Amid Fitness Boom, the New Editor of Women’s Running Sees Opportunity
A Q&A with Rebecca Warren, who arrives this month from Lonely Planet to take over for longtime editor Jessica Sebor.
Over her seven-year tenure as editor-in-chief of Women's Running — prior to being promoted, earlier this year, to VP of Media for parent company Competitor Group Inc. — Jessica Sebor garnered deserved applause for repositioning the monthly title as not just a fitness magazine, but an advocate for inclusion, empowerment, and positivity.
Covers that once almost exclusively featured models jogging in sports bras and taglines teasing 24-hour diets and shortcuts to flat abs have given way to women of all body types, who encourage readers with messages like "Love yourself," "Dream big," and "Feel great." In the past year alone, Women's Running cover stars have included a wheelchair track and field star, a transgender woman, and a runner wearing a hijab.
Sebor's impact has been felt on the business side too, where digital traffic has more then doubled in the last two years to over one million monthly visitors, while print circulation holds steady at around 45,000 copies per issue.
With America in the midst of a "running boom" — 17 million people ran a race in the U.S. last year, 57 percent of them females — suffice it to say that her successor has some big sneakers to fill.
Last month, Competitor Group tapped Lonely Planet managing editor Rebecca Warren to do just that. Folio: sat down with Warren to learn a little more about her background and plans for the title going forward.
Folio: What first attracted you to the editor-in-chief role at Women’s Running?
Rebecca Warren: I love what the brand stands for: inspiring and empowering women to live healthy, fulfilled lives. Women’s Running offers readers a holistic approach to wellness, focusing on running as a gateway to healthy living, by promoting positive body images, balanced nutrition, and practical and achievable fitness goals.
The fact that running is a low-barrier, widely accessible sport was also appealing. There is a broad audience available for women-specific running content, and that is an exciting opportunity.
Folio: What do you bring to the position that will help you pick up where Jessie [Sebor] left off?
Warren: Jessie has built a phenomenal brand, and I want to carry on the work that she has done by increasing brand awareness for readers as well as for advertisers and content partners. My experience customizing and localizing content across multiple platforms for various publishing and brand partnerships and my role as a brand spokesperson will be beneficial in achieving these goals.
Folio: What do you see as some of your biggest growth opportunities for the brand?
Warren: The popularity of running is really taking off with women in particular. Women now account for the majority of entrants in competitive races, clocking in at 57 percent, according to RunningUSA. That’s millions of women, and I want to reach all of them!
Increasing our presence at races, through partnerships and brand ambassadors, is one way to do that. I also want to hone our social media strategy to give people a consistent and focused brand message across all of our content channels. We have a website redesign in the works as well, and my focus will be bringing a cohesive look and message across all of our content hubs. I’d also like to explore the possibility of retail partnerships and direct-to-consumer services.
Folio: What about some challenges?
Warren: Our biggest challenge is the same one that every media company faces: finding the best way to connect with our audience. The constantly evolving digital landscape means publishers have to remain vigilant about new technologies and agile about responding to how consumers want to receive content.
Folio: Obviously the brand is seeing a lot of growth on the digital and social media side. Do you expect the print magazine to remain a priority going forward?
Warren: Yes, we have a strong base of readers who subscribe to the print magazine and that remains a priority for me. Industry-wide, the dwell time with a print article is much greater than with a digital one, and it also offers a chance to have a focused, tactile interaction with the reader. The value of being able to engage with an article without a text message or alert popping up during your reading time can’t be overstated.
Folio: Any other opportunities for expanding the WR brand?
Warren: I would love to start a podcast and explore the possibility of live events. I think the best way for a brand to grow and evolve is to foster an ongoing conversation with its audience. Building a strong and engaged community of readers helps to drive the brand forward and inform its content choices, and this is a core focus for me in the next year.