February 28, 2024

Hearst and HGTV Enter a New Magazine in a Murky Market

Yet Hearst Magazines is betting that there are enough people out there looking for just that kind of advice, presented in a sensible and recession-friendly manner.

Hearst and HGTV have become partners in a new magazine — called simply enough, HGTV Magazine — that will make its debut on newsstands at the beginning of October. It is one of the only major consumer magazines brought to market in the last few years, and the first since 2008 from one of the country’s top three magazine publishers, which all shed jobs and closed publications during the last recession.

“If you try to time the market, maybe on occasion you’ll get lucky,” said David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines. “But that’s a very difficult thing to do. We operate our business in good times and bad.”

In fact, when it comes to starting a magazine, you might say Hearst has a knack for pretty lousy timing.

SmartMoney, which it started with Dow Jones in 1992, hit newsstands in the thick of the early 1990s economic slump. The Food Network Magazine was introduced at the end of 2008, when the economy and stock market were in free fall, and the publishing world was in retreat.

For the record, both are still in business and doing quite well. Dow Jones bought out Hearst’s half of SmartMoney last year.

And the Food Network Magazine is one of the strongest-performing magazines in the business today, with ad pages and newsstand sales on the rise. It is now the third best-selling magazine by single copies for Hearst, behind only Cosmopolitan and O, The Oprah Magazine. Hearst will raise the magazine’s rate base, the circulation publishers guarantee to advertisers, next year to 1.4 million from 1.3 million.

Very much mindful that lightning may not strike twice, Hearst is forgoing the route of a traditional introduction for HGTV Magazine. Instead, it is careful to describe the rollout as a test — not an official debut — and has committed to only two issues.

The company said it was seeing encouraging signs. About 24,000 people have subscribed at a price of $15 for 10 issues. And while advertisers in the first issue were given space free, some appear to be on board with Hearst’s pitch that it has identified a new magazine category — something that offers tips for both home and lifestyle and is not so aspirational that it is out of reach.

“Despite economic pressure, I think there’s great advertising and marketing opportunities for many clients,” said Robin Steinberg, an executive vice president for MediaVest, a leading ad buyer.

Hearst has been successful before in taking a popular television brand like Oprah and Food Network and translating it into a magazine. Such joint ventures are a staple of the company’s growth strategy, allowing it to split costs and share in the profits. But whether that success can be replicated with HGTV, Ms. Steinberg said, remains to be seen.

“The challenge is benchmarking success against properties like Oprah and the Food Network,” she added. “Is HGTV popular enough to deliver the same consumer demand and scale? Scale isn’t necessarily everything, but it’s something.”

The challenge in convincing advertisers to sign on once the test phase is complete is something Hearst acknowledges will take some doing.

“I think advertisers want a little more facts behind things before you launch,” said Michael Clinton, Hearst’s marketing president and publishing director. “I think that’s changed over the last few years. In the go-go years of the early 2000s, a lot of advertisers would take a lot of fliers on a lot of new things. Now in a post-recessionary world, they scrutinize their budgets a lot more.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=f70083815d7e67fc9d75dc74b09b3c25

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