What to Expect from Parents Magazine
A Q&A with Liz Vaccariello, the new editor-in-chief of Meredith's Parents Network.
Liz Vaccariello has a new gig. At the end of November, the longtime health and lifestyle editor-in-chief returned to Meredith as head of the Parents Network. Now, she’s looking to transform the network from a parenting staple into a Millennial digital machine.
After five years as editor-in-chief at Reader’s Digest — as well as four at Prevention and seven as executive editor of Fitness — Vaccariello is taking on six new print/digital publications at the Parents Network — five of which cover parenting, and three of which are directed at Hispanic audiences.
Parents and Fit Pregnancy and Baby make up the bulk of readers but the other titles successfully serve their niches, with the Spanish-language Ser Padres ranking number one of all magazines for “actions taken” on advertising, according to GfK MRI Starch.
After only three weeks on the job, Folio: caught up with Vaccariello to find out how things are going, what to expect from Parents in 2017, as well as her veteran opinion on the future of print.
Folio: You first started at Meredith in 1999 as executive editor of Fitness. What drew you back to Meredith and the Parents Network?
Vaccariello: Meredith is a solid company, it’s a growing company, and it’s a company that already has a very strong place in the marketplace with Millennial audiences and with Hispanic audiences. The opportunity to deliver content to these coveted and growing portions of our demographics in the U.S. was very exciting to me. I love storytelling. I love delivering service content. And to do it for Millennial moms and Hispanic moms was just really, really exciting from a professional standpoint.
Folio: You now have six different titles, two of which are in Spanish. What is your editorial mission for this group?
Vaccariello: My bread and butter, and what I am going to focus on earliest, is the flagship Parents brand.
It’s in no way broken, so it’s not as if I’m coming in to fix a product that needs fixing. It has extraordinary credibility. It’s been around for 90 years. And it’s always been the most trusted brand for parenting and pregnancy information.
We have an esteemed board of advisors. Our list of partners is as long as your arm. When the CDC wants to talk about vaccinations, they come to Parents. The magazine’s credibility for its health coverage is second to none, which was a very appealing part of the brand to me.
New parents are Millennials. It’s really exciting to think about how the brand can evolve now that half of its readership is under 30. How can we speak to her in a voice that feels fresh and current while never wavering from that position of credibility?
We can also reflect real families and real moms, with imperfect households and parenting styles — acknowledging the beautiful mess that is a young family’s life… You need info…you want to emerge from the experience of reading our magazine or website feeling understood, confident, relieved, and happy and hopeful. These are the best years and you want to be seizing them and appreciating them.
Folio: Do you plan to add any brand extensions?
Vaccariello: We want to be more active in video, mobile, and social. That’s where our moms are, so you’re going to be seeing new products in those platforms. We have a lot of ideas, a lot of big ideas. But the first order of business is just to get to know the teams here, at all six of the magazines.
Folio: What is the Parents audience like? Do you have any growth strategies?
Vaccariello: Parents by their very nature are Millennials now, so that will always be our sweet spot. We’re happy with the size of the magazine, but I’d like to grow engagement…The magazine is a very trusted resource for our parents. I want to continue to deliver that. I want the time spent on the site to go up. I want the social media engagement to go up. Facebook Live has been a very interesting experience for us.
Vaccariello: The publisher, Steve Grune, is new too. He is only three months in, so we have fresh thinking on both sides. We’re probably going to do a tour later in spring after I unveil a new design or whatever changes I come up with for the magazine. But he’s giving me until the new year to tell him exactly what that is.
Folio: What are some of the challenges you’re facing moving into the new year?
Vaccariello: We have a very young readership here at Parents. When you talk to a media buyer fresh out of college in NYC or LA, they don’t think of being a mom as something that a woman in their 20’s does. But those are the people starting families, those are the parents. That’s one of the unique challenges about being a brand about parenthood. We need to signal that Millennials are moving into that space.
Folio: As someone who’s worked across the industry, what do you see as the future of magazines?
Vaccariello: If I were going to launch a media brand today, I’d probably launch it digitally first, because you have that immediate feedback from your audience. You can iterate and explore and be creative in a fast way, and it’s less expensive. If you look at Meredith, AllRecipes saw a lot of success starting as a digital brand and launching a magazine off of that.
I think that there will always be a print magazine business. How robust it is for companies, I don’t know, but for certain titles and certain brands, that print experience — that time to sit in a chair with a magazine, that consumer experience — will never go away.
And we see that with the Parents readers. The magazine is something that is on the coffee table, on her bedside, when she’s taking a bubble bath. This is her “me” time. And she’s learning something. It’s not that quick answer that you’re looking for when you’re Googling. That reading experience, that journey of going through the totality of parenting — that’s something that only a print product can provide.