Cosmopolitan Editor Wants to Cover More Politics


On the heels of magazine editors the industry across discussing ladymags’ devotion to “serious journalism,” Cosmopolitan editor Joanna Coles has said it’s her plan to add more politics to the women’s mag, which is considered by some to be only good for sex tips like what a good idea it is to leave fruit in your mouth while you give your boyfriend a blow job.

Politico reports that Coles made her proclamation at a dinner for her in Washington D.C. Tuesday night:

“I really want Cosmo as a magazine to be more involved in political issues. We’re the biggest read magazine — literally — in the world and I think it’s very important that we stay on top of political issues that impact young women: Health care, gun violence, the wage gap, how do we close it. These are all issues that I’m personally passionate about.”

In a big move in 2012, Coles left Marie Claire to run Cosmo after long-time editor Kate White decided she wanted to pursue other interests and write more books. Many speculated that Coles would use her background as journalist at places like The Guardian and New York to change Cosmo the way she did Marie Claire during her time there. For example, when Coles was at that magazine, she made a concerted effort to beef up content aimed at working women.

It’s an interesting evolution for Cosmo, but not a wholly unsurprising one. Take a look at the menus for just the websites of these publications: while design and topic-wise they look pretty similar, each tells a lot about the kind of brands they are (and are striving) to be.

For instance, Marie Claire has a whole section devoted to “News and Features”, which includes interviews with “inspirational women” like Gabby Giffords and dispatches from around the world on international women’s issues.

A look at Glamour‘s verticals indicate a more traditional women’s mag focus. That being said, Glamour gives out Glamour Woman of the Year awards annually, which honors lots of different kinds of women – though mostly those in entertainment-related fields – who are considered successful in their industries but also doing good for the world. (But…2012’s Woman of the Year was Selena Gomez, credited for her role as the youngest U.S. Ambassador for UNICEF.) They also put out an issue every year devoted to the Glamour Top College Women Awards, a tradition they’ve upheld for over 50 years. The category “Get Inspired” is the place where they feature most of their “serious” stuff, like articles about starting your own business or sexual assault.

Right now, Cosmo‘s website demonstrates its hugely international appeal (“Cosmo for Latinas”) as well as its long-standing focus on career and money advice. For web-only content, you’ll see articles that would feel right at home on a website like the one you’re reading right now, like the piece “Meet the Men Who Want to Take Away Your Reproductive Rights.”

Last night’s dinner for Coles was reportedly attended by many female and male politicians, including Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who told Coles that she once submitted an essay to Cosmo when she was in college (it was rejected). Klobutcher also discussed the less-than-orthodox fundraising tactics she’s used since becoming a politician, like bothering ex-boyfriends for money, which Politico says prompted attendees to say, “Now that’s a Cosmo story!”

Whereas once all these magazines were considered frivolous female fare, Coles’ attempt to make the magazine more political is not only moving the content in a direction she’s interested in, but simply trying to keep up with the popular stuff she did at Marie Claire. All these publications are pursuing a readership that has increasingly more options about where to get their news/entertainment/bullshit fun stuff. That’s not say that Coles’ choice to get an even bigger piece of an already crowded market is a doomed one; as we’ve written, none of these publications are strangers to producing “serious” work – they just might not be places that people look for this kind of stuff, or places that publicize this work as part of their brand. With the success of women’s content on the web especially, Coles is simply keeping up with the times, perhaps by worrying less about the Kardashians.

Image via Neilson Barnard/Getty

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