Hearst Magazines has named a new editor in chief for Good Housekeeping, one of its biggest and most profitable magazines. Jane Francisco, who was the editor in chief of Chatelaine, a leading women’s lifestyle magazine in Canada, will start in her new role Dec. 2 and report to Hearst Magazines president David Carey. She will replace Rosemary Ellis, who is leaving the company to pursue “other opportunities,” which Hearst did not specify.
Carey said he chose Francisco for her work modernizing Chatelaine, which has faced similar issues to Good Housekeeping as women are increasingly going online for cooking and cleaning content, if not avoiding it altogether. “I’m very impressed with the revitalization she led at Chatelaine,” Carey said. “It struck me as exactly the opportunity we have for Good Housekeeping.”
Ellis’ departure shocked some in publishing circles. In the seven years she led the brand, she seemed to epitomize the editor as brand steward, leading the creation of Hearst’s first stand-alone brand, 7 Years Younger; the Green Good Housekeeping Seal; and multiple TV, digital and product extensions. The magazine received three National Magazine Award nominations under her watch. One of her last prominent initiatives was a major redesign in January that shrank the word “housekeeping” in the logo and played up fun in the magazine.
While editor changes are often preceded by falling circulation, the Good Housekeeping situation was anything but. In the first half of the year, subscriptions were up 3.9 percent to 4 million with single-copy sales up 6.6 percent to 339,270. Carey said the decision to leave was Ellis’ own and praised her, saying, “She’s done a great job of modernizing the magazine but also developing new business.” While other women’s service magazines have struggled to stay relevant, Carey said Good Housekeeping didn’t have a readership problem, but did mention its need to continually evolve. “The brand does have more 18 to 34 than others do in their entirety,” he told Adweek. “It’s very much in demand by consumers today. At the same time, it's the responsibility for these brands to be up to date.”
That said, Carey pointed out that Francisco had branding and startup background that he thought would benefit the magazine. One area Carey said would be a focus of investment was the well-known Good Housekeeping Seal and Research Institute. Carey said there would be more use of the seal in the pages of the magazine, while the research institute would do more testing and product reviews to drive traffic to the brand.
The announcement was also noteworthy in that it was made by Hearst Corp. president and CEO Steven Swartz in addition to Carey. Swartz was named to the position in June, but his name wasn’t on earlier editor in chief announcements, for Dr. Oz and Country Living.