— -- When Joanna Coles, the chief content officer of Hearst Magazines, was 12 years old she created a magazine and sent an issue to Buckingham Palace for Queen Elizabeth. While it might have been a foreshadow for her future career in the publishing business, the British native didn’t consider that unusual behavior for her childhood self.
“It struck me that actually if you really want to understand what your passions are in mid-life, which is where I hope I am now, you can go back through your childhood and mine it for clues,” Coles tells ABC News' Rebecca Jarvis on an episode of ABC Radio’s “No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis.”
Coles heard back from Buckingham Palace in the form of a note telling her that the Queen enjoyed reading her magazine. That was all the encouragement her journalism career needed.
“Her [Queen Elizabeth’s] lady in waiting wrote back and said the queen very much enjoyed reading it and was looking forward to other issues. And so I was like Oh God now I've got to produce subscription-worthy issues and send them to Buckingham Palace. That was all the encouragement I needed to go into the media,” Coles remembered.
Growing up in Yorkshire, or the “Texas of Britain,” Coles remembers a childhood shaped by extreme curiosity. She believes that books spoke directly to her, and Coles tells Jarvis about the “excitement of roaring home, throwing myself on the bed and devouring a book.”
Coles’s career has spanned both sides of the pond. Beginning with The Daily Telegraph in London, she moved to New York as bureau chief of The Guardian. She joined the mega media conglomerate Hearst in 2006 as the editor-in-chief of Marie Claire, and 6 years later took on the same role at Cosmopolitan.
Coles now oversees 300 magazines worldwide at Hearst. Throughout her career she’s seen the media landscape transform itself over and over, and despite digital’s apparent dominance, Coles still believes in the power of print.
“Our digital media is very much the sprint. It uses different muscles than other races, and you’re on a different diet for it.”
“The magazine is much more about what are we going to be thinking about in three months, 6 months, a year’s time. And that’s where magazine-makers are, really, cultural soothsayers,” Coles adds.
Coles tells Jarvis that if she were to build a media company from the ground up, ink and paper would still be key.
“There would definitely be a print component because I see how much people crave the special interest of print and how ephemeral digital content is. People long to have things to hold on to,” Coles says.
For now, Coles has her energies focused on Hearst, serving on the board of Snap Inc. and now being an executive producer on “The Bold Type,” a show that recently debuted on Freeform, focusing on the power of female friendships.
“It celebrates a different kind of female boss than we have seen on television before, and one of the things that really disturbed me thinking about popular culture is how few images there are, how few story-lines there are, around working women.”
As Coles reflects on her career and countless experiences from The Daily Telegraph to "The Bold Type," she tells Jarvis how so much of it has been shaped by “these incredible female friendships that are formed when you are young -- starting out together, failing together, and succeeding together.”