Hearst Preps Country Living for Ad Recovery

With advertisers starting to spend again, Hearst Magazines will unveil a bigger trim size and new marketing programs at Country Living to better position the magazine for an eventual ad recovery.
Beginning with the September issue, Country Living’s trim size will go up 16 percent, making it the same size as its oversized sibling title O, the Oprah Magazine.

To help offset the seven-figure cost of the increase, Country Living will publish two fewer issues this year, for a total of 10. It also will raise its cover price to $4.50 from $3.99.

Michael Clinton, evp, chief marketing officer and publishing director at Hearst Magazines, said the bigger trim size, along with other changes, aims to broaden the magazine’s appeal with a variety of advertisers while the frequency reduction would let the title publish fatter, if fewer, issues.

“I think you’re going to see more automotive, more food, more [shelter] retail, financial services,” he said. “We think it’s well positioned to capture some of the recovery wave.”

Country Living’s ad pages declined 31 percent to 120 this year through March, when the magazine had one fewer issue than the same period last year, per the Mediaweek Monitor. Clinton said that the spring issues have shown year-over-year improvement, though.

Country Living will be the fourth title whose trim size Hearst has increased in recent years. The others are Good Housekeeping, Redbook and House Beautiful.
“With lifestyle magazines, the larger size is very appealing,” Clinton said. “It’s not a strategy that’s a one-size-fits-all.”

Along with the trim size change, Country Living plans to expand its 5-year-old Country Living Fair to a second market this year and add a third market in 2011. The title will add to its extensive line of Country Living-branded products with the launch of a fabric line at about 125 Calico Corners stores in April.

Finally, Country Living is taking steps to more closely associate itself with the green movement. Earlier this week, Hearst announced a partnership with building company New World Home to create a Country Living-inspired line of LEED-certified modular homes. The homes measure 1,100 to 2,300 square feet and range in price from $165,000 to $460,000.

The magazine will add more green-related editorial content and develop green-themed marketing programs.

The greater interest in all things green happens to align with the goals of many marketers, but Clinton said the focus on being eco-friendly is in Country Living’s wheelhouse.
“Environmental awareness and a commitment to preserving the countryside is part of their founding principals,” he said.