Most Intriguing People of 2016, Explained

This list is comprised of some of the year’s most innovative, successful and sometimes controversial figures in our industry. Everyone on the list got not only our attention but also the attention of their colleagues, peers and the press. We will honor these 30 individuals at an awards ceremony on Thursday, December 8 at the Yale Club in Midtown Manhattan! Find out more.


Amy AstleyAmy Astley

The design world was caught by surprise in May when Amy Astley was named editor-in-chief of AD after helming Teen Vogue since its launch in January 2003. She’s already shaking things up by adding a little fun and irreverence to the title, like including the Instagram handle for designer Marc Jacobs’ dogs on a recent cover.


Christene BarberichChristine Barberich

Refinery29, a lifestyle site which reaches a staggering 225 million women worldwide every month, has had a huge year not only in terms of building traffic and branding, but in securing more than $50 million in seed funding, equaling brands like Vox and Buzzfeed. Barbarich is a major force in the company’s success.


David CareyDavid Carey

Carey made strategic, but effective, cuts in spending this year. He’s also made it clear that he believes in the power of print by overseeing Hearst’s most aggressive consumer marketing campaign in recent history, “We Are Fashion.”



Joanna ColesJoanna Coles

The former Cosmopolitan EIC was named Hearst’s first Chief Content Officer in September, giving her a hand in new magazine development and efforts to extend Hearst brands into television, live events, and other new businesses. And to boot, she landed a board seat on Snapchat—the most buzzed about social media channel—this year.


Michelle EbanksMichelle Ebanks

As president of both Essence Communications Inc. and People en Español, Ebanks presided over two blockbuster events: the Essence Festival, which attracted more than 540,000 attendees to New Orleans during July Fourth weekend, and “2016 ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Awards,” which aired for the second consecutive year on The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). In the year of #oscarssowhite, Ebanks made it a point to spotlight African-American women who are breaking through barriers in both film and television, and to lead the discussion in and outside of Hollywood.

Marc Ecko

Marc Ecko

In a press interview that took place in April, shortly after Ecko sold a majority stake of Complex to Hearst and Verizon this year, he called his company “a 14-year-old overnight success.” He’s still involved with the brand he built (a concept that was initially a marketing arm for his fashion line). Despite the sale, Ecko remains the “face” of Complex, and he was also allegedly the brains behind the brand’s first annual culture festival, ComplexCon, this year.

Jay FieldenJay Fielden

Fielden was appointed EIC of the men’s title in January, replacing longtime editor David Granger. His contributions have included some strategic new hires as well as new writers, from Terry McDonell and Jay McInerney to Katie Roiphe and Lisa DePaulo.  He’s also amped up the book’s fashion coverage, but his ultimate goal— “to go beyond the men’s category and appeal to an audience curious about the world at large”—is far more ambitious.

Michael FinneganMichael Finnegan

Finnegan was named president of Atlantic Media in March—just six months after he was promoted from CFO to COO. Finnegan’s new assignment comes at a time of notable growth for Atlantic Media. For each of the past two years, revenues across all brands grew 20% and the company is on track to achieve similar growth this year. All eyes are on Finnegan to see where he takes the company next.

Scott FlandersScott Flanders

Flanders led the sales charge this year as the brand was reimagined to focus less on nude women and more on heady journalism. Ad pages in the March issue increased 55.5% year-over-year, to just under 42, according to numbers submitted to MPA-The Association of Magazine Media. Perhaps the most symbolic ad buy came from Dodge, which became the first Detroit auto manufacturer to advertise in the magazine in nearly 25 years.

Laura F-SchmidtLaura Frerer-Schmidt

Women’s Health continues to grow year-over-year across the board with a mix of new and traditional strategies. While most books are shrinking, WH continues to break its own sales records. As a testament to her success,  Frerer-Schmidt was recently promoted to oversee all of the company’s ad sales teams.


Richard GingrasRichard Gingras

Gingras was a key instigator in creating the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project, an open-source effort to improve web speed and user experience. Amp has been a welcomed revelation for publishers this year. Not only is it increasing mobile page views, but it’s offering readers a faster, cleaner news gathering experience. (Plus, it’s a better mobile solution than Instant Articles for publishers that don’t have massive scale.)

Isaac LeeIsaac Lee

In July, Lee, who was instrumental in two key acquisitions this year—that of Gawker and the Onion the Onion—was named to his newly created post. He’ll continue to oversee content across all platforms, as well as the company’s music efforts. There’s no doubt Lee is helping to expand the reach of UCI’s portfolio of media brands, which currently includes 81 million monthly unduplicated media consumers.

Bob LoveBob Love

As Washingtonian noted in a June 2016 feature, “since it hired Love, AARP has had the feel of a Rolling Stone that decided to age naturally.” When AARP The Magazine brought longtime Rolling Stone editor Bob Love on board in 2013, the brand expected great things, but didn’t know just how much the publication would gain in a short time. Under Love’ s leadership, the magazine has added 1,085,000 print readers over the past year, for a total readership of 36,500,000.

Nathan LumpNathan Lump


Lump leads the Time Inc. Lifestyle Group at Time Inc. as editorial director. Not only that, he serves as the editor-in-chief at Travel + Leisure, the category leader for travel magazines.


Raj ModyRajiv Mody

Since 2014, Mody has overseen all social media across National Geographic Partners, which has a combined fan base of over 250 million across all its platforms.This year, National Geographic has consistently ranked No. 1 for total fans and engagement in magazine media across major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and, most notably, Instagram. On the photo-sharing app, NatGeo is the most followed media brand in the world. “We really see the Internet as a place to spark curiosity and captivate people with incredible stories,” says Mody. “Visual storytelling is core to who we are at National Geographic and we believe that the future of storytelling is limitless.”

Pulitzer Prize WinnersEmily Nussbaum & Kathryn Schulz

Both Nussbaum and Schultz won Pulitzers this year—Schultz won for Feature Writing for “The Really Big One,” her piece on the troubling geology of the Pacific Northwest. They were the first magazine writers to take home Pulitzers since the honor was extended into magazine media.



Amy OdellAmy Odell

Under Odell’s leadership, Cosmopolitan.com’s traffic jumped from 12 million to more than 23 million monthly unique visitors while staying true to the site’s audience of 21st-century “Cosmo Girl.”



Alison Overholt

Alison Overholt

In February, Overholt was named the first woman editor-in-chief to ESPN The Magazine or any other sports magazine. She is also the EIC of espnW.




Connie Anne PhillipsConnie Anne Phillips

Phillips has been successful in prioritizing sales growth within the Condé Nast Aurora group which includes the Glamour and Self brands. The combined selling approach as enabled the brands to offer partners more scale and more audience demos.



Gavin PurcellGavin Purcell

Purcell just left The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon where he oversaw the program’s video distribution online. He joined Vox Media to bring his knowledge of video to the digital-native publisher.



Maria RodaleMaria Rodale

Rodale, organic activist and CEO of Rodale Inc., is releasing her first cookbook “Scratch,” about simple, fun food out this fall. She also took a bold step earlier this year when she announced Prevention would go ad-free. What’s more, she reorganized the company so that each brand has its own dedicated leader that that oversees all revenue and operations, thus eliminating staffing redundancies.

David RothkopfDavid Rothkopf

Foreign Policy has never endorsed a candidate in its 45-year history—until this year. Rothkopf is representative of the many editors from both magazines and newspapers across the U.S. who broke with tradition this year.



Jill SeeligJill Seelig


Under Seelig’s watch, Dr. Oz has doubled its rate base and has become the 8th bestseller on newsstands in just 2 years.



Nate SilverNate Silver

Silver has become an authority on data journalism, and this being an election year, he is top of mind for pretty much every politico. Fivethirtyeight has become a role model for several media companies who have created their own election forecasting tools.



Shane SmithShane Smith

Smith has been described as an international multimedia colossus with a cable TV Network, a nightly HBO news program, books and records, a creative agency, and more. And it all started with a free magazine.




Martha StewartMartha Stewart

The 75-year-old homemaker extraordinaire is quietly taking over Facebook Live. Stewart, who has almost 2 million Facebook followers, often gets over 150,000 views on her Live videos, which is a lot for videos that range in length from 20 minutes to over an hour. In November, she began co-hosting Martha & Snoop’s Dinner Party, an unscripted weekly series with Snoop Dog on VH1. The show is currently playing, and they’ve renewed for a second season.


Eric ThorkilsenEric Thorkilsen

Thorkilsen put his own money up along with PE funding to buy This Old House from Time Inc. He was once a household name in magazine publishing. He helped launch People and Martha Stewart Living, and turned TOH from a PBS series into a full-on franchise which included a magazine and branded products and books.


Pam WassersteinPamela Wasserstein

Wasserstein was named CEO of New York Media, parent company of New York magazine, the Cut, Grub Street, and Vulture, among others, in early May. The Wasserstein family trust has owned the brand since her father, the late Bruce Wasserstein, purchased it in 2004 for $55 million. While the magazine faced hard times in 2009 after Wasserstein’s death, his kids kept it afloat, and editor Adam Moss is the one who suggested Wasserstein head the publication as it grows its digital business and experiments with live events and TV programming.

CARLY & DANIELLEDanielle Weisberg & Carly Zaken

According to Forbes.com, more than a million people (20% of whom are men) receive the daily news briefing in their in-box every morning. This year they raised another $6.25 million and partnered with Oprah.com in hopes of fulfilling their ultimate goal: to become a lifestyle brand.



time incRich Battista, Jen Wong & Alan Murray

2016 was a year of transformation at Time Inc. And Battista, Wong and Murray are a reflection of that change. The three top execs were all promoted to their roles in the second half of this year and are charged with rejuvenating the largest magazine publishing company in the U.S.



Questions? Contact Zoe Silverman at zsilverman@accessintel.com or 301-354-1662.

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