In any language, editorial voice is everything

In fact, I learned from our insights and audience director, Ruthie Shek, that more than 93 per cent of the traffic came from IP addresses inside the Netherlands with 4.5 per cent coming from Belgium (Ruthie also told me that 0.3 per cent of the traffic came from Aruba where, since January, one in every 19 people connected to the internet visited the site).

The second remarkable thing is the speed at which this audience has been created: just a year ago, had around 155,000 monthly unique visitors. We started a new approach in September and by December, traffic had grown to nearly one million; in January this went over one million, in February we topped two million and in March we broke through three million….remarkable!

But the more I think about this, the less remarkable it is and the more it seems like the natural order of things. The audience has come because we have created brilliant content and because we have used social media to tell the young female population of Holland where they can find this content and delivered it to them in a format that they love and find convenient to consume.

Let me explain: the content for which Cosmopolitan has rightly become famous and made it the most successful international magazine franchise in history, has never gone out of fashion, and the need for a positive, optimistic voice for young women is as great today as it ever has been in Cosmo’s fifty year history. This is a voice that speaks about helping young women achieve what they want from life, telling them that their dreams are achievable and that the complex journey from teen to adult is a hugely exciting time. The journalists who work for Cosmopolitan understand this and provide content to help young women make sense of the myriad choices they have and inspire them with stories from girls just like them. The only difference is that now we do this on a minute-by-minute basis rather than just once a month, and we provide this content to them in a format that is designed to be consumed on smart phones and other mobile devices.

There is good news in this story for all magazine publishers that are navigating the new world of venture funded content creators, a changing newsstand environment and ubiquitous smartphones. The skills that have made magazines such a powerful and well-loved medium for generations of women are crucial to success online. Magazines invented lists and have forever used numbers to trigger interest; the idea that listicles are a newly invented journalistic form is absurd, as any casual review of the medium over the last several decades will show you. And even cats have been central to Cosmopolitan since the modern title was created by Helen Gurley Brown in 1965…the end point of every article in the magazine for decades was a cat cartoon (and as anyone who ever knew Helen could tell you, she called everyone “Pussycat”, including her husband and her boss!).  

But it is the journalistic ability to consistently put oneself in the shoes of the target audience that is the greatest asset. Anne Marije de Vries Lentsch, our excellent editor of Cosmo in Holland, and her team understand this well. They can pick from the most interesting and best performing stories created by their colleagues all over the world to adapt for the Dutch audience and then supplement these with stories that will particularly resonate with the young women of Holland. They do this all day, every day, and then share what they have created on all forms of social media. At Cosmo and our other titles we are making huge progress; audiences are exploding in places as far apart as Russia, Mexico and The Philippines as well, of course, in the UK and USA. We have created the ability for editors working on the same brand in different geographies to share content in real time, with knowledge about how the story has performed. Data is undoubtedly helpful and informs our daily efforts, but underpinning it all is the insight of editors who understand their audiences completely.

There has been a lot of noise recently about stories that have ‘broken the internet’ (although it still seems to be working fine). The truth is that we don’t want one-off stories that create huge spikes of traffic if what follows goes back to previous levels. These spikes are impossible to monetise and the stories themselves are impossible to repeat. What we want is consistent, high-quality content designed to become part of the daily media life of our target audience.

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