Martha Stewart Living to Broaden Editorial Focus

Martha Stewart Living’s association with its eponymous founder, 360-degree marketing programs and editorial consistency have made it a favorite of marketers.

But now, facing sharp ad page declines, Living is broadening that message to include beauty, travel and fashion editorial content as it tries to boost its appeal with advertisers in those categories.

With the April issue, Living will introduce a health and beauty column called Apothecary and a fashion department. The magazine also will begin running an occasional personal travel column by Martha Stewart. Her first column, in the April issue, will report on her recent visit to Prague.

The cover sports a more modern look in April, with an airy, san serif font replacing a flowery script of past issues.

Executives at the magazine said that while they believed the editorial changes carried advertising opportunities, they denied the changes were made just for the sake of attracting new business.

This year through March, Living’s pages declined 36.8 percent to 180 with pharmaceutical, food and retail advertising softening. In contrast, the overall women’s service/lifestyle category was down 14.3 percent, per the Mediaweek Monitor.

“If we were just reacting to an advertising environment, that would be more bleak,” said Sally Preston, senior vp, group publisher. “[The new content] is really true to the core of what we do.”

Gael Towey, chief creative officer and acting editor in chief, said the additions reflect the interests of parent company Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia’s audience.

“We know the reader is very interested in health and beauty and travel,” Towey said. “Martha has been blogging about her trips and gets tons of hits on her blogs. She’s also covered beauty on television, and fashion. We just haven’t had it in the magazine.”

Towey has been serving as acting editor since Michael Boodro stepped down Jan. 30. The company said it would seek a permanent replacement.

Translating the changes into ad page gains will be another matter. While beauty has shown signs of resilience in the current downturn, travel and fashion have been cutting back as consumers have reduced spending. This year through March, the travel magazine category was down 22.7 percent in ad pages, per the Monitor. In the case of fashion advertising, Living faces the added challenge of courting marketers who prefer to run near other fashion ads.