August 30, 2019

Alumni Spotlight: U.S. News’ New Editor Kim Castro Looks Back and Forward

By NYU SPS Center for Publishing Staff

When the news broke recently that Kim Castro was named the first female Editor and Chief Content Officer at U.S. News & World Report, we were like proud parents. As a 2008 graduate of the NYU MS in Publishing: Digital and Print Media program, she is member of the NYUSPS family, and a very celebrated one at that. In her new role, she has day-to-day oversight of all U.S. News’ editorial content, working with editors and teams to produce the highest-quality journalism. Previously, she led the Consumer Advice team, which includes consumer-focused journalism from the Money, Health, Education, and Travel channels. In September 2015, she joined the Executive Committee at U.S. News, where she has worked for the last decade.

Before U.S. News, Kim was a managing editor at Standard & Poor’s Corp., where she managed content creation and production of numerous equity research products. She was also head of thematic research at S&P, and in that position she identified and developed trends, themes, and investment strategies. In addition, she edited and wrote for the company’s weekly newsletter, The Outlook. A native of Pittsburgh, she received a bachelor’s degree from George Washington University and, yes, a master’s degree in publishing from NYUSPS! Naturally, we reached out to Kim to hear her viewpoints on everything from her new job to tips for the incoming class.

Congratulations on being named Editor and Chief Content Officer at U.S. News & World Report!

Thank you so much!

What’re you most excited for in your new role?

Given the consumer-focused nature of our content, 80% of U.S. News’ traffic and visits come from organic search, mainly Google. Through mobile-first indexing, Google rewards websites that make mobile a priority. I’m looking forward to working with our editorial, product, and tech teams to ensure all of our great content is mobile optimized and that we provide the best user experience for our audiences.

Tell us a little about your responsibilities. What do you do and what’s your day like?

My main priority is working closely with the managing editors and senior editors across each U.S. News vertical – Education, Health, Money, Travel, Autos, and News – to share best practices and help them achieve their editorial goals.

Each day is unique. One day I could be touching base with our PR and social teams to update our promotional strategy or meeting with our product managers to review the results of our latest user testing session. Another day I’m working on improving our newsletter strategy or sitting in on a tech meeting to discuss how we can improve page speed.

You have done a lot of work in the area of consumer-focused journalism and trend spotting. Could you speak a bit to the value of this in today’s media climate?

Every piece of consumer content we produce is informed by data. Long gone are the days of coming up with story ideas, throwing them against the wall, and seeing what sticks. If users are searching for specific topics, it’s because those topics are important to them. So, we work with our business intelligence and SEO teams to analyze the data to surface topics that have a large amount of search volume and, most importantly, we produce content that’s aligned with our mission of helping people. We can also re-purpose that content for other media, like newsletters, a video, or a podcast episode.This strategy ensures that we’re deriving the maximum value from our time and resources.

Kim Castro sitting at her desk, working on her Apple MacBook laptop.

It’s a challenging time in media as revenue sources shift. It’s also a very exciting time. How does an editor have to think differently today?

An editor has to think holistically about their content. They have to be aware of evolving user habits, technology trends, and larger marketing shifts. With the rise of voice searches via smart speakers, augmented reality, chatbots, and live video, there’s a lot of opportunity to be innovative and reach new audiences.

As a 2008 graduate of the NYU MS in Publishing: Digital & Print Media program, what stands out to you about how the media landscape looks now compared to how it looked then?

Today, mobile audiences are rapidly outpacing desktop users, and we have to design our pages with a mobile-first mindset. By 2020, there will be close to 3 billion smartphone users around the world! Compared to when I was in the program, audiences are more comfortable at researching and transacting on their phones. They want an effortless experience.

What brought you to the NYU MS in Publishing: Digital & Print Media program?

I was ready to for a change in my career. The media part of the company I worked for was known for their subscription-based services that were tied to print. With the advent of the iPhone and the rise of social media, I was excited to explore the digital space.

Were there specific courses that helped inform your career choices?

I remember sitting in a  Multi-Platform Publishing class when the professor (Gail Horwood, (now Chief Marketing Office at Kelogg, North America) whipped out the iPhone, which was revealed to the world that year in 2007. She said, "Very soon, you’ll be reading the news on this tiny device." That honestly rocked my world. The program changed my career path to focus on the importance of digital media.

Did you pursue an internship – and did that help inform your career choices?

My first journalism internship was at CNBC, which is where I fell in love with business journalism. Business and the economy is exciting, dynamic and at the heart of every story, and those stories impact people’s daily lives.

What was your capstone in the NYU MS in Publishing program?

My capstone project was called "The Outlook 2027: Planning for Future Happiness." In my efforts to make it sound trendy, I called it "O27." The concept was to create a free, ad-supported consumer-focused website for new investors (18- to 34-year-olds) that provided advice on how to position for 2012 and beyond. I didn’t really think what would happen after 2027. 

Tell us about your first job in media – where did you begin?

My first paying job in media was at Standard & Poor’s as a reporter, researching and writing profiles of corporations and their securities portfolio for a print product that provided information on more than 12,000 publicly held companies. I remember combing through 10-K, 10-Q, and SEC reports and hundreds of press releases.

In general, how did the NYU MS in Publishing program prepare you for your role at U.S. News & World Report?

The courses I took such as financial analysis, publishing law, and marketing helped me look holistically at the media industry beyond my day-to-day work as an editor.

Any advice for incoming NYU MS in Publishing students?

I know this has been said many times before, but learn to code! Reporters and editors should have a basic understanding of how programming works. Coding will improve your visibility and increase your opportunities at your media organization.

Interested in learning more about the NYU MS in Publishing: Digital & Print Media program? Visit our website for more information. Applications for Spring 2020 are due November 30th.

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