Desperately Seeking Dynamic Editors
In April 2014, Meredith Corporation announced the folding of Ladies Home Journal, the 130-year-old monthly magazine.
In its place will be an online quarterly version with 35 fewer staff members and moved from New York to Meredith headquarters in Des Moines. This is in order to "keep the magazine's brand alive."
In the 1970s and 1980, I created circulation packages for a number of women entrepreneurs who started competing magazines. Among them:
Savvy (Judy Daniels)
Hers (Beatrice Buckler)
Prime Time (Barbara V. Hertz)
Élan (Edna Greenbaum)
Viva (Kathy Keaton a.k.a. Mrs. Bob Guccione)
Lear's (Frances Lear)
Many hundreds of thousands of investors' dollars were spent in attempts to build enough paid circulation to 1) bring in revenue and 2) Attract advertisers.
None lasted very long.
These entrepreneurs were wonderfully dynamic women.
Alas, the content was ho-hum.
Could Ladies Home Journal have been saved?
LHJ was the 11th largest American magazine with 3.8 million readers—a huge, built-in audience. If my start-up women had this many readers and great editors, they would be up there in the Voguesphere.
But this frumpy old dame was missing two elements:
- A relevant title. "Ladies" and "Home" are weak-piss words in today's world of dynamic, energetic, fiercely competitive multitasking women.
- A world-class editor. Who would be completely focused and in touch with today's women at work and at home—a manager who knows the right writers and can make their work sing.
Who are the kinds of editor-models Meredith should have searched for and paid highly?
- Helen Gurley Brown: Author of wildly the popular Sex and the Single Girl-who in 1965 took the reins of dowdy Cosmopolitan (founded 1886) and turned her into America's hottest woman's monthly.
- Graydon Carter: Canadian-born publishing impresario who took over Vanity Fair (founded 1913) and made it into a journalistic and visual powerhouse. Now after 22 spectacular years at the helm, it is rumored Carter will step down. Can Vanity Fair remain in the publishing stratosphere without him?
Amazingly, LHJ has 800,000 more subscribers than Cosmo and 2.6 million more than Vanity Fair. Both these resuscitated publications are doing just fine, thank you very much.
I spent a couple of years in Manhasset, Long Island running book clubs for Meredith, parent of Ladies Home Journal.
By turning its Family Book Service—a Book-of-the-Month business model—into a continuity service, it roared back to profitability.
When Meredith decided to bring the entire operation back to Des Moines, I said no thank you.
Only seriously flawed management would fold America's 11th largest magazine with 3.8 million circulation.
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