Takes on broad portfolio: Griffin returns to Meredith

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It's not quite three days since Jack Griffin moved into his offices as Meredith Corp.'s new Magazine Group president, and the framed maps charting the waterways off his native Cape Cod haven't quite found their rightful places on the walls yet.

"It happened very quickly," Mr. Griffin says of Meredith's courting of him to replace the retiring Jerry Kaplan. He arrives on the heels of longtime VP-Editorial Director Myrna Blyth's retirement as well, and will run a group that includes the two titles Ms. Blyth was most associated with, Ladies' Home Journal and More, as well as flagship Better Homes & Gardens.

on familiar ground

But the surroundings are not entirely unfamiliar to Mr. Griffin, who returns to Meredith after a four-year stint as publisher of Advance Publications newspaper supplement Parade. While at Meredith, he spent time in its broadcast division before overseeing the custom-publishing unit, Meredith Integrated Marketing. Now he returns to oversee a broader portfolio, one swelled with last year's acquisition of the American Baby Group and one garnering notice from both the marketplace-ad pages are up 19.1% through May, the strongest of all top players-and among analysts who watch it.

"It's definitely hitting on all cylinders on the publishing side," said Karl Choi, an analyst with Merrill Lynch, who suggested Meredith's home-heavy portfolio had the cultural wind at its back, as low mortgage rates lead to high levels of home ownership.

Mr. Griffin, 42, demurred when asked what he will do. But he did note that while at Parade, he took that brand into other mediums, with Parade programming set to launch later this year on E.W. Scripps Co.'s Food Network and "The Parade All-America High School" teams tie in with espn.com via partnering with ESPN, owned by Walt Disney Co."That was all heavily geared toward investing in the next generation of readership," Mr. Griffin said.

Mr. Griffin's new boss, Publishing President Steven Lacy, was more expansive on future moves, speaking of a "target list" of potential acquisitions covering the demographic ground between American Baby and the older-audience mainstays like Better Homes & Gardens. A developmental project Mr. Lacy briefly alluded to in a presentation to analysts last month, one he said was "in the spirituality area," sounds like it would fit into the category of Time Inc.'s Real Simple and Hearst Magazines' O, The Oprah Magazine.

Mr. Lacy also spoke about finding "a meaningful way to serve what we see as a very strong and growing Hispanic-based marketplace." With its American Baby acquisition, Meredith got its first Spanish-language titles . Meredith's next moves would be to "build out" the big brands of Better Homes and Ladies' Home Journal, Mr. Lacy said, and build up rate base and frequency of "next tier" titles: More, Country Home, Traditional Home and Midwest Living. Mr. Griffin seems up for the task.

"There is less trust than there used to be" among consumers, he said, "and greater discernment about what they will permit to influence them. The beauty and magic of Parade is that it's highly trustable....The same things are true with the Meredith brands. That's central to why I'm here."

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