Entertainment

Why Meredith Is Winding Down Ladies' Home Journal


After 131 years, Ladies’ Home Journal is shutting down as a magazine. Still, the venerable brand won’t disappear entirely. It will live on as a quarterly, newsstand-only publication and on the Web.

To wit: On Thursday morning, Meredith (MDP)executives announced that they will transform Ladies’ Home Journal from a traditional monthly magazine into what the demure, Iowa-based company calls a “special interest publication” or SIP. The change will result in roughly 35 layoffs, according to a company spokesperson.

SIPs, also known as bookazines, magalogues, or magabooks, are glossy publications filled with ads and low-cost, evergreen content (which can be recycled from Meredith’s other publications) and sold on newsstands. Whereas Meredith’s magazines are published on a regular schedule, sent to subscribers, and have a limited newsstand life, SIPs are printed on demand and can be sold on newsstands for months. Ladies’ Home Journal now joins Meredith’s robust (if largely unheralded) roster of 100 or so such titles, including Decor, American Patchwork & Quilting, and Chicken Dinners.

In a conference call on Thursday morning, Meredith Chief Executive Officer Stephen Lacy told analysts that the change is a reaction to flagging demand from advertisers, not consumers. Until today, the magazine enjoyed a circulation of more than 3 million monthly readers. But advertising revenue has been plummeting. In 2013, Ladies’ Home Journal generated an estimated $152 million in ad revenue, down 13.9 percent vs. the year before, according to the Association of Magazine Media.

As Lacy put it:

Ladies’ Home Journal … has been challenged from an advertising perspective in particular, primarily due to its higher than normal, if you will, median age, which takes it out of a number of the buys. The objective here—and the strategy here—is to continue to make the brand available to the individual consumer who has been loyal to Ladies’ Home Journal. By moving it to a newsstand-only publication, it basically, significantly eliminates any advertising dependency and a lot of the costs that go along with creating that business.”

It’s an ignominious fate for a magazine that Meredith acquired in 1985 from Family Media for $90 million. During the acquisition (by far, the company’s largest at the time), many insiders at Meredith were aghast that the company would bring on board the arch rival of its Better Homes & Gardens, according to Meredith: The First 100 Years.

Nearly three decades later, the friendly in-house rivalry has come to an end. Ladies’ Home Journal will take its place alongside a new set of in-house competitors at the newsstand.

Move over, Chicken Dinners.

Gillette_190
Gillette is a staff writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.

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Companies Mentioned

  • MDP
    (Meredith Corp)
    • $53.18 USD
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