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Family Circle Redesign Puts Focus on Nontraditional Families

Plus, more beauty and style content

Meredith’s Family Circle is getting a facelift with its September issue. But the redesign, introduced earlier this month, isn’t just cosmetic—the magazine is also updating its content in an effort to better address its readers’ lives in 2014.

“Design trends move so quickly, so to avoid falling behind, we do an internal refresh every couple of years,” said vp, editor-in-chief Linda Fears. This time, the magazine brought in outside help in the form of former Time Inc. CMO Grant Schneider, who helped craft a new mission statement. “We wanted to convey that the magazine isn’t about the drudgery of being a mom and to help moms enjoy these days because they won’t last forever,” Fears said.

To avoid any potential drudgery, Fears reorganized the magazine’s front of book with a heavier emphasis on beauty and style content—“it’s a section that’s just for her,” Fears explained. (An increase in beauty and fashion has been a recent trend in the women's service category as it seeks to appeal to younger readers.) Next month, Family Circle will debut its first-ever Beauty Awards.

A new “Modern Life” feature, which highlights nontraditional families, marks perhaps the biggest leap forward for the magazine’s content. “I didn’t think we were doing the best job of addressing all the different types of families,” admitted Fears. “We thought shows like Modern Family were actually doing a better job.”

September’s “Modern Life” focuses on a widower raising his kids as a single dad. Future issues will focus on gay parents, adoptive parents and multi-religious families. “We may get a few letters, but this is the way Americans live,” said Fears. “For us to be as widely inclusive as possible, we have to reflect real families.”

Other new sections include the social media-centric “Social Circle,” the “Talking Points” advice column, and “Well-Being,” covering physical and mental health issues.

One thing that won’t get much tweaking is the magazine’s cover strategy: All food, all the time. Fears said the magazine has tested non-food covers in the past, but none has ever sold as well—partly due to the fact that most of the magazine’s newsstand sales are at supermarkets, where food photos are likelier to grab a shopper’s eye. (Despite a 5 percent drop in single-copy sales in the first half of 2014, per the Alliance for Audited Media, Family Circle remains the fifth-largest U.S. title in terms of newsstand circulation.)

On the business side, like much of the women’s category, the magazine has had a weak 2014 (down 18 percent in ad pages through September versus the previous year, per Media Industry Newsletter), but vp, publisher Lee Slattery expects the redesign to help pick up new advertising, especially in the beauty, home and financial services. New advertisers in the September issue include Hanover Direct (owner of The Company Store and Scandia Home), Metropolitan Life Insurance, Noven Pharmaceuticals and Newell Rubbermaid. “Overall, it hasn’t been the best year for advertising, but we’re encouraged by the kinds of ads we’re getting,” said Slattery.

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