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Role Call | Kate Lewis, Editorial Director

Kate Lewis, senior vice president and editorial director of Hearst Magazines Digital Media, says "Fashion media is now about so much more than fashion."
Kate Lewis, senior vice president and editorial director of Hearst Magazines Digital Media | Source: Hearst
By
  • Helena Pike

There are few sectors of the economy that offer as wide and interesting a range of career opportunities as fashion. Role Call highlights some of the industry’s most interesting jobs and the talented people who do them. For more information about fashion industry roles like this and others, visit BoF Careers.

NEW YORK, United States — Kate Lewis is the senior vice president and editorial director at Hearst Magazines Digital Media. Having known from childhood that she wanted to work in magazines, Lewis began her career at Women's Sport and Fitness and then Mademoiselle. In 2001, she moved to Self, where she worked for 10 years as managing editor, before becoming senior executive director of human resources at Condé Nast in 2011. In 2013, she was appointed as senior vice president and editorial director for Say Media, overseeing operations and editorial strategy for its digital brands, including xoJane and Remodelista. Lewis joined Hearst Magazines Digital Media in January 2014, where she is manages content groups across the company's portfolio of 21 websites for brands like Harper's Bazaar and Marie Claire.

BoF: Please describe your current role.

I oversee all of the editors who work on digital for Hearst Magazines. Some of those people are assigned to specific brands, like Cosmopolitan.com, Elle.com or Esquire.com, and some are assigned to specific beats that service every website. For example, we have a centralised newsroom, a features department, and an art department — all of which create stories that run on different sites depending on the day. All in all, we have 200 people working on editorial so there are many of us. Additionally I spend lots of time with the print teams, understanding and working with them on what Hearst brands look like across digital.

BoF: What attracted you to working in magazines? Is this an area that you’ve always been interested in?

I have this very distinct memory from when I was 10-years-old of clipping out model Kim Alexis from a Glamour cover and putting it in a giant scrapbook that I kept of my favourite magazine items — covers, stories, images etc. From early on, I was obsessed with magazines. My mother was in advertising and my father wrote a cooking column for Esquire and I felt surrounded by it. So before I even left college I had secured a paid internship with a magazine company. To this day, I still delight in my magazine addiction, online and in print.

I can never rest on my laurels and think, "I know how to do that." I know nothing because today is totally different than tomorrow may be.

BoF: You oversee more than 20 publications. How do you balance your relationship with the different brands? What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

Some (most) days are spent entirely in meetings. I try and meet with at least three people from our different sites every day; external people we might be interested in collaborating with editorially; and people within Hearst who work outside of my organisation — whether that means someone from the product or advertising team, depends on the day. A lot of that meeting time is spent talking through a particular challenge or working out a solution to an obstacle. But everyday is different. Today, for example, was a good day: I met with [actress] Drew Barrymore who is amazing, full of ideas, and a serious entrepreneur; I discussed Facebook Live with the team and brainstormed how to make those videos compelling; I met with Amy Odell, Cosmopolitan.com's site director, to talk about Snapchat Discover; and I finished my day at dinner with Meredith Rollins, the editor-in-chief of Redbook.

BoF: You’ve been working extensively in magazines for over a decade. How has the landscape of fashion media changed in this time? What’s driving this change?

I think the digital platform has encouraged publishers to come face-to-face with their audience so that we really hear them. We know what they're obsessing over, and interested in, and we can provide more personalised, wide-ranging stories for them than ever before. Fashion media is now about so much more than fashion.

BoF: You're working in publishing at a time when the whole industry seems to be at a tipping point. What does this mean for your role? What are your challenges and priorities at the moment?

Tipping point implies that we'll tip over to the other side and find a new world. I don't see it that way. It's more like we're on a rocket ship. We burst through the atmosphere and everything changes, we enter a new galaxy and everything changes. I suspect this could go on to infinity — perpetual reinvention of our tools, the way we reach our audience, the devices we use to access media, etc. That is what I truly love about my job; I am learning so much as the landscape keeps changing. I can never rest on my laurels and think, "I know how to do that." I know nothing because today is totally different than tomorrow may be. Sometimes it's exhausting, but mostly it's entirely exhilarating to work like this…as a student.

BoF: What advice do you have for people who are interested in doing what you do? What tools or skills should people have?

You have to be driven — not in a casual way, but with a red-hot fever burning you up. Because this whole media madness takes guts, and being risky and fighting for it. You have to be up for anything. And you have to create. Be a person who produces: words, photos, videos. People consume stuff and you have to know how to make it.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

For more information about fashion industry roles like this and others, visit BoF Careers.

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