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Content that Connects: Cosmopolitan's Claire Hodgson

Each week, we’re talking to an editor of one of the UK’s leading magazine brands as they share what content is connecting best during the seismic changes of 2020, what they’ve learned from their consumers during lockdown and how they’re adapting their content strategies across all platforms to best connect with their audiences

Content that Connects: Cosmopolitan's Claire Hodgson

This week: Claire Hodgson, editor-in-chief, Cosmopolitan 

Magazine content - especially online - has seen increased engagement over lockdown. What is it about magazine content that consumers will always identify with? 
Cosmopolitan is all about uplifting and inspiring young women, and during this period of increased uncertainty, there’s never been a greater need for that. We recognised the magazine as our reader’s moment of escapism and self-care, representing comfort and consistency. This meant keeping content relevant but ensuring not everything became pandemic-related. Our subscriptions grew by 67% between January and June. 

Digitally, we’ve launched franchises like Good News Gathered, which highlighted positive stories from the week. We also saw our audience turn to social media for distraction and upped our TikTok output, where we’ve grown followers to more than 30,000 this year. We adapted our Snap Shows, pivoting our Beauty Lab series into an ‘at home’ edition, with some episodes gaining over one million views. I’m extremely proud that we hit 19 million monthly global users on the site this year.

How have events of 2020 impacted your editorial direction?
With the pandemic having a huge impact on the education and professional lives of our readers, we launched the Cosmopolitan Careers Festival, a month-long series of free online events designed to arm our audience with advice, tips and resources from leading experts across a wide range of industries. Over 12,000 people signed-up to watch! 

Diversity and representation have always been incredibly important to me, and we’ve consistently tried to use our platforms to give a voice to underrepresented communities. However, following on from the death of George Floyd, we recognised we could do better, and have been working hard to ensure we have guidelines and commitments in place to which we can hold ourselves accountable. Last month, Clara Amfo graced our cover, where she discussed her heartfelt speech on Radio 1 and the work that still needs to be done. We’ve further prioritised the commissioning of Black writers, such as Candice Braithwaite and Sophie Williams, as well as new, up-and-coming talent. We’re also ensuring the images we use, along with the photographers, models and other contributors, better reflect the world we live in. 

We know ads are more effective when in positive, relevant and high-attention media spaces - like yours. Which advertisers turned to Cosmopolitan during the pandemic?
Two key things magazine brands like Cosmopolitan offer, which set us apart from other media, is trust and a positive space for commercial activity to live in. This is why we’ve seen some big-name clients partner with us over the last few months, such as Very, who we worked with on one of our most agile, data-driven campaigns to date. Using insights from search and social, we were able create engaging content, reflecting the latest style trends, to connect our audience with Very products.  

What can consumers and advertisers look forward to from Cosmopolitan in 2021? 
We’ll continue to balance harder-hitting topical features and initiatives with content that uplifts and entertains. Relationships – with friends, family and partners – and the way loneliness has increased during the pandemic, are things we’re thinking about. In fashion, we recently launched Cosmo Conscious, which focuses on sustainability. 

Commercially, eCommerce has been an area of our business which has especially thrived during lockdown, up 212% in the second quarter of this year. We’ll continue to use our up-to-the-minute knowledge of what our readers are buying to deliver even more expert content that serves this demand. As well as using our on-site and social analytics, we’re regularly polling our audience across our platforms to see what they’re reading, buying and searching for. The data is endless, and we use this to ensure the content we produce is driven by our reader. 

Give us the inside track on what we’ll all be doing by Christmas 2021?
During the last few months, we’ve seen interest in staycations increase 320% year-on-year (Jul 19 – Jul 20), which shows that our readers still want to travel while being responsible. So, as and when restrictions are lifted next year, I expect our audience will be the first to bounce back into overseas travel. The huge boom we’ve seen in self-care will also continue, whether that’s beauty purchases, looking after our mental health, or holding onto the better work-life balance many of us have enjoyed.

What’s one new lockdown habit you don’t want to give up?
Table service at the pub. That and being able to wear slippers and jogging bottoms to meetings. 

Next week: Terri White, editor-in-chief, Empire 

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