Hearst Invests in 'Redbook' Redo

Going Glossy to Compete With Web

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Redbook is taking a seven-figure investment from Hearst Magazines to adopt heavier paper stock and a larger size, in a move largely intended to amplify all the best things about reading magazines.
Redbook editor in chief Stacy Morrison
Redbook editor in chief Stacy Morrison

Two good years a boost
The outlay by Hearst is striking for a few reasons, not least that the company closed two magazines this year and is directing tons of investment toward its online efforts. It helps that the past two years have been Redbook's two best by revenue, said Michael A. Clinton, Hearst's exec VP-chief marketing officer and publishing director.

Ad pages at Redbook from January through November increased to 1,400.7, up 2.9% over the equivalent period in 2005, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.

But the rise of digital media, which has threatened newspaper growth to the point that The Wall Street Journal is switching to a smaller size next month, also seems to be making the luxury treatment more important for magazines. Big, thick, glossy paper is something digital will never be able to deliver. Redbook, one of the original "Seven Sisters," the mass-circulated women's service titles that once formed the bedrock of media plans trying to reach homemakers, has been challenged in the last decade by fresher approaches to home-focused editorial from the likes of Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey and, more recently, Rachael Ray.

'Different universe'
"Every boomer woman now in her 40s, 50s and early 60s grew up in her 20s in a totally different universe of magazines," said Mary E. Morgan, VP-publisher. "They expected different things from magazines and didn't have the opportunity to troll online for service information. Magazines have to serve a very different purpose today -- they really are luxuries for readers."
Redbook's publisher, Mary Morgan
Redbook's publisher, Mary Morgan

In the same vein, editors probably won't use the extra 5% of space they're getting, starting with the July issue, to jam in many more words, photos or graphics. "Our goal is not to necessarily fill up an extra 5% of content, but to inject a magazine with that sense of 'take some time, take a breath and stay with that page for a while,'" Ms. Morgan said.

Overall strategy
Redbook's newsstand sales in the first half of this year were 19.9% lower than in first-half 2005, according to its publisher's statement to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. But the bigger, thicker book isn't being adopted to help single-copy sales; in fact, the title intends to increase both newsstand and subscription prices along with the paper it uses.

"Improvements haven't historically helped at newsstand," said Stacy Morrison, editor in chief. "It's just really right for the overall brand strategy, which is extending the brand and getting Redbook positioned for the next 20 years."
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