With HGTV Magazine, Hearst Looks for Lightning to Strike Twice

Looking to replicate the success of its fast-growing Food Network Magazine, Hearst Magazines is going forward with a test of a magazine based on another Scripps network, HGTV.
Hearst launched Food Network Magazine, an ode to fun cooking and celebrity, in 2009 in partnership with the eponymous network. Since then, it’s been well received by advertisers and readers as its rate base has soared to 1.3 million.
Like Food Network Magazine, HGTV Magazine will start with two test issues, which will hit newsstands in October and January. The test period will be used to gauge interest in a possible full-scale launch in 2012. Sara Peterson, a former editor of Time Inc.’s Coastal Living, was tapped as the editor in chief. The test issues will feature talent from the home and lifestyle network offering readers tips, tricks and expertise and a behind-the-scenes look at their shows. Content will include gardening, entertaining and food in addition to traditional shelter fare.
As it did with Food Network Magazine, Hearst doesn’t expect to sell ads against HGTV magazine right away; ads in the test issues will be given away as a reward to its big customers. The test issues will carry a distribution of 300,000 each.
Talk of the venture preceded Hearst Magazines’ president David Carey’s arrival last summer, but the project marks his first magazine launch.
Shelter titles have struggled during the recession and housing market collapse, though. The category was down 1 percent in ad pages last year and has shed a number of titles in recent years, including House & Garden, Domino and Cottage Living. Hearst folded one of its own, O at Home, a spinoff of O, the Oprah Magazine.
But like its Food Network counterpart, HGTV Magazine could work because it has a built-in promotional vehicle of the network to get it off the ground.
“If someone said to me, ‘We’re relauching House & Garden,’ I’d say, hmm,” said Roberta Garfinkle, director of print strategy at TargetCast. “But I think it’s a good formula, to build a magazine based on a successful TV concept. You go into it with a built-in audience as opposed to having to go out and find new people.”
Food Network Magazine’s rise was helped along by the popularity of its partner network but also a growing interest in home cooking and entertaining as the recession led consumers to cut back on dining out. It came on the heels of other mass-market magazines that combined personalities and food, like Every Day With Rachael Ray and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia’s Everyday Food.