Shelter Titles Step Out of the Home
Top home décor titles succeed by reaching into new categories, like tech and lifestyle.
When Domino Media Group CEO Nathan Coyle was talking to Domino about its open CEO position last year, he wanted to ensure he could produce growth if he joined. He flipped through Domino magazine for inspiration, noticing people on nearly every page. Despite Domino’s reputation as a shelter title, talking home design, Coyle realized, “it’s also about the cool person that lives there.” He saw that as the opportunity.
Readers flock to the magazine in order to find tips and tricks for their home décor, but they also see the person living in the chic home. Coyle believed they want to know more about that person, whether it’s where she goes for brunch, where she works out or where she shops. It was an epiphany: Domino would “have license to extend into adjacent categories.” Coyle had his plan and he took the job.
It’s a realization that isn’t held by Coyle alone. Extending into new categories has become in vogue for shelter titles, or the magazines and websites that focus on the home, like Architectural Digest, This Old House or Dwell. By dipping a toe or leaping full-bore into lifestyle categories, like fashion, food, weddings and even business, these titles have found new advertisers, new readers and new content.
It’s one reason magazine shelter titles have outpaced the overall industry, growing readership by 2.7% compared to 2016, which easily surpasses the overall industry’s 1.9% growth rate, according to MPA, the Association of Magazine Media. It’s particularly noticeable on the web (excluding mobile), where shelter grew 3% as the overall industry declined by 11%.
Not Everything Has Changed
Architectural Digest has become one of the best performing shelter magazines over the past year, according to the MPA, especially in regards to print readership. Its editor-in-chief, Amy Astley, moved there from Condé Nast sibling publication Teen Vogue a little over a year ago. Since, she has redesigned the pages and tweaked the tone. But like in the past, AD tackles many of the popular trends by showcasing the room where people gather to participate or enjoy the cultural phenomenon of the day.
“I’m not deep into wellness,” says Astley. “I don’t think fitness is at the core of what the reader comes to us for. But would I show a home gym? One-hundred percent.”
And that’s the way most shelter titles have long attacked other categories: by sticking to what they do best, and focusing on how homes change based on the way people live today. Greater focus on fresh food and families lead to more images of open kitchens. New fashion wear produces discussions about larger master closets. But the rise of online-centric content has allowed even AD to more directly target different categories.
AD uses its various social platforms to engage specific audiences, and Astley says the brand can experiment more on Facebook or Instagram. A strong response to certain content on the social platforms helped encourage AD to step into different verticals. Recently, Architectural Digest launched AD Pro, which focuses on what professionals in the design industry need to know. Stories vary from the creation of lighting fabrication lines to the winners of large design contracts. In October, AD will introduce Clever, a digital magazine that will offer design tips for apartment living.
“We value the people that have read the magazine for a long time, but there are different audiences out there,” says Astley. And it’s easier to court those new readers online.
Picking the Organic Extension
As a publication for do-it-yourselfers, This Old House rarely focused on technology. However, as smart technology for the home grew in popularity, suddenly readers were interested in the latest gadgets for their abode. Editor-in-Chief Susan Wyland says that the company took a once-a-year issue focused on gadgets, expanded it to online, and created its own vertical with daily updates. The decision was driven “by our sense that there is so much happening in this area that it deserved our ongoing attention,” says Wyland.
This extension of the content turned full-circle as advertisers, like Home Depot, now buy ad space in the magazine to sell tech items, like smart smoke detectors.
“It has to feel organic,” says Wyland. “Does it really fit the brand ethos of building the dream and doing it right?”
Coyle and his team at Domino pinpointed wedding content as a potential strong extension, because it would attract younger audiences. Plus, Coyle felt there was less competition among bridal titles that had tapped into “the mindset of the Millennial audience.”
Still, he didn’t creep into the vertical. Instead, he hired Molly Guy in April to head wedding coverage. Guy created Stone Fox Bride in 2012, and quickly became an online powerhouse in the bridal space. The daily online content ranges from wedding day designs, to tips on how to stay calm for the big day, to stylish cake ideas and more. It’s far from traditional shelter content.
It became clear, “there are dollars here,” adds Coyle, since he could attract new advertisers, focused on spirits or wine or entertainment. Weeks after launching the wedding vertical, Coyle says Domino landed a “meaningful” new program with All-Clad cookware.
From the business side, it didn’t take Domino much effort to change advertising strategy. Many within the ad team were generalists to begin with. Instead, it was just educating them about why advertisers should care about Domino’s wedding offerings and Guy’s work.
The audience, on the other hand, didn’t need the education, making it a natural extension from the home.