The magazine industry has started to creep back post-recession, but the improvement hasn’t taken hold evenly. Today, Meredith Corp. shut ReadyMade, a small shelter magazine for do-it-yourselfers, and laid off its staff of about 10, plus about roughly 65 others, mostly in its magazine division. All told, the layoffs represent about 2 percent of the corporation.
Meredith bought ReadyMade, then a San Francisco-based independent, in 2006 to deepen its reach with younger consumers, and more than tripled its circulation to over 300,000 today. But soon after the acquisition, the recession and the softness in the housing market caused shelter-related advertising to plummet and decimated the home magazine category. Several titles folded, including Cottage Living, Domino, and O at Home. Meredith closed its own Country Home.
It didn't help that ReadyMade was an odd duck among Meredith's mass-reach magazines like Better Homes and Gardens, Parents, and Family Circle. The writing seemed to be on the wall for the magazine in February when publisher Jeff Wellington left the company and his position wasn’t filled. The staff was summoned to a 9 a.m. meeting today where National Media Group president Tom Harty delivered the news.
ReadyMade editor-in-chief Andrew Wagner said the magazine wasn't a great fit at Meredith, where its small staff didn't seem like enough to help the nascent brand reach its goal of 500,000 circulation.
"It's no fun," he said. "It's a tough time to fit a small magazine in a large company, as we've seen time and time again. All these media companies would like to play in this niche realm, but it's hard to make money. We were a bit of an outcast within the corporation."
The decision comes at a time when Meredith's magazine unit has been in a slump, with ad revenue down 11 percent in the quarter ended March 31. The other 65 or so casualties came mostly from the magazine group. Meredith said it would take a special charge of $10 million in its fiscal fourth quarter related to the closing and layoffs. At the same time, the company has been adding staff to launch apps for tablets and mobile devices and build out its TV and magazine websites.