Alie Martell '08,, talks analytics, trends and politics

By Eliza Weinreb

October 3, 2014

Alie Martell ’08, managing editor of, kicked off the Magazine Department Speaker Series at the Newhouse School on Sept. 30.

In a discussion moderated by department chair Melissa Chessher, Martell discussed the important changes occurring at Cosmo, both online and in the print publication, to a room full of undergraduate and graduate students.

Since Martell and editor Amy Odell joined Cosmo’s web team, the site’s traffic has nearly doubled to 30 million unique visitors, Chessher says. Editors are paying close attention to content that people want to share, looks good on a phone (70 percent of their traffic comes from mobile devices) and makes people feel different emotions, Martell says.

“That’s how we get traffic… turning content into shareable content,” she says. “Funny is really important and talking to people like they are people and not just being the way we think women’s magazines would talk to you.”

Another important factor in digital growth is the use of analytics in decision-making. Martell says if the team notices that a type of story resonates with readers it emulates that structure, but changes the content.

“We had a story blow up in Cosmopolitan Latina that was ‘12 Problems Only Women with Big Butts Understand.’ So, then we expanded it to ‘12 Problems Only Short People Understand,’ and so on. If something works, we figure out how to write more of it,” Martell says.

In addition to the site’s total revamp in aesthetic and objectives, Cosmopolitan is also experiencing a shift in substance. Martell explained its efforts to change the perception of women’s magazines as “fluffy.”

“We do write about all the fluffy stuff and we do write about fashion and beauty, but we write about it in a really real way that people can get into,” she says. “Hopefully when you come to see eyeliner, you’re also going read a story about women’s rights or feminism.”

 She pointed out the double standard for men’s magazines such as Esquire that do serious stories and have pictures of half-naked women, but get no backlash. 

“Basically every time I meet someone and tell them I work at Cosmo, they ask me for sex tips, which, is incredibly sexist,” Martell says. “I say no, you can find that on the site, but I can tell you about cool nail art and I can tell you about birth control and about issues that matter.”

Martell also talked about one of Cosmo’s new campaigns, called Cosmo Votes, which encourages and empowers young women to vote, since that demographic tends to have poor turnout numbers for the midterm elections.

Chessher says magazines are a direct reflection of their editors, noting how Cosmo has changed since Joanna Coles became editor-in-chief. Martell says Coles came to Cosmo knowing that women care about fashion, beauty and guys, but they also care about their careers, health and world issues.

“Cosmo is a really great place to talk about those things because it’s a really trusted brand,” she says. “If you trust a source for ‘X’ and ‘Y’, why wouldn’t you also trust it for ‘Z’? I think people are sitting up and really taking it seriously.”

Eliza Weinreb is a sophomore magazine and information management and technology major.