Current gig Editor in chief, Men's Health
Previous gig Time Inc. svp, editorial innovation
Adweek: So this is actually your second time around at Men's Health. You first went to work there back in 2004 when you were just 25 years old. How did you get into publishing?
Matt Bean: I actually worked at Court TV when I started out. I was covering trials. The folks at Men's Health were surprised back then that I wanted to get into the magazine business, but I really felt like it was just such a vibrant world and full of great brands. Bill Phillips, the previous editor, brought me in to do gear and technology coverage as well as a smattering of other things. Eventually I worked my way up to articles editor and then brand development editor and worked on a lot of the apps and magazine stuff on the iPad.
Speaking of the iPad, a few years ago, it seemed like everyone was talking about tablet editions as the savior of the magazine industry, but now that's died down. Do you think the iPad is still an important platform for magazine brands?
Oh, no question about it. We want to be anywhere the audiences are, and I think the iPad is a very popular consumption device, particularly in the evenings when people are in the more contemplative mode and they're wanting to just lean back. I don't think we ever saw the radical adoption [of tablet editions] that was forecast or perhaps hoped for, but I think what you've seen is a sort of leveling out where some titles have found ways to augment that weekly or monthly [print] experience with daily or even up-to-the-minute content to provide a little bit more stickiness to their apps.
Has Rodale changed since the first time you worked there?
You know, it has and it hasn't. I think one of the most refreshing things is just to see that Maria [Rodale] has really grabbed the reins of this place and she's not afraid to take chances.
What are your plans for the magazine?
I don't want to forecast the future too clearly, but I think Men's Health is a brand that translates to many different platforms, whether it's mobile or whether it's OTT television programming. We improve lives with every interaction, whether that's through an Instagram post or an actual issue of the magazine, and I feel like there is a little bit more willingness to pay for that exchange. And there's an opportunity to explore and reignite the brand in the world of mobile which is something that we did very aggressively when I was here in the past.
At Time Inc., you helped launch digital verticals covering everything from cars to breakfast. Could Men's Health benefit from expanding into niche digital channels like that? What I can say is that it's very clear that people are increasingly moving to one side of the spectrum or the other, either going to a mainstream brand like Men's Health that represents their world view or they're going to a micro, niche brand. I'll give you an example: I rarely go to the leading music websites for information on upcoming releases, but I will go to Gorilla vs. Bear, which is this incredibly esoteric hipster music website that just nails my exact taste in music. They're multiplatform—they have a show on SiriusXM and they sell merchandise. And guess what? I've bought a couple of their T-shirts already, and I would buy more just because I love that brand so much. So is there an opportunity for Men's Health to identify those niches and super serve them? Absolutely. But you'll just have to stay tuned.
This story first appeared in the October 3, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.