Art Garfunkel and Good Housekeeping‘s Campaign to End Childhood Hunger

Lunch At Michaels

LunchAtMichaelsThere wasn’t much that could top last week’s head-spinning celebrity scene at Michael’s, so today was pretty quiet by comparison except for the random appearance of Art Garfunkel. I guess I could have asked him about Paul Simon‘s recent trip to a Connecticut courtroom and perhaps gotten him to weigh in on his erstwhile partner’s domestic woes, but I only noticed him on the way out the door. It’s hard to fathom, I know, but in the era that spawned Kimye there are some celebrities who prefer to go unnoticed. However, the same cannot be said the mavens and machers who are Wednesday regulars at 55th and Fifth. After all, if your power lunch isn’t documented for posterity, what good is it? Present and accounted for: Star Jones, Jonathan Wald (most recently of the now-defunct Piers Morgan Tonight), ex-CNBC talker Larry Kudlow, Ed Klein and Andrew Stein (together at Table 3) among the crowd of familiar faces.

Diane Clehane and Jane Francisco
Diane Clehane and Jane Francisco

I was joined today by Good Housekeeping‘s smart, vivacious new-ish EIC Jane Francisco, and we had plenty to talk about. We shared horror stories over malfunctioning tape recorders during celebrity interviews (more on that later) and traded favorites among our mutual passions, which included books (she’s a big Jane Austen fan) and scripted TV drama (she’s a “binge watcher” of The Good Wife, Scandal and past seasons Mad Men — no spoiler talk, please). But I was also interested in finding out what the transplanted Canadian (who was born in Michigan, but headed for The Great White North with her family when she was 4) had to say about her experience taking the reigns at GH, a quintessential American brand. Having come from Chatelaine, Canada’s leading women’s lifestyle brand and the country’s largest paid circulation magazine, Jane was no stranger to helming a major media franchise with a broad audience when she was tapped for the top job in November of last year. “When I first met with Ellen Levine (Hearst’s editorial director and former GH EIC), we had lunch and she told me Good Housekeeping was ‘uniquely American,’ but I grew up with it and both my mother and grandmother read it in Canada.”

This is not (just) your mother’s Good Housekeeping. “I’m very interested in anything by women for women,” said Jane who is on a mission to instill “a sense of place” in new areas of the magazine. For a recent fashion shoot, the team traveled to hotter than hot (trendwise, not the temperature) Austin, Texas. “One of the things I want to focus on is the intrigue of travel and the desire to escape. In the United States, it’s no longer only about the big cities. It’s about discovering all these other great places all over the country. I’m intrigued by us going out and finding little nuggets to share with our readers. Talking something big and going small.”

But regardless, there are big things ahead.”There are huge opportunities here,” Jane told me. And not just in print. The digital team has been beefed up with more content being created exclusively for all platforms. “With the Institute, Good Housekeeping has 100 years of understanding what women want. I feel like there are opportunities in a thought leadership way.” Since the brand has “millions” of readers at all life stages, reasons Jane, they are uniquely positioned to engage and inspire women throughout their lives in ways that other media brands cannot. “There’s no ‘core reader’ here. We have an opportunity to re-introduce ourselves to the next generation of women.” But without alienating their mothers and grandmothers. That means creating distinctive and different content for the magazine and the digital product. While the magazine “needs to deliver the fantasy” and “stuff you didn’t know you wanted,” the digital version “needs more practicality,” she noted.