Magazine A-List 2009

Family Circle Is No. 3 on Ad Age's Magazine A-List

A Fresh Approach for a Stalwart Brings Readers, Real Ad Revenue

By Published on .

NEW YORK ( -- When a magazine increases ad pages in an environment brutal enough to tear almost everyone else down, it's easy to suspect that the magazine is discounting its publicly quoted ad rates to the point of absurdity.

That is not what's happening at Family Circle, insists Meredith Corp., the company that has owned the title since 2005.

A refreshing rethinking of a brand can not only make it relevant again, but exactly right for readers and marketers.
Linda Fears
Carey Witmer
Family Circle's ad pages in the issues from January through October ran nearly 13.9% higher than in the same period a year earlier, according to the Media Industry Newsletter. The average decline across monthlies was nearly 22%. And yes, Jack Griffin, president of the National Media Group at Meredith, referred to "pricing appropriately" to "attract [ad] volume" in its most recent earning call. But Meredith projects that Family Circle, for one, will collect more ad revenue in 2009 than it did in 2008. That's measured in real, actual ad dollars, a Meredith spokesman said, not ad revenue calculated from the magazine's openly quoted rates.


"I understand your question totally," said Andy Sareyan, chief brand officer at Meredith's National Media Group, where he oversees titles including Family Circle. "It is confounding. This one magazine stands out beautifully, not just from a paging standpoint but from a revenue standpoint."

But Family Circle happened to occupy a relatively sweet spot as the recession brought fear to consumers and marketers alike. "It really resonated at a time when people were focusing on home, family and the things that were important to them, not luxury and things that cost a lot of money," Mr. Sareyan said. As a result, September 2009 was the scene of vast wreckage for many high-end fashion magazines, but Family Circle's September issue this year was its biggest issue yet.

Family Circle's publisher since May 2008, Carey Witmer, and her team have expanded ad categories that might seem endemic, such as household supplies or clothing, but also some less obvious categories, like entertainment and consumer electronics. New advertisers include Ikea, Microsoft, Chase and Sprint. Meredith promoted Ms. Witmer to VP this month.

1. Women's Health
2. Better Homes & Gardens
3. Family Circle
4. The Economist
5. People
6. Essence
7. The Week
8. Backpacker
9. Cosmopolitan
10. National Geographic
The 76-year-old title's position in the market gained from an editorial revamp late last year under Linda Fears, editor in chief. Its notice in the industry also increased when it secured its first nomination for a National Magazine Award last spring in almost 20 years. Ms. Fears helped raise the brand's profile further when she joined Food Network's "Ultimate Recipe Showdown" as a new member of the judge's panel.

And don't forget the benefits of working within Meredith, whose portfolio of titles attract a very large group of consumers -- an inviting target for major advertisers.

More pieces are coming. Family Circle plans to introduce a social networking site called Momster late this fall. Next year the magazine plans to introduce the Family Circle of Excellence, a program in which Family Circle editors and a reader panel will rate products' quality and award their favorites.

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