After a four year stint at Time Inc. — which included stops at Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly, and most recently, a senior leadership role as SVP of editorial innovation — Matt Bean has returned to Rodale to take over as editor-in-chief of Men's Health, the brand at which he launched his career a decade ago as an associate editor.
As a featured speaker at the upcoming Folio: Show, Bean will be on hand to offer some of the insights he's picked up over the course of his rapid ascent up the magazine-media editorial ranks. Folio: caught up with Bean to hear about his plans for the flagship Rodale title moving forward, and to preview some of the wisdom he'll share as part of the Folio: Show panel, "Secrets of the Top Editors."
Folio: What's your biggest immediate challenge as the new editor-in-chief at Men's Health?
Matt Bean: The biggest challenge, no question about it, is prioritization. We have such a strong brand, there are so many different directions we can go in, but we’ve got to make sure that we’re putting our resources into the right initiatives.
Very quickly, I’ve got to get myself up to speed with where we’re at so I can help us say “Yes” to the right things, and “No” to the stuff we might not want to tackle just yet.
Folio: What are some ways you evaluate something that’s worth doing?
Bean: It’s important to come to every opportunity with a data-driven mindset. If we can test and learn, we’ll be better equipped to make a decision like that. It could be as easy as testing a new franchise with an online newsletter headline.
My approach has always been very data-driven. It’s important that we use all of our platforms — social, digital, and beyond — to test and to learn as we enter into the bigger projects.
Folio: With so much data and insight at your fingertips, what kind of impact has that had on your role as head editor?
Bean: I like to think of my job as entrepreneurial in nature. I consider myself a true partner to the folks on the advertising side and the other lines of business. Men’s Health certainly is a vibrant brand and will continue to be successful as the readership grows and becomes more aware of the positive upside of taking care of oneself.
Sitting in this chair, though, you’ve got to think that making the right decisions means you’ll be able to grow. If our publisher wins, that means we all win.
Folio: As editor-in-chief, I imagine you’ve got more teams under your watch than ever before. Is it ever a challenge balancing collaboration while recognizing the different strategies necessitated by different platforms or channels?
Bean: Yeah, that’s one of the core aspects of being an editor today — finding ways to bring these different skillsets together. I’ve always been a proponent of hybrid intelligences, where someone might be a developer but they’re also a designer. In the case of digital, I think you can’t mandate collaboration and education. It can’t simply come by virtue of Outlook meetings and scheduling. It has to be a continued, “We’re all in this together” type of initiative.
I can’t go into specifics, but we’re going to be undergoing some exciting changes to our physical location out here in Pennsylvania that are going to bolster our ability to bring those teams together.
Folio: How do you go about maintaining the relevance of the print product and making sure it doesn’t get lost in this massive shift to digital that we’re seeing?
Bean: I think you just have to continue to deliver on the value proposition of the magazine. You have to ask yourself the question, “Is what I’m delivering to the reader worth paying for? Is this content something that they truly cannot get anywhere else? Is it presented in a way that makes it valuable to them?”
Those are all considerations that really pay off. Men’s Health continues to maintain a very strong profile in print. It has a strong and loyal readership base, so we’ll just need to continue to bring people into that group, and once they’re there, surprise and delight them.
Folio: What’s the next big shift that you’ll have to adapt to as editor-in-chief?
Bean: It’s already happening. Live video streaming is something that I’m very excited about. We’ve seen the success of Facebook Live already change how the News Feed is structured. The big obstacle for publishers is, when you’re shooting with three cameras and have an edit backlog of a few weeks, you don’t have that immediacy.
Being able to unlock video without all of the production workflow associated with it, and having permission from viewers and readers to do that in a way that maybe isn’t polished but nonetheless just as useful — it’s exciting and something that we’ll be making use of heavily.