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The Mr. Magazine™ interview: Brides magazine, making The “I do’s” more real and the magazine more human

“I think content is whatever audiences respond to. We’re creating content all over the place. We’re creating video content; we’re creating content especially for Instagram stories; we’re creating content in the magazine that is in the form of well stories, as well as a back page that’s become a very different thing than it has been in the past.” Lisa Gooder, executive director, editorial, Brides Magazine

 

Mr. Magazine Interview ()

 

In a move towards a more contemporary, realistic and authentic approach to showcasing weddings and all that the event can entail, Brides magazine has undergone a re-imagination of the brand. Instead of models and choreographed weddings, the Condé Nast title is featuring real weddings with real photos of actual brides and grooms, be they celebrity, such as the magazine’s first revamped issue with Serena Williams on the cover, or people less in the public eye. It’s a bold move, but one that executive director of editorial, Lisa Gooder, feels sure will make a major difference with brides-to-be.

I spoke with Lisa on a recent trip to New York and we talked about the new direction the brand is taking, in both the print and digital platforms. Lisa’s background is in digital, as she was digital content director for the Brides brand for many years, but print has always been something that she also believes in, especially when it comes to a brand surrounded by the imagery of beautiful dresses and weddings. Being Print Proud Digital Smart is second-nature to Lisa. Something Mr. Magazine™ can certainly say “I do” to as well.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ look into the world of modern weddings, with more destinations, more diverse couples, and many more beautiful joining’s of love and affection, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Lisa Gooder, executive director, editorial, Brides magazine.

 

Lisa Gooder ()

 

But first the sound-bites:

On why she thinks there is still a need for a printed Brides magazine in this day and age: This is such a moment for brides and they’re spending a lot of money and really kind of obsessed with this project. So, I think print for Brides is incredibly important. Digital for us is also very strong. They’re checking our website all of the time and reading our newsletters, engaging with us on social media, but I still think that the big, beautiful, aspirational photos and the fantasy of a wedding is something that print can deliver.

On what drove her to reengineer the magazine: I have been the digital director here for the last five years and I’ve worked in weddings for some time; I spent 10 years at another wedding publication. I really feel like our audience, this millennial audience, is so interested in the authenticity and the emotional side of getting married. It felt like to do fashion shoots with models was pretending with a wedding, when in fact there are so many beautiful wedding images out there that show so much emotion. We can’t fabricate the look on a woman’s face as she walks back down the aisle after having said “I do.” So, we just decided that we would turn to photos that were taken in the moment, in a very spontaneous and authentic way. And then create service around those, which is, here’s how you can get the look and here are dresses inspired by this wedding or cakes and flowers, things like that.

On the changes that seem to humanise the magazine more and how she thinks that will work: You know, I think it was very inspired. Our social media channels are very successful and have really high engagement, and a lot of it has been inspired by what we’re seeing the audience respond to. Some of those photos, particularly the last page, which we call “The Moment” is very inspired by Instagram and the moments that are real and being inside them.

On coming from a digital background and suddenly having both print and digital to direct and whether there were any adjustments she had to make: One of the lucky things for me at a place like Condé Nast is that there are people here who are so experienced in print, who have so much knowledge and years behind them, who’ve been able to help me. So, this is really a partnership with our creative director, Yolanda Edwards, she is also the creative director for Condé Nast Traveler. The creative team and many of our editors are very skilled, in terms of creating print.

On whether she has an “a-ha” moment when she sees or hears an idea that helps her decide what content goes print and what content goes digital: As I said, there have been some stories that have been inspired by what we’ve seen in digital. We have a ring story that’s coming out in our next issue that is about rings that are inspired by the Royal Wedding. It was such a big thing for us, so all of the rings were inspired by the members of the Royal Family, and that’s not something that we would do online, but something that we loved to do and that we knew our readers would like. So, it’s been fun to have another platform for that.

On having to reinvent her audience after every wedding that takes place: This is an audience that’s turning all of the time and I think it’s a mindset that we’re used to. I’ve worked in weddings for a long time, so I think of that every year. We have the new crop of brides who come to us; many of them get engaged around the holidays and through Valentine’s Day. And that’s our time when we are refilling the coffers and focusing on the planning of the events and all of that. We hope that we do a wonderful job with them and that they refer us to their friends. The one nice thing, the one easier thing, about the churn is that most people who are getting married have friends who are also getting married next. So, those people turn to their sisters or cousins or whomever and ask, okay, what do I do? And if they’re engaged with your brand, they’re very likely to pass it on.

On how they decide on a cover that will jump from the newsstands: In this past issue we chose to feature Serena Williams’ wedding and we really felt like Serena was for our audience. For this new redesign, we felt that she was a statement of being a strong, powerful, independent woman, and I think that’s important to our audience. That this girl hasn’t pined to be a bride her whole life, she’s joining in an equal partnership and is strong and empowered.

 

Brides Serena 1 ()

 

On how she defines content today: I think content is whatever audiences respond to. We’re creating content all over the place. We’re creating video content; we’re creating content especially for Instagram stories; we’re creating content in the magazine that is in the form of well stories, as well as a back page that’s become a very different thing than it has been in the past. In fact, the photo on the back page of our next issue is one of our most engaged-with Instagram photos.

On whether she ever envisions the print edition of Brides going away: I don’t know; we’ll have to see what the future brings. As I said, I think our audience, this specific audience, is a very motivated audience. It’s not “should I pick up a magazine this month or not.” She has a task to do and she’s pretty focused. Just like she’s going to book a honeymoon and she’s going to buy a dress, she needs the research and the information. And she’s spending a tremendous amount of money. So, I think for a while, we currently have her audience. And our advertisers continue to be pretty committed, because a lot of them have dollars that are earmarked toward this specific market.

On whether she feels her job now is more of a curator than a creator: I think we are curators, and with weddings, probably always have been. This is to bring our bride the best of the best of inspiration, images and ideas that are out there. And I think that’s what she wants to see. She maybe sees herself reflected in many of these weddings. My biggest gauge of success with a piece of content is if someone wants to rip a page out or take a picture with their cellphone and say this is an element that I want; I’d like to do that too. So, we’re trying to bring the audience a lot of ideas and a lot of inspiration. But for sure, we are curating.

On whether, as an editor, she likes it or hates it when she hears some readers say they only buy Brides magazine for the ads: (Laughs) I actually love it. I’m not a traditional editor, I love it. And I understand the business of what we do, but I also think that this woman is looking for as much information as possible. As you said, some of those issues can be quite thick because they have 100 pages of wedding dress ads in them, and for me, I think that’s great. We’re giving her resources, both editorially while we’re telling the story, and providing our trend report for the fashion. And there’s also tons of information for her to use for her own shopping and planning.

On whether she thinks the Brides brand offers credibility through its advertising pages: I do; I do. And I think that our new positioning, our new strategic outlook, is very much based in credibility. I mean, these are real people. These weddings happened this way and they’re being reported the way they happened, which is a bit different that our sort of staging weddings, as we may have done in the past. I’m looking forward to doing some more interesting things with integrating some of our advertisers in certain ways, but we’re pretty careful in how we disclose that and let people know.

On any stumbling blocks she faced during the reengineering of the magazine or was it a walk in a rose garden for everyone: No, not a walk in a rose garden. (Laughs) Our biggest stumbling block was, we shipped the first issue of the magazine on a Friday in November. And Serena was married on Thursday night, the night before we shipped. So, we had about 12 hours; the photos were being taken at 6:00 p.m. that night, during the wedding, and being edited overnight. We had editor on the ground; they were being edited overnight and sent to us while we were quickly laying out those last few pages.

On why they had two covers with the tight deadline of that first re-imagined issue: We had two covers because we felt like her fashion choices were pretty important, and Serena wore two dresses. One she wore during the ceremony and one she wore during the party. And so we wanted to highlight both of them.

On whether there will ever be a cover line that refers to a bride at any age: Possibly. That’s interesting. We’ve been talking, certainly recently, about some celebrities who are a bit older. Because we only have one issue out in the magazine, we haven’t done that yet, but on digital we have shown a lot of weddings of various couples with grown children and different ages. But sure, absolutely.

On why she thinks magazines about the “second” wedding didn’t last: I think these days if people are going to actually have a wedding, as opposed to just going and getting married, I think they’re excited and view the wedding like they did the first one. I don’t think that people distinguish anymore. We’re seeing as many brides wearing long-way dresses and having large weddings and things like that, for the second time. So, to speak to them in a way that says this is a wedding again, that’s probably not what they’re looking for. They are celebrating this relationship and this beginning.

On anything she’d like to add: Just that our redesign isn’t only about the magazine. It’s about the brand at large. The way we position ourselves to be a more modern spot for somebody who is planning weddings is pretty important. These days, and we talk about this a lot, the first thing that I did, in terms of taking over this role, was to think about why people get married in 2018. All of the reasons that people used to get married for, you don’t need to be married to do any of those things anymore, whether it’s to live together, have children, have financial support, or even societal expectations. So, we really wanted to get to the bottom of what drives somebody to get married.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: Probably helping someone with homework. (Laughs) I have an eight and twelve-year-old and a husband. Yes, having a glass of wine, but probably simultaneously making sure someone has finished their homework. I do get sucked into social media on my phone sometimes, which is great. We live in Manhattan, so some nights we’re out. But I usually try to go home in between and see my children before that.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: This is what I remember: remember why you started, every day. To be as excited about it as I was once, when I first began. And that I love what I do.

On what keeps her up at night: Juggling it all.

 

Brides Dec Jan ()

 

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Lisa Gooder, executive director, editorial, Brides.

Why is there still a need for a printed Brides magazine in this day and age?

This is such a moment for brides and they’re spending a lot of money and really kind of obsessed with this project. So, I think print for Brides is incredibly important. Digital for us is also very strong. They’re checking our website all of the time and reading our newsletters, engaging with us on social media, but I still think that the big, beautiful, aspirational photos and the fantasy of a wedding is something that print can deliver.

Since you became editor in chief of Brides, what drove you to reengineer the magazine?

I have been the digital director here for the last five years and I’ve worked in weddings for some time; I spent 10 years at another wedding publication. I really feel like our audience, this millennial audience, is so interested in the authenticity and the emotional side of getting married. It felt like to do fashion shoots with models was pretending with a wedding, when in fact there are so many beautiful wedding images out there that show so much emotion. We can’t fabricate the look on a woman’s face as she walks back down the aisle after having said “I do.” So, we just decided that we would turn to photos that were taken in the moment, in a very spontaneous and authentic way. And then create service around those, which is, here’s how you can get the look and here are dresses inspired by this wedding or cakes and flowers, things like that.

And as well, I think it was important to me to bring the brand into a modern sensibility that really depicts the way women are getting married today. We’re showing all different types if weddings. In the February/March issue, there is a wedding in Marfa, Texas with teepees and a trailer, like an Airbnb and really fun and different. And also a wedding in a chateau. Couples are getting married in many different types of ways and we’re showing them all. As well as different cultures and different ethnicities. We’re showing more same sex in some future issues and many other type weddings.

When I flipped through the pages of the Feb/March issue, it felt like you had humanised the magazine.

Thank you.

How do you think humanising print in this day and age will work? I remember the old Brides from years ago. I have one issue that came with a heavy lifting belt because the magazine was so very thick. The role of print has changed, so when you have this human touch, how does that work?

You know, I think it was very inspired. Our social media channels are very successful and have really high engagement, and a lot of it has been inspired by what we’re seeing the audience respond to. Some of those photos, particularly the last page, which we call “The Moment” is very inspired by Instagram and the moments that are real and being inside them.

And then also some of our stories, for instance, our honeymoon story, we’re looking at what’s performing well online and creating a print version of that. That was a story about where to honeymoon for each month, because that’s how people should plan, right? Is there a hurricane here; is there snow there? Where should I go in June versus October? And that is one of our top performing stories that we decided to expand the research on and design it for print.

I’m having our ACT 8 Experience here at the University of Mississippi in April and the theme this year is Print Proud Digital Smart. You came from a digital background; were there any adjustments that you had to make when you suddenly had both print and digital to direct? Was it like you should wear your print hat here and your digital hat there?

(Laughs) One of the lucky things for me at a place like Condé Nast is that there are people here who are so experienced in print, who have so much knowledge and years behind them, who’ve been able to help me. So, this is really a partnership with our creative director, Yolanda Edwards, she is also the creative director for Condé Nast Traveler. The creative team and many of our editors are very skilled, in terms of creating print.

One of the things that we’ve done on the editorial side is make many of our editors be across platforms. So, they’re helping on social media and they’re creating blog posts online, and they’re editing a section in the magazine, just so that it feels very cohesive. So, for me, there’s the catching up with that, but there’s also many people here who, obviously, are experts in that area as well. I’ve spent five years here in this office running the website and so I’ve been very much around the pages routing and things like that.

 

Brides Serena 2 ()

 

Is there an “a-ha” moment for you when you see or hear a story idea that helps you decide what content goes where, such as this story would be good for the print edition, this one for digital?

As I said, there have been some stories that have been inspired by what we’ve seen in digital. We have a ring story that’s coming out in our next issue that is about rings that are inspired by the Royal Wedding. It was such a big thing for us, so all of the rings were inspired by the members of the Royal Family, and that’s not something that we would do online, but something that we loved to do and that we knew our readers would like. So, it’s been fun to have another platform for that.

Many people pick up every bridal magazine out there when they’re planning a wedding, yet once they get married you have to reinvent that audience. How do you do that?

This is an audience that’s turning all of the time and I think it’s a mindset that we’re used to. I’ve worked in weddings for a long time, so I think of that every year. We have the new crop of brides who come to us; many of them get engaged around the holidays and through Valentine’s Day. And that’s our time when we are refilling the coffers and focusing on the planning of the events and all of that.

We hope that we do a wonderful job with them and that they refer us to their friends. The one nice thing, the one easier thing, about the churn is that most people who are getting married have friends who are also getting married next. So, those people turn to their sisters or cousins or whomever and ask, okay, what do I do? And if they’re engaged with your brand, they’re very likely to pass it on. So, it’s just the nature of the beast and we’re used to it.

And also we’ve been incorporating into the new issue a lot more lifestyle content. Some content about entertaining; we have a new feature that you’ll see in the rest of the issues that we’re introducing this month called “Marry Your Style,” which is about how to blend your lives in décor, entertaining and things like that. So, I think there’s going to be more for people post-wedding, and digitally for sure, there will be a lot of that type of content.

But the bread and butter of the magazine is still single-copy sales?

Absolutely.

But as we know the newsstands have not been the best of the best of late. When you meet with your creative director and say let’s create a cover that will jump from the newsstands, that the bride will see from a distance, how do you do that?

In this past issue we chose to feature Serena Williams’ wedding and we really felt like Serena was for our audience. For this new redesign, we felt that she was a statement of being a strong, powerful, independent woman, and I think that’s important to our audience. That this girl hasn’t pined to be a bride her whole life, she’s joining in an equal partnership and is strong and empowered. And I think there are interesting stories behind the weddings that people respond to.

How do you define content today?

I think content is whatever audiences respond to. We’re creating content all over the place. We’re creating video content; we’re creating content especially for Instagram stories; we’re creating content in the magazine that is in the form of well stories, as well as a back page that’s become a very different thing than it has been in the past.

In fact, the photo on the back page of our next issue is one of our most engaged-with Instagram photos. And we thought, let’s put this in the magazine, because this is something in the dress issue and it’s very heavily engaged with, and we’re going to dig deeper and interview the woman who took the photo and tell her story, which is something that we didn’t do on another platform. So, I think content takes many forms.

Magazines have a life cycle, as we all know, just like everything else in life. There’s a time to be born and a time to die. Condé Nast launched Goop last year, and yet they folded the print edition of Teen Vogue and Self. Do you ever see the print edition of Brides going away?

I don’t know; we’ll have to see what the future brings. As I said, I think our audience, this specific audience, is a very motivated audience. It’s not “should I pick up a magazine this month or not.” She has a task to do and she’s pretty focused. Just like she’s going to book a honeymoon and she’s going to buy a dress, she needs the research and the information. And she’s spending a tremendous amount of money. So, I think for a while, we currently have her audience. And our advertisers continue to be pretty committed, because a lot of them have dollars that are earmarked toward this specific market.

 

Samir with Brides editor ()

 

Do you feel as though your job now is more of a curator than a creator?

I think we are curators, and with weddings, probably always have been. This is to bring our bride the best of the best of inspiration, images and ideas that are out there. And I think that’s what she wants to see. She maybe sees herself reflected in many of these weddings. My biggest gauge of success with a piece of content is if someone wants to rip a page out or take a picture with their cellphone and say this is an element that I want; I’d like to do that too. So, we’re trying to bring the audience a lot of ideas and a lot of inspiration. But for sure, we are curating.

As an editor, do you like it or hate it when some of the readers say they buy the magazine for the ads? Or they buy Brides simply to look at the wedding dresses?

(Laughs) I actually love it. I’m not a traditional editor, I love it. And I understand the business of what we do, but I also think that this woman is looking for as much information as possible. As you said, some of those issues can be quite thick because they have 100 pages of wedding dress ads in them, and for me, I think that’s great. We’re giving her resources, both editorially while we’re telling the story, and providing our trend report for the fashion. And there’s also tons of information for her to use for her own shopping and planning.

With the Brides brand, it offers credibility within its editorial pages, but do you think it also offers that through the advertising pages?

I do; I do. And I think that our new positioning, our new strategic outlook, is very much based in credibility. I mean, these are real people. These weddings happened this way and they’re being reported the way they happened, which is a bit different that our sort of staging weddings, as we may have done in the past. I’m looking forward to doing some more interesting things with integrating some of our advertisers in certain ways, but we’re pretty careful in how we disclose that and let people know.

As you were reengineering the magazine, were there any stumbling blocks that you had to overcome, or was it just a walk in a rose garden for everyone?

No, not a walk in a rose garden. (Laughs) Our biggest stumbling block was, we shipped the first issue of the magazine on a Friday in November. And Serena was married on Thursday night, the night before we shipped. So, we had about 12 hours; the photos were being taken at 6:00 p.m. that night, during the wedding, and being edited overnight. We had editor on the ground; they were being edited overnight and sent to us while we were quickly laying out those last few pages.

And then Anna Wintour, who’s been very involved in the re-imagination of the brand, was also on hand to take a look at them. So, we shipped the issue at 9:00 p.m. on Friday night, hoping that everything would work out. And it did. It was definitely not the easiest first issue we could have done. (Laughs) But it was worth it in the end.

But even in that rush to meet the deadline, you had two covers. Why?

We had two covers because we felt like her fashion choices were pretty important, and Serena wore two dresses. One she wore during the ceremony and one she wore during the party. And so we wanted to highlight both of them.

Will we ever see a cover line that reads: A Bride At 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, like a cover line on Vogue?

In terms of ages?

Yes.

Possibly. That’s interesting. We’ve been talking, certainly recently, about some celebrities who are a bit older. Because we only have one issue out in the magazine, we haven’t done that yet, but on digital we have shown a lot of weddings of various couples with grown children and different ages. But sure, absolutely.

Sometimes we forget that there are just as many baby boomers as there are millennials.

That’s true. And it’s not always a one-time thing for people. (Laughs) There are certainly people who do it later in life, but there are also people who do it more than once. And I think we’re here to talk to them all.

 Why do you think all of the Brides-again magazines that have come and gone never lasted? The ones about the second wedding or the divorced couple; why do you think those magazines didn’t last?

I think these days if people are going to actually have a wedding, as opposed to just going and getting married, I think they’re excited and view the wedding like they did the first one. I don’t think that people distinguish anymore. We’re seeing as many brides wearing long-way dresses and having large weddings and things like that, for the second time. So, to speak to them in a way that says this is a wedding again, that’s probably not what they’re looking for. They are celebrating this relationship and this beginning.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just that our redesign isn’t only about the magazine. It’s about the brand at large. The way we position ourselves to be a more modern spot for somebody who is planning weddings is pretty important. These days, and we talk about this a lot, the first thing that I did, in terms of taking over this role, was to think about why people get married in 2018. All of the reasons that people used to get married for, you don’t need to be married to do any of those things anymore, whether it’s to live together, have children, have financial support, or even societal expectations. So, we really wanted to get to the bottom of what drives somebody to get married.

I think in many ways to this millennial audience that a wedding is even a bigger deal and more important than it was years ago. And they really want to use this to express who they are and their love for each other. So, that was the driving force on much of this and made us go back to a more authentic and emotional thing. It’s really important to me that this brand feel very celebratory and joyous. It’s a happy, exciting time and I want to make sure that comes through in all of the imagery and the copy that we’re using.

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?

Probably helping someone with homework. (Laughs) I have an eight and twelve-year-old and a husband. Yes, having a glass of wine, but probably simultaneously making sure someone has finished their homework. I do get sucked into social media on my phone sometimes, which is great. We live in Manhattan, so some nights we’re out. But I usually try to go home in between and see my children before that.

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

This is what I remember: remember why you started, every day. To be as excited about it as I was once, when I first began. And that I love what I do.

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

Juggling it all.

Thank you.

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