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Survival Quest: Entertainment Weekly Is Not Just a Magazine Anymore

Survival Quest: Entertainment Weekly Is Not Just a Magazine Anymore

Before he left 25-year-old Entertainment Weekly to take over the editorial reins at 41-year-old People–with oversight of EW–Jess Cagle was already expanding EW’s “brand extensions.” 

He started with a digital tablet edition (via Google Play and Apple Newstand apps) and leapt at the chance to partner with The Sundance Channel on weekly series “The Writer’s Room.” He saw this as a co-branding and cross-pollinating opportunity for EW and its website. EW’s TV editorial team booked the shows and negotiated the access, capitalizing on the current interest in television, but it lasted just one season.

“The print product is not going to go away,” Cagle told me before the 2013 launch. “It will never make the money it used to. Circulation figures are the same, 1.7 million, but we have to find a home for these advertising dollars. The website is successful. We’re expanding it, looking for other streams of revenue, not to replace the magazine, which is still what readers want. It’s the backbone of the brand.”

After Matt Bean left as editor of EW, succeeded by Henry Goldblatt, Time Inc. named Bean to a new job, senior VP, editorial innovation. “In this position, he will develop new editorial products and content verticals that leverage emerging audiences and technology,” announced Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp. Entertainment vet Richard Battista, the new evp of Time Inc. and president of People and Entertainment Weekly, is also chasing brands into video production, television and licensing. 

In 2013 EW started radio show EW Morning Live, which airs weekdays from 8 to 10 am on SiriusXM Channel 105. One of the reasons Cagle struck up the partnership with Sirius was to get cameras in the studio. EW then posted some of the best videos on the website.

The magazine has also launched video series “Scene Unseen,”  talking to Hollywood creators like Kevin Smith and Key & Peele about “lost” ideas that never got made, for whatever reason. EW then brings them to life through animation. At EW.com’s Kickass Women (always one of my fave EW Comic-Con panels), you can find a supercut of women (fictional and real) in film, TV and music who kick ass, from Katniss Everdeen to Wonder Woman. 

While the EW website draws more than 8 million unique visitors a month, it doesn’t bring in the kind of ad income that the print edition does–but video is a growth area. The future of “People” isn’t in print either, Cagle recently told Ad Week: “Our growth is in digital and video.” People.com nabbed 72 million uniques last month, and the site demands tons of content and video on demand. 

At last week’s digital NewFronts EW premiered “The Bullseye,” a new digital series inspired by the last page of EW, hosted by senior writer Tim Stack who will dish on the week’s hits and missteps with celebrity guests, and “Popography,” partnered with People, focused on pivotal moments that shaped the lives and careers of the world’s best-known artists and entertainers, hosted by Cagle. Other video series include “Lightbulb” and “Pop Culture Personality Test.” 

And EW.com feeds the magazine in another way, by tipping the editors to what’s engaging reader comments and discussion. Cover stories are often informed by knowing which properties (“Star Wars,” “Doctor Who,” “Mad Men,” “Vampire Diaries,” “Game of Thrones”) are going to generate huge web interest.

And on the web, ad/editorial boundaries can be more fluid. EW is pursuing more native advertising and sponsored content on EW.com, mobile and tablets.

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