Journalist Q&A: Alanna Stang, Whole Living

Alanna Stang, editor-in-chief of Whole Living, speaks to Danielle Drolet about the 2010 rebranding, the influence of Martha Stewart, and finding the right print-online balance.

Name: Alanna Stang
Title: Editor-in-chief
Outlet: Whole Living
Preferred contact: editor@wholeliving.com
Website: www.WholeLiving.com

Alanna Stang, editor-in-chief of Whole Living, speaks to Danielle Drolet about the 2010 rebranding, the influence of Martha Stewart, and finding the right print-online balance.

You've been at Whole Living since July. How has it gone so far?
I was executive editor of Martha Stewart Living, so I've been with the company for more than 18 months. It's been exciting. I'm very interested in health and wellness, healthy cooking especially. I have two young sons and when you become a mom the importance of making healthier choices is greater. In that sense, it's a great place to be in my life now.

A little over a year ago, Whole Living was rebranded from Body+Soul. Why?
The new name came in June 2010. The feeling was that "soul" was a tricky word - very attractive to some and off-putting to others. It had a more well-rounded feeling to go with Whole Living. It represents what the magazine is really about, which is a holistic way of living. In addition, we have always had WholeLiving.com as our website, so now the two are in sync.

How has the rebranding gone thus far?
Really smoothly. We haven't had any big subscriber loss. The rate base is 700,000 and we hope to grow that to 750,000. There wasn't a big awareness or marketing campaign behind the rebrand, which still might happen, but it was very organic.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia acquired the magazine from Thorne Communications in 2004. How does your editorial team operate with such a big multimedia brand?
We're kind of independent. We are certainly part of the company and feel that, but we operate like the three other magazines here [Martha Stewart Living, Everyday Food, and Martha Stewart Weddings]. We're part of the Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia family, but because we don't have her name in our title, we are our own independent identity.

As far as our operation, we're a small, tight-knit team. I communicate with the upper management. It's nice to be back in a smaller staff. Before Martha Stewart Living, I was at a title about the same size called Cookie. I believe having a lean team makes you more agile.

Is it difficult not having the tie-in of the Martha Stewart brand?
A lot of people don't know Whole Living is owned by Stewart, and it doesn't really matter one way or another.

Internally, we know it's a great thing, but that is not part of our identity. It isn't strategic in that way. It's just a title she bought and a subject area that interested her personally. She lives on an organic farm and is very committed to healthy living and wellness. Personally, she established a healthy eating center at Mount Sinai Hospital, so Whole Living's values and content very much keep with where she is in her own life.

Describe your communications with Stewart.
I meet with her regularly. We have a system where we put all of our pages on a wall. Martha comes and looks at the wall to review the design and the stories. She's great. She can be very funny. She's extremely supportive. She's a big believer in trying new things and making change. She has an amazing knack for detail and listens to my ideas. I find her very inspiring because she knows so much about wellness, organic food, and farming.

How do you strike a healthy balance between print and online?
For a print title to make sense and stay in print and not just go online or on a tablet, it must be an experience. Our magazine has that to offer, especially when you present your features well, with lush photography, beautiful food shots, and lots of great information packaged in a way that you want to come back to it time and time again.

The Web is fantastic, but it's a lot of little quick hits. We all know how saturated our brain is with lots of little hits. Having a large-format magazine where you can see the impact of a full-page picture really brings home that information in a way you just don't get online.

There's one big digital team here that works across all four magazines. Right now, a lot of that is being evaluated. You're going to see a lot of exciting changes for us digitally in 2012.

What's the best way for PR pros to pitch you?
It starts with knowing the magazine. There's nothing more frustrating then getting pitches that don't seem to express the content. Know the masthead. Pitch the appropriate editor. Really think about how and what you're going to pitch and what works with what we are trying to do. It's also important to develop relationships with editors. The more you get to know the editors and really hear from them about what they look for, the better the pitch will go.

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