Woman at the Top: A Q&A with Women’s Health VP and Editor-in-Chief, Tina Johnson
Since the launch of Women’s Health last October, editor-in-chief Tina Johnson has been the editorial driver behind the exponential growth of the Rodale women’s lifestyle title. Recently rewarded for her successes, Johnson has been promoted to vice president of the magazine, a new position she will embrace while continuing role as editor.
Under Johnson’s wing, Women’s Health increased its total paid circulation by almost 30 percent for the first half of 2006, exceeding the magazine’s initial rate base of 400,000 by 118,000 copies, according to ABC’s Fas-Fax Report. Rate base was increased to 600,000 with the July/August issue and will be upped once more to 750,000 in January 2007, to meet the growing demand from readers and advertisers. Johnson spoke with Folio: about what her plans are in her new position, where the magazine is headed and how she climbed up the publishing industry ladder.
Q: How will your new role as vice president be different from what you’ve done in the past on the editorial side?
A: My responsibilities, per se, won’t change a lot but the new position is a reflection of the growth of the magazine. We jumped to a rate base of 600,000 with the July/August issue, and it will go up to 750,000 as of January 2007 and with any luck will reach a million by January 2008. My promotion is a response to that. My day-to-day responsibilities won’t change all that much. A few months ago Steve Murphy [president and CEO of Rodale Inc.] restructured the company from the inside so now editors-in-chief hold responsibility to the brand-at-large in terms of creative. I have input on DVDs, online projects, books, bookazines, special issues, etc. So all of our creative efforts that go into those aspects start with our editorial team.
Q: What are you looking forward to most?
A: I think first and foremost keeping the magazine on course. It’s been the heart and soul of the Women’s Health brand. It captures most of our consumer base and we want it to continue on its upward swing. In addition, I want to put a lot more emphasis on growing the brand overall, especially online. You can’t be a competitor in this marketplace without a strong online component. We’re looking to add more interactive tools and bring a lot more fresh daily content to the Web site. We really want to update and upgrade it into a fully interactive experience that goes way beyond what you’re getting in the magazine. The Web site, the way it is now, is definitely not there yet. I think there is a lot of room to expand and that is what we are going to be doing, very aggressively, in the next six to nine months.
Q: What are some of your responsibilities in your new role?
A: I think in essence more of the same only better. There are a couple stories we have done in the past year that we’ve been especially happy with surrounding personal experiences that are relatable to readers. I really want to take on some of the bigger issues and make them applicable to our readers’ daily lives.
Q: Is this what you’ve always hoped to accomplish in your publishing career, or just somewhere you ended up?
A: I am the happiest I’ve ever been in my career, and this is not just an emotional gush. I’ve been in the publishing business for over 20 years and when I was at People I always thought ‘this is the best job,’ but Women’s Health is the right fit for me, and it’s the right fit with the way I think about things and talk about things. I have a very personal investment in this magazine. I couldn’t ask for more.
Q: Do you think the publishing industry needs more women in top administrative posts?
A: Yes, absolutely. I don’t think there is a situation, business or industry out there where a woman wouldn’t bring something new and different and great to the table. It’s interesting though, from where I sit, I don’t know if the publishing industry is exactly lacking women. I can think of 10 women in positions as publishers and editors-in-chief. Is there a boys club? Yes, you can find that as well, but I think the industry is well-influenced by women and our points of view.
Q: What advice would you offer someone embarking on a similar career path?
A: I would say keep yourself wide open to every and any opportunity. Build your contact list. It’s about who you know and how you present yourself to them. This industry is so competitive. Cultivate your sources and the people around you.