14 Magazines Shaking Up the Publishing Industry, One Reinvention at a Time

Allure, Bon Appétit and Vogue lead Adweek’s list of honorees

It’s been another transformative year for the media universe, as legacy publishers continue to reinvent themselves as multiplatform brands, a reinvigorated newspaper industry one-ups the competition with political scoops and old-fashioned media like audio storytelling suddenly seem new again. Adweek’s annual Publishing Hot List is also going through its own transformation, combining both print (below) and digital outlets for the first time in its 38-year history. This year’s honorees capture the media zeitgeist, from Washington Post publisher and CEO Frederick Ryan, who’s helped shape the legendary newspaper into a digital behemoth with the help of Jeff Bezos, and Allure editor in chief Michelle Lee, who is shaking things up at Condé Nast by redefining the role of the glossy women’s magazine. Read on for 2017’s most noteworthy publications, podcasts and much more.
—Emma Bazilian

Magazine of the Year
In the two years since editor in chief Michelle Lee took the reins, Condé Nast’s beauty book has undergone its own makeover, with covers that celebrate diversity of all types, stories that encourage readers to challenge convention and a sleek new website that isn’t afraid to tackle hot-button topics alongside makeup trends and hair tutorials. Readers are loving the new direction: as of August, Allure’s average monthly cross-platform audience had grown 30 percent YOY to 5.9 million. —Emma Bazilian

Cover of the Year
The New Yorker, “Eustace Vladimirovich Tilley” (March 6, 2017)
In a year in which so many publications have proven how powerful magazine covers can still be, choosing just one was a difficult task. But The New Yorker’s March 6 issue, “Eustace Vladimirovich Tilley,” which reimagines the magazine’s mascot Eustace Tilley as Vladimir Putin and replaces its iconic masthead with Cyrillic type, manages to stand out for its use of subtle humor (and a touch of dread) to comment on Russia’s influence in U.S. politics. The issue was The New Yorker’s biggest newsstand hit since 2012, selling out in a third of all Barnes & Noble stores that week. —E.B.

Hottest Design/Photography
Bon Appétit
With its minimalist covers and youthful art direction, Bon Appétit has managed to capture the “Instagram aesthetic” in print. The dramatically redesigned August issue touting the launch of two “simple” sub-brands (which marked the first time that a Condé Nast publication had featured a new digital vertical on its cover) helped boost that month’s newsstand sales by more than 51 percent YOY. —Sami Main

Hottest Food Magazine
Bon Appétit
Trendy food coverage and simple cover designs helped boost Bon Appétit’s audience 10 percent to 7.3 million readers in 2017, making it the fastest-growing food title. This year, with more than 100 events around the U.S., the brand adjusted its revenue model to better provide its partners with access to Condé Nast’s Food Innovation Group audience, helping attract new advertisers like Crate & Barrel, Folgers and Alfa Romeo. —S.M.

Hottest Reborn Magazine
Bon Appétit
Condé Nast’s 61-year-old brand has made a big play for younger consumers. The magazine introduced a vibrant new design aesthetic, increased its focus on fresh, easy recipes, and drew acclaim for its March “Generation Next” issue, which featured second-generation American chefs. The rejuvenation effort (along with two new sub-brands, Healthyish and Basically) is paying off: between 2016 and 2017, Bon App’s millennial audience grew by 13 percent. —S.M.

Hottest Sports/Automotive Magazine
ESPN The Magazine
With more than 100 million readers across print, desktop and mobile, ESPN The Magazine claims the largest cross-platform audience of any magazine brand by a mile—runner-up People lags by more than 22 million—and boasts 2.1 million paid print subscribers, up nearly 5 percent YOY. Unique sports coverage sheds light on politics, society and culture and continues to drive the conversation across all of ESPN. It’s also banking on a big 2018 as it celebrates its 20th anniversary as well as the 10th edition of its always-popular annual Body Issue. —A.J. Katz

Hottest Men’s Magazine
GQ is having a sharp 2017. With its buzzy covers (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Chance The Rapper, LeBron James) and influential stories (including features on North Korea, Mike Pence, Corey Lewandowski and Charleston shooter Dylann Roof), the periodical has seen its total audience grow 16 percent YOY to 17.2 million. The magazine is also up 19 percent in non-endemic revenue categories, including finance and spirits. —A.K.

Hottest Thought Leader
The New Yorker
The New Yorker stands out for its enduring ability to produce the kind of deep-dive magazine journalism that few outlets can match. Blockbuster pieces on North Korea, the Trump administration’s Russian ties and more have made it more of a must-read than ever, helping to grow print and digital readership to 5.5 million (up 24 percent YOY), adding 545,000 new subscribers since last November, drawing 20,000 people to the annual New Yorker Festival and increasing ad revenue 12 percent in the first half of the year. —E.B.

Hottest Lifestyle Magazine
Town & Country
Proving that an old-school luxury mag doesn’t have to be stodgy, Town & Country continues to draw in readers (and advertisers) by providing smart cultural commentary and lifestyle coverage—all with an eye on the next generation of tastemakers, business leaders and artists. The title’s cross-platform audience is up an impressive 28 percent YOY, while the recent October issue boasted the magazine’s largest portfolio of advertising in 17 years. This year also saw the introduction of Downtown & Country, a Cadillac-sponsored content series aimed at the magazine’s millennial readers. —E.B.

Hottest Business Magazine
Fortune has a new look and a new logo—just the 10th redesign for the 88-year-old magazine. Like other Time Inc. titles, it will cut its frequency (from 16 to 12) in 2018. Still, Fortune is striking gold in print (magazine audience is up 12 percent YOY) and on the web, with traffic pacing ahead of 2016 by 16 percent. Its conference business is booming and, along with Barclays, it has launched a new stock market index based on its iconic Fortune 500 list. —Chris Ariens

Hottest Travel Magazine
Travel + Leisure
Time Inc.’s monthly guide to leisurely pursuits is seeing robust growth: as of August, T+L’s print audience was up 11 percent to 6.7 million, while its website drew 6.2 million unique visitors, up 29 percent from last August’s 4.8 million. T+L this year saw its first-ever flip cover—with opposite sides devoted to Europe and Asia, showcasing the latter’s growing importance to the global traveler. —C.A.

Hottest Home Magazine
HGTV Magazine
Since hitting newsstands five years ago, HGTV Magazine has been a resounding success. Its affordable, DIY approach has made it a hit with the younger crowd and helped grow its overall audience 10 percent YOY to 9.8 million. The magazine really stands out in the branded content arena, producing three interactive sponsored covers (with Sherwin-Williams and Behr) in 2017, along with high-impact native print units with brands like 3M. —E.B.

Hottest Celebrity/Entertainment Magazine
The go-to source for pop-filled news and celebrity disclosures is as hot as ever as it approaches its 44th birthday. People has an unduplicated monthly audience of 70 million across print, desktop, tablet and mobile. People.com sees 35.6 million monthly uniques with millennials making up 42 percent of the audience. Its year-old streaming network PeopleTV (formerly PEN) has racked up more than 100 million viewers across its platforms this year. —C.A.

Hottest Wellness/Fitness Magazine
Women’s Health
Rodale’s female-targeted fitness brand is engaging with readers across numerous platforms, from print (audience is up 12 percent YOY) to digital to social to live events (like the Macy’s-sponsored Run 10 Feed 10 meet-ups across the country) and even their pantries (thanks to a partnership with Planters nuts). Native campaigns with advertisers like Nordstrom and Jockey are helping fuel the brand’s sixth consecutive year of growth. —E.B.

Hottest Women’s Magazine
O, The Oprah Magazine
Plenty of women’s titles offer branded events, but O, The Oprah Magazine took the concept to a new level this year with the ultimate reader experience: a seven-day Alaskan cruise featuring Oprah herself. The multiplatform deal with Holland America, which will put O-themed programming on more than 300 cruises, is just one of the mag’s brand partnerships, like a Talbots capsule collection, curated “Favorite Things” and L’Oréal-sponsored “Beauty O-Wards” shops on Amazon and even an Alexa skill. —E.B.

Hottest Newcomer
The Magnolia Journal
Meredith’s year-old Magnolia Journal, based on HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia brand, puts a fresh spin on the lifestyle trend. With its heavy paper stock and rustic-chic aesthetic, the quarterly feels like an indie mag. Its initial 400,000 print run sold out (200,000 more had to be ordered) and with its Spring 2018 issue, the magazine will raise its rate base to 1.2 million. —E.B.

Hottest Fashion Magazine
Under the watchful eye of editor in chief (and Condé Nast artistic director) Anna Wintour, the legendary fashion bible is pulling out all the stops to celebrate its 125th anniversary, launching product collaborations with the hottest labels (Hood by Air, Comme des Garçons), running four separate September covers (created by Annie Leibovitz, John Currin and others) and hosting a daylong conference in New York (speakers included designer Stella McCartney and Instagram’s Kevin Systrom). Thanks to insightful content across numerous platforms, its audience is continuing to grow, hitting nearly 12 million in August. —E.B.

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This story first appeared in the Oct. 30, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.