The company is quietly developing a Hallmark magazine that it hopes to introduce later this year. Hallmark published three test issues in 2003 and 2004 via Time Inc.'s custom publishing operations, but the company is now putting a full-time staff together to produce a new version on its own.
It's a contrarian move, given that many media owners are moving in the opposite direction-taking print brands and digitizing their content for TV or the Internet-but Hallmark is confident its product has a market.
"We're taking all the things we learned from our test issues and trying to put together the best book possible," said Julie O'Dell, public relations director, Hallmark. Those early issues focused on subjects like relationships, home, crafts and food.
Many details of the magazine remain undetermined, including circulation, distribution and frequency. Nancy Small, who was previously CEO at Eating Well Inc. and published Eating Well, has been named president. She earlier oversaw the launch of Organic Style (now defunct) as senior VP of Rodale's Organic Living division.
In the U.S., Hallmark has 4,000 Gold Crown stores, but about 43,000 retailers nationwide sell Hallmark products. That network could be tapped for distribution of a new title.
The magazine ramp-up comes as Hallmark backs out of other media platforms. In December, the company sold its Hallmark Entertainment unit, which produces movies and miniseries for networks, saying the unit didn't reinforce the core company brand. And Crown Media Holdings, which is majority-owned by Hallmark and operates the Hallmark Channel, went on the block last August on the theory that a stand-alone operation couldn't maintain efficiency in an era of conglomerates. Crown Media's fate should become clear within the next couple weeks.
George R. Sansoucy, an experienced print and media services consultant, said the Hallmark brand is a terrific one but that Hallmark magazine will need a unique voice to survive in the densely packed women's lifestyle category. "As strong as the brand is, the editorial they seem to be pursuing doesn't sound as if it's particularly new or different," he said.
And it is curious that the company is ramping up a single print media offering as it exits television, Mr. Sansoucy said. "It seems counter to the current industry trend, which is essentially taking the strongest brands out there, many of which were birthed in print, and expanding them into television, online and other media offerings."
Nonetheless, Hallmark believes a magazine will both promote its name and fill a gap in the market. "It's just a logical extension of the Hallmark brand," Ms. O'Dell said. "We feel that there is a need out there for a different type of a women's consumer lifestyle publication."