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Hearst Design Group Consolidates Editorial Side

Shelter titles will share departments

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Hearst Magazines' Design Group, comprised of House Beautiful, Veranda and Elle Decor, is combining several editorial departments and is expected to eliminate some positions in the process.

Newell Turner, currently House Beautiful editor in chief, will become editor in chief of the group, a newly created position. Each title will have its own eic—Michael Boodro and Dara Caponigro will remain at Elle Decor and Veranda, respectively, while House Beautiful—the largest of the three with a circulation of 835,005—will get a new editor, as well as design director, interiors editor and senior writer. All three magazines—which already share a publishing department—will share market, features and photography departments, though.

The shelter titles, like the magazine industry in general, have had an uneven first half of the year, and Turner said he saw the reorganization as an opportunity to bounce back from the cutbacks that many magazines faced during the recession.

“We all have smaller teams than we’ve ever had before, and this combined structure will give us more support,” he said.

House Beautiful's ad pages declined 4.3 percent to 264 in the first half versus the year-ago period, per Publishers Information Bureau. Elle Decor was down 1.4 percent to 517, and Veranda gained 3.9 percent to 253.

The reorganization will likely result in a “handful of positions” being eliminated, while others will become part-time, said Turner, although he expects to add some market department hires and a few editorial assistants. Turner, who had been editor in chief of House Beautiful since 2010, will continue to oversee the magazine until a successor is named.

It's not the first time Hearst has looked for new models in search of cost savings. In addition to the Design Group having a single publishing staff, other titles have shared marketing departments. Its recent and highly vaunted launches, Food Network and HGTV magazines, are successful in part because they deliberately operate on shoestring staffs.  

Hearst Magazines president David Carey said he was inspired by the setup of Hearst’s European publications, many of which share editorial departments. Carey has shown a penchant for the group approach, having created men's enthusiast and women's divisions to integrate the Lagardère purchase into Hearst.

“If we were going to start building this group from scratch today, this is what we would do,” he said of the new structure, which was announced to staff today.

As for whether the rest of the company's portfolio is going to follow suit, the other magazines may not have reason for concern; Carey said he has no plans to combine departments across other titles. However, one can imagine this approach some day being applied to the women's magazines, which, like shelter, tend to trade in timeless content; for the same reason, it's harder to imagine the fashion titles going in this direction.

Having single departments serving all three of the Design Group titles might cause concern that the magazines will lose their distinct voices, but not surprisingly, Hearst execs said that they're not worried that would happen. “This will allow us to delineate the brands even better,” Turner said. “My role will be to enable the editors in chief to focus on the art of magazine making.” On the department side, Carey said, “If you have someone who is a superstar, they can have more impact across multiple properties."

The market departments integration will begin immediately, said Turner, who hopes to have the new group in place by mid-October when High Point, the big design industry trade show in North Carolina, kicks off. The features department integration will roll out more slowly and will likely be completed by the end of the year. “The features department is probably the biggest shift,” explained Turner, who believes that it will “make the editing process more efficient—we can avoid pitfalls like rewriting and overediting.”