Publishing exec of the year: Two hats are a better fit

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Myrna Blyth's oft-quoted mantra about her latest publishing venture, More, is: "Women over 40 used to expect less, now they expect more." The same can easily be said of Ms. Blyth.

As a 20-year veteran, senior VP and editor in chief of Ladies' Home Journal at Meredith Corp., Ms. Blyth has always expected more from her career. Her most recent expectation of where her career should go ended in the launch of a title for educated, affluent women over 40, a demographic just coming into its own.

Not only did Ms. Blyth conceive of the editorial product, she did her own marketing research to prove the time was right from both an editorial and advertising perspective. In fact, the project was so much her own, she now holds the titles of editor in chief and publishing director over the new launch as well as the 4.1 million circulation Ladies' Home Journal. That combination of titles is held by a rare few in these days of mega-corporations and firm divisions of labor.

"It's rare because there are few people who are capable of doing both jobs. More companies would have people doing it if they could find people who could do it," believes Peggy Kelly, senior VP-marketing services for Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.


Because of her finesse juggling the two, and her strong hand guiding the editorial tiller, More is one of Meredith Publishing Group's shining lights. As the energy powering that light, Ms. Blyth has been named Advertising Age's Publishing Executive of the Year.

Advertisers, who usually don't see too many editors across the desk from them, were quick to note Ms. Blyth's ability to keep the two roles separate.

"Myrna has both a great business sense and great editorial vision. She can keep it clear as to what the readers need and also understand what it takes to have a viable and profitable magazine," says Audrey Siegel, senior VP-associate managing director for Havas Advertising's Media Planning Group, New York.

Michael Tanguy, senior VP-marketing at L'Oreal, agrees. "When editor in chief has a total separation from the publishing world, sometimes the title gets a little distorted . . . There are very few who not only want to do it but can also pull it off."


Charlie Greenberg, VP-advertising at American Home Products Corp., notes Ms. Blyth has long been comfortable with her dual role. "Regardless of what Myrna's title is apropos of her responsibilities, she's always been an editor out there. People supporting the magazines from an ad standpoint really know what the editor's point of view is and how she reaches readers. ... There's no blurring of lines but just a real nice synergy."

In 1998, when Ms. Blyth first floated the idea around Meredith, More wasn't such an easy sell. Women's service magazines, including the two owned by Meredith-Better Homes & Gardens and Ms. Blyth's own Ladies' Home Journal-maintain a syndicated research age in the late 30s to early 40s. So why the need for another title to target the fortysomething woman?

Well, for one, the baby boomers, the demographic juggernaut ruling U.S. marketing for the past half-century, were now primarily in their 40s and 50s. And among this group was a specific niche of women-educated, affluent and not of a mind to define themselves as middle-aged-currently ignored by the women's magazine market.

"Myrna was really the person who helped educate all of us about a very underserved market. Women ages 40 to 60 have very different lives than their mothers did. They are more highly educated, more involved in the work force, more upscale," says Steve Lacy, president of Meredith Publishing Group.

"More describes a reader's experience at a specific time of her life," Ms. Blyth explains. "The greatest story to be told in the first 20 years of the new century is this story: what happens to the women."

Reporting to Ms. Blyth are Julie Pinkwater, More's current publisher, as well as the edit team of Susan Crandell, editor; Ila Stanger, managing editor; and Anna Demchick, creative director. Over at Ladies' Home Journal, Sarah Mahoney was recently hired as editor.


"The team approach works really well. It's really important the editor and marketing person and circulation person all work together, as long as the editor keeps the vision in front of everyone," Ms. Blyth says, adding advertisers want to be in titles with strong editorial. In publishing these days, the business side often is seen as holding the power. But she believes "the real power people are the ones who create the product. ... Creative ideas are key to all media businesses. The next idea for a magazine or a movie is where the money is going to come from."

Michael Brownstein, VP-publishing director, Meredith Corporate Solutions, and former publisher of Ladies' Home Journal and More, also used to report to Ms. Blyth. "She is our best salesperson," he says. "When she talks to media planners, they feel like they learn something about not just our titles, but about the media business, pop culture and women in general."

Ms. Blyth's editorial approach was to be as celebratory as possible about being a fortysomething, and to cover what she calls the "alpha women."

"We are surrounded by them, and they share the characteristics of alpha males, leaders. They have strength and experience," Ms. Blyth says. "It used to be women were only valued for their innocence or youth, the fertile young girl. Now women are valued for their experience-that's a huge change."

Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton and even Denise Rich are the alpha women who are staples of nightly news stories. "For good or ill, these women are demonstrating they have power," Ms. Blyth notes.


More, which debuted in September 1998 with a rate base-the guaranteed circulation for advertisers-of 400,000, is now at 600,000, a 50% increase over launch. In October, Meredith plans to raise the rate base to 650,000. Its ad page count for the six issues in 2000 was 443.23, up 7.2% from 1999, according to Publishers Information Bureau. Last month, More increased its frequency to 10 times a year from six times. It ended 2000 with a circulation of 588,218, up 16.5%, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.


Right from the start, More made an impressive show on the ad side. The launch issue carried 70 pages, with upscale advertisers-such as Chrysler Group, Clinique USA, FFI Fragrances' Elizabeth Arden Co., Givenchy, Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln Mercury, Estee Lauder, Lancome, L'Oreal, Nordstrom and Oneida-that set apart More from its women's service sisters. A chord More hit that resonated with advertisers is this is a group of women with money, and they spend a good chunk of it on cars, travel, healthcare, fashion, beauty and investments.

"This is a group that demands to stay center stage, and their money is so important to the economy that they will manage to stay center stage for much longer than previous generations," Ms. Blyth says. "Marketing 101 says get 'em while they're young, but these are the most divorced women in history. I tell marketers if they can change their husbands, they can change their brands."

As the editor who long presided over Ladies' Home Journal's franchise "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" she should know.

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