Ad Age's Magazine A-List: David Granger is Editor of the Year

Keeping a Home for 'Big Acts of Storytelling and Imagination'

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David Granger at Hearst Tower
David Granger at Hearst Tower Credit: Robyn Twomey for Ad Age

In conversation, David Granger sounds a lot like Esquire, the magazine he's edited since 1997. Or maybe it's that Esquire sounds a lot like Mr. Granger: authoritative, jocular, plain-spoken, inspiring and optimistic, with a healthy dose of realism.

During his tenure atop Esquire, David Granger has been early to shed certain orthodoxies -- like the idea that print should inspire its digital extensions, never the other way round. But he has maintained other traditions, like long-form journalism and fiction.

"People want big acts of storytelling and imagination," he said. "That has made me feel most gratified: the backbone of magazine making has endured."

Mr. Granger's commitment to that backbone is part of an impressive confluence of factors for Esquire this year that include the magazine's usual experimentation with digital and the very unusual debut of Esquire Network on TV in September. Altogether, you can call them big acts of publishing.

The approach has paid off lately. Print ad pages are up 18% through October, according to the Media Industry Newsletter, fueled partly but far from entirely by its October anniversary issue. The American Society of Magazine Editors nominated Esquire for four National Magazine Awards. The brand introduced a weekly iPad edition and tested a pay wall that charges readers for access to one story. It's also occasionally ignored sacred cows of print: Instead of the industry-standard photo of a celebrity, for example, its March cover featured just text (primarily reading "The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden… Is Screwed"). And Esquire Network, which kicked off with a two-hour documentary on the history of Esquire, is among the boldest brand extensions in the magazine business.

It's a testament to Mr. Granger, one of the industry's warhorses.

"The things that I'm proudest of at Esquire are not only that we've done some groundbreaking things in storytelling but also in taking advantage of the possibilities of the magazine," he said. "I want to feel like Esquire has been a laboratory for the magazine industry. We want to be proof of concept that magazines are the most exciting form of media ever created."

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