WSJ. Journal Editor in Chief Kristina O’Neill on Breaking Out of Vogue’s Echo Chamber

ByLouise McGinnis

Oct 9, 2022

Ten years in the past, when Kristina O’Neill took the helm of WSJ. Journal, the Wall Road Journal’s shiny style and magnificence insert, she was the journal’s third editor in its then younger life. It launched in 2008 as a part of Rupert Murdoch’s effort to remodel the Journal right into a nationwide general-interest publication — and compete immediately with The New York Occasions. She launched a brand new brand (within the Journal’s austere Escrow font), recruited boldface names to moonlight as columnists (Karl Lagerfeld, Dwyane Wade, Marina Abramovic have been rendered in trademark Journal stipple hedcuts) and set a really lofty aim for herself.

“We [aren’t] altering issues only for the sake of change,” O’Neill wrote in her very first editor’s letter to readers. “Every transformation marks a shift towards content material that may enable you to in your path to creating enviably full lives.”

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It may very well be seen as prescient assertion signaling the present FOMO motion, supercharged by social media. However now it additionally reads like a paean to the period earlier than a world pandemic, tried revolt and the obliteration of Roe v. Wade solid their grim pall. However, says O’Neill, 46, “We haven’t veered from that path. If something, we’ve grow to be extra entrenched in that mission of making content material that enriches individuals’s lives. Now now we have a couple of tales a day that guarantee a WSJ. reader’s textual content thread with mates is stuffed with wit and knowledge.”

Mentions in group texts will stay unquantifiable, however throughout O’Neill’s tenure, WSJ. Journal has executed numerous journalistic coups, together with the within story of Kim Kardashian’s form put on line submit “Kimono” debacle; the extraction of some attention-grabbing quotes from the anodyne Tom Brady after his Tremendous Bowl win with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a 2018 interview with wellness mogul Gwyneth Paltrow simply earlier than her marriage ceremony to Brad Falchuk. (The memorable cowl picture by Lachlan Bailey had Paltrow consuming an orange Popsicle. Gushes O’Neill: “I believe it’s most likely among the finest footage of her ever taken. I adore it.”)

O’Neill’s first WSJ. Magazine cover shot by Mikael Jansson.

O’Neill’s first WSJ. Journal cowl shot by Mikael Jansson.

The following chapter of O’Neill’s tenure comes because the influencer class continues its incursion into the style business, toppling displacing pre-social media period gatekeepers at shiny legacy titles. Now, O’Neill’s mandate consists of the type of new-curve type and style protection that drives clicks and fuels digital advert income.

Over the past three months, the Journal has added 16 reporters and editors for what’s now a totally staffed Fashion information desk vertical overlaying the each day machinations of the business with extra urgency than has been possible at a shiny journal that depends closely on freelance expertise.

“The fantastic thing about lengthy lead journal making is that we form of have time,” mentioned O’Neill, throughout a cellphone name final week from Paris Vogue Week. “We work far prematurely and all the things may be very superbly, thoughtfully curated. However we have been type of lacking that nimbleness. The aim was to create a desk that would react extra shortly to issues and canopy issues within the right here and now.”

Sarah Ball, Fashion information editor, cites latest tales concerning the loss of life of Queen Elizabeth II, market reporter Kelly Crow’s scoops concerning the artwork market and the buying energy of Harry Kinds’ fanbase on the morning that “Don’t Fear Darling” posted better-than-expected field workplace numbers.

The Fashion desk’s mandate, says Ball, is to “[find] the distinctive style-angle manner in [to a story] and infrequently with a extra visually lush method.”

The Wall Road Journal, which was early to the paywall mannequin, has 3.7 million subscribers, nearly all of them digital. A Journal spokesperson wouldn’t escape the whole digital viewers for the Fashion vertical, however within the three months because it was launched, the digital viewers for WSJ. Journal has quadrupled, in line with O’Neill. In the meantime, the journal this 12 months will publish eight points, up from six when O’Neill joined the Journal in 2012. Subsequent 12 months, the journal will add a ninth situation, all the higher to compete with its complement rivals, particularly the Monetary Occasions’ profitable Tips on how to Spend It journal (now known as HTSI), which this 12 months will publish a whopping 37 points.

The bodily journal has averaged 74 advert pages a difficulty, whereas its Innovator particular situation and occasion (final 12 months’s Innovator Awards recipients included Kardashian, Method 1 driver Lewis Hamilton, novelist Colson Whitehead and Lil Nas X) has introduced in a number of new non-endemic sponsors together with Samsung and Cadillac.

“Throughout her tenure, Kristina and WSJ. Journal have helped the Journal increase additional into new areas of protection and attain new audiences, widening our lens on the world and rising our relevance — at a time, it ought to be mentioned, when magazines have confronted upheaval of every kind,” mentioned Journal editor in chief Matt Murray in an e-mail.

Certainly, those that have labored along with her say O’Neill has a knack for producing income, which is arguably the highest precedence for media manufacturers amid the persevering with digital disruption. The journal has introduced in 41 new advertisers within the final 12 months, mentioned O’Neill, whereas luxurious style manufacturers are increasing their advert footprints, particularly within the U.S., the sector’s principal booming market. And O’Neill famous that the Journal’s readership of high-net price people is enviably secure at a time when subscriber churn is upending companies from legacy media to streaming providers. This might assist to metal the Journal considerably in opposition to the looming recession.

“The WSJ. Journal was launched in 2008 throughout a really actual recession,” O’Neill mentioned. “I believe the corporate has at all times felt very strongly that our viewers is recession proof. Even in occasions of financial uncertainty, we don’t see individuals canceling subscriptions to the Wall Road Journal.”

Those that work with O’Neill say she is collaborative and democratic, she will not be a micromanager who line edits each inch of copy. However she does know find out how to domesticate relationships with the appropriate individuals.

“I’ve at all times thought Kristina was some of the gifted girls in our business,” mentioned Delphine Arnault, government vice chairman at Louis Vuitton, who O’Neill featured in her very first situation of the journal.

“Within the 10 years she has spent at WSJ., she has led the journal into an period of nice relevance and modernity, with a timeless imaginative and prescient of style, artwork and society. I used to be thrilled to be in her very first situation, and it’s inspiring to see the vital drive she gave to the WSJ. Journal in a really profitable manner.”

<a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Gwyneth Paltrow" class="link ">Gwyneth Paltrow</a> was photographed by Lachlan Bailey for the December 2018-January 2019 issue of WSJ. Magazine.
Gwyneth Paltrow was photographed by Lachlan Bailey for the December 2018-January 2019 situation of WSJ. Journal.

O’Neill was raised in Woodbridge, Virginia, a far-flung suburb of Washington, D.C. She got here to New York in 1994 as an undergraduate at New York College and has been right here ever since. She broke into journalism on the New York Observer, the place throughout school, she labored as Candace Bushnell’s assistant. There have been stints at Time Out New York and New York journal and 12 years at Harper’s Bazaar, the place she rose to grow to be government editor underneath Glenda Bailey earlier than leaving for the Journal in 2012.

“I’ve at all times actually responded to style protection within the context of cultural storytelling,” says O’Neill. “And I’ve at all times felt very strongly that it was vital to mirror properly past the echo chamber of the style business, which I believe might be fairly limiting. We compete with very well-regarded fashion-focused publications. However I believe our variety of protection makes the one style model story actually stand out. The curation may be very thought by means of. And I believe that’s what units us aside. My private pursuits are to contextualize style in a wider lens of tradition protection.”

When she obtained to the Journal, she employed Magnus Berger, who was working his personal advert company on the time, because the journal’s inventive director. Her marriage dissolved and O’Neill and Berger turned a pair. (They’ve a six-year-old son; O’Neill has a 15-year-old daughter along with her ex-husband.) Colleagues invariably describe Berger as O’Neill’s perpetual plus-one. Their respective Instagram accounts are festooned with gauzy household pictures. And O’Neill betrays no awkwardness about working so carefully along with her life accomplice.

Requested in the event that they ever disagree, O’Neill mentioned in a follow-up e-mail: “Magnus and I are so in sync we hardly ever disagree. We’re at present having a debate about one of many Innovator covers, so I’ll should preserve you posted on who wins.”

Maybe owing to her Southern-ish upbringing, O’Neill is comes off as down-to-earth, an un-diva in an business chock-a-block with editor-monsters. Weekends are spent with household in Brooklyn, New York, the place she lives, or, in hotter months, on Shelter Island, the place Berger has a house. Her private type leans traditional. Her first designer buy was a Chanel 2.55 purse in black, naturally. And she or he continues to be able to being star struck; she recalled rolling underneath a storage door to see Amy Winehouse on the Fendi Paris Vogue Week present in 2008.

“It was me and Ingrid Sischy and Sandy Brant,” she laughs. “[Winehouse] was about to go on they usually have been bringing down a rolling storage door. And we needed to roll underneath the storage door, however we obtained to see Amy Winehouse.”

As for what’s on faucet for the subsequent decade, O’Neill nonetheless has some cover-gets she has but to land, although she says they haven’t modified a lot in 10 years. “For thus lengthy, I actually needed Meryl Streep after which we obtained Meryl Streep. I needed to work with Oprah, after which we obtained Oprah,” she mentioned.

She continues to be pining for Adele and Rihanna.

“And Rihanna can be a greater story as we speak than she would have been 10 years in the past,” provides O’Neill. “The aim is to have a staff that’s structured like the remainder of the newsroom, that’s made up of good, fast writers with the aim of bringing extra Fashion protection to the Journal total, which has traditionally been a enterprise and finance newspaper. Fashion was an space that, fairly frankly, was underneath lined at WSJ. And I believe we’ve seen in the previous few years that all the things now could be a method story. “

Tom Brady on the 2021 WSJ. Magazine men’s style issue, shot by Mario Sorrenti.

Tom Brady on the 2021 WSJ. Journal males’s type situation, shot by Mario Sorrenti.