Chief Content Officer, Hearst Magazines
By Rachel Bowie
Kate Lewis first came to Hearst as vice president of content operations and editorial director for Hearst Magazines Digital Media in 2014. Now, five years later, she is chief content officer of Hearst Magazines, tasked with marrying print and digital and — in her own words — “producing the best version of these storied brands on whatever platform we’re publishing on.” (Ahem, no small job in a media landscape that changes at lightning speed.) But with 25 years of experience under her belt working in a range of positions at powerhouse publishers including Condé Nast, Lewis has something other people don’t: institutional knowledge of an industry she’s witnessed the evolution of first-hand for decades and a desire to thoughtfully guarantee its footing in the future.
‘One of the things that drew me to editorial and keeps me there is that we’re a team. No story gets published, no video gets made, no event gets photographed without the input of many. I love that so much.’
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
One of the things that drew me to editorial and keeps me there is that we’re a team. No story gets published, no video gets made, no event gets photographed without the input of many. I love that so much and I also love the people I work with, the ideas they have and the way it all comes together.
You’ve worked in print for decades. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE ITS EVOLUTION?
Print has had to evolve from when it had a chokehold on the audience, because it was the only game in town, to today when it has to fight for a place in the media diet of consumers. In both scenarios, print has to be vigilantly ambitious. When you have all the attention, people will really notice if you’re not great. And when you’re vying for attention, people will only notice if you are great. To some extent, what “great” is in print has changed — there’s not as much need for lightweight content. We are surrounded by that on the web. But the idea that print still helps you navigate the next, the unknown, what’s coming up, still holds very true.
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP AND HOW DID THAT SHAPE YOUR CAREER PATH?
I grew up in New York and my mother was an ad lady, so I grew up on TV commercial sets and with groups of creative people. I subscribed to every magazine I heard of, especially the women’s market brands. This was destined from an early age.
SINCE YOU STEPPED INTO YOUR NEW ROLE AT HEARST, WHAT’S THE ACCOMPLISHMENT YOU’RE MOST PROUD OF?
There are two things. First, we lived in a split world — print and digital divided. I am proud of having brought those teams together, into conversation and co-creation, now operating as one single team with no difference. Second, I am proud of the way I’ve socialized the data we have at our fingertips and encouraged everyone to access it and use it as part of their creative thinking.
WHAT’S YOUR MOST RECENT “PINCH ME, I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS MY JOB” MOMENT?
There have been a number of times when someone who I thought was a really big deal treated me like a peer and I realized, oh right — they think I am like them now! I suppose this is related to that oft-worn affliction of imposter syndrome. I am still settling in to this skin.
There have been obvious moments, introducing Oprah and Michelle Obama onstage in September, and lesser so, like just this week eating lunch on the Universal lot with the head of E! television. Right next to the Lew Wasserman booth.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE TO DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT WORKING?
I am weirdly domestic. I love to bake and organize. A lot. The first habit my family relishes, the second one they detest. And I live to travel. We’ll have gone to Africa twice this year! We went to Morocco for the new year and are heading to Kenya in August. My eldest child is only three years away from going to college, and so I feel some pressure to squeeze in as many adventures as I can while she can’t say no.
WHAT WOMAN IN COMMUNICATIONS DO YOU MOST ADMIRE?
I could never ever pick just one. There are so many women I have looked up to at points in my career and so many women who have helped guide me at other points. And there are so many women who work for me who inspire me and motivate me, too. I have been blessed, especially on the editorial side, to have so many women around me – leading brands, writing stories, taking pictures, editing racks of clothes, directing videos.
WHO WAS THE FIRST PERSON YOU TOLD ABOUT YOUR MATRIX AWARD?
My husband! He is a media veteran himself and my biggest cheerleader, so he was delighted with the win — and to get the free lunch. My kids are just as excited about it. Maybe because they get to skip school, but I think also because they recognize how much I give to my work and they’re happy it’s being acknowledged.
Rachel Bowie is Senior Editor of Special Projects for PureWow.com.
Kate Lewis’s 2019 Matrix Award will be presented by Jessica Pels.
Kate Lewis is Chief Content Officer of Hearst Magazines, one of the world’s largest publishers of monthly magazines, with 25 U.S. titles and close to 300 international editions. In this role, she directs content strategy for Hearst Magazines brands across print and digital, overseeing all editors-in-chief and digital directors.
Lewis joined Hearst Magazines Digital Media in 2014, as vice president, content operations and editorial director. She was promoted to senior vice president in 2016. Under her leadership, monthly unique visitors across the Hearst Magazines Digital portfolio more than tripled. She also oversaw content and strategy for the portfolio’s social media, which grew to an audience of 220 million, and was responsible for both editorial video and branded content.
Previously, Lewis was senior vice president and editorial director at Say Media, overseeing content operations, editorial strategy and development for Say’s portfolio of digital brands including xoJane, Remodelista and ReadWrite. Lewis also managed a network of partner sites as well as the shared services department that provided support and strategy for audience development, social media and partnerships.
Prior to Say Media, Lewis was a senior executive director of human resources at Conde Nast Publications. Before that, she was managing editor at Self for ten years, overseeing editorial and production, digital projects, book publishing, events and television partnerships.
Lewis was named to Advertising Age’s “Women to Watch” list in in 2018. In 2017, she was inducted to MIN’s Digital Hall of Fame; and in 2016, she was named to FOLIO’s Top Women in Media list.