On Tuesday night, Marie Claire editor-in-chief Anne Fulenwider is hosting the magazine’s second Image Makers Awards, a night in Los Angeles that honors the behind-the-scenes talent of makeup artists, stylists and more. This year’s event at Catch LA will build upon the first, inviting more guests and celebrity presenters, including Jennifer Aniston and Cindy Crawford.
“I would come back from photoshoots and realized that, just through conversations with that universe, I learned a lot,” said Fulenwider. “These were hubs of information that our readers would love.”
An invite-only event, Image Makers still draws in Marie Claire’s audience, largely through its celebrity buzz. The magazine, which primarily serves women in their 20s and 30s, has padded out its overall events business to incorporate a real-life connection into its yearly lineup, along with its monthly issues. Unlike publishers like Teen Vogue and Paste, Marie Claire continues to publish at a 12-annual-issues pace. Other events hosted by the company include the Power Trip career conference; Fresh Faces, a celebration of rising female talent; and The New Guard, a luncheon honoring 50 influential women.
“In this digital age, there’s a hunger for more live events,” said Fulenwider. “From the newfound popularity of conferences to Coachella, there’s a new emphasis on the culture of gathering together and having face time. I welcome that.”
Marie Claire, which counts a print circulation of just over 1 million, according to the Alliance for Audited Media, is finding increasing value in fostering a community of readership through real-time activations. Publishing peers like Glamour, which hosted its first Women of the Year conference in November, and Cosmopolitan, which launched its “Fun Fearless Life” conference in 2014, are following a similar mindset during a time when print magazines are hard-pressed to carve out a space for themselves in an increasingly competitive media landscape.
Fulenwider shared why she has no plans to give up on print, why she’s tired of answering questions about the seriousness of women’s magazines and what she calls Marie Claire’s cult. Answers have been edited for clarity.
Marie Claire recently made news headlines for its exclusive interview with a Rockette about the controversial Donald Trump inauguration performance. Did you expect the story to get the attention it got?
I was really excited to run that feature. The fact that it’s making news and getting out there is important. Marie Claire has always been a place where, whenever women are facing a challenge, it’s a great place for them to tell that story. Once in a while, at least once a year, there’s some story that reignites the old question of ‘Wow, can a women’s magazine cover news?’ And I just think, ‘Oh, my God.’ That reaction must be from people who don’t read women’s magazines, and it’s insulting. It’s a tired, old question.
Why do you think that question continues to come up?
The thing about Marie Claire is that we’ve always celebrated fashion and beauty, as well as the things that matter to women. I’ve never felt that to be a contradiction. When I was in high school, I was interested in mascara as well as what was going on in the world. I went to high school when Reagan was president, so … Women’s issues have always been at the forefront in my mind, and I’ve never understood why people think there can’t be such a thing as a smart women’s magazine, talking about global issues while getting excited about a new chrome nail polish.
Considering the current political climate, how are you approaching the balance between the different types of content?
We’ve always made sure our readers can get both types of stories, and obviously, it’s a big focus for this year. I think our approach to everything is: You can invest in winter skincare while getting involved in local politics. In my February editor’s letter, I express the importance of not just hitting “share” on Facebook, but getting involved in real life and making change happen. That’s something I’ve loved about Marie Claire — it’s been a feminist magazine since it started in 1937.
How do you reach your audience today?
We have a really strong social media team that is honing our message on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, figuring what’s right for a live broadcast, what we should be doing on Snapchat. We have a really loyal, vocal, heartfelt, engaged audience. We can tell how much they care. I’m grateful for that and want to make sure we continue to foster it. It’s almost like a Marie Claire cult.
At the same time, how are you reaching new readers?
Scale certainly matters, and I’m proud that our audience has continued to grow, but I’m more proud that we have a committed audience who cares what we say and that speaks to the quality. There’s a lot of buzz about changing platforms, but people will still be interested in hearing and telling stories. To get new readers, we do our job getting our stories out there and making a big deal about the stories we care about. If you put good stories out there, people will find them. Social media has also been incredibly important, too.
People feel pretty grim about the print media landscape right now. Do you think there will continue to be a need for the print publication on top of the digital site?
I don’t even know how to answer that. There’s a huge financial need for the print product; it’s still the driving force in our revenue. And it’s what we do. We just have to be the best at it, and we’re luckily healthy and thriving in this environment. With people in the media, change for some is scary and for some it’s exciting. For me, it’s exciting.