May 27, 2018

Hi queens,

Have you followed every fact and fascinator of the royal wedding? Or, maybe you’re like the people who have repeatedly asked (and tweeted about) why American citizens and journalists care so much about the British monarchy. Two good reasons to care: it’s a beautiful love story, and millions of people are clicking on magazine websites to eat it up.

Royals aren’t really the dish du jour for ELLE Decor, where I (Danielle) work. I have only hopped on wedding coverage occasionally and instead, have been largely free to bother my brilliant peers on their takeaways from the big day. For this issue, I talked with my boss Elizabeth Angell, the site director of Town & Country and ELLE Decor, and my pal Tamara Fuentes, who freelanced for Harper’s Bazaar during the wedding, on how they attacked the content beast and how they think Harry and Meghan will influence media for many wedding seasons to come.

We're also bummed to share that the Riveter Magazine, a wonderful and smart outlet that received NYT profile treatment only last year, has shut down after five years because of lack of funding. Scroll down for that news, and in the meantime, we'll continue fanning ourselves & thinking about Prince Harry saying, "you look amazing" to his bride, and knowing they'll live happily ever after, drinking Vitamix-blended smoothies. 

Danielle & Natalie

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natalie's most royal fact: tina fey went to her dad's high school!
Q&A with Elizabeth Angell of Town & Country, ELLE Decor & Veranda

Elizabeth Angell researched a book on Princess Diana with Time magazine editors in Paris immediately after Diana’s death. As a royals veteran, Elizabeth was the ideal leader to guide the Town & Country team for thirteen “keyboard-smoking” hours on The Big Day.

DF: I feel like this wedding has changed the media industry a little bit, but Princess Diana is something that really changed how magazines cover the royals.

EA: That’s absolutely true. It does feel like this wedding did change — it was so much bigger than anybody quite realized it would be, even knowing how big it was or knowing how much attention was being paid to them in the months leading up to both the engagement and the wedding. The wedding was even bigger than I thought it would be. But that is certainly a precedent set by Diana. I still don’t think anything is as big as she was, and terrible as it is to say, her death was. That was an event that changed how the news media saw the royal family, how England saw the royal family, how the world saw England, how people reacted to public events like deaths and marriages.

DF: How did you know when the madness was over and you could go home?

EA: There were a couple of waves to the day: when the day started, when the first guests arrived —  that really kicked off all the posts we did on the guests and the arrivals and right through the wedding. There was a little bit of a catch-up lull after the carriage procession. We were really busy because there was so much to write up and do, but there wasn’t anything new coming up. Harry and Meghan appeared for their evening reception, and that was a whole other little spurt. Then, they went to their reception, and there was another lull and we caught up. Then, we let ourselves go home.

DF: How has all of this changed your mindset on how you are going to cover things in the future, or what your audience is looking for?

EA: I learned how incredible my team is and how hardworking and dedicated they are to covering a story like this, to getting it right, to carefully sourcing. There are just so many bad stories… just poorly sourced, not reliable. We’ve been really careful to cover things that aren’t [reliable]. There’s also just so much information out there, that we worked really hard to distinguish ourselves in point of view and in what we cover. We don’t want to just aggregate news that we see in a thousand places.

DF: You had so many funny tweets about people not caring about the wedding and your reaction. What’s your general opinion on people not caring?

EA: I think there are some stories that transcend whether or not you care. I don’t think you particularly have to care about the royal family or the marital status of a member of the Suits cast. There are moments in the world where everyone pays attention to something, and this was one of those moments. It’s a symbolic moment, and whatever you may think of the symbolism, I think it’s worthy of conversation, of debate and discussion. This was a hugely symbolic moment about how this institution [of marriage] has changed, and maybe it means it should change a lot more and maybe it means it’s just symbolic and not fundamental.

We knew our audience cared, and when our audience cares, that means we should care. But, you know, I think it’s OK not to care if you don’t want to.

DF: How do you feel about Town & Country being Meghan Markle’s dad’s favorite publication?

EA: Oh my god. I feel very proud that when somebody in the Markle family wanted to learn more about her relationship with Prince Harry, they landed on our site because we have worked to give people good, substantive, interesting coverage, and I think they would find information they could trust.

DF: Trust.

EA: Yeah [laughing]. I hope he recovers, and I’m sorry he missed his daughter’s wedding.

by the numbers
  • HEARST DIGITAL (includes ELLE, Town & Country, Harper’s Bazaar, etc.): 25 million readers
  • NBC BROADCAST: 6.5 million viewers
  • PEOPLE MAGAZINE INSTA VID: 18 million views, most-watched of all time
    Source: New York Post
Q&A with a royal wedding reporter

Tamara Fuentes attracted 2.2 million unique visitors to Hearst sites for the month of May, with the majority of them coming for her wedding coverage. Her top story was a roundup of reactions from the royal family to Reverend Michael Curry’s sermon. Because, obviously.

DF: Were you assigned or pitching stories?

TF: Mostly it was assigned because it was just a lot. We kind of had a schedule ahead of time, where we got our stories assigned for different times. So the day before, it was preparation of the wedding. On the day of the wedding reception, we got our shells [editor’s note: Shells are basically very rough drafts built on the website’s CMS] that were made before that were basically filled with SEO and meta-data. We wrote in the rest and added our own photos.

DF: Walk me through your day on Saturday.

TF: I woke up at 4 a.m., got dressed, got ready, and put on the TV because pre-coverage was starting. I logged in at 5 a.m. For the first half hour, it was pretty quiet. I started looking at my shells, getting things ready. From then on, my day was supposed to end at noon, but I really ended around 2 p.m. because so much was going on. Between then, I was just writing articles and every so often [Harper’s digital editors] Julie Kosin or Erica Gonzales would message me to ask me to look at stories.  

DF: Did you care about the royals at all before this?

TF: No, I cared about Harry and Meghan’s relationship, but I didn’t know anything about the royals. I never considered myself a royal aficionado, so the fact that I was writing about them was like, what?

The lack of sleep wasn’t that much fun, but when will you ever get that experience again? 

DF: How do you think the royal wedding weekend will influence how you target other stories or events as an editor?

TF: We knew it was going to be a worldwide thing people were looking at. Now, it’s maybe not the same numbers, but [it’s made me think] what are ways, how we can prepare for award shows. The wedding has given me a different look on what we can possibly do.

Now that things are changing in SEO, Google News and the Facebook algorithm, the first step was looking through the royal wedding lens and what we can do with that information. Not that royal wedding influenced it, but it was the perfect way to figure out what works and doesn't work.

will the wedding content truly ever stop? 
in other media news
  • The Riveter Magazine has ceased publication after five years because of lack of funding. We discovered this awesome publication in college, and were fortunate to interview the founders multiple times and contribute to the magazine. In their farewell note, Kaylen Ralph and Joanna Demkiewicz sharply cite the “male glance,” or the “passing nod given to media created by women.” We were also reminded of MEL Magazine deputy editor Alana Levison’s quote in our interview earlier this year: “I am more interested in just like seeing more women being given VC money to start their own media companies.
  • There’s a lot of doom, including impending layoffs, going down around the Gizmodo Media Group, now owned by Fusion Media Group, which includes Jezebel. Former Jezebel editor Kate Dries described to us the importance of their journalism: “They all come from this Gawker Media brand which is speaking truth to power and knowing you’re going to piss people off along the way. That is a huge part of the Jezebel DNA that I hope will never go away because it’s not as if we don’t have advertisers."
  • The Skimm raised a big old round of funding from people including SHONDA RHIMES.
  • On the pioneering Egyptian feminist Doria Shafik, who started her own journal Bint Al-Nil, which we might just profile in the future. Thanks Liz Lepro for sending. xx 
  • It’s not a “women’s mag,” exactly, but RIP Interview Magazine. We met as students in Pittsburgh, Andy Warhol’s hometown, and naturally we adore him. The format of two famous people interviewing each other, while perhaps creating less work for journalists (lol), can be genius and has been co-opted as recently as this year, with John Kerry interviewing Angelina Jolie in ELLE. Some final Sunday candy: Beyoncé’s interview with Solange.
for further reading
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Written by
Natalie Daher and Danielle Fox. Designed by Martina Ibanez-Baldor.
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