River’s Ellie Hughes, Editorial Director of Healthy Magazine, tells us about her exciting career, including what led her into the world of health magazines and why she’ll ‘never look back’.
After doing a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism at City University, I freelanced as a features writer and a sub editor, and then got a dream first staff job as a sub on the launch team of Heat magazine. It was a huge deal for Emap, and its first foray into weeklies. The editorial team included some of the biggest names in entertainment journalism. I learned a lot and worked my way up the subs bench – and in those days, when budgets weren’t so tight, we also had a bit more time for, let’s say, creative fun (like watching the first Big Brother, although to be fair we were covering it).
I also met my now husband. We tried to make each other laugh with our picture captions, which were a Heat USP. Clearly us working together wasn’t compatible with having an increasingly serious relationship… Luckily, I was approached to join the launch team for CosmoGIRL!, the new Cosmo brand extension, as chief sub. Cue two brilliant years of teen bands in the office, empowering ‘fun and fearless’ stories, and an ongoing, very teenage, argument with management about the beaded curtain in our office doorway.
Then I had my daughter, and spent several years working part-time in parenting titles. As shopping editor on Mother & Baby magazine – great experience in a commercial editorial role (big deals with likes of Pampers and Huggies were crucial) – I worked on the huge M&B Awards, and yes I also got a lot of freebies and holidays. I took another break to have my son and once I was ready to step things up again at work, I got my first editorship on Pregnancy & birth magazine, which was Mother & Baby’s ‘little sister’ title (sadly it has now gone to that great magazine graveyard in the sky).
It was a lovely magazine to cut my editor teeth on. We covered everything you’d expect from a women’s glossy – fashion, beauty, health, relationships, interiors – through the lens of pregnancy. It was just as pregnancy was starting to become a bit trendy and there were lots of new labels starting up in maternity wear, pregnancy beauty and the nursery market.
On a pregnancy title you’re on about a six-month content turnaround. So when the editor job at Top Santé, part of the same group at Bauer, came up I went for it. It was the start of my time in health magazines and I’ve never looked back. Wellness was just entering popular culture as a buzz word (Gwyneth had recently launched Goop) and we could reflect that in the magazine.
However, print circulations were getting increasingly challenging and branded content seemed like the future… I’d always rated Healthy, the Holland & Barrett magazine, so I couldn’t believe it when the editor job came up – and I got it. That was in 2013 and the account, and my role, has changed many times since. Having started as editor of the print magazine, over the years we’ve created videos, podcasts, social media ads, influencer campaigns, and different content strategies for Holland & Barrett. As editorial director, I now oversee Healthy For Men magazine, as well as a newsstand version of Healthy. So many people who work with me on the Holland & Barrett team are people I’ve worked with before along the way. It’s definitely a big learning curve moving into a content marketing agency – lots of acronyms and pitches – but it’s still essentially about understanding what people want to read or see, and when, and then having lots of fun creating it. Twenty years in, I’m still as passionate about it as I always was.