Lyss Stern - Editor in Chief, Observer Playground
By Sarah Hetland
Entrepreneur and writer Lyss Stern is not letting an unstable print future deter her from entering the magazine business. As editor in chief of the recently launched Observer Playground, she brings a new urban, high-end spin to the parenting magazine niche.
“For me the most exciting part about this is that there are so many rumors going around obviously that print is dead, or that magazines and newspapers are dying,” she said. “The reality is that this mommy world, this kid’s world, is never going away.”
Observer Playground hit newsstands with its first issue September 16th and plans to publish a special holiday issue in December and its third issue next spring.The magazine will be featured in The New York Observer. According to Stern, the magazine targets Manhattan moms and moms-to-be. Each issue will feature a celebrity mom and focus on local stories and information that speaks to affluent New York parents.
As editor in chief, Stern writes the Letter from the Editor and hopes to write most of the cover stories. She also contributes a column called The Lysst, featuring her seven favorite products for moms.
Tapping into the motherhood market is nothing new for Stern. Five and half years ago, shortly after the birth of her first son, she created the company Divalysscious Moms, which is now a premier socializing network for moms in New York City. The company organizes kid-friendly events for moms and moms-to-be. For two years she wrote a weekly column called Divalyssciously Yours for the now defunct New York Sun. She also wrote a book released last April entitled If You Give a Mom a Martini, which is full of ten-minutes-to-yourself ideas for moms.
Stern has a diverse background ranging from public relations to event planning, to writing and even teaching. It was through those experiences and her desire to reach out to moms that the idea for the magazine was born. She said she felt New York City was lacking, “a really high-end, fun, quintessential New York City parenting magazine.”
So she created one. The magazine is written entirely by mothers with a staff that includes seven contributing writers. Stern likes to call them “mom-tributors.”
“To me that really adds value to this magazine because I wanted it to be stories written by moms for moms, not just interns writing stories who don’t understand the content that they are writing about,” she said.
“What’s really been great about this magazine, what’s prepared me,” she explained, “In the past five and half years I’ve gotten to know the mommy world so well and I know the best mommy writers out there and the mommy bloggers.”
She continued. “It’s really the perfect fit for me because I’ve been working with everybody… It’s really all come together nicely.”
Stern’s future goal for the magazine is to go quarterly, possibly as early as next year. Ultimately, “Who knows?” she said. It’s possible they could launch the magazine in other cities.
For now, “The goal is to build it up the best we can in Manhattan and get all the moms wanting to read it [and continue] building up our readership, and then go from there,” she said.
Stern prefers all pitching be sent to her through e-mail.
“I definitely want everybody out there to pitch me, and I want them to pitch me with creative and fun stories or ideas or products,” Stern said. “And what’s new, tell me stuff that’s right off or hasn’t even officially come out yet.”
She’s emphasizes the need for fresh ideas.
“I want to keep it really hot, really exciting. I wouldn’t feature a stroller that’s already been around for three years,” she said. “We want the exclusive; we want to be one of the first to scoop it up.”
She offers some tips to getting her attention. For example, an eye-catching subject line is important.
“When the pitches come, make them exciting, make them fun and I’ll be sure to get back to everybody,” she said. “For me less is more, please don’t send me a five-page pitch. Make the pitch short and sweet.”
She continued. “I want to know what it is, why it should be featured in the magazine, why it’s good for mom, or kid or dad or baby.”
Stern said she’s a very visual person so it helps to send one or two images along with the pitch. She also welcomes new products so she can test them and get a real feel for them. She’ll even have her family test products.
“I only write about something that I believe in,” she said.
This ties to the meaning behind Divalysscious Moms and is the same message she wants in the magazine.
“[My company] built itself on my seal of approval,” she explained. “I will not tell my moms to go out and buy something or do something that I don’t believe in personally, or that I wouldn’t use or have my kids use,” she said.