The first job Jamie Miles held was as a hostess at a hotel restaurant in Corning, New York. And although her career went in a different direction, she learned something in this first gig that sticks with her today. “There’s so much you can learn about people in a job like that, because you meet and interact with so many different people and different personality types.” It’s a lesson that helps her now as site director for BestProducts.com, Hearst digital’s product review site covering everything from tech, beauty, travel, fashion, food, parenting and more.
Today Jamie manages 15 employees and says, “The key to a positive interaction is listening to their needs and helping them find solutions, which is not so different from answering questions from restaurant patrons and getting them the best table in the house! In any job, it’s all about having a good attitude and communicating well with others.”
She takes her role of communicating well seriously with her readers too. As the site director of BestProducts.com – the destination for all the latest product reviews and roundups that are at the right price, on-trend, consumer favorites, and timely – she oversees all content and strategy. With the site since it launched in 2015, Jamie often appears on the the Today Show and ABC as an industry expert, and her work can also be found on NYMag, The Knot, and Delish. She’s a magazine journalism graduate of Syrause University, and before working at the site, she served as managing editor of TheKnot.com.
How did your time working as managing editor of TheKnot.com serve you in your role today? What are some parallels between the wedding industry and product reviews?
When I became managing editor of TheKnot.com, it was not a job that had existed previously. It was a job that was basically created out of necessity because I saw an opportunity to help the team. There were several digital editors juggling various tasks and deadlines, but there was no system for assigning or tracking these. I created an edit lineup in the form of a Google Doc, which took off! I would add assignments by editor and deadline, and ran a weekly team meeting to review how everyone was tracking. It ultimately proved integral to the workflow and the editors really benefited from it.
My job as the site director of BestProducts.com is a bit similar in that I’m constantly playing traffic cop, directing the team, helping clear any hurdles for them that may arise, and steering them toward our strategy and goals. Also, my instinct for identifying problems and coming up with efficient solutions is something that continues to serve me well in all my jobs. Without some sort of system in place, you have chaos!
Believe it or not, weddings and product reviews are not all that different. We cover 10 different verticals on BestProducts.com, so our audience is a lot broader. But the goal is still the same: provide a service for our readers, connect them with what they need in that moment or inspire them to discover a need they didn’t already identify! At TheKnot.com, this was helping brides find their perfect venue or their dream dress. At BestProducts.com, it’s helping a reader find the best headphones or letting them discover that they need a robot vacuum in their life, and pointing them to the right one for their needs and budget. We’re a service publication and it’s important to know everything you can about the verticals you cover. TheKnot.com editors were experts on all things weddings, while our editors here are experts on all things product!
What does a “day in the life of Jamie” look like? How do you divide up your time – between meetings, writing, editing, etc.?
I start my day usually by looking at traffic and data to keep an eye on performance. A lot of our content is evergreen, so we’ll see some of the “usual suspects” make our top trafficked content list. Other times, I’ll notice a few trending product news pieces which are getting social love or have been shared across the Hearst network. This is just part of checking the vitals of the site to make sure everything’s running as it should. I’ll also update the homepage so the freshest content is being promoted front and center.
Then I usually have about 2-3 hours of meetings a day, so I’ll review my calendar and likely head to an editorial pitch meeting, or stack my day with back-to-back 1:1 meetings with editors to check in on how they’re doing and offer help as needed. Usually the beginning of the month is busier with meetings as we also have a monthly edit team meeting to discuss traffic metrics and content wins for the month that passed, and look at upcoming initiatives.
I also meet regularly with the product team at Hearst that works on our internal CMS to discuss back-end and front-end changes that will impact how our team creates content and how it’s displayed to our users. We’re constantly dreaming up improvements that will make our content more fun and digestible. I also have several meetings throughout the month with Hearst’s head of e-commerce to discuss new initiatives or analyze revenue data.
In down time between meetings, I’ll be reviewing posts going live on BestProducts.com, and also looking across the network at what the other sites are covering to be sure we’re not missing any big announcements. I also still top edit several of the posts going up, so will send edits and feedback to editors throughout the day, helping craft stronger headlines or simply give them a pat on the back if something is well written or researched. I also love having a chance to make the rounds and say “hi” to the team and check in during the afternoon to see if they need anything. It’s nice to just get out from behind your laptop and see how everyone’s day is going!
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love that each day is completely different and brings new challenges. It keeps things exciting. I know myself well enough to know that if I were in a job that was exactly the same day after day that repetition would lead to boredom! I also love that BestProducts.com was founded with an entrepreneurial spirit that thrives today, so we are a brand that tries new things constantly. We continue to build and iterate based on what we learn along the way. I also love the people part of my job. Helping an editor strengthen their copy or give career coaching makes my job rewarding.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is keeping all the balls in the air without any falling. We have several editorial initiatives we’re juggling at any given time – like gift guide updates, original photo shoots, shoppable newsletters, CMS improvements, sponsorship pitches, partnership opportunities and more. Organization is key when it comes to managing all these different components of my job, and you’ll always see me writing details and deadlines down so they stick. Once it’s written down, I can prioritize things by timeliness and importance, and I can start implementing a process around how to best get everything done.
Your site features reviews that span multiple categories, but what seems to be the areas/products that receive the most attention from your readers and why?
Our most popular verticals are tech and beauty. Much of our site traffic comes from search, and we’ve noticed that several people coming in from Google are landing on content in these verticals. We have covered these topics extensively, so I believe that’s why we do well in these areas, but they also cover products that people generally are comfortable shopping for and buying online. Just think, you may not be as likely to buy your new sofa online as you are to buy a gaming controller or a wrinkle cream.
What is something surprising someone might not realize about the work you do?
It may surprise people how much of my time is spent analyzing data. We have incredible tools available to us at Hearst, and every decision I make is generally supported by traffic or revenue data. I would still call my job creative, but it’s also extremely analytical.
What is a lesson you’ve learned in your career that you’d be willing to share with our readers?
Always raise your hand. This tip has helped me get to where I am today. I’ve always been that person on the team who was willing to roll up her sleeves and dive into a project no matter how unglamorous it was.
What do you look for when hiring members of your team?
Enthusiasm for the brand and a passion for their work. If you’re not excited to work here, we’re not going to be excited to hire you! This sounds basic, but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve interviewed people who appear lukewarm on the opportunity.
What is something you wish you knew more about?
What my cat is thinking at any given time. Especially when he looks like he wants to murder me!
What advice do you have for someone who wants your job?
Take initiative. You have to jump on opportunities at work and demonstrate your drive. Don’t be afraid to take charge!
I’d love to have coffee with:
The books on my nightstand are:
My current favorite saying, or mantra, is:
“Live in the now.” This seems obvious and a bit cliché, but I’m currently taking a 200-hour yoga teacher training to get certified. It’s amazing how being present is key to yoga and daily life.
My favorite way to spend my day off is:
Brunch with my husband, museum hopping, and ending the night at a concert.
One lesson I’ve learned lately is:
Change is constant. You have to constantly evolve and grow in work and in life, otherwise you’ll fall behind.
I can’t live without:
Pizza. My pizza blog, For the Love of Pizza, is a testament to this.
I feel my best when:
I’m lying on the beach with a piña colada.