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LADIES' HOME JOURNAL, WOMAN'S DAY 2 magazines getting face-lifts for youthful appeal



Published: Mon, February 17, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The changes are aimed at attracting younger readers.

NEW YORK (AP) -- It's makeover time for two grande dames in the world of women's magazines -- but don't expect too many bare midriffs or tell-all bedroom exposes.

Ladies' Home Journal and Woman's Day are unveiling new designs and features in their March issues as part of their biggest overhauls in years.

The goal: a fresher look that will attract youthful readers and new advertisers, while still dispensing homemaking and family advice subscribers have counted on for decades.

"These are magazines that have been around for decades ... and that's a plus and a minus," said Steven Cohn, editor of Media Industry Newsletter.

"The plus is there's lots of familiarity. The minus is they are not considered hip. What these magazines and their publishers are trying to do is make the magazines more hip without alienating their existing readers."

Indeed, both titles are among the oldest -- and biggest -- magazines in America. Ladies' Home Journal, which is owned by Meredith Corp., debuted in 1883. Woman's Day, which is published by Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., dates back to 1937.

What's behind this

Both publications are part of what's known as the "Seven Sisters, "a group of established women's magazines that also includes Redbook, Family Circle, Better Homes and Gardens and Good Housekeeping.

The category is considered financially sound, despite the recent demise of McCall's Rosie magazine, the seventh sister. But the competition has stiffened in recent years, thanks to fashion and lifestyle magazines such as Oprah Winfrey's O.

Still, Ladies' Home Journal and Woman's Day boast monthly circulations of more than 4.1 million -- figures that dwarf most other women's publications, including O, which has a monthly circulation of about 2.3 million, according to the most recent data available from the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

But advertisers consider more than circulation. Another factor is readership age, and the median age of readers at Ladies' Home Journal and Woman's Day is about 48.

"The age of their readers is probably a negative," said Dan Capell, editor of Capell's Circulation Report, a newsletter tracking magazine circulation.

"There's this magical 18-34 age group that everyone loves in the ad world, and to get advertising, you need to have younger readers."

Advertisers also like magazines with strong newsstand sales, because readers who buy on impulse are more likely to react to advertisements and promotions. Newsstand readers also tend to be younger. Less than 10 percent of Ladies' Home Journal's and about a third of Woman's Day sales occur at the newsstand.

As a result, both magazines hope new designs tempt readers who might not otherwise give them a second look. There are also new features to make the magazine's content more relevant to all ages.

Woman's Day is debuting new how-to columns, an editor liaison for readers and a bigger magazine with more photos and fancier paper.

Change in theme

At Ladies' Home Journal, new editor-in-chief Diane Salvatore, a veteran of Marie Claire, YM and Good Housekeeping, takes a similar tack. Along with a redesign, the magazine's editorial content is focusing on a new theme: heart, home and family.

Both magazines have been careful, though, not to stray too far from their roots. There are no racy articles exploring conundrums such as dating married men. Fashion spreads are also tasteful, with an emphasis on the practical.

So far, advertisers appear to like the changes. Woman's Day says the number of ad pages in its March issue is up more than 47 percent from the same issue a year ago. Ladies' Home Journal reports a 37 percent ad-page increase in its March issue.

There are also new advertisers in each issue, including Dockers brand pants in Ladies' Home Journal. Dockers liked the magazine's "refocused editorial voice and substantial design changes," a spokesman said.

Still, attracting younger readers won't be easy.

"I associated them with an older audience. I've looked at them when I go visit my grandmother," said Kristin Fearnley, 28, of Middletown, Ct. "They seem aimed at homemakers who are staying home with children. And that's not me."




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