Meredith Corp.

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Being one of publishing's quieter operations-having your base in Des Moines while competitors bask in Manhattan's glamor will do that-has some upside. Better Homes & Gardens scored the largest ad page gain in `02 among the five biggest-circulation magazines. But Meredith's next-biggest title, Ladies' Home Journal, faces challenges. Its ad pages held essentially flat in `02-and, as one industry wag puts it, flat is the new up-but it's struggled to meet its 4.1 million rate base and has had issues with overstating newsstand sales. New Editor in Chief Diane Salvatore just debuted a sharp redesign, but questions over how many magazines the traditional women's service group can support continue, and Ladies' Home Journal is the title most frequently questioned. Another test-the third-of Meredith's Living Room came last fall, but the fate of that project remains uncertain. (Look for it to soon surpass Conde Nast's Teen Vogue as the longest-in-development title.) The nexus of what happens with LHJ, Living Room and Meredith's American Baby acquisition from Primedia will dictate the shape of the publishing division in the future. The bigger questions, which remain unaddressed, concern the fate of publicly traded Meredith as investors and other companies continue to be not terribly shy about suggesting spinoffs of broadcasting or sale of the whole company.

Rating: 2.5 stars

Best performer:

Traditional Home

ad pages

up 18.7% to 772.6


up 3.4% to 852,121

Worst performer:


ad pages

down 12.1% to 562.2


up 26.3% to 798,626

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