A New Editor for People Magazine
A changing of the guard is underway at People magazine under its new ownership.
Jess Cagle is stepping down after a five-year run as editor in chief. Taking his place at the publication known for its mix of celebrity news, royal gossip and heartwarming or salacious stories about ordinary Americans will be Dan Wakeford, a 44-year-old from Britain who has been deputy editor since 2015.
Meredith Corporation, which acquired People’s former parent company, Time Inc., more than a year ago, announced the promotion of Mr. Wakeford on Thursday, a day after Mr. Cagle informed his staff about his departure.
“I’ve decided it’s time to do some other things while I’m still young — or at least alive,” Mr. Cagle, 53, wrote in a staff memo on Wednesday. “It’s also time for me to live in Los Angeles full time under the same roof as my husband and dog.”
In addition to his role at People, which is based in New York, Mr. Cagle has served as the editorial director of Meredith’s entertainment group, a job that gave him oversight of Entertainment Weekly and People en Espanol. He will leave that post, too, when his contract is up on March 31.
Mr. Cagle started his career at People in 1987 as a reporter, then left to help with the launch of Entertainment Weekly in 1990. After a second go-round at People and a stint at Time magazine, he became the top editor at Entertainment Weekly in 2009. In 2014, he succeeded Larry Hackett as the People editor in chief.
Under Mr. Cagle’s leadership, People reached an audience of over 100 million across all platforms. As of December, digital and print readership stood at 35 million, an 8.5 percent drop from the previous year, according to Magazine Media 360’s brand audience report.
“Jess is the most accomplished entertainment journalist of his generation,” Mr. Wakeford said. “It’s been an honor to work with him. I’m excited to take the mantle from him.”
Mr. Wakeford, who will take over April 1, got his start in London in the late 1990s, when he worked in TV production and covered celebrity news for UK News, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. In 2000, he revamped a British magazine, Heat, increasing its circulation to nearly 600,000 from 40,000.
In 2002, Mr. Wakeford moved to the United States to become the news director of In Touch Weekly, a celebrity gossip magazine started that year by Bauer Publishing and sold last year to American Media Inc., the company behind The National Enquirer. He became the editor in chief of In Touch Weekly in 2012.
“It was an amazing training ground,” Mr. Wakeford said.
At People, he oversaw 11 online offshoots, including Crime and Style, and expanded the magazine’s human interest storytelling and coverage of the British royal family.
“We are so trusted with our readers,” Mr. Wakeford said. “And our subjects trust us. Whether we are approaching an A-lister for an interview or a crime victim, they open their doors to us."
Bruce Gersh, the president of People, Entertainment Weekly and People en Espanol, said in a statement, “Dan has an impeccable track record for shaping the editorial direction and content strategy for some of the largest brands, and that makes him the ideal choice to lead Meredith’s most profitable brand.”
In recent years, Mr. Wakeford spearheaded the publication’s forays into other media, developing “People Magazine Investigates,” a crime series on the Investigation Discovery channel, among other projects.
“I’m really focused on taking our brand off the printed page and into other places,” he said.
After acquiring Time Inc. last year, Meredith announced that it was looking to sell Time, Fortune and Sports Illustrated. After a six-month search, it sold Time to the software titan Marc Benioff for $190 million. The Thai businessman Chatchaval Jiaravanon later bought Fortune for $150 million. Sports Illustrated is still on the market.
The prospect of owning People, as well as its siblings Entertainment Weekly and InStyle, was one of the reasons behind Meredith’s decision to acquire Time Inc. It fits in snugly with the Iowa-based publisher’s other magazines, which include Better Homes and Gardens and Family Circle.
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