The issue, for which the logo was changed to read "Your Old House," includes a Connecticut couple's feature on remodeling their kitchen, readers' tips on saving money and strange stuff found during renovation projects.
A learning experience
It was intended to engage readers more than usual, but the process also gave editors new insight into their audience. "The editors sure learned a lot about you while sifting through the thousands of emails and photos submitted to the YourTOH pages on our web site," Editor Scott Omelianuk wrote in his editor's letter.
Traditional media professionals are increasingly experimenting with consumer-generated media, partly for its potential to engage audiences and partly because audiences are gravitating toward these new creative outlets with or without them.
Last March saw Mitch Fox, a former publisher of Vanity Fair and Details, named president of 8020 Media, whose high-polish travel and photography titles consist entirely of content submitted online and voted into their pages by online readers.
But it still isn't clear how professionally edited publications can make the most of amateur contributions. John Byrne, editor in chief at BusinessWeek.com, recently floated turning the site over to user-generated content every Saturday, according to an interview on Talking Biz News.
"People looked at me as if I was the devil," he said in that interview. "They thought we shouldn't surrender our real estate to our readers. They thought it would lead to confusion and they believed that many of our readers wouldn't be interested in it. I'm not so sure. But the point is we need to keep trying new things that deepen our relationship with our readers."
Ad pages in the June issue of This Old House came in 2.9% higher than last June, but they fell 13.7% for the first half as a whole, according to the Media Industry Newsletter. Two months ago, the title laid off four employees and decided not to fill several vacant positions, citing broad challenges in the marketplace.