Better Homes & Gardens Remains Youthful After 95 Years
Better Homes & Gardens may be one of the longest continuously published magazines in the country, but it’s not getting old. The multiplatform brand hasn’t shied away from its print legacy and continues to publish 12 issues a year, but it’s tapping into digital opportunities without reservation.
In fairness, some changes have been incremental. For instance, the brand just introduced its first new logo in 51 years. The more contemporary look aligns with BHG’s mission to appeal to a younger, Millennial audience that shares some of the same interests with its existing Baby Boomer readers.
We caught up with Editor-in-Chief Stephen Orr and Group Publisher Steve Bohlinger to learn more about the brand’s evolution and commitment to tapping into a younger audience, while also remaining true to itself.
min: Obviously a lot has changed in 95 years, but what remains a constant with your brand?
Stephen Orr: The subject matter of shelter titles never change—food, home décor, gardening and the lifestyle element. Those are a constant. But what makes the magazine exciting is that we’re always looking for the trends within those groups of interests and exposing them to the readers.
Also, in the past the ideas were less about people and now we focus on the personalities.
Steve Bohlinger: One thing that hasn’t changed with our clients and our agencies is how they look at our brand and company. For us, the quality of the content hasn’t changed, but how we bring that to them has. Ten years ago we had the brand wheel with the middle being the magazine. Now it’s a spoke along with digital, social and licensing, which is huge for this brand.
The biggest thing we talk about is our reach. More people read Better Homes & Gardens than live in New York and Texas. 48 million according to The Magazine Media 360º.
min: How have your readers changed in the digital, and more specifically the mobile era, and what are you doing to stay in step with them?
Orr: It’s how people consume the information is the main thing. Meredith more than any other company has embraced the 360º approach, because we are large and have the budgets to do this. From social to the pages of the magazine. All of those things are a whole. We try to give people emphatic presentations of the world across platforms.
I think of my own way of consuming information. I’m on Instagram and Twitter a lot and they are both kind of magazines I’ve curated myself with the information.
min: Similarly, how are you serving your advertisers better now?
Bohlinger: I talk about Stephen because he is Millennial minded. We reach 7.7 million Millennials now. Our Instagram grew by 84% in 2016. Facebook followers are nearly to four million and Pinterest is over 1.5 million. This doesn’t just happen unless someone is driving it. So when I go out to our clients and say our video viewership is up over 500% it’s because of Stephen’s content. This is how we are leaning in.
min: Why is print still important for BHG?
Bohlinger: You know what I love about this brand, is we still print 7.6 million copies every month and we are still relevant and extremely profitable. I am proud to say that. Magazines are cutting frequency and rate base, and this has been going on since we launched, but if we weren’t doing well we wouldn’t still have this frequency.
It’s a time of survival of the fittest. Those who do things well will survive and grow. If you have the right idea and are serving it in the right way, it will sell. I’m excited about the future and what it holds.
Orr: At Meredith, our impetus on where we need to be with the consumers. Everyone here, even those that are digitally minded, we are all in it together to find out if print is one of the spokes of the wheel. We are all watching it closely to see if we need to be nimble. If print changes, or becomes less viable, then we’ll react. But I don’t see print going away totally. It’s a different experience and I see with younger people that idea of getting them off their phones. We give them an excuse to do that.