Last week, a small group of Cosmopolitan magazine readers trekked up to the Hearst Tower to powwow with editors of one of Hearst’s most successful franchises.
Cosmo, under Editor in Chief Joanna Coles has morphed from a collection of salacious sex tips interspersed with career-girl advice into a magazine that gives a sense of female empowerment (there are still sex tips, but they are somewhat more subdued, despite the “52 Holy Sh*T Sex Moves” promised on the January cover) while more blatantly catering to a younger demographic.
“Want to hang out with Cosmo editors at our NYC offices? Of course, you do! So apply to come to our next Cosmo Reader Night. It’s a fun event where a handful of readers and editors meet, talk, eat, drink, bond, brainstorm future story ideas and pretty much have an awesome time,” the website put it when soliciting applications for the third Cosmo Reader Night.
Readers applied after seeing the link on Twitter or hearing about it via word of mouth to the focus group that, consistent with the magazine’s tone, sounds like a 24/7 slumber party.
“Seeds of ideas for stories have been planted during the reader nights, and we’ve gotten lots of great confessions, quotes and anecdotes from women as well,” said Deputy Editor Marina Khidekel. “Reader night discussions tend to inform stories we’re already working on or topics we want to cover with specific anecdotes and quotes, and sometimes a phrase will pop up that we think is funny or a trend will emerge in the conversation that we want to address in the magazine.”
What’s in it for the attendees?
Apparently, they enjoy proximity to editors who are promoted like celebrities, along with a sense of insider-ness with the mega brand.
There is no monetary compensation for participants (although there are gift bags and food and drinks, hence the requirement that applicants be at least as old as cover girl Miley Cyrus).
Readers who hope that a journey to the Hearst offices will lead to a job are generally filtered out.
“We look for women who seem comfortable expressing themselves in a group, have a spark or sense of humor in their responses, aren’t out to promote a product or get a job here, are at least casual readers of the magazine and live the life of our reader,” Ms. Khidekel said.
And of course, content specifics are kept under wraps. No media organization wants to get scooped while trying to crowd-source.
“We’re pretty vague in terms of specifics like story angles. We wouldn’t want any well-meaning attendees to blog or tweet about our conversation out of excitement and reveal what we have in the hopper,” said Ms. Khidekel.