Joanna Coles, who has served as Cosmopolitan’s editor-in-chief since 2012, is set to become Hearst’s answer to Anna Wintour as the company’s first “chief content officer,” the company announced on Tuesday. Michele Promaulayko, who previously served as editor-in-chief of Yahoo Health, has been announced as Coles’s replacement. Promaulayko also served as executive editor of Cosmo from 2000 to 2008, and is the author of books Look Better Naked and 20 Pounds Younger.
In an interview, Coles told the New York Times that she’d been ready to move on. She has also served as editorial director of Seventeen since 2014 (Promaulayko will take over this position as well), likely an indication to higher-ups that she was capable of managing multiple brand identities. “I love Cosmo, but I gave it everything I had,” she said. “I just didn’t have another sex position in me.”
In her 4 years at Cosmo, Coles has gotten herself a lot of press for what she’s presented as maintaining the basic DNA of the mag while presumably adding meatier coverage of politics and feminist issues like abortion and genital mutilation, all the while—somehow—managing to extend the already-powerful brand’s reach in an increasingly dark era for print magazines. Cosmopolitan.com, meanwhile, is far outpacing its competitors with 14.9 million unique visitors per month (Elle.com gets 7.7 million, Glamour.com is at 10.3, Vogue.com at 11 million).
Although Coles is an accomplished journalist and editor, having done stints at the Guardian, the Times of London, and New York Magazine before moving on to top positions at Marie Claire and Cosmo, her move to “chief content officer”—no title could better evoke the strangled integrity of a dying industry—is framed more in a business context. Whaddya know!
From the Times:
In her new role, Ms. Coles will work closely with Hearst editors and oversee the company’s magazines in the United States and internationally. She will also look to identify new business opportunities and partnerships for Hearst in areas including television and live events, with the goal of extending the company’s brands beyond just print magazines and websites.
Mr. Carey called the new role for Ms. Coles a “natural next step for our company and for Joanna.” Hearst has formed many partnerships in recent years, but lately, he said, many companies who wanted to work with Hearst reached out to Ms. Coles first.
“I’ve watched Joanna lead Cosmo,” Mr. Carey said, “and the whole time, I thought she could make an even bigger impact.”
The Times did not mention whether Mr. Carey had giant cartoon dollar signs in his eyes as he spoke.
Coles, the Times points out, refers to herself as a “brand steward,” and was instrumental in developing a lucrative partnership between Cosmopolitan and Snapchat, where she now sits on the board (Hearst reports that Cosmo’s Snapchat account draws 6 million viewers a day). She is also fairly accomplished at engaging her own audience, with a book in the works and a Project Runway judging gig, plus executive producer credits on an E! reality show about Cosmopolitan and a scripted series for Freeform inspired by the lives of editors at the magazine.
She has also been featured in an absolutely enormous number of profiles since 2012—three in the New York Times alone, a considerable amount of New York magazine coverage, and interviews published everywhere from the Washington Post to Refinery29 to Re/Code to Vibe—even Sotheby’s got in on the action.
Coles herself doesn’t appear too flustered by the challenges being faced by print media. From her February interview with Re/Code’s Kara Swisher:
It’s not for the faint-hearted, and if you’re exhausted by it and you can’t see a way out and you think it’s all dying, then you shouldn’t be in the business.
I personally find it incredibly exciting, it’s really exhilarating, it’s something new, and it is about stories. And that’s the fun of it. And having new ways to tell great stories is really exciting.
“This is a truly dynamic moment for magazine media, and the opportunities are endless,” Coles said in a statement.
Well, at least someone’s excited.