Last year, home improvement power couple Chip and Joanna Gaines turned to print, and Meredith, to extend their brand with the quarterly magazine The Magnolia Journal. So far the results have been good, and the brand is on pace to hit an eight-figure rate base soon, and Meredith says that advertising business is continuing to grow across categories.
We wanted to look behind-the-scenes at the early success of the magazine, and figure out why this brand is taking off like it is. To do that, we caught up with SVP and Group Publisher of Meredith’s Women’s Group, Christine Guilfoyle, who is no stranger to women’s lifestyle and celebrity brands, having had past stints that include Martha Stewart Living and Better Homes & Gardens.
min: What void did The Magnolia Journal fill in your company’s portfolio?
Christine Guilfoyle: It fits beautifully in the overall portfolio. Regardless of who oversees the brands, all of us work together to support our sisters, so to speak. We have a culture of not competing internally. This is our third celebrity title. Rachael Ray’s was the first when we acquired her magazine from Reader’s Digest. That was also my first publisher job. Then we acquired Martha Stewart Living. And now, Chip and Joanna makes three. Each of these titles are supported by the personalities that bear their names, and all of them are incredibly different but highly symbiotic to what we do here.
min: How does it stand out in its competitive set?
Guilfoyle: Honestly, the conversation about our competitors and what category we fit in is unusual. Advertisers ask me this, and I throw the question back to them and say: can it compete with Martha, Oprah and Rachael? Sure. Can it compete with shelter brands because of the connection to HGTV? Sure. But I don’t think advertisers really put us in a bucket. I think the lines have been blurred in how magazines fit in any category.
When you’re launching a magazine and creating a prototype of what your audience will be like it’s hard because you are trying to figure out who you are like, but right now I’m not quite sure. We are unique.
Guilfoyle: I have to tell you, when People puts Chip and Joanna on the cover and says they are “the reason to love America” along with an arrow pointing to them that says they’re number one, that’s pretty vivid. It’s the second time they’ve appeared on People since we launched the magazine. The newsstand is challenged and I don’t think they would put them on the cover twice if they weren’t popular. I think the values they represent are resonating throughout America right now. It surely fits within our portfolio. I think that was one of the reasons they picked us. We’re a heartland company and they’re a down-home Texas couple.
min: How are the circulation increases helping your ad business?
Guilfoyle: Meredith really launched this as part of our consumer products division. Ultimately this is a premium product, it’s $7.99 at the newsstand. We launched it at the newsstand because we wanted to see if there was a consumer play. There is so much content they put out on their website, email and social, so we wanted to see if there was a consumer product. And there is. We nearly sold out the first issue. Then we increased the circulation in February. We just did our first direct-marketing campaign, and are expecting a rate base of 800,000. And I can guarantee it will increase again.
From an advertising standpoint, it’s premium inventory with a high CPM and very little discounting. It also reaches into every category. We added Samsung and Chevy, plus have several partners who are repeat business. Also impressive is that there are advertisers in the magazine who don’t do any other advertising.
But it isn’t just about the number of ad pages; it’s just as much a consumer play. We have a lean team and it really is a premium environment for clients that want to align with Chip and Joanna. This is one of the only places advertisers can sit next to their point of view. They don’t allow ads on their site, email or social. This is not an integrated buy or platform integration. This is about the love of print. And for the consumers who wants to read the magazine cover to cover.