I’ve spent a lot of time interviewing people at the top of the food chain lately — CMOs, CCOs, CHROS. But I leave the C suite this week to chat with someone who in 10 years very well could be moving in and teaching us all a thing or two. Austen Tosone cut her teeth in print mags where she claims she got the absolute best training (hard to disagree with her there) and used it to build her own beauty and fashion blog Keep Calm and Chiffon and popular YouTube and Instagram channels. That in turn helped her land her job at Jumprope, the new app that helps content creators like her build super sophisticated how-to videos for their followers. We talk about the good ole days of print (the two mags she worked for folded), bonded over CosmoGirl!, and how things have changed for whippersnappers breaking into media. Here’s an edited version of our conversation:
Talent Fairy: Hi Austen! It’s so nice to meet you.
Austen Tosone: Oh my gosh. I’m excited to meet you! First I have to say, thank you for starting Ed2010. I spent a lot of time on Ed2010 when I was looking for my magazine jobs. You have built an amazing thing. My mom was a magazine editor, too, actually she worked at Health and Redbook among others and worked with Kate White.
TF: I worked for Kate at Cosmo and then later worked at CosmoGirl.
TF: With her making the heart!
AT: Yes! That’s the one!
TF: So did you want to follow in your mom’s footsteps?
AT: Actually I resisted it for so long. I loved writing, but I never understood what an editor really was. Was it correcting grammar? Was it copyediting? I didn’t really get it. When I was a teenager I originally wanted to be in theater. I was a theater major for a year and then I realized I was spending more time on my fashion and beauty blog than on my theater classes. So I transferred to Barnard here in the city and I started interning at magazines.
TF: Is that the same blog you run now?
AT: Yes, Keep Calm and Chiffon.
TF: Such a great name. You came up with that when you were 20?
AT: 18 actually! Yes, I realized to work at a magazine and often they wanted writing samples. How was I supposed to get writing samples if no one was publishing my work? I figured if I start a blog that might help me get into magazines. I also directed a fashion show at Barnard where I got to work with New York designers. It was like being a fashion editor: I had to tell them how their clothes were being used and then return them without ruining any dresses! Then I interviewed for a fashion closet internship at Marie Claire and got the job.
TF: And from there you went to Nylon?
AT: Yeah, a friend of mine told me that they were looking for spring interns. I went in and met with the Features Director there. She offered it to me on the spot. Then a beauty and style internship at Cosmo.com and another internship at New York magazine. I was transcribing for Vulture but was fascinated with The Cut and wanted to write for them. I got one byline! Then when I graduated I got hired as an editorial assistant at Nylon. Even though I was on staff at the print magazine, I was also doing Facebook Live interviews, taking over the Instagram feed. I got to attend the preview for the Met Gala! Then I got promoted to assistant editor and started having ownership over the fashion news section. It is so hard to earn a space at these publications, and I felt like I was finding my stride there. We were really progressing a lot…
TF: And then it folded, right? So awful. Where were you when you heard?
AT: It was in the middle of fashion week. I had just returned from a show and had missed the email but another editor told me that there was a mandatory staff meeting and we met by departments, so print was separate from digital. As soon as our chairman started talking, I knew it was over. That day we packed up everything and that was it. It was so abrupt.
TF: How much later did you get a job at Interview?
AT: A colleague at Nylon knew the editor at Interview and they happened to be hiring an assistant editor. So I was only between jobs for like a month. I learned a lot from working there. It made me more aware of celeb culture and how much work went into creating good interviews. We spent hours crafting talking points, reading previous interviews, and doing photo research. I learned so much. I have a lot of respect for people who were facilitating those interviews for all of those years.
TF: And then Interview folded, right?
AT: Yeah, eight months later. That was a rough 12 months for me. But I learned so much.
TF: It’s got to be hard not having any grounding so early in your career. When I was starting out in magazines the career path was pretty straight. You worked as an editorial assistant and then as an assistant editor, then associate, then features, etc. You could see where you were going! Now it’s really hard to see the path.
AT: I think about that all the time. It’s interesting in a lot of ways how things have changed. How social media influencers are doing what magazines used to do. Now you really have to carve your own path. There is something to be said for having an entry level job somewhere though. You get to figure out what your interests are and what parts of the job you like. What’s interesting now is there are so many different directions that you can go in. I read this story in Fashionista not that long ago about how beauty editors are moving to the brand side. There is a reason why: Stability and money. Being a more junior staff member when Nylon folded, I was thinking I could go a lot of different ways. But there are so many editors who had been there five to 10 years, and either they had to go to a new magazine or they had learn new skills. I had to think what if print magazines are going to be obsolete? How can I translate it to other jobs and careers? I was super open to a lot of things. My blog helped, having that experience copywriting, linking products, and doing affiliate links. That gave me a big advantage.
TF: What advice do you give whippersnappers coming up behind you?
AT: I wish there was something else that they could look to, look up to in addition to the influencers or bloggers. It’s different to hear from an editor’s viewpoint than an individual’s view point. The first example I can think of is Nina Garcia in Marie Claire and now at Elle; she has this background and experience as an editor at a brand. More than just some girl who posts videos to YouTube.
TF: Of course you are a girl who posts videos to YouTube! [Check out Austen’s channel here.]
AT: I am, but I also have the editor background. You can tell someone who has worked in print vs. digital. How they set up where their sources come from and how they conduct their research. There are so many moving parts for print. You had to get it right and you had to get it right by the deadline. That is what shaped me to be the writer and editor that I am today. When I was an editor being a blogger was a side thing. Then when I was full-time freelancer it was a 50/50 split between being a blogger and a writer. I was trying to merge the two. It was weird: I’d go to events and I didn’t know if they were inviting me inviting me as a writer for another brand, or if I was there representing myself!
TF: How did you learn about the job at Jumprope?
AT: A friend from college reached out to me on Twitter out of the blue and asked to talk to me about beauty. I didn’t know if she wanted a moisturizer recommendation or what! She works for an early stage venture capital firm and she knows the founder of Jumprope. She sent a YouTube video of mine to him. And then she sent me the job description for the Beauty Content Director job: I was like I can do that and that and that. And it actually said that one of the preferred qualifications was that you have a beauty YouTube channel or blog! It was the first job in a long time that I was super excited about.
TF: Can you explain what Jumprope is exactly?
AT: Yes; it’s an app. It’s the best place to create and discover how to videos, tutorials, and step by step content. It’s primarily an editing tool now but we want to build it out more as a platform. It’s kind of like how Instagram was all about the filters in the beginning and then it grew into a social platform with shares and likes. Its like that here. For the moment, we’re focusing on making the best tool possible for creating how-to videos: Fitness, crafts/home, food, and beauty are the biggest categories.
TF: And what are you doing for them? What does it mean to be the beauty content director there?
AT: There are three things: First, I am a community liaison. So I work with our beauty creators and help them with their in-app experience and questions about the app. I also work with writers and editors in the beauty and tech space, giving them story ideas surrounding beauty trends or things that are happening in those spaces. And third, I’m working with beauty brands to use Jumprope in their own social channels, and showing how within the app you can link to products and use affiliate links. It’s really cool.
TF: Where are your offices?
AT: We have an office in Tribeca. I’m full-time in our office, but it’s not actually that different than how I would structure my days when I was full-time freelance! Today I started out in a coffee meeting. Then I had two hour phone calls with creators. Then tonight I’m going to a skincare launch event.
TF: So far what have you found that is different about working for a tech company vs. a publishing company?
AT: I was interested because it wasn’t a traditional media job. I was looking for a job I could learn and grow from. Moving to a tech company and a startup, I have a chance to help shape what this app is going to be. Every Friday we do “demos” and learn what everyone is working on, and I get to hear from the engineers. They’ll be like, Here’s a hundred lines of code. I found this comma that caused the bug. It’s a huge opportunity to learn the other side of things. I mean I know how to edit a video on YouTube. But to understand the functionality and how an app gets built, to see how many lines of code it takes to have one line of text show up, it’s just so interesting.
TF: Sounds cool. Is Jumprope still hiring? I bet there will be a lot of folks in my community who will be psyched to join you!
AT: We are hiring my role for home, craft, and fitness. People with an editorial background should look into it. You get to help content creators create great content. And editors make the best hires!
TF: Yes, I’ve heard that somewhere. Ha! So as I leave you, what parting advice do you have for whippersnappers coming up behind you?
AT: Learn as many different skills as you can. Learn how to write well. Be active but also think about sharing your work on social media. The best tip I would say is diversify your skill set so you can diversify your income. On my blog, I talked openly about how I made my money. I wasn’t just living the Carrie Bradshaw lifestyle writing one column. I was doing a ton of other work. It’s important to make sure making sure that you have different income sources especially as a freelance writer. It’s great to write for one publication but you need to have other projects too. You never know when the magazine is going to fold or if they are going to pay you on time. You always need to be looking for the next thing.
TF: So true! It was great getting to know you Austen. Thanks for your time today.
AT: Thank you!
Chandra Turner is founder and CEO of Ed2010 and Talent Fairy. She is a talent recruiter specializing in the content and media space. She also offers personalized career coaching for media professionals at all stages of their career.
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