Bill Shapiro

Newly revived Life magazine is one of the biggest launches of the year - with the most history to live up to.

Newly revived Life magazine is one of the biggest launches of the year - with the most history to live up to.

First published in 1936, it went under in 1972, but was revived as a monthly from 1978 to 2000. Its latest incarnation as a Friday insert in more than 70 newspapers gives it a circulation of 12 million.

Managing editor Bill Shapiro, who most recently served as the head of Time Inc.'s custom publishing unit before taking the helm at Life, explains what's new (and what's old) at the magazine.

PRWeek: Is it scary to take over an iconic title like Life?
Bill Shapiro: It is intimidating, but it's also incredibly exciting. It's the kind of job you dream about because you get to look for stories everywhere, and for me, you get to move people and touch them emotionally. And because everyone wants to work for Life, because there is terrific reverence and respect for the brand, you get to work with terrific people. Nobody has said, 'I don't want to work for Life.'

PRWeek: How is the new Life similar to the old Life?
Shapiro: It's built on the same DNA as the old Life, and by that I mean it's a picture-driven magazine, and it's a magazine for the curious. It takes you into all the different nooks and crannies of life, and it has a sense of wonder and, at the bottom of it all, a sense of humanity. It hits the same notes as the old Life, and the feeling is almost the same.

PRWeek: How is it different?
Shapiro: The distribution is obviously different. It's in 70 papers nationwide, and it's not a newsstand magazine, and we're surrounded by the newspaper, so our focus is a little different in some ways because we are a little more dedicated to the weekend. The entertainment cover- age is slanted toward helping you make the most of your weekend. There is also something called Sunday Dinner that is a recipe from a chef or cookbook author that is a nice little story. And then there is also this page called Weekend Project, which is something you can do around the house to make it more palatial.

PRWeek: Are most of your stories written by staffers or by freelancers? How about the photography?
Shapiro: Feature ideas, they come from us. This is a team of very creative people, and when you're given the job of working for Life magazine, there is a Life story everywhere. Anywhere you turn your head there is a Life story. The writing is mostly freelance, and the photography is all freelance. That is different, too, because Life used to have staff photographers.

PRWeek: You featured Sarah Jessica Parker on your first cover. How will you handle celebrity coverage in the future?
Shapiro: The reason we picked her is because she embodies so much of what Life embodies: passion, caring, fun, exuberance, and intelligence. What we plan to do with our celebrity coverage is to be intimate but not invasive. We will not be looking through people's dirty laundry, figuratively or literally. We want to bring you close to celebrities, but without being mean and crossing the line. We're not going to do straight profiles because I personally think that genre is a little beaten to death. The Sarah Jessica Parker thing is not a straight profile. We're going to be trying to handle celebrities in different ways.

Name: Bill Shapiro
Publication: Life
Title: Managing editor
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