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So What Do You Do, Jess Cagle, Managing Editor of Entertainment Weekly?

'No one here is concerned that the print magazine is going away'

By Richard Horgan - May 29, 2013
Even when the brand is one as well-established, on-point and cheeky as Entertainment Weekly, the challenge for a managing editor is to keep it feeling fresh.

Two of the ways Jess Cagle is accomplishing that mission this summer are the just launched Sirius XM Entertainment Weekly radio channel and the six-episode Sundance Channel reality series The Writers' Room, debuting in July. Each episode will examine the intricacies of putting together a specific scripted TV series, such as Dexter and American Horror Story.

For Cagle, a Time Inc. veteran who helped launch Entertainment Weekly in 1990 and returned in 2009 as managing editor, it's all part of one of the best jobs in the magazine business.

Name: Jess Cagle
Position: Managing editor, Entertainment Weekly
Resume: Started at Time Inc. in 1987 as a reporter for People and worked on the launch of Entertainment Weekly just a few years later. Served as Time's West Coast senior editor from 2000 to 2002 and People's executive editor from 2002 to 2009 before returning to EW in 2009. Has also been a regular contributor to CBS News and co-host of ABC's red carpet pre-show Oscars coverage.
Birthdate: August 8
Hometown: Abilene, Texas
Education: B.A. in journalism and Russian from Baylor University (1987)
Marital status: Single
Media idol: Adam Moss
Favorite TV show: Veep "at the moment"
Guilty pleasure: "Anything with Eli Roth's name in the credits"
Last book read: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Twitter Handle: @JessCagleEW

How does print and Web compare these days for Entertainment Weekly?
The website generally gets 7 to 8 million unique visitors a month. Within that, of course, there are tons and tons of different spikes, things like Return of the Jedi exclusive photos or our coverage of the New York upfronts. The print magazine is still the spine of our brand. Obviously, print advertising is a challenge, but there's not a lot of overlap between our print audience and our digital audience. The print audience has held really steady the last few years. It's about 1.7 million. They haven't left for the digital space; our audience has just grown because of digital. The magazine's audience is something like 11 million, and the overall audience is around 18 million. Both of these audiences are about 60-40 female-to male.

What is the mood like these days at EW given Time Warner's plans to spin off Time Inc.? Are people concerned that the print magazine will be going away?
No; no one here is concerned that the print magazine is going away.

"The print magazine is still the spine of our brand."

Are you doing anything on the advertising side that compares to, say, BuzzFeed's promotion of "sponsored" content?
No, not at all. There are a certain set of rules set forth by ASME that delineate the line between advertising and editorial, and we're constantly looking at those. Obviously, advertisers want more and more and more integration. You do find those times, even in print now, where the advertising is intrusive or it's hard to distinguish what is what. Look, we want to make advertisers happy, but we don't want to confuse the reader at all. So how do you accomplish the advertiser's needs and wants? I don't think it's impossible at all. Even on the iPad side, we haven't blurred the line at all. Most of our work with ads is still actually being done in print.

The reader comments on are generally very intelligent. How have you cultivated that part of the website?
The website, which is separately managed by Bill Gannon, has really taught us that Entertainment Weekly is a brand with this tremendously engaged audience. We're currently looking at how we can engage that audience more. I think there's an exponential potential there in the reader comments for growth. They believe that they can cover a topic better than we can cover it, which is a fantastic position to be in, because they're really interested in engaging and arguing. We're looking very closely at video and audience engagement. Those are two really tremendous areas for growth on

NEXT >> So What Do You Do, James Heidenry, Editor-in-Chief of Star?

One of the big reasons actually that we struck up the partnership with SIRIUS was to get video. We're going to have cameras in the radio studio, and we will put some of that on the website when there is compelling video, like an interview with somebody interesting in studio.

Has the way you deal with publicists for print cover stories changed much in recent years, or is it still pretty much the same?
EW is in a unique position, because we're not trying to get celebrity baby photos. We're the only magazine that will do a first look on Steven Soderbergh's movie about Liberace, or Arrested Development on Netflix. Those things, we still fight to get. But we are kind of the place, so I'd have to say that we turn down more covers than we can use.

EW doesn't use freelancers much, but what is your advice to anyone seeking to pitch a story to the magazine, or website?
We'll use freelancers to cover events and things like that, but what I would say to any freelancer is that everybody today has an opinion, and we don't need your opinion. All we need is news. So come with a great bit of access to something that we can't get ourselves. For that, I'll write a check, immediately.

"What I would say to any freelancer is that everybody today has an opinion, and we don't need your opinion."

What about the trend of social TV? How does that factor in to your general coverage plans?
One thing has taught us is that there is tremendous engagement around television. Not only is that audience more engaged than ever because they're able to communicate with each other as it happens, [but] TV is also just really, really good right now between Mad Men, Breaking Bad and all these other terrifically written shows.

So I will very often look at the social media surrounding of a particular show and make the decision based on that. Two covers that I can think of: Game of Thrones, which we've done several covers on -- also, when you do a cover like that, it has tremendous life; beyond the newsstand, that cover is discussed in the social media realm -- another example is the cover we did on Vampire Diaries more than a year ago. We thought there is so much social media going on around the show, and it went crazy. [Vampire Diaries star] Ian Somerhalder tweeted it out to his legion of followers, and that actually translated into print sales. With social media, you basically often get so much free press. We did a Doctor Who cover that was so successful that we just did another Doctor Who cover a few weeks ago.

EDITOR'S NOTE: After this interview was published, Jess Cagle emailed us this clarification of the magazine's stance on sponsored content:
We're launching a big initiative around native advertising and sponsored content on and on mobile; we want to create that kind of advertising in clever and organic ways consistent with the EW voice and do it without confusing our audience. We're looking at ways to accomplish that on our site, on mobile and in print. I'm sure we'll eventually find interesting ways to do it on the tablet, as well.

NEXT >> So What Do You Do, James Heidenry, Editor-in-Chief of Star?

Richard Horgan is co-editor of FishbowlLA.

© WebMediaBrands Inc. 2013. 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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