7.6 Million a Month Means THIS for the Head of Meredith Publishing

As president and COO of Meredith – publisher of Better Homes & Gardens, the Magnolia Journal, and Martha Stewart Living, among others – Tom Harty knows one thing for certain about his key demographic.

He was recently interviewed by Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni and said “…women still love the printed format to turn to for inspiration and for more of that lean-back experience. And what we look for more with digital is as a utility to help them to do something in the short-term.”

That, in a nutshell, is the way his company addresses the question of “print versus digital” in how they present their content. And it wasn’t a strategy developed out of a need to address technology so much as a need to address the changing habits of their readers.

Forsaking print, of course, has never been a consideration. As he notes, at 7.6 million copies per month, their circulation for BH&G is as strong now as it was 20 years ago. And they are making huge gains in new titles as well, like the unexpected success of The Magnolia Journal, now printing at a million copies per issue.

Print is still the preferred channel for magazine consumption – we read longer, read more and subscribe more often to print than digital editions. And our own research shows us that magazine content is generally not followed on social media – 75% of the people we surveyed say they don’t follow magazine content via social media.

Image source: Freeport Press

So the expected shift from print to digital as a key source of revenue for magazine brands just isn’t materializing. What has changed is how they look at technology as part of their audience experience. For example, Meredith created Allrecipes as a digital product to satisfy the need for quick recipes and cooking information online – which then led to the popular Allrecipes print title.

When you search, as he explains, “and you’re specifically looking for chicken dinners or chicken tacos, or swordfish, you know what you’re looking for, at least to start. You’re looking for a recipe around something, but there’s still an inspirational part of curation that our editors can form. So, we started Allrecipes Magazine, where we could curate all of that great content that we have in the back of the database online and bring it forward to inspire.

“Now, you have an extremely successful magazine built out from a digital-only brand,” he notes. “I think that what we want to do as we change is create that content however she wants to consume it, so obviously that is both in a legacy print format and in all of our new digital formats.”

From where I sit, this is the epitome of the audience-first approach for magazine brands. As Husni advised two years ago, “Although publishers should be platform agnostic, your audience is not.

“Readers have their preferred platforms and they are attached to them,” Husni continued at the time. “So don’t fall in love with the platforms; rather, fall in love with the audience. Make each and every platform content complete.”

This approach applies whether you are dealing with mass market content like BH&G, or smaller niche vehicles like Magnolia or other specialty titles. Understanding your audience, what they need and where they want to read it is the basis of a solid publishing strategy.

For Meredith, it seems to be working like a charm.