Boston’s top media maven is also its ultimate insider. Alexandra Hall is the editor-in-chief of Coup, the successful digital lifestyle magazine she co-founded in 2012 after spending years working for top local publishers like The Boston Globe, Daily Candy, Boston Magazine and CitySearch. She’s also the author behind numerous Fodor’s Guides to Boston and New England, and she’s contributed to magazines like Condé Nast Traveler, Elle Decor and Town & Country. Bottom line: Alex is successful, stylish, and she knows this city, so we had to sit down and chat with her.
AFTER WORKING FOR PRETTY MUCH EVERY MAGAZINE IN BOSTON, WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO START YOUR OWN?
I’m going to give the city of Boston itself the credit for inspiring that. In the last ten years I’ve watched it change and evolve at lightning speed: It’s always been full of intelligent people who care about their community and culture, but it’s become far more daring in how it dresses, eats, decorates, and celebrates every day. It’s replaced behavior that’s buttoned-up with behavior that’s bold. We needed a magazine to be the rallying point for that; we still have some loosening up to do, but I’m proud and thrilled everyday to see fellow Bostonians worrying less about what what other people think and making their lifestyle choices based on what they love most, and as a form of self expression. That’s when we start living the most authentic life we can, and that’s also why we named it Coup — as in, coup d’etat — defined as a successful revolution. We’re a city known for revolutions, and this one is both citywide and highly personal.
IT’S BEEN ABOUT A YEAR SINCE YOU STARTED. HOW ARE THINGS GOING SO FAR?
Better than I ever dreamed, frankly. The city’s response to our ethos and the spirit of our stories has been surreal. I knew how much *I* thought the city needed this, but had no clue people would jump on it so fast. Our readership numbers are beyond what I ever hoped for, and local businesses have are coming to us as business partners who I never imagined would. This is all at a time when print and television are struggling, and sometimes folding. Also, because we’re primarily digital and multi-platform (we combine social media, video, and customized events with our editorial in the magazine), we’re able to come at ideas and projects from at least 6 different angles. That’s been a big leg up for us, the technology behind that is something we’re rapidly pushing.
WHAT DOES COUP COVER THAT THE REST OF THE PUBLICATIONS IN THE CITY DON’T?
I wouldn’t say we cover different things, we just cover them differently. Nearly everybody covers food, for example; we just do it from a perspective that always asks, ‘What’s out there that’s pushing boundaries?’ Many publications cover fashion and home design, too, but we always do it by celebrating both the artistry and the integrity of both. Travel certainly gets tons of coverage, but we put it out there specifically as something that expands our horizons philosophically as well as geographically. At Coup we love the inventive and unusual, as long as it’s still genuine and smart. Being unusual for the sake of being unusual is as stupid as following trends because you’re afraid to stand out. Above all, everything we do has to to speak to our lifestyles as self-expression, and we have to champion that as our foundation. Otherwise we’ve just fallen into the same trap of so many other magazines that tell the community what to do, say, and think. I’m not interested in that at all.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST EXCITING THING ABOUT STARTING YOUR OWN MAGAZINE? WHAT’S BEEN THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
The most exciting thing is, as I mentioned, seeing the city react to us as a nexus of new ideas. And by virtue of that, watching it respond with more new ideas of its own. The biggest challenge has been wading through all the crap of starting and running a business. I’m an experienced writer and editor, but I came into this knowing pretty much zilch about being a business woman. On that front, I always say that I learn about 10 new things every day, only about four of which do I actually want to know.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE LOOKING TO BREAK INTO THE MEDIA INDUSTRY?
Learn how to run in heels. Because in this crazy market, you’ve got to have as much speed as you do personal style.
YOUR JOB REQUIRES YOU TO BE ON THE PULSE OF WHAT’S HOT IN BOSTON. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BEST RESTAURANTS, BARS AND SHOPPING DESTINATIONS IN THE CITY RIGHT NOW?
My favorite question! Of course ‘the best’ is a very relative and misleading term–I prefer ‘my favorite.’ It just seems less self-congratulatory, right? But okay, here goes:
Bilzerian (for that one statement piece you had no idea you needed)
Grettaluxe (nobody buys a better mix of classic & cutting-edge)
Daniela Corte (the perfect cut; the perfect fit)
Impulse Jewelry (designers you can’t find anywhere else in New England)
LuxCouture (these are the handbags you keep for 20 years and love endlessly along the way)
Restaurants & bars
Hamersley’s Bistro (though don’t go just to eat the roast chicken like everyone does–the menu’s full of killer gems)
Eastern Standard (especially the funky & every-changing late-night menu)
Peach Farm (garlic abalone. ’nuff said.)
Poe’s Kitchen (cranberry jalapeño margaritas that’ll curl your toes and light your esophagus on fire)
Puritan & Co. (the cod sausage special is like biting into a sweet-savory cloud)
Strip T’s (go for the insanely good roasted skate ring, stay because you can’t believe how ugly the bathroom is).
Photos by Andrew Wang for L&C