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So What Do You Do, Brandon Holley, Editor-in-Chief of Lucky?

This editor details why she went back to print and how she's taking Lucky's digital presence to a new level

- March 9, 2011
If print and digital have to learn to work together, Brandon Holley is one of the few people equipped to lead the way. After working for years atop the mastheads of marquee titles from Time Out to Elle Girl (which she helped envision and launch) and, perhaps most infamously, Jane, Holley found herself unemployed. Like many print castoffs, she found opportunity with a digital company, Yahoo, which used her expertise to help drive millions of readers (over 24 million in October 2010, according to Comscore) to their women's channel, Shine.

But despite her success at a digital brand, this fall Holley returned to the fold of the media company that had tossed her out in 2007, Conde Nast, replacing Kim France at the helm of shopping magazine Lucky. Now, she's looking to combine her knowledge and experience to expand Lucky's website and digital reach. "I didn't ever think that I wanted to come back to print," Holley says. "But what Lucky offers is so cool when you think about what print and digital can do together. It made me think, 'Oh, here is a good way for me to use both sides of my brain.'"


Name: Brandon Holley
Position: Editor-in-chief, Lucky magazine
Birthday: November 27, 1966
Hometown: Great Falls, Virginia
Education: BA from Barnard College
Resume: Started writing articles for Paper magazine, then got her start at "one of those insecurity driven women's magazines" before moving to fashion trade pub Sportswear International, where she became executive editor "waaaay too early." Left to work for Cyndi Stivers for the launch of Time Out, then moved over to GQ. Led the launch of Elle Girl at Hachette Filipacchi. Took over for founding editor Jane Pratt at Jane, which folded in 2007. Helped launch Yahoo's Shine before joining Lucky in September 2010.
Marital Status: Married
Media idol: Byron Dobell, former editor of Esquire. "He was amazing. I met with him when he was inducted into the ASME Hall of Fame and had lunch with him."
Favorite TV show: 30 Rock
Guilty Pleasure: Knitting
Last Book Read: Winter's Tale
Twitter handle: @brandonholley5 "I don't do anything. I follow people. I do not do anything."

How did you find yourself back at Conde Nast after the last magazine you ran there was shuttered?
Online was pretty exciting and thrilling…Spending three years launching one of the biggest women's sites in the world now –- it's pretty big -– and really learning what women in that community were doing, seemed to translate really nicely to that core thing that Lucky does. So it sounded exciting when I hadn't expected it could be like that.

As a loyal and longtime Lucky reader, I've always felt that Lucky's website and digital presence has been lacking. How are you planning to update and improve it?
Any magazine has got to be thinking about the digital side. That doesn't mean that magazines will go away. Magazines have to be around otherwise it's just a sea of digital brands. The print is what separates us. The opportunities for Lucky digitally are huge, huge, huge -- but only with the print as the jewel in the crown. Otherwise we're just another women's site, and there are plenty of them out there. But print separates us from the crowd.

How are you going to bring your experiences at Shine to Lucky?
Shine was focused on community and women sharing and [blogging]. So as soon as I got here, I started planning for the Lucky Style Collective, which is a collection of bloggers who will create content for the magazine, whose businesses we will help to develop. They'll come to editorial meetings. If you look at the fashion bloggers, they're the Lucky reader. She's mixing vintage with Marc Jacobs with something from H&M. It's a very modern way of dressing and that whole street style thing is incredibly Lucky. We recently did this Fashion and Beauty Blog conference that was pretty cool. And now we're doing this Lucky Style Collective to bring all these great blogger voices into not only our digital platform, but also the print magazine.

"I don't think all magazines will be fine. But, because of the photography and the layout and the design, magazines are something that people won't let go of."

What type of criteria or tools are you using to find these fashion bloggers?
Well we just had brunch with some of the top fashion bloggers on Tumblr. So it's basically what I've always done, right? I've always had dinners with readers. When I was at a teen magazine, I always took a lot of time to meet with teens who were writing for their high school newspapers. Basically I just go meet with fashion bloggers. If we like each other, we roll them into the Collective. It's just about getting more and more voices. I think it's really exciting; women writing about fashion instead of just editors [writing about it] is very exciting to me.

What, if anything, do you think has changed on the print side of magazines since the last time you were there?
I think there's a lot of openness to experiment, both from the corporate side and from the staff side. I remember three years ago, there was a little bit of resistance to embrace online, and now almost every editor at Lucky is tweeting, has a blog and wants to write online. There's no firewall between print and digital anymore. It's a completely porous relationship, which is great. And also, corporately, if I can come up with an idea and it makes sense, there's a lot of willingness to try it out.

Do you think there's a future for magazines? How do you think combining digital and print factor into that future?
It depends on the magazine, right? There's something about fashion and print that has not been rendered properly online. I don't know, maybe if you're a weekly news magazine or an events magazine, it's a different thing. But if you're about incredibly good writing or incredibly good photography or in fashion -- The New Yorker is an example of a magazine that just makes sense in print. But, if you're talking about a classifieds type of magazine, that should probably go online. So I don't think all magazines will be fine. But, because of the photography and the layout and the design, magazines are something that people won't let go of. But that doesn't mean they can stay the same. They also have to have a digital expression.

What has been the reaction to you coming in to Lucky and replacing Kim France?
I heard a lot from the readers, and they love the magazine. That's the most important thing. I've been talking to a lot of readers; I've been talking to a lot of women. They love this magazine. So it's my job just to bring my take to it. It's not about scrapping it. It's a really great magazine and women really do love it. And I'm going to bring my angle.

"YOU can grow your readership; you don't have to depend on someone else just to distribute your content. You're your own distributor."

What advice do you have for someone who wants to get into fashion writing for print?
Start a blog and put it on as many platforms as you can. If you're really young and you can do it, get an internship. Do everything you can do. Just do it; just get in there and start. Now anybody can be a publisher, so just start publishing your work. I know everyone's heard that. But once you start -- you're on foursquare and you're on Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr and you're making sure you're hitting multiplatforms -- and you know to work Google Analytics, you can grow your readership. YOU can grow your readership; you don't have to depend on someone else just to distribute your content. You're your own distributor. You just have to learn to work the many platforms that are available. And learn how to use Google Analytics because that will tell you how you're doing and how you can grow it, what your readers are doing and what they want more of.

NEXT >> AvantGuildSo What Do You Do, Lisa Sugar, Editor-in-Chief of Sugar Inc.?


Amanda Ernst is a freelance writer living in New York. She also manages business development and social media marketing for B5 media, the publisher of three women's lifestyle sites.

© WebMediaBrands Inc. 2011. All Rights Reserved.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. The foregoing is the sole property of WebMediaBrands Inc. The opinions and views expressed in the interviews and/or commentaries are solely those of the participants and are not necessarily the views of WebMediaBrands Inc., its affiliates or subsidiary companies.



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