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Family Circle Refines & Redesigns With Consumer-Driven Focus That Brings The Magazine A New Logo, Refreshed Layouts And Bolder Fonts & Photography – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Linda Fears, VP & Editor In Chief, Family Circle Magazine

August 9, 2016

image002-2“For us, there’s the trust factor in being a magazine that’s so established, and there’s a lot to be said for having that trust. You don’t necessarily trust what you find online. They may be good ideas, but you don’t know where they came from; have they been tested and vetted. So, we give them that. And that’s not just in Family Circle; that’s in any good magazine. It’s a compliment. With all of the websites that have come up in the past 10 years and all of the social media that’s cropped up in that time frame, good magazines have been able to hold their ground because they do offer curated content, which I think is really important.” Linda Fears

“A long time ago people thought that with TV, radio was going to die, and then with the Internet, TV was going to die. I think that people just assume that the next new thing is just going to completely take over and that’s never the case, except maybe with DVR’s. (Laughs) I think that it’s unfair to assume that people aren’t going to read print anymore. I have three kids and my two older ones are in their twenties and they both read magazines still. They practically don’t watch any TV, except for Netflix on their laptops. But they do read magazines.” Linda Fears

“My oldest son is 25 and had started reading books on his iPad, then one day he discovered that he didn’t like reading on a screen anymore. He really missed holding a book and having the satisfaction of closing it after he was finished. And I just thought that was really interesting. And for our audience, they do like the tactile feel of a magazine. Not to say that they don’t read online content, of course they do. But when you have a magazine that’s very visual and has a lot of content that people want to keep and share with friends or family, it’s not easy to do that in a digital form.” Linda Fears

 The September issue of Family Circle will have a new look and a more energetic feel about it, as the magazine celebrates a redesign that introduces a new logo, refreshed layouts, new fonts and bolder photography.

Linda Fears Headshot_August 2016_jpgVP and editor in chief, Linda Fears said that, “The new Family Circle focuses on the needs of leading millennial moms who are raising Generation Z—women who are influencers inside the home and out. We’re always striving to cultivate their passions for everything from cooking, healthy living and home decorating, to style and community involvement—all while guiding them through the ups and downs of family life.”

I spoke with Linda recently and we talked about how she “cultivates the audience’s passions” and stands behind the legacy brand that reaches 16 million readers every month with a stalwart passion of her own. Linda recognizes that her audience is some of the busiest women out there and that Family Circle has the honored responsibility of trying to help them navigate their respective journeys in an easier way.

The September issue marks the largest edition they’ve done in two years and also features major advertisers such as Allergan, Coca-Cola, Maybelline New York, Waverly, Aveeno, Kraft and Olay, among others.

While the look is fresh and new, Linda said that it’s still the same Family Circle, offering women engaging content, candid advice and the peace of mind to raise a happy, healthy family.

So, sit back, relax and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who’s been bringing people into the “Family Circle” for over a decade, Linda Fears, VP & Editor In Chief, Family Circle magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On what Family Circle is today versus years ago: Well, it’s certainly not the same magazine it was 84 years ago; however, what we started as, which was a food and recipe circular; what remains today is our history of food editorial and our audience’s love of our food, so that’s one thing that hasn’t changed. But pretty much everything else has changed.

On whether she feels in today’s digital climate an editor has to be the ultimate curator for their audience: Obviously print magazines can’t turn into a Pinterest or an Instagram. I believe that editors need to be aware of what’s going on online and in social media, but for their product, which is print magazines, we are the ultimate curators. When women are as busy as my audience is, they don’t have time to search for anything and everything that may be of interest to them. My staff and I are responsible for knowing the kind of content that she’s looking for and giving her a well-edited version of that content that is inspiring and informative.

On whether her job is easier or harder today than it was before the digital explosion: It’s not easier or harder; I think it’s different. It’s become necessary for all of my editors to be very aware of a lot more potential content that’s out there. To pay attention to what our audience is looking at and reacting to. And make sure that our content stays fresh and current.

On how she cultivates the passion of the audience: First, you have to know what they’re passion points are. For example, take food; we know that we have a very food-focused audience that has always, since the beginning of Family Circle, looked to us for our food content and frankly, for our expertise in food. So, luckily for us, everyone is obsessed with food these days. You can barely go online without seeing people posting photos of what they ate in a restaurant the night before or what they made for lunch that day.

On whether she feels a bigger responsibility to make Family Circle that calming role in today’s chaotic world while also cultivating the audience’s passion: Amidst all of what you said is going on, it makes our audience, who are raising children, even more focused on how to raise happy, healthy kids. Do I feel a bigger responsibility? I don’t think so; I just think we have to keep doing what we do best and stay focused on her and her life stage. And how to help her be the best mom she can. And that includes every area of the magazine that we offer up.

On the biggest stumbling block that she’s had to face and how she overcame it: There have been some different challenges over the years that I wouldn’t necessarily call stumbling blocks, but just challenges. We’ve had to confront the rise of content online and figure out how we were going to deal with that in our own way. And I also think that newsstand has been a problem for everybody, and it’s gotten to the point where there is so much competition for people’s attention in stores in a way that there never used to be. People are shopping less often, so the foot traffic in stores is less than it used to be.

family circle1 image002-2On the new redesigned logo: Thank you for noticing. We did update the logo. Our logo was designed about 35 years ago, but it’s not a proper typeface, it’s a font that whoever selected it condensed onto the front of the magazine. It always bothered me because the letters were distorted and it looked like a big block. But it’s tricky changing your logo with MRI and everything else that could potentially affect your audience and recognition of the brand.

On why she thinks it took so long for magazine industry leaders to realize that it isn’t print or digital, it’s both: Honestly, I don’t know. A long time ago people thought that with TV, radio was going to die, and then with the Internet, TV was going to die. I think that people just assume that the next new thing is just going to completely take over and that’s never the case, except maybe with DVR’s. (Laughs)

On anything else that she’d like to add: We’re introducing a couple of new columns in the new issue in areas that we received a lot of positive feedback from with our research. One is “Social Circle,” which is going to help our readers connect to the largest social media communities through snapshots of popular polls and pins that we’ve shared on our channels, upcoming photo campaigns like contests we’re planning. It’s kind of a landing page for if we’re doing a Facebook poll and we want to reveal the results or if something is particularly trending on Instagram that we want to share.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly to her home one evening: Cooking. I cook dinner every night. I’m passionate about cooking; I love it. I just renovated part of my home and that included my kitchen. So, it’s a lot more fun than it used to be. (Laughs)

On what keeps her up at night: Lately, it’s my third child leaving for college. (Laughs) As far as my job, it really doesn’t keep me up at night. I feel like we’re in such a good place right now. We didn’t redesign because there was anything broken. We didn’t feel that we were in trouble in any way or that there was something that needed to be fixed.

 

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Linda Fears, VP & Editor In Chief, Family Circle magazine.

Samir Husni: Family Circle has a very good history. It was one of two magazines that were sold on the nation’s supermarkets and it was one of the largest newsstand titles out there, but things have changed somewhat. Briefly, take me through that journey; what’s Family Circle today as opposed to what it used to be. Or is Family Circle still the same magazine it was then?

Linda Fears: Well, it’s certainly not the same magazine it was 84 years ago; however, what we started as, which was a food and recipe circular; what remains today is our history of food editorial and our audience’s love of our food, so that’s one thing that hasn’t changed. But pretty much everything else has changed.

I’ve been here just over ten years now and every other year I have had my art department do a redesign of the magazine. Not a total architectural redesign, but primarily refreshing fonts and layouts, because I feel like these days women are so used to viewing content online and are influenced by the very modern advertising around them that if you don’t keep up with design, your magazine will look old very quickly, so every other year we refresh it.

This year what I decided to do was to go a bit beyond just redesigning, I wanted to really understand the leading millennial mom, so it’s moms who are turning 37, who on average have children who are about 10 or 11-years-old. And I mean on average because the average age for having a baby is still 26. Some moms are having babies older, but on average these moms have kids who are in middle school, so I wanted to really try to understand what kind of content they were consuming and where they were finding it; how different are they from moms even five years ago?

So, we did months and months of consumer research as we were building on our strong readership and circulation; we’re working as hard as ever to help our 16 million readers, which frankly, I think are the busiest women in America, because when you’re raising kids and you’re working, it’s the busiest time of your life.

We did all of this research with women 35-45 and we really got a lot of amazing information about them. What was most meaningful to us was that they still love reading magazines. That’s not to say, obviously, that’s the only place they get content from. They love Pinterest, Facebook; they love Instagram, but they really do love magazines. And they look to magazines as a place where they can get information and kind of a break from a really busy lifestyle. And we were very happy to hear that.

We actually had them do an exercise before they joined the focus group and it was to create their perfect Pinterest board of an ideal magazine. We encouraged them to look anywhere and everywhere online and they pinned a lot of content that was interesting to them and a lot of visuals that they were attracted to. So, with all of that information, and there were a lot of similarities among these Pinterest boards, which was great, I actually went outside and hired an outside designer to do this redesign.

And I think the result of it is just spot-on. I’m really confident that readers will be drawn to these much more energetic layouts; the visuals are sophisticated, and we’ve added more conversational voice, which we hope will amplify the content off of the page and onto social media.

So, what hasn’t changed are the types of content that we know these women are drawn to, including food, health, for her and the whole family; she’s very interested in home and DIY, beauty and fashion; those things haven’t changed much, and then of course, raising kids who are tweens and teens. We feel with this new redesign that we’re presenting these ideas in a way that’s very natural and serviceable and really focused on making her every day more enjoyable and less stressful.

image002-2Samir Husni: Ten years ago the web was just really getting started and everybody in the industry was struggling and trying to find the right direction to go in. And then everyone placed all their bets on the tablet; it was a chaotic time for magazine media. How did your job as an editor change during those 10 years; do you feel like you have to curate more in the print edition than before, so that when your busy readers sit down for that “me” time to relax with a glass of wine and their Family Circle, their content is primed and ready for them?

Linda Fears: And you’re right about that glass of wine, because all of these ladies love wine, that’s another thing that we found out. (Laughs) But yes, I think that you’re exactly right. Obviously print magazines can’t turn into a Pinterest or an Instagram. I believe that editors need to be aware of what’s going on online and in social media, but for their product, which is print magazines, we are the ultimate curators. When women are as busy as my audience is, they don’t have time to search for anything and everything that may be of interest to them. My staff and I are responsible for knowing the kind of content that she’s looking for and giving her a well-edited version of that content that is inspiring and informative.

A lot of these women told us that they’re not that attracted to websites anymore; they’ve kind of gone beyond that and like some of their social media better. They’ll Google things if they have a specific question, but they use Facebook to keep up with their friends and they get a lot of inspiration from Pinterest and from the photo pins. Some of them even do look to Pinterest for ideas in all walks of life.

But for us, there’s the trust factor in being a magazine that’s so established, and there’s a lot to be said for having that trust. You don’t necessarily trust what you find online. They may be good ideas, but you don’t know where they came from; have they been tested and vetted. So, we give them that. And that’s not just in Family Circle; that’s in any good magazine.

It’s a compliment. With all of the websites that have come up in the past 10 years and all of the social media that’s cropped up in that time frame, good magazines have been able to hold their ground because they do offer curated content, which I think is really important.

Samir Husni: And has that made your job easier or harder over the last 10 years?

Linda Fears: It’s not easier or harder; I think it’s different. It’s become necessary for all of my editors to be very aware of a lot more potential content that’s out there. To pay attention to what our audience is looking at and reacting to. And make sure that our content stays fresh and current.

So, I don’t think it’s harder; I just think it’s different. Frankly, it’s more fun. To have competing attention for content drives us to be a little more clever at times in coming up with ways to present our content in an inspiring and useful way.

It was important to us to get the information from these leading millennials; from these women who are attracted to the Family Circle brand. And also because the kids they’re raising now are not millennials anymore, they’re Generation Z. And Gen Z are kids between, roughly, 6 and 19 or 20. So, we really wanted to find out what has changed with this new generation of kids; are parents worried about different things than they were even three or four years ago. That came into play as well when we were thinking about what to do with this redesign. I don’t think my job is harder these days; you just need to be on top of your audience, because things change so much more rapidly than they used to.

Another thing that we’re doing because we are cognizant that our audience is finding content elsewhere, not instead of reading a magazine, but in addition; we are including more bloggers onto our pages from Pinterest and Instagram, and from people who have their own blogs, so in September you’ll find a few of those in our Home, Health and Food sections. Obviously, we’re still going to be using experts, but we are adding some social media stars to the mix.

Samir Husni: One of the things that caught my attention in the press release about the redesign was your quote: “you’re always striving to cultivate the passion of the audience.” How do you do that; how do you cultivate the passion of the audience?

Linda Fears: First, you have to know what they’re passion points are. For example, take food; we know that we have a very food-focused audience that has always, since the beginning of Family Circle, looked to us for our food content and frankly, for our expertise in food. So, luckily for us, everyone is obsessed with food these days. You can barely go online without seeing people posting photos of what they ate in a restaurant the night before or what they made for lunch that day.

Tapping into that passion with this redesign has caused us to really focus on our food photography and hire some new food photographers. And we’re focusing a bit more on our food photography being more naturally lit, sort of straddling that fine line between looking perfect and too messy. We want people to look at our food photography and be inspired to make the recipes that we create and feel like they can. Not be intimidated by something that looks like it was created by a chef or something that was created by one of their kids. This is a happy medium. So, that’s one example of tapping into their passions.

We also know that our readers are passionate about their homes. So, there’s a lot these days that are capturing people’s attention. In addition to magazines that focus only on the home, there’s HGTV and it has become very popular. So, it’s our being aware of what’s most important to our audience and they want a comfortable home and they also want a home that they can do some DIY in and tap a project for themselves. We have an entire DIY piece in the September issue on using paint to upgrade inexpensive pieces of furniture to make them look more expensive, so that sort of thing. We really do understand what they’re looking for and it’s our job to take it one step further.

Samir Husni: In the midst of everything that’s taking place in our country, from politics to crime to terrorism; do you feel you have a larger responsibility now for the magazine to offer this, so to speak, comfort food to the audience? Do you play a calming role while you’re also cultivating their passion?

Linda Fears: Amidst all of what you said is going on, it makes our audience, who are raising children, even more focused on how to raise happy, healthy kids. Do I feel a bigger responsibility? I don’t think so; I just think we have to keep doing what we do best and stay focused on her and her life stage. And how to help her be the best mom she can. And that includes every area of the magazine that we offer up.

Obviously, we’re not going to be competing with CNN; we’re not going to cover breaking news with a monthly magazine. But as a respite from all of that, it is a responsibility that we take very seriously, but we know that her number one responsibility and focus is her family. And those are the areas that we focus on.

Samir Husni: Over the last 10 years that you’ve been at Family Circle, what has been the biggest stumbling block that you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?

Linda Fears: There have been some different challenges over the years that I wouldn’t necessarily call stumbling blocks, but just challenges. We’ve had to confront the rise of content online and figure out how we were going to deal with that in our own way. And I also think that newsstand has been a problem for everybody, and it’s gotten to the point where there is so much competition for people’s attention in stores in a way that there never used to be. People are shopping less often, so the foot traffic in stores is less than it used to be.

It’s our job to figure out how to constantly present ourselves to women in new and different ways. We’re actually doing a test on our next mailings. One of the things that we asked the focus group was to tell us about a piece of mail that they received and didn’t immediately throw into the garbage, something unsolicited that attracted their attention, whether it was a brochure or a pamphlet. The women in the Chicago focus group, which we did in person; we also did a series of focus groups online as well, but the Chicago group brought in mail to us and they ranged from department store pieces to mail from much smaller home stores, and we noticed that what they liked about those pieces of mail were that they were very graphic and they had a lot of photography; they weren’t chocked full of a lot of pushy sales words. They were more upscale-looking and they were simple. A lot of them were hard stock fold overs. So we decided to change around our mailing for new subscribers and we’ll see what happens and if they’re attracted to this.

You can’t rely, at least books the size of mine, which we used to have a gigantic newsstand presence; you have to figure out other ways to attract readers. That’s a challenge as well, but we’re still holding our own on newsstand; the only women’s magazine that outsells us at this point is Cosmo. But we sell better than all food magazines, all parenting magazines and all shelter magazines; so, as bad as things are we’re still outselling our competition.

Samir Husni: I noticed that with the new redesigned logo; it feels friendlier.

Linda Fears: Thank you for noticing. We did update the logo. Our logo was designed about 35 years ago, but it’s not a proper typeface, it’s a font that whoever selected it condensed onto the front of the magazine. It always bothered me because the letters were distorted and it looked like a big block. But it’s tricky changing your logo with MRI and everything else that could potentially affect your audience and recognition of the brand.

What we did this time was to find a font that was familiar enough to the one we had, except it is more modern and it is friendlier and I think it’s even a little more feminine than the other one. The font is called circular, which is ironic. (Laughs) We selected it on purpose. (Laughs again) You’ll notice the difference in that the C’s are rounder; the R and the M doesn’t have that square tail on them; the A is different, but it’s actually close enough to what we had that our internal research department didn’t really feel that it was necessary to test because they didn’t think that we would get enough of a read. I think people will notice and think that it looks better, but it’s still totally recognizable as Family Circle.

Samir Husni: And then was it on purpose that you had seven words that started with a capital C on the cover lines of the September issue?

Linda Fears: That was not on purpose. (Laughs) I didn’t even realize that. The fact that we know our readers love cleaning tips and they love learning how to be more organized and to clear clutter; it was a coincidence.

This is actually our biggest issue in two years, which is really exciting and there are a lot of major advertisers in this issue.

Samir Husni: Why do you think it took the magazine media world, the editors and publishers, so long to discover that it’s not print or digital, it’s both?

Linda Fears: Honestly, I don’t know. A long time ago people thought that with TV, radio was going to die, and then with the Internet, TV was going to die. I think that people just assume that the next new thing is just going to completely take over and that’s never the case, except maybe with DVR’s. (Laughs)

But I don’t know why it took so long, except I think that it’s unfair to assume that people aren’t going to read print anymore. I have three kids and my two older ones are in their twenties and they both read magazines still. They practically don’t watch any TV, except for Netflix on their laptops. But they do read magazines.

My oldest son is 25 and had started reading books on his iPad, then one day he discovered that he didn’t like reading on a screen anymore. He really missed holding a book and having the satisfaction of closing it after he was finished. And I just thought that was really interesting. And for our audience, they do like the tactile feel of a magazine. Not to say that they don’t read online content, of course they do. But when you have a magazine that’s very visual and has a lot of content that people want to keep and share with friends or family, it’s not easy to do that in a digital form. And we know our readers keep the magazine and share it.

Unfortunately, we sometimes have to wait until the shine wears off on whatever is new and different out there for people to figure out how it’s going to fit into their lives and what they will continue using and what they will give up. And I don’t think magazines will ever go away. There is just something really lovely about sitting down with a magazine and potentially ripping out pages that you want to save. And I think advertisers have found that they’re not getting that return on their investments online, so all of that is being rethought as well.

Samir Husni: Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Linda Fears: We’re introducing a couple of new columns in the new issue in areas that we received a lot of positive feedback from with our research. One is “Social Circle,” which is going to help our readers connect to the largest social media communities through snapshots of popular polls and pins that we’ve shared on our channels, upcoming photo campaigns like contests we’re planning. It’s kind of a landing page for if we’re doing a Facebook poll and we want to reveal the results or if something is particularly trending on Instagram that we want to share.

We’re also adding a new column called “Creative Spaces,” because we know so many women in our audience work either part-time or full-time in their home, or they just like to have a place in their house that is just for them. So, we’re looking for the most creative spaces and photographing them, and interviewing the women who created them to help our audience create something in their home that works for them. I’m excited about these two new additions and I think people will really like them.

Another thing is that we’re enhancing our 360-approach to wellness. And even though we have always done women’s health and children’s health; family health, whether that’s a spouse or elder care, and also incorporated psychology and relationships within those pages, for this issue and going forward, we’re looking to some popular bloggers to infuse the content with a little more energy. We went to Instagram for September, to some of the biggest Instagram fitness stars and shared a move from each of them. So, that’s fun.

I think that readers will recognize that we are including content from a lot of places that they’re looking at and also traditional expertise within our pages. And as we were talking about before, family is forever; people are always going to have family and be raising children. We are the experts in providing content for healthy families and happy, healthy kids.

When we started our column “Modern Life” two years ago, it was in an effort to be inclusive of all kinds of modern families and you will see that going forward. In this issue we were actually able to, since it was a big book, have three pages on our “Modern Life” and we have two moms raising their teenaged daughter. We’ve done families with transgendered kids and families who are single-by-choice; we’ve done adopted families, step families; a couple who moved back in with one of their parents; couples that work at home together; farm families. There’s just an endless supply of American families out there that could be featured. And I think we’re unique in that. To be a family lifestyle book that really showcases every sort of family that you would encounter. We feel very confident that readers are going to like it, so we’ll see.

And I think our September cover is a really good preview of what’s inside because you’ll see a lot of the new fonts on the cover; we have the giant word ‘sweet’ on the cover. We’re not going to do that every issue, we’re going to do the giant word when it makes sense to. We have a lot more colors on the cover and we have foods shot in more natural light and looking more natural.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing; reading a magazine, reading on your iPad, watching television, or something else?

Linda Fears: Cooking. I cook dinner every night. I’m passionate about cooking; I love it. I just renovated part of my home and that included my kitchen. So, it’s a lot more fun than it used to be. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: And do you use your Family Circle recipes or do you reach out to your cousins, some of the other Meredith titles?

Linda Fears: I don’t exclusively use Family Circle recipes, but I do use a lot of them. I know how well they turn out and that they’re triple-tested. But no; I use a lot of recipes from other Meredith titles, and beyond Meredith. I like to experiment and I like trying different ethnicities. I really cook anything and everything. But I use a lot of Family Circle recipes. In fact, I make some of them so often I don’t even have to look at the recipe anymore.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Linda Fears: Lately, it’s my third child leaving for college. (Laughs) As far as my job, it really doesn’t keep me up at night. I feel like we’re in such a good place right now. We didn’t redesign because there was anything broken. We didn’t feel that we were in trouble in any way or that there was something that needed to be fixed.

I think that even though every time I’ve had the group redesign, I’ve loved it; I feel like this is the best one that we’ve done so far. And I love that it’s based on good research. So, my work doesn’t keep me up at night, my kids do. (Laughs again)

No matter what you do, if you’re a parent, your kids come first. It’s what you worry about and what you put a lot of your energy into. I think understanding what that life stage is really like helps me be a better editor, particularly since the majority of women work these days. It’s challenging. And I think it’s our job at Family Circle to help make their lives easier in any way we can.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

 

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One comment

  1. […] “The September issue of Family Circle will have a new look and a more energetic feel about it, as the magazine celebrates a redesign that introduces a new logo, refreshed layouts, new fonts and bolder photography,” writes Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni. […]



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