Amanda Duff has taken the helm of Wilton magazine as the new editor and publisher.
Duff acquired both Ridgefield and Wilton magazines from Town Vibe, which also publishes magazines for Fairfield, Norwalk and Litchfield, Connecticut; Bedford, New York; and the Berkshires.
Duff’s previous experience was in public relations, primarily with clients in the travel sector. When the COVID-19 pandemic drastically altered that business, Duff found herself pursuing other opportunities.
“I saw the opportunity [to acquire Wilton and Ridgefield magazines] and the timing was right,” Duff said.
When GMW asked Duff what she wanted Wilton residents to know about her, a response came quickly. “I love Wilton!” she exclaimed. “I always have.”
Originally from Madison, Duff moved to Ridgefield almost five years ago. At the time, her home search also included Wilton.
For Duff, the towns’ border is very porous. “I live in southern Ridgefield. I go to Weir Farm, Woodcock Nature Center [and other Wilton locations] frequently. Many kids at my daughter’s preschool are from Wilton, and we have many Wilton friends. They’re both wonderful towns, with so much to offer.”
But with two issues of Wilton magazine (Aug./Sept. and Nov./Dec.) now under her belt as editor and publisher, Duff has faced criticism from some Wilton readers for what they consider to be a noticeable shift in the quality and content of the magazine.
Duff was surprised at the reader feedback and wants to set the record straight on one criticism in particular. “It’s not accurate to say the stories have all been about Ridgefield. That’s just not true.” And while Duff acknowledges Wilton magazine’s content has not been entirely Wilton-centric, the magazine’s shared content has come from a number of Town Vibe publications, not just Ridgefield.
“Most of the articles are not Ridgefield-focused. They may be more lifestyle or regional, but content that appeals to everyone,” she added.
Indeed, the Nov./Dec. magazine included pieces on Ambler Farm, Woodcock Nature Center, Wilton Library (albeit in a story also featuring Ridgefield Library), and Valerie Jensen, owner of the Prospector Theater in both Ridgefield and Wilton (formerly Wilton Bowtie theater).
Still, it’s understandable how readers might be getting the impression that the editor’s focus is really on Ridgefield. Duff acknowledged an unfortunate publishing error in one issue that may have first sparked the criticism. In addition, readers may have noticed that the website printed on the Wilton magazine’s binding (www.wiltonctmag.com) re-directs them to a shared website with a Ridgefield URL (www.ridgefieldmagazine.com), whose first impressions do seem to favor Ridgefield, as seen in the screen shot below.
Addressing some readers’ concerns, Duff explained that her goal is to have Wilton magazine’s upfront sections (such as the “Eat and Drink” section, short articles, and other content) be very Wilton-focused. However, she says readers should expect to see longer articles or features that are broader lifestyle or regional stories, such as the Nov./Dec. story on area rowing clubs.
Duff pointed out that shared content among small publications is not unusual. In fact, it is almost par for the course. Moffly Media, for example, publishes a single publication for New Canaan, Darien and Rowayton, and another one for Westport, Weston and Wilton.
And unlike Wilton magazine, those multi-town magazines are not free; readers must pay a subscription fee (one-year subscriptions are $9.98).
Duff’s goal is to continue to provide Wilton magazine to residents free of charge. “I really believe in delivering free journalism for residents,” Duff stated.
But the business realities for print magazines are challenging. Duff says some local magazines, like Fairfield magazine, have had to skip some issues, and even giants of the magazine industry (like O, The Oprah Magazine, and Rachel Ray’s magazine) have stopped print production entirely. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating challenges for publishers, Duff says, with increased costs for paper and shipping, among other issues.
Drawing parallels to other businesses under pressure in the current environment, Duff hopes Wilton readers will appreciate her entrepreneurial effort. “We’re a small business, a family business,” she said. “Just like local small businesses in Wilton needed support during COVID, during the holidays, we need support too. We’re not Hearst.”
Challenges notwithstanding, Duff is optimistic. “We’re committed,” she said. “It’s a beautiful magazine. We want to continue the tradition of beautiful, interesting, visually appealing stories. We’re pivoting and adjusting, but with the intention to bring positive and uplifting stories to Wilton residents.”
Duff praised her predecessors highly. “Geoffrey Morris [the magazine’s founder] and Megan Smith-Harris [the previous editor] did a great job.”
She added, “Megan Smith-Harris’ shoes are enormous ones to fill.” Duff said Smith-Harris, a Wilton resident, would continue to contribute stories and would be responsible for the magazine’s “Shout Out” section going forward.
Duff offered some teasers about upcoming issues that might appeal to readers who would prefer to see more Wilton content. One is the “How We Met” column in the March/April issue, about a Wilton couple who reconnected after three decades apart. Another is an article to be written by Smith-Harris for the May/June issue, featuring the home and gardens of a Wilton resident.
“Of course we’d like to have more Wilton-specific content,” said Duff. “But that will require [more] support from advertisers.”
In speaking with GMW, Duff appeared to be seeking a fresh start with Wilton residents. “The magazine will be different [in some ways] but it will be awesome!” said Duff. “I hope people will be open to [it].”
Amanda Duff welcomes story ideas and feedback from readers by email.