“A Tale of Two New Magazines:” Mr. Magazine’s™ First “Minsider” Column…

May 20, 2013

Screen shot 2013-05-18 at 6.21.24 AM

Screen shot 2013-05-18 at 6.21.01 AM It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…

Not only is this the first line of one of the classics; it is the opening scene of a drama we sometimes witness in the magazine media world.

Hearst recently announced that rate bases were jumping again on two of its titles: Food Network Magazine and HGTV Magazine. This will be the 11th consecutive rate base increase for Food Network Magazine since launching in 2009 and the 3rd increase for HGTV Magazine since the first official issue in June 2012.

It is the best of times for Food Network Magazine. Yet it was the worst of times for another culinary magazine that had been around for almost 70 years: Gourmet.

In 2008, when the economy busted and technology burst upon the scene, some major publishers, like Condé Nast, struggled to keep their footing. So Gourmet was sacrificed and Condé Nast concentrated all of its life-giving oxygen on Bon Appétit.

Condé Nast also drove the nails into the coffin of Domino Magazine, the last print issue hitting the stands in March 2009. Yet, just four short years later HGTV is going strong.

So has the economy improved that much in four or five years that the magazine media industry can expect the amazing growth that titles like Food Network and HGTV are realizing? Or is there more to the story? Perhaps we have finally learned a very important lesson: that as long as we integrate and communicate to our audience the relevant message, via the relevant platform, we can see our numbers grow once again.

Some people will argue that Food Network and HGTV magazines are just riding on the coattails of their TV networks; I say that’s just foolish drivel out of the mouth’s naysayers. Remember Lifetime magazine?

In the cases of Food Network and HGTV, stories are rarely repeated between the pages of the print magazines and those that come to life on the television screen. Both magazines are substantial and are their own unique experiences, apart from their broadcast counterparts.

What I believe that we can take away from this is two things:

One, you have to be willing to listen to your customers, bottom line. Paying just lip service to your customers is not going to work. It doesn’t matter what you as an editor or publisher want, you can’t self-support your own magazine; it’s going to take a community of loyal readers to do that for you.

Two: We need to learn from the old business model, take from it what still works and be willing to sacrifice what does not. Doing the same thing time and time again won’t fly in 2013. Take the best from the past, focus on the present, and always keep an eye on the future, that’s where your business model should be headed.

This column first appeared on min online May 17, 2013.

One comment

  1. We do need to celebrate what works. Something that worked here was that there was a viable, productive newsstand market where both these titles were able to find an audience. Unless something is done to insure there will continue to be a stable and accessible retail market place, it will be even harder for new titles, even for large publishers like Hearst, let along small, independent ones, to find their audience.

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