Variety Is Key, Glamour Editor Tells Circ Day Crowd
"To paraphrase Kevin Costner in 'Field of Dreams,' I thought if we wrote it they would come," she said. "I know now that I couldn't do my job without a strong circulation team."
Since Leive took over at Glamour in May 2001, the magazine has enjoyed its highest circulation in its 65-year history, reaching more than 12 million readers monthly.
She also has devised her own list of "better thans" in what to feature in the magazine: Younger is better than old; curvy is better than skinny; brunette is better than blonde; real is better than fake; flawed is better than perfect; TV is better than movies; and anything is better than being mean to the reader.
Leive said she works with Conde Nast's marketing research department each month once the editorial team narrows its two or three favorite covers and tests with focus groups four to six weeks in advance of the on-sale date.
However, Leive said she has found there are limits to testing, citing a cover last spring featuring the women of "X-Men 2," Halle Berry, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos and Famke Janssen. A casual shot of the three women in jeans tested far better than a more posed shot of them in dresses.
"The cover tested well, but actual sales weren't that good," she said. "We've learned not to be too casual. You have to have a little glamour to be in Glamour."
Leive also said women don't want images of spoiled models on Glamour's cover, and the magazine doesn't feature what she called "movie premiere dresses."
"We put a lot of models and celebrities in jeans," she said. "We also make sure not to use celebrities every month."
The key at Glamour is variety, variety, variety, Leive said, adding that the magazine asks readers what they want "and when something works we copy it into something else."
Though the circulation department is not involved in individual cover decisions, it and other managers discuss long-term trends. Likewise, Leive said she's not involved with the magazine's promotions.
"I may see something new going out, but I don't make many changes," she said. "I might weigh in on an image if we got input from readers."
Leive said today's younger women are different than their mothers.
"They're more skeptical and are extremely media savvy," she said. "They're angry if they're lied to or misled. In the '70s and '80s, I believed what I read on magazine covers. Now they resent it if you're not telling the truth. You can't oversell."