Top 5 Monthlies: No Sweat for Meredith

By Greer Jonas

The heat is on for consumer magazines as they search for a formula to turn around devastating advertising declines. As part of our perpetual search for winning strategies, we crunched the ad-page numbers of the 164 monthly magazines that are tracked in min, and ranked the top percent gainers with at least 75 ad pages in July (see Top 5 chart below, and check the June 22 issue of min for the complete July monthly ad page chart). Only eight of the 164 mags show a positive percent gain year to date through July compared to the same period last year; 23 are up in July compared to July 2008.

Looking at our Top 5, it’s apparent that something is going right at Meredith; four of the five magazines (Fitness, Family Circle, Ladies’ Home Journal and More) belong to that publisher. We checked in with the publishers of those titles to get their reaction to their positive summertime trends.

At the top of the chart, with a 46% gain in July 2009, is Fitness. Publisher Lee Slattery says their advertisers are responding to the editorial content under the direction of editor-in-chief Betty Wong. "Columns such as ‘Fitness Fix,’ ‘Dinner in 20′ and ‘Lighten Up’ have brought energy and vitality to the Fitness brand, and a response from marketers, particularly in the health and beauty categories," says Slattery. The July/August issue got a boost with the third annual Fitness Health Food Awards, filled with 50 best-tasting, good-for-you options in packaged foods.

Family Circle publisher Carey Witmer discussed FC‘s continuing success in 2009 on minonline last month, but says in regard to the  26% gain in July, "The July issue of Family Circle experienced growth in all major categories to finish as the biggest July in our history."

Ladies’ Home Journal VP/publisher Julie Pinkwater credits the title’s ad-page gains to the redesign led by EIC Sally Lee, which emphasizes  a “Look Good. Do Good. Feel Great.” theme. Their advertisers recognized the combined value of reaching LHJ‘s 12 million readers as well as working with companies on cause marketing that tie into their own brands. "It’s an exciting time to be at Meredith, which has evolved from a publishing company to a media and marketing company providing 360 degree approaches to client needs," Pinkwater says.

Brenda Saget Darling, VP/Publisher of More, says that with the economic downturn having a significant impact last year, there was a rebound of interest from advertisers who appreciated More‘s demographic profile of influence and affluence. "Every bit of research shows that the More reader maintains considerable assets, is still employed and has money to spend," Darling says. "With that in mind we have seen continued growth in both the beauty and financial services category and have held our own in fashion, accessories and even automotive. We are looking at a strong September and hope to keep the momentum going into the fall.

Greer Jonas is managing editor of min.