Mail    Print   Share Share

So What Do You Do, Bonnie Fuller, Editor-in-Chief of

'I want to be entertained as well as learn things, and my instinct was that other women wanted that too.'

- January 13, 2014
Veteran editor Bonnie Fuller is the queen of magazine makeovers: She's famously reinvented some of the industry's biggest titles, including Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Glamour and Star. Most notably, she turned a struggling Us Weekly into a huge newsstand hit, creating the title's now much-copied rainbow-bright palette, exclamation-point-laden headlines and signature sections like "Stars: They're Just Like Us!" That achievement earned Fuller both praise and disapproval: Gwyneth Paltrow once called her "the devil" for single-handedly ramping up public interest in celebrities.

Either way, no one can deny that the hard-driving Fuller knows how to attract an audience. Four years ago, she transferred that remarkable skill online, with the launch of entertainment-news website According to Internet analysis firm comScore, the website's visitors increased by an impressive 66 percent in the past year.

Fuller herself makes no apologies for being fascinated by the lifestyles of the rich and famous. "Women have been interested in fashion and beauty role models since the dawn of time," she says. "They paid attention to Queen Elizabeth I's hair and what Marie Antoinette wore before she got her head cut off… so it's not a new obsession."

Name: Bonnie Fuller
Position: Founding president and editor-in-chief of
Resume: Editor-in-chief of Canadian teen magazine Flare before moving to New York to lead YM, where she grew circulation from 700,000 to over 1.7 million. Established American edition of Marie Claire before being named editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, succeeding the iconic Helen Gurley Brown. Took over Glamour in 1998. Twice named Editor of the Year by Advertising Age for revamping Cosmo and Us Weekly. Served for five years as executive vice president and chief editorial director of American Media Inc., overseeing AMI's weekly and monthly magazines, including Star, Shape and Men's Fitness. Launched HollywoodLife in November 2009. Author of The Joys of Much Too Much: Go For the Big Life – The Great Career, The Perfect Guy, and Everything Else You've Ever Wanted. Contributor to The Huffington Post, the Today show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning and others.
Birthdate: Sept. 8, 1956
Hometown: Toronto, Canada
Education: Bachelor's degree from University of Toronto
Marital status: Married with four children
Media mentor: Hearst's former COO Gilbert Maurer. "He really gave me my first big break."
Best career advice received: "Have a career and have a big career was my mother's advice."
Last book read: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin. "I'm in the midst of reading the whole Game of Thrones series. I can't wait to get home and read a few pages every day. It's work, too, because we cover Game of Thrones intensely when it's on, so I'm really getting prepped for next season."
Guilty pleasure: Chocolate and powder skiing
Twitter handle: @BonnieFuller

You were well known for transforming women's magazines and tabloids before being hired to do that at HollywoodLife. What's your secret to successfully overhauling publications?
My first secret is not being afraid of change. I never was afraid to upend the apple cart if I felt it was necessary. I was always a big reader of the magazines I was editing, so I felt familiar enough with them and knew what I wanted to read… I've never been able to read magazines with type that is so dense without subheads, pictures and pull quotes. It's just too hard on my eyes. Maybe I have bad eyesight! But I've never been able to read those magazines. It has to be enticing. It can't be formidable. So that's guided me. Plus, I want to be entertained as well as learn things, and my instinct was that other women wanted that too.

You spent your entire career in print before HollywoodLife. Was it difficult to leave that for an all-digital platform?
I was excited about being able to write and report stories in a completely timely fashion. It was actually my decision to leave [American Media]. I wanted to create this women's destination. I knew what I wanted to do; I just had to find a way to do it. Initially, I looked into raising money and launching my own media company, but it was during the great recession, so that didn't turn out to be the best time for raising money from investors. Then I met Jay Penske [CEO of PMC, which owns, and other lifestyle websites], who already had a digital content company. He had the name HollywoodLife and needed a concept for it, and I had a concept and knew how to edit. That's how we partnered up.

"[Jay Penske] had the name HollywoodLife and needed a concept for it, and I had a concept and knew how to edit. That's how we partnered up."

What's the biggest difference for you in editing a web-only outlet?
You get even less sleep. Seriously. You can't predict when news is going to happen. It doesn't stop when you leave the office, and it doesn't stop on the weekends. At HollywoodLife, we put up 70 posts a day. We're trying to lead news by breaking stories, and we break stories every single day -- exclusive stories. When news breaks that's of interest to our audience, we're very much at [its] mercy. It's not like we can go, 'Oh, we'll write about that tomorrow.' We've got to write about it now.

There are critics who say our culture is too obsessed with celebrities and gossip. Some even argue that this trend contributes to a dumbing down of the nation's young women, your site's target audience. How do you respond to comments like that?
I just sigh. It's ridiculous. Young women today are brighter and more news-focused than ever, and a large reason is because they are on their digital devices all the time. Yes, they're interested in big celebrity news, like when Kanye West proposes to Kim Kardashian in a stadium, or when someone they care about like Cory Monteith [of Glee] dies.

But equally, when major news happens in the world, they're very interested. Election night was huge for us. When we put up the post about Obama becoming president, we got huge traffic. Our third biggest day ever was the Boston bombing. They wanted to know everything about what was happening, and we did a tremendous amount of reporting on it.

Young women today are extremely informed. I don't think that because they have digital devices and can easily look things up on the Internet makes them any less intelligent than any other generation.

"Young women today are extremely informed. I don't think that because they have digital devices and can easily look things up on the Internet makes them any less intelligent than any other generation."

The site just had its four-year anniversary. What's been the best day on the job so far?
I really love the nights we're here in the office covering one of those big awards shows. They're exciting because unexpected things can go on. Nobody expected Miley [Cyrus] to twerk like that at the VMAs! You can't make this stuff up. It's fun. Celebrities are doing their thing, and you're covering a live event, and your audience is completely interacting and appreciating it. That's a good high.

What advice would you offer to those interested in breaking into celebrity journalism?
The biggest advice would be to have digital skills because I think the world is only going to go more digital and more mobile. Now, I don't believe magazines are going to go out of business, but even magazines all have growing websites. So if you want to have a long career in this business, you have to be prepared to have those skills. The second thing would be that every rule used in normal journalism should be applied to celebrity journalism. Just because you're dealing with celebrities and news about celebrities doesn't mean you don't apply a high standard. You should apply the same level of quality journalism skills to the topic of celebrity as you would to any other topic.

Heather Salerno is a freelance writer based in the greater New York City area. Follow her on Twitter @heather_salerno.

NEXT >> So What Do You Do, Jane Pratt, Editor-in-Chief of

© Mediabistro Inc. 2013. All Rights Reserved.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. The foregoing is the sole property of Mediabistro 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 Mediabistro Inc., its affiliates or subsidiary companies.

> Send a letter to the editor
> Read more in our archives