Real Simple: Life Made Easier Has Never Sounded So Good – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Liz Vaccariello, Editor In Chief & Daren Mazzucca, SVP Group Publisher…

December 6, 2020

“When Real Simple was launched and what this brand stands for cuts to the chase of what women need in their lives. It’s that word simplicity. It’s that word simple.” Liz Vaccariello…

“Simplicity really lends to creating more valuable time to do the things that we want to enjoy. And that’s how we sell it to advertisers, that presents a beautiful environment for the advertiser to deliver their message to the consumer.” Daren Mazzucca…

Real Simple launched in March 2000 and quickly became one of the industry’s biggest success stories. Dedicated to making lives easier for women everywhere, the brand has achieved its mission even during a pandemic, giving its readers that “me” time of escape that they need right now. 

Liz Vaccariello, Editor in Chief, Real Simple
Daren Mazzucca, SVP Group Publisher, Real Simple

I recently spoke with Liz Vaccariello, Editor in Chief and Daren Mazzucca, SVP Group Publisher, about working during a pandemic and about an upcoming redesign that will continue the 20-year tradition the magazine has of staying “simple,” yet offer a bit of a new aesthetic at the same time. It’s a rejuvenation, not a change, but something Real Simple can offer its readers in the new year that will lend a bit of a different look to the beloved magazine that they know and treasure.

So, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ video cast with Liz Vaccariello, editor in chief & Daren Mazzucca, SVP Group Publisher, Real Simple. 

But first here are the sound-bites:

On whether being truly “Real Simple” works for the magazine (Liz Vaccariello): I think everybody wants to and needs to simplify their lives. They want to simplify ideas. I think that’s really the outcome of this Internet age, every consumer, every reader of all ages is now overwhelmed by content, ideas, by points of view and opinions. I firmly believe that’s why magazine media has never been healthier, because of everyone’s need for curation. 

On how they sell that “Simplicity” to advertisers and media (Daren Mazzucca): I really believe that simplicity saves us time. When you’re organized and you know where things are, you don’t have excess of things; it saves time. And that allows the consumer, us, the bandwidth to do the things we want to do. Simplicity really lends to creating more valuable time to do the things that we want to enjoy. And that’s how we sell it to advertisers, that presents a beautiful environment for the advertiser to deliver their message to the consumer.

On how Real Simple is different from its competitive set (Liz Vaccariello): When Real Simple was launched and what this brand stands for cuts to the chase of what women need in their lives. It’s that word simplicity. It’s that word simple. All women’s magazines have tried to make life easier for women, whether it’s giving them a recipe or helping them clean the house. But Real Simple is the first brand to make the user experience of the magazine simple. And one of the most beloved aspects of the Real Simple print product is the user experience.

On how Daren Mazzucca, as chief revenue officer, operated during the pandemic (Daren Mazzucca): Truthfully, we adjusted very quickly. I told everyone initially to pack like we’re going to be going to a snowstorm for a week or two, bring home your materials. Little did we know we would be home for eight months. Most people brought their initial packets as if they were going on a trip for a week or two. And I think this is very important for Meredith, but we also did it at brand level, we had regular check-ins with our teams, daily or every other day, with everyone to make sure we were healthy, our employees, making sure they were safe and to put aside any concerns so they could stay focused. And truthfully, we did a lot of phone calls before we all started adapting very rapidly into Zoom and Webex. 

On whether, as editor, Liz Vaccariello is longing to go back to normal and sit around a table with her team (Liz Vaccariello): That’s precisely what I miss, I miss standing around the art table. And I can look at a layout on a screen and send a note to Emily Kehe (creative director) about what I think about it, but that huddling over it, that moving it around and the looking at the wall, moving the pages around, I miss that. And then also the editorial process, the creative process, particularly when you talk about magazine making and all the areas that a brand like Real Simple covers, from food to home to beauty to fashion, the walking around, the talking with each other, the standing over the coffee machine  and complaining about my shoes aren’t comfortable enough, those are story ideas for us and it’s very much a part of the creative process. But in some ways it has been illuminating, you don’t need to send nine people to a photo shoot. 

On how the advertising marketing side has felt during the pandemic (Daren Mazzucca): For sure, we miss just spontaneously walking 10 feet away to ask a question or just give some thought versus texting someone on their phone. But I would say that we’ve made adjustments and we certainly miss the old way, but I’m not so sure we’ll go back to the old way. I think some of us are trying to figure out, and we talked a lot about this, what are the boundaries of our workplace? And how long do we work? I’ve been on the phone with our corporate people at 9:00 or 10:00 at night, whereas normally I would have returned home from the commute and stopped. So, I think we’re all trying to work this work/life balance now and because we’re not able to just huddle around a conference room, I think our day has been extended a little longer as a way to keep the flow going.

On whether the magazine can be used as Prozac for the audience or Vitamin C (Liz Vaccariello): A lot of people say that the magazine is their “me” time. They put down the phone, they put down the computer, I think the time spent is like 90 minutes with the magazine. It’s a soothing experience. A prescription of getting a subscription to Real Simple.

On being the chief revenue officer for Real Simple and Martha Stewart Living and any internal competition (Daren Mazzucca): There’s a good degree of internal competition for food and some packaged goods, but clearly both brands stand on their own. Yes, there are categories and lifestyles by the ad community, but the readers don’t see it as such. They come to Real Simple for a whole different set of values and content and they come to Martha Stewart for their own set.

On working for her first non-legacy title and whether she feels more energetic and free (Liz Vaccariello):Surprisingly, to me it’s about brand strength. And the strength of the Real Simple brand, thanks to my predecessors, thanks to Kristin van Ogtrop and the launch editors and Leslie Yazel who came before me, the Real Simple reader knows what to expect, trusts the brand to the same extent and with the same passion that my 95-year-old lifetime subscriber of Reader’s Digest did. This is their Real Simple, it’s not mine.

On the redesign (Liz Vaccariello): This is the name of the Roadshow, The Future of Home is Here. I remind everyone what the brand pillars are, then I talk about consumer trends and insights for the last year or so. How has COVID, how has this election, how has everything that’s happening in the world from May on, how has it impacted what’ people’s sense of what home is? And then a sneak peek of the redesigns. 

On when the relaunch will take place (Liz Vaccariello): The February issue. 

On anything they’d like to add (Daren Mazzucca): This brand has a lot of expectations. You mentioned legacies or years of a brand, although we’re young, 20, there is a high expectation within the Meredith Corporation. I was talking with Tom Harty yesterday, from a portfolio Liz mentioned HHI, we sell at newsstand at $5.99 and still sell a lot of magazines at the newsstand at $5.99 and our subscriptions continue to be renewed at very high rates, so from a profitability perspective, consumer revenue, ad revenue all works together to make a really great brand story for the Meredith Corporation. 

On anything they’d like to add (Liz Vaccariello): I’ve worked with some great publishers in my career and Daren and his team are really the A-Team. When Doug Olson moved me over to Real Simple he was like you have Daren and Daren has Kristin Guinan, and you guys have got to win and I said okay. (Laughs)

On what keeps them up at night (Liz Vaccariello): I always care deeply about my team, but this has been a year where I worry even more, how everybody is doing. And not just their health, but their mental health as well. Across the Meredith Corporation we have a lot of parents who are particularly in the content organization and they are just doing triple duty. Yes, we don’t have commutes anymore, but it is very exhausting to be on a computer all day, to have to be up and also to potentially homeschool. 

On what keeps them up at night (Daren Mazzucca): In these times, and you mentioned relationships earlier, relationships if you have them can be maintained when we’ve been in the business sometime. I think often about some of our up and coming marketing teams and junior sellers and establishing those relationships, both internal at Meredith and external because we’re doing a lot of calls but we’re stuck behind a screen. I often see that secret sauce that we had at Meredith, where people were congregating in the open space areas, that’s really good especially when you’re 26 or 27 and looking to make the next pivot move.

And now, without any further delay, enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ video cast with Liz Vaccariello, Editor in Chief & Daren Mazzucca, SVP Group Publisher, Real Simple. 

One comment

  1. […] wants to and needs to simplify their lives,” said Liz Vaccariello, EIC for Real Simple, in an interview with Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni. “They want to simplify ideas. I think that’s really the outcome of this Internet age, every […]

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