Editor in Chief, PureWow
Every now and then, we discover a site that cuts through the unnecessary, uninspiring and often-useless content on the web. Our latest obsession? One packed with use-full inspiration? PureWow. Led by Editor in Chief, Mary Kate McGrath, and boasting over 2.5 million subscribers, the site is a one-stop-shop for all things food, tech, fashion, trends and more—covering the entire spectrum of women’s lifestyle.
Having always been a voracious consumer of magazines and media, Mary Kate, 34, had a strong passion to lean on in order to land her previous positions at Food Network Magazine, Real Simple and InStyle. Although she definitely boasts an impressive resume, the road to PureWow was not without twists. After graduating with a Bachelor’s in Politics, Mary Kate landed an internship on the Hill in D.C. However, the new grad quickly realized that the culture wasn’t for her—not nearly as “West Wing” as she had imagined. Mary Kate then looked to her brothers for inspiration, a decision that led to her first editing job at Travel and Leisure Golf, where she worked tirelessly. Ultimately, that hard work led to her current position as PureWow’s EIC.
For Mary Kate, working at PureWow means impacting a woman’s everyday. She acts as a Jill of all trades, delivering unique content and trustworthy recommendations to women, both locally and nationally. Below, Mary Kate expands on life as a creative and her visions for her role in the ever-evolving digital world.
Copy: Molly Taylor
Photos: Katie Osgood
her starting point
Many people find the transition between college and “real life” a bit daunting. Can you tell us about your journey between the two? What was your first job post-college?
I was a Politics major in college. I think I watched too much West Wing because I had a very romantic notion of what Washington, D.C. would be like. I spent a semester interning on the Hill for a Congresswoman and, thankfully, it was a terrible experience. Not the Congresswoman—I adored her—but the culture of Washington D.C. just wasn’t for me. Looking back, I realize that it’s just as important to know what you don’t want to do as what you do.
After my D.C. debacle, I looked close to home for advice on my next step. I have four older brothers, all of whom have been incredible forces of support in my life. I closely examined what each was doing: One was in international shipping…yeah, I was going to pass on fighting pirates. One was in banking…which I considered for a hot second, but couldn’t imagine a life in pantsuits. One was working for a junior golf association…My golf handicap should not go on record. And one was working for a newspaper. That got me thinking.
This may sound silly, but I didn’t even think a career in magazines was possible. I was always a voracious consumer of magazines and media, I just had never considered the people behind the product.
My first job was with Travel + Leisure Golf magazine. I edited the whisky and watch columns. I didn’t start in women’s lifestyle, but I worked my tail off at T+L Golf so that when a job opened at InStyle, I had built up a strong foundation that eventually got me the position.
The Editor in Chief role is a very dynamic career. What sparked your interest in this field? When did you feel like this was the right path for you?
I’ve always put myself in the ring for management positions. Managing comes naturally to me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a ton of work and it’s exhausting, but I really find joy in trying to advance other people’s careers.
How did you come to work at PureWow? What attracted you to the website? What made you feel that you were ready to move on from print?
I’m attracted by strong brands that are doing cool things. It’s why I went to Food Network Magazine in its infancy. It’s why I loved every minute at Real Simple and InStyle. PureWow cuts through the noise on the web that greets women my age— portals without original content, lists upon lists—and gives them under-the-radar discoveries that impact their everyday. Where else can you read about naked yoga, the Greek yogurt outfit that lets you make your own flavors or the purse that charges your phone? It wasn’t like I was choosing digital over print—I was choosing PureWow.
What do you love most about working at PureWow? What is the company culture like?
The people. We only hire smart people. Smart, funny people. It makes for a great office.
her big break
As you mentioned earlier, you have previously worked for other big name publications, like Real Simple and InStyle. Has working at different magazines helped to define and hone your editorial style?
Sure. While those publications have very different core tenets, they both put the consumer first. For every story or big beautiful destination we produce at PureWow, I always ask myself, “Will the reader clearly get the message? Is this not only useful, but beautiful to boot?”
If we had a chance to peek at your schedule, what would an average day look like?
Oh, I wouldn’t if I were you. It’s something like this: breakfast with a public relations or industry friend, a morning editorial meeting to discuss metrics or new story ideas, an hour or so of editing, lunch in the office or (if I’m lucky) out with a new media friend, a brainstorming roundtable with our marketing or sales teams, a meeting or two with our CEO, then home. Glass of wine. Repeat.
When you work on creating content, do you typically have ideas in mind in advance or do you create a schedule on the fly? How do you keep it all straight? What’s your process?
It’s not so hard to create content when you’re in the demographic. My team and I literally sit around and chat about what we want to read. Then we go out and put that together.
What skills would you recommend that other women develop in order to help them advance careers in editorial management? Do you think having a specific niche is important (ex. home design, food, etc.)?
I specialized in home design for a long time and, while I loved it (you should check out my linen closets), I recognized a few years ago that if I were to grow in media as a content creator, that I would have to be a Jill of all trades.
Lucky for me, I’m interested in a vast array of topics, so it’s never a bore to bone up on fashion, tech, business or food. Especially food.
Translating passion into a career is tough. What advice would you give to women trying to figure this out?
Find other passionate people in your market. They’ll be your best mentors.
How do you stay creative and where do you look for inspiration? Do you find it hard to keep up with the pace of the Internet?
The digital world is fast and exhausting—but it never ceases to amaze me. Sure, I take a good vacation once a year where I really unplug, but I’m really inspired by the way the best players on the web are dedicated to producing a better and better story.
And finally, what do you wake up looking forward to? What’s next for your career?
I love how our readers love PureWow. It’s simply the best. The notes they send me, well, they’re beyond.
Someone just Tweeted that they love PureWow in a “boombox-above-my-head kind of way.” Being compared to Say Anything? Yeah, that gets me up in the morning.
Published May 22, 2014