stands out from all of the other bridal and wedding titles out there on newsstands. With Martha Stewart’s own DIY style that is hers and hers alone, Amy believes that Martha Stewart Weddings reflects that same confidence and sincerity that Martha herself exudes. It’s a personal thing, Amy added. The Magazine helps couples define their personal wedding style, bringing each and every unique celebration to life.

Amy Conway ()

Indeed, the magazine is and always has been a contender when it comes to creating the perfect wedding. So, I hope that you enjoy this delightful “walk down the aisle” with Amy and I. And whether it’s your first and only trip or one among many, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Amy Conway, editor-in-chief, will certainly put all of your wedding issues in perspective and turn the stressing into a blessing.

But first the sound-bites:

On why she thinks an ink on paper magazine is still needed for the Martha Stewart Weddings brand: As you know, across all different kinds of areas our industry is definitely changing and we know that our audience gets her ideas, inspiration and information from so many different sources, so we make sure as a brand that we’re giving her information both digitally and in all the ways that she needs it. But, in terms of the magazine, she still definitely needs that as well. And I think one of the main reasons is that weddings can be overwhelming and stressful things to plan, and when you go online and there’s this incredible wealth of information, sometimes that can make it even more overwhelming. When you have a magazine in your hands, as we all know, people who love print; it’s a really personal relationship that you have with your magazine and what can be more personal than planning a wedding?

On whether all of that information that’s out there makes her and her team’s job tougher and harder when it comes to curating content: No, I don’t think so, because we basically start from scratch with every issue. We look at what’s happening in the weddings world; we look at what’s inspiring us, and really things begin with the magazine for us. We create something that feels really special and individual. The basic idea of Martha Stewart Weddings hasn’t changed since the very beginning; it’s giving brides and grooms personalised ideas that they can use to make a distinctive day that really reflects them.

On the fact that once a reader gets married, the magazine basically loses that member of the audience and how she and her team deal with that: What we need to do is cover these topics with a different spin all of the time, and to come at them in a new way. What we can’t do is get so esoteric; we can’t ever say that we did bouquets two issues ago, so we can’t do bouquets again. We have to cover these core areas again and again, but we just need to do it in a way that always feels fresh, because with the way that trends in weddings change, it’s kind of a natural evolution as well.

On what she’s doing to ensure that Martha Stewart Weddings stands out at the newsstand over all the other bridal titles: That’s a great question. Sometimes I think brides just buy every magazine out there. And when they first get engaged, what often happens is they’ll buy all of the bridal magazines and then they will go and take a look and see which one is for them. And the brides who feel that Martha Stewart Weddings is for them are the ones who want beautiful and elegant ideas with a little bit of a hint of DIY. And again, we really provide ideas in a way that no other brand does, which is so important because brides and grooms are looking to make that wedding feel so personal. And that makes us stand out.

On how they fare on newsstands since many people do not subscribe to bridal and wedding magazines: We do have more than a handful; we have a lot of industry people who subscribe. And we do sometimes hear from people who just enjoy the magazine and they like to keep getting it because they use the ideas for entertaining and things like that, even once they’ve gotten married. But of course, we’re predominantly a newsstand magazine and I would be lying if I didn’t say that it was challenging. It’s definitely a challenging environment right now for newsstand, for sure. But we’re out there among all of the other magazines and we like to think that we stand out in that crowd.

On whether she and publisher, Daren Mazzucca, work together on marketing the magazine: Daren Mazzucca, who you mentioned you spoke with, is the publisher of Martha Stewart Weddings as well, so he and I work together really closely. Actually, he, Elizabeth (Elizabeth Graves, editor-in-chief MSL) and I talk a lot as well, because there are a certain amount of similarities in the brand and we’re all about Martha in a lot of ways. Darren is really amazing and I work closely with him and also our marketing director in coming up with different ideas and the events that we’re doing. So yes, there’s a lot of collaboration and conversation.

On how she makes content into an experience: Our ideas are very actionable. We’re communicating with an audience who is very passionate. You don’t idly look through a bridal magazine, or idly go onto a website; you’re there because you’re looking for ideas and information. So, I think naturally we have a really motivated audience who is actively pursuing ideas. In terms of an experience; digitally, we have a very active following on Instagram. And we communicate with our readers in all different ways.

On how she creates Martha Stewart’s wedding instead of Amy Conway’s wedding: That’s a good question. For one thing, it’s not just me or Martha; we have a staff of really creative, amazing people who make the bouquets and who come up with the ideas for the favours; who go out and choose the prettiest dresses. It’s a whole collaboration, and that’s always been the case at Martha Stewart Weddings.

On the secret sauce for the longevity of the Martha Stewart titles: I think she started this really before anyone else did and she’s just made this connection with a lot of people, and she has transcended; there is Martha the person and Martha the brand. And she doesn’t appear in the pages of Martha Stewart Weddings for the most part, unless she’s at one of our weddings, but you feel her presence there on every page, because the brand is so consistent and so strong.

On the biggest challenge she’s had in her career: In terms of personal career development and growth, I don’t mean to sound Pollyannaish, but I have been really fortunate to have had a long career working largely for one brand or one company and all of its different guises. I’ve probably had 12 or 13 different jobs working for Martha, which is an extremely rare thing in our industry, as you know. So, on a personal basis, I just feel really lucky to have had all of the experience that I’ve had. I don’t really feel like I’ve hit a lot of stumbling blocks along the way. If something can be described as hard, it would be just navigating our way as the media landscape changes. I think that’s hard for all of us editors. But, we’re doing our best to roll with it.

On one singular moment since she’s been at Martha Stewart Weddings that was so pleasant it made her think or say wow: I was working on Martha Stewart Living before I came to Martha Stewart Weddings, and Weddings is definitely a different industry. There was one time that I can remember going to my first bridal market, which is the week when you have all of the bridal fashion shows, and getting to go and see those beautiful dresses in person and the amazing designers and the shows that they put on. You know you can say that all wedding dresses are white and elegant and there are definitely a lot of similarities, but when you see them coming down the runway one after the other, you can really appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into them. I have to say that it was a really exciting moment for me, getting to go to my first bridal market, because Martha Stewart Living is not a fashion magazine, and getting into that fashion world was really exciting.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: I would have to say that the glass is half full.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: Most week nights you would probably find me cooking dinner with my boyfriend for my two teenaged kids. And after dinner, you might find me watching, these days, “The Great British Baking Show,” which my kids and I have been binge-watching on Netflix.

On what keeps her up at night: It might be my pug; my dog, pugs are very noisy. The things that I think about, if I can’t get back to sleep at night, are often the little things like, did I remember to return that person’s email or something. Those things seem like a bigger deal in the middle of the night, and then in the morning those little worries have gone away. But it’s usually those little things at night that keep me up. In terms of the big picture, the really big stuff in life, I just feel like it has a way of working out.

MS Weddings ()

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Amy Conway, editor in chief, Martha Stewart Weddings.

Bridal and wedding magazines used to be some of the biggest print magazines in the country. I remember days where you needed both hands to carry magazines like Bride or Modern Bride, they were so full. But with digital and social media arriving on the scene, things have changed. Why do you think that you still need an ink on paper Martha Stewart Weddings magazine?

As you know, across all different kinds of areas our industry is definitely changing and we know that our audience gets her ideas, inspiration and information from so many different sources, so we make sure as a brand that we’re giving her information both digitally and in all the ways that she needs it. But, in terms of the magazine, she still definitely needs that as well.

And I think one of the main reasons is that weddings can be overwhelming and stressful things to plan, and when you go online and there’s this incredible wealth of information, sometimes that can make it even more overwhelming. When you have a magazine in your hands, as we all know, people who love print; it’s a really personal relationship that you have with your magazine and what can be more personal than planning a wedding?

So, when you’re looking at an issue of Martha Stewart Weddings, you’re basically getting curated ideas that are meant for you, with exactly what you’re doing at that moment. You’re getting the newest ideas and the best information all in one place. And that makes it feel current; it feels like that intimate relationship that you have with that magazine. We hear from vendors all of the time that brides still come to the florist and the caterers; they bring in their copy of the magazine with dog-eared pages; they’re ripping out ideas. So, we know that our couples are getting information from so many different sources, but definitely from magazines as well.

Does this make your job easier or harder with the abundance of information out there? Do you feel like your job and your staff’s has changed dramatically and now it’s even tougher and harder on you to curate all of that information?

No, I don’t think so, because we basically start from scratch with every issue. We look at what’s happening in the weddings world; we look at what’s inspiring us, and really things begin with the magazine for us. We create something that feels really special and individual. The basic idea of Martha Stewart Weddings hasn’t changed since the very beginning; it’s giving brides and grooms personalised ideas that they can use to make a distinctive day that really reflects them.

So for us, the information chain begins with the magazine, and from there we work with our digital team and our ideas go online and they create a lot of their own ideas as well, and there’s a lot of social media. But I wouldn’t say that it makes our jobs harder per se, because the team who works predominantly on the magazine; we just love what we do and are excited to do it every issue. We have new readers almost every year. And we’re always covering dresses, cakes, flowers, favors and all of those details and etiquette; there’s always a new way to do it. We could repeat ourselves year after year, but we don’t do that, and it’s actually surprisingly easy not to. There’s always another way to make a bouquet; there’s always new dresses coming out in the market.

You have to keep in mind everything that’s happening digitally, but in terms of creating the magazine from scratch the way we do every issue, I don’t think that’s harder.

You mentioned that your readers change all of the time. I always use the bridal magazines as an example when I talk about the three types of relationships that can be had with the audience: the one-night stand, where a celebrity dies and you grab a magazine about that celebrity; then there’s the love affair, you get engaged and you go and get all of these wedding magazines, you get married and that’s it, there’s no need for the magazine anymore. And then of course, there’s the long-lasting relationship; you get Better Homes & Gardens for the rest of your life and you get used to receiving it. How do you deal with that changing audience? We know that weddings aren’t going to disappear, but when you meet with your team, do you discuss the fact that once someone gets married, you’ve lost that reader?

What we need to do is cover these topics with a different spin all of the time, and to come at them in a new way. What we can’t do is get so esoteric; we can’t ever say that we did bouquets two issues ago, so we can’t do bouquets again. We have to cover these core areas again and again, but we just need to do it in a way that always feels fresh, because with the way that trends in weddings change, it’s kind of a natural evolution as well.

And Martha brands, in general, Martha Stewart Living and Martha Stewart Weddings, tend to be more classic and timeless. So, you can look at one of our issues from 18 -20 years ago and the ideas really hold up and they still show up on people’s online inspiration boards. The ideas are really timeless, but at the same time there are certain trends that we need to reflect on and report on. Certain things stay the same and certain things change, and we have to be right there with the brides and the things that they’re thinking about and looking for.

What are you doing to ensure that when that bride-to-be sees Martha Stewart Weddings on newsstands, it jumps out at her over all of the other bridal titles?

That’s a great question. Sometimes I think brides just buy every magazine out there. And when they first get engaged, what often happens is they’ll buy all of the bridal magazines and then they will go and take a look and see which one is for them. And the brides who feel that Martha Stewart Weddings is for them are the ones who want beautiful and elegant ideas with a little bit of a hint of DIY. And again, we really provide ideas in a way that no other brand does, which is so important because brides and grooms are looking to make that wedding feel so personal. And that makes us stand out.

And we actually reflect that on the cover as well. Again, if we’re just trying to stand out on the newsstand, for us we often have an idea on the cover. It might be a cake or a bouquet; sometimes we do have a model in a dress or a real bride or couple on the cover, but we know that some of our bestselling covers are those ideas; the really iconic shops that just make people feel like they want that bouquet or that cake.

With the status of the newsstands and the nature of bridal and wedding magazines; how are you faring on newsstands? People rarely subscribe to bridal magazines.

We do have more than a handful; we have a lot of industry people who subscribe. And we do sometimes hear from people who just enjoy the magazine and they like to keep getting it because they use the ideas for entertaining and things like that, even once they’ve gotten married. But of course, we’re predominantly a newsstand magazine and I would be lying if I didn’t say that it was challenging. It’s definitely a challenging environment right now for newsstand, for sure. But we’re out there among all of the other magazines and we like to think that we stand out in that crowd.

I spoke to Daren Mazzucca not too long go about the mother brand, Martha Stewart Living. As editor in chief of Martha Stewart Weddings, do you spend time with your publisher? Is marketing now also a part of your everyday job?

Daren Mazzucca, who you mentioned you spoke with, is the publisher of Martha Stewart Weddings as well, so he and I work together really closely. Actually, he, Elizabeth (Elizabeth Graves, editor-in-chief MSL) and I talk a lot as well, because there are a certain amount of similarities in the brand and we’re all about Martha in a lot of ways. Daren is really amazing and I work closely with him and also our marketing director in coming up with different ideas and the events that we’re doing. So yes, there’s a lot of collaboration and conversation.

MS Weddings ()

Today I’m hearing from editors that they’re no longer just content providers, but they’re experience makers. Do you feel that you’re an experience maker with the audience engaging with you, with the magazine, and with the digital platforms? And how do you make the content an experience?

Our ideas are very actionable. We’re communicating with an audience who is very passionate. You don’t idly look through a bridal magazine, or idly go onto a website; you’re there because you’re looking for ideas and information. So, I think naturally we have a really motivated audience who is actively pursuing ideas. In terms of an experience; digitally, we have a very active following on Instagram. And we communicate with our readers in all different ways.

If you were an editor of just a weddings magazine, you would be the creator of the ideas, but how do you channel Martha’s concepts into your own? Do you morph yourself into thinking like Martha? How do you create Martha Stewart’s wedding instead of Amy Conway’s wedding?

That’s a good question. For one thing, it’s not just me or Martha; we have a staff of really creative, amazing people who make the bouquets and who come up with the ideas for the favours; who go out and choose the prettiest dresses. It’s a whole collaboration, and that’s always been the case at Martha Stewart Weddings.

I’ve worked for Martha for a very long time and what I have to say is if you’re really someone who understands the brand, which you need to be to work here, and you want to share the basics and what’s important to this brand with other people, then Martha is the guiding force, basically. I wouldn’t say that we’d ask: what would Martha do, but she embodies the brand and she works closely with the people who work for her. So, people really understand what makes an idea a “Martha” idea versus something that’s not on-brand. It’s really following the brand’s ethics and what it stands for. And that’s not a hard thing for the people who work here.

Since you’ve worked with Martha for a long time, what do you think the secret ingredient is for the longevity of her celebrity-based titles, Martha Stewart Living and Martha Stewart Weddings?

Martha came along, doing what she does, before anyone else did. She really struck a chord with people who were looking to get more out of their lives and their home lives. Some people used to say that they would get stressed-out, looking at our magazines because there is so much to do and they couldn’t do it all, and I remember Martha saying, if you just make one recipe or one idea from the issue and it improves your life a little bit, that’s what she wanted. The brand is really about helping people improve their lives.

I think she started this really before anyone else did and she’s just made this connection with a lot of people, and she has transcended; there is Martha the person and Martha the brand. And she doesn’t appear in the pages of Martha Stewart Weddings for the most part, unless she’s at one of our weddings, but you feel her presence there on every page, because the brand is so consistent and so strong.

What has been the biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

In terms of personal career development and growth, I don’t mean to sound Pollyannaish, but I have been really fortunate to have had a long career working largely for one brand or one company and all of its different guises. I’ve probably had 12 or 13 different jobs working for Martha, which is an extremely rare thing in our industry, as you know. So, on a personal basis, I just feel really lucky to have had all of the experience that I’ve had. I don’t really feel like I’ve hit a lot of stumbling blocks along the way. If something can be described as hard, it would be just navigating our way as the media landscape changes. I think that’s hard for all of us editors. But, we’re doing our best to roll with it.

Is there one pleasant moment that you always recall, a day that made you think or say wow?

From my job right now?

Yes.

I was working on Martha Stewart Living before I came to Martha Stewart Weddings, and Weddings is definitely a different industry. There was one time that I can remember going to my first bridal market, which is the week when you have all of the bridal fashion shows, and getting to go and see those beautiful dresses in person and the amazing designers and the shows that they put on.

You know you can say that all wedding dresses are white and elegant and there are definitely a lot of similarities, but when you see them coming down the runway one after the other, you can really appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into them. I have to say that it was a really exciting moment for me, getting to go to my first bridal market, because Martha Stewart Living is not a fashion magazine, and getting into that fashion world was really exciting.

If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

I would have to say that the glass is half full.

If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else?

Most week nights you would probably find me cooking dinner with my boyfriend for my two teenaged kids. And after dinner, you might find me watching, these days, “The Great British Baking Show,” which my kids and I have been binge-watching on Netflix.

My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Amy Conway: It might be my pug; my dog, pugs are very noisy. The things that I think about, if I can’t get back to sleep at night, are often the little things like, did I remember to return that person’s email or something. Those things seem like a bigger deal in the middle of the night, and then in the morning those little worries have gone away. But it’s usually those little things at night that keep me up. In terms of the big picture, the really big stuff in life, I just feel like it has a way of working out.

Thank you.

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