Booming Business

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Boomer women have always done things just a little bit differently than their predecessors. Frances Lear recognized this in 1988 when she launched Lear's for women over 40 "who weren't born yesterday," as the magazine's tagline read. Grace Mirabella also aimed older when she launched the fashion and style magazine Mirabella in 1989, although it has since changed its target to a considerably younger, thirtysomething demographic.

Now Meredith Corp. has stepped up to the plate with More, a lifestyle magazine tested twice on newsstands last year and officially launched this fall as a subscription-based, bimonthly spinoff of Ladies' Home Journal. The Des Moines, Iowa-based publishing company believes the timing is right to celebrate the life of the 40-plus woman, and that advertisers are ready to embrace an older audience.

Statistics support such thinking: Every eight seconds a baby boomer turns 50, and women ages 40 to 64 are predicted to be the largest age demographic group by the year 2010. The notion that these readers are redefining middle age puts the editors of this 400,000-ratebase magazine at the forefront of an intriguing demographic and psychographic moment in time.

"When we sell More to advertisers, we're not called upon to explain the demographics of the audience," says publisher Michael Brownstein. "45-to-55-year-old women are traveling, investing, and refurbishing their homes. They're a very active, affluent bunch."

Martha Farnsworth Riche, a demographic consultant based in Washington, D.C., who worked with Meredith on the launch, calls this phenomenon "the 20 new years at the middle of life." And, while the largest demographic group up until now has been women in their twenties and thirties, the coming dominance of women ages 40 to 59 is something Riche calls "a fundamental and historic shift."

What's more, attitudes and lifestyles of the post-childbearing, pre-retirement woman are changing. More readers have an average household income in excess of $65,000, 68 percent are married, 77 percent are employed, and 80 percent have children. In addition, 86 percent are college-educated. "People used to move into smaller homes once their kids started college," says Myrna Blyth, senior vice president, publishing director and editor in chief of More. She's also been editor of Ladies' Home Journal for the past 17 years. "These consumers are building a larger or more luxurious house or they're renovating. This is a consumer with high expectations, and they're pioneering this life stage."

As a new title published by Meredith, which has a stable of 21 subscription magazines, More's initial launch phase tapped heavily into the company's 60-million-name database. "After we did two issues, our sell-through on the newsstand was good enough to launch," says Brownstein. "We included blow-in cards and ran those [returned] cards against our database. The interested subscribers turned out to be Meredith's best customers."

And, ironically, the biggest overlap wasn't with Ladies' Home Journal readers. Most of the women interested in receiving More were also Traditional Home, Country Home, and Golf for Women subscribers, a more affluent group of readers. "These are terrific-looking, highly educated women looking for something different in a magazine, something that talks directly to them," adds Brownstein.

On the competitive front, Meredith executives believe More is up against Bon Appetit, Martha Stewart Living, and Travel & Leisure, not such women's service magazines as Good Housekeeping or Family Circle. "More is a magazine for women who don't have a magazine," says Blyth. "The feedback we're getting is that most of them read beauty and fashion magazines and no longer identify with them." True, says Paul Hale, managing director at Veronis, Suhler & Associates, a New York City investment bank specializing in media and communications. Women in this group, he says, are not being served by magazines targeting younger women. But, he cautions, "Women in their forties may not want to be reminded that they're not in their twenties and thirties. While their needs are different in terms of fashion, beauty, and relationships, the delivery of information to women in the older age bracket is a delicate thing."

More's editorial game plan has been closely managed by its three top editors, all of whom happen to be over 40. The goal, says executive editor Susan Crandell, is to stay focused on what their readers really want to know. "A lot of our writers are women in this age group who have a shared way of looking at getting older," she says. "I call it 'rosy realism.' We're optimistic about it, we feel stronger and better, and we also know we're more wrinkled. For example, I did a 100-mile bike ride last weekend, and I'm 47. I can still go that distance, but I don't look the same in Lycra. It's a tradeoff, but if I had to choose, I'd still rather be able to ride."

And then there's the idea that these women have the confluence of money and time, a theme running through many of More's features, including a section called "The Good Life." Articles in the debut issue ran the gamut, from "The Hormone Chronicles," about one woman's experiences with hormone-replacement therapy, to an interview with Tipper Gore. The bottom line: More promises features about fashion, beauty, and health, as well as pieces on married life after three decades. And all the models in More's editorial pages are 40-plus. "One of the things More wants to do is reflect what 40 and 50 looks like," adds Crandell.

Offering older women a magazine they can relate to, both in terms of editorial and visuals, is critical, adds Riche. "Up until this point, women's magazines have addressed women with one voice," she says. "Women aged out of traditional magazines and had no place to go."

The pioneering titles Analysts have long commented that earlier attempts to reach this market -like those of Lear's and Mirabella-stalled over the long haul because the demographic numbers hadn't reached critical mass.

When Mirabella launched, women ages 40 to 64 made up 19 percent of the female population; by 2002 the Census Bureau projects that they will comprise 24 percent, and by 2015, 32 percent. Also, few readers liked admitting that they were aging, and advertisers were ambivalent about skewing older. "Frances Lear didn't hold to her demographic positioning," says Michael Rybarski, senior vice president of Emeryville, California-based Age Wave Impact, which tracks the aging boomer market. "She started out targeting women 50-plus and then kept getting younger. Also, there was advertising resistance to this reader ten years ago. But, since the baby boom transmogrifies everything it touches, they've had to evolve."

Now, women ages 45 to 64 spend more than $21 billion annually on clothes and more than $5 billion on beauty products, according to the most recent consumer expenditure survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "The numbers are what make advertisers move," Riche says. "Back when Lear's was launched, advertisers wouldn't take the time to try and reach an older audience."

The launch issue of More contained 70 pages of ads, and Brownstein feels confident the magazine will soon make strides in the fashion and luxury goods category as well as in financial services, a category his team is currently working on.

"It's starting to sink in that the 46-to-64 age group is growing," adds Age Wave's Rybarski. "Advertisers who aren't open to this market are living in a mythological past. It's a marketing hangover that clouds our judgment."

Still, some industry insiders are skeptical about advertisers radically changing their creative or marketing plans any time soon. "There's always been a perception that advertisers are talking to geriatric people when you mention 50-plus demographics," says Roberta Garfinkle, senior vice president and director of print media at McCann-Erickson Worldwide in New York City. "What's different about More is that it's positioning itself as a magazine that will reach the younger older woman who is vibrant and alive." Meredith hopes to increase the magazine's ratebase to 500,000 by this summer.

And the time may be ripe for media targeting this group of boomer women to lead advertisers to market, some industry watchers say, including Steve Soldano, partner and director of media services at the Deutsch advertising agency in New York City. "Magazines like More are just the tip of the iceberg," he says. "At the millennium, there will be more people over 40 than under, and it's about time advertisers made the leap and embraced this market. It's never been sexy to position a product as one for the middle age, but that has got to change."

I assume you're looking for something a little more helpful than "put your chiropractice between a bowling alley and a martial arts school," so here are a few helpful jumping-off points on the Net.

Start with the Mother of All Demographic Data: the U.S. Census Bureau. A clickable map of the United States at http://www.census.gov/ datamap/www/ gives you access to the general profile of any county in the country. For example, the "1996 USA Counties General Profile" reveals that the per-capita income in Monroe County, Michigan, was $19,022, while in Wayne County it was $19,912; in Lenawee County, $18,035. What's the difference? Depends on how much you charge for an office visit, I guess.

The Census Bureau's County and City Data Books (1994 is the latest edition) have a lot of useful info, but you'll have to drop by the University of Virginia's Geospatial and Statistical Data Center (http://fisher.lib.virginia.edu/) to actually look at them online. (You can order a print version at the Census Web site). Never mind that the Center sounds like one of those Star Trek outposts that Romulans just love to destroy-it has info on all 50 states. Here you can take your choice of Michigan counties, and pick from an irritatingly long list of studies to pull up relevant information. Just a few of the topics you can find include "Serious Crimes Known to Police, Violent 1991"; and "Average Travel Time to Work 1990." (One study I'd like to see that isn't on the list: "Average Travel Time for Police to the Scene of Serious Crimes.")

Not to be outdone by Virginia for information about Michigan, the Wolverine State itself has some pretty good info of its own, at the Michigan Information Center Web site (http://www.state.mi.us/dmb/mic/source/). Here, again, is a heap of info organized by county-this time via clickable maps of the state. You can check out "1990 Employment as Fabricators/Operators/Laborers by City and Township," to get some indication of the number of manual laborers-hence, a clue as to the number of possible back problems. On the other hand, the study is eight years old, which might mean that, by now, a lot of these people need more than chiropractors. "November 1996 ZIP Codes in Southeastern Lower Michigan" has nothing significant to say unless you're into numerology, in which case, you might as well forget the demographic information and get your professional guidance from tea leaves.

But "1995 County Business Patterns" (found at http://www.state.mi.us/dmb/mic/source/) does have some interesting material. For instance, have a look at the number of chiropractic employees in the three southeasternmost Michigan counties-Monroe: 46; Wayne: 536; Lenawee: 48.

Sort of makes you wonder what's going on in Wayne County, doesn't it? A good guess: Detroit. Imagine how many strained backs result from hurling dead octopi onto the ice during Red Wings play-off games. A better guess: According to estimates at the same site, the population of Wayne County is more than nine times that of Monroe and Lenawee combined.

Another helpful source is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (of which the National Weather Service is a branch), which compiles climatic data at their Web site (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/ climate.shtml). You can select information from one of six regional climatic centers and then zero in on a particular state. This is where you can look up historical snowfall averages in cities such as Detroit and elsewhere in southeastern Michigan, the better to calculate the number of back injuries sustained while shoveling driveways.

And if you get bored with all this statistical stuff, stop by the University of Michigan's "Cicadas of Michigan" Web site at http://insects.ummz.lsa.umich.edu/fauna/Michigan_Cicadas/FullIndex.html. You can preview the cicada sounds you'll be hearing outside your office window, between spine-crackings.

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