How Self is revamping its editorial vision as it sheds print

Editor-in-chief Carolyn Kylstra, one of the architects behind BuzzFeed Health, chats with PRWeek about Self's mission in the age of 360 social experiences.

How does your digital background at Men’s Health, Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, and BuzzFeed inform your editorial vision for Self?
At Women’s Health, I learned how to grow topic and build audience. At BuzzFeed, [I launched BuzzFeed Health], and I learned the value of socially sharable content and speaking its language.

I used to worry the audience wouldn’t care about health content, that they wanted pizza and cat gifs. But if you speak in the language of the platform you work on, and you understand your audience, they will respond to high-quality content that is informative, thoughtful, and improves their lives.

I loved BuzzFeed, but I’ve always loved Self and read it for years when I was younger. I saw it as a huge opportunity to grow an iconic brand in an inclusive and service-oriented way.

How will Self create and distribute content in the digital era?
Self is so much more than a website in the same way it was so much more than a magazine. We reach our audiences on as many platforms as we can: social, video, newsletters, you name it. In the future, we will focus on social, video, and audience-engagement experiences, such as challenges. The first challenge Self launched was in 1987.

Describe those challenges.
In January, for example, we did a challenge for the New Year. It was a four-week plan that gave you a healthy eating plan and a workout regimen. But we’re also talking about doing shorter challenges, and maybe beauty and "clean your home" challenges. Clinique is our brand partner for the 2017 New Year’s Challenge.

How do you maintain momentum behind those challenges?
[Since last year] we send out daily newsletters at the beginning of every [participant’s] day, saying, "Rise and shine!" with meal plans, some extra motivation tips, maybe even a gif that makes them laugh, and so on.

The newsletters’ open rate was through the roof throughout the 30-day challenge. Also, there are tens of thousands of activations on social among participants, with people inviting friends and sharing their progress with challenge hashtags. Challenges are always the top traffic story for the month we do them. The idea this year is to build on that momentum.

What branded content opportunities does Self offer?
We redesigned and relaunched the site. We worked every day with our business partners to make sure the user experience was excellent and increased engagement. We also built in a lot of native content opportunities and placements and drivers into the site itself, so native content can live among our editorial content.

We hired a branded content editor [Annie Daly, who launched and oversaw BuzzFeed Travel]. Whatever branded content we do, she has signed off on, which means it meets the same high standards for our editorial content.

What is one health issue Self covers that doesn’t get enough attention in other media?
Chronic health conditions are generally misunderstood, especially those that disproportionately impact women. People suffering from them are desperate for fact-based, helpful, thoughtful information. Our goal is to help demystify, destigmatize, and explain different health conditions, [so they can] better understand what’s going on with their bodies and make better decisions. People realize chronic health conditions deserve more coverage.

Influencers in the health-and-wellness space potentially offer the same product as Self. What does Self offer that users can’t find for themselves on social?
Self offers authority. You can trust the workout content we give you. One issue people can run into on sites like Pinterest is there are a lot of people who don’t have the degrees necessary to give them safe and appropriate workout advice. It’s important to us that we give advice that’s safe and effective.

Critics of Self say the body-positive ethos you say you’re part of seems at odds with the idea of giving advice on physical health. How do you square those two things?
Anyone who thinks that should read our website. The body-positivity movement is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and isn’t necessarily incompatible with talking about weight loss or muscle building. The key is to make sure the advice you’re giving is scientific fact and health-based as you manage people’s expectations. Women’s media and magazines have gotten a lot of criticism, and a lot of it is justified. But as of late, that criticism is talking about something that isn’t reflected in the work we’re doing right now.

How do you reach people who have been turned off by this stigma associated with Self?
Look, what you’re talking about totally exists. I definitely understand people have these perceptions about women’s fitness magazines in general. The only way to combat that is to do good work and reach as many as possible with your good work and positive message.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in