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The Magnolia Journal: The Power Of Print Manifests Itself As Meredith Teams Up With Chip & Joanna Gaines To Bring Their Successful Brand To Print – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Christine Guilfoyle, Senior VP, Publisher, Meredith National Media Group

October 12, 2016

“You know that I’m a huge proponent of things like this. What we’ve done at Meredith, and most recently with the launch of The Magnolia Journal; print is alive and well. The consumer continues to purchase print products that appeal to their passions and their sensibilities for service. Circulation numbers have never faltered and it’s our job as publishers, individually, and as publishing companies, to make sure that we continue to demonstrate to the advertising community that we have “her” hooked. And our content is distributed and it’s always on-fashion and that we serve up content that is unique to the platform from which it appears.” Christine Guilfoyle

magnolia-journalToday existing brands are discovering the power of print on a regular basis. From television personalities to fashion retailers; the world of print is alive and well in the communities of many brands. Why are successful brands adding a print title to their repertoire? Possibly because it’s a fantastic way to stay connected to their audiences in a tactile and personal way.

Chip and Joanna Gaines have a successful television show on HGTV: “Fixer Upper,” in their immensely popular Magnolia brand. Their Magnolia Market, based in Waco, Texas, where the Gaines’ live, is flourishing with its website, along with a vacation rental called Magnolia House, Joanna’s Magnolia Home partnerships (furniture, paint, textiles and wall coverings), and a dedicated social media fan base. So, it stands to reason the Gaines’ needed a print magazine to round out their broad spectrum of media connection. So, The Magnolia Journal was born.

The Meredith Corporation believed strongly in this new cog in the Gaines’ media wheel and stepped in to make it happen. Christine Guilfoyle is senior VP and publisher for Meredith’s National Media Group. Christine is bullish about print; bullish about Meredith; and extremely bullish about her newest launch baby, The Magnolia Journal. She believes in this latest brand extension for the Gaines’ and feels it rounds out their successful brand nicely and also adds another wonderful flavor of content to the Meredith circle of publications.

I spoke with Christine recently and we talked about the ease she had in selling this latest piece of the Gaines’ brand puzzle to advertisers and the buying public. We also talked about her own personal commitment to Meredith and the work she does there and how much she truly loves and values the service journalism that the company has always stood for.

It was a lively and inspirational conversation with a woman who knows her company’s brands and who is dedicated to each and every one of them emphatically. So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with Christine Guilfoyle as we talk about the latest Meredith print launch, The Magnolia Journal.

But first the sound-bites:

guilfoyle-christine-7-13

On whether we’re seeing a reversal on the way new titles are launched; brands first, and then the magazines: I can’t answer to that as it relates to the broader market, but I think the answer as it relates to Joanna and Chip Gaines is definitely. They have built a very powerful, cross-channeled franchise with HGTV and their “Fixer Upper” show; with their retail outlet; with their highly successful social media following and their blog.

On how easy it was for Meredith to produce the magazine: It was super easy. Again, I think that Chip and Joanna had a very clear vision of what they wanted the magazine to embody. They had very definitive ideas about the types of content. I think that their values and the things that they care about most; their home, family; the gathering together of family and friends and having good food on the table are very central to the Meredith Corporation and what our values are; and the heritage of what our company has always believed in for over 100 years.

On any stumbling block she had to face and how she overcame it: What did I have to overcome? It’s a silly thing. It was late in a calendar year planning cycle and there were people who were very interested in participating, but because of budgets or timing they were unable to, because of the deadlines. And as you know, launches don’t launch for two years now. Long gone are the very extended launch cycles, where you get to go on a two year roadshow. It was fast and furious; it was probably just over a month’s time that we had to get out into the market.

On whether she thinks partnerships are the future of publishing because it’s tough now for a company to do it on its own: I don’t look at it as being tougher and tougher. I think the world has changed. All the traditional publishers years ago did market research and launched brands that would be timeless. I think today because of fragmentation and technology and multichannel, there are topics, personalities or segments that already have an audience that is developed around them, but their expertise may not be in the printed product or in content distribution, and I think what we’ve been able to do here at Meredith, under the leadership of Steve Lacy and Tom Harty, is be very smart and open-minded. At the Meredith Corporation we serve the consumer. So, how are we filling out our consumer portfolio of content to make sure that at every life stage women have content from Meredith to consume?

On whether she feels service journalism is the wave of the future in publishing: We’re not in the news business or in the celebrity business, so I’m not going to talk about those things because I’m not an authority, but I think the consumer tends to have an insatiable appetite for both celebrity and news, and I think people that are in those areas of interest will figure out which channels they should be in to distribute that information. For Meredith, we’re in the service journalism business and have been for over 100 years. If you look at all of our acquisitions, really since the Gruner & Jahr and that was 12 years ago, and then since I’ve been back at the company, the last six years; we have acquired, and/or partnered, and/or licensed with content ideas, whether it’s in print or in digital, which round out our women’s life stage always on philosophy.

On whether Chip and Joanna Gaines will appear on every cover: I can tell you that we’ll see them on the cover of the second issue for sure. I think long-gone are the days where you say from now until the end of time they’ll appear on the cover. We will work with them and we will satisfy their schedule, and if the consumer wants them to be on the cover and they want to be on the cover, then the Meredith Corporation will have no problem with that.

On whether she thinks a year from now she will be as positive and upbeat about print publishing as she is today: I have 11 more years to go before I can retire, and that depends on if my husband will allow me to. (Laughs) I feel incredibly fortunate because I have gotten to work on some of the biggest brands in the business: TV Guide, People, Better Homes and Gardens twice. I’ve also gotten to work on some fantastic smaller brands, things like MORE magazine and the launch of Every Day with Rachael Ray, and I was able to work with Martha Stewart, and now I’m at Shape and launching The Magnolia Journal, and I participated in the launch of All Recipes. I can’t imagine, honestly, that I will ever really run out of enthusiasm, even if you told me that I had to do it for 22 more years versus 11, because I think you create your own opportunity. You surround yourself with smart people of all ages and levels of experience.

On anything else she’d like to add: I guess the only thing would be that we expect the subsequent issues to have continued success, not only in distribution, but in rate base and increased advertising opportunities. It’s exciting.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up one evening unexpectedly at her home: I have never been a big television watcher and part of that has nothing to do with the platform. If I sit down at home, I may never get up again. It is a whirling dervish of activity. I have two teenaged daughters; a dog; a husband; there are endless people in and out of my home and I love it like that. We’re cooking and talking; we’re cleaning.

On what keeps her up at night: It’s the next big deal. It’s making sure that I’m satisfying, not only myself, but my management team. I look at those guys with love. I never want to let them down. So, regardless of what project I’m assigned, for me it’s Meredith first and foremost. Did somebody get something that I didn’t get; was someone more clever putting a proposal together than I was? I think all of us second guess our pipeline and our proposal response all the time.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Christine Guilfoyle, Senior VP, Publisher, Meredith National Media Group.

Samir Husni: Congratulations on yet another new launch.

Christine Guilfoyle: Thank you. I’m just happy that they continue to ask me to do things like this. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: In the past, we used to launch magazines first and then they became brands. And they would have brand extensions, such as with Better Homes and Gardens. Then we had the television shows and their products; you name it. Are we seeing a reversal of that now since we seem to have many existing brands that are discovering magazines?

magnolia-journalChristine Guilfoyle: I can’t answer to that as it relates to the broader market, but I think the answer as it relates to Joanna and Chip Gaines is definitely. They have built a very powerful, cross-channeled franchise with HGTV and their “Fixer Upper” show; with their retail outlet; with their highly successful social media following and their blog.

And to me what the magazine does for them, as you well know, and for those of us who love print, it gives this lasting, beautiful, tactile expression of what they believe their lifestyle philosophy is. And they know from their fans that there is a hunger for information from them and I think the whole notion of hold-it-touch-it-clip-it-save-it-cherish-it was important to Chip and Joanna. And I think there’s no other platform that satisfies that like a magazine does. I believe it’s quite natural with all of their other successful enterprises and media outlets of distribution. For them not to have a magazine would be more shocking to me.

Samir Husni: How easy was it for you to produce the magazine?

Christine Guilfoyle: It was super easy. Again, I think that Chip and Joanna had a very clear vision of what they wanted the magazine to embody. They had very definitive ideas about the types of content. I think that their values and the things that they care about most; their home, family; the gathering together of family and friends and having good food on the table are very central to the Meredith Corporation and what our values are; and the heritage of what our company has always believed in for over 100 years.

So, the coming together of Chip and Joanna Gaines and the Meredith Corporation was very easy. The putting together of the first issue of The Magnolia Journal was equally as easy. And then as it relates to me, the going out and selling the first-launch issue was incredibly easy. And I would say that their presence in social media made the introduction of the magazine to the buying community just almost effortless.

Samir Husni: In the midst of all of this easiness, was there any stumbling block that you had to face and overcome? And if so, how did you do so?

Christine Guilfoyle: What did I have to overcome? It’s a silly thing. It was late in a calendar year planning cycle and there were people who were very interested in participating, but because of budgets or timing they were unable to, because of the deadlines. And as you know, launches don’t launch for two years now. Long gone are the very extended launch cycles, where you get to go on a two year roadshow. It was fast and furious; it was probably just over a month’s time that we had to get out into the market.

But really this wasn’t a launch to find out what the advertising play is or was. It was much more to get an understanding about consumer demand. And I think very similarly to the launch of All Recipes magazine; we knew that the consumers were heavy engagers with the Gaines’; with their store; with their social and website; and with their television property. What we didn’t know was whether or not they would also want to engage in a magazine.

Samir Husni: We’re seeing all of these partnerships taking place now; Meredith has it with Rachael Ray, All Recipes, with the guys over at Beekman 1802 Almanac, and with Eat This Not That; as a publisher are these partnerships the future of publishing? Do companies not want to publish on their own anymore because it’s so very tough right now?

Christine Guilfoyle: I don’t look at it as being tougher and tougher. I think the world has changed. All the traditional publishers years ago did market research and launched brands that would be timeless. I think today because of fragmentation and technology and multichannel, there are topics, personalities or segments that already have an audience that is developed around them, but their expertise may not be in the printed product or in content distribution, and I think what we’ve been able to do here at Meredith, under the leadership of Steve Lacy and Tom Harty, is be very smart and open-minded. At the Meredith Corporation we serve the consumer. So, how are we filling out our consumer portfolio of content to make sure that at every life stage women have content from Meredith to consume?

And I think that it’s really smart that it doesn’t have to be something that’s homegrown. Obviously, Every Day with Rachael Ray for me was something that was incredibly personal; I left Meredith to launch it. So, when Meredith went into partnership with Rachael and Watch Entertainment, I was very fortunate that I was back and got to work on it again.

What would have happened if Rachael Ray had stayed at Reader’s Digest? What would have happened if Rachael had decided to go it alone? Who knows? But now it’s here and it’s part of our family and it’s thriving. You think about Martha in the same vein. You think about the Beekman Brothers and would they have been able to launch a magazine within the confines of their own business? I think probably the answer to that would have been no.

So, I don’t think it makes our job harder; it makes it interesting and filled with untapped opportunities and it allows us to fill in the gaps and really be a consumer centric organization so that we serve her, the consumer, because if you serve the consumer, the advertiser will follow.

Samir Husni: And that has been a central cornerstone of all of the Meredith publications; that core of service journalism and the attention to the consumer. Do you think the future of magazine publishing, as in ink on paper, is going to be service journalism, as opposed to say, celebrity journalism or news journalism?

guilfoyle-christine-7-13Christine Guilfoyle: We’re not in the news business or in the celebrity business, so I’m not going to talk about those things because I’m not an authority, but I think the consumer tends to have an insatiable appetite for both celebrity and news, and I think people that are in those areas of interest will figure out which channels they should be in to distribute that information.

For Meredith, we’re in the service journalism business and have been for over 100 years. If you look at all of our acquisitions, really since the Gruner & Jahr and that was 12 years ago, and then since I’ve been back at the company, the last six years; we have acquired, and/or partnered, and/or licensed with content ideas, whether it’s in print or in digital, which round out our women’s life stage always on philosophy. Prior to the acquisition of Eating Well, All Recipes and Rachael Ray, food, although our biggest advertising category; we didn’t have a title that was purely food.

So, we acquired three food titles, or channels, that actually round out the whole notion of eating healthy; eating as it relates to a celebrity’s point of view; and then the whole democratic recipe sharing that’s been going on across backyard fences since the beginning of time.

You know that I’m a huge proponent of things like this. What we’ve done at Meredith, and most recently with the launch of The Magnolia Journal; print is alive and well. The consumer continues to purchase print products that appeal to their passions and their sensibilities for service. Circulation numbers have never faltered and it’s our job as publishers, individually, and as publishing companies, to make sure that we continue to demonstrate to the advertising community that we have “her” hooked. And our content is distributed and it’s always on-fashion and that we serve up content that is unique to the platform from which it appears.

In the case of Chip and Joanna Gaines, they mastered social media. I don’t know, Samir, if you’ve looked at their Instagram and/or their Facebook, but Joanna posted the cover of The Magnolia Journal and within 24 hours across Facebook and Instagram there were nearly 145,000 likes of the cover.

Samir Husni: Will we see them on the cover of every issue?

Christine Guilfoyle: I can tell you that we’ll see them on the cover of the second issue for sure. I think long-gone are the days where you say from now until the end of time they’ll appear on the cover. We will work with them and we will satisfy their schedule, and if the consumer wants them to be on the cover and they want to be on the cover, then the Meredith Corporation will have no problem with that.

Samir Husni: If you could put on your cap from the future and if someone were to come to you a year from now and ask you about print, about Meredith, about publishing in general; do you think you would be as upbeat and positive as you are now, or do you think there could be a difference in your outlook?

Christine Guilfoyle: I have 11 more years to go before I can retire, and that depends on if my husband will allow me to. (Laughs) I feel incredibly fortunate because I have gotten to work on some of the biggest brands in the business: TV Guide, People, Better Homes and Gardens twice. I’ve also gotten to work on some fantastic smaller brands, things like MORE magazine and the launch of Every Day with Rachael Ray, and I was able to work with Martha Stewart, and now I’m at Shape and launching The Magnolia Journal, and I participated in the launch of All Recipes.

I can’t imagine, honestly, that I will ever really run out of enthusiasm, even if you told me that I had to do it for 22 more years versus 11, because I think you create your own opportunity. You surround yourself with smart people of all ages and levels of experience. We have a management team here that I put great faith in and I believe that they put great faith in me. And when you’re able to come and work with an organization that has grown to this size and they allow me to be incredibly entrepreneurial and give me new assignments; The Magnolia Journal is my 11th assignment in a little over six years at Meredith.

That to me says one of two things: either I can’t hold down a job or they want to continue to spread my enthusiasm and dedication to print throughout the organization. My workflow ebbs and flows and frankly, I love the work. I think there are far worse things to do for a living than getting to tell stories about people’s relationship with content. And why an advertiser should look for that experience to amplify their message. That to me is like we’re lucky.

I look at Rachael; I look at Martha, and I look at Chip and Joanna and one thing that is consistent is that people will invariably ask how they manage everything. The book tours; the TV show; the children; the this and that. How do they manage it? They love it. And they don’t look at it as a job.

I’ve been fortunate enough now to have Rachael twice in my career. Then I had the great fortune to meet Martha Stewart and get to work with her, and I thought, OK, I’m done. I’m not going to Hearst and I’m not going to work with the unbelievable Oprah Winfrey, but now I have Chip and Joanna. I would have never expected it, but all of them have a passion and a drive. And really the way in which they communicate their message is obviously very different, but at the heart of each of their messages is this: do something you love with people you love to do it with. And honestly, that’s really not very different than my own personal message. I do something that I love and I consider people above me and below me at Meredith my family. And that I get to do it with them is a privilege. I have an unbelievable respect for all of them as they do for me. And that’s a pretty unique position to be in.

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

Christine Guilfoyle: I guess the only thing would be that we expect the subsequent issues to have continued success, not only in distribution, but in rate base and increased advertising opportunities. It’s exciting.

And I think as far as Meredith goes, I couldn’t be more excited for Tom Harty, Jon Werther and for Steve Lacy’s executive team for the next chapter. With our new senior leadership team and what that means for all of us that are here. There’s a feeling of invigoration throughout the organization and that’s exciting.

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

Christine Guilfoyle: All of them but the TV. I have never been a big television watcher and part of that has nothing to do with the platform. If I sit down at home, I may never get up again. It is a whirling dervish of activity. I have two teenaged daughters; a dog; a husband; there are endless people in and out of my home and I love it like that. We’re cooking and talking; we’re cleaning. People make fun of me because every Friday night the first thing I do when I walk in the door is pour myself a glass of wine. The second thing I do is pull out my vacuum. I don’t get to drink the wine until I’ve vacuumed the downstairs of my home. It’s like my reward at the end of the day. It means one less thing that I have to do the next day. And I really like that glass of wine when I’m done with my vacuuming. (Laughs) And it may lead to another.

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

Christine Guilfoyle: It’s the next big deal. It’s making sure that I’m satisfying, not only myself, but my management team. I look at those guys with love. I never want to let them down. So, regardless of what project I’m assigned, for me it’s Meredith first and foremost. Did somebody get something that I didn’t get; was someone more clever putting a proposal together than I was? I think all of us second guess our pipeline and our proposal response all the time.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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One comment

  1. I have tried in vain, to find the premier issue of the magnolia journal. Please let me know if I can find the first issue somewhere.



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