I’ve interviewed hundreds of some of New York’s most successful people at Michael’s for over a decade. On a weekly basis, I have marveled at the accomplishments of many a lunch date who sat across the table from me while picking at their Cobb salad. There have been authors, editors and television personality that have all left quite an impression. And then there’s multi-hyphenate David Zinczenko who is all that – and the undisputed hardest working man in media.
I first met David in this very dining room (where else?) when our mutual friend, ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong introduced us one Wednesday way back when. At the time, David was several years into his successful tenure as editor-in-chief of Men’s Health (he got to the top of the masthead at the ripe old age of 30) and was appearing regularly on the Today show as their fitness expert. He was also churning out one best-seller after another (he’s had 20!) starting with The Abs Diet – and now has over 10 million books in print. Yes, you read that right. He is also the creator of the compulsively readable Eat This, Not That series. (Much more on ETNT later.) Perhaps you’ve heard of it.
Back when Dave was at the helm of Men’s Health, he was overseeing 39 international editions. He also served the editorial director of Women’s Health and Prevention. Print had not yet felt the full effect of the digital revolution – but the handwriting was on the wall. Rodale, the publisher of Men’s Health, was a family-owned business based in Emmaus, Pennsylvania run by Maria Rodale, a woman who clearly did not fully appreciate the advantages of having a star editor who was on national television pretty much every week at a time when magazines were increasingly vulnerable to skittish advertisers with shrinking budgets. When David’s contract came up, he took his best-sellers, branding expertise, authoritative voice in health and fitness and unheard of work ethic and in 2013 started his own company, Galvanized Brands.
“I realized life was too short. I wanted to work with people I loved and respected,” said David after we ordered. (He had the Cobb salad) “Our mission is to create best-in-class life changing content in the health, fitness and wellness space for our brand partners.” With a tight-knit staff of 25, David has created a formidable media company with a growing stable of brands that include Eat This, Not That and Best Life (with more to be announced this year) that reach 25 million (and growing) across multiple platforms. There’s also a branded content studio, Galvanized Strategies. David brought Michael Freidson, executive director of editorial, who oversees content and revenue for all franchises and clients — across all platforms — to explain the whole shebang.
“My job is to translate Dave’s vision to the editorial team,” said Michael who describes the process as a “mind meld” that “mixes Dave’s DNA with strong editorial voices and content that help readers to live their best life.”
Michael is the number two at Galvanized and has the background that was ideally suited for the job. He rose from intern to editor-in-chief of Time Out, did a stint at Yahoo and later moved to London to run the entertainment coverage at Metro, an international newspaper with local editions all over the world where he just happened to balance editorial and advertising responsibilities. He told me he believed so strongly in what David was doing (“He changed the way I think about food”) that he sent “a heartfelt letter” (“And it was funny,” said David) at the end of 2013 when he heard Galvanized was “staffing up” and was back in New York on the job at the start of the new year.
It’s clear that Michael is quite the multi-tasker balancing both day to day editorial and advertising responsibilities while David continues to expand Galvanized Media’s sphere of influence. Galvanized exists as “two silos.” The first includes the company’s owned and operated brands – the biggest being Eat This, Not That and Best Life (full disclosure – I’m a contributor). Both, said Michael, are experiencing “ridiculous momentum” with visitors to ETNT site spending three and a half minutes on a story and Best Life holding their attention for four minutes per post (an eternity online). With more than 150 million page views between the two brands, January beat the previous largest month by more than 65 percent. Visitors also rack up a record number of 17 page views per session. Michael attributes this to the sites’ “strong and satisfying writing – readers trust us.”
Galvanized has partnered with Meredith on Eat This, Not That on a quarterly magazine for the past two and a half years. Michael told me just this week Meredith started “a massive subscription drive” leveraging the collective audience of all their titles. “We want to get into those mailboxes,” he said. David was quick to add this would not be possible without the support of Meredith’s Steve Lacy, Tom Harty and Doug Olson.
ETNT also has a publishing partnership with Simon & Schuster and is now handling worldwide sales and distribution for Galvanized Media’s catalog of books in health, fitness, diet and lifestyle including the 14 Day No Sugar Diet and a series that addresses heart health among other topics.
The second silo is Galvanized Strategies which has created branded content and strategies an impressive list of clients including Tiffany & Co. (Best Life’s launch sponsor) Burberry and Polo Ralph Lauren. Projects included videos for Tiffany’s engagement rings and CT 60 chronograph watch, a nightlife guide for Burberry and an exercise app with 20,000 permutations to help market Polo’s Tech Shirt.
You would think all that would keep David pretty busy but somehow, he found himself in the interesting position of revisiting where his career all began. In January, it was announced that he would be the acting editorial director of Men’s Health (which was purchased from Rodale last year) and assist Hearst in the search for a new editor for the title while Michael and the Galvanized team work on the brand. He is overseeing the April, May and June issues. “This opportunity has allowed me to work with great people like David Carey, Joanna Coles, Troy Young and Michele Promaulayko,” he told me. And, after four years as nutrition and wellness editor for ABC News, he has returned to Today as a contributor.
“Our mission is really to make people happier and healthier,” said David as we said our goodbyes. “And I couldn’t be happier personally, nor prouder, nor humbler to work with the world’s best media companies while doing it.”
Scene and Heard Around the Room
Departures’ Steven DeLuca on Table One … Eva Mohr, who went over and gave Kathie Lee Gifford a big hello when she arrived on Two … David Zinczenko, Michael Freidson and yours truly on Three … Allen & Co.’s Stan Shuman on Four … The Today show on Five: Kathie Lee Gifford, Jill Martin and a tanned fellow we didn’t recognize. About midway through the lunch, Hoda Kotb came in – still wearing her favorite USA jacket from the Olympics. Today did a segment this week which showed how happy the on-air talent who traveled to Pyeong Chang were to be reunited with their kids. I loved seeing Hoda with her 1 year old daughter, Haley Joy. Motherhood agrees with her and trust me, Hoda deserves every happiness. She’s one of the good gals… Andrew Stein on Table Six … Legendary songbird Judy Collins holding court on Eight. Producer Beverly Camhe, who was on Table Ten, motioned me over to meet Ms. Collins who was gracious and lovely.
And there’s more
On Table Eleven: Eighties television star sighting! Audrey Landers (I know I’m dating myself, but she played Afton Cooper on Dallas) with her lookalike son, actor-singer Daniel Landers. In case you were wondering, she looked great. I meant to go over to her and ask her what she thought of another former primetime soap star of her era in the news recently. As the New York Post posited this morning – What the hell happened to Heather Locklear? … Linda Wachner and Marc Rosenthal on Twelve … Simon & Schuster’s Alice Mayhew at her regular perch on Table Fourteen … Norm Pearlstine, who stopped by our table to say hello to David as he made his way into the dining room on Fifteen … BizBash’s David Adler on Sixteen … Long time no see! Randy Jones on Eighteen.
And finally …
The ‘Two Joans’: producer Joan Gelman and the grand dame of New York radio, Joan Hamburg on Twenty … Quest’s Chris Meigher on Twenty-one … PR maestro James LaForce on Twenty-two … and Chuck Pfeifer on Twenty-seven.
Faces in the crowd: Author Pamela Keogh in the dining room … Kira Semler and Vi Huse celebrating the early arrival of spring with a champagne lunch at the bar. Cheers!