Cosmo editor Keshnee Kemp to shift focus back to ‘bold’ conversations

Bold conversations and attracting young consumers will be the main aims for Keshnee Kemp as Cosmopolitan Magazine’s newest editor.

Kemp, who joined Cosmo earlier this year to replace Claire Askew, is hoping to start real conversations with millennials, arguing the brand was “a little bit behind” on where it should be.

Kemp: Cosmo wasn’t starting and driving conversations as well as it could

Her predecessor, Askew, was in the role for just over a year. Askew replaced long-standing editor in chief, Bronwyn McCahon, who stepped down after 16 years with Bauer, and 10 years as editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan.

The former editor-in-chief of Pacific Magazine’s axed publication Famous told Mumbrella her goal is to “reinvigorate” the brand, and bring Cosmo back to starting and driving conversations, and inspiring women. 

“When Cosmo was created in the 60s with Helen Gurley Brown, the idea was that we are starting conversation and driving conversation and we were inspiring women to have conversations about things they wanted to talk about but didn’t necessarily talk about,” she told Mumbrella.

“I felt like when I joined the brand we were a little bit behind on that, that Cosmo had been quite quiet for some time and we had some initiatives but certainly not as many as we should be having.”

Kemp, who has been in the role since April, said the magazine refresh would include a new ‘How To’ beauty section and travel sections, and will include more male voices in each edition.

“I wanted to introduce a real sense of service back into the mag, making sure that we are aspirational but also attainable because we are a mass market brand and we need to be sure that we are representing that,” she said.

“The pillars will always stay the same but I wanted to refresh the content within those pillars for millennials now.

“The right conversations about sex, the right conversations about same sex sex, things millennials are talking about that perhaps other generations may not have been.”

The new design and tackling the “big conversations”

The magazine design has been reinvigorated, and will now feature brighter colours, moving away from the “dark and moody” design of Cosmo UK.

The new design launches in September’s influencer edition

As part of the reinvigoration print edition, Cosmo will aim to tackle “big conversations” including diversity, violence against women and body confidence.

Kemp explained: “For October we’ve got a diversity issue, we’ll have a transgender female who speaks about adversity and what she’s experienced just being, living. We’ve got the daughter of same sex parents, we’ve got a daughter who came over as a refugee – just a great range that represents the groups of such a diverse generation.

“In November, we have an end violence against women campaign that’s focused on millennials, so the red flags of violence, how they are received through social media.

“We know there’s a lot of blackmailing going on over images and Facebook DM’s and that’s how it’s starting for some girls who are really quite young,” she said.

Commenting on the magazine’s role in having ‘real conversations,’ Kemp said it was the magazine’s duty.

“That’s our job. That’s my job as editor of Cosmo and that’s our job as a team at Cosmo, as millennials speaking for millennials.

“The brand is supposed to be the best brand in the know – starting those conversations and being bold enough to have them, and I really felt like weren’t doing that as well as we could do that.”

“We’ve all been burnt by influencers”

While the newly revamped edition will feature influencers, including Kayla Itsines, Lauren Curtis, and Pia Muehlenbeck, Kemp emphasised the importance of using the correct influencers of the brand.

She said it was important Cosmo did not hand over its brand to anybody, pointing out a lot of magazines had been “burnt by influencers.”

“It’s not about finding an influencer with massive numbers that you can just put in as a celebrity, we know that millennials see them as a celebrity in the same way right,” she said.

Magazines often partner with influencers as well as celebrities

“We’ve all been burnt by influencers that don’t have convertible audiences and aren’t engaged and these girls are super engaged with their audiences.

“I’ve seen instances in the past where people have seen the shiny numbers and thought that would be exciting to see if they could help assist in driving sales or whatever but it’s not what we are about.

“They definitely need to represent Cosmo and our ‘girl’, it’s not just putting a face on something. It’s not authentic and we know millennials need authenticity.”

“We are not just an aspirational mag, we’re attainable as well”: New sections and re-introducing male voices

Cosmo will now have two new sections, a print version of their ‘How to’ social video segment, which aims to offer simple beauty advice.

The second section is travel, which has been launched in partnership with Contiki.

Kemp said the How To section would relate back to Cosmo’s duty of service.

The partnership with Contiki Travel is a new business win for Cosmopolitan

“We are not just an aspirational fashion mag, we’re attainable as well,” Kemp noted. 

“My team don’t pitch anything to me unless it has some element of service in it because that’s what Cosmo is – Cosmo is service for mass market.”

“We really want to make sure that rather than putting a great product on a piece of paper or a celebrity’s face on a piece of paper that we’re actually the go to in between,” she added.

Kemp said there had already been wide interest from beauty clients on the new section.

“We wanted to make it as simple and as clear and illustrated as possible. It’s not the same content being treated in different ways, it’s what’s appropriate for that platform and we do that for all of our content,” she said.

Commenting on the new travel section, Kemp said it was necessary to have, given millennials are “obsessed” with travel.

But Kemp hopes to mirror Gurley Brown’s original magazines, with the introduction of more male voices.

“We love men. We’re all about empowerment and men play a really big role in that and we want to celebrate men in that issue as we celebrate women.”

The new magazine will include dating advice from men as well as interviews with international and local celebrities.

A Q&A with this year’s Bachelor Matty J will feature in the edition

“It’s not just about females and making sure that we’re the greater sex. We celebrate men and we need to inject some more of the men into Cosmo,” she told Mumbrella.

“And that was how Helen had it in the 60s – it was very much about sex and the conversations we wanted to have, but it also celebrated men.

“It’s really important as a female magazine we are about both sexes.”


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